Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Retrotopia: Unnoticed Resources

This is the twenty-first installment of an exploration of some of the possible futures discussed on this blog, using the toolkit of narrative fiction. Our narrator discovers that the differences between the Lakeland Republic and his own country include a sharp variance in vulnerability to sudden political and economic shocks...
The briefing finally wound up a little before one o’clock, and Stuart Macallan invited all of us to lunch in one of the formal dining rooms downstairs. I gathered that the ambassadors were having lunch with Meeker in the president’s private dining room one floor up, but the meal was nothing to complain about: sandwiches on croissants, French onion soup, pear slices, Brie, and choice of beverages. You could tell something about each of the diplomats by watching the latter—the ones who downed strong coffee to deal with too little sleep, the ones who tipped back a local beer to be social, and the ones who got something stronger than beer to keep from having to think about just how bad this mess could get.

I sat with Hank Barker from the Missouri Republic delegation, and a couple of other people from the trade end of things—Jonathan Two Hawks, also from Missouri, Vera McTavish from East Canada, and one of the familiar faces in the room, Lashonda Marvell from the Free City of Chicago—I’d taken part in rough-draft negotiations on a trade-in-services agreement with Chicago six years back, and she’d been on the other side of that. Two Hawks and McTavish were coffee drinkers, Marvell and I ordered beer, and Barker got bourbon straight, downed it, and then ordered another.

They were all interested in access to the Erie Canal, of course. It had never really occurred to me how big a resource that was.  People in the Atlantic Republic government treat it as a relic, but with the Mississippi closed to ship traffic by a shooting war, it had suddenly become the one way around the potential bottleneck of the Saint Lawrence Seaway. While I wasn’t an official envoy, they all knew perfectly well that Montrose’s landslide election win meant that the current embassy staff might not have the same clout in Philadelphia they once did, and they wanted to make nice with the new team.

I was perfectly willing to play that game, for that matter. Transit fees on international shipments down the Erie Canal would bring in hard currency at a time when we could really use that, and if the whole business was handled right, it would leave the other nations involved owing the Atlantic Republic favors that could be called in later on. So, between bites of sandwich, I sketched out the kind of terms we’d want—I modeled them shamelessly on the draft agreement I’d worked out with the Lakeland Republic, of course—and they tossed back questions and counteroffers. It was a good lively discussion, the fun part of trade negotiations, and I think we really made some progress toward a set of agreements that would be win-win for everybody.

The official Atlantic Republic delegation sat pretty much by themselves over on the other side of the room, and gave me flat unreadable looks now and then. They knew perfectly well what I was doing, and what the people from the other delegations were doing. They were all Barfield’s people, most of them would be out of a job in January, and since I wasn’t here in an official capacity, I hadn’t bothered them and they’d returned the favor. Still, that was before this morning. Once the lunch broke up and people started heading out, I shook hands with everyone at my table, made sure they had my contact info back in Philadelphia, and headed over to the handful of Atlantic people still sitting at theirs.

One of them was a guy I knew from back when I was in business, and I went up to him and shook his hand. “Hi, Frank.”

“Hi, Peter,” he said. “Hell of a situation.”

“I won’t argue.”

He eyed my clothes, and said, “Gone native, I see.”

I laughed. “When in Rome. I got tired of people looking at me like a two-headed calf.”

“Whatever floats your boat,” he said. “What can I do for you?”

“What’s official policy on sending a message to the President-elect via diplomatic links?”

He gave me a bleak look. “‘All reasonable accommodation,’” he quoted. “You guys pounded us fair and square, and it’s your baby now.” With a sudden edged smile: “Frankly, now that this new thing’s blown up, I’m glad I’ll be out the door in two months.”

“I bet,” I said. We talked about the details, and the upshot was that the two of us took a taxi to the Atlantic embassy six blocks away on Lakeland’s Embassy Row. From the outside, it was a nice stone building of typical Lakeland design, like the other embassies, and the Atlantic flag, navy-white-navy with a gold anchor in the middle and a gold star in the upper left, whipped back and forth in a raw wind. Go through the door and everything’s brushed aluminum and black plastic, with the kind of abstract art on the walls that looks like an overenthusiastic dog gobbled an artist’s paint tubes and then threw up. I’d spent most of my adult life in settings like that, and gotten used to thinking of them as modern, cutting-edge, and so on. For the first time it really sank in just how incredibly ugly it all was.

Still, I followed Frank to the communications center down in the basement, got handed over to the comm manager and shown to a desk with a veescreen terminal. For the first time since I’d crossed the border, I had the once-familiar sensation of an image field projected into my visual cortex, and was surprised by how intrusive it felt. Still, I had work to do. I typed out something to Meg Amberger, the transition team’s trade-policy person, letting her know about the potential shipping agreements with Missouri, East Canada, and Chicago, and asked her to tell the boss that the negotiations with Lakeland had gone well—I figured she could use the good news. I added four words that I knew Meg wouldn’t understand, but would pass on anyway, and then hit the SEND button. A moment later that was on its way; I thanked the manager and left the comm center.

Frank was waiting for me outside the door. “Normally I’d invite you to come around and check your veemail here, but we’re down to essential traffic only.”

It took me a moment to realize what he was saying. “Satellite trouble?”

“Yeah. One more thing on top of everything else we’re having to deal with.”

I eyed him, considered the options. “Can I buy you a drink?”

He paused, then nodded. “Sure.”

He knew exactly what I was asking, of course. We went outside again, and he waved down a taxi and gave the driver an address I recognized, over on the other end of downtown. All the bars and restaurants close to Embassy Row are wired for sound by somebody or other.  If you’re embassy staff or intelligence, you know where your people have mikes, so you can take contacts there when you want something recorded, and you usually know where at least some of the other countries have mikes, so you can feed them true or false information as the situation requires. If you want to talk off the record, though, you go somewhere well away from Embassy Row, and never the same place twice, so it’s harder for anybody else’s spooks to try to listen in.

So we rolled through the streets of Toledo behind the amiable clop-clop-clop of the horse, Frank looking glum and uncomfortable in his bioplastic suit, me being glad that old-fashioned wool suiting keeps out the chill. Neither of us said much of anything until we got out of the taxi. We were in front of the Harbor Club, the place where I’d listened to Sam Capoferro and his Frogtown Five and talked to Fred Vanich. It was open and surprisingly busy for three in the afternoon, but we had no trouble getting a table over to one side, across from the piano Sam had played. A spry old lady with silver hair and dark brown skin sat there now, playing Chopin with an ease that showed she’d had her fingers on a keyboard since she was six or so.

The waiter came over as soon as we were settled.  I ordered a martini, and Frank gave me a sidelong look and ordered a double shot of vodka, straight. The bartender didn’t waste any time, either.

“So,” I said, once the drinks arrived. “Satellite trouble, and everything else.”

“You know we lease satellite services from a Chinese firm, right?” Fred took a slug of his drink “We’re supposed to have four high-speed channels. Right now we’ve got one, and it’s high speed only if you give that phrase a really broad definition. Rumor has it that at least two embassies have no realtime comm links home at all, though nobody’s admitting it, and it won’t many more fender benders in orbit before our provider calls force majeure and we’re shut out completely. Everybody’s trying to figure out some way to get satellite service back, but it’s going to be a while.”

“A long while,” I said. “How did embassies phone home before there were satellites?”

It seemed like an obvious question, but Frank looked at me as though I’d sprouted a spare head. “I have no idea,” he said. “Who cares?  Anyway, our provider’s trying to see if there’s a way to get armored satellites out to the Moon’s Lagrange points or something, but that may be years out.

“But that’s just one more mess on top of the others. You know the Philly stock market’s down hard.”

“Along with everyone else’s,” I said.

“Worse.” He gestured with his drink, which was getting toward half empty.  “We had a lot more foreign investment than anybody realized—it was all through shell corporations, you know the drill—and when telecom stocks started dragging the market down, you had the usual flight to safety. The Department of Finance stepped in, of course, and propped things up with hard currency loans, but they’ve only got so much on hand and the World Bank isn’t handing over any more. So even before this damn war broke out, we were looking at a major economic crisis—and now this. I honestly don’t know how we’re going to make it.”

“We’ve had economic crises before,” I said.

“It’s different this time. Finance is running in circles like a bunch of robot tanks with a defective program, and everybody else is trying to get as much money out of the markets as they can without making too much noise, and when the hard currency runs short the bottom’s going to drop right out. I hope your boss has something up her sleeve, or we’re going to be in for it.”

I motioned for him to go on, and he said, “And now the war. This stays off the record.” I nodded, and he went on. “Our NIS people here talked with their opposite numbers back home.” NIS was National Intelligence Service, our spook shop in Philadelphia. “They’ve got sources down south. Word is that along with the drilling platforms, at least eighteen Confederate production platforms got blown to scrap, and fourteen of them were running stripper well farms.”


“Meaning that there’s not enough output to pay for replacing the platforms once the fighting’s over. A lot of the Gulf oil industry works legacy fields, right? If the situation’s similar on the Texas side, and that’s the current best guess, a big fraction of Gulf oil production is g, o, n, e,  gone, for good. That means another price spike, and maybe worse.” He gave me an uneasy look; I gestured for him to continue, and he said, “Actual shortages. As in ‘No, we don’t have any at all’ shortages. How do you deal with something like that?”

“There’ve been oil shortages before,” I reminded him. “How did people deal with those?”

“I don’t have the least idea,” he said. “That was then, this is now.  But the people back in Philly are just aghast. They’re trying to game possible responses and coming up blank. I don’t know if there’s any option that will work at all.” He finished his drink, waved down a waiter and ordered a refill.

I nodded and said something to keep him talking, and for the next two hours or so got an increasingly detailed account of just how screwed the Atlantic Republic was going to be without viable satellite services, economic stability, or a reliable source of petroleum—we used less of that latter than most of the other North American republics, and a lot less than anybody thought of using back before the Second Civil War, but it was still something we couldn’t give up without landing in a world of hurt. All the while, though, I was trying to fit my head around the way he’d blown off my questions.

The penny didn’t drop until I got him onto a taxi—he was pretty wobbly by then, so I paid his fare and told the driver where to take him—and stood there on the sidewalk watching the back of the thing pull away. Two weeks ago, I realized, I’d have done exactly the same thing. That was then, this is now, it’s different this time, that’s history, we need to be thinking ahead of the times, not behind them: how many times had I mouthed those same catchphrases?

I’d meant to flag down another cab, but turned and started walking instead taking the distant pale shape of the unfinished Capitol dome as my guide. Around me, Toledo went about its business as though this was just another day. The sky had cleared off, the wind was brisk but not too raw, and people were out on the sidewalks, shopping or heading for swing shift jobs or just taking in some fresh air. The crisis that had the Atlantic Republic tottering was just another piece of news to them. It was interesting news; a paperboy came trotting along the street shouting “Extra! Latest news on the war down south!” and found plety of customers. Still, they didn’t have to care.  It wasn’t something that was going to throw them out of work and shred the fabric of their daily lives. And the reason was—

The reason was that they had stopped saying “It’s different this time,” and treated the past as a resource rather than an irrelevance.

I kept walking. Everything I saw around me—the horsedrawn cabs, the streetcars, the comfortable and attractive brick buildings, the clothing on the people—had been quarried out of the past and refitted for use in the present, because they worked better than the alternatives. The insight that had come crashing into my thoughts in the middle of Parsifal returned: for us, for people in the North American republics and elsewhere in the industrial world, the period of exploration was over, the period of performance had arrived, and we had plenty of data about what worked and what didn’t, if only we chose to use it.

A streetcar went by, packed with workers on their way home from the day shift; the conductor’s bell went ding-di-ding ding, the way conductors’ bells went on those same streets a hundred and fifty years before. I knew perfectly well why nobody in Philadelphia had considered putting streetcars back on the streets of the Atlantic Republic’s cities, to do a job they did better, and for much less money, than the shiny high-tech modern equivalents. I’d been in the middle of the groupthink that made progress look like the only option even when progress was half a century into negative returns.  Everyone I knew was well aware that “newer” had stopped meaning “better” a long time ago, that every upgrade meant more problems and fewer benefits, that the latest must-have technologies did less and cost more than the last round, but nobody seemed to be able to draw the obvious conclusion.

I shook my head and kept walking, while those ideas circled in my head.

It must have been most of an hour later when I realized I’d overshot my hotel by a good six blocks.  The Capitol dome was something like a dozen blocks behind me, and I’d strayed into an upscale neighborhood of row houses with little shops at the street corners. I turned around, headed back toward the dome. By the time I got there, it must have been past five o’clock, and people were trickling out of the Capitol entrance, heading toward the street and the line of cabs that waited there for fares. I recognized one of them at a glance; fortunately, she saw me and turned up the sidewalk to meet me.

“Hello, Melanie,” I said.

That got a tired smile. “Hello, Peter. Hell of a day.”

“I won’t argue.” I considered the options. “Up for dinner?”

“About that.”

I gestured to one of the cabs; she smiled again, and the cabby bounded down from his seat and opened the door for us.

In other fiction-related news, I'm pleased to announce that Founders House, the publishing firm of the After Oil anthologies, is launching a new magazine of science fiction and fantasy, titled Mythic. They're soliciting stories for the first issue right now. Publisher Shaun Kilgore is looking for science fiction and fantasy that moves past the stereotypes of the genre -- science fiction that isn't all about spaceships and rayguns, and fantasy that isn't infested with dragons and elves -- and he's indicated to me that submissions of deindustrial SF will be welcome. Check out the website here.


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Shane W said...

He sees the light! The scales fall from his eyes. Nice way to tie it up!

W. B. Jorgenson said...

I find it funny how accurate that "the past doesn't matter" reaction is. I know far more people like that than I'd like. I find a good argument to stop that is to point out how dysfunctional that approach is if applied to personal life.

Off topic, but anyone live in the Gatineau/Ottawa area and interested in setting up a local green wizard group?

Doctor Westchester said...

Eric Backos,

I will be in the Cleveland area over the Labor Day weekend and would like see if we could get together for a chat. You can email me at doctorwestchester42 at Google mail. Thanks.

peakfuture said...

But of course, a new flag!

... depending on how you want it.

John D. Wheeler said...

For anyone interested in mining the past, No Tech Magazine and its companion Low Tech Magazine are a wonderful resource -- I apologize if they have been mentioned before, but I don't recall seeing them here.

gwizard43 said...

...and now, having finally seen how genuinely ugly things truly are in the Atlantic Republic (something which cannot, as Arundhati Roy noted, be unseen), Carr cannot possibly return there to live. That would be a nightmarish outcome for him now. So methinks we'll see in our Mr Carr, after he fulfills his obligations to his President, a new applicant for Lakelander citizenship...

Incidentally, JMG, I cannot recommend to you highly enough Matthew Crawford's new 'The World Beyond Your Head' - as I read it, a brilliant laying of philosophical ground supporting your notions of Burkean conservatism. He even uses the word 'Burkean'! Must be something going around...

ChaosAdventurer said...

In trying to go back to a previous episode of Retrotopia, I found it hard to track them so I created this page
and while I was at it collected the other posts of fiction, got to finally read Adam's Story and discovered your first set. Now to add today's installment.
Hope it helps others as well. Pity there isn't a gadget in Blogspot that makes it easy to see tags/labels such as 'Narrative Fiction' which of course would have required you to have been using such labels all along.
Thank for continuing to write such interesting, educational and enjoyable posts.

Andy in Toronto

Max Osman said...

What are they doing in Kansas? Or is it Toledo Ohio?

Also have you seen the latest polls since the khan statement?

The Libertarians are polling higher than trump by this point.

Graeme Bushell said...

Nice. Work!

All the threads starting to come together. This series has really grown on me!


Nastarana said...

I live quite near the Erie Canal, and most parts of it I have seen could be used right now today for shipping freight. The rest of the canal network is in various states of deterioration, but shipping could easily go from Albany to Lake Erie.

At the public library I found, and appropriated, on the free pile, three volumes of Plutarch's Parallel Lives, translated by Dryden, the great poet himself, I think, two volumes of Oswald Spengler, and all or all but the last volume of Gibbon. Is there an emoticon for shaking head, rolling eyes, what were they thinking?

I looked into the Plutarch to see if I could read it, 17thC English, and the translation seems quite straightforward, none of the archness and deliberate anachronisms of the Victorian age. I love reading Gibbon. He had his point of view and his biases but still, it is history on the grand scale such as we don't see now.

buho62 said...

Nice one. This drove home the idea of notional space for me much more than the first mention of it. Still, I wonder why people cling so stringently to the "age of exploration". Even though I very much understand and empathize with your point, there's a part of me that feels the "age of performance" just doesn't have the same pizazz to it!

Is it some deep human yearning for novelty, or has industrial society specifically just gotten us so addicted to novelty we can't see it downsides? Or maybe we just hate to admit it's been done and we can't truly emulate our being forced to admit there's no mountains left to conquer.

PS You first reference "East Canada" in the story, but then talk about "West Canada" when the narrator files his report. I imagine these would be different countries!

Eric Backos said...

Greetings to the assembled Wizardren!
We in Northeast Ohio are following Melbourne’s example by holding well-advertised monthly meetings.
The monthly joint meeting of the Green Wizards’ Benevolent and Protective Association, Tower Number 440, and Ruinmen’s Guild, Local 440 will be held at 11:30 AM on Saturday, September 24, 2016. Our location is Ruko’s Family Restaurant, 9385 Mentor Avenue, Mentor, Ohio 44060, (440) 974-1914. Shining the Green Light! Public Welcome! Tables for Failed Scholars. Look for the table topper with the Green Wizard Hat.
Many thanks to John for the posting space on his blog.

Kevin said...

"...the kind of abstract art...that looks like an overenthusiastic dog gobbled an artist’s paint tubes and then threw up."

That's the most concise review of Abstract Expressionism I've read to date. Bravo!

Eric Backos said...

@ Dr. Westchester
I (we) look forward to meeting you in person.
Email youwards away.

Wendy Crim said...

Love you posts every week. Thanks for writing for us.

John Michael Greer said...

Shane, well, we're closing in on the end of the story. There are either three or four episodes left, and a surprise or two still in waiting...

WB, hmm! I'll have to try that next time somebody tries to insist that the past is irrelevant.

Peakfuture, good. The Atlantic Republic flag has horizontal stripes like your second example; the navy blue is rather darker -- a good deep navy blue -- and the gold anchor extends into the blue stripes above and below. The Chicago flag is good. The Confederate flag in 2065, by the way, is the famous "Bonnie Blue Flag" -- a single white star at the center of a blue field -- and the song "The Bonnie Blue Flag" is the official national anthem, though you'll hear "Dixie" at least as often; it has the same role as, say, "America the Beautiful" does in the US today. Texas still has the same flag it has today. I'd be willing to accept suggestions for the flags of the Republic of New England and the Maritimes, the Missouri Republic, etc!

John, yes, they've been mentioned, but it's been a while, so thank you.

Gwizard, heh heh heh. Thanks for recommending the Crawford book -- I'll keep an eye out for it.

ChaosAdventurer, thank you. There will be more in due time, though I admit I don't have any clear idea what the next fiction project will be.

Max, yes, and since two major polling companies have changed their polling methods to make Hillary's odds look better, we can be sure we can trust that... ;-)

Graeme, thank you.

Nastarana, good for you. Gibbon is essential -- biases and all, it's a monumental, brilliant work -- and all three are worth saving. I really do have to do a post on what to do now that the libraries have given up on their historic role and have turned themselves into venues for pop media.

Buho62, I really think it's a matter of intellectual fashion. There have been plenty of periods in history in which the idea of performance has been not only accepted, but prized above innovation: "now that we know what works, let's do it!" also has a certain charm, after all. Thank you for catching the continuity error, btw -- I've fixed it.

Kevin, thank you. To my mind, postrepresentational Western art may be history's most striking example of an art form that's filled up its notional space and just kept going into sheer flatulent ugliness.

John Michael Greer said...

By the way, I neglected to add an announcement to the end of this week's post, and have now gone back and corrected that. The short form is that Founders House Publishing, the firm that's produced the four After Oil anthologies, is launching a new magazine of science fiction and fantasy; though it's not specifically a deindustrial-SF mag, publisher Shaun Kilgore has assured me he's willing to consider deindustrial SF. Check out the link at the bottom of the post for details.

Maverick said...


Off topic but related. Take a look at one of your pet peeves..

The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday declared an initial squadron of Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) F-35A fighter jets ready for combat, marking a major milestone for a program that has faced cost overruns and delays.

below it

Dan Grazier, a fellow of the Project On Government Oversight, said, however, "This is nothing but a public relations stunt." He added that it would not be possible to know if the F-35 jets were ready for combat until after initial operational testing.

"The program is not doing everything they wanted it to do ... But they're at a point now where it is stabilizing and so it is progress," said Todd Harrison, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies

The lesson here is that if something isn't working, the obvious way around is to just declare that it's working.

nuku said...

Love of and addiction to novelty: Its probably a mix of all the reasons you mention.
I think love of novelty, as a subset of curiosity, is hard wired into the human psyche from birth. Healthy human and primate babies spend a lot of their awake time exploring and discovering their bodies and the outside world. This kind of activity continues through adolescence and begins to taper off as humans mature and the demands of survival away from the protective family start to kick in.
Since the industrial revolution (and the advent of billions of oil-based “energy slaves”), the trend has been to prolong human adolescence, so its not surprising that many people in their 20‘s and 30’s and older show a strong propensity to get addicted to anything “new” (and flashy).
In the end, we are curious primates with big (probably bigger than we really need) brains.

Hammer said...

"it’s high speed only if you give that phrase a really broad definition"

Hehe. Reminds me of Verizon's 1 Mbps DSL plan, which they label as "high speed internet".

"People in the Atlantic Republic government treat [the canal] as a relic"

You're right JMG. When looking at my area from Google Earth, the canal next to the Delaware River is striking. It's also weird how well-preserved the canal was over 200 years. Yet it's completely ignored and fades away among the background of urbanization.

Could inland canals ever become an economic mode of transportation in the near future, or will we have to wait until 2065 for that to happen?

James Fauxnom said...

Thanks for the excellent fiction John, as well as the tip about the new magazine.

I took a gander at the ridiculous comment thread at concerning last weeks post. Surely they must be reading a different JMG.

Bush Al said...

Very nice work - I look forward to the post every week now.

Retrotopia is a fine way of encapsulating these important ideas. But how to get them into more heads?

As a detail there is a typo - scan for plety

Scotlyn said...

The storm is gathering force... How did we deal with storms before? Who cares, that was then....

History is an excellent resource and may I
congratulate Nastarana on finding such unregarded treasure. But perhaps not everyone is able to devote the time to deep digging or thoughtful reflection (even did we all have a sound grounding in historical literacy from our schooling)...

Stories are the way history and everything else we need to know burrows deep into consciousness and we have great need of tellers who will replace the jingles advertisers have recorded there, and the memes social media has likewise, with history made vivid, and perhaps epic, with the skill of a seanachie.

This imagined history tale, JMG, is excellent and does every bit of that, but its setting is clearly marked *future*.

I hope someone will mine Spengler's like for material and craft rivetting stories that answer this urgent question: "how did people deal with THIS or THIS or THAT the last time it happened?"

And of course, you will ask me have I considered doing this, and don't think I haven't considered it. My storytelling skills are basic... but...

Anyway, if anyone knows of stories of this kind, I'd be very interested!

Cherokee Organics said...


Yay! We're back in Retroptopia land! All that dithering and avoidance in the comment section last week was tiring for my poor brain...

"with the kind of abstract art on the walls that looks like an overenthusiastic dog gobbled an artist’s paint tubes and then threw up" Haha! That is funny stuff. You reminded me that many long years ago when I lived in the city, the neighbours kids chucked a bouncy multi-coloured ball into the backyard. It was unfortunate that the children wanted the ball back because the dogs ate it - I assumed because it was very chewy - and then proceeded over the next few days to defecate coloured piles of manure. Some people may have considered those piles to be art. The kids certainly didn't want the ball back after all that artwork processing!

Ah, the Kessler syndrome in the story seems to be escalating too. The sky will soon be closed! Hey, I loved the bit about leasing the satellite services too. That was a nice touch and also a reasonably accurate projection. I particularly enjoyed the use of the word “provider”. Hey, does anyone in the story provide ham radio services?

"That was then and this is now". Did you just sneak in to the story an example of ignoring the consequences of history? :-)! Of course, you provided a solid comparison of how people look today who make those claims to that of how they could be if only they allowed themselves.

Thanks for the enjoyable read.



Hi Scotlyn,

Thank you very much. That was lovely.



Shane W said...

RE: the election, if Hillary is a fabulous implosion artist, she who snatches defeat from the mouth of victory, then Trump is the one who rises from the dead, or refuses to die. How many times this season will we be told that this is the humdinger that does him in, only to have him recover/advance.

Shane W said...

I know JMG's not going to drop any hints, but my money's on Carr setting up an economic envoy from Lakeland to Atlantic to work their retro magic on Atlantic, and set up some kind of retro economic development plan. Atlantic's a basket case, the CSA/Texas War is heating up, w/loss of oil, and a new president w/different ideas has just been elected. The door is open for Atlantic to begin the process of being remade in Lakeland fashion.

John Roth said...


Looking at the actual 538 site is a bit more revealing. What whoever posted that on Imagur is showing is what they call the "now-cast," meaning if the election was held right at that instant. The other two forecasts are a good deal more informative, since they have different balances of trend-spotting versus noise suppression.

Polls immediately after the conventions tend to have a "bounce," that frequently dissipates after a couple of weeks. Although Hillary's bounce looks more like a pole vault - it's way out of what's been typical of the last few election cycles. Come back at the end of August, and it's more likely that the polls will be a reasonable forecast.

By the way - Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo is saying he misread Trump. Like a lot of pundits, he thought Trump was going to adjust how he's acting after the convention to try to woo independents and other people outside of his base. Wrong! Trump seems to be doing the exact same thing he was doing before the convention. This might be genius, or it might be folly. Time will tell.

Spanish fly said...

'Go through the door and everything’s brushed aluminum and black plastic, with the kind of abstract art on the walls that looks like an overenthusiastic dog gobbled an artist’s paint tubes and then threw up.'

I doubt seriously that, more than a century after last artistic vanguards belches, abstract paintings would be considered as "modern" or "new". Maybe would be regarded like XIXth cheesy oldfashioned paintings that French usually name "pompiers"

I wonder if piano woman would be playing this...

However, I've think about another Chopins theme that would be a more suitable background music for Atlantic Republic problems...

I'm kidding. Not a good idea playing that in a club.

Unknown said...


My Dad was saying the same things that you articulate in this instalment 35 years ago. He lamented the loss of the Trams as a disaster and told me that Dr Beeching(the bureaucrat who was appointed to 'restructure' the railways in Britain in the 60's) was a criminal who should be dug up and given a complete kicking for destroying our transport infrastructure! The conspiracy to get people off public transport and into cars that had occurred in The US in the 50's happened here with almost the same consequences(but not quite, we still have a reasonably viable passenger rail network and public transport, just).

John D. Wheeler said...

@buho62, I imagine Canada will break up much like India did, with Pakistan on two sides. Eventually having a non-contiguous country became too much of a hassle and East Pakistan became Bangladesh. With Canada, Quebec is the one itching to drop out, and it completely severs the East coast from the western provinces.

Kim Arntsen said...

Like Graeme Bushell, I have to say this series has grown quite a bit on me too. By now the characters are coming more into focus as actual people, and the war adds some nice urgency to the story. Looking forward to the conclusion, and of course I'll buy the book version when it's out.

What really struck me about this episode is how much of business as usual is still up and running by 2065, in spite of everything that's happened. I know this is more to illustrate a point rather than a prediction, but it really doesn't seem like too much has changed in the Atlantic Republic over the decades.

When Carr thinks to himself, "and we had plenty of data about what worked and what didn’t, if only we chose to use it", that seems fair for the immediate future (or the era of scarcity industrialism, to use the terminology from The Ecotechnic Future).

On the other hand, there should still be a lot of notional space for exploring what a truly post-industrial society would look like in the slightly longer term, so they might just get their nice shiny Age of Exploration after all. At least the Lakeland Republic should be in a much better position to start that project than most other countries.

Oh, and I really had to smile when "it's different this time" came up. Nice touch.

While we're on the subject of your fiction, I'll second one of the commentators from a few weeks back who asked about the trade paperback version of The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth. I'd love to read it, but since international shipping costs as much as the book itself, I'll wait for the paperback. I do hope it's not too far off, though!

Rebecca Brown said...

I love how you're firmly sticking to the genre's traditional script while also managing to throw in a few surprises.

@Ed-M, re last week's discussion of sea level rise: There are two components that matter, local and global sea level rise. The global rise is an average. The local rise depends on a number of factors including gravity, currents, subsidence, topography, and more. Currents are why water if piling up on the East Coast of the U.S.; subsidence is the reason the southern coast of Louisiana is sinking so fast, and gravity is why certain South Pacific islands are disappearing faster than you can say 'evacuate.' The media tends to focus on the global average to make things appear less dire than they are.

Shane W said...

Off topic, but I'm finding the MSM (mainstream media's) hysterics regarding the Trump campaign to be quite entertaining! Now, the big speculation is "what if Trump drops out?!" ROFL This is just too much!

Shane W said...

Sigh, I really think we should just establish a presidential election thread over on GreenWizards just so we don't keep hijacking the commentary w/off topic election stuff...

peakfuture said...

The new tweaked Atlantic Republic flag is up, as well as some commentary on what other flags might be like.

ed boyle said...

I bought gibbons but starting it his tone bugged me so I put it down. I had bought it as my german 19thcentury Mommsen 7 volume only went up to caesar, he saw no point in repeating gibbon's work, as it was too good apparently. When I get past my current readings of epic poetry, philosophy, etc. I imagine I wil pick that up again.

Old ways better. Garlic and ginger and onion as multiple use antibiotic. Walking as best transport cum fitness program. Home gardening as basic food source. Storytelling as family entertainment. Breast feeding as breast cancer prevention program. The past lasted a long time and worked pretty well. Different phases with their technologies are well documented. There's lots to researchin old tech and culture, cooking, music, agriculture, arts,handiwork.

John Brink said...

Wool means work and a market for sheep ranchers and farmers. We still see some big flocks of sheep out here in Colorado. If you have a shepherd and a couple of good dogs you can still free range a flock of sheep. Cattle generally require fencing. In the "old days" there were thousands of jobs for at home piece work sewing. The practice was disparaged in the '50's as exploitive but I think they threw out the baby with the bath water. Breeding even tempered working saddle and and plow horses along with good mules might be back to the future also.

One of the things I like about representational art and old photographs is the documentary value of understanding the accoutrements and equipment used in the past and what might still be useful.

Thanks for a good story.

kayr said...

Hi John,

Nastarana's comment and your response echo a similar experience I had a few days ago. A friend of mine is a librarian at the local community college and since I was there to drop off some free newsletters, I popped in to her office to say hi. After a bit of chit chat, she asked me if I would help her with the libraries project to cull the collection of craft and manual arts books since they were short on space and couldn't keep everything. She knew I had some knowledge of several past arts and skills and I said sure and we trekked over to the stacks where these books were housed. There was a lot of fluff, and a few really useful books some of which she said they would keep. However, the really sad thing was that they would be keeping them not because they were useful to anyone at this community college studying wood working, metal working, calligraphy, embroidery or any other useful practical skill, but because they were something of a reference to the distant past. The way she explained it to me seemed to make these books something of an anachronistic place holder only. Maybe something that would show the college had had a useful purpose at one time. Some of the culled books had been in the collection since the time when the college had been a "technical" college and teaching manual and practical skills was it's purpose. Quite a number of them and not been checked out for many years if at all.

Thanks for sharing your great essays and fiction. I look forward to the upcoming post on libraries. Maybe you can share your list of essential books for understanding our current predicament too.

nrgmiserncaz said...

Our local library is going the way most are I expect. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law both worked or work there now. The focus is on circulation, which is code for anything that gets checked out - e.g. DVD's, books on CD, and books of course. Now it's mostly loud, with kids focused on the computers and computer games. They are slowly but surely reducing the stacks and replacing them with movies and what-not. Sad...

They had their annual book sale where they regularly purge the philosophy and history sections. Got Daniel Boorstein's "The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America" for $0.25 and Theodore Roszak's "Where the Wateland Ends" for $0.25 as well. Half a buck well spent!

over the hill and down the other side said...

Mr. Greer,

I am astounded at the derisive comments on "abstract art" by persons who have proudly declared their disinterest and ignorance of all things visual.

This "notional space" you refer to seems to be a comfy world of verbal conceptions dutifully illustrated. Bring back Stalinist Social Realism, please! Or, if you prefer, Norman Rockwell pictures of the Republic! Anything else is "flatulent ugliness"...

It is as if the tone deaf declared that there should be no other music once "jingle bells" came along.

Thankfully, artists, in their dedication to exploring the vast and beautiful ways the human spirit has expressed itself--representational art being one little corner of this--just keep pushing at that "notional space." So what if it gets pushed and transformed? Maybe what looks ugly today will look like a revelation tomorrow.

By the way, by actually looking and engaging with Abstract Expressionism a person can come to a deep understanding of the post-war world.

But this can't be verbalized because it's not about words. However, the expression is solidly within the glorious traditions of such abstract art as Chinese hieroglyphics, Islamic patterning, Inca textiles, and many more.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160804T154438Z

Dear JMG,

This is fun (though I do wish the Wolf were not about to eat tiffin with the Tart).

One particularly liked Carr's observations of diplomatic drinking habits.

I want to make one small remark on comms, in the feeble hope that some people in the real world of affairs might some day, somehow, be reading.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, backup comms. You cannot have enough backup comms.

Our head-of-mission in London, August Torma, was significantly handicapped in the crisis years following the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939-08-23 by lacking a rudimentary radiotelegraph room. Back home, the Republic of Estonia was undergoing a type of holocaust. **BUT** Torma had to be able to confer, and could not easily confer, with a couple of our other ambassadors, stranded abroad as he was, and eventually working with a govt-in-exile. It would have been helpful to have had radiotelegraph links both with Stockholm and with Washington, perhaps especially with Stockholm.

An embassy must on no account gamble that public infrastructure will continue being available in crises. We need at the very least a rooftop antenna farm, in the 3 MHz through 30 MHz regime, and some basement comms room radiotelegraphy gear with linear amplifier. It might suffice to forego the current burst technologies, and to rely simply on Morse, even with straight key in the manner of my relative Peeter M at the front in the 1918-1920 War of Independence. (Well, radiotelegraphy back then was done with spark, and that is not right: we do need proper oscillators.)

All other armchair amateurs will join me in affirming that the one-time pad is one possibility for encryption.

Hastily, cheerfully,


(Estonian diaspora, just north of Toronto)

PS: What happens next? Is the Wolf going to propose to the Tart? What's the Tart going to say? Is this going to be a church wedding? - I don't at all think the Tart is a Catholic girl, but she is nice.

Patricia Mathews said...

Heh-heh-heh - a Retropian chortle at UNM stepping on its own toes. Some years ago, the bursar's office set up an easy way for people to pay for tuition, fees, health insurance, etc online with our credit or debit cards. It was new, it was modern, it was efficient, it would save them all sorts of fuss and bother and piles of paper and clerical salaries, etc.

BUT - UNM has never lost an opportunity to nickel-and-dime its people to death, so just this past month they announced a 2.75% fee for all uses of credit and debit cards and suggested we go to direct withdrawal from our savings or checking accounts. Anyone but the most financially secure can point out the hazards of that! So ... out comes the old checkbook. Which the system was trying to make obsolete in the first place. "In your face, folks!"

P.S. Re this week's episode, I can see the politicians, diplomats, and business types in the Atlantic Republic being stupid enough to write off the past as having nothing to offer. But is the Atlantean military that stupid? I sure don't think our own military is! They have a lot more on the line than the Beltway types.

David, by the lake said...


Again, an elegant narrative tool :) This exchange very nicely highlights the distance that the narrator (and hopefully, the reader as well) has come. Showing is always better than telling, as our English teachers would always say!

I have to make a small OT note on our present political circus. I commented to Varun in a recent letter that I have realized that I allowed myself to become more emotionally invested in this election than is warranted, given our prospects. The desire for change is great (but, as you have frequently pointed out, change is not always for the better), since the alternative is a continuance of our plodding along the path of imperial decline while simultaneously denying that we are do any such thing. Then, even as I was describing this realization in the letter, I had a sudden image in my mind of a clutch of fourth-century Romans frantically debating and fretting over the present crop of contenders for the Western purple. I actually laughed out loud, as that image clarified everything for me. Even the purest, best-intentioned Emperor cannot alter the underlying trajectory -- at best, he/she could deflect it onto a less unpalatable path. Our energy can be put to much better use working at our local level to do that same thing, likely more effectively.

I'm looking forward to the last few episodes of Carr's adventures. The novel version is eagerly anticipated!

Kevin Anderson K9IUA said...

Retrotopia is definitely picking up its pace. I can't wait for the conclusion. I'd vote for Carr either outright emigrating to the Lakeland Republic, or if not, I hope he is appointed the Ambassador's position representing AR in Toledo. Either way he can carry on his relationship with Melanie.

Early last week I reread in one evening all twenty episodes shared thus far from start to finish. Re-reading the first episode left me with these unanswered question: If riding a train was a first-time experience for Peter Carr, how is it that he got around the AR up until now? How for instance did he get from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh to even catch the train? What is the mode of transportation in the 2065 Atlantic Republic?

I finished reading Twilight's Last Gleaming last evening (my copy ordered direct from Karnac books the week before). That book was more fleshed out and longer than I was expecting as compared to the five-part treatise shared here in the blog. The book reads much like a Tom Clancy book or the Cornelius Ryan histories of WWII (The Longest Day, A Bridge too Far), with multiple short sections making up each chapter and describing multiple events and place at the same time. A great read. A follow-on story might be how each of the different Republics came into being - we only get a glimpse in the last chapter of just one.

But then this raises another question on Retrotopia (for which I may have missed the answer if it was given) - how is it that the 13-state republic that forms at the end of Twilight's Last Gleaming is now two separate republics (LR and AR) in 2065, forty years later? What triggered that breakup?

Kevin Anderson

p.s. Embassies used all manner of communication through, but one used to be shortwave radio using obviously encrypted signals. When I visited London in both 1993 and 1994, I saw all kinds of embassies across Westminster that still had wide-band caged dipole antennas on their roofs. The hotel I stayed at both times in South Kensington had one such embassy across the street with that characteristic antenna. A smart embassy even today would have such a backup available.

Ezra Buonopane said...

Sorry. Accidentially pressed send to early.

Here's one potential flag design for the new England Republic.

Fred Wilson said...

Mr. Greer, first thank you for another excellent story. Have you ever read the Antares trilogy by Michael McCollum? I ask because one of the main characters is a 'comparative historian' who's job is to look at any current problem faced by Government or individuals, compare it to previous occurrences and advise what strategies were taken by people in the past and how successful those strategies were.

Also I was inspired back when I started reading Retrotopia to take pictures of the defunct canal locks in Sidecut Metropark south of Toledo. The old canal paralleled the Maumee river and the side cut was to get around one of the many dams installed to maintain a working water level in the river for canal boats through the dry months of summer. Unfortunately there has been something of a dam removal craze the last three decades and many of the water works that made the river navigable for canal boats have been destroyed. The only remaining dam in the area now is in Waterville where a water powered mill museum had to sue the state to keep their dam from being removed. The good part of that story is, because the dam remains a mile long section of the canal was restored and gives tourists historical rides on a mule drawn canal boat complete with reenactors running the whole thing.

Space Seeder said...

Hello All,

Being homeless and pretty well dropped out of society now, I do all my internetting here at the library. I bring this up since I saw some of you discussing the usage. Here in Vancouver on any given day, it looks like only about a third of the people are using the computers for games or other useless stuff, so I consider that pretty good! The caveat is that my research consists of glancing around me, as I'm obviously not gonna hang around people looking over their shoulders.

Mr. Greer, I note with considerable dismay that your "East Canadian" character favors coffee over Lakeland Republic craft beer. Is this to suggest that our beloved, beer-soaked, hardworking East Coasters are going to be replaced by the kind of snobby, yuppie, liberal, latte-sipping twits that we have in over-abundance here in the West? Please tell me this is just something you made up off the top of your head without your usual careful thinking and attention to detail, and that there's actually no reason to believe any such thing will come to pass. It's far and away the most depressing thing you've ever said on this blog. I can handle the idea that my once-cherished modernity will grind to a long, painful, drawn-out close and and that many of the things I love, including the internet, high-grade marijuana, video games, and heavy-metal music will see their end in my lifetime because we won't waste ever-less available electricity on them anymore. I accept that. I can also accept that widespread famine caused by dysfunctional agriculture due to climate change and declining availability of petrochemical fertilizers is all but inevitable and may well finish me personally. But this other thing? Too awful to contemplate. Hit the button please, Mr. Putin!! Friends south of the border, Vote for Hillary! Keep poking that bear!

Or, does it mean that we West Coasters are going to *trade* our snobby, yuppie &c citizens to the East FOR the beloved, beer-soaked &c Atlantic Canadians? Because I'm more than good with that! I'd even vote for a new Federal Tax to cover the transport costs!

No takebacks!

Haha. Most of the foregoing is very tongue-in-cheek of course, but not the part about that list of things I enjoy being on their way out the door. I got what you explained previously about why the internet is unlikely to persist into the future, and what you said applies in some form or other to the other things I named.

On a lighter note, I think Mr. Putin is wise and capable, and that he would find some way to deal with Hillary's America without blowing us all up.

Robert Mathiesen said...

Come on, Toomas! Carr is emphatically not what's called a "wolf," at least not in American English. A wolf has to initiate the seduction, and to be in it for ego-gratification as well as quick sexual pleasure. If anyone's the "wolf," it's Melanie, though that word wasn't usually applied to women. At any rate, she's the one who initiated the sexual encounter here. And "tart" doesn't refer to every woman who initiates sex, even if she does it outside of a marriage. Your English is virtually native, but here it isn't.

Michael said...

Communication from country to embassies used to be by short wave radio, similar to a fancy ham radio station nowdays. They had morse code (CW), single sideband voice, encrypted teletype. Probably still do in case of EMP/satellite failure.

donalfagan said...

Regarding art, we just watched Big Eyes, about Margaret Keane, who painted all those waifs, and Walter Keane, who took public credit for the paintings and made a fortune marketing them as posters. There were funny bits with the frustrated gallery owner who had refused to hang them among the abstracts, and some snobby rival painters. Also a scene where the Keanes listen to Cal Tjader at a club.

I became far more tolerant of abstract art after watching a film at the Hirshhorn in the late 80s, but as with modern architecture, proponents of modern art seem to relish being inaccessible and elitist.

Eric S. said...

It was interesting getting to see Carr getting a glimpse at the Atlantic Republic's way of doing things again after so long away. When we encounter actual global ways of life outside the Lakeland Republic, I do find myself comparing to other future narratives set in this time period you’ve written (other stories set in roughly the Retrotopia era: Christmas 2050 (2050), Adam's Story (2060s), and Pink Slip for the Progress Fairy (2048-2089)). Now, I know part of the intent there is to give a perspective of a recognizably modern mind as a foil in order to work within the confines of the utopian genre, and of course you’ve said multiple times in comments that decline isn’t the important theme in this particular narrative, which is why you've directly kept references to aspects of the future directly related to the long descent, peak oil, climate change, etcetera to a minimum. However, I also know that you’ve got some rules when it comes to future fiction, and of course the headings to these tag them as explorations of the possible futures discussed in this blog.

Outside the Lakeland Republic this 2065 doesn’t actually doesn’t look that different from the present, if anything having tropes from mainstream sci-fi projections of the near future (such as th veescreen terminal). Even the civil war is really just the sort of thing that happens at least once a century. It isn’t until you look at it from the perspective of someone like Carr, who has gone to the Lakeland Republic and is now looking back at the technology in his embassy that you see the evidences of decline, and in terms of the stages of collapse discussed elsewhere, it really looks like the Kessler syndrome and the Texas/Confederate war are only just now beginning to push this world into the early phases of scarcity industrialism, since the Lakeland Republic is the only nation mentioned that has begun to make policy based moves away from things like personal automobiles, commercial air travel, and widespread internet use, while for the rest of the world there are still resources to maintain those things (but not for much longer), and new tight oil technologies (such as the stripper well farms) are still managing to cover enough of the difference to keep today’s business as usual going.

One of the things that’s emerging here is a crisis that’s finally going to force the rest of the world to adopt a scarcity industrial model (which the Lakeland Republic has already adopted voluntarily through public policy), since here, abundance industrialism has been pushed up to its edge, able to be maintained but not repaired if something goes wrong for a variety of reasons. Meanwhile, the external environmental impacts: sea level rise, collapse of ocean food chains from ocean acidification and pollution runoff, growing belt shifts, tropical disease influx, mass migration, desertification, etcetera all seem to be moving at a glacial pace, with mostly the same sort of news on those topics you tend to see today just projected forward slightly. Is this version of 2065 within the realm of possibility for you then? Or are you intentionally taking the absolute best case scenario that doesn’t require space bats to present, giving the mildest feasible end of climate projections, assuming a 2030 or later petroleum peak, and giving the oceans and the biosphere a major boost in resilience to make the point that even if limits weren’t an issue and progress was possible, it would still be self-limiting? If this is within the scope of possible futures, it’d be interesting to get a grasp of the best case/worst case possible scenarios for the future, and where the line between possible and beyond the pale lie on either end of the spectrum… in your own fiction, so far, it seems like the extremes are this on one end, and Adam’s Story (with its abandoned highways, wandering soldier bands, and one tiny fortified village) on the other. Or have you sidestepped the question by showing us the world through the eyes of the rich, which skews the usual ground level perspective?

MIckGspot said...

RE: Flag memories - In 1960, first grade, being trained how to recite the "Pledge of Allegiance" I raised my hand to ask teacher why we were praying to a piece of cloth on a stick. She explained "many people have died for the flag". All was OK until I followed up to ask why people would die for a piece of cloth on a stick.

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ over the hill and down the other side - Well, I'm happy you like and defend abstract expressionism. More power to you. But I do hope you'll allow me to like and defend the things I enjoy. Like Norman Rockwell.

And the Wyeths (all of them), Cadmus, Tooker, Grant Wood, John Stewart Curry and Thomas Hart Benton. The last, by the way, often dismissed by snotty critics as painting in a style referred to as "Oakie Baroque" was the teacher, mentor and father figure of Jackson Pollock.

I do draw the line at Thomas Kinkade. :-). Even I have my limits. But, to those of you out there that like Thomas Kinkade, more power to you. Lew

W. B. Jorgenson said...

Hi all,

I've started a blog to document my attempt to collapse now and avoid the rush. If you don't mind, I would like to hear what people from here think of it. It may not interest everyone, but I'm sure at least some people will be interested.

Lunchbox Bike said...

I have heard about a plan to dig a Clinton-Kalamazoo Canal across Michigan. They had approximately 13 miles done until the canal industry was replaced by railroads. Some of it is still there as a big ditch next to Canal Road. If nobody finds the money to dig it again for barges, it can be a commuter route for smaller boats.

FLwolverine said...

Re: polls changing methods to favor Clinton.

While Breitbart of course is screaming this conclusion, the actual circumstances may not be so simple.

Reuters: “From the beginning of June until the middle of July, the Reuters/Ipsos survey showed consistently lower support for Trump than other polls were capturing. At times, the Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Clinton with a lead over Trump as wide as about 12 percentage points among registered voters - five percentage points higher than Clinton’s lead in some other comparable polls.

“To determine the cause, the pollsters examined what made the Reuters/Ipsos poll different. Their conclusion: By giving respondents the option of "Neither/Other," the survey appears to have captured greater numbers of ambivalent voters unwilling to commit to either candidate than other major polls, which only offer the choice of “Other.”

Before the Republican convention, the Reuter/Ipsos poll was apparently shortchanging Trump. Between the two conventions, the poll was probably shortchanging Hillary.

Fred said...

My copy of Lean Logic arrived today and I am completely blown away by the scope and detail of it. It's engaging to read, such a friendly and approachable attitude of the author, almost like he is winking at me and letting me in on a secret. I'm going to lose myself for hours in this over the weekend.

Scotlyn said...

@Chris I saw your comments on both threads.... don't thank me... if just came to from somewhere (somewho?) that it was a thing had to be said...

BoysMom said...

Seems to me that as the traditional reward for a job well done is another, harder job; as Mr. Carr has successfully rearranged his own mental furniture, his reward will be the job of assisting the Atlantic Republic to do likewise, not resting easy in Lakeland (perhaps a bit of foreshadowing in the form of gut-level love of home may show up in revisions if my guess is correct). While I have a certain old-fashioned sensibility, as Mr. Karmo does above, and would have liked to see it go that way, I doubt very much either Carr or Melanie sees this as any sort of permanent relationship.

Fred said...

And I just got to September 2026 in Twilight's Last Gleaming. Wow oh wow. I'm reading with my mouth hanging open. The whole book has been a wild ride - and I'm familiar with the plot from reading this blog over the years - but I did not see this coming. The side stories of the people in the boarded up mall really makes me think it doesn't have to be like that in the future if we downscale now. Is downscale a word? I'll have to look it up in Lean Logic.

Thank you for writing TLG. I'm going to buy several more copies for gifts for my local government officials :-) Probably should pair it with Retropia though so they get the possible more positive along with this message of following the path to destruction.

Soilmaker said...

I have been collecting a library of informative books covering skills that come in handy such as gardening, canning and other homemaking crafts, hand tools, herbal medicine, etc. An excellent source can be found in old county extension books.

One of my favorite authors is Gene Logsdon (1931- 2016), with whom I'm sure many of you are familiar. He was a prolific writer beginning with his first book “Two Acre Eden: Finding the Good Life on Your Own Piece of Land” (1971). According to Wikipedia he was an “American man of letters, cultural and economic critic, and farmer. He was a prolific author of essays, novels, and nonfiction books about agrarian issues, ideals, and techniques. He farmed in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. He wrote many books and hundreds of articles for numerous publications including New Farm, Mother Jones, Orion, Utne Reader, Organic Gardening, Draft Horse Journal and the Wall Street Journal.”

You can still read many of his articles on his blog “The Contrary Farmer “. You can also find his books on Amazon, some of the used hardcover books are in great shape and reasonably priced. My favorite book of his is “Practical Skills: A Revival of Forgotten Crafts, Techniques, and Traditions”.


Tarm said...

Mr. Greer. I am confused. In the first episode you present Mr. Carr as a clueless governmental envoy on a visit of discovery to the newly reopened Lakeland Republic. Now you state that the Atlantic Republic has an embassy in Toledo. The ways and methods of the Lakeland Republic should already be well know to the government of the Atlantic Republic via diplomatic reports. To me there seems to be a contradiction in the narrative of this story.

Bob Patterson said...

Another great episode. It sure would be interesting to have an election as part of the plot.
Your allusion to horse drawn trolleys being superior in a lot of ways, to modern transport really hit home. People have become used to using "creatively managed" debt to fund any amount of money towards any project. All this limitless cash will soon be a thing of the past and the actual costs associated with building and maintaining infrastructure will have to be considered.

Phil Bolger (boat designer) had a story in one books. He related that a team from some geological society wanted to determine the depth of a crater lake in Antarctica. And so they set off with a rubber boat, outboard engine, fuel and spare parts. All to go 1/2 mile to the center of the lake. What was wrong with a pair or oars?

Joel Caris said...

Hi Lew,

"Christina's World" is still one of my all-time favorite paintings. I find it wonderfully haunting.

That is all.

(Wait, one more thing: Issue 2 of Into the Ruins should be arriving in your mailbox in a day or two. Hope you enjoy it!)

And JMG,

I just want to say that I continue to enjoy Retropia. In fact, moreso with each installment. I can't wait to purchase it in book form, and you've been providing some inspiration for me to tackle a Utopian story at some point--and to perhaps work on a future issue of Into the Ruins with it as a theme. I do hope you'll be writing that post soon about a positive vision of a low-energy future that could be used by the climate change movement (and, presumable, other environmental movements.) I'm looking forward to it, and I think it might be a nice launching point to start soliciting stories specifically for just such a future issue.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160804T230013Z

Dear JMG:

(1) I'd like to echo the unease of Tarm ("8/4/16, 2:24 PM"): I am confused. In the first episode you present Mr. Carr as a clueless governmental envoy on a visit of discovery to the newly reopened Lakeland Republic. Now you state that the Atlantic Republic has an embassy in Toledo. The ways and methods of the Lakeland Republic should already be well know to the government of the Atlantic Republic via diplomatic reports. To me there seems to be a contradiction in the narrative of this story.

I have had a similar impression of unevenness, though I have to confess to reading each or most of your episodes once only, almost as soon as you in each case published on the present blog.

Like Tarm, I was puzzled at the beginning how an official as highly placed as Mr Carr could be so deficient in diplomatic briefings, in a situation in which cultural-diplomatic intel was surely easy to get (contiguous states, common language, shared history from 18th through 20th centuries, military hostilities finished).

Further, (2) Mr Carr seems to me to be better at practical affairs now than he was at the beginning of the narrative. At the beginning, he made lots of operational errors, and now he is skilled in observations (today correctly noting, for instance, what various diplomats are drinking). Is this perhaps worth pondering as you revise your work for your eventual book publisher?

If it were my book, I would keep Mr Carr's rather likeable current persona, but make him more skilled (and thus more likeable) in the opening chapters. However, it is your book, no one else's.

Hastily, respectfully,


Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160804T230918Z

Dear JMG,

I wonder if you can tell us a bit about the diplomatic recruitment and promotion structure in Lakeland and the Atlantic Republic?

(1) In many and perhaps most countries at present, diplomacy is a long-term career, with people recruited in some more or less informal way soon after leaving university, and then persisting in the employ of their Foreign Ministry for decades.

I learned from a Canadian friend in Britain in the 1970s, who was contemplating such a long-term career in the Canadian government, that recruitment on the Canadian side was rigorous. I think my friend was given, by the Canadian recruitment officer chatting with him in Britain, a nasty hypothetical scenario, in which as First Secretary in the Canadian Embassy in Ruritania he had to choose between (a) tragically betraying someone who trusted him and (b) keeping the folks back home in Ottawa ignorant of a fact they, the folks back home, would have been anxious to ascertain. To be accepted into the Canadian foreign service was evidently no easy matter. - And I note now that Estonia is trying to do its bit in training prospective diplomats from external countries, including Bhutan and Myanmar, via the Estonian School of Diplomacy (, one would again imagine for long-term careers.

(2) There has, on the other hand, been something of a 20th-century tradition in the USA of making the head-of-mission a political appointment, as a sort of reward at the end of a long career spent inside the Beltway, not in close connection with Foggy Bottom. There has perhaps historically been some unease in the USA over the idea of the head of mission being too much a Foreign Ministry (i.e., a Foggy Bottom, a "State Department") careerist.

Which of these two models do Lakeland and the Atlantic Republic favour? Have they made the same choice, or have they diverged?


Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160804T232925Z

Dear Space Seeder ("8/4/16, 11:23 AM"),

It is sad to read of your homelessness. I don't know what to advise here. One's first reaction is anger at society, in allowing talent to be wasted. Homelessness is a scandal as deep as military hostilities, prostitution, or child labour. It is NOT much consolation to realize that in living in Vancouver, you are in one of the few Canadian cities whose winters fall short of being lethal.

Perhaps you will from time to time be able to tell us what you notice in the Vancouver homeless community - for instance, how good or bad you find the Vancouver police to be, and what you are noticing about the specific problems of the First Nations homeless? You are one of our few effective windows into this subculture. (I know that there are lots of people in the subculture, but only a few will be writing for good blogs like JMG's ADR.)

The social abuse would be diminished if the homeless could organize, as North American factory workers used to organize themselves into unions before the 1980s robber barons outwitted them.


Tom (just north of Toronto)

Eric S. said...

Expanding on Tarm's comment on the embassy: I was also curious about how they managed to create a space in the embassies where e-mail and Internet could be accessed without compromising their security jamming technology. Is it possible to jam satellite signals over the scope of a whole country while still leaving small areas like the embassies free of the jamming signal? I'm not familiar enough with that kind of technology to know how it would work.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160804T234648Z

Oh jeepers, the devil is making me add an anecdote, even though it is only loosely connected with my more or less legitimate question, above (UTC=20160804T230918Z), regarding Lakeland and Atlantic Republic career diplomats.

The American foreign service was designed by the quirky, albeit brilliant, scientist Benjamin Franklin. Franklin decided on a uniform for the diplomats of his young Republic. His creation bore an unfortunate resemblance to the livery of persons employed in the higher levels of British domestic service, say at the rank of footman or butler. (I think there were knee-length breeches, and lots of gold braid.)

London at that stage had horsedrawn cabs, just as JMG's Toledo does. These things were called "hansom cabs", or else just for short just "cabs".

It is said that some awful British upper-class idiot saw His Excellency the American Ambassador in his pantaloons with the gold braid, and thought he was a footman, and thought it appropriate to issue an order: I say, could you call me a cab? The Ambassador stepped back two paces, looked the idiot over from head to toe, and said, You are a CAB, Sir.



Sylvia Rissell said...

Mr Greer: thank you for another chapter of Retrotopia.
I guess this means I have another week to finish reading the Christian conspiricy theory novel "Left Behind". So far the most genuine emotion I have read was a character praying to be fearless and effective witness for Jesus. I need to get back to it.

Ceworthe said...

Regarding the Erie Canal (living south of Syracuse and having ancestors who ran mule pack boats on the original) part of the Erie Canal from Syracuse west to Lake Erie lives on, widened as the NYS Barge Canal. Parts in Camillus to the east live on as the historic canal and bike trail. There are museums in Camillus and downtown Syracuse. The Erie Canal which went straight thru the middle of downtown was filled in and is now Erie Blvd west and east. (Continued)

Shane W said...

I have to agree w/Tarm, now that he pointed it out. Wasn't the border as sealed as the one between the Koreas in the beginning posts, having just been opened recently? Also, I did think that Lakeland was just beginning to open up diplomatically after the embargo? Please clarify.
I really do think you are giving us hints that other Republics are thinking of "going Lakeland" as well, the hint about the Missourah Republic official. Also, I know I've already talked about KY, but can you explain why only Atlantic Canada joins w/New England, yet the rest of the Canadian border stays intact as a national boundary? Perhaps our Canadian friends can shed more light, but I don't think there's any love loss between Alberta and BC, and there about as politically polar opposite as they come. Most people (Garreau's Nine Nations, others) place BC in Cascadia. I think BC folk would place themselves in Cascadia. I know you went to college in Bellingham, and must've spent time in Vancouver BC. What's the rationale for BC going in West Canada instead of Washington, Oregon (can't remember the name you gave it)?

Ceworthe said...

The Barge canal system consists of the Barge canal, Seneca and Cayuga canals and the Champlain Canal. From the western part of the canal the Barge canal follows the Seneca River (in Baldwinsville there is a restaurant called Lock 24 which is at the Barge canal system's actual lock 24 where you can watch the boats be raised and lowered while dining) It then goes onto meet up with the Oswego and Oneida rivers of at the three rivers area, goes into Oneida lake, and continues to Albany via the Mohawk River (of "Drums along the Mohawk" fame. Continues..

Ceworthe said...

The Oswego canal goes north to Lake Ontario at Oswego harbor. The Champlain canal goes up the Hudson River above Albany. There is some commercial traffic in these canals currently.
Curiously enough a Viking reproduction boat called the Draken Harald Hårfagre, is currently in the Great Lakes, having sailed from Norway to Iceland, Greenland,Labrador and into the St Lawrence and the lakes, and was/is supposed to enter the canal system at Oswego to sail down to the Barge Canal and then go to NYC via the Hudson River shortly. They have run into && issues due to US gov't regulation idiocy, as the are being charged for passage as a commercial vessel rather than a his reenactment vessel. But they are still going to NYS si I hope to see it when it is in the Barge canal system. Talk about using two layers of historical technology to get around!

Ceworthe said...

The eastern section of the historic Erie Canal has become a biking trail along the canal and there are some museums along that as well

over the hill and down the other side said...

To LewislacanBrooks---

It is interesting that you assume that anyone who has a taste for abstract art must be "looking down their nose" at those who have other tastes.


All the artists that you mention--Wyeth, Tooker...etc.--are indeed skillful at what they do. I appreciate most of them probably as much as you do. They were of their time and place. You "draw the line' at Kincaid! But why?

And I don't believe I attacked Norman Rockwell--though I find his portrayals cloying and creepy. Kincaid is cloying and creepy but there's something tragic there too. A depth that Rockwell couldn't touch. So there!

My point was simply that the visual world is a very big place. That it seemed unworthy of the tone of this website to blast away ignorantly...That there are many ways of comprehending the world. That "I know what I like and everything else is dreck" is a dead-end!

Also, since Mr. Greer is creating future worlds, I realized how it was that Plato would exile poets from his ideal Republic. Artists and poets have a creative drive that cannot be contained by the philosophers.

Thank goodness!

John Michael Greer said...

Wendy, thank you.

Maverick, yes, that was -- um, special. I wonder whether the Russians and Chinese are impressed.

Hammer, good question. My guess is that it's a ways off, because of the huge subsidies that highways et al. receive; not until those go away and we start hitting the next round of fossil fuel shortages will canals look profitable.

James, the thread on was entertaining, wasn't it"? I'd sum it up as "How dare you ask us to learn from our mistakes" -- of course that was the core theme of a lot of the pushback here, too.

Bush, I figure the novel version will help.

Scotlyn, your storytelling skills may be basic, but storytelling can be learned. The thing that can't be learned is the passion that leads one person to pursue a project that others haven't done yet. I'd encourage you to consider it.

Cherokee, your dogs should have gone to art school. If they'd simply had MFA degrees, those multicolored artworks of theirs would probably have a place of honor at some godforsaken museum of modern art. (The effective definition of "art" today is "anything produced, by any means, by someone with an MFA.")

Shane, heh heh heh. You know, I think it would be a good idea to take the election debate somewhere else, as you've suggested -- it's off topic except on specifically political posts. Many thanks!

Spanish Fly, nah, North American art museums started purging their collections of old works in the 2020s, the way libraries here do today. By 2040 nobody but a few art historians had ever heard of abstract expressionism, and so a new generation of artists plunged right back into the same notions over again, in blissful ignorance that anybody had ever done it before.

Unknown, your dad was a very smart man.

Kim, one of the underlying assumptions about this series is that the Long Descent is going to take a little longer than some other predictions suggest. That seems reasonable to me, though it isn't the only possibility by a long shot. As for The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth, the trade paper edition will go into production once a certain large fraction of the hardback edition has sold. It's selling tolerably well, but the timing of the paperback as well as the next volume in the series (which is already done and at the publisher) will depend on just how fast things proceed from here.

Rebecca, thank you. This has turned out to be a fun project.

Peakfuture, nice. For the New England flag, I'd suggest simply leaving out the stars and going with a blue field.

Ed, exactly. The past is a resource. Neglecting it just means we have fewer resources to hand.

siliconguy said...

On the same vein as the F-35, the Gerald Ford, the newest aircraft carrier is going to be late and over budget. They are having troubles with the new electromagnetic airplane launching system.

In their defense, they did test this out on land first, and it worked there. And the first ship in the class is always late and over budget, no matter how good the 3-D design software thinks it is. But no one seems to be asking the question "Do we really need carriers any more." Of course if you are a neocon, then yes you to to "project power." They will keep building them until the Twilight's Last Gleaming scenario comes true.

With ships there is always something going wrong. More so as they get bigger.

Politically, Seattle will vote solidly for Hillary, as she will keep the F-35 boondoggle going full speed and flood the high-tech market with H1B workers to keep wages down. That makes my East Side vote irrelevant. So I wonder what would be the best use of my protest vote.

mgalimba said...

Some classic description of old ways that people might not have heard of: Farmers of Forty Centuries by F.H. King (traditional Asian farming practices in detail) and the Elizabeth Marshall Thomas' books on the Gikwe and Kung Bushmen (I especially like "The Harmless People").

If you are interested in delving into resources considerably deeper and wilder than the nineteenth century US....

John Michael Greer said...

John, you're welcome and thank you. One of the reasons I made wool a mainstay of the Missouri Republic economy is precisely that it works well in arid climates. Another is that wool really is better suited to clothing than plastic!

Kayr, the post on libraries is being moved way up the stack, as public libraries -- through no fault of librarians -- are defaulting on their historic role and turning into yet another delivery system for manufactured corporate pseudoculture. As for a list of books, I don't have such a list -- it's much more important for people to find their own, diverse book collections, so we don't get into the kind of mental monoculture that dominates so much collective thinking today.

Nrgmiserncaz, yep. Time to look for alternatives. Fortunately the past has one to suggest.

Over the Hill, yes, I figured I'd get some pushback about that. De gustibus non disputandum and all, but in my view Western visual art ran off the rails in the late 19th century and plunged into a self-referential bubble that has destroyed its ability to communicate to anybody outside a narrow and arrogant circle of cognoscenti. As it happens, I'll be discussing that in quite a bit more detail in next week's post, which I promise you, you will not like. I grant that by engaging with abstract expressionism one may come to a deeper understanding of the modern world; both of them, after all, are artificial, overrated, overpriced, and stunningly ugly -- but again, we'll get to that next week.

Toomas, Toomas, you never fail to delight me. "The Wolf and the Tart" -- that is to say, two normal, healthy people who don't happen to share your religious beliefs and the sexual customs deriving from the latter, and so handle their interactions in ways that you wouldn't. Which is fine, of course -- as already noted, I'm quite sure that in the religious and cultural diversity of the Lakeland Republic, there are plenty of people who share your religious and sexual opinions, and wouldn't do what Peter and Melanie are doing. The fact remains that he's an Atheist, she's nothing in particular (not even agnostic so much as uninterested) when it comes to religion, and it would be a violation of the consistency of their characters to act other than they have. Now, as for your comments on embassy communications, of course, you're quite correct -- notice, though, that the bad modern habit of ditching "outdated" backup technologies is very much the sort of thing that the Atlantic Republic would do.

Patricia, the UNM story is very funny indeed. As for the Atlantic military, I'm sure they've got contingency plans, to the extent that they've been able to get funding for them through the political process; yes, they'll be more realistic than the civilian government, but the necessary subordination of military to civilian authority places hard limits on what they can do.

David, that's an excellent point. Of course Romans in the fourth and fifth centuries did get amazingly bent out of shape about which feckless and interchangeable candidate was going to wear the imperial purple, and of course it mattered, in anything but the shortest of short terms, diddly-squat. That's worth keeping in mind as the current electoral circus stumbles through its routines.

Kevin, Carr got to Pittsburgh by car, of course. Wealthy and well-connected people in the Atlantic Republic have cars, and an increasingly costly system of toll roads links the major cities and other elite destinations. As for your broader question, Retrotopia and Twilight's Last Gleaming are not set in the same future, of course. I'm a little surprised that you missed that -- in Twilight's Last Gleaming, after all, the US broke up as a result of a runaway constitutional convention, while in Retrotopia, the breakup involved the Second Civil War and four years of brutal street-by-street fighting.

patriciaormsby said...

I've immersed myself in Retrotopia to the degree that "East Canada," "The Confederacy" and other nations mentioned no longer seem so alien, as if I'd gone through the stages of acceptance. I'm enjoying the world you present. In my own fiction, one of my goals has been to show that despite such world-shaking events and real hardship, life goes on much as before, with people falling in love and working together, the usual scoundrels still scheming, and more challenges, triumphs and defeats. Much happiness lies in accepting that things change, and moving on ahead in ways that are still possible.

Off topic, but it looks like you were right about many people in America respecting Vladimir Putin. The TV that my husband still insists on watching was blaring some emergency announcement from America's feckless, ahem, fearless leader that Trump was going to be investigated for some scam or other. (It reminds me of his brave stand in public against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.)

I guess the red scare didn't work quite as well as intended.

I suppose that the ability to travel that we have enjoyed widely the past thirty or so years and more recently also getting around on the Internet have had some of the positive effect I was hoping they would. We can go over there in one way or another and make friends, and quite a bunch of us did while we had the chance. (BTW, hoping to make my ecotours much more meaningful from an ecological perspective, I took the ship from Niigata to Vladivostok once for planning, and it was fun, but the Japanese don't have time. I kept getting complaints that I wasn't running three-day tours. There was a trade-off. Russia was a such a severe culture shock for the Japanese, that there was no way for tour leaders to shield them from it, which is what they demanded. But it really opened their eyes.)

Also way off topic, but a milestone in a worrisome sense, the number of farmers in Japan fell below 2 million for the first time (they don't say since when, but I reckon since about 2000 years ago, a while after rice arrived in the archipelago) as of last Saturday. My husband, Shinobu, says he and I are both officially counted among those 2 million. Twenty-five years ago, Japan had 5 million farmers. Shinobu says there are probably about five farmers in our "county" (Fujinomiya City) who actually make a living at it. The rest are on pensions or, like us, have someone bringing in an income some other way. Some have gone into debt to put up masses of solar panels, which will pay for themselves in eight years if we don't get a major typhoon here in the meantime.

I talked to one of the men making a living at it--I was impressed that he could. He was cultivating retired farmers' fields for them (you lose tax exemption if you fail to). But he was dealing with various cancers from all the gunk he was applying to the fields. A lot of farmers we know are so deeply in debt from government-run rackets that they've disowned their children so that the debt won't be passed down to them.

The situation is so bad even a new program providing prospective farmers under 45 years age with an income of about $18,000/year is not attracting very many. One man showed up near us and has started working the field across the street from ours. He'd heard some no-till ideas, and it sounded easy enough to him. Our own experience is that nearly every kind of crop demands vigorous weeding, and he's got a field that has been fallow three years, so the weeds will be impressive. I hope he will not be discouraged. He has a sign up asking for donations of equipment he is lacking. This is a town where the citizens typically steal these items from each other, regardless of need.

I'm going to have to start keeping a list of the people our town drives away, and what did it for them. The local "unwelcome committee" is unique in Japan as far as I know in using shotguns.

To summarize the above rant: Japan is so screwed!

John Michael Greer said...

Ezra, thank you. Anyone have a suggestion for the Missouri Republic?

Fred, no, I haven't read that; it came out right about the time I drifted away from reading new science fiction, though that was mostly a result of the oversupply of cyberpunk -- living in Seattle, I had to deal with Eighties hacker-and-slacker culture every wretched day, and I didn't want to have to choke down more of it in my SF reading. Still, I may give it a look one of these days.

Space Seeder, relax, there's still vast amounts of beer being guzzled in East Canada in 2065. The East Canadian trade attache had been up since three in the morning, and she was downing strong black coffee -- no lattes for her! -- to stay awake and alert while trying to work out an end run around Quebec. Once the day winds down, of course she's going to have a brew or three, if not something stronger. I hope you have someplace safe and dry to sleep, btw -- homelessness in a maritime Pacific climate is no joke.

Michael, of course -- but the Atlantic Republic bought into the latest high-tech gizmo system for their embassy communications, which is why they're fracked.

Donalfagan, I'm perfectly tolerant of abstract art; if there are people who want to paint it, and others who want to buy it, that's their business and none of mine. I simply reserve the right, in terms of the principle of dissensus, to roll my eyes, walk away, and comment accordingly on my blog.

Eric, good. Adam's Story was written when I still had a frankly unrealistic sense of the speed of decline; I still think it's a good story, and makes some valid points, but I really doubt things are going to move that fast in the real world. Retrotopia is in some ways unrealistically slow in terms of decline, but that's because like all utopian fiction, it's about the present, and I need a recognizably present-day society to bounce the alternatives against. Twilight's Last Gleaming and Star's Reach are closer to what I currently expect -- that is to say, I expect US global hegemony to come apart messily in or around the 2020s, and I expect a dark age society vaguely like the one in Star's Reach to be in place around the 25th century. Make of that what you will.

MickGspot, funny. May I share a story of my own? In kindergarten, when we were getting ready for Washington's birthday -- it wasn't Presidents' Day yet -- we all got taught the words to "My Country 'Tis Of Thee" by one of those earnest teachers, very common at that time, who liked to teach by asking questions and hoping that somebody would come up with the right answers. When we got to the line "Land where our fathers died," I was the one called on to explain how they died, and I informed the teacher that they'd been eaten by alligators. My logic was straightforward: we'd learned all about the exploration of North America by Columbus et seq.; I knew, from a steady mental diet of Tarzan movies and the like, that one of the chief risks faced by explorers was that of being eaten by alligators; so I drew the reasonable conclusion. The teacher got very flustered, especially when I explained my reasoning, and managed to extract the desired answer from someone else. I went home baffled -- not for the first time, nor, of course, for the last.

Lunchbox, I hope somebody finishes the digging -- but digging a canal is a lot of hard work, of course, and I'm not sure the proprietors of small boats would be willing or able to pay for that.

Karen said...

I have to agree with over the hill and down the other side’s eloquent comments in defense of modern art. I am reminded of your blog entry from July 13 admonishing scientists to not assume that their opinions are valid outside their areas of expertise. Perhaps Archdruid/historians claiming not to process the world visually, should refrain from commenting on visual art. The dog barf comment was an uninformed sounding description that was beneath the caliber of your typical writing. I have a BFA from one of those snooty art schools (I actually took classes in the same venerated room Thomas Hart Benton taught decades earlier). I paint landscapes, mostly representationally but I am used to the arguments…”well I know what I like,” actually most art viewers have no clue what they like...they like what they know. They are affronted when something intellectually challenging, or outside the popular discourse is put in from of them. Kind of like most anything written about on this blog. Good art, serious art is a byproduct of an intellectual exploration, it can be realistically depicting the awe in a beautiful scene, or it can be the optical experimentation of placing two colors next to one another, or whatever else the artist finds fascinating. All one really needs to know about painting is this - all painting is abstract. Period. It is just shapes of colors. The act of painting is abstracting experiences in a 3 dimensional world and depicting it in 2 dimensions. That’s all. Next time you find yourself in front of artwork you don’t like, ask what is the threat? There are very real reasons you don’t like something, the discordant colors, the unbalanced composition, lack of skill by the artist, emotions triggered by subject matter, etc. Spend a few more seconds with it, it’s a good exercise in learning a little bit more about yourself.

Yellow Submarine said...

@ JMG and Maverick:

I'm sure there's got to be a lot of snickering in Beijing and Moscow over the stupidity of the American military industrial complex, especially as they have much better planes such as the Chengdu J-20 and Sukhoi PAK FA due to enter service in the near future. What's even funnier is that the J-20 and PAK FA will probably be ready for front line service before the Lardbucket. The latest news suggests the F-35 won't be ready for combat until 2020 if not later.

Come to think of it, I remember there was a classified Australian study which was leaked to the press not too long ago. It concluded that the F-35 is inferior to the Su-35, which is the current top of the line Russian fighter and which is also being bought by the PLAAF. In particular, the study used state of the art computer simulations which included the latest intelligence, engineering and flight test date for both planes. It showed that our side could expect to lose five Lardbuckets for every two Su-35's shot down in air to air combat.

And did any of you see the latest bad news about the aptly named USS Gerald Ford? None of the key systems seem to work right. With the failure rate on the fancy new electro-magnetic catapults, there's a better than 1 in 10 chance of failure per launch. So even in a TLG scenario, there's a good chance many of the Lardbucket pilots won't even make it into the air and will get to eat supersonic cruise missiles along with the rest of the crew.

I think its pretty much a foregone conclusion that if we are foolish enough to get into a war with the Russians and/or the Chinese, we will get curb-stomped in short order. Twilight's Last Gleaming, coming to a war zone soon near you...

John Michael Greer said...

Fred, yep -- it's pretty impressive, isn't it?

BoysMom, heh heh heh.

Fred, yes, "downscale" is a word! If you'd like to give copies if Twilight's Last Gleaming to your local politicians, of course, I'd be delighted -- the whole point of that book was cautionary, along the lines of "this could happen if we don't get a clue."

Soilmaker, Logsdon's definitely a keeper. I wonder -- is the material in those old county extension books still in copyright, or was it ever in copyright? A "best of" anthology might be worth putting together.

Tarm, nah, you missed some of the details. In the earlier episodes, it was made clear that the border had been opened three years ago. As for Carr's cluelessness, he's in exactly the position one of Donald Trump's advisers might be in if, in the middle of November, after a landslide Trump victory, Trump suddenly up and sent him to Laos, say, or Moldova. (I'm using Trump as an example here because it's been made clear in the story that Ellen Montrose, the Atlantic president-elect, is a political outsider, as Trump is.) The envoy would have little time for briefing, and how many Americans know squat about the political realities or social customs in Laos or Moldova? That's the situation Carr is in.

Bob, exactly -- though the Toledo trolleys are electric rather than horsedrawn; remember the poop-powered methane plant we visited earlier?

Joel, thank you! The post on how an effective movement to counter anthropogenic climate change might be handled is tentatively scheduled for the 25th, for what that's worth.

Toomas, so noted. One of the complexities of writing a novel this way is that there's often a lot of continuity reworking needed in the early episodes by the time the latter episodes get written. As far as diplomacy, I'm figuring that the Atlantic Republic will have inherited some part of the culture of corruption and favoritism that's so much a part of public life in the big east coast cities, and so diplomatic posts will tend to be handed out as political plums. Lakeland? Good question; we haven't had any occasion to encounter Lakeland diplomats, of course. Thank you for the anecdote, which is priceless!

Eric, jamming technology is fairly selective; you've got to broadcast static or a countersignal on the specific bands you want to jam. It would be a piece of cake for the Lakeland government to leave certain bands unjammed (but carefully monitored) for the use of foreign embassies, on the condition that those bands only transmit encrypted embassy traffic and are not used to broadcast to Lakeland audiences.

Sylvia, yep. I applaud you for your willingness to slog through that turkey!

Ceworthe, hmm! I had understood that it's still possible to travel by canal from Lake Erie to the Hudson River on the Erie Canal; is that not the case?

Shane, most Americans put BC in Cascadia. Most of the Canadians I've met shudder at the thought of being politically connected to any portion of the US, with one exception -- I've heard from people in the Maritime Provinces that given the choice, they'd much rather join New England than Quebec. Thus the lines I've drawn.

Over the Hill (if I may), I'm wryly amused by the way that you're jumping from my lack of appreciation for abstract expressionism to an insistence that I must be planning on flogging the abstract expressionists out of the gates of the future! That, for what it's worth, is exactly the sort of posturing that has given so much of the modern art scene a reputation for pretentious silliness.

Siliconguy, I'd say choose the third party you like best and give it a boost.

Mgalimba, I've recommended King's book here repeatedly, for what that's worth.

ChaosAdventurer said...

What to call the believers of Progress (because they call us Luddites) has been some thing I've been contemplating. I came up with an idea a while back and this installment of Retrotopia helped me get to finish writing it up. I call them TIABists and here is why

jessi thompson said...

High quality marijuana gone because of no electricity? I doubt that ;) whenits legal it goes from the secret rooms with grow lights to greenhouses. And craft beer, if you want it to continue, is as trendy or yuppie or cool or salt of the earth as you want it to be if you brew it yourself. Easiest way to save something for the future is to learn how to make it. Plus then you have your own cool beer :D don't forget you have to taste it to see if it's good....

John Michael Greer said...

Patricia, that's really sad. I hope Japan can pull itself out of its nose dive.

Karen, funny. You've jumped to a galaxy of conclusions, to begin with. I appreciate a very wide range of art, extending from cave art through the works of the classical and Western tradition to East Asian and Northwest Coast Native American art; I have original works in my home, as well as some very high quality reproductions, and the scale and breadth of my art library might surprise you. (The visual media I don't appreciate, as I've said here repeatedly, are those that involve little shapes jerking around on glass screens.) My wife has a BFA in art history, and we make a point of visiting art museums when we travel. These days, though, we avoid the modern wings of same, because we've seen our fill of dog barf and have no interest in looking at more.

I know it's very popular in the art scene these days to insist that those people who don't find the latest fashionable drivel to their taste must be threatened by it, or what have you, but I've discussed the matter with a great many others who share my lack of appreciation for the drivel just mentioned, and nobody with whom I discussed the matter feels threatened; the word you want is "bored." What most of today's artists are doing goes out of its way not to communicate anything to those who aren't participants in the self-referential bubble of the contemporary arts scene. The mere fact that an artist finds something fascinating does not mean that anyone else is obliged to share that experience -- it is the artist's job, or it was the artist's job back before western art ran off the rails into solipsistic head games, to give the viewer a reason to care. But again, I'll be talking about that in much more detail next week.

Submarine, the funny thing is that I seem to have given US military technology more credit than it deserves in Twilight's Last Gleaming. I had J-20s beating the Lardbucket by 3 to 2, not 5 to 2!

Glenn said...

Bob Patterson said...
"Phil Bolger (boat designer) had a story in one books. He related that a team from some geological society wanted to determine the depth of a crater lake in Antarctica. And so they set off with a rubber boat, outboard engine, fuel and spare parts. All to go 1/2 mile to the center of the lake. What was wrong with a pair or oars?"

It was The National Geographic Society, Labrador, and a canoe. It's from a short essay at the beginning of chapter 7 "On Rowing" of his 1973 book, Small Boats. A paperback copy of Bolger Boats which combines Small Boats and The Folding Schooner resides by the side of my bed.


in the Bramblepatch
Marowstone Island
Salish Sea

John Michael Greer said...

ChaosAdventurer, that's good! BTW, there are three of my one-off fictions that didn't get into your list -- might be worth including:

Man, Conqueror of Nature, Dead at 408

Refusing the Call: A Tale Rewritten

Atlantis Won't Sink, Experts Agree

Many thanks for making the list!

Jessi, well, I'm far from expert when it comes to marijuana -- not my style, thanks -- but homebrewed beer, that's quite another matter. ;-)

Karen said...

I look forward to your comments regarding art next week, mainly because the abstract painters I know very much want to communicate outside their self-referential bubble.

jessi thompson said...

I like Thomas Kinkade, even though he's over sold. In art, there needs to be room for things that are just pretty, even if they are shallow.

I also think that realism and representational art got shoved aside too harshly. I like some abstract art too, but it IS elitist. The entire art world is elitist. It comes from a very long history of rich people and elites buying paintings, supporting artists, and cultivating trends. It creates an environment where elite artists and buyers reinforce each other and exclude everyone else. Why is a rich person's opinion about art more valid than a poor person's? Because they are the ones who buy paintings. Poor people get free paintings but guilting them out of their artist friends (please stop doing this to your artist friends lol offer SOMETHING in return.)

I think for some people, especially in the beginning, there was an attraction to abstract art BECAUSE it was divisive. Either you "get it" or you don't. So some art was valued precisely because people who weren't the hippest, trendiest in the art scene didn't like it. That's where the flood of mediocre abstract expressionism came from, and that's why art had to get weirder and weirder to stay cool. Meanwhile, now there's a lot of artists combining elements of abstract and representational art, which is like taking the best of both worlds (when done skillfully).

jessi thompson said...

Who's polling higher, Stein or Johnson?

Nastarana said...

Ceworthe, Thank you for the correction about the Erie Canal. I don't much care for Syracuse, rarely go there and don't know the layout very well, so I supposed the canal must run somewhere I haven't been.

I have read about an annual Lake Erie to Albany bike ride along the canal. I wonder if the bikers go around or through Syracuse.

I hope I get to see the Viking boat. Is it currently in Lake Ontario? When I was at Oswego, I thought I saw some kind of small dam or weir across the breadth of the Oswego River. It didn't look like boats could get across it.

Mr. Greer, does the Lakeland Republic not exchange ambassadors with Texas or the Confederacy?

LewisLucanBooks said...

@ Over the hill ... "...the visual world is a very big place, ... there are many ways of comprehending the world." Glad we agree. Now I can sleep sound. :-).

I can tell you exactly what I don't like about Thomas Kinkade. Besides the twee subject matter. It's the acrid palette he uses. Sets my teeth on edge. For an in depth look at Kinkade, see "Billion Dollar Painter: the Triumph and Tragedy of Thomas Kinkade Painter of Light." G. Eric Kuskey, 2014.

Rockwell was also a rather tragic figure. Given his wife's mental illness. Among other things.

For a look at the relationship between THB and JP see: "Tom and Jack; the Intertwined Lives of Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock." Henry Adams, 2009. Lew

Nastarana said...

OK. I checked the website and it looks like the Viking dragon is in Green Bay right now.

Bike Club Vest Prez said...

They have the annual "Dufur Threshing Bee" in Dufur, Oregon (August 13 and 14, this year). You can see how they harvested and threshed wheat in the 19th century. The local farmers have preserved their old equipment. Are their similar events around the nation? It was interesting, worth the trip if you are in the area. You could also probably catch some different Pokemons on your smart phone.

Justin said...

JMG, regarding the Atlantic Provinces - Newfoundland will be independent again, and will have major beef with Quebec over just who owns Labrador, even if the hydroelectric plants in Labrador aren't working. Newfoundland will do very well for itself, sea level rise won't have much of an impact on them and climate change will probably improve crop yields there rather than decrease them.

The rest of the Maritimes - PEI, NB, NS (and CB?) will likely have quite a small population in 2065. The official birth rate in 2011 here in Nova Scotia was 1.6, but considering the numbers who leave the province and don't come back, the functional birth rate is probably around 1. The situation is similar in the rest of the Maritimes.

An agricultural revitalization might reverse things for a while, but ultimately most of the good farmland in the Maritimes is approximately at sea level. I'm sure in 500 years Nova Scotia, which will be two major islands, will look a lot like Ireland did 500 years ago.

So to follow up with questions about the identity and flag of the Maritimes in 2065? Probably not a whole lot. If anything, once Canada ceases to exist, New Brunswick is probably going to end up wanting to be part of Quebec, and it's possible that Quebec's political power extends all the way to Yarmouth for a while because Nova Scotia will be such a non-entity if our birth rates and emigration stay in free fall. PEI will do very well for itself until seas and climate end farming there and will certainly maintain an identity even after PEI becomes a sandbar in much the same manner the Acadians did.

Kevin Warner said...

Another great post explaining some of the ramifications on what the Texas-Confederate war means for the world as well as the loss of space itself. As an aside, I would have thought that as the Lakeland Republic had been isolated for a generation that there would have been a drift in accents and dialect making Carr's first days requiring him to adjust to a different speech pattern than what he was used to as well as unfamiliar words.
Franks's reaction to the question of how embassies communicated before satellite's reminded me of something that happened in WW2 during the aerial invasion of the Netherlands. A parachute division was dropped onto what turned out to be major German formations leading to devastating losses. Making a bad situation into a catastrophic one was that the radios refused to function at all with some only having a range of a few hundred meters and others none at all. Allied command was thus in the dark about what was happening with the invasion force. In all this, not one person in the Division thought about simply knocking on somebody's door and politely asking them if they could borrow the phone as the phone lines were still working perfectly fine during all this.
As for using armoured satellites to replace those destroyed, why not just simply wait for satellites to be developed that have their own deflector shields. I think the later more likely than the former. A question that I do have. With the scenario that is being sketched out between satellites failures, oil supplies, technology misapplication and so forth - are you trying to sketch out what the top reverse slope of a Seneca Cliff ( would look like? It sure as hell looks like one. Again,great post.

koen said...

You could use short-wave radio for embassy communications, that's fairly classic. But how about avoiding electronics?

Toledo to Philadelphia is about 500 miles. That's a day's flight for a racing pigeon. Is that fast enough for the embassy to send a message back home?

People interested could take a look at "widowhood": allow pigeons to mate in Philadelphia, then ship the cock pigeon to Toledo. Release the cock pigeon and it will fly straight home. Knowing the hen is waiting back home in Philadelphia is motivational.

John Michael Greer said...

Karen, I'm very glad to hear that. They might consider, for a start, accepting that a great many people (including many who have extensive aesthetic educations) don't enjoy the kind of art that many modern artists prefer to make; that they have just as much right to their own aesthetic judgments as the artists do; and that bullying them from a standpoint of assumed aesthetic superiority is not an effective way to encourage them to reassess their opinion. That would clear away a great many of the barriers to communication.

Jessi, agreed -- there are some very beautiful and impressive things that can be done with the fusion of realism and abstraction; I'm thinking here especially of Morris Graves, whose works I got to see in great and welcome profusion when I lived in Seattle. There are also impressive things that can be done with the purely abstract. My point is simply that this doesn't make any abstraction that somebody with an MFA chooses to splatter on a canvas interesting, or worthy of attention, to anybody but the artist.

Nastarana, of course it does, but it's not going to invite the embassy staff of either to a briefing intended for neutral nations! I'm sure President Meeker has had meetings with the ambassadors from both warring powers, in order to communicate Lakeland's neutrality and insist on that neutrality being respected; no doubt the Lakeland embassies in Richmond and Austin are busy passing on the same points to the governments of both nations.

Prez, that sounds like a lot of fun. Tell me, is there an organic spray you can use to get rid of Pokemons? I want a 55 gallon drum, please.

Justin, interesting. I'd heard several people from the Maritimes talk about a possible union with New England as a future possibility, given the breakup of the US and Canada. Do you feel this is unlikely?

Kevin, thirty years isn't enough to cause significant linguistic drift, though the slang will probably differ. As for the Seneca Cliff, no, because I disagree with that entire concept. My study of the declines and falls of civilizations leads me to see that as a long ragged process with many ups and downs, not a cliff at all. 2065 is the beginning of a significant leg down in the twilight of the industrial age, but it's not the end of the world by a long shot, just another round of crises causing more high-end tech to be abandoned and more energy production to be shut in permanently.

Soilmaker said...

“Soilmaker, Logsdon's definitely a keeper. I wonder -- is the material in those old county extension books still in copyright, or was it ever in copyright? A "best of" anthology might be worth putting together.”

I wasn’t sure about the copyright status of county extension materials but according to an Ohio State University website, I believe county extension materials are copyrighted but can be used as long as you acknowledge the source. t

It’s interesting that you thought of an anthology. I turns out that the extension book I like the best “Gardening for Food and Fun” was an anthology of extension articles published in 1977 by the US Department of Agriculture. I checked Amazon and the original hardcover book is still available if anyone is interested. Someone republished a paperback version but reviewer said it was a poor quality scanned copy. The information on the paperback copy says the author is the US Department of Agriculture but it was published by Fredonia Books (NL) (March 21, 2006). Does this mean that anyone can create a newer version as long as the US Department of Agriculture is acknowledged? I searched and found that the Department of Agriculture published several anthologies, many of which I was able to find on Amazon.

Another good source of old gardening books is local library book sales. Older gardening books have fewer pictures but much more information. Although after reading lesson 3 in Green Wizardry I’ll have to learn to rephrase that and say much more data! But if ones intention is to grow food, then there is an abundant amount of information to be found in older gardening books.


Glenn Murray said...

Mr Greer, can the Lakeland Republic retain the swallowtail pennant shape of the current Ohio state flag? I think the residents might appreciate having a flag that is not a flag, and completely different from all the others, and the historic continuity might be nice. I hope we will be making trolley and Interurban cars in Cleveland again.

Nastarana said...

jessi thompson, Real Clear Politics this morning shows Johnson(Libertarian) at 8% and Stein (Green) at 3.5. My guess, for what it might be worth, is that the real figures are closer to 10% and 5% respectively. The Clintonistas in particular do NOT want another person in the debates, supposing that Mme. C. even agrees to debate. Johnson might be allowed in if his numbers continue to climb and if Trump doesn't get it together soon and if enough Republican operatives start thinking they have a shot at appointments in a Libertarian administration.

Juhana said...

Essays you have written lately about contemporary politics have all been very good. Climate change activism, education and political process in ”representative” West have all been examined under harsh, but not malevolent light. I thought to share couple of (subjective) perceptions I have made by following the debates of comment sections.

This ”class war consciousness” against native working classes you have described from your own point of view so well has staggering power to hold otherwise intelligent people in its’s thrall. Here in Scandinavia, and more generally in Western Europe, grassroots rebellion against this new status quo and ancien regime has started at least decade ago. Right-wing populist parties have brought SJW taboo subjects such as resistance against immigration and free trade to political table many years ago. Outcries of racism and fascism have followed in every country with boring predictability. People talking about real concerns in their real lives are turned into somekind cartoon Nazi monsters in hysteric propaganda of Looney Left and SJW crowd. Psychology of this outcry has been very similar in every country: blight of working class is somehow regocnised, but ideologically pure Brahmins of intelligentsia sentence political reflection of this blight with harsh words. People are voting wrong, and their canditates are stupid and vulgar. They should vote Sanders, not Trump. Onwards to progressive Utopia! Same temper tantrum was experienced in every European country in the early stages of New Right rising to the parliaments. Trump is the reflection of your nation’s populist Right stirring first time murky waters of politics with their new-found strength. It won’t go away, even if SJW’s preach hard their Holy Trinity of anti-racism/feminism/LBGT pedestalizing. Boogey man is out of the closet now in USA also.

The observation: debate on your comment sections have followed same, well-worn path that has been experienced here in Europe many years ago. Shrill denouncements and power fantasies projected by faithful SJW's have been as predictable as shrieks of monkey tribe from whom the territory is taken by new, aggressive monkey tribe. Desmond Morris would be thrilled to follow how ritualistic and ceremonial our "deep thinking" really is. There is no depth in it. It is just intellectualized war noise of one monkey tribe ready to attack other monkey tribe, threatening their vital interests. Tribe is everything, the truth. All universalist ideas and moral posturing are just hollow stories and lies, frosting on the cake. These progressive persons... they are just as ready to burn in righteous fire all heretics and infidels as those religious fanatics and Nazi monsters they so despise. Only difference is who they are willing to tie to the pyre.

Juhana said...

If I remember it right, you speak Germany? Well, visiting Halle in former East Germany was surreal experience now. People are afraid and angry. Atmosphere of fear and violence is quite pervasive. Middle class persons speak against immigration, if they see you as sympathetic listener. In Germany, ashamed and ridiculed so hard after WW2, this was thought crime just two years ago. No middle class German person then was willing to participate in anti-immigration conversation. Oh boy things have changed! Atmosphere is like is Soviet Union during it’s last years, as told by my father. He was frequent visitor into CCCP during Finnish-Soviet economic alliance, and he told many times that during late 80’s Soviet citizens just started to talk about taboo subjects semi-openly. He told how shocking that was to him, back then. Same kind of change has now happened in Germany among it’s citizenry.

Fear is everywhere. Immigrant attackers have brought stupendous amounts of violence into Germany, much of this information is left out from mainstream media. Effect has been that people does not trust mainstream media anymore. Even middle-aged bartenders are now reading news from shady internet sites nowadays in Germany. They also fear immigrants and violence even more, knowing that they cannot trust media to cover "unpleasant subjects". There are also heavily armed police check points in many ordinary places, like at the gates of popular observation post. Security checks are also quite thorough. "Liberal normalcy" is totally lost in everyday lives of people. In a weird way it resembles semi-militaristic feeling of Jerusalem, where every road trip through ”safety fences” is quite a adventure, and where getting into Armenian quarters or Church of Holy Sepulchre takes an innovative mind if there have been "incidents".

Immigrants are also scared. In Germany, very short hair is shunned as a style because it’s ”far-rightness”. In Finland we have no such prejudices against militaristic hair style, so in we went to this kebab restaurant with our short hair styles. Poor guy working on the counter actually fled the premise. Later he told us that he thought some kind of NSU-hit squad had entered the restaurant. He was really scared, shuddering was visible after he realized we were just some tourists trying to buy food from him. We told him that we like our kebab and makers of it very much, and that in Finland short, militaristic hair style is quite common. It took long time for him to look relaxed again.

Atmosphere of distrust and fear. Common identity broken beyond repair. Total nihilism and distrust towards ruling political class. Rising tide of violence and sexual harrasment. These are ingredients slowly brewing in the contemporary cauldron of Western Europe. It shall not end well.

patriciaormsby said...

JMG, it is a shame your teacher could not see the value of your response that our fathers all got eaten by alligators. I don't think any of my teachers bothered explaining the song. Either that or I slept through it, being interested at that time mostly by insects. But there was one abiding mystery in it that had me scratching my head for years and checking ever larger dictionaries for alternative meanings of "pry." I have a better idea these days, though, what the pilgrims were prying from every mountainside.

David, by the lake said...


You might have seen this already, as you have mentioned your following of NC, but today's links include an interesting piece...

Many a truth is said in jest? Certainly, it does not speak well of morale.

@Jessi Thompson -- re Johnson/Stein, others may have already chimed in, but Johnson appears to be running about 7%, Stein 3%, nationally.

Bike Club Vest Prez said...

I have a confession: I don't hate Pokemon go. I downloaded it to see what it was all about. (Don't judge Me!) I saw people alone and in groups all wandering around downtown staring at their phones and grunting at each other. At least people were out of the house and walking. Now we just need some kind of app that simulates post industrial living -- wandering around tending crops or whatever. Well, my girlfriend is legally blind. It limits what we can do together. But she likes this game so we do that. We also like getting on the tandem and biking together. We will go to the Dead Baby Downhill this weekend in Seattle. (Google it.)

I have another confession: I have never liked Picasso. (Dont Judge Me!)

Eric S. said...

"Adam's Story was written when I still had a frankly unrealistic sense of the speed of decline; I still think it's a good story, and makes some valid points, but I really doubt things are going to move that fast in the real world. Retrotopia is in some ways unrealistically slow in terms of decline, but that's because like all utopian fiction, it's about the present, and I need a recognizably present-day society to bounce the alternatives against. Twilight's Last Gleaming and Star's Reach are closer to what I currently expect -- that is to say, I expect US global hegemony to come apart messily in or around the 2020s, and I expect a dark age society vaguely like the one in Star's Reach to be in place around the 25th century. Make of that what you will."

Of course, in Star's Reach, they still had the infrastructure to build Star's Reach itself in the 2200s if I recall, and you put Retrotopia's second civil war in the 2020s, so it still fits into the window, though it looks like Retrotopia's future religious makeup would probably be Shakers and Mormons, rather than Gaians. It sounds though, like at least as an on the ground look at small town America, the Solstice Trilogy is the closest to your actual expectations, where you have a major war that knocks down the American global hegemony in the 2020s and 2030s, a totalitarian government with labor camps in the 2040s, a recovery in the 2050s, a retrotopia type society with de-automated factories, an emerging salvage industry and a period of climate-change induced dessertification in the 2100s, and a transition to a way of life not all that different from certain rural areas in the third world today by the 2150s, while the rest of the world continues its own course of history.

I'm definitely looking forward to Dark Age America, will that include an expansion and revision of the future history you teased us with in Pink Slip for the Progress Fairy?

over the hill and down the other side said...

Thank you, Karen! I salute you as a fellow artist who has gone through the very humbling process of "being a servant to the Muse."

Mr. Greer. Your anger and fulminations remind me of my first painting teacher--an Abstract Expressionistic painter who lectured us at every break about the evils of "Fads and Fashions." In his case it was the arrival of Pop Art and Photo-Realism that was anathema!

Some of what you seem to dislike is that artists are exploring new palettes--materials and methods that have never been available before. Oil painting was perfected some time ago--so does that mean just doing it over and over again? That is called "The Academy" and there are contemporary artists who are on board for that.

As for the commercialism and the nonsense--has it occurred to you that some of those artists you so dislike are commenting on just those things?

Lewis--as Karen said, go to the work.

Patricia Mathews said...

About what happened to the arts over a hundred years ago - they essentially split into High Art (or academic art) and Popular Art. And Popular Art continued creating arts for the masses which had some really good stuff.

Music picked up the African strain - blues, ragtime, jazz, soul, doo-wop - climaxing in rock'n'roll - and ran with it. Whether that's played out now is a good question, though I think the break dancing that accompanied some of it will survive. And I'm sorry, folks, but when you have just come from a course on Old English Poetry and listen to rap and hip-hop, even gangsta' rap, you can no longer dismiss it as "not art." It is simply "barbarian art."

The visual arts (and Heinlein pointed this out ages ago) turned into industrial and commercial design and illustrations. Yes, Norman Rockwell, and also Thomas Hart Benton. And I can think of one widely praised abstract artist who could have made a fortune in wallpaper and fabric design had he chosen to do so. Especially in inventing new plaids.

The Opera & Theater niche was filled by Broadway, then the movies. The local classical music station plays quite a few Broadway show tunes and movie musical numbers, and TV themes like "Victory At Sea" which are very listenable. And the movies created a new genre, the animated film - how many people still visualize Robin Hood as a singing animated fox? Which in turn revived the ancient tradition of the animal fable.

At any rate, while the Art World of the day was going off on those tangents you have rightly been deploring (I don't like that sort of thing either) and sneering at us peasants and our middlebrow tastes, the peasants were sneering right back.

Which may all be moot now - that particular creative streak may have come to an end, or it may not have. I have completely lost track of what's going on in popular music, frex, though I do intend to get the Zootopia DVD and watch it.

BTW, is this sort of split new in history? For all that Spengler's first volume is actually Art History rather than historical cycles per se, I have not a clue.

onething said...

Over the Hill and JMG-

I share a dislike of modern art, but in fairness I googled abstract expressionism and did see some examples that I can say I liked, although one of my litmus tests for admiring art is whether I could envision producing it myself. As a person of no drawing talent whatsoever, if I think I could have done it, there is no reason to pay much for it. I do want to say that I once went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is in some of the most expensive real estate in the world, and on the wall in the modern art room I saw a square canvas that was...


Yep, that's it. And someone was paid a lot for it! Funny, I'm about to go paint a wall in a similar shade of blue...

ChaosAdventurer said...

JMG, your welcome, and I've added those to the list. How I forgot "Atlantis Won't Sink", despite having nominated it for a Hugo, is beyond me. Must be the hot weather we are having.

A possible future line for Melanie to Carr? "I'm glad you aren't a TIABist anymore"

Re Pokemon repellent: An EMP would do the trick but that is certainly overkill. A Mobile phone jammer would effectively do the trick, though there are issues using them. Organically I would go for strategic planting of lots of thorny perennials, or for the more nasty, poison Ivy or the like. Alternately some bee keeping in those places may help. sigh, no free lunch here.

onething said...


The Japanese steal from one another and your town runs people off with shotguns?
I am shocked! This is very different than everything I've ever heard about the Japanese.

Peter VE said...

JMG: “What most of today's artists are doing goes out of its way not to communicate anything to those who aren't participants in the self-referential bubble of the contemporary arts scene.” Precisely.
100 years ago, public art was legible to almost everyone. An excellent example is the installation of a copy of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius at Brown University in 1908. A Brown education included reading the Meditations, and understanding that the students were there to learn to rule the new American Empire, and Marcus Aurelius was there to remind them of their duty. The latest installation at Brown is a loan of “Untitled (Lamp/Bear)” by Urs Fischer, a 20' stuffed bear with it's head bisected by a desk lamp. I'll be damned if I can figure out what it's supposed to mean.

william fairchild said...


Another good chapter. One of the things I've noticed about your de-industrial fiction is a focus on the Great Lakes and the Midwest. The Midwest is often thought of as fly8ver country -- boring. But you do a nice job of showcasing the little treasures, like the inland waterways.

MIckGspot said...

JMG thanks for the gator story, >) a fine application of logic of the time. We would likely have been fast friends in grade school.... Despite corporal punishment, I did not throw my hands up until Third Grade. About 1962 "Chapel Elementary" Scranton PA where every Tuesday and Thursday we had a drill kicked off by a loud siren upon which we had to go under our flimsy desks and assume the fetal position. Logic being, if the Soviets should launch a nuclear attack on Scranton we may be safe. Back then TV had a load of nuke content (Bikini Atoll, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, etc.). My questions raised on the soundness of the drill practice in terms of realistic survival led to several meetings with Monsignors, Archbishops and Jesuits of various sorts who tried to help me get with the program. This only caused a severe case of ADD in me and an early exit from school systems. As the gap between social and physical reality continues to grow at an exponential rate, the fun will continue! TY for your weekly dose of logic and sound reasoning, I'm surprised the gators ain't ett you yet for such behavior.

David, by the lake said...


A crazy merging of reality and fiction, but it occurred to me that we could be witnessing, in this migration of business/corporate support over to HRC, the birth of the Dem-Rep party of the Atlantic Republic, which has admittedly been gestating for some time now. (Side question -- have I missed it in the narrative or do we not know what Carr's party's name is?)

Shane W said...

I agree w/your perspective on New England and the Maritimes. I went to Newfoundland w/someone w/roots in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and she was telling me that the Maine/New Brunswick border was historically very porous, w/much back and forth, with family on both sides, and that New England and the Maritimes historically enjoy very strong ties. She said that to this day, Boston still gets its official Christmas tree from Halifax as an enduring thanks for Boston's help restoring Halifax after the historic, tragic harbour explosion. Oddly enough, the TransCanada Hwy hugs the NB/Maine border so closely that as you're looking out the window driving, you're looking across the border into Maine. I would second Justin about Newfoundland. Newfoundland is English w/a capital E, and did not join Confederation until 1949, well w/in memory of living people. I heard from people in Newfoundland that there is still residual resentment over joining Canada, and rumors of payoffs/payouts by the Canadian government in exchange for "yes" votes still swirl. Any Newfie ADR readers out there? Where you to?
are you sure sea level rise won't affect Nfld? I mean, it's a province of fishing villages hugging the coast, and the interior is unpopulated. Wouldn't St. John's, Corner Brook, and all the coastal villages flood?

Arkady Dust said...

The abstract art discussion seems rather similar of the music discussion some weeks ago. I would say that, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder then there can be no beauty without beholders. And the creator is obviously (sometimes hilariously) biased.

But on the other hand, abstract art in the setting where Mr Carr encountered it - is not really supposed to be art in the usual sense. It is desperately needed ornamentation for featureless geometries of "brushed aluminum and black plastic". Which brings in somewhat different expectations.

And leads to a sort of "chicken and egg" question:
Were modern art museums built as featureless geometries to make the works noticeable? Or was modern abstract art developed to make modern art museums tolerable to be in?

Aron Blue said...

I enjoy Retrotopia more and more. I confess to re-reading each entry. Serialization is such a lovely old-fashioned way to read a novel! I'm reminded of the legend of the New Yorkers who almost rioted on the wharf when the last episode of Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop was being delivered.

ed boyle said...

How your fiction strikes me, after spending years listening to TEOTWAWKI vis-a-vis peak oil, climate change, economic collapse is to concretely demonstrate that life continues somehow, regardless, and must not be so bad, and if bad, then that is merely a subjective panicky opinion of someone with false expectations. Keep mapping the future. We all know how influential jules verne and similar have been in forming our expectations. The future is in the mind. If RT and internet generaly has changed the western mindset regarding politics, a post oil futurist literature which is not doomerist (waterworld, etc.) could well influence future generations like my children's in creating hope instead of despair and make a planning perspective individually and at the political level as this fiction gains traction above niche genre level towards mass mrket acceptability, films, etc.

Living at the level of the present, politically, economically, technologically is extremely limiting. Those techno modernists who only know their last I-phone model's apps are bound to see the end of the world when an app is dysfunctonal but do not know how to darn a sock, much less how a potato plant looks like. Technophilia is living in the perpetual present. Technology which holds generations and is replaced only after decades and endless repairs which recognize environmental impact is the only future with a future per definition.

Eric S. said...

This entire conversation on modern art, and particularly the debate between JMG and Karen is really making me think of the play "Art" by Yazmina Reza, which I had the pleasure of doing backstage work for at a local community theater a few years ago. It's a scathing satirical portrait of the cultural elites of the modern era, but mostly takes the form of a really funny argument between a modern art connoisseur, and someone with more classical tastes who is less than enthusiastic about the subject, that may be amusingly familiar to readers (. Here's the script:, I think you can also find a few feature length videos of performances of the play on Youtube as well.

Ed-M said...


And the penny dropped, the penny dropped, that progress never existed.
That is, as a way to the promised land.

Now regarding the abstract hanging in the Atlantic Republic Embassy:

You caused me to re-see something, that I thought I had un-seen before, with the following: "with the kind of abstract art on the walls that looks like an overenthusiastic dog gobbled an artist's paint tubes and then threw up."

Then your response to Kevin (8/3/2016 9:35 PM) seared it further into my brain: "postrepresentational Western art may be history's most striking example of an art form that's ... kept going into sheer flatulent ugliness."

And then Chris (8/4/2016 12:19 AM) brought it home with that tale of his neighbours' kids throwing a multi-coloured ball into his city backyard and what happened next... ;^)

The abstract art that you caused me to re-see, and is probably hanging on the Embassy walls, is that done in the 1990s by one Eric Bodwee. What he did was cleaned his er... plumbing out and then took in different colors of paint, one color at a time, and then expelled each color of paint onto the canvas. It was so gross! It was so anally gross!

On your reply to (8/3/2016 9:35 PM to Peakfuture):

New England needs a flag, eh? Hmmm... there's already an existing flag for New England that could do official duty in this retro 'topia.

Ed-M said...

Helene Jones (Last week's post, 8/2/2016 10:39 PM),

On your comment last week on why climate change activism basically died: politics in my country (the US) and yours are essentially identical and basically corporate-driven. Not only that, but also the news media are dependent on advertising by large concerns so they basically dropped climate change like a hot potato and happily accepted millions of pounds/dollars' worth of advertising from fossil fuel companies. One such company, Chevron Oil, even ran television spots (commercials) that blamed individual consumers and not corporate agendas for all the carbon emissions! (Mark Hertsgaard, Hot: Living through the Next Fifty Years on Earth, p. 266)

Well as the old saying goes, it takes two to tango and there has to be a band playing, too; and so individual people probably would not have taken to the high-energy 'American Way' lifestyle as (living) largely as they did if it weren't for the corporations bewitching them with all that advertising streaming through print, radio, the movies now, and of course, the television set.

Andy in Toronto (8/3/2016 7:48 PM),

Blogspot does have labels and when you create, select and invoke them, the discrete labels for each post appears down at its bottom. I use them all the time on my blog!

Rebecca Brown (8/4/2016 5:32 AM),

Gravity is also a factor in the sea-level rise in the United States! For example, the New Orleans Advocate ran an article, which I reblogged, that revealed that melting ice from West Antarctica was going to be a big problem for New Orleans because of gravity, which according to the best estimates was going to multiply the global rise by a factor anywhere from 1.2 to 2.5. South Florida will get even more severe SLR exaggerations due to the currents also, methinks.

Dennis D said...

As a Canadian, currently living in Alberta, but traveled throughout, the biggest issues I se is the English speaking Maritimes would rather go with New England then join Quebec, and it is likely that Northern Quebec (First Nations areas) are likely to separate & join Ontario as the French have a history of trying to flood them out with Hydro projects. Western Canada is likely, as Alberta/Saskatchewan/Manitoba want access to the deep water ports in BC, and there is a long standing tradition of standing up the desires of Central Canada. With the changes in climate, access through the Hudson's Bay to the Atlantic will be possible for most of the year, giving Western Canada two coasts to ship from.

Olivier said...

I like your exploration vs. performance dichotomy. It reminds me of the R vs. K species distinction in ecology.

We see the same thing in culinary cultures. To caricature, go to a top-rated french restaurant and odds are the chef there will be all about exploration: inventing new recipes and all that; by contrast his Italian peer is more likely to aim for a perfect rendition of a timeless classic. Of course the performing strain is present is present in french cuisine as well and conversely if one looks closely one may find Italian chefs working in a "nouvelle cuisine" spirit but these are still valid generalizations.

Space Seeder said...

Tom Karmo: Hello, Tom. Thank you for your kind words. I'll try to address your questions as best I can here.

- Homelessness itself. In a lot of ways, yes, it is pretty awful. To the best of my knowledge, it exists everywhere that there's a capitalist/free market structure to the economy, where we all compete for places in it, because if there were no penalty for failing, or for refusing to compete, then a lot of people wouldn't bother themselves to. I'm not trying to make any value judgements about whether a different system would be better than this one, just that capitalism doesn't work if it doesn't penalize failure.

- Having said that, many people who still have means recognize, as you do, the inhumanity inherent in a society that discards some of it's members like garbage. Some people express this by giving money to panhandlers, which may make them (the panhandlers) happier in that they're a step closer to their next beer, or joint, or other drug, but it doesn't do much other good, as the rumors seem to be mostly true, at least here where I live: They're not collecting money for food/clothes/bus ticket home, or whatever. A good way to handle a panhandler, I've found in both my former and current life, is to look them in the eye and say, "No, sorry, I can't help you, dude.", instead of averting your gaze or crossing the street to avoid them or whatever. That at least gives them some dignity. I've only seen it from the one side since I will NOT beg, but I can tell you that of all the things we're denied by mainstream society, dignity is the worst.

(note - crossing the street to avoid crazy or violent people is quite understandable!)

- Haha. That last point got a little bogged down in panhandling, which I didn't intend. The point I meant to make is that those who help us the most effectively are those that support organizations that provide food, shelter, and hygiene services, either by donating or by volunteering. The ones that I'm most grateful for here in Vancouver are Salvation Army, for their meals, The Gathering Place for showers and other hygiene needs, and Union Gospel Mission for meals and shelter, although regarding that last I prefer to sleep outside as much as I can.

(cut here for length)

Space Seeder said...


- In Vancouver in particular: Actually, Tom, being here in particular is *quite* a consolation. Sleeping outside is WAY better than going to a shelter and being surrounded by anger, depression, and mental instability. I'm hoping that I can do it year round. I'm putting off getting myself a blanket as long as I can, in favor of acclimatizing myself to the chill of the wee hours.

- My experience of the police is that they are unfailingly polite if I am polite to them. One drunken time (years ago, in my old life) I wasn't, and I got put on the hood of a cop car, but that was my fault. It sure looks to me that if I'm polite and mindful of the fact that they have all the power, my encounters with them need be only minimally unpleasant. This includes a recent occasion when a cop ejected me from a Tim Horton's for sleeping on the table. I say all this as someone who is unenthusiastic about rules and authority.

- First Nations: The salient fact is that they're way over-represented. Hardly surprising: My people introduced Old World diseases to their territory, wiped out most of them that way, invaded their lands, brutally suppressed and contained the remnants of their once-proud peoples and all but eradicated their culture, so obviously they're going to be more vulnerable than most. There are various services to address the needs of First Nations homeless, drug users, &c, as there should be, but I'm a white guy with no First Nations family connections, so I don't know much more than that.

- Homeless Self-Organizing: Unlikely. We tend to be people who don't much care for rules, and also we don't trust anyone, least of all each other.

Anyway, thanks again Tom.

I have to close this session now because it's almost lunchtime over at UGM and I'm quite a ways away from it. I look forward to coming back and following the rest of the discussion.

Oh, Tom, I almost forgot: What answer were your friend's diplomat trainers looking for when they posed that dilemma? I assume it's "betray the confidence and report to the government". Is that correct?

donalfagan said...

Forget Keane and Kinkade. Bob Ross was the king of happy little trees.

Seriously though, abstract art didn't spring out of nowhere. Do you draw the line at Degas, Seurat, Picasso, de Kooning?

Auriel Ragmon said...

Dear JMG:
The story gets more intriguing the further along you get! Still it's a future I'd welcome as long as I lived in Lakeland.
Somewhat off topic but possibly not much: There's a magazine called Small Farmer's Journal published in Oregon thaat covers horsedrawn equipment and historical farming practices among many other things. They have a website that might be of interest to some:
Although I'm a gardener, not a farmer, my family comes from farming stock in New England and Wisconsin, and I love the mag!
Jim of Olym

Ceworthe said...

@Naatarana Here you can find the route by days for the annualbike event It does go through Tipperary Hill, downtown, the University area and up to the Erie canal (historical) where thebike trail continues along the historic Erie canal itself. The Oswego River also has locks on it to get around the various dams, etc in the river

@JMG The part of the Erie Canal to the west of Syracuse was widened to become the Barge Canal in the early 1900's. To the east the Barge canal follows the various rivers and lake mentioned, all with locks at various points as needed. The historic Erie Canal from slightly west of and to the east of Syracuse still exists with a bike/mule trail beside it, which parts of can be kayaked, etc.
As Syracuse chose to fill in the canal through Syracuse, the original canal no longer exists, though it could be dug up. There is a weigh lock building in the middle of downtown that is now the Erie Canal museum in Syracuse.The Barge canal is what an be boated from Lake Erie to the Hudson and NYC. With the Oswego canal going to the north, one can go into Lake Ontario and the St Lawrence River and the North Atlantic in the spring to the fall. The various rivers and canals freeze over in the winter, of course

Ceworthe said...

Why in the 1800's they didn't run th Erie Canal through the existing rivers that the Barge canal goes through today and chose to dig a "ditch" parallel to it half way across the state is beyond me. Probably early 1800's political shenanigans if I had to guess. There are stories that the Native Americans weren't the only ones plied by whiskey in these parts, involving state officials being duped into running roads through various villages and hamlets that the local businessmen wanted by that method, defying all common sense as to suitability for horses and wagons over very steep hills.

Cathy McGuire said...

A wonderful description of how different it would be to watch your supply lines fail (or not); how it might feel to see the country slipping if you did (or didn't) know how to live local. And the canal is a surprising (and yet not) new element - our protagonist suddenly sees he might do much, much better working with the Lakeland Republic, rather than just watching its borders... it will be fun to see how this plays out! I'm still not finding enough time to read all the comments, though dipping into them shows me they are worth reading! Hope to find a big more reading time soon!

Jonathan Meijer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MawKernewek said...

About opinion polls, I was reminded of this xkcd cartoon.

Clay Dennis said...

On the religion of progress, I overheard the following tagline from a commercial playing on the radio of the shop next to me which shares a thin wall. The commercial was for some type of IRS tax deduction mileage tracking app for your smartphone. At the end of the commercial the volume increased slightly and annoucer scolds the listener," Your miles are too valuable to trust to pen and paper."

Space Seeder said...

(Please disregard if already published. Having a glitch here.)

Shane W: As a son of both Alberta and BC, I'd say that your comment about "no love lost" is an exaggeration of the truth. In former times, when I first became aware of it (1977-82, say) it would have been fair to say that Alberta saw BC as kind of loopy-left and BC saw Alberta as overly-hardnosed right, but I think the worst it ever was, was that they saw each other as kind of weird cousins. The effect appears to be much diminished these days as both have moved in the others' direction. Here in BC we have a longstanding Liberal (which, oddly, means "Conservative" here) government, and Alberta, weep for my other home, has elected the reddest thing we've got: The NDP. Doubt if that'll repeat though!

BTW, the central fact of Canadian identity is a loud insistence that we are not Americans. It's clearly a case of the lady doth protest too much. Anyway, I doubt if anything as minor as the balkanization of the US will stop us bellowing that WE ARE NOT AMERICANS. It's too bad, because I found Washington State and Oregon to be highly congenial during my brief visit there.

siliconguy: How much of the vote would Vermin Supreme need to get his deposit back? Apparently he works hard when he's out at events to keep the peace through humor. Would you consider voting for him?

Mr. Greer: Thanks, I was really concerned that something awful was to befall our cherished Maritime provinces. That attache truly sounds like a kindred spirit! :-) Thanks for the other thing you said too. As you might have gathered from my long comment to Toomas, I'm in good spirits and far from defeated. I'm finding ways to make what I have available livable, which is what many, many people will have to do in the course of our shared long and bumpy descent.

I have a smartphone that helps with my safety. It plays an essential role.

I leave it on the ground, and if I ever find it missing it means someone found my spot. :-)

Myriam said...

About the viking ship Draken Harald Hårfagre: I drove to Brockville, Ontario to see this ship when it docked there in June. It was magic! The craftsmanship that went into building it and the detailed carvings were simply beautiful, but more than that, I had a sense it was imbued with a spirit.

The size of the ship will leave you shaking your head to think they tackled the north Atlantic with it, but they did, using oars and sail, and they made it.

The crew member who spoke to us said the seaway authorities were very nervous about the use of oars and insisted that the motor the ship is equipped with had to be used to navigate up the St. Lawrence, though I have no doubt it could have done so without the motor.

If you can at all, do go see this ship. It will inspire hope that the future can be full of wonder and beauty.

The other Tom said...

Regarding a flag for the Maritime New England nation, an eastern white pine would perfectly depict the history and landscape of the six New England states. I don't want to speak for our friends in the Maritimes but perhaps the lobster will become a major part of the economy there as they migrate steadily northward due to warming waters. Feel free to enlighten me on this.
The eastern white pines were of importance because they are enormous. The Royal Navy so valued their trunks for masts the British authorities emblazoned the taller ones with the King's Broad Arrow, which marked them as property of the Crown. This antagonized the colonists who had their own use for the trees and helped fuel support for the Revolution. This reminds me somewhat of the relations between the federal government and people in the rural west today.
I was lucky enough to grow up near a stand of very old white pines that covered an entire mountainside. Many of them were almost 200 feet tall, six to eight feet in diameter, and the lowest branches were perhaps 80 feet above the ground. I used to camp in there, and I still remember the awesome deep tone of the wind far above. This place had a lot to do with who I am. I like to think that my practical Puritan ancestors had a similar experience there, but perhaps that is wishful thinking.
These trees survived hundreds of years of settlement by not being near a river, having the right landowners, and being on the leeward side of the mountain when hurricanes made it this far north. Then in 1989 a rare tornado came out of the northwest and knocked almost all of them down. I have always been grateful to have known this place and it is good to know that sometime in the future when our endless growth is curtailed there will be room for great forests.

Ahavah said...

Well, I will not have to force myself to wade through some volume of Ayn Rand after all. I have been reading Revolt Against The Modern World by Julius Evola. I just finished part one.

First off, I have to agree that the modern world has lost all spiritual connection to space/place, lost the cyclic and ritualistic aspects of time, lost the essential bonds of family and fraternity, and has elevated materialism and scientific rationalism above all good sense.

But defending slavery, the caste system, racism, oppression of women, imperialism, and the notion that the poor are inherently spiritually unworthy and deserve their low status and exploitation by claiming that the warrior king paradigm of conquest, competition, hierarchy and greed is the original and correct state of affairs makes me want to embrace my inner holy warrior and bash his head in with his own book.

The Atlantic Republic et al are the obvious end game of that mentality.

The "superior" races and classes he claims are the most fit to own land and rule things are the capitalist imperialists that have wrecked the world in every way.

He claims real Traditional societies from antiquity embraced the oppressive, exploitative and misogynist actions because these ways are attuned to the underlying spiritual energies of the universe (the quantum continuum, we would say) and the greed and competition are therefore right and normal - as opposed to a sharing, nurturing, egalitarian society that he claims is dark, evil and feminine.

The winners clearly wrote this history.

Judaism does have a deep notion of connecting spiritually with and sanctifying even the most ordinary tasks (and also sufers from the embedded patriarchy nonsense) so the idea of expanding a spiritual dimension back into modern society, respecting cyclical time and ritual, and sanctifying our space/land resonate with me. But his social policy recommendations suck, to say the least.

I don't know what happened in deep antiquity to cause the overthrow of the mother-goddesses, so to speak, and replace them with the warrior kings. Clearly something got out balance, but things have swung to far the other way and we're out of balance still. So far out that we may not even survive as a species.

The Lakeland Republic may not embody all the aspects of a more spiritual, more masculine/feminine balanced society, but it's a lot closer than any imperialistic society will ever be.

Space Seeder said...

jessi thompson: I hope you're right about that, regarding high grade pot, but the grows that I've visited depended on an intensity and steadiness of light not found in nature, at least not here where I live. Maybe an organic grow can produce a comparable product in the tropical zones. I have no experience with that. But in a future where food security is shaky at best due to the messing up of agriculture zones owing to climate change, I'd like to see the guy with the stones to suggest that land should be set aside for recreational pot. That guy won't be me, I can tell you! :-)

I'm fully on board with what you said about the art world.

koen: There won't be any more pigeons. Us homeless people are going to eat them all. ;-D

Jahuna: Thanks very much for the report from the ground in Germany. I read some of those shady blogs you mentioned, but it's hard to know how seriously to take them, since where I live there's lots of ethnic mixing, immigration, but next to no problems due to that. Thanks for your perspective, even though the news is bad.

Dang! Library closing now, and short hours on the weekend too. Can't wait til Monday!

Justin said...

Well, I'm from Nova Scotia so I'm sketchy on New Brunswick. I figured that the perpetually butthurt (and not always without good reason) Acadians might side with the Quebecois, but Nova Scotia and PEI is nearly all Scots-Irish, and although we do our thing with Boston, I don't see much cultural connection other than the historical circumstances (and lots of Irish people). Geographically, sure, New England makes sense, although I'm also factoring in the notion that I expect the population of Nova Scotia especially to drop fairly precipitously considering how dependent our economy is on Ottawa's good graces and how old everyone is.

Re sea level rise and Newfoundland, well, there's a reason it's called the Rock. Yes, coastal infrastructure will be destroyed, but there are lots of reasonable places to rebuild something not too far as the crow flies from the present shoreline. Also, maybe the outport will come back, but those communities are going to become victims of demographics well before the ocean does anything to them. Corner Brook could be in trouble though. I'm not so sure what the little towns on the Avalon peninsula are like, only having been there once many years ago.

Karen said...

Myriam, I envy that you got to see the Draken Harald Harfagre. I was very much looking forward to seeing it sail into Duluth, MN. "Pilotage law has been in place on the Great Lakes since 1960, and requires that foreign vessels welcome aboard local pilots to help guide ships and non-recreational sailing vessels through unfamiliar waters. Bummer.


John Roth said...


I’m finding the punditry amusing as well. The thing I try to avoid is confirmation bias. Been bit too many times by that in the past.

@Patricia Matthews.

Credit cards charge the merchant several percent, so it’s rather obvious why someone would want to get off of them. However, I also would not allow someone a direct tap into my bank account.

By the way, charging to use a credit card is a violation of the Merchant’s Agreement that has to be signed to be able to accept a credit card in the first place. Or maybe they’ve changed it recently.


Thanks for the comment. I hadn’t seen anything about polls changing methodology to advantage Hillary, but then I probably wouldn’t. That’s an interesting point about the way a poll is worded. There are a lot of us out there that don’t like any of the options on offer and aren’t afraid to say so.


The problem he’s facing isn’t finding alternative and less resource-intensive ways of doing things, he’s facing a blank incomprehension of what the essential problem is.

@jessi thompson

Last I heard, Johnson by about 2 to 1. Part of the problem is that a lot of polls are only Donald vs Hillary, and most of the others only include Johnson. There are relatively few polls that are including Stein. That may change in the near future.


Your contention that Clinton doesn’t want to debate is amusing, since it’s Trump that’s been floating the idea that the debates are rigged against him. Clinton is a good debater, not easily flustered, and Trump has been showing a tendency to let people get under his skin. As far as keeping Johnson and Stein out of the debates, the 15% cutoff was set a long time ago, and is unlikely to change.

Re: pokemon go

One observer I know of thinks it’s a fad that has passed its peak. However, he also sees it as a harbinger of things to come.

onething said...

Space Seeder,

You're the 2nd or 3rd person here who is homeless. I see a certain amount of blame of society about it. I am wondering how did you become homeless?
I have a brother who is homeless in Los Angeles. He has spent the last 30 years or so on the street, but most of those years he kept a kind of small truck called a step van but it was quite a hassle what with finding a place to park it. About 2 or 3 years ago, his van was impounded when the lot he had been parking in was sold and the new owner was not amused. I am not sure if he kept the area clean...

So now he is truly on the street and my husband and I have invited him to come live here, but with the condition that he get food stamps or other benefits. He doesn't want to use his social security number, so he may not do it, although he didn't protest about that much.

And I don't even know if he can travel by bus what with the new scrutiny of identity. He does not have a valid driver's license. However, a local guy here goes back and forth to Cali and has agreed to bring him and I expect him here in about a week or so. I live on the east coast.

He is homeless because he is, as the Russian expression has it, "quietly scrambled" i.e., pleasantly mentally ill. He says he chose it because he didn't want to pay rent. He has no bad habits and is in pretty good shape according to my ex. He's now in his early 60s. He is rigid in his thinking and goes to church all the time.

I don't blame anyone for this nor does he.

He does not plan to stay. Mostly because of church I think. But perhaps he will like it here. He agreed to come, pretty enthusiastically, once it was clear that he will get a ride back home in October. He is not unhappy. He's got his life there. He is on the city council.
The main issue is that he has his stuff in a storage unit and I have been paying for it, and I tell him that can't go on forever. He gets vague, because he thinks he has plans to learn how to flip real estate and spends most of his internet time on that.
We are homesteaders in the country, as different from LA as it gets. But he has done some community gardening and we once lived in the country and I believe he liked it. He is not unhappy at all, but he is getting older.

Raymond Duckling said...

@Over the hill...

I really don't want to play the rabid fanboy, barking dissenting voices into compliance... so let me try to be an equal opportunity insulter instead.

I think the frescoes at the Sistine Chapel are ugly.

Not quite dog's barf material, but kind of grotesque - like if every humanoid character was taken out of a medical manual of genetic diseases.

Please note I have never been to the Sistine Chapel in person. I have seen high quality photographs in Art Books, though. Also note, while not being an artist, I do have some natural talent for schetching; and I do have 4 years training in technical drawing - the kind that was a marketable skill before the age of CAD software.

What I am trying to say is that, as an outsider with some technical knowledge, I kind of get what Michelangelo was about. It is all about perspective, trying to represent 3D objects over a flat surface. I am sure, being there in the building, the images must seem titanic - majestic, even. But when the camera makes a close-up, and pastes the little sad thing into a page of paper, all the dimensions are lost and the results end up ugly.

And, the fact that it takes someone to know about perpective in order to "get it", is an evidence that the photographs are not for the consumption of the general public. They need to walk into the building, and see the work of art from the right angle in order to be touched by it. And it was Michelangelo's job to put those images 20 metres above the ground for the commoners to not just see, but feel them; not the job of the commoners to go learn architecture so they also could enjoy the same ugly art in a canvas at 2 meters of their noses.

I know nothing of Abstract Art to have an opinion about it, one way or the other... but I think much of what is happening in this discussion may be explained by the lack of perspective.

Caryn said...

Too tired from work, was hoping just to enjoy the story episode and lurk in the comments, but I have to jump into the abstract art discussion. As an artist and, well, now a former art teacher to children: Abstract art may seem easy, just random blobs of color or lines that just magically happen to look pleasing, balanced, dynamic, evoke a feeling or a resonance of some sort in the viewer: It's one of the hardest styles to actually do well without it looking like a dog's dinner, (or as JMG described, a dog's vomit.) Anyone who thinks it's easy: give it a go. No matter how 'plebian' you think your aesthetics are - you will not be satisfied that your blobs are just right, in size, shapes, colour juxtaposition... just evocative of a feeling or place or time.... It's HARD!

I was always under the impression it was the tail-end, the filling of that last bit of notional space of the idea of visual art reflecting or taking on Western Civilizations embrace of Sigmund Freud's work and the concept of psychology, the existence of the subconscious, a viewer's primal reactions to art as stimuli, etc. Abstract expressionism is meant to short-circuit or bypass the rational analytical side of the viewer's mind and engage a completely pure emotional response. There are definitely some well celebrated abstract expressionist paintings that can do that. No education in art is or should be needed, (perhaps other than the instruction to 'let go of preconceived notions and feel. What is the painting feeling like to you?')

I fully agree that abstract expressionism and the more recent popular school 'conceptual art' ( a whole 'nother can-o-worms!) have been utterly hijacked by theorists, art dealers who would rather the great unwashed did NOT 'get' it. For young artists wishing to make a big name for themselves in such a world, it's mostly, or maybe all about creating that hype. Getting a pass from these gate keepers.

Like Dr. Seuss's Star-Bellied Sneetches, it's human nature to want to be above the crowd: elite, in-the-know, (how can you be 'in-the-know' if everybody else is too?) This has driven those gate keepers of taste and 'relevant' art to great dizzy profits. But IMHO, like all vulture capitalists, they've shot themselves in the foot. They've become the parasite that killed host.

A governmental office, corporate headquarters or big bank that has money to burn on interior design, including the art wants something both cutting edge and ultimately safe and they don't know what they're looking at and don't trust their own tastes. It's not their bag, they hire "experts" to make those selections; so you get the worst of both worlds. I would personally not have interpreted JMG's dissing description of the Atlantic Republic's interior design and artwork as a slam against all modern or even all abstract expressionist art. It's like slamming elevator muzak of the Beatles. It's not slamming the Beatles.

patriciaormsby said...

Re: organic Pokemon sprays, Japan was the progenitor of the Pokemon monsters, so we happen to have the perfect solution at hand. Until quite recently, to wash the dishes, folks in rural areas would go outside or into a little shed with a small stream running through it. Our house has this lovely little trout-inhabited intensely cold gushing spring-fed pool by the front door.

If the monsters are good enough to stay on the sidewalk, I suppose I won't need to use it, but it's nice to have handy at times like these.

@Onething, Japan is not monolithic, though they attempt to appear that way. As I note, the use of shotguns is rare enough to be possibly unique to our town. Coldness to newcomers, on the other hand, is pretty widespread. I've not been shot at yet, but my husband has and a friend living just outside of town gets shot at regularly. The fellow living out back, whose wife of some 12 years up and divorced him a few years back for physical abuse, likes hunting, and in a real collapse scenario, I half expect to be undone by him. (Thank goodness yesterday we got an offer to view a house in a town a few miles away with a better reputation.) Twenty-three years ago, in a drunken fit, he came and bashed the door of our house in, smashing the glass to smithereens, and meanwhile the neighbors implored with my husband not to call the police. We never replaced the glass. It's still boarded up.

These days we are good friends with the policeman--a detective because of all the mysterious crime in the area. His son is being bullied at the grade school. They've driven a succession of cops away like that.

If I provide western aliases for the citizens and geographic features (Inokashira translates as Hogshead, with Fuji as "The Mountain" on the east, and the mountains to the west), a description of life here sounds amazingly like that in the Ozarks.

There are historical reasons for that. This was the border between fiefdoms toward the end of the warring period, and some of that rivalry is still being played out among the inhabitants. Some houses have the Takeda crest, and others have the Tokugawa. Toward the end of the Edo period, a high-profile gangster had some of his men come settle this area. Psychopathic traits seem more prominent here than elsewhere, with kleptomania being part of it.

Crop theft is a big problem all over Japan, though, and we hear the Ag cooperative is to blame, trying to discourage competition to their racket.

patriciaormsby said...

@Space Seeder, you are an inspiration! Snazzy smartphone app, BTW (LOL). Never heard of that one before. Have to share.

Allexis Weetman said...

Another great slice of story JMG I will have a copy of this book when it is out.

Although I disagreed with your assessment of screen media I do have to completely agree with you about modern art specifically abstract expressionism. I have always disliked the abstract expressionism. I look at it, I get it, then I'm bored. I could properly appreciate an abstract art gallery in 10minutes or as long as it took to walk past the "paintings". They have no content and claim to have little. The worst are those single canvas colour affairs, so dull, so little to look at, such high profit margins. Just admit it abstract artists, you are just house painters who went to university and did a course in BS.

What's worse is they accuse us of wanting to reduce the scope of our appreciation of art, when their art is the ultimate reduction of the scope of art.

I like a lot of modern/post modern art, but I've never seen an abstract piece that could hold my attention for more than a minute.

Allexis Weetman said...

On a different subject, I know you're not into computer games but there's a game called 'civilization' that might hold you for more than a passing glance - its subject being very close to your heart. After reading the retrotopia installments I was struck that in the game one's civilization only moves forward, unless damaged in war, and that it would be great fun to reprogram it to decline and collapse as well. Long story short I got as far as programming an ebola epidemic and then gave up as I am no good at computer language... But it would have been fun and a great way to illustrate the themes of this blog to other gamers. Someone should do it.

Disclaimer: my mother loves abstract expressionism so I am aware that it has value to some... so please don't be too angry with me Caryn and up the hill and down again. I just find it dull is all.

John Michael Greer said...

Koen, pigeons might well be an option, but the Lakeland Republic is perfectly find with radio, you know. My guess is that their embassies abroad have a range of radio options, from standard shortwave through moonbounce. (Yes, there's a ham radio tradition of bouncing radio signals off the moon to send them to other people here on earth. Is that cool, or what?)

Soilmaker, it depends on the specific rights the Department of Agriculture sold to the publisher. My thought is that you might consider putting together a bunch of good articles that haven't yet been anthologized; I can think of a couple of small publishers that might snap that up.

Glenn, it's an appealing idea, but no, I think they use an ordinary flag. It wouldn't surprise me, though, if army regiments from the former state of Ohio use the swallowtail shape on their patches and flags.

Juhana, many thanks for the update from Halle. That doesn't surprise me a bit -- and of course Merkel's popularity is dropping like a rock. It'll be interesting to see who ends up in power in Germany as things work out.

Patricia, okay, that one's even funnier than the alligators. I admit to wondering whether the pilgrims were being peeping toms or whether they'd brought crowbars to strip the land of its mineral wealth -- or both.

David, yes, I saw that. (Do remember that Duffel Blog is a humor site, though.) I recall seeing that a significant number of people have decided that having the planet hit by a giant comet would be preferable to either Hillary or Trump winning the election...

Prez, whatever turns your crank, I suppose.

Eric, nah, the Western Radiotelescope Facility was built in the mid-2000s -- the date in the 2200s was when they cut themselves off from what was left of the US due to the third civil war. Yes, the solstice trilogy is pretty close to my current take on things; no, Dark Age America doesn't build on that -- it avoids fiction altogether. I may someday do a fictional history of the decline and fall of industrial civilization -- one of those multigenerational novels, probably -- if I can find a publisher willing to offer a competitive advance.

Over The Hill, no, I didn't think you were paying attention. What I'm objecting to, as you'll notice if you take the time to read what I was saying, is the insistence that nobody has the right to criticize art except for the inhabitants of the self-referential bubble of modern art. Thus I put an aesthetic judgment in the mouth of a fictional character, and you and Karen piled into me with what amounted to an insistence that I have no right to my own opinions about art if they disagree with yours. You're continuing to twist what I'm saying in an attempt to justify cheap shots -- perhaps you can show me some justification for your claim that I'm somehow opposed to the use of new materials, for example -- and that's just trolling. If you keep it up I will ban you from this blog.

Patricia, no, it's not new. It's a common element of the schism between the dominant minority and the internal proletariat -- as high culture becomes the exclusive preserve of the political class, and its purveyors go out of their way to make sure nobody outside a self-selecting elite appreciates it, the rest of the people turn to other art forms, usually from other cultures, to provide what the artists of their own society have stopped providing.

Scotlyn said...

JMG, Justin, Shane w and anyone interested in Maritimes... on my father's side my history runs on both sides of that border, as I shall relate... (my mother's people are pure confederate)...

First there was the English ancestor who in 1640 made a home in what is now Rehoboth, Rhode Island. He had 20 children during the course of two successive marriages and named 17 of them in his will. His known descendents scattered across New England and Eastern Canada number in the 10's of thousands. Some of them include the branch that migrated to Nova Scotia (being loyalists) in or about 1770-1780, adopting an altered spelling of the name, which I carry to this day. Then there were those who between the WW's left Nova Scotia and emigrated to Boston (specifically Waltham) including my grandfather, who set up a grocery largely patronised by a large emigre community of Eastern Canadians among whom he met my grandmother. My father's childhood summers (1940's 1950's) were spent in Nova Scotia and we still consider ourselves closely related to folk in both Maritime regions.

Justin, I wonder is it still the case that Boston is the "Big Smoke" that exerts a particular pull on Nova Scotian young people?

For my part I have no doubt the connections across that border run deep.

John Michael Greer said...

Onething, there are unquestionably abstract expressionist works that don't look like dog vomit. On the other hand, they simply don't hold my interest. I've stood gamely in front of works by a range of modern artists -- not just abstract expressionists, by the way -- and reliably get bored after five minutes. There simply isn't that much to them. A Renaissance master or, say, one of the better French symbolists? Give me half an hour at least, and I'll be back several times to look at it again with fresh eyes. It's not "okay, that's a mildly interesting effect with paint" -- there are depths within depths.

Chaos, I'd forgotten that you were responsible for one of my Hugo nominations! Many thanks for that.

Peter VE, it means the artist figured out how to get a lot of money for a stuffed bear impaled on a lampshade. A good deal of what passes for modern art makes perfect sense if you assume that it's deadpan put-on, and the soi-disant artists have just figured out how to extract big money from clueless bureaucrats.

William, America reinvents itself a couple of times each century, and I'm convinced that the next place that's going to happen is the Great Lakes rust belt states. There are a number of reasons for that, which I can go into some other time -- but you'll notice that the sites of such reinventions are generally seen as hopeless backwaters until the lightning strikes.

MickGSpot, my wife is a Catholic school survivor, and bad as my experience in public schools was, I'm glad I didn't have to put up with the Catholic version! Stories like yours are far too common.

David, good! I haven't named Montrose's party, and I won't -- best to leave that to the imagination. Yes, the Dem-Reps already exist, and the reaction of the political establishment to Trump's candidacy is a good demonstration of how our one-party system actually works.

Shane, well, there you are. And if I tell you I drew the southern border of the Lakeland Republic based on similar comments by people I've talked to?

Arkady, it's more that modern art and modern architecture are twins, grotesque monsters born from the same egg and sharing the same heredity.

Aron, thank you!

Ed, exactly. The power of narrative to shape perception -- well, that's the name of the game, and if Retrotopia can help some people out of the doublebind of progress uber alles, then it'll have done some good.

Eric, funny. I don't claim to be particularly original in my critique of the current scene -- its faults and foibles have been right out there in front of Cthulho and everybody for quite some time now.

Ed-M, okay, so modern art is one of those many things that are impossible to parody, because someone claiming to be serious already got there first. I'll need to change my functional definition: "These days, art is effectively defined as anything excreted by someone with an MFA."

Dennis, many thanks for the data points.

nuku said...

@Space Seeder, I’ll add myself to the list of those who support your choice of life (I’m assuming it is a choice,; please correct me if I’m wrong) and wish you well trying to sleep out on the street this northern hemisphere winter. Your reports from the “front line” are valuable and I believe give you a greater sense of dignity and worth.
Re homelessness: I’d be interested in your take on the novel “Matthew Flinder‘s Cat“ by Ozzie writer Bryce Courtney, if you can get a copy at the library. The descriptions of day to day homeless life on the street have a true feel.

John Michael Greer said...

Olivier, hmm! I hadn't thought of the equivalence to R-selected vs. K-selected species, but of course you're right; many thanks. Thanks also for the culinary example; I'd always wondered why I tend to prefer Italian restaurants to French... ;-)

Donalfagan, I don't draw a line at all. As I noted earlier, I find some of the artists who blend the abstract with the representational -- Morris Graves was the example I cited there -- very moving. I find Degas, Seurat, de Kooning et al. rather less interesting than their predecessors, and their successors very quickly descend to the point where their product is worth something between five minutes of looking -- "Okay, that's a mildly interesting visual effect; pity the artist didn't put it into a picture worth looking at twice" -- and a roll of the eyes and on to the next thing on the wall.

Picasso's another matter. I love his representational work, find some of his semiabstract stuff worth prolonged looking, but am always left with a sense of immense talent gone to waste. The mind that could conceive Guernica could have done something much more powerful, moving, and beautiful if it hadn't been hobbled by a seriously flawed philosophy and culture of art.

Auriel/Jim, it's a great mag, no question.

Ceworthe, many thanks.

Cathy, thank you.

MawKernewek, funny!

Clay, also funny.

Space Seeder, glad to hear it.

Myriam, thanks for this. I don't know that I'll have the opportunity, but I'd like to; I went aboard a replica of the Nina in Seattle once, and was left with enormous respect for the men who crossed the Atlantic in that tiny little thing.

Other Tom, okay, that's data worth having. Thank you.

Ahavah, there I think you're being unfair to the Atlantic Republic. It's the result of muddling through on the basis of current ideologies, which -- dysfunctional as they are -- aren't half as much so as Evola's. I'll look forward to your comments when we get to discussing Revolt Against the Modern World on the other blog.

Caryn, fair enough. What happens, though, when you "let yourself go" in front of a piece of abstract expressionism and the only response that comes through amounts to "that looks like a dog ate some paint tubes and threw up"? Because a lot of it gets that reaction from me. The stuff that doesn't, well, then it's usually "Okay, that's a mildly interesting visual effect, too bad the artist didn't put anything else worth looking at onto the canvas." A representational work of art in the great western tradition -- or for that matter in other traditions, such as the Japanese -- has many, many levels and layers of meaning and experience that can be encountered by the viewer; it's not just a mildly interesting visual experience, and those forms of art that limit themselves to the latter, to my mind, reflect a profoundly impoverished sense of what art is and what it can do.

But of course you're right about the influence of Star-Bellied Sneetch Syndrome, and the other dysfunctions that plague the arts today.

Patricia, fascinating. So the old Takeda-Tokugawa feud remains in place, the same way that Civil War rivalries remain in place in the border states here.

Allexis, I can put three to five minutes into a few of the better examples, but then I'm unusually patient. Other than that, I'm with you.

John Michael Greer said...

Allexis, hmm! The thought of a game of Civilization that had decline and fall programmed into it is rather entrancing. I wonder if any of the geekoisie here on the list might be interested in picking up the project where you left off.

Scotlyn, that sounds very much like what I've heard elsewhere. Many thanks!

nuku said...

@Space Seeder,
Take it from one with lots of outside growing experience, you don’t need a tropical climate to grow fantastic pot. 90% of the quality side of dope is in the genetics. Climate (temperature, and amount of/intensity of light) pretty much determines how much of a crop you get not quality of the high.
My old stomping ground, Big Sur California, is in the temperate zone with a 9 month growing season. I’ve seen 14ft high plants with main stems 6-7” in diameter grown with indica seeds from Afganistan. That stuff was way too strong for moi. It appealed to same kind of person who would drink themselves under the table. I preferred a nice mellow Mexican sativa variety with a more “intellectual” buzz. BTW, my smoking days are long gone.
I agree that in some climates, indoor with lights might be the only way to get a descent quantity.
Back in the day, with the law (and armed rip-off outlaws) breathing heavily down one’s neck, we used to dream about being able to have the freedom to play around with genetics (by traditional plant breeding methods, not intrusive gene modification). I’m sure the people doing it legal in the USA now are, like craft brewers, having lots of fun experimenting. Of course being outside the law had its own excitment... said...


A brilliant piece of writing. You really captured the feel of the era.

I loved the reference to how new technologies are always worse than the past. A colleague at work had a similar conversation the other day on how the "improved" intranet at work turned out to be far more useless than the old one. Turns out that everybody still uses the old intranet rather than the new one. The conversation reminded me of your own writings on technology!

I am close to finishing your novel Twilight Last Gleaming and it has a a great ride and a very uncomfortable and realistic take on the future. On that note, you might find this article interesting on how the RAND corporation are war gaming a war against China ( which reminded me of your fictional novel.

Whilst I have taken a step back from following the US presidential elections recently, I have updated my blog on my latest thoughts on the Trump campaign and what he needs to do to win the presidency (which on a balance of probability he still will). If you wish to read more, please check out my blog.

Keep up the good work and I look forward to your discussions on contemporary art. I fully agree with you on the uselessness of much of contemporary art even through I am a big fan of the Impressionists, Dali and Piscasso (who are all in the "modern" category of art). Lets hope the art world starts producing good quality art again.

Fred said...

Fwiw contemporary ballet is just as abstract and modern trying to evoke emotion. We went to see Philadelphia Ballet in May to see George Balachine's Serenade (completely fantastic btw). Included on the program was a premiere by Matthew Neenan who is apparently some up and coming choreographer. His piece consisted of these professional classical ballet dancers walking in circles on the stage, walking diagonally, walking to the back, rolling on the floor and pulling each other arms back and forth. All the dancers have a pained expression the entire time. The music is atonal without a melody or rhythm.

I'm thinking "this is total rubbish" the whole time. When complete 20 minutes later, the audience jumps out of their seats for a standing ovation and yells bravo.

MawKernewek said...

There are some games that are variants of Civilization that do seem to have an awareness of these things, for example it is quite possible to overburden your cities with 'improvements' and bankrupt yourself with maintenance costs. Also there can be diminishing returns with how much research is necessary to reach the top of the technology tree, and the cost of the most high tech units is not necessarily better than spending the same on three middle tech units.

In Age of Empires, to build walls and castles you need stone, which is a finite resource, once its gone its gone. Gold however can magically appear out of nowhere by having trade routes.

Fred said...

I finished Twilights Last Gleaming yesterday morning and I don't see the breakup of the US happening that quickly. It could absolutely happen in the way you described and there are always some agitators saying we need to hold a constitutional convention, but I just see the money class holding the country together until they can drain it of all its wealth before they depart. The country still seems to have some money to run the government. And maybe that's it, there is nothing more they can get so that is why it breaks apart.

I don't think people get that - the country is only useful as long as it produces something of value. We have certainly treated other countries that way - the Philippines was valuable as a stop over point for refueling ships, the Congo first for rubber and now for rare metals, obviously the oil producing ones. The Wall Street and government types fiddle with them to get the resources and then dump them when it becomes problematic.

People will say "well you've got to vote to change that" but it certainly feels like the people doing this can't be voted out of office. It's just going to happen more because of Wall Street and the profits they want rather than who is the president, congressmen, senator.

Fred said...

Caught part of an interview on NPR with Jeffrey Toobin on the new book on Patty Hearst. He said there were more than 1,000 domestic bombings a year by homegrown terrorist groups like the SLA during the early 1970's. I wasn't alive then and that part of recent history isn't covered in public school. Do you see us descending into that scenario and then further descending to widespread civil disruption? I always figure as long as people have their flashing screens and personal dramas on Facebook and Instagram to keep them busy, we'll be fine for the time being.

Fred said...

What do you make of these organizations suing for climate scientists emails in court? They insist there is a conspiracy among scientists who created fake data about climate change and in the emails is proof. I don't buy that personally, but why are they going to the time, effort and money to get people's emails? It's not just Hillary Clinton.

Shane W said...

so you're saying that people in KY that you've talked to feel more kinship/connection to their northern neighbors than to Tenn? Fascinating! I've never encountered that here. Everyone I've ever known in KY traditionally views everything to the north as foreign and "other" and regards the Ohio River as a border/demarcation point between North & South. Surnames, religious preferences, culture, food all seem to drastically change as you go from one side to the other, w/a small "DMZ" in between, and people on the other side seem to feel just as strongly that KY is foreign and "other" as well. I'm really amazed that people you've talked to feel differently. We must be encountering different people.
RE: Maritimes
the peninsula connecting NB & NS is very low lying and marshy, and I'd expect would be one of the first casualties of sea level rise. If this is so, then Nova Scotia could be an island w/in 50-100 years, maybe sooner? How will loss of land connection affect NS? Also, I was told that New Brunswick is pretty much divided down the middle between the French North & English South, and is pretty much a linguistic 50/50, which is why it's the only totally bilingual province. My question to those from there/inthe the know, how would this affect their loyalty to Quebec?
Personally, I love Nfld. as an example of one of the most intact traditional societies still around in North America. It truly felt like Retrotopia when I was there. I felt like I was going back 40-50 years to the KY of my, or even my parents', youth. The community cohesiveness, social norms, manners, tight-knit/native born. A real gem! (I was in Eastport for (Canadian) Thanksgiving) It made me realize just how much we've lost here in KY. Also, I was blown away by how much the culture of Nfld resembled Appalachia--the music, dancing, even the surnames. I was blown away to find Napiers in Eastport--I'd never encountered Napiers outside of Eastern KY.

Shane W said...

so you'd disagree w/Morris Berman's assessment in his book on Japan that Japan is a model society for deindustrialization and a rural farming renaissance? I have only read excerpts to get a general idea that this is his thesis based on time spent there...

Shane W said...

even the LGBT are defecting from the SJW set now. Look at Trump, Le Pen, and Wilders LGBT support. The idea that they will protect LGBT folk from Sharia is gaining currency in the west, the same way that they'll protect women as well...

Shane W said...

I'm afraid if we set up a Presidential politics thread on GreenWizards, it would get few posts/traffic. I don't think nearly as many people go there as here, still, it sucks to hijack the ADR constantly for all of the ongoing political entertainment...

Shane W said...

I will grant that a lot of people from E KY moved north during the first half of the last century to find industrial work, but I don't know that they did so in greater numbers than the Appalachian regions of other southern states, or even of other southern regions, like the Delta. I would liken that to the great migration of African-Americans, which is now reversing--I think that the north always felt "foreign" to them, and they never really assimilated, and now that there's no jobs, they're leaving same as their black counterparts.

FiftyNiner said...

@Raymond Duckling,

In a roundabout way you discuss the tremendous problems of approaching Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel frescoes as works of art that can be easily accessed by the viewer. They quite simply cannot. You state that you get it that Michelangelo was about perspective and was working on a flat surface. At no point, except at the apex of the shallow arch of the ceiling, could the surface be considered flat. This curvature of the ceiling proper and the extreme curvatures of the pendentives of the corners required Michelangelo to experiment and distort the figures all out of natural proportions so that they would appear normal and natural from the "perspective" of a viewer standing on the floor of the chapel. I concur with you that the photographic composite photographs of the ceiling are totally unsatisfying.

When I was studying Art History in the late 1970s, my professor had some incredible closeup photos of the distortions that were evident in the figures in the pendentives and seeing those was all the evidence I ever needed to affirm the genius of Michelangelo. These were photos that no art book would have included because the editors would have not wanted to share such a detail with the public.

Of all the works of art that I would be willing to fly across the ocean to view, I would make the pilgrimage if I were allowed to lie on my back on the floor and spend several hours moving down the nave of the chapel to experience fully what the artist intended.

Further, I must add however, that what you wrote and what I have responded to here is the very essence of how art is to be approached. You brought to the task a physical assessment of what the work involved and discussed some of the tremendous problems associated with that assessment.
end of part one

Kevin Anderson K9IUA said...

JMG wrote: "As for your broader question, Retrotopia and Twilight's Last Gleaming are not set in the same future, of course. I'm a little surprised that you missed that -- in Twilight's Last Gleaming, after all, the US broke up as a result of a runaway constitutional convention, while in Retrotopia, the breakup involved the Second Civil War and four years of brutal street-by-street fighting."

My fault for wanting to conflate the two books (or three books if counting Star's Reach) into a series of the same future world. Since you didn't give a specific year(s) (at least that I recall seeing in the text itself for Retrotopia) for the Second Civil War (it may have been mentioned in comments, however, that didn't stick in my mind), and that Pappas got injured in '49, it was easily in my mind to imagine the Second Civil War as coming after the 2024/2027 timeframe of Twilight's Last Gleaming as further readjustments to a first attempt toward republics and subsequent realities of resource allocation. And that error is further compounded by the discussions in comments of state alliances and imagined future republics, that even the nation-state geography between the two stories can easily be conflated together. I will need to get my head unwound again away any perceived notions of a intended related series other than the purpose of giving examples of conceivable alternatives to today.

Caryn said...

I can see how it may seem that I have a bee in my bonnet about other people's aesthetic choices, but truly, I just had to jump in and am thoroughly enjoying a rare discussion on this highfalutin' arty-tarty subject because it's my 'thing' and I just don't get much of this in my daily life; neither from my working class co-workers at the grocery store, nor from my HK 'ladies-who-lunch' friends.

JMG: If it leaves you cold, it leaves you cold, No worries at all! I think I've said before here on these threads that I am an insufferable "Prole-Snob'! So I would never advocate that you or anyone else HAS to like what I like or even less what the Gate-Keepers-of-Taste tell you to like. I was just trying to 'splain what I think is the impetus and why I like (some of) it. In our primary school art classes, there are always a gaggle of little kids for whom the best part of their day is at the end of class, tidy-up-time, when they wash the paint pallets and watch with rapture at the swirls of color going down the drain. Observing their enthusiasm, (and it IS rather fascinating for a time), I've come to think there is some primal attraction.

If it only reaches a few people, IMHO, that's OK. If it was a failed exploration, IMHO, that's still OK and worthwhile, (I will venture to say this is what Karen and over the hill are trying to say?) Yes, Abstract expressionism may, probably will, go down in the vast canvas of history as an intellectual footnote in terms of lasting importance.

@ Alexis Weetman: Oh I'm not angry at anyone! Just an interesting anecdote: When I first saw the works of Mark Rothko, ( those big colored squares that fade away at their edges), I didn't feel anything either. It was only after learning that he was a tormented soul - he ultimately stuck his head in a gas oven and committed suicide. Oddly then -I saw the pain and the hope for joy in those gorgeous colors fading away. He just faded away like his squares. Every time I see them now, I feel his sadness.

I have always agreed with the old Theatre motto that " If you need a program note to explain it - it doesn't read, (come across) to the audience - leave it out or explain it IN the performance". So, I can't say you must know this so that you can appreciate the squares; but I can say, it is a richer experience if you do happen to know. It, (background of a piece or artist…) is often worth knowing.

Have to sign off now, time to go fry the chicken. :(

Thank You all for this discussion. :)

W. B. Jorgenson said...


Reprogramming the civilization games that way, while possible, is a lost cause. There are quite a few mods for the series that tries to make the game more realistic, but none of them include societal collapse. Some people dismiss it as not fun, but for the most part people dismiss it as "not relevant".

So no, most people won't play such a mod. Although I find the idea of trying to find a way around collapse, or of rebuilding a civilization that fell enticing....

Justin said...

Scotlyn, well, I stand corrected. I've been in Halifax for a bit over half my life (I'm under 30 though...) but am a come from away. I don't know anyone my age or in my professional life with any ties to Boston or particular interest in it other than as one of many cities that one can move to if you get a highly-paid technical position there. Most Nova Scotians go to Ontario, Alberta or Saskatchewan to find work. Some do come back, but only some.

Allexis, I think Civilization 4 had an expansion pack that featured something like that. It was based more on nuclear war, pollution and sea level rise than simply depletion, but nonetheless.

Also, here's a great piece by Rex Murphy:

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160806T153327Z

Dear Space Seeder,

Thanks for your query ("8/5/16, 12:55 PM"): Oh, Tom, I almost forgot: What answer were your friend's diplomat trainers looking for when they posed that dilemma? I assume it's "betray the confidence and report to the government". Is that correct? I could be very wrong, but my guess is that the government wanted that answer either indignantly rejected or else embraced only with moral agonizing and hedging. My guess is that a quick and easy acceptance of "betray the confidence and report to the government" would knock you out of consideration for diplomatic recruitment. A key skill in the profession is the ability to appreciate and process nuance. Perhaps what was of main interest to the interviewer (but I could, as I say, be very wrong) was not the answer as such but the way the answer was given.

I should add for the benefit of other readers, outside Canada, that the Canadian "Foreign Ministry" (for a long time called "External Affairs") was until the times of Stephen Harper one of the success stories in the Canadian civil service. "External Affairs", although founded in 1909, was strengthened after the Hitler war under Lester B. Pearson. Mr Pearson got the Nobel Peace Prize for standing up to the United Kingdom over 1956 Suez, in a way that not only taught the UK a necessary lesson but enhanced the peacekeeping power of the UN. "External Affairs", or as it is now known "Global Affairs Canada" (Affaires mondiales Canada), has kept Mr Pearson's Nobel medal in its Ottawa lobby, in a display case.

Mr Pearson published some memoirs.

Also interesting as a writer is Nova Scotian diplomat Charles Ritchie ( My Mum and I both found Ritchie's memoirs, which cover among other things his eccentric Halifax family and his prewar education in the UK, priceless. He recalls one of his friends describing Halifax in that era: "like 'the provincial town of Z___', in a Russian novel."

thinking fondly now of bygone days in Halifax,
but in fact writing from just north of Toronto,


PS: You might have further queries, or something, for me at some stage. In that case, do feel free to use not only this ADR blog but additionally my e-mail: Toomas(dot)Karmo(at)gmail(dot)com (taking care to make your subject line fairly arresting, say "Tom: Space Seeder asks u whether u have scoop re V.V.Putin Web maskirovka ops". I am not terribly good with e-mail. But if you do not get a reply in a couple of days, query again (taking care, as I say, to make your subject line rather clear).

PPS: Your political judgement seems accurate: I doubt if anything as minor as the balkanization of the US will stop us bellowing that WE ARE NOT AMERICANS. This theme was already old, old, old when Sir John A. MacDonald and George Brown pondered it in the 1860s. :-)

Jon Lately said...

Although this relates to last week's post I thought your readers might find it interesting, one way or another.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160806T160615Z

Dear Space Seeder,

Having just written u on Canadian diplomacy, I also want to comment rapidly (I'm a bit short on time) on homelessness:

(1) It is in my view necessary (you query this) for the non-indigent to assist the indigent, say with a 1 CAD or 2 CAD donation into this cup and then that cup, at least for a couple of times in the peregrination-of-the-day. One of the small mercies in Toronto is that the number of cups held out on any one stretch of street is not that large, despite the large total number of homeless: perhaps 5,000 or 10,000 total, and yet only say five cups on all of Bay Street from Union Station up to Queen; one can take care of say two of these without oneself becoming a martyr.

Many of the indigent will be in unipolar depression, or worse, and the coin plonking into the cup can raise spirits.

Although some will object that these funds will be spent on beer or marijuana, I say: Well, let them be spent thus. If you are feeling bad, it is normal (even though not respectable or fully right) to drink and smoke. - I knew a priest who had connections in Toronto's poshest district, Rosedale. He told me that in Rosedale, unhappy wealthy women started their drinking day at 11.00 am or so, with some solitary sherry or suchlike. I am not saying this is fully right, only that it is the kind of thing that people do when unhappy, and that it goes on everywhere, Rosedale evidently included.

(2) Yes, I can see the difficulty in the homeless organizing. (You mention this.) It is hard to trust other people, especially when some of them are not only in unipolar depression but in more serious psychiatric pathologies. Nevertheless, one would dream of a setup in which some homeless form a co-op, and organize themselves into a tent city (we had such a thing in Toronto for some years), and make a few things that they sell for income.

One possibility is rubber-tyre sandals. Even though myself poor, I would be willing to pay 22 CAD for a pair.

Another possibility is beeswax candles. The craft-shop chain called Michael's sells rolls of wicking. Here in Toronto, real beeswax can be had clean, for high prices, in organic food stores, **BUT** also can be had from some organization representing the beekeepers, on Bloor Street. Ideally one would get one's wax dirty, and therefore cheap - and not even from the beekeepers' org, but from some beekeeper directly. The right lingo in negotiations is this: "Our co-op would like to make a deal, buying from you dirty CAPPINGS every October, which we will ourselves melt and filter and clean for our candle trade." (The "cappings" are what cover the comb, and what get sliced off in September or so with electrically heated knife in the presently universal, albeit unfortunate, Langstroth beekeeping method.)

Rubber-tyred road vehicles, and candles made from petroleum waxes (such as are sold at Dollarama), are two of our current social evils.

Hastily, now having to leave blogosphere,


Donald Hargraves said...

@over the hill (and fill in the rest...)

I don't paint, but I've written poetry for years and have a decent following (if not necessarily the publishing accolades), so I think I can give a critique from my perspective.

Quite simply, I view all art as communication. What are you trying to get across, how are you trying to get across, why should the viewer/reader/audience care – and why should the audience care one hundred years from now, when the experience may have changed to the point where what you're viewing/reading/watching may be seen as historical instead of as present-day? I think of it with every poem and story that I write (whether I think of it deeply, or just in a "so this is what the work is about" toss-off way, the thought enters into my mind when I write).

So, what meaning do I see when I look at paintings?
• When I look at the Sistine Chapel, I get it – the creation of mankind, complete with the spark of God that separates us from the other animals (amongst other things...)
• When I look at Manet's Le déjeuner sur l'herbs, I get it – and while the meaning I ascribe to it changes over the years, there is meaning there (as well as the original meaning intended by the painter).
• When I look at Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World, I get it and find myself mesmerized by it whenever I see it (Went to the MOMA once, stood staring at the painting for a half hour. Wasn't the only one who had a deep connection with it.).
• When I see a depression era DPW painting in a public building, I get it – reasonably realistic paintings of people in a not-necessarily-realistic setting (and a bit of subversiveness thrown in, if you know what to look for...).
• When I look at Stalin-Era Socialist Realist paintings, I get them – the world as it should be, painted for the world to see and understand and for citizens of the USSR to emulate.
• When I look at a badly painted icon of the Eucharist, I get it – Here's God so eager to join up with us that he becomes (or joins with the) food so we can eat him and in that way make him part of us.
• When I look at Thomas Kinkaid, I get it – he depicts an idealized version of home at home in nature in his wildly successful cottage paintings.
• When I look at Abstract Art, I get...nothing. Maybe a "Hmmm, this is nice." if I like the aesthetics.

Now you're right that there ARE forms of abstract art that are widespread. You bring up various forms of art that are practiced in the Muslim world. However, you ever consider that Islamic abstractions are themselves loaded with meanings that even the most illiterate person understands, and has understood for over a thousand years, in a world where abstract art has had to carry that burden? The Mosque has its shape because that shape has come to communicate the center of religious life; and the text on the buildings (and in books and on paper) stands as an island of beauty in a world where depictions of the real world are forbidden by Godly fiat.

As for calligraphy – that's abstraction tied down to the work of communicating meaning to people. Done properly, the letters are BOTH things of beauty and carriers of meaning.

My point being that, if abstraction is to be more than a tool of corporations and the CIA (and just so you know, I think a lot of recent artistic movements in various art forms were promoted by certain corporate and government entities for their meaninglessness) it's going to have to commit itself to the expression of shared meanings. Otherwise it will only be seen by most people as space filler for corporate offices, government offices, and university museums; signifying a Senifeldian nothing.

Donald Hargraves said...


Loved this chapter. From the awareness of the New York State Canal System being an asset to the Veepad becoming a distraction to the dissonance between "What did they do before?" and "Everything Is Different Now," we get to see Mr. Carr become estranged from his home in the Atlantic Republic. I can almost see him becoming a liaison between Lakeland and the Atlantic Republic, and him accepting that job because of his remaining love for his Atlantic Republic (even as he can no longer live there, in all good conscience).

Shane W said...

in response to Patricia re: Japan--so, being in a border state full of a violent, border people (Scots-Irish), I guess a violent future is baked in the cake for us here? That would explain a lot of the mood around here...

ed boyle said...

Michelangelo was gay so even females in sistine chapel look male. I read that, seems true. Where I work there are art work reproductions hanging everywhere and I noticed some by a British 19th century painter, mostly representing greek muses and such but they all look identical, like male faces. So realism, even by best classical artists sometimes only goes so far. La Gioconda looks female to me even if leonardo da vinci was gay. So individual perception of reality is important in even classical realistic art. So-called modern art is not anything the average Joe like me, thank God, comes into contact with. If my information on michelangelo is incorrect JMG's wife can easily repute it. At any rate art is not true to life but when it is then its influence must be quite strong. I understand French students like Shakespeare for its naturalness, their own (modern?) authors being contrived, self conscious in many cases. German films sometimes unwatchable due to bad texts, bad unfluent camera work, wooden unpracticed actors. I recall a comment by michael caine(made 80 films or so, lives for it ) regarding teaching actors, that you should not notice that two people are practicing their lines, it should look so natural. So when you start rreading period literature or looking at art works from certain eras you have to make an effort to fall into their mindset. Like upper clas 19th century brits thought differently or ancient greeks. What is 'natural' is everywhere and at everytime different although if successful it defines future views of that particular culture.

Shane W said...

Just now bringing it up, but the Atlantic diplomatic attache has been in Lakeland three years, and they're still that oblivious & clueless? Wow, just wow... :)

Nastarana said...

Dear John Roth, my contention is that Clinton is willing to debate Trump only, not some nobodies who might say rude things about her war policies. As for her being a good debater, that would be a matter of opinion. Note that she refused to debate Sanders during the late spring part of the primaries, and how many months is it since she has given a press conference?

It is not the 15% threshold which is in danger of being tampered with or disregarded, but the polling itself, something we have already seen happen.

Lynnet said...

I think we have a role clash going on wrt 20th century art and music. There is John Michael Greer Archdruid emeritus, that guides us through a sea of troubles coming up us, and is admired by many and revered by some. And there is John Michael Greer human being, who has his tastes in music and art, and is just as entitled to them as any of the rest of us. We are not obliged to agree with his tastes in every respect, and he is certainly not obliged to agree with common tastes, esoteric tastes, or any other kind other than his own. And he has the perfect right to have Carr make statements about any matter of art, music, ethics, clothing, or any other such preference, without objection from his readers. How nice it is that we do not all have the same preferences; it would make life pretty boring.

MIckGspot said...

As much as I Kvetch about many painful grade school encounters with various Catholic heresy intervention teams.. The early education and practical training in: logic, rhetoric and theology was world class. Somehow, (through my Jesuit Nemesis most likely and the Archbishop), though poor as dirt, leaving the church in disgust with great hubbub before end of grade school, I was offered and accepted a two year free ride scholarship to one of the most exclusive Catholic high schools on the planet. Learning many things beyond my wildest dreams for which I have been ever thankful and in turn share with others as they wish.
How does this relate to the weekly topic?
Unnoticed resources indeed! Thank you! Keep them coming please?
(BTW Arch-druid - you are right up with the best of them (teachers that is)). TY to you too.

Space Seeder said...

Ed-M: Isn't Chevron at least half right about that? Aren't we the ones who choose to buy all this plastic crap and rack up so many miles in our vehicles? Are these ads available to view somewhere? I'd like to see them.

onething: I'd actually expected to be an early casualty of the crisis of our time, that the construction industry of which I was a part would slow down drastically and that it would look to cheaper foreign labor for it's needs. That probably would have done it, but something else got there first: When my then-partner's sister and niece who she was living with got deported back to Mexico, I went to live with her in the expensive area where she was, so she could stay close to her clients. Subsequently, our apartment and belongings were destroyed in a sprinkler flood, and my vehicle was written off in a crash. I maxed out my credit and monthly budget to fix these problems. I had to rent in my name an even more expensive place at the last minute--you know, this isn't my favorite topic, so I'm gonna finish in broad outlines. I burned out the clutch in my new-used car, couldn't get to work anymore, my girlfriend cut me loose, and then over the following year I had a short bumpy ride to the bottom. I'd say in essence that I'm here because I trusted the wrong person, didn't know when to stop and look out for number one, and because, like your brother, I'm high-functioning mentally ill.

I remain here rather than climb back out for two reasons: One is that I'm closeted (to most people) bisexual, and I'm really sick to death of hearing how much the other construction guys hate fa**ots. The other is that I expect a really quick decline of our society and economy, so there's no point in climbing a ladder of success that's sinking into quicksand, which brings me to...

Mr. Greer: Why have you adjusted your thinking as regards the rate of decline? As you can see from the foregoing, it's far from trivial to me. If there's still time, there's other things I'd like to do, and in that case I would hold my nose and jump back in.

onething again: God bless you for keeping in touch with your brother. My family appears to have ditched out on me.

patriciaormsby: Thanks very much, and thanks for the education about rural Japan as well. Glad you enjoyed the bit about the smartphone! ;-)

nuku: Well, as you can see from this comment, getting here was not exactly a choice, but remaining here for the time being is. I've written down that author/title you passed along, and I'll look it up in the catalog before I leave. If you'd like a really gritty and true account of a kind of homelessness that's a lot harder that what I deal with, look for a book by an author called "Cadillac Man". That's the man's street name, but he writes under it as well. I'd pass along the title as well, but I don't remember it and the book got stolen, so I can't check. Thank you for your kind words.

Allexis: Once, in the original Civilization, I caused so much global warming that all my land turned to swamp and my cities disappeared off the map one by one. I wasn't trying to collapse my empire, I just did. I found in later versions you can't do that anymore. Makes me think.

Edde said...

Greeting John Michael,


Best regards,

Olivier said...

@John, This being the week-end I've had time to browse and what a wonderful resource these No Tech and Low Tech magazines are! This is why I read the comments in TADR.

Philip Hardy said...


How about "Buzzites" as an alternative to TAIBists, taken from the "Toy Story" character Buzz Lightyear. His catch phrase "To infinity and beyond!" pretty well sums up the techno progressives fantasist idiocy.

Philip Hardy

Shane W said...

I'm not sure that it's any more a travesty putting an international border between Covington & Cincinnati or Jeffersonville & Louisville than it is St. Louis & E. St. Louis, or Davenport & Rock Island/Moline, or the existing international border between Windsor & Detroit...

Ed-M said...

'I'll need to change my functional definition: "These days, art is effectively defined as anything excreted by someone with an MFA."'

Hahaha Good one! x^D

trippticket said...

So, per Olivier's pattern literacy (if I'm reading this correctly), exploration - as opposed to performance - is the only phase that resonates within the r-selected framework of Progress?

trippticket said...

Exploration - colonialism - r-selection - Progress, it's all the same story. The same aggressive weeds, creating their own disasters, just to fill the blank spaces back in with something as close to their monoculture as possible. And no doubt rescuing the persecuted in the process!!

Brilliant. Thank you, gentlemen.

trippticket said...

I was trying to put a name to the opposites of each of those terms - exploration, colonialism, r-selection, Progress - and one of the closest things I can come up with is "content".

For all four.

Karl Ivanov said...

Well can't say as people have gotten around to asking "what happened before, " but even such mainstream publications as The New York Times are noticing that growth aint what it used to be:

"One central fact about the global economy lurks just beneath the year’s remarkable headlines: Economic growth in advanced nations has been weaker for longer than it has been in the lifetime of most people on earth."
"It increasingly looks as if something fundamental is broken in the global growth machine — and that the usual menu of policies, like interest rate cuts and modest fiscal stimulus, aren’t up to the task of fixing it"


onething said...

Dear Toomas,

I agree with you about giving to those who ask. I realized something many years ago and that is, as a Christian, (I may have still been one at the time but I can never quite let it go anyway) it was not my JOB to judge. What a weight fell from my shoulders! Judge not that ye be not judged. You could make a whole path out of that phrase. Other people's problems and shortcomings - why worry about it? Sure they take drugs and drink. They also sometimes eat. Either way, it's out of my hands and not my issue.

sgage said...

@ Shane W:

"still, it sucks to hijack the ADR constantly for all of the ongoing political entertainment... "

It sort of does. Why not simply stop doing it? Problem solved! :)

Cherokee Organics said...


I had to look up what an MFA actually was. That terminology is not used down here, and neither is the term: "terminal degree".

Down here the basic under graduate arts degree is a Bachelor of Arts (or BA) for short. Some cheeky people suggest that the term, BA is an acronym for the cheeky slang: B#$ger All. Master of Arts is the post graduate and then there would also be the PhD of Arts - I assume that as I've never actually met anyone with a doctorate in that area, but then they would probably not hang in my social circles. Sometimes those things are given away by Universities as an honorary title for a particularly accomplished - or perhaps if I were being cynical, well financed - individual.

That is all pretty dull isn't it?

Anyway, at school I recall reading an Australian book titled: "My Brother Jack" by the author George Johnston. It was published back in 1964 and I distinctly recalled that one of the older characters in the story had achieved a BA from one of the Universities down here and it was explained in very unsubtle terms in the book by the narrator that that had been achieved back in the day when such a title was worth something. I'm pretty sure that that claim was meant to be shocking, and it certainly shocked me given the date of publication and I doubted that things had improved much since then.

I've always suspected that the University system is now run as a method of outsourcing the costs of training onto the employee rather than the employer. I respect the effort involved in attaining a University qualification - and have done so myself (it is a sacrifice) - but, well, it is used more nowadays as a barrier to entry for professions rather than as a place to train young minds, although again that depends on whose perspective you are considering!



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