Wonderful article from Colin McSwiggen [ht:eb] which I can totally justify posting on this blog too thanks to class politics:
If chairs are such a dumb idea, how did we get stuck with them? Why does our culture demand that we spend most of every day sitting on objects that hurt us? What the hell happened?
It should be no surprise to readers of Jacobin that the answer lies in class politics. Chairs are about status, power, and control. That’s why we like them. Ask any furniture historian about the origins of the chair and they’ll gleefully tell you that it all started with the throne.
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Art, Economic Crisis on January 15, 2010|
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Bit of a drive-by post here- David Ruccio has a good post from earlier in the week about the movie Up in the Air and how it serves as a commentary on modern capitalism. I saw Up in the Air and really enjoyed it, and was also struck about how timely it was, particularly when showing clips of interviews with people who have been laid off (I think the interviews were fake, but archetypal).
Whether or not Rietman intended it (he started writing the screenplay 6 years ago), “Up in the Air” is a serious comedy about contemporary capitalism. Clearly, in the midst of growing unemployment, a character whose job it is to fly around the country firing employees, and with a minimum of legal exposure, will strike a discordant note with many viewers (that he’s played by Clooney doesn’t make what he does any less objectionable). Apparently (so I have discovered), capitalism has found a way of profiting from doing exactly what Bingham does; there are many firms that specialize in what is euphemistically called corporate downsizing and outplacement services…
And Bingham is the perfect stand-in for capital: he loves the “phomey” simulacra world of air travel (“Everything you hate about travel is why I love it”); he has no connection to anyone or any place..
One of the ironic twists of the movie is that Natalie, fresh out of college and as nihilistic as Clooney, has devised a computer video program (she wants to name it The Terminator, but her boss refuses), which will enable the firing of employees from a remote location, thus replacing Bingham and his co-terminators (or at least keeping them grounded). He is thus forced to try to justify the in-person services he provides, which cannot but fail to convince viewers. Firing workers humanely makes as much sense as the idea of humane executions.
The film exhibits a difficult ambiguity: on one hand, it includes interview segments featuring a combination of real people and actors who relate their experiences of being fired, which would be difficult to watch in any climate, and are even more gut-wrenching in the midst of the current crises; on the other hand, it is permeated with product placement…
Viewers may indeed root for Bingham to make a connection—but not with family members or Alex. We want him to ultimately side with the people he’s firing.
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Newshour (ht: jw) had a segment that featured a debate between Robert Skidlesky (Keynes’ biographer and most recently author of Keynes: Return of the Master) and Russell Roberts, who is a professor of economics at George Mason and blogs at Cafe Hayek. The debate was pretty much what you’d expect, given the intellectual influence of both, but it had an entertaining twist. Roberts is producing a hip-hop video about this very topic. Here’s the video (and here’s a link to the interview transcript). I’ve also put just the excerpted rap lyrics below the video for your enjoyment.
John Maynard Keynes wrote the book on modern macro, the man you need when the economy’s off track. Whoa. Depression, recession, now your question’s in session. Have a seat, and I will school you in one simple lesson…
We have been going back and forth for a century. I want to steer markets. I want them set free. There’s a boom-and-bust cycle, and good reason to fear it. Blame low interest rates. No, it’s the animal spirits…
I had a real plan any fool can understand, the advice, real simple. Boost aggregate demand…
Boom, 1929, the big crash. We didn’t bounce back. Economy’s in the trash, persistent unemployment, the result of sticky wages. Waiting for recovery? That’s outrageous…
There’s a boom and bust cycle and good reason to fear it. Blame low interest rates. No, it’s the animal spirits…
Your so-called stimulus will make things even worse. Just more of the same, more incentives perversed. And that credit crunch ain’t a liquidity trap. It’s just a broke banking system. I’m done. That’s a wrap…
My general theories made quite an impression. I transformed the econ profession. You know me, modesty. Still, I’m taking a bow. So, say it loud and say it proud. We’re all Keynesians now.
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Art on June 3, 2009|
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“Post No Bills, Post Pretty ART”
As the impact of the current downturn in the global economy worsens, and more and more storefronts are being abandoned and boarded up, we expect to see more street art urban regeneration projects like ‘Post No Bills, Post Pretty ART’ in in downtown Edmonton, AB.
A group of local artists in Edmonton are encouraging other artists (local or international) to put up their work throughout the Summer. The project is being done without any grants, sponsorship or permission. The organizers explain –
“We feel the creation of the artwork free from these constraints allows a more honest and organic artistic expression. We decided to focus on this building as it’s on a busy intersection of downtown and it seemed absolutely appalling from a pedestrian and urban experience point of view to simply leave this building boarded up–essentially it is unused space that people scurry around to avoid like the plague. Thus, we put up some of our work and it was really nice to actually see people slow down and examine some of the pieces (the paint chip one really throws people in a bender!)–we think there’s a real appreciation for street art and what it can do for urban experience, it’s simply not vocalized as coherently due to its inherent lack of organization (which we think is a good thing!). People were coming up to us saying that it was about time this happened–and it was strange that, on an institutional level, no public art program had been implemented to address urban abandonment in our city. So, we think from a street art perspective, the speed at which we were able to address this issue and to act upon this need is what makes street art an incredible possibility and potent tool for guerilla urban regeneration.”
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From the LA Times:
The economy is a wreck, and crime is down. Does that mean hard times and lawbreaking aren’t linked?
As L.A.’s most recent crime data suggest, high unemployment doesn’t necessarily translate directly into high crime rates. But that’s because the specific economic pinch in itself is not the immediate cause of criminal activity. What does seem to translate into crime is long-term economic trouble. One theory holds that the motivation toward criminal acts increases with prolonged social strain. Strain is the pressure people feel between their goals and their means to achieve them. One consequence of unrelieved strain is that the desire to achieve one’s goals leads some to use illegitimate means to get where they want to go.
“Long-term material conditions are important,” UC Irvine criminologist Elliott Currie told me. “They can affect values and the belief in what kinds of conduct are acceptable or not. If you put people in really lousy conditions, they’ll begin to think differently about school, drugs or gangs.”
the discrepancy between what many of us want and what we can get will deepen, social strain will increase, and maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday, the other shoe will drop. In the meantime, count your crime statistics blessings, but don’t fool yourself: Crime and hard times do go hand in hand.
A not completely unrelated piece of art (one of my favorites by Banksy in New Orleans):
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