...on the way back from Carpenter's Bluff Bridge...
Monday, April 23, 2012
As If Nothing Matters
By James Howard Kunstler
on April 22, 2012 8:20 PM
on April 22, 2012 8:20 PM
The world gave the appearance of doing nothing and going nowhere over the past month - apart from the sensational liaison of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, which, some believe, augurs a dazzling speed-up of the much prayed-for economic recovery, return to full employment, $2.50 gasoline by summer, and the selection of Jesus Christ as VP running mate by Mitt Romney - but, in fact, so much trouble is roiling under the surface all over the world that it makes you feel seasick on dry land.
It is true that the European financial fiasco is a story of such fantastic mystifying complexity that the public can't possibly be expected to follow each twist of the plotline. But the fact is that nothing was fixed for Greece or after Greece and the hazard of evermore profound wreckage is assured. The only question is how many months before the appearance of normality in financial matters yields to fighting in the streets of supposedly civilized countries.
Spain, it was revealed this week, has turned to a form of finance that could only have been designed by M.C. Escher.
The plan for stabilizing Spain's hemorrhaging insolvency position works as follows: Spain's big banks borrow billions from the European Central Bank (ECB); the Spanish banks then turn around and lend the Spanish government the money to fund a bailout operation for the Spanish banks; the Spanish banks then use the bailout money to buy Spanish sovereign bonds, that is, lend money to the government. The world received news of this dangerous idiocy with a yawn. You'd at least expect a few Germans to choke on a bratwurst here and there.
The idea that shenanigans like this can continue must amuse the historians looking on. But three weeks into April so far nothing has penetrated the stupendous wall of illusion that separates money matters from reality like the one-way mirror in the interrogation chamber of a police precinct where every last officer of the law is on the take.
The lesson in the first quarter of 2012 is that when anything goes, nothing matters. Jon Corzine, chief of the fraudster operation MF Global is still at large how many months after his firm pulled an abracadabra disappearing act on $1.2 billion of segregated customer accounts, many belonging to farmers and ranchers engaged in the normal options trade in commodities prices necessary to their business? Nobody has been fired at the Chicago Mercantile exchange or the Commodities Futures Trading Commission for this, either. No newsman has asked President Obama about any of these things, or how come Jon Corzine is still listed by the re-election campaign as a continuing major contributor. The New York Times, for one, is much more focused on major bullshit propaganda operations, such as its recent giant spread on how America will soon be an energy independent oil exporting nation.
No one in the American media is paying attention to the unfolding tragedy of Japan - and by this I refer not only to the unfinished Fukushima saga, but the parallel story of Japan closing down virtually its entire nuclear power industry necessitating gigantic additional imports of oil and gas to generate electric power - all of which points to the likelihood that Japan will become the first advanced industrial nation to bid sayonara to modernity and return to a neo-medieval socio-economic model of daily life.
The Middle West and North Africa still smolder away like giant root fires. Nothing has been settled politically and the prospects are excellent that Islamic maniacs will shortly be in charge of Egypt and Libya, not to mention Syria, or even America's trillion-dollar battleground of Afghanistan where, after ten years of persistent struggle, we can't control either the terrain or the behavior of the people who dwell on it. Meanwhile, half of Sudan's oil production was blown up over the weekend. And King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is not getting any younger at 88. Saudi spare oil capacity won't matter so much when the kingdom is up in flames.
What I wonder is how long the American public will remain in its Kardashian trance. At this torpid moment no one believes that any theoretical political cohort in this land - tea-partiers, swindled youth, professional lefties (or what's left of them), or the fugitive thinking centrists (wherever they are) - might bestir themselves to bust up a nominating convention or march on one of many debauched institutions in the nation's capital, from the SEC to the wax museum formally known as the Department of Justice. I think differently, though. I think this grim interval of crisis consolidation is drawing to a close and, like the buds swelling on every tree in New England, events will soon burst into astounding efflorescence.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Here's a couple of thoughts for all of us to ponder before we pass judgement, praise or scorn on a fellow photographer.
1. Will this thing I am about to speak say more about me than it does about the work in front of me?
Stating that a work looks "like crap" is not a critique. It is a value
statement that can show people that we think something is crap.
Sometimes that thing that we think is crap is important to someone else
for entirely different reasons. A terrible snapshot of a woman - out of
focus and with too much contrast - is crap to one critic. It is the
last photograph he took of her before she died to the one with the
picture... crap? No... a memory.
Deciding that every
photograph taken has to meet some special criteria, whether real or
contrived, means limiting the exploration, the whimsical testing, the
'shoot it to see what it looks like' ethos that can open ideas bringing
fruition long down the road.
Mistakes can lead to success.
Stating one's opinion of another photographer's work may seem like a
powerful thing to do, especially in an environment that has so few
restrictions - the net - and no real context. And without knowing what
the other photographer's context was for the image, all we can do is
project our shortcomings and failures onto their work. We see it as
failing in all the little things WE are working on... it becomes a
reflection of our challenges - not a critique of the work.
You must KNOW what was intended in order to give any kind of decent critique... of any art, really.
2. Will this thing I am about to speak help the photographer, help my
relationship to them, or help the photography community in any
A 'no' answer is pretty damn powerful as a
filter. One no, and let it go. Why is there is so much angst and energy
expended on what someone else is doing? What can that possibly do to
our work? How can someone else shooting in a way we would not harm our
work? Our relationship? Our community?
We good... we are all
good. Making photographs is a personal approach to capturing what we
see... from purely 'pretty' photos to images with deep and profound
meanings - from snapshots of our friends at our first meal together to
once in a lifetime photographs that may change the world.
Its all good. It has very little relationship to each other and all are able to exist in the ecosphere of photography.
There is too much negativity - and there is far too much 'nannyism' and
too many busybodies with their noses all into our work. It is less than
a good way to be creative.
Turn it off if you are more interested in what so and so is doing than you are in what you are doing.
Tune it out if you are hearing from strangers that you should be doing this and thinking that...
Friday, April 13, 2012
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
By James Howard Kunstler
on April 2, 2012 9:29 AM
on April 2, 2012 9:29 AM
In the drunken, drug-crazed twilight of its run as Leader of the Free World, America's collective imagination swerves from one breakdown lane to the other while the highway patrol throws a donuts-and-porn party down at headquarters and the news media searches the gutter on hands-and-knees looking for the spot where it dropped its brains.
The other day, Larry Kudlow, the king popinjay at CNBC, told viewers that the US has over a trillion barrels of oil waiting to be drill-drill-drilled on our way to "energy independence." This is the kind of malarkey that America thrives on these days, the way yeasts thrive on sugary mash. It's a complete falsehood, of course, but the working dead over at The New York Times said substantially the same thing in a front-page story the week before. The Timespersons have only one source for their stories: Daniel Yergin, chief public relations pimp for the oil industry, because he makes it so easy for them by providing all the information they will ever need. The oil and gas companies would like to direct the fire-hose of loose and easy money out there into their stock prices - building to the magic moment when, Mozillo-like, the executives can dump shares, cut, and run for the far hills where no SEC officer or DOJ attorney will ever think to look. This is just another racket in an all-rackets society.
The fantasy of energy independence therefore takes shape as a "settled matter" as we lurch toward elections. The arch-moron Mitt Romney will inveigh against Obama for holding the oil dogs back while Obama pretends to spank the oil companies for gouging the public on that alleged Niagara flow of new oil. None of them understands the true situation, which is that the USA is enjoying one last gulp of a very expensive oil cocktail with the last few dollars it can prestidigitate out of the central bank's magic box, and then there is no more even notional surplus wealth to blow on more drinks.
And it isn't even much of a gulp. US production of "all liquids" - which includes methane gas drippings, ethanol, etc - went from 7.2 million barrels a day in 2004 to about 7.7 in 2011. We use about 19 million barrels a day, down about a million from peak US consumption before the financial crash of 2008. The reason it's down: Americans are going broke, one household and one small business at a time. Shale oil production is approaching half a million barrels a day. That's about 45 minutes of daily go-power. It might go up to an hour-and-a-half before production of shale oil permanently crashes on the combination of fast-depleting wells and a lack of capital to keep drilling new ones at $8 million per well.
The story for shale gas is similar, except that initial production was so exorbitant that it drove the price down to nearly nothing (the $2 range), and the bust from that Ponzi will be even more spectacular than the shale oil. Everyone from Mr. Obama to the chiselers who run Citigroup maintain that there is a one hundred year supply of gas in the USA. They are going to be very disappointed. The public, on the other hand, will not even remember what they said as they burn down the cornfields in anguish.
I met a guy at the pumps last week who was filling up a pickup truck at least twice the size of mine a few yards away. I asked him how things were going fuel-wise with that monster Ram-Charger he was feeding. At more than $100 a fill-up, it was killing him he said. His line-of-work required him to drive all over the county incessantly. His reality was a bit different from the oil company execs promising limitless horizons of oil to CNBC-watching retirees desperate for some "yield" on investment in the face of ZIRP bond rates. The price of oil (and gasoline) may well crash again, but when it does, there will be fewer business reasons for anyone to drive around the county all the live-long day, and that guy's Ram-Charger could fall into the hands of the re-po goon squad. He may never be able to get another one, either. No more money for truck loans. Capital shortage. Sorry.
This oil and gas thing cuts so many ways that the public will feel like it is gargling Gillette blue blades. Just add up the total tonnage of steel necessary to keep this Ponzi going and you would reach a discouraging conclusion: this thing has nowhere to go but swift and implacable contraction. The ultimate destination of "energy independence" will be a nation with no cars and trucks to run. We'll get there, you'll see. But that is speaking the unthinkable.