Eschatology for Modern Living

Politics

A New Chapter

Greetings. I am Upton, the new writer here at The New Apocalypse. I’d like to thank Mr. Herrick for his introduction in the previous post.

As was mentioned by Herrick, we met at what was, at the time, the biggest dive bar in New York City. It was also one of the few places where you could get a drink for any price close to reasonable. It was a haunt of mine mostly for the cheap drink and good people watching. The place was roughly the size of a live-in trailer and about as luxurious. The clientele generally consisted of punk rock kids and seasoned drunkards. Most of the Williamsburg hipsters stayed away from the place, though it was the bar where the Yeah Yeah Yeahs formed.

I was drinking a Corona out of a bottle (one of the two beers served there) and heard some guy in an ragged blazer ranting on about Wall Street and the collapse of the housing market (Note: This was back in late 2007). Most people were ignoring him in that way that New Yorkers do. I was a transplant in the city and could tell that he was, too. The city must have been taking a toll on him, I thought. Why else would he stumble in here?

We got to talking and drinking and found we had a lot in common. A general distaste of most things (especially in the Bush II years) bonded us. I was a nice, warming thing to meet someone like him a city that was both literally and figuratively cold.

We shared a joint outside after last call and Herrick mentioned that he was starting a blog. Good God, not another one of those, I thought. I was less warm to the idea as I was a writer for print and, like many at the time, I saw blogs as an enemy rather than a future. But I wished him the best in his efforts. I stumbled back north to the L-line, and then home. I never really expected to see Herrick again.

But here I am, broke as hell living in Oregon. It isn’t where I thought I would be, but there are worse things. Things have changed a bit: The Mars Bar closed down, we have a new (er) president, work is harder to find, the garbage island in the Pacific is bigger every day. I recently went to a dive bar off Broadway called The Half Time that boasts $1.75 tallboys of PBR. I’d found a new home.

And who was in the bar but that crazy bastard Herrick! We started talking a bit more and he told me once again about his blog. I’ve become more open to the idea, so I agreed to come on board. Why not? It’s not like I’m getting paid to do anything else…

So I’ll be joining you here for a while. It should be a blast.

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New Apocalypse: 2010 Election “After-math” Edition

Boehner Cries Like a Bitch Again

In other words — by the numbers — what has been lost for the Democrats this week? Other than a little dignity, that is. Well, they’ve definitely lost the fucking House of Representatives. There’s no doubt about that. The Democrats have lost all but the slimmest majority in the Senate since their soaring heights at 60 seats earlier in this past term. At least its a slim majority, and not a split or a Republican majority… Great Magnet forbid.

The New York Times is even painting this on their front page November 3rd edition as “A REBUKE FOR OBAMA.” But honestly, is it really? Not even the same voting pools showed up this year as in 2008. The Democratic base that elected Obama totally failed to show up and support Obama’s minions in Congress. I blame young voters and ethnic voters, all of whom are always terrible at turning out in midterm elections. It’s the same reason that Clinton not only lost the House but also the Senate in 1994………… wait. What? Holy shit. I just remembered! Clinton lost both houses of Congress in 1994 and he went on to be a two term President widely remembered as one of the most competent of the late 20th century. Do you think…. could that mean… that this is totally fucking normal and that it didn’t even end up as badly as it could have?!?!?!? FUCK YES!!! But the 24-hour news media or a blubbering John Boehner (soon to be the new Speaker of the House; pictured above) would never let the explanation be that simple… To them, this is so significant they could either fill a room with 33 commentators to shout over each other or just fake human emotions, respectively.

I might even go on to remind the Dear Constant Reader that sudden House shifts are routine in our nation’s history after traumatic economic crises. Democrats lost more than 100 House seats in 1894 after an economic collapse in the U.S. brought about sudden voter outrage. In 1932 — oh yeah, after the Great Depression began — Republicans lost 97 seats in the House at the same time F.D.R. assumed power. And, in the second of Franklin Roosevelt’s unprecedented four terms, Democrats lost 72 of the 97 seats they had just gained in 1938 (midterm backlash, just like Clinton and Obama’s).

What I’m saying is, F.D.R. rallied from the aftermath of the worst financial crisis in U.S. history to lose and win again the support of Congress during the greatest war in our nation’s history — all accomplished during a decade and a half of his Presidency. Clinton managed to win re-election handily in 1996 after losing both houses of Congress in 1994. He went on to be one of the few Presidents in recent history to leave office with a national budget surplus rather than a tremendous deficit. Obama will do the same (okay, perhaps minus the budget surplus — we’ll see).

Seriously: consider his possible opponents. Romney? Palin? Pawlenty? Gingrich? Come on, people. Do you really think those young and ethnic voters that didn’t care to show up for Russ Feingold are going to forgo Obama and allow Sarah Palin to assume power? If you think that… not only should you think again, you should eat a gun and relieve us of your miserable company.

This is a typical midterm election backlash which typically comes from impatient and stupid voters who have spent the last two years doing what they do best: stoking their own ignorance and anger. Ask yourself: who showed up to vote? CNN and any other news network with 3D holographic data-points can tell you: angry and/or old Republicans showed up to vote! The same angry and/or old conservatives who showed up to vote in the midterms after F.D.R. and Clinton were elected! In 2010, the Democrats that lost their seats got thrown out by pieces of shit like the guy pictured at right. I’m not too worried about Obama’s base being outnumbered by their kind in 2012.

Not only is the 2010 midterm backlash normal, its not even as severe as the last few cycles. This time, we didn’t lose 100 or 70-some House seats. We only lost 50-60 House seats, and Democrats still retained the Senate! Jesus, it’s not all doom and gloom! This way, there is no risk of an impeachment hunt and the grim political kabuki theater that inevitably ensues. The kind of kabuki theater Clinton faced. This time, there is no chance in hell of repealing Health Care with Democrats retaining the Senate and Obama holding the veto pen. This time, the people will quickly realize — as they have in all precious backlash cycles — that the new President’s policies aren’t to blame.

In other words, people: you have to give a guy more than two years to fix an economic crisis that took the previous President eight years to create.

Anyway, by the numbers things went badly this week for Democrats but not as badly as it could have gone and not as badly as many would have you believe. It’s true we’ll face some gridlock in Washington D.C. for a while and the compromises we get will probably be bitter ones where Democrats and Republicans smile shaking hands for the cameras but spit venom behind closed doors. But the important point is that people will soon find out these Republicans they’ve elected can’t accomplish anything they’ve promised and they aren’t who they said they were. I mean, how can you repeal Healthcare when you don’t control the Senate and the President still holds the veto pen? A promise like that is broken the second it’s made. It’s just a sad commentary on how stupid this year’s voters were that it will take them months to realize that. Therefore, the backlash will subside just as all waves break and roll back.

On the more immediate bright side, my home state of Oregon has gone blue again. Peter DeFazio (D – House) and Ron Wyden (D – Senate) both won re-election in Oregon this week. Best of all, in a narrow race John Kitzhaber won election to his third term as Oregon’s governor after being forced out by term limits while still relatively popular just a few years ago. He is the first governor in Oregon’s history to win election to a third term this way. I’m not all that optimistic that he’ll be able to achieve much until the next election cycle for the Oregon state legislature, since it looks like both chambers of the Oregon state legislature will be evenly split for now and unable to do much of significance. Nevertheless, I’m counting my blessings since I can’t imagine this state in the maniacal hands of a crazy-asshole-former-Portland-Blazer-who-couldn’t-shoot-free-throws-to-save-his-fucking-life-turned-dick-bag-Republican Chris Dudley. The terror would be unfathomable. Not to mention, I’m much more liable to sleep at night with Kitzhaber holding the veto pen should any crazy ass budget proposals come out of the legislative chambers.

"A crowd of parents and teachers watch as Eugene School District Superintendent George Russell reveals proposed budget reductions." (Source: The Register-Guard; Thursday, Nov 4, 2010)

Which brings me to my next — and much more local and personal — point of interest. At the same moment races across the country were being decided, the Eugene, Oregon Public School Board was hearing a new budget proposal from Superintendent George Russell. This proposal is intended to bridge an expected 30 million dollar budget shortfall coming in the next school year. The proposal — among other things —  would layoff over 100 teachers (virtually every teacher hired within the last three years) and increase average class sizes to over forty.

It would close six elementary schools and fold their kindergarten through third grades into neighboring elementary schools while the empty husks left behind are to be sold for disposable funds. Where do the fourth through fifth graders go, you might ask? They will be folded into programs heretofore — and by George Russell’s own admission and to our collective best knowledge — never tried anywhere in the country: fourth through eighth grade middle schools.

That’s right: your innocent little cherub fourth graders will be wandering the same halls as sinister drug dealing eighth graders.

The best part is that all of the actual sustainable cuts to the budget proposed above (and others not even mentioned) only account for about two thirds of the 30 million dollars Russell needs to cut to break even (which is required of school budgets every year in Oregon law). The last third comes from one-time-only-funds like selling properties the district owns — luckily, there will be six more of those this coming year — and using up every last dime of reserve funds the district has left.

Wait. It gets better still.

After spending every last spare dime the Eugene school district has in its piggy bank, Russell is retiring at the end of the year and leaving the next year’s inevitable mess of a budget gap in the hands of some other poor asshole. Not only that, Russell’s budget calls for that very same replacement asshole to get a raise of some $70,000 per year.

That’s right: the new superintendent of Eugene schools will get a $70,000 raise at the same moment over 100 of Eugene’s teachers are packing their bags and heading for the unemployment lines.

Having worked in public schools elsewhere in the past, having many friends among Eugene teachers as I do now, and valuing the futures of children everywhere as I do, I can only conclude that this budget proposal is disgraceful and un-American. How can this motherfucker Russell ask those teachers left after cutting 100 to take a 20 to 25% salary cut for the coming year with the same straight face he’s using to reassure Eugene parents that these new class sizes of 40 to 45 and six fewer instructional days won’t adversely affect their children’s education?

If you live in Eugene, Oregon, you need to get in touch with George Russell and let him know his budget proposal for Eugene schools is an unacceptable, unimaginative and un-American piece of shit. You need to tell him that he can’t leave one third of the problem for the next asshole to fix as long as he leaves a $70,000 tip. You need to tell George Russell that the children of Eugene are more important than his bottom line.

More importantly still, you need to tell your Oregon state legislature that public schools cannot survive another catastrophe like this. Nor can its teachers. They are already at the breaking point, though their brave smiling faces would never show it to their students or to a callous and unsympathetic public which expects so much of them.

Bottom line: schools can’t fix the problem by cutting budgets from the bottom up. They need new income from above. Eighty-seven percent of Eugene’s operating budget is in its personnel. You can’t make cuts without firing teachers. Cutting 20% of Eugene’s budget every year means cutting 12 or 13% of its teachers every year.

Fact: schools cannot operate without teachers, and the students aren’t fucking going anywhere.

Conclusion: this entire process is completely unsustainable and the biggest losers are your children.

Only possible solution: new money from the state or the federal governments.

Your job if you want to help: write your fucking local, state and national representatives (Eugene is just one of hundreds of districts across the country having the same problems, after all) and demand action. Before its too late. Even better, vote Democrat across the board — local and national — in the next election. H.J. Herrick and his friends — the teachers of Eugene, Oregon — would thank you.

Hell, we’d even buy you a beer.


A Quick Dispatch from the Road

While I’ve been focusing a lot of energy on poetry lately — you can see some at The New Apocalypse‘s cousin site: 365 — I promise you, dear constant reader that I haven’t neglected my petty drug habits and inane rambling essays on the esoteric. In between tormented poetic introspections, I’ve been working all summer on catching up on movies, TV series and documentaries I’ve missed over the past few years with a brand spanking new Netflix account. This deal is sweet as a virgin’s honey pot; for basically ten bucks a month, you can watch hundreds of hours of this crap streaming online right at your TV or laptop computer. Or — failing that — you can watch a scratched-up-but-somehow-always-still-functional disc delivered right to your home mailbox. Amidst all that rampant upper-fueled viewing, I’ve been developing a few movie reviews. In today’s post, I offer you reviews of two recent documentaries which offer differing views on the present human condition and the roads we are building into our collective future: Collapse and The Cove. In each of today’s reviews, I’m looking at a documentary which centers around a powerful figure whose life is wrapped up in his own obsessions. Those obsessions are created by each man’s past experiences and informed by their present outlook on what they think will become or could become the future.

Collapse

In our first film — Collapse (2009) — we are introduced in the opening sequence to a man named Michael Rupert. He is a former Los Angeles police officer turned investigative reporter and radical thinker. After working on the force for a while and marrying a C.I.A. agent, he discovered what he still believes to be the assassination by the C.I.A. of several U.S. soldiers who discovered too much about a secret C.I.A. program being operated on domestic soil to distribute and test illicit substances. He quit the force then only to find himself the victim of several mysterious near fatal accidents after his wife divorced him without explanation. He then became an investigative reporter an worked to expose that incident and others in journals, newspapers and eventually his own publication: From the Wilderness. His investigations turned into obsession. What he uncovered and the theories he devised based on that information led him to conclude that modern society was on a collision course with self-destruction. The rest of the film consists of a 82 minute monologue in which he explains how he publicly predicted the 2008 financial crisis well in advance (as well as other systemic disasters), then goes on to predict and explain how modern industrialized society will collapse under its own weight within the next fifty years — if not the next ten.

The film is very atmospheric and plays on the viewer’s desire to buy into Rupert’s anti-establishment and conspiratorial views throughout. It’s filmed — as Rupert incessantly chain smokes — in a dark-meat-locker-looking basement somewhere in Los Angeles by the director and interviewer: Chris Smith. During the monologue, the director intersperses footage of Rupert in his earlier exploits, photos of his publications, and archival footage which illustrates Rupert’s points. Throughout the film the viewer is easily drawn in as Rupert convincingly explains his predictions about the coming collapse of society.

Rupert explains that “peak oil” — the time at which the world’s oil supply peaks and then begins to decline — has already occurred within the last decade. Declassified government documents confirm this. Therefor, he explains, the global economy which is based on this resource — which we only began extracting from the ground a little over a hundred years ago by the way — has already begun to decline. Imagine: all of the fossilized energy which has been stored inside this planet since its creation/formation has been strip-mined by human beings in less than two hundred years. Rupert also debunks all the popular fixes for oil dependence: nuclear, clean coal, wind, solar, hydroelectric, wave power, zero-point energy, biodiesel, etc. Because in the future the only means of generating power will at best be wind and solar — and because those forms of energy cannot be transmitted over long distances via power lines — all future civilization will be local and decentralized. And it will not be industrialized. In other words, because nothing can replace the edifice created by fossil fuels — and because at least five billion of the people who exist on this planet exist only because of the modern conveniences invented in the last century — civilization will collapse as soon as a sustainable supply of oil disappears and billions of people will starve to death and be swept aside by the global chaos that ensues as slowly collapsing governments fight over what resources are left. In the end, Rupert believes — as I tend to believe — that five hundred years from now the historians of humanity’s survivors will look back and write that the twenty-first century gave birth to the Dark Ages.

Now, the filmmaker tries to paint this very convincing picture and then pull the rug out from under the viewer at the very end by de-legitimizing Rupert. Because Rupert is a man obsessed and emotionally wrecked by his obsession, Smith tries to show how — in his own words — “… that [Rupert’s] obsession with the collapse of industrial civilization has led to the collapse of his life.” At the end we see how Rupert is avoiding eviction after the failure of his most recent book and the director transposes several quotes (published in the 80’s) from Rupert’s critics which claim he is a paranoid delusional. Here I think the director falls short.

While Rupert’s obsession is certainly destroying his life, the director unfairly debunked and dismissed Rupert’s theories when he pointed only to Rupert’s personal problems as evidence of his theories’ illegitimacy. Yes; Rupert is an unhealthy and obsessive individual, but he also happens to be a genius. His logic is sound. His theories about the edifice of fossil fuel and its collapse are inscrutable. His facts and figures can’t be argued with. But that’s just my opinion. You can watch and judge for yourself. Are you like the director — too eager to dismiss Rupert because you are afraid he might be right and your children will never be able to watch Netflix on some thing called a laptop — or are you like me?

The Cove

In our second film — The Cove (2009) — the director (Louie Psihoyos) creates a fascinating narrative of the life and exploits of dolphin-trainer-turned-dolphin-liberator Ric O’Barry. The subject of this film got his start as a dolphin trainer for the show Flipper. Before that show came along the general public didn’t know much about dolphins and didn’t adore them overmuch. But the show was green-lit by its studio decades back and O’Barry was hired to capture and train several dolphins which could then all be used as rotating stand-ins for the character of Flipper. You’ll learn that O’Barry actually lived year round in the house by the Flippers’ dock which was supposed to be the family house in the show. There, in that enclosed bay, he lived with those dolphins for the entire TV series’ run and befriended them. He would even drag his TV out to the end of the dock with an extension cord so his dolphin friends could watch themselves on TV. Then the show was cancelled and the dolphins were taken away from him. He said he still visited them for a time after the dolphins were sold off to a theme park and performed shows for the public. Of course, he learned right away as dolphins for the first time because theme park animals that they cannot survive happily in such a place. They are acoustic animals and aquatic theme parks are basically like giant noise sinks for aquatic animals. It would be like capturing a human being, taping their eyes open and making them watch war-crime footage for years on end.

So, O’Barry dedicated his life to freeing captive dolphins even as their success at that first theme park caused dolphin captures to increase exponentially worldwide for the next forty years. Now there is a booming industry — which O’Barry blames himself for starting with the show Flipper — that captures and puts on display hundreds of dolphins every year.

However, that is merely prologue. The subject of the film is mainly O’Barry’s time in the coastal Japanese town of Taijii. That town — which seems pleasant enough on the surface — is actually the world’s number one supplier of captive dolphins and of dolphin meat.

Yes, that’s right. Dolphin meat.

As it turns out, the International Whaling Commission — the only body in the world dedicated to anti-whaling practices — doesn’t consider dolphins to be a type of whale. Therefor, Japanese fisherman can round-up hundreds of dolphins near their breeding waters in Taijii, sell the prime females to collectors from aquariums around the world, then herd the rest into Taijii’s secluded and infamous cove (hence the name of the film). There they are slaughtered for their meat. The fishermen of the town have kept the cove off-limits to journalists and cameramen for decades because of what goes on there and the Japanese government assists them financially in doing so. In other words: they know how negatively the rest of the world looks at this practice.

Furthermore, the film proved that these fishermen are selling this dolphin meat the Japanese government, which is then repackaging it and selling it with labels claiming it is exotic and expensive fish of various other kinds. If that wasn’t enough, the reason dolphin meat shouldn’t be sold at all — much less advertised as other meats to artificially inflate its value — is because its got over 500% more mercury content than any other animals in the sea. This is because dolphins and whales occupy the same level of their food chain that we do on land. In other words, all the mercury we are dumping into the ocean (the mercury content of the ocean has gone up 1 to 3 percent every year since the mercury content of the ocean began being measured) is collecting in dolphins and whales and sharks: the ultimate end of the oceanic food chain. What will the end result of this be? Mercury poisoning at mass levels in the Japanese public if this continues.

The filmmakers — and Ric O’Barry — also do a pretty good job of convincing the viewer that this practice will probably continue since Japan an other countries are desperate to satisfy their public’s demand for seafood. At our current rates of ocean fishing, scientists say, there will be no more fish in the oceans within the next fifty years. While Ric O’Barry doesn’t seem to have a long-term solution to the problem, he is more optimistic than Michael Rupert that action can actually be taken to solve some or all of the problem. To that end O’Barry contacted the filmmakers, who in turn assembled a veritable secret agent team of experts. Their goal was to expose what was going on inside the cove in Taijii.

They came up with a plan — detailed in the movie — to infiltrate the cove by cover of darkness and install hidden cameras underwater and under false rocks along the shore to capture evidence of what happens there. Much of The Cove details how that operation was executed and the footage and evidence that they uncovered in the process.

I warn you, dear Constant Reader… If you don’t want to see dozens of Japanese fisherman impaling the hearts of hundreds of crying dolphins as an entire mile long cove turns from ocean blue to blood-red… don’t watch this film.

O’Barry, at the film’s conclusion, seems optimistic that this evidence will give him what he needs to affect some kind of change in the globe’s attitude about whaling and dolphin protection (maybe even amongst the general public of Japan itself, which is still largely ignorant of the mercury-choked dolphin meat they’re being fed). That is the difference between him and Michael Rupert of Collapse: optimism.

In the end, I’ll let the viewer decide if there is any hope of shaking people out of their apathy. But I think you can guess how I feel about that, dear Constant Reader.

In any case, The Cove is an excellent film insofar as it exposes a global problem which most people don’t even know is a problem (because no institution exists to expose it). However, while Collapse unfairly dismisses Rupert, I feel The Cove unfairly glorifies O’Barry. Yes, O’Barry and the film crew succeeds in their goal of exposing dolphin fishing, but they utterly fail to convince me that anything will change as a result. The one thing the film overlooked is that the revulsion of the general public whenever they are outraged by something is always outweighed by the greed of the corporations and governments they work for.

So, to sum up, I felt like both of these films presented fascinating portraits of fascinating characters and exposed massive problems in society which can’t be escaped. However, both films were skewed in their perceptions by their creators and presented — in both cases — what I felt to be an incomplete or short-sighted view. In other words, both films barely had time to scratch the surface even as fascinating and scathing as they were.


Digital Media: to Dip and Dab or to Chase the Dragon?

That is the question, dear constant reader. But first…

You’re probably wondering where I’ve been for the past year and change if you’ve been a dear constant reader in the past. The truth — because I don’t believe in giving a true friend the run-around — is that I’ve been in a drug-induced comatose state for thirteen months, and have only recently just awoken (Please note: never take someone named L-Train at their word; it is not just an innocent hit of high-powered blotter acid).

Jesus, I’ve missed a lot! For two days I’ve been alternately chugging black coffee and smoking hash while camped in front of the computer and buried amongst newspapers, trying to absorb the backlog of raw data. I can only come to the conclusion that in my absence the world has spiraled even further into total madness: The Gulf of Mexico is choking on black bile. Health care and financial reform has passed Congress. Racism has been institutionalized in Arizona. Russia and the U.S. are swapping spies left and right a week after our Presidents grab burgers and fries together. In North Korea, people have apparently been paying in cigarettes for amputations without anesthesia since the 1990’s, only we didn’t know about it till just now. The Middle East is in chaos (oh, wait… that’s always been the case; only the details change). Terrorists are doing a really terrible job of blowing us up at home in the U.S. — despite their best efforts — but over in Afghanistan things are going just swimmingly for them. Speaking of Afghanistan, we mysteriously just discovered a massive vein of raw lithium beneath it (Bolivia currently has the monopoly on that, and you need it to make lithium batteries, on which everything seems to run nowadays) which could yield over a trillion dollars. I’m sure that has nothing to do with why we’ve just decided to stay there indefinitely, making it our nation’s longest war. Buried on page ten, you can find reports of British Petroleum lobbying the British government to release the Lockerbie Bomber last year to protect a $900 million oil-and-gas exploration deal off the Libyan coast. I always wondered about the worth of the lives of the 270 people (189 of them Americans) who died on that 1988 Lockerbie airliner flight over Scotland; apparently, those people were worth exactly $3,333,333.33 a head to B.P. I hope they’re happy about the money they made off that deal, since they’ve hemorrhaged billions in cleaning up the spill already and they will continue to for decades hence. Small comfort to the hundreds of thousands of people who’ve had their whole way of life destroyed all around the Gulf.

I feel like with all these crazy things happening — some tragic, some terrific — there should be some amount of celebration or mourning or at least a panicked call to action going on amongst our generation. But when I go outside to get more orange juice, grapefruit, take-and-bake pizzas and drugs, I only see tired and emotionless zombies walking around. These creatures couldn’t be motivated to organize their fucking DVD collection, much less drive down to the Gulf and wash oil out of a dolphin’s blowhole with dish soap. On top of that, most of these zombie-people don’t know how happy they should be that some (admittedly watered down and not-as-great-as-it-should-be) of the most historic legislation in our American story has been passed in the last year. Presidents have fought for health care reform for decades and when and if it works out as planned, we’ll be the last first world country to have universal health care. To boot, we haven’t had any new financial regulation (thanks to Reagan and his cronies, we’ve only had the opposite) between the end of the Great Depression and this week. All of this and yet, as I said, not that many people seem to care much. Why is that? I’m forced to wonder…

What is dominating our generation’s attention so much more effectively than the social movements of the 1960’s and other decades dominated their young generations’ attention? What dominates all of our time so much so that we can’t pay attention to the triumphs and tragedies all around us? What is it that could seduce us away from progress, from success? Well, its interesting you should ask; take a look at this fucking graph:

(Credit: Forrester via North American Technographics Benchmark Surveys)

In just the past five years, the amount of time people spend online has doubled, while the amount of time they spend watching TV has stayed exactly the same. Meanwhile, we are all reading fewer magazines and even fewer newspapers. The radio? Fucking forget about it. That’s boring because those are just voices, right? Only boring people don’t have faces. If you do the math, the average person spent a total of about 32 hours a week in 2004 doing all five of the activities above. In 2009, the average person spends 37 hours a week doing the same things. On top of that, while it seems like there’s no time left in the day for us to use the internet any more than we already do, researchers are now finding that we spend 15% more of our time online with social networking like Facebook or Twitter than we did five years ago. So, not only are we online all fucking day, we’re spending more time doing useless and unimportant shit online. Why read the news online when you could read this lovely tweet from @GBusey (yes, that’s Gary Busey): “Here’s a good way to never make any friends: Smell your palm after every time you shake someone’s hand.”

Keep in mind, these averages are thrown way off by old people, who we all know never use the internet. Many of you are probably wondering how much worse these numbers are when they’re focused only on people under — lets say — eighteen years old. Take a look at this data published first in the New York Times (in the article, “If Your Kids Are Awake, They’re Probably Online”):


The numbers really speak for themselves, but I’ll speak for them too, just in case you missed something while checking a tweet in the other window… Young people spend only 38 minutes a day with print media of some kind (that includes books, newspapers, magazines, cereal boxes and fucking baseball trading cards: anything printed in ink on paper after being checked for spelling and grammar). Apart from those 38 minutes, the same young people are spending ten hours a day staring at some kind of screen or another, whether its their iPod, their laptop, their TV or their Playstation 3.

Let me repeat that: ten hours per day. That’s seventy hours every calendar week. That’s twenty more hours per week than I spend at work, and after that many hours at work every week I want to go postal and kill everyone around me. If you allow for eight hours of sleep a night, that leaves only four or five hours a day to take care of eating food, going to school and doing homework (if you’re noticing the totals don’t add up, it’s because these youth spend about two to four hours of their days on average secretly online through some portable device while they’re either supposed to be at school or in bed asleep), basic hygiene and face-to-face human interactions. That isn’t much time.

In 1999, when I was sixteen years old, we spent on average seven hours per day staring at those same screens doing the same things (okay, we didn’t have iPods yet, but we did have fucking portable electronic devices which drained our time). That’s still pretty bad, but at least it only added up to just under 50 hours per week (when you do that math, that’s about 11 years of your life if you keep it up till you croak at 78). Think about it: if the youth of today continues their habits, spending 70 hours per week online or in front of a TV, that adds up to 300 hours per month (or 12 days a month) that this generation has wasted on Twitter. That adds up to about 150 days per year. That’s about 10,500 days, or 28.75 years of your life that you will spend staring at the TV or computer.

This could be you at age 40 if you're not careful...

That means that even if I continue using these technologies at the same rate I did when I was 16 for my whole life (which I admit to increasing for several years before dramatically and self-consciously tapering their use off), I will be able to say on my deathbed I’ve used them for approximately 18 years less than someone who was born just ten years after me.

Eighteen years. Eighteen years today’s teens just might spend staring at screens and checking Facebook status updates, cyber-harassing each other, posting tweets, sexting, browsing “shooped” pictures on the /b/ section of 4chan, posting 12 gigs of sexually suggestive pictures of themselves to photobucket.com, watching pirated episodes of reality television shows online and jerking off to broadband porn. Will this generation’s lives be any better for those extra 18 years? Will they be more educated, or less educated? Will they be more tuned into reality, or less? Will they do great things with their lives, or will they be distracted and confounded into oblivion? What do you think, dear constant reader? Do the math yourself:

Eighteen years — plainly and simply — is 23% of the average person’s total lifespan.

Twenty-three percent, and the modern person spends about 28% of their lives just sleeping. You guessed it: filling our lives up with all this electronic crap has left today’s generation with just 49% of their own lives left to themselves. 49% left to spend on the things that really count. For someone born just ten years earlier like me, that percentage will probably be something more like 72% (even if we keep up the same nasty habits we had at 16 forever). Given that, don’t you think you’re short-changing yourselves a little bit wasting so much time on this crap? Wouldn’t you rather spend a little more than half your life on the things that really matter?

So, if you’re under the age of 18, or if you just happen to have way too much free time on your hands and no fucking idea how to spend it doing anything productive, listen to this:

In eighteen years, a person could write ten best-selling books, travel around the world multiple times, get married and divorced more than once, raise a child through adolescence, begin a career and start another one after second thoughts. In eighteen years, you could fight a revolution (or drag out the longest war in a nation’s history till it sinks the empire, for that matter). But instead of doing any of those things, this generation will spend eighteen years tweeting and retweeting wisdom-nuggets such as “When using a toilet plunger, always remember to keep your mouth shut.” If you’re not careful, you hopeless internet addicts out there will ruin your own lives and turn your brains to soup before you realize what the fuck is happening.

People will tell you they can multitask. People will tell you that even though they’re online, they’re staying in touch with their friends through Facebook so it’s not really anti-social. People will tell you that they’re educating themselves by looking up random facts on Wikipedia as their curiosity strikes. People will tell you that sites like Twitter can make a real and positive difference in the world and point to events like the demonstrations in Iran after their last election (protesters used Twitter to keep in touch with each other and get the word out about new demonstrations when the government had shut down all other forms of communication; but do you really think those same protests wouldn’t have happened if Twitter didn’t exist? Iranians seemed to have no trouble throwing themselves a full-blown Revolution back in ’79 and they didn’t need no Twitter for that). Finally, people will tell you that things are just changing and we need to change with them.

To that I say, Bullshit!

This rampant multitasking, overexposure to stimuli and dependence on the internet — and especially on sites like Twitter and Facebook — is melting our brains. Scientists have for several years now been studying the ability to multitask and the effects of prolonged multitasking. They’ve found that people who think they can multitask well actually can’t at all, and that when they do it for too long, their brains become overstimulated and actually start to crave distractions later. When we surf the net with ten different browser windows open at once — Twitter and Facebook on the first two Firefox tabs of course — and the TV on in the background, trying to pay attention to all of them at once for hours on end, we’re actually training our brains to expect this much stimuli all the time. Then, when we try to sit down and read a book for an hour or go to sleep at night, we find that our minds won’t slow down and we get bored within minutes or lay wide awake for hours tossing and turning. Our brains won’t slow down, won’t shut off, because we just spent the whole day overloading them. And we wonder why….

We wonder why during the same years internet use among adults shot up 117% insomnia rates among adults suddenly ballooned? Is it any wonder why Americans sleep an entire hours less per night on average today than they did fifty years ago? If you want me to do that extrapolating the math trick from before, skipping all the babbling along the way, that means the following: a person born in the last ten years will probably be asleep for 21.75 years of their life. However, that same person’s grandparents will have spent a much greater portion of their life asleep: 24.7 years.

Do you really think, dear constant reader, that losing several years of sleep and gaining over twenty years of useless times spent on collegehumor.com and the like has benefited us? I think, rather, that its run this generation a deficit. As for future generations, lets just say I’m terrified if these trends continue. We are already at a point in human history where the global population has doubled up to 7 billion in one human lifetime, after remaining below two billion for all of human history up until 1927. The atmosphere is already boiling off the globe right above our heads. In other words, with very real problems like that to deal with, I don’t think we need to add to the mix tampering with humanity’s neurological evolution. Especially since these nasty habits we’re developing tend to make us slowly more idiotic, which doesn’t help us solve complicated problems.

I know what you’re thinking: I’m just a bitter asshole without friends. This may even be true after my yearlong coma. But rest assured, I’m not saying things like Twitter, Facebook, TV and the internet in general are bad. I’m well aware that these things can be useful tools for communication and even education. However, when it comes to anything other than traditional narcotic drugs, I’m a fan of the old saying, “All things in moderation.” If people these days used the internet and the like for half as many hours per day, I think we would all be happier and healthier for it. Perhaps then we could reap some of the benefits of these modern inventions without becoming their slaves.

Make no mistake: in massive doses, social networking and multimedia entertainment is every bit as addictive as crack cocaine or heroin. If you don’t believe me, just try taking away the cellphone or iPod of anyone under the age of 15 today. I guarantee you: they will either burst into tears or literally physically attack you. Now, call me crazy, but I haven’t seen that same behavior in anyone else besides a meth addict. That’s addiction.

So, if you’re an addict, take a look in the mirror today. Ask yourself if you really want to be dependent on a machine for entertainment and happiness. At least things like weed and sex are all-natural. Machines were made by human hands, and how many good things were ever made by those?

Postscript

If you’re worried you might be an internet addict — or perhaps especially if you’re certain you’re not — click here to take a test and find out. It’s for real; developed by a genuine PhD and everything. You might be surprised or relieved by the results you get.


Global Economy No Longer Circling Drain; Now In Septic Tank

No, really. The International Monetary Fund said so this week (well… not in so many words, but the spirit of the language is really the same). The news actually came to me as something of an unnecessary bummer Thursday when I was trying to enjoy my print edition of the New York Times on my lunch break after being told hours earlier that a personal acquaintance of mine had eaten a gun Wednesday night…

So what had already become a shitty day got a lot worse when I read this headline on page two of the Business section: “Global Economy Called Worst Since 1945” (click here to see the electronic edition of that article). Thank the Great Magnet for sweet chiba. If it wasn’t for that shit, getting two doses of such bad news in the space of just a few hours might stress me out more than I could stand. But even a few safety meetings later I must admit I’m still a bit unnerved by the implications of both situations.

blanchard

Olivier Blanchard, pictured as his skull is about to erupt from his face.

Never mind my private dramas though, dear Constant Reader. Just worry about the half of my shitty day that effects you too: we have managed to fuck up the global economic system so badly that it may not recover fully for years and we don’t even have a global war on which we can place the blame.

Olivier Blanchard of the I.M.F. said Wednesday that the global economy would likely contract by about 1.3 percent in 2009, which was down from their more optimistic projection (issued just this past January) of 0.5 percent growth. While 1.3 percent contraction in an economy as big as our planet’s might not seem like a big fucking deal, it actually is a big fucking deal… a really big fucking deal… because this would be the first year since 1945 that the global economy has contracted at all.

I’ll let that sink in for a minute…

Freaked out yet? Well if so just hold your horses… there’s more… Those numbers above encompass the global economy. Here at home in the United States, generally agreed upon as the center of the whole sad mess, economic contraction is predicted to be even worse: about 2.8 percent contraction in 2009 with no growth whatsoever predicted for the whole of 2010.

In the unemployment department, Blanchard of the I.M.F. predicted that world unemployment would peak at 7 percent this year, while the U.S. unemployment rate would likely rise to at least 10 percent before ever falling again.

Now, with all of these terrible numbers flying at people’s heads like angry birds every day from their favorite news broadcasts, its hard for most people to put it all in perspective. So let me help you with that: we are deep into the shit here, folks. Deep. We are in the middle of the first global recession since World War II, and it wouldn’t take much of a shake-up to turn it into a full-blown global depression: the first since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Tim Geithner in a rare photograph which displays proof that he actually ages.

Tim Geithner in a rare photograph which actually makes him look as old as he is.

Hell, Blanchard even said that if it hadn’t been for the ambitious stimulus spending plans of the United States and other developed nations across the world this year, the global contraction would have been even 1.5 to 2 percent worse and, as Blanchard put it, “We would be in the middle of something very close to a depression.”

Tim Geithner perhaps said it best when he commented separately on the results of the I.M.F. report: “Never before in modern times has so much of the world been simultaneously hit by a confluence of economic and financial turmoil such as we are now living through.” Even though globalization helps economic growth in good times, Geithner said, “now we are learning that in times of contraction, globalization transmits trouble with enormous speed and force, affecting economies around the world — the relatively strong as well as the more vulnerable.”

I’m not saying its time to start stockpiling canned goods, but I’m saying you should think about it if things look like they’re getting any worse.

Anyway, I’m going to go and smoke some more herb before I have to read anything else about the Taliban being sixty miles form some nuclear warheads, the swine flu spreading over the planet, or cyberterrorists trying to destroy the U.S. power grid. If you people have any sense, you’ll do the same.

P.S. If the swine flu does explode into a pandemic and destory the human race, I think that Hunter S. Thompson will have missed out on some satisfying cosmic irony. What better disease to wipe out the modern world that was built by the era of greed, excess and rampant deregulation which began in the 1980’s? Thompson described that generation best himself in Generation of Swine: “Huge brains, small necks, weak muscles and fat wallets — these are the dominant physical characteristics of the ’80s… The Generation of Swine.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself, friend. Oh and thanks a lot, Ronald Reagan.


The New Apocalypse: Special Christmas Edition

funny_christmas_pictures_161Enough politics, I thought as I woke up in a pool of my own vomit under the Christmas tree in my living room this morning. I had been drinking heavily the night before and experimenting with… well… you get the idea. I had been planning on writing something for the blog today before I descended into the annual two days of living hell and oblivion that I call Christmas with my family, but until I woke up under my soiled Christmas tree, I only knew that I needed a break from arguing with retards about political maneuverings.

tit-jesusIt was at that moment as I sat gathering my wits beneath the tree’s twinkling lights that I decided I would spend my blog today debunking the myth of Christmas as the birth date of Jesus Christ (pictured at left).

Some of you readers out there may be offended that I would even think of questioning 2,000 years of “beautiful” Christian tradition, but I assure you my assertions about Christ’s actual birth date are grounded in reason and research. I would never even think of debunking a thing like this in a disrespectful manner or without taking special considerations for the feelings of the people it might affect… Wait, yes I would.

You see, I know some things that many of you Christians out there may not know and in this post I’m going to tell you all about them. Yes, I’m going to burst the comfortable little Judeo-Christian bubble you seem to live in. To be honest, I’m amazed that in the wake of a so-called Enlightenment and with today’s technology and scientific reason that people haven’t thought of this sooner. It’s really common sense: how could a baby possibly survive a night of literally freezing temperatures in the middle of a Bethlehem winter in a fucking manger without dying of exposure? Bethlehem can be fucking cold in late December, and they think it used to be even colder back then!

r309758_1360598In any case, an Australian astronomer named Dave Reneke (pictured at right) recently asserted that based on the night sky, the activities of people and the weather as described in the Gospels — as well as on advanced astronomical course-charting software of some kind or another — Jesus Christ was actually born on June 17th and not December 25th, as previously surmised by almost everybody. Turns out a couple planets (Venus and Jupiter) appeared very close together as one brilliant object in the night sky around the date of June 17th in the year of Christ’s birth. This is the most likely explanation of what the three wise men were following when they saw the “Star of Bethlehem.”

So why then would the Church have declared so long ago that they knew with certainty the birth date of Jesus Christ was December 25th and that we should celebrate it by throwing crap onto a tree and giving each other material possessions as gifts? (Never mind that Jesus repeatedly denounced material possessions as sinful and encouraged his followers to get rid of them.)

Well, it turns out that for a long time no one knew when Christ was born. It wasn’t even until around 500 C.E. that December 25th became popularized as the birth date of Jesus. The earliest record of a celebration of Christ’s birth actually occurs in Egypt around 200 C.E. when Clement of Alexandria wrote about a group of Egyptian Christians celebrating the birth of their Lord on May 20th (which is actually closer to our Australian astronomer’s date).

In different parts of the Christian world between roughly 400 C.E. and 600 C.E., Christian rulers started to decree that Christ’s birth should be celebrated symbolically by tacking it onto the end of another holiday called Epiphany on January 6th (though that holiday focuses on the baptism of Christ, not his actual birth). Not long after that, Christians started to spread like wildfire through the land, and quite a few heads of state started to become Christian. It was at this point in history that the early Catholic Church decided to use its political power to get rid of so-called “pagan” religions by absorbing their peoples and their holidays into the Christian faith when they were conquered and “converted.”

funny_christmas_tree

Please note: not an authentic Germanic pagan festival tree.

You see, Germanic pagans used to celebrate this thing they called Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (meaning “the birthday of the unconquered Sun”) roughly around the solstice (which they celebrated on the 25th of December). The customs of their celebration — which had been going on traditionally since the late third century — included many traditions we would recognize today long before Christianity ever got its hands on the holiday: the baked ham, the “yule” goat (where else do you think we got that weird ass word “yule”?), stuffing stockings full of trinkets, and the decorating of trees in the center of the village with candles to imitate the image of stars twinkling in the heavens (after all, “the birthday of the unconquered Sun” was a celestial holiday originally).

When Germanic pagans got their asses kicked by Rome and its Church, Catholics decided it was time to make the date official, and they started declaring publicly that crazy new “Biblical research” placed Jesus’ birthday on the 25th of December and we should all start celebrating it formally on that day. History is written by the victors, as they say…

shit-bitch-you-is-fine

What? Did you think ancient Romans gave each other pieces of shit like this with a greeting card attached?

Alright, I guess I’ve shattered the fragile little mental world of enough Christians for one day. It’s time for me to clean up the tree, get a shower, and wrap some more of this cheap shit I bought for my family. Maybe I should think about sprinkling some powdered milk inside this sweater I got for my uncle (seriously, best prank ever; look it up).

Hope you enjoyed this special Christmas edition of The New Apocalypse. Just wait for the special Valentine’s Day edition where I write all about how virgins used to be paraded around ancient Roman towns so single men could fling bloody animal innards at them to bless them for fertility rites during the festival of Lupercalia on February 14th… until Christianity came along to save the day and rewrite history of course. Coincidence? You decide, dear Constant Reader.

But seriously… happy fucking holidays, everybody. I’ll be seeing you in 2009.


Even Greater Idiocy From the Right: Will It Never End?

//www.babylonmysteryorchestra.com/home.html.

Sidney Allen Johnson in 1990 with what I can only assume was his fourteen-year-old crack whore at the time: "Victoria." I'm not making this up; it's all on his website at http://www.babylonmysteryorchestra.com.

It seems we haven’t heard enough from Sidney Allen Johnson (click on his name to check out his MySpace for reals), the subject of ridicule in the previous post. In response to his lambasting there, Mr. Johnson thought it would be in his best interest to post another even more offensive comment. This time, I thought it would be best to leave his full statement off of my blog and only include the parts which would not get my column banned from WordPress due to vulgar hate speech. Here those parts are:

“Defending Islam is a fools errand. No religion has killed more people, and they are equal opportunity killers… Obama’s vote total only proves how easily you left wing wackos are to deceive. You have voted for death… your own. Lets see: questionable citizenship, a socialist and a desire for a national security force under executive control. That worked out well in the 1930’s didn’t it!”

I wonder why Mr. Johnson’s George W. Bush brand of neoconservative politics didn’t get back into the White House with John McCain as its champion… Oh yeah, because these people make themselves look like idiots so I don’t even have to.

The Crusades, as invisioned by modern Christian quilters.

The Crusades, as invisioned by modern Christian quilters.

Look at the shit this shithead says: “No religion has killed more people”? Are you serious? Islam lost the Crusades, Johnson you dumb ass. Muslims may have killed a fair number of folks back in the Dark Ages, but who didn’t? You want to know what religion killed the most people back then, and continues to persecute others in any way it can today? I’ll tell you: hard-line “orthodox” Christianity!

I’m not even going to argue about that, though. I don’t have the energy. It’s really another post entirely; I promise to someday spend that time writing that post ripping Christianity a new arsehole, but for now I need to focus on ripping out other assholes: namely that of Mr. Johnson, who also claimed that President-elect Barack Obama has questionable citizenship and is a Socialist. Are you kidding?

Mr. Johnson would get along quite well with the bonafide retard who filed a Supreme Court case which alleges Obama is not eligible to become President because he is not a natural born U.S. citizen. I really hate to be the one that bursts Mr. Johnson’s bubble (wait, no I’m not), but Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and has a birth certificate from that state, and at least one of his parents was a natural born U.S. citizen themselves. That’s all you fucking need to become a fucking natural fucking born U.S. citizen, idiots! Stop arguing about this!

Since Barack Obama is now going to be the President, his birth certificate is a matter of public record and its really no secret. Nor is there any doubt that he has the fucking social security number for that matter. He wouldn’t have gotten this far without records, people.

By the way, the Supreme Court has agreed not to even hear the case in question because they all think its fundamentally retarded. And lets not forget that the current Supreme Court has a Republican majority, so the case must have been really bonkers if they had a chance to get rid of Barack Obama and they decided not to. Here is the fucking birth certificate if you still think I’m in on some nut job left-wing conspiracy:

2008_12_04_obamabc

By the by, look at that “controversial” little middle name there: Hussein. Yes, Barack Hussein Obama. Our President-elect’s middle name is Hussein, as in “Saddam Hussein.” Can you fucking deal with it already people?!?! Dear Constant Readers, can you believe that people were even asking Barack Obama if he would use his middle name during his inauguration? Of course he will! Every President ever has used their middle name in their inauguration!

The tyrant of Iraq himself in his final... and very pathetic... days.

The tyrant of Iraq himself in his final... and very pathetic... days.

Why wouldn’t Barack Obama use in his inauguration a common name in many parts of the world which means “handsome” or “good,” given to him by his father (a Kenyan, let me remind you) at his birth in 1961 before the more infamous Saddam Hussein ever came to power or even got out of prison?!?!

As for being a Socialist: John McCain saying Barack Obama was a socialist over and over throughout the campaign didn’t make him one, and Mr. Johnson saying it over and over again won’t have any greater measure of success. By the way, since “the Liberals” orchestrated their take-over plot by collapsing the economy and getting that 700 billion dollar bail-out through Congress (oh, wait… didn’t the G.O.P. have something to do with that?), we’re all Socialists now. I mean, our banks are socialized anyway… Next is health care… Bwahahahahahahaha!!! Victory for the Proletariat!!! (I’m sorry, isn’t that what you were expecting to read, Mr. Johnson you paranoid lunatic?)

As for a national security force under executive control, when the fuck has Barack Obama said he wanted another one of those? He already has a national security force under executive control: the fucking U.S. Military, Johnson you neanderthal. And that was created a hell of a lot earlier than the 1930’s. What the fuck are you talking about, Johnson?!

But let me get back to talking about colossally stupid financial bail-out plans: did y’all hear about this U.S. auto-manufacturer bail-out nonsense. The bail-out plan to rescue the troubled U.S. auto-makers from a financial ruin which would also leave millions of Americans jobless was just stalled in the Senate recently by a couple of vocal G.O.P. assholes. These motherfuckers said they couldn’t pass a bill which wouldn’t have “responsible” cutbacks in salary and wages for U.S. auto-workers.

The U.S. auto industry bail-out plan, as invisioned by the G.O.P.

The U.S. auto industry bail-out plan, as invisioned by the G.O.P.

What kind of “responsible” cuts would those be? Those auto-workers are blameless. It’s the fucking executives born with silver spoons in their assholes who don’t know how to run a company which are to blame, and they are the only people that should suffer in this whole equation. But as it stands, Republicans have proven once again that their lunatic leaders are assholes who want only to bring this country crashing down into a complete economic meltdown. Now we’re just hoping Bush will stop sitting on his hands and release some funds from the T.A.R.P. to ease the stress on the automotive industry and prevent its imminent collapse. And well all know how optimistic we should be about that since Bush has said he doesn’t want to do anything of the sort (though he has recently softened that stance to a lazy, “I’ll think about it in a few days after I finish shitting out this greasy kielbasa sausage…”). To sum up, the neoconservatives are trying to destroy the country before Obama can even take office. And if people don’t get off their asses, the neoconservatives might even do it.

I’m starting to get worried, people. We could lose about 3,000,000 more jobs before Barack Obama even has a chance to say the name “Hussein” during a Presidential Inauguration. We’re talking Second Great Depression time, dear Constant Readers. There are a lot of “ifs” there but nonetheless we should all be very careful in the coming months and be wary of assholes like Sidney Allen Johnson and his cronies.

It’s just as my good friend’s grandfather once said: “Basically, people are no damn good.” If we can all accept that one foundational truth of the world, we might come out of this mess okay.