Don’t Like: How Everything Is Totally Shitty Right Now

May 6, 2010

Everything is totally shitty right now. This is worth acknowledging.

You may have noticed I’ve been posting subjects of pretty much only stuff I like for the last year or so.  Part of this stems from a desire to be optimistic and not just resort to the ease of snark.  At one point I went back and skimmed all my posts and I realized just how easily I fell into inane belittling and mean-spirted-ness. Not overtly so, I’m not one of those bloggers who just unleashes pure venom against everyone and everything… just more than I’d like. It was mostly surprising because I don’t believe that to be part of my nature.

But it’s hard to deny that there’s a lot not to like right now.

For example: The gulf coast is now engrossed in one of the worst ecological disasters ever. For those thinking I’m about to crow on about environmentalism, there is in fact a larger human tragedy to this. The gulf coast fishing industry is now hampered once again. Maybe even effectively killed. The magnitude of the damage will have ramifications for years and it will cost the local gulf economy untold millions. Think this is exaggeration? The Exxon Valdez spill wasn’t a fourth the amount of oil spilled here and they are still feeling the effects 20 years later. I visited New Orleans just a week and a half ago and cannot tell you how much I love that city. And now to think that as they were just getting back on their feet after Katrina, all may be undone.

But there’s a lot more than just this. Horrible storms have flooded Tennessee’s great cities. Arizona just made racial profiling not only legal, but an active policy. Oklahoma legislature just made it okay for doctors to withhold information from patients. Britain may be in the midst of actively overthrowing their party in a special election. Cuba had their worst sugar harvest in over a century (this will be a bigger deal than you think). Oh yeah and Greece is going broke and effectively destroying the worldwide economy in the process. They’re not happy about trying to deal with it either.

I understand the impulse to politicize all these stories. Please. Don’t.(1)  Just take them at a human level.  Yes, there are always tales of something going horribly wrong somewhere in the world, but what’s striking about the climate right now is that all of these problems are of incredible magnitude. They’re the kind of stories that could dominate front page headlines for weeks and since they’re happening all at once our magnet-ball media doesn’t even know how to construct a uniform narritive. People need to be caring, but really there’s almost too much to address. So let’s just notice how extreme these situations are are… pretend they were happening directly to you. For some of you, maybe they even are.

These problems are not distant. They are immediate. They are American. They are all the kind of problems that we usually respond to with the kind of self-sustaining vigor that defines us.(2)

We just can’t seem to keep track of them all.

1 – It’s really hard not to politicize them, especially as Fox News continues to spit insidious conjecture about almost all of these subjects; including Michael Brown’s claim that the Obama administration wanted the oil spill to happen and did little to shut it down. Not only is that radically unsubstantiated, but it’s the kind of claim reserved for nutty 9/11 conspirators.  I’m not going to say that it can’t be put on television. That’s fine. I’m just saying you’re ethically bound to standards when you put this kind of information under the guise of “news.” It’s Fox’s fundamental flaw. Not that they are conservative, but that they undermine their own credibility with this kind of haphazard nonsense.  In fact, most of my favorite sources of information tend to lean conservative and I like them because they help me think about a problem in a different sort of context. Meanwhile, I have to out ignore fox news  in order to just get through the fucking day.

2 – and possibly our bullish-ness.

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Love: Paris

August 24, 2009

Paris is the most beautiful city in the world. There is no arguing this. I imagine there are more beautiful places; perhaps like Santorini, Tahiti, The Swiss Alps, or the green forests of China. But as far as an actual city, a major international one at that, in a hotbed of cultural shifts and living history, there is nothing more beautiful than Paris.

For aesthetic starters, virtually all the buildings in the central districts (called arrondissements) assemble a congruous harmony of neo-classical styled facades; all a kind of shade of white or ecru, dressed with beautiful adornments, flowers, shutters, drapes, and verandas. For more, let’s go to wiki!:

“For centuries, the city had been a labyrinth of narrow streets and half-timber houses, but, beginning in 1852, the Baron Haussmann‘s urbanisation program involved leveling entire quarters to make way for wide avenues lined with neo-classical stone buildings of bourgeoisie standing. Most of this ‘new’ Paris is the Paris we see today. The building code has seen few changes since, and the Second Empire plans are in many cases still followed. The “alignement” law is still in place, which regulates building facades of new constructions according to a pre-defined street width. A building’s height is limited according to the width of the streets it lines, and under the regulation, it is difficult to get an approval to build a taller building.

Many of Paris’s important institutions are located outside the city limit. The financial (La Défense) business district, the main food wholesale market (Rungis), schools (École Polytechnique, HEC, ESSEC, INSEAD), research laboratories (in Saclay or Évry), the largest stadium (the Stade de France), and government offices (Ministry of Transportation) are located in the city’s suburbs.”

Every street seems to be lined with beautiful trees and the layout of city couldn’t be more centralized and perfect. Transportation is a breeze (the most functional subway I’ve been on in my entire life too. You can get anywhere rather easily). The height of all the buildings too are kept in check lending even more significance to landmark filled skyline (eiffel, arc de triomph, notre dame, etc). And all the modern stuff is kept to the outskirts of the city, where it won’t disturb the mid-19th century vibe. It’s just all so jaw-droppingly beautiful. You can’t help but be swooned by the cityscape, I’m sure of this because it seems to be the only city which looks radiant in overcast conditions.

It bears mentioning that there is popular conception, both stateside and across the globe,  that the French/Parisians have a wide range of negative characteristics: rude, self-indulgent, self-involved, infantile, cowardly, whatever you want to say. And while some of these are complete nonsense (particularly the cowardly stuff), it is also possible to declare that none of these are fair conclusions. These classic perceptions of French society are based perhaps on an accurate outward tone or displayed visage, but are then completely misunderstood or misinterpreted. To me, the French are the perpetual adolescents of Western Civilization, complete with all the good and yes, sometimes, bad that comes with that. It’s not so much a rudeness as it is a mode of behavior. They’re simply into their own way of life and their own way of doing things (which can also be a rather American habit). They have a young, idealistic sense of politics. They take art, food, politics, and social life as seriously as one can take them. They’re kind of like that smart kid from your freshman year of college, who’s smartness is in fact adolescent because they think they know everything (and while they do in fact know a lot, the whole “thinking they know everything” spurs on anomosity).

But isn’t that a good thing to have in the world? Am I missing something? The French (and thus the French mentality) is responsible for some much wonder and great things we wouldn’t have otherwise. The food alone is the most amazing thing on the planet. How can we not a love a country that can give us the greatest food in the world? Or the most beautiful city and buildings? Am I missing something? Perhaps people just can’t get over the hangups of a culture just have a different social code. I dunno. But even the much ballyhooed rudeness is so easily disarmed with a repeated smile and kindness. It’s almost as if they’re testing you and if you keep being nice they instantly come around.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I just went to Paris and abosutely loved it.

And I can’t wait to go back.