Wednesday, November 1, 2000

There's a fast train coming

OK. More thoughts on the referendum for a Tampa-Orlando-Miami high speed rail corridor.

High speed rail makes sense in every way. Like it or not we are moving to a post-petroleum paradigm and this kind of transportation is the wave of the future. If we wait till 2040, we'll be buying trains from China instead of selling trains to China. The energy we put into (essentially) single-rider vehicles is unsustainable.

Critics attack the bullet train with a cost-benefit analysis, basically saying it won’t have enough passengers and won’t turn a profit. How the hell do they know? That’s an assertion, not an argument. But it also misses the point.

Infrastructural investment isn’t based on immediate profit.

None of America’s massive infrastructure projects, from rural electrification to the Interstate highway system to the Tennessee Valley Authority, were based on a firm income projection. These infrastructural networks were created for the benefits they would give the public , not the benefits to investors, based on a hard-and-fast profit model. In most cases, these projects generated profit — eventually. But it was never a sure thing from the gitgo — and the profits never come until after the networks are built. That's the reason these projects had to be created with a public investment in the first place. These networks require such a massive capital outlay, a slight miscalculation could ruin a private investor. Basically, the risk of these massive infrastructural investments is too great for a private company — unless it’s a monopoly. Historically, these networks can only be built by the government, a public/private partnership guaranteed by the government, or a monopoly.
So, granted that we need this infrastructure, granted that private enterprise isn’t building it, the government is the only entity left that could possibly build it. The government has a reason to build it (the people’s common good, not profit) and a constitutional right to do it (rooted in the commerce clause). Though libertarians may disagree, that’s the legal basis for the government’s right to regulate interstate commerce, to establish roads and highways and to regulate (or subsidize) infrastructural industries like the power industry and communication. And high speed rail.

Without government investment in infrastructure, we would not have the internet, we would not have atomic power, we would not have a national interstate system, and any number of other things.
Now allow me to make a simple, obvious, possibly stupid point.

Creating jobs isn’t the point of government spending on infrastructure. It’s a side benefit, sure. But it isn’t the point.

The point of a Postal Service isn’t to give jobs to postal workers. The point of maintaining a massive infrastructure of roads and gas station isn’t to give jobs to road workers, traffic cops and car mechanics. The point is the benefit to the public these networks create.

The point of a bullet train is the train itself. Not only the direct benefit to the people who use it, but the benefit to everyone else in the country who need a similar system. High speed rail in Florida would be a demonstration model that shows the concept can work in America – and can be repeated in other states.
The assault against high-speed rail is an exercise in knowing hypocrisy.

Critics of the project think it’s bad for the government to pay for trains. But planes and automobiles? That’s different! It’s good when the government pays for them!

These critics turn a blind eye to the massive investment our government makes maintaining the infrastructure (physical and regulatory) for airplanes, roads, cars and trucks. Government handouts for cars and plains are good; handouts for bullet trains are creeping socialism.

The dice are loaded; the game is fixed.

If high speed rail is such a bad idea, why does it work in Europe, China and Japan? Would they be better off with a massively congested highway system like we have? More importantly, is the true motive for the massive resistance to high-speed rail in America a high-minded sense or financial responsibility or a love of big checks from the auto, oil and airline industries?

Let's say the referendum passes. Let's say by 2009, this thing is up and running. Let's say high speed rail works. What then?
If high speed rail works in Florida, it could work anywhere. The auto and airline industry might sorta see that as a threat, dontcha think?

Just saying. It's probably a moot point.

I've got a feeling the referendum is going to pass.

All on board, kids.

Monday, October 30, 2000

America at the crossroads

America takes its first, fumbling baby steps into the 21st century. There are problems we'd like to avoid, but problems we must face. Courageously, the Republican party confronts us with the key challenge of our age ...

Evidently, a gay Mexican couple plans to sneak over the border, get married, open up an abortion clinic and burn the American flag.

Saturday, October 7, 2000

Dumbass fratboy wins debate

Caught the debate. We're screwed, folks. It's over.

George W. Bush was a twisted combination of righteousness (praise Jesus!) and a bad boy, cowboy attitude (pass the goddamn ammunition!) He's going to win. I knew it the second I saw the fucker.

There he was debating Al Gore. Gore was talking like a boring chemistry professor and saying things that made people feel bad. ("You kids should really clean up after yourselves. I am appalled to see the lab sink is filled with unwashed titration flasks.") Bush came off like Richard Dawson on Family Feud, grinning, shucking and jiving. ("Hey, pops. I got better damn things to do than wash your stinky old bottles.") The camera loved him.

Bush is going to win.

Tuesday, October 3, 2000

Oh beautiful for ...

OK. I could've watched the Presidential Debates.

Or I could've watched the premiere of Dark Angel.

This ...

Or this ...

You be the judge.

Wednesday, August 30, 2000

The adman ... behind blue eyes

The August 2000 issue of Sarasota Arts and Entertainment is now, officially, in print. It'll be our last issue. Thanks to everyone who put their shoulder to the wheel. But this is it.

That's all she wrote.

Looking back, we did almost everything right. We made a few Darwinian mistakes. Shoulda gone to Mac in 1995 and dispensed with pasteup. Shoulda streamlined the congerie of contributors. Shoulda gone for a Web site instead of a TV show. Other than that, we did OK. We covered a scene, had an identity, had our own flavor. And what a damn good flavor it was.

So what killed us?

Lack of advertising revenue.

We found ourselves competing with:

A) Shamelessly advertorial-based publications that out-and-out traded "ink for ads." I.e., you advertise with us, we write about you -- and say only nice things.
B) National publications (like the local NYT chain paper or Creative Loafing) that launched local tabloid publications that cut into our niche.

Understand. Our circulation went up and down from 20,000 to 30,000. High season we print a lot. Summer, we cut back. But we did OK. We had a loyal following.

Except for the advertisers.

Like I always said, it felt like we were performing for a hall of 25,000 people. The first rows were the 50 advertisers who paid for what we did. The rest of the hall could be applauding like mad. If the advertisers in the front row are sitting on their hands, it doesn't matter.

Thousands of readers loved us.

Not enough advertisers loved us.

So we have to say goodbye.


Friday, July 28, 2000

Report from Siggraph: Motion blur

Caught Phil Tippett giving history of imagination. Jesus, drowning in fan boy idolatry. Little models of the killer bot from RoboCop, Imperial Walkers, etc. outside the hall. Tippet did a survey from stop-motion to CGI. Started his survey at the cave paintings. The bison at Lascaux had a motion blur, hence, animation. Nice.

Friday, April 21, 2000

A Malenky Govoreet about the Molodoy

This dialogue between Alex and an author figure named ‘AB’ was written for newspaper publication shortly before Burgess’ stage version of A Clockwork Orange appeared in book form.
Anthony Burgess, 1987

AB: Alex, if I may call you that — there’s always been some doubt about your surname

ALEX: Never gave it, brother, to no manner of chelloveck. The gloopy shoot that put me in the sinny Lubric or Pubic or some such like naz — he gave me like two — Alex Burgess and Alex Delarge. That’s because of me govoreeting about being Alexander the Big. Then he forgets. Bad like editing. Call me Alex.

AB: In 1962, when the book about you was published, you were still a nadsat, teen that is. Now you must be about forty-two or -three or -four. Settled down, finished with the ultra-violence. Raising a family. Pillar of society. Taxpayer. Father of family. Faithful husband. Running to fat.

ALEX: For you, little bratty, I am what I was. I am in a book and I do not sdacha. Fixed like, ah yes, for ever and never, allmen.

AB: Sdacha?

ALEX: Pick up the old slovar some time, my brother. Shonary, Angleruss.

AB: Shonary?

ALEX: Leaving like the dick out.

AB: Fixed for ever and never, allmen, as you skazz. Etemal type of molodoy aggression.

ALEX: You are learning, verily thou art, O little brother.

AB: And yet there are changes, sdachas as you would put it. The youth or molodoy of the space age is not what it was in 1962.

ALEX: That old kneeg was in the space age, my malenky droog. In it there are chellovecks on the old Luna. It was like pathetic.

AB: Prophetic?

ALEX: And pathetic too. The jeezny of all chellovecks is like pathetic and very pathetic. Because they do not sdach. Because they are always the same. Because they are mekansky apple-sins. That being the Russ like naz of the kneeg written by Burgess or F. Alexander or whatever his naz is or was. What did you say your naz was, bratty?

AB: I skazzed nichevo about a name.

ALEX: Leaming, brother, learning thou art in Bog’s Pravda. And you would know what?

AB: To put it plain, your opinion of the youth of today.

ALEX: My like missal on the molodoy of segodnya. They are not like what I was. No, verily not. Because they have not one veshch in their gullivers. To Ludwig van and his like they give shooms of lip-music prrrrr. It is all with them cal, very gromky. Guitars and these kots and kotchkas with creeching golosses and their luscious glory very long and very grahzny. And their platties. It is all jeans and filthy toofles. And tisshuts.

AB: What are tisshuts?

ALEX: They are like worn on the upper plott and there is writing on them like HARVARD and CALIFORNIA and GIVE IT ME I WANT IT and suchlike cal. Very gloopy. And they do not have one missal in their gullivers.

AB: Meaning not one thought in their heads?

ALEX: That is what I skazzed.

AB: But they have many. They are against war and all for universal peace and banning nuclear missiles. They speak of love and human equality. They have songs about these things.

ALEX: It is all cal and kiss my sharries. A tolchock in the keeshkas for the kots and the old in-out for the koshkas. Devotchkas, that is. What they want they will not get. For there is no sdacha. There will always be voina and no mir, like old Lion Trotsky or it may be Tolstoy was always govoreeting about. It is built in. Chellovecks are all like very aggressive and do not sdach. The Russkies have a slovo for it, two really, and it is prirozhdyonnuiy grekh.

AB: Let me consult my ah Angleruss slovar. Odna minoota — it says here original sin.

ALEX: That I have not slooshied before. Real dobby. Original sin is good and very good.

AB: The young of today pride themselves on their severance from the culture of their elders. Their elders have ruined the world, they say, and when they are not trying to rebuild that ruined world with love and fellowship they withdraw from it with hallucinogens.

ALEX: That is a hard slovo and very hard, O my brother.

AB: I mean that they take drugs and experience hallucinations in which they are transported to heavenly regions of the inner mind.

ALEX: Meaning that they are in touch with Bog And All His Holy Angels and the other veshches?

AB: Not God, in whom most no longer believe. Though some of them follow the one you would call the bearded nagoy chelloveck who died on the cross. Indeed, they grow beards and try to look like him.

ALEX: What I skaz is that these veshches, like drencrom and vellocet and the rest of the cal, are not good for a malchick. To doomat about Bog and to itty off into the land and burble cal about lubbilubbing every chelloveck has to sap all the goodness and strength out of a malchick. This I skaz, ah yes, and it is the pravda and nichevo but the.

AB: Do you consider the youth of today to be more violent than the generation to which you belonged or belong?

ALEX: Not more. Those that want deng or cutter to koopat their teeny malenky sniffs and snorts and jabs in the rooker must use the old ultra-violence to take and like grab. But such are not seelny, strong that is. All the strength and goodness has been like sapped out of them. The ultra-violence is less now of the molodoy than of the ITA and ZBD and the Cronks and the Pally Steinians who are not pals of the Steins, ah no, nor of the Cohens and the rest of the yahoodies. It is all with the KPS and the TYF and the QED and the other gruppas. Terror by air and land, O my brother. Bombs in public mestos. Very cowardly and very like unkind. Bombs and guns, they were not ever my own veshch.

AB: You never handled a gun?

ALEX: Very cowardly, for it is ultra-violence from a long long long like way off. Dratsing is not what it was. It was better in what they called like the Dark Ages before they put on the like lights. The old britva and the nozh. Rooker to rooker. Your own red red krovvy as well as the krovvy of the chelloveck you are dratsing. And then there was another veshch I do not pomnit the slovo of all that good.

AB: Style, you mean style?

ALEX: That slovo will do as dobby as any slovo I know whereof, O my brother. Style and again style. Style we had. And the red red krovvy did not get on to your platties if you had style. For it was style of the nogas and the rookers and the plott, as it might be tansivatting.

AB: Dancing?

ALEX: That is the slovo that would not like come into my gulliver. The yahzick of the kvadrats I could never get my yahzick round.

AB: Kvadrat means quadratic, doesn't it‘? And that means square. By using such terminology you give away your age.

ALEX: Yarbles. Bolshy great yarblockos.

AB: Yarblockos means apples, does it not?

ALEX: It means yarbles, O my brother.

AB: Let us retum to this business of the music preferred by the young.

ALEX: It is not music. It is cal and grahzny cal. It is gromky and bezoomny and like for little children. For malenky malchicks it to me like appears to be. There is no music like Ludwig van and Benjy Britt and Felix M. And Wolfgang Amadeus that they made the cally lying lay it on about.

AB: Lay it on?

ALEX: Lay it on thick. Flick. Sinny film, that is. He was not seen off by Salieri. He snuffed because he was too good for this filthy world.

AB: You speak plain.

ALEX: I always govoreet plain, my brother. And this I skaz now, that music is the way in. That music is the door to the big bolshy pravda. That it is like heaven. And whbat the molodoy of now like slooshy is not music. And the slovos are like pathetic. What I say to those molody chellovecks is they must like grow up. They must dig into their gullivers more. They must not smeck at what has gone behind. Because that is all to have. There is no to come and the now is no more than like a sneeze. It is all there behind, built up by the bolshy chellovecks who are like dead. But they are not dead. They live on in our jeezny. 

AB: You seem to be ah gavoreeting about the preservation of the past. You seem to me also to be ah skazzing that artistic creation is a great good. And yet your ah jeezny was dedicated to destruction.

ALEX: All these bolshy slovos. It was the bolshy great force of the jeezny that was in myself. I was molody, and none had taught me to make. So break was the veshch I had to do. But I get over it.

AB: You get over it? Meaning you grew up?

ALEX: There is no kneeg about me growing up. That is not writ by no manner of writing chelloveck. They viddy me as a very ultra-violent malchick and not more, ah no. To be young is to be nothing. It is best as in your slovos to be like growing up. That is why I skaz to the molodoy of now that they must not be as they are. They have this long voloss and these tisshuts and blue tight genovas on their nogas and they think they are all. But they are nothing. Grow up is what they must do, ah yes. What they have to do is to like grow up.

AB: Can you now transport yourself to the future, or rather your part in the future which has not been written about and, I speak with some authority, never will be, and deliver a final message to the world of today?

ALEX: In the yahzick of the mir at like large?

AB: Yesli bi mozhno.

ALEX: Your Russian is deplorable, but I take it you mean ‘if possible’. Very well. I speak as a tax-paying adult. And I say that the only thing that counts is the human capacity for moral choice. No, I will not speak. I will sing. I will take Ludwig van Beethoven's setting of Schiller‘s Ode to Joy in the final movement of the glorious Ninth, and I will put my own slovos, I mean words, to it. And the words are these. If you would care to join in, thou art most welcome. Slooshy, listen that is. 

Being young's a sort of sickness,

Measles, mumps or chicken pox.

Gather all your toys together,

Lock them in a wooden box.

That means tolchocks, crasting and dratsing,

All of the things that suit a boy.

When you build instead of busting,

You can start your Ode to Joy.

AB: Thank you, Mr ah —

ALEX: Bog blast you, I haven't finished.

Do not be a clockwork orange,

Freedom has a lovely voice.

Here is good and there is badness,

Look on both, then take your choice.

Sweet in juice and hue and aroma,

Let’s not be changed to fruit machines.

Choice is free but seldom easy —        

That’s what human freedom means.

ALEX: Gloopy sort of slovos, really. Grazhny sort of a world. May I now, O my brother, return to the pages of my book?

AB: You never left them.

Sunday, January 23, 2000

Entertainment Multiverse

Here's an alternate theory.

The universe is like a multiplex or cable. It exists for entertainment purposes and there are various storylines, characters and situations.

Strictly speaking, it's a multiverse. There are multiple genres, depending on the director and the target audience.

Some of us are characters in a cosmic sitcom. Others are cast in a John Carpenter slasher flick.

This explains why one person might pray to God for a parking space and get it while somebody else turns their back for a few seconds in the supermarket and winds up with their kid's severed head in a ditch. The lucky folks wind up in light romantic comedies, the unlucky get cast in a Wes Craven movie. For some people, the universe has purpose and meaning and happy endings. For others, it doesn't.

It depends on what movie you're in.

Saturday, January 22, 2000

Joke Universe

There are times I suspect this is a joke universe.

The evidence is overwhelming.

Take names. Names are too fucking close to the money if you ask me. Like some 18th century novel with characters like Craven Pridewell or sumpin.

The guy who brings us glee is Jackie Gleason. The woman who tripped up Clinton was Linda Tripp. Ross Perot is an anagram of "sore sport." And, of course...

The kid everybody's making a fuss about is Elian Gonzales.

Elian being an anagram of "alien," natch.

If somebody handed me that in a story I'd say Come on...Just too damn obvious, dontcha think?

...and hand it back for a rewrite.

Saturday, January 1, 2000


As I write these words, Y2K dawns.

The whispered fears of terrorist attack are not now reality. A mushroom cloud isn't looming over San Francisco, New York City, Atlanta, and God knows how many other cities. Our President, Congress, the Supreme Court and Regis Philbin are not now dead. All of them. The Pentegon is not in flames.

This is not the calm before the hellstorm.

This is not a final answer to the poet's question: Yes, as a matter of fact, the world will end in a bang. An impossible bang that makes your ears bleed, stabs a knife in your heart and turns your brain to jelly.

This isn't a bitter, hellish interval of waiting, waiting, waiting.

This isn't the end.

The stable assurance of an electrical grid isn't now, already, a distant memory. Along with any hint of social order. This HP computer, my faithful electric servant, hasn't changed to a dead slab of plastic. Along with all of our other "smart" machines. All clocks don't read 12:00, 12:00, 12:00, in the fibrillation of a grim electronic seizure. Dull, red, blinking lights don't confront us everywhere. Blank screens don't stare back at us like the empty eye sockets of so many hollowed out skulls. No. Wrecked, flaming cars don't surround us. The mindless mob isn't panicking in the streets. The traffic lights aren't dead. The lines of communication aren't cut. The endless babel of words and images has not been stopped. The vast universal silence isn't closing in like a shroud of death.

I do not contemplate my own death. Or the deaths of millions and millions of others.

Yet I laugh, bitterly.

What isn't happening isn't happening. What can't be started cannot be stopped. As the ineluctable tsunami of chaos doesn't close in, in the moments before it doesn't engulf me, I know only one thing.

Somewhere, in the growing fear and chaos that isn't happening, the fucking consultants who hyped this Y2K shit aren't getting any work.

For that, at least, I am grateful.

Welcome to the 21st century

21st Century Schizoid Man
(King Crimson -- Fripp & friends)

Cat's foot iron claw
Neuro-surgeons scream for more
At paranoia's poison door.
Twenty first century schizoid man.

Blood rack, barbed wire
Polititians' funeral pyre
Innocents raped with napalm fire
Twenty first century schizoid man

Twenty first century
Twenty first century
Twenty first century
Twenty first century schizoid man

Death seed, blind man's greed
Poets starving children bleed
Nothing he's got he really needs
Twenty first century schizoid man.

Twenty first century
Twenty first century schizoid man
Twenty first century schizoid man

Yeah. Welcome to the twenty first century.