Monday, March 30, 2009

Marianna Torgovnick's insights on Depression-era entertainment

The following quotations are passages I highlighted in this article using diigo:
  • tags:

    • It's as though Americans don't just fear a clearing of the economic slate but may actually be courting one.
    • Polls leading up to the 2008 election showed that a majority of Americans disliked the past eight years: the increasing gap between rich and poor, the concentration of wealth in the top 1 percent, and immersion in two wars. Could it be that Americans leapt from the idea of cyclical, if profound, recession to epoch-changing depression not just because the economic facts were bad and even scary, but because we wanted a change, and we knew that only a strong reversal of business as usual could provide one? The economic downturn is seen as catastrophic, but also felt as an opportunity.
    • Despite, and perhaps because of, the economic troubles, the arts and entertainment thrived during the Great Depression in ways that, in large part, created today's cultural universe.
    • Timed almost to perfection with the decade's end — and current enough to be referenced recently by the impeached Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich — Jimmy Stewart's character in Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) affirms a wholesale faith in American values. Appointed as senator by men who expect him to be a pushover, Smith finds his reputation smeared when he speaks his own mind. His idealism inspires a wisecracking girl Friday (another Depression staple, in this case played by Jean Arthur) and a diverse group of citizens to help him defeat corruption in business and government and to reinvigorate a compliant media — conditions strikingly similar to those that motivated the 2008 vote. Working together, people of all ages and backgrounds feel their patriotic spirit rise and help Smith make an awfully familiar looking delinquent Congress buckle down.
    • As the movie approaches its climax, the camera cuts repeatedly to African-American characters who play subliminally subversive roles. ... a black train porter quite literally leaves a corrupt politician holding his own bags. The movie returns several times to the Lincoln Memorial, frequented by Americans of different ages, backgrounds, and races who gaze respectfully at the martyred president.
    • Depression entertainment reflected how economic hardship, while certainly not unknown in the past, cut across social classes, regions, ethnic groups, and races as never before. It fostered a collective, inclusive sense of what it means to be American and the feeling that we — immigrants and blue bloods, Southern whites and African-Americans, city folk and farmers, vaudevillians and businessmen, people from the West and East — were all in this together.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Green For All is truly visionary!

This weekend, a friend loaned me her copy of The Green Collar Economy, by Van Jones. She told me he had just been picked up by the Obama administration.

Once I started reading, it dawned on me that he was the same guy who had been profiled in The New Yorker not long ago.

Now, I've been reading a lot of optimistic books and articles that suggest we "turn crisis into opportunity," a phrase I used a lot in the last election. (Thomas Friedman, for instance, is a consistent voice in this arena).
Over the past couple years, I have learned a great deal, broadened my concepts of infrastructure and investment, so that the words are highly charged with possibility and yes, hope. I've always had a propensity to see convergences, and I'm delighted to say that Van Jones's book gives affirmation to my most hopeful beliefs and made the connections between several social problems quite salient.

Yes, we need green collar jobs. But we also need an extremely broad coalition in order to reinvent our economy and restore our planet. In building that broad coalition, we have a chance to address the deepest social injustices of our nation. We can't keep leaving people behind. It's amazing how separate causes can dovetail so well. So well, in fact, that they seem inseparable in retrospect.

We need to fix the planet. We need a prosperous economy. We need real progress. We need to
revise our economic platforms and principles, taking into account the moral aspects already embedded in any economy.

Why not do it all? Now!

Please read his book!

PS--The Economist reports that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, even in a global recession.

*The personalized icon is available on the Green For All web site, which Van Jones founded. It's just fun.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Core Values of Self-Reliance and Social Responsibility

Garret Keizer's "Shine, Perishing Republicans" takes its time getting to the point, but it's well worth it:
"These two imperatives, that of self-reliance and social responsibility, of the Republican heart and the Democratic heart in their purest forms, are the crux of any sustainable community."
Harper's Magazine, April 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009

Op-Ed Columnist - The Inflection Is Near? -

The following quotations are passages I highlighted in this article using diigo:
  • tags: nytimes, friedman

    • Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”
    • We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese ...

      We can’t do this anymore.

    • “We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.
    • ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate ...’
    • “Just as a few lonely economists warned us we were living beyond our financial means and overdrawing our financial assets, scientists are warning us that we’re living beyond our ecological means and overdrawing our natural assets,” argues Glenn Prickett, senior vice president at Conservation International. But, he cautioned, as environmentalists have pointed out: “Mother Nature doesn’t do bailouts.”
    • “We are taking a system operating past its capacity and driving it faster and harder,” he wrote me. “No matter how wonderful the system is, the laws of physics and biology still apply.” We must have growth, but we must grow in a different way. For starters, economies need to transition to the concept of net-zero, whereby buildings, cars, factories and homes are designed not only to generate as much energy as they use but to be infinitely recyclable in as many parts as possible. Let’s grow by creating flows rather than plundering more stocks.
    • People are already using this economic slowdown to retool and reorient economies.
    • national paradigm for development is called: “Low carbon, green growth.”

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Digital Domain - When Everyone’s a Friend, Is Anything Private? -

The following quotations are passages I highlighted in this article using diigo:
  • tags:, social networking

    • FACEBOOK has a chief privacy officer, but I doubt that the position will exist 10 years from now. That’s not because Facebook is hell-bent on stripping away privacy protections, but because the popularity of Facebook and other social networking sites has promoted the sharing of all things personal, dissolving the line that separates the private from the public.
    • Facebook’s younger members — high school or college students, and recent graduates who came of age as Facebook got its start on campuses — appear comfortable with sharing just about anything. It’s the older members — those who could join only after it opened membership in 2006 to workplace networks, then to anyone — who are adjusting to a new value system that prizes self-expression over reticence.
    • Many over-30 graybeards have yet to sign up, so Facebook has a chance for astonishing growth. Each week, a million new members are added in the United States and five million globally; the 30-and-older group is its fastest-growing demographic.

      Members are becoming more gregarious, too. In December, the average number of “friends” per member, worldwide, was 100. It has now jumped to 120, according to a company spokesman.

    • Among members, a Law of Amiable Inclusiveness seems to be revealing itself: over time, many are deciding that the easiest path is to routinely accept “friend requests,” completing a sequence begun when one member seeks to designate another as a Facebook friend.
    • In other words, they are defining “friend” simply as any Facebook member who communicates a wish to be one.
    • Facebook offers members a plentitude of privacy options. I count 43 settings that can be tweaked, not including a bunch for limiting information that can be seen by software applications installed by one’s Facebook friends.
    • Facebook’s default settings for new accounts protect users in some ways. For instance, the information in one’s profile is restricted to friends only; it is not accessible to friends of friends. But Facebook sets few restrictions by default on what third-party software can see in a network of friends. Members are not likely aware that unless they change the default privacy settings, an application installed by a friend can vacuum up and store many categories of a member’s personal information.
    • David E. Evans, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Virginia, says he wishes that Facebook would begin with more restrictions on the information that outside software developers can reach. For 15 of 19 information categories, Facebook sets a default setting of “share,” which means the information can be pulled out of Facebook and stored on servers outside its control. These 15 categories include activities, interests, photos and relationship status.
    • Facebook had removed “thousands” of applications that members deemed untrustworthy.
    • In Professor Evans’s view, however, banishment of malevolent software comes too late: “Once the application has got the data, it’s got it, stored on someone else’s machine.”
    • Asked how many members ever change a privacy setting, Mr. Kelly said 20 percent.
    • FACEBOOK does let members create customized subsets of friends. Members can selectively restrict access to some items, such as photo albums and videos. But customizing permissions for this or that, via multiple clicks, is no one’s idea of a good time.
    • For many members, “friends” now means a mish-mash of real friends, former friends, friends of friends, and non-friends; younger and older relatives; colleagues and, if cursed, a nosy boss or two. Everyone accepted as a “friend” gets the same access.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.