Posts Tagged ‘Global Warming’

Dear Mr. Obama,

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Dear Barak (can I call you that?),

I have a favor to ask of you. I understand that you have a complicated vision of what needs to be done in this country. It is sophisticated and comprehensive (although an arts policy would be nice). I understand that you can’t boil our situation down into one single issue and hope to get elected.

But this, so-called, “Climate Crisis” thing is a pretty big deal. So here’s one thing that I’d like you to do. Please.

1. Become president of the United States (I’ll try to help with this if I can).

2. Once sworn in, create a new cabinet level (or higher if there is such a thing) position called “Climate Tsar” or “Superman” or whatever.

3. Appoint Al Gore to this position.

4. Give Gore almost unlimited power, with the mandate of saving humanity. Give him the same power you would give him if he were conducting the largest military war we can imagine, against the most vicious and evil enemy ever. Give him an obscene amount of power, and then take it away if he abuses it.

Pretty please?

I am not saying this because I think he should be president and you should not. I think you should be president and not him.

In case you need a refresher on Mr. Gore here’s a vid of him at TED this last April. If you haven’t seen it, take a look. It’s about 20 mins long:

See. I think he’s valuable.

You’re going to have a lot on your plate. You have to take care of all sorts of people and issues. On top of which you’re a senator from the most nuclear state in the country. You’ve gotten a lot of campaign money from the nuclear industry. I get that, you’re a politician. You’re doing what you have to do. I seriously don’t have a problem with this.

As you have so eloquently pointed out, we’re going to have to start transcending politics. Maybe someone like Gore who has left the political fray has something important to offer. He represents the best chance we have to address this particular problem. I think one of your jobs as president will be to utilize the resources that we have. Al Gore as a citizen of the United States, is a really valuable resource.

Tap some of that!

Your buddy.

Leon.

I’m afraid of Barak Obama

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

It comes as a surprise to few who know me, that in addition to my afore mentioned passion for flip-flops, I am an admirer of David Bowie. One of my favorite songs of his, is the rousing “I’m Afraid Of Americans” from the album Earthling.

The thing is that things are really volatile right now. I don’t think people heard Al Gore the other day. I would sum it up as:

1. We are currently on course towards the end of the period in which the surface of the earth is hospitable for human habitation. All of our other issues are linked, or subservient, to this Damocles sword.

2. It is arguable that the United States has a very significant role to play in regards to this situation.

3. Our current state of democracy sclerosis (Gore’s term although he didn’t use it at the DNC) renders the native intelligence and muscle of the United States weak and impotent, exactly when we need it.

It’s not that I think political change in the United States would be nice. It’s that I think that without it we’re all going to die.

The scale of what needs to happen is not like the Apollo program. The scale of what is needed will make WWII look small… ok maybe not small but what needs to happen is bigger than WWII.

If there is something which in my mind could justify a unitary executive, it is this. A dictator that gets this done, might not be a bad thing. That I think this, is dangerous. I hope that there is another way, cause the genie of that kind of power lives in a toothpaste tube. It only comes out, not back in.

When I look at all these earnest Obama supporters chanting about “change” I keep imagining the exchange between Tyrell and Roy in BLADE RUNNER, where Tyrell asks Roy if he wants to be “…altered in some way.” and Roy answers ominously “Had in mind something a bit more radical.” The conversation ends with Roy killing Tyrell (oh, sorry… spoiler alert.)

It’s not that I think Barak is some psychopath who is plotting some terrible ploy and he’s going to sit there in the Oval office stroking a cat, watching the world burn through his monocle. But it may be that the change we need requires or facilitates power of a voltage so high, we’re stupid not to approach it gingerly.

I don’t think Obama is a saint. And although I wouldn’t call him corrupt, we’re talking about giving him a lot of power. Let me see… What was it that power did to people? Hmmm…

If we are in the midst of a revolution (and I hope we are), then we must keep our heads on our shoulders. I’m excited about what’s going on. I loved Obama’s speech. I am filled with hope right now. But it doesn’t take a genius to see the parallels between the mile-high event and the Nuremberg rallies. And although that perception is a potentially potent weapon for the opposition, to ignore it seems historically stupid.

I think we should elect this guy. I think the dangers I sense in him are worth the risk, because we can be more sure of the catastrophe that will result from the alternative.

But the country needs radical surgery, and if we don’t fear that we’re just ignorant. I’ve never had anyone slice into my chest and screw around with my heart before. But I imagine that my relationship with such a process would involve fear. I’m just guessing here.

Here’s another thing that scares me:

Barak losing the election is not the worst-case Scenario. If you want to know what it felt like when Robert Kennedy was killed, imagine an assassination now. Good god! The streets would run with blood. Or we’d all wake up and realize that we’ve had enough of this. Obviously, those are dice I’m hoping never roll. It’s hard to even contemplate.

All this being said, we cannot act out of fear. None of this changes the fact that I think the most important thing to do as an American and as a member of the human species, is elect Barak Obama. Not out of blind love, or lock-step passion. But because it’s the best chance we have right now. Don’t be deluded. This is not going to be easy. It is FAR from in the bag.

Remember, the country we live in is the one where in the last 24 hours, the choice of Governor MILF has almost completely hijacked the election news cycle.

I haven’t been speaking out on the election much because I’m not a member of any party. As such, until the nomination was final, Barak’s candidacy was someone elses problem. We are now in the general election, he’s my candidate, and it’s time to get this done.

We blew it with Gore, and on paper, and in hindsight, that was a mortal lock.

Melbourne 6

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

There’s a recent episode of The Simpsons in which Homer becomes “Pie Man” and goes around fighting injustice by throwing pies in people’s faces. Burns finds out his secret identity and blackmails him into doing his bidding by basically becoming his hit-man. There’s a shot where there’s a girl-scout like little girl at Burn’s door and he sticks his head out to say something like “Just a minute.” We then hear Homer complaining that he doesn’t want to hurt the little girl. And Burns says: “Pie that Brownie, Fruitcake!”
I love that! Can’t get it out of my head.

It’s hot in Melbourne again. That means flies.
I bought two hats. One is a felt Akubra that has, as the guy at City Hats said, “20 rabbits in it”. It’s now the biggest hat I own and its VERY comfortable. The other is a kangaroo leather bush hat by Akubra’s biggest rival Barmah. It can fold up and fit into a canvas bag that came with it. The guy at City Hats said that Kangaroo is the second most durable leather in the world. Like an idiot, I didn’t ask him what the first most durable was.
City Hats is at Flinders St. Station and is a definite stop for anyone interested in getting a good hat while in Melbourne. Small cramped shop with just stacks and stacks of hats. And the guy (I didn’t get his name) was a TRIP. He was complaining about the number of people at the track this year who weren’t wearing hats: “As if skin cancer is more fashionable.”
He was preaching to the choir with me. I love hats. I love wearing them. It saddens me that they are no longer assumed in our society. I’ve been in some old theaters that have a wire hat holder under the seat. It’s so completely civilized. You put your hat in the holder and then fold the seat down and sit. Unlike in restaurants and bars these days where you can’t find anywhere to put a hat. Not even a rack or hook. And then the staff treat you like you’re some kind of trouble-maker because you expect there to be some provision for the hat-inclined.

Watching Australia oust Howard and get their long-term dream of a new government has been interesting. I have not yet met a single Howard supporter. I know they exist, but they don’t hang around arts type people in Melbourne it seems. The point is, that it makes me think about the next US election. What alarms me most is that in a context featuring a profoundly messed up portfolio of foreign policy disasters, and an accelerating environmental disaster of global proportions, I don’t hear anyone really saying anything that isn’t political maneuvering. Maybe that’s par for the course. That you’ve got to get into the office and then you can do things. But it seems like what we could use is somebody who can craft an ability to grock all of this stuff into an ability to communicate it. I feel like we live in a world where there are so many alarms going on, that we don’t hear any of them.
I mean, have you heard what some of these climate scientists have been saying? When was the last time you heard anyone with credibility say anything along the lines of “Oh, it turns out things aren’t as bad. Our estimates were pessimistic. Global warming is accelerating more slowly than we thought.”? Quite on the contrary, you hear expert after expert saying things along the lines of “It’s worse than we thought. It’s all fundamentally falling apart RIGHT NOW. Our previous estimates were pure Pollyanna fantasy.” When people talk about good news in climate science these days its about the fact that Al Gore has made a difference and a few more people take the subject a bit more seriously. This is like saying that you’ve managed to convince the occupants of a burning building that fire actually exists.

I look at how we live our lives now and I think about a little kid coming up to me when I’m old and asking “What the hell were you people DOING? What was wrong with you?”

And then there’s the war…

Melbourne 2

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

Before this trip the last time I was in Melbourne was in 1992. I guess that makes it 15 years since I’ve been here. 15 years has been a long time for this city. I was completely disoriented for much of the first while I was here. It was only when I started to realize that there were entire thickets of sky-scrapers that simply weren’t here before that I started to see the city I used to kind of know.

I had been to Melbourne, I think, three times including the 1992 stint. I first came with a SCOT (Suzuki Company Of Toga) production of The Bacchae. This was in 1989, I think. It was shortly after the departure from the company of lead actress Shiraishi Kayoko. Suzuki was still trying to figure out what to do without her (a problem he never really solved) and the production was, shall we say, troubled.

I came back in about ’91 to audition actors for the production that came to be called The Chronicle of Macbeth. This is a whole story of it’s own, but suffice it to say that in ’92 I returned to assist Suzuki in the creation of the Chronicle. This was a “troubled” production as well for reasons that are a bit complicated. However it did mean that I was in Melbourne for some two months (the fact that Akiko was also here for the second half of that time led to some consequences for our personal lives).

So 15 years ago, I lived and worked here for two months. Of course back then I was working with Suzuki. This meant that my scope of activity ranged from my apartment in South Yarra to Suzuki’s hotel downtown, to the theatre. We would go out to eat after rehearsal, but frankly I hardly remember much at all of that time here. I had thought that coming back would trigger a flood of specific memories about this town. But it hasn’t happened. I honestly don’t know if it is because Melbourne has changed or because I simply don’t have the memories to start with.

The workshop Barney and I are leading now is in the VAC (Victorian Arts Center). It’s an iconographic building right on the Yarra, in the center of town. This is where SCOT performed The Bacchae way back when. Recent development has made the area even more energetic than it was. Melbourne is one of those cities that has caught on to the fact that a river is a great context for public space (ARE YOU LISTENING MANHATTAN?) Actually I have to say that Melbourne has done some fantastic work with the whole idea of public space. Federation Square across the river from the VAC is a wonderful architectural indulgence.

However. There are some issues:
1. Flies. Yes the little flying bugs. They’re EVERYWHERE! Swarms of them follow you on the street. The don’t bite or anything but they are like excited puppies. They have a deep interest in what is going on between your sunglasses and your eyes and exploring ears and noses. The quick swipe of the hand across the face to clear them away is being called “the Aussie Salute”.
2. Drought. Australia is in the midst of a drought. It has been for quite some time. No one is really sure if it’s ever going to end. It could be that ye ‘ol global warming is turning this place into a desert. This makes the flies worse (people are saying there are always flies this time of year, but not this many). It also means that water conservation is a big deal. Talk of possible rain is engaged in with faintly desperate hope.
3. Free WiFi like a big weird concept here. The hotel charges WAY TO MUCH for internet access in the room and the afore mentioned Fed Square is the ONLY place where I’ve been able to find free WiFi (and I have an iPhone so I look everywhere). Don’t these ex-cons realize that access to free broadband WiFi is a basic human right?

One big change in my view of this place is that I’ve now read Guns Germs and Steel (by Jared Diamond). Looking at Australia now I have a much different picture than I used to. Had the indigenous peoples of this continent had a different history, or a different set of biological and geographic possibilities, the Colonial powers of Europe would have met with a much more advanced culture and Australia would be a place more akin to India or Hong Kong. But as in North America the Colonial powers replaced the indigenous people (for all practical purposes). And in the same way that the United States and Canada are European cultures in the Americas, Australia is a European culture in Asia. There is little to no co-habitation between the Colonial influence and the Aboriginal. Of course I’m making a sweeping generalization here and if you go out into the countryside there is more evidence of such co-habitation, but there simply are no cities like Melbourne or Sidney in India. Hong Kong has strong European influences but it’s clearly Chinese (to put it crudely). The value of the perspective I’ve gained from Diamond’s book is that the difference here is not due to genetic or racial advantage or disadvantage, but to geographic destiny. The indigenous peoples of Australia and North America lost their continents not because of who they were, but because of where they were. This is not to say that the people who took brutal advantage of this situation are to be painted with any sort of revisionist innocence brush, but white people are no more inherently evil than non-white people are inherently weak. I don’t think I’m making the argument as well as Diamond does. If you haven’t read the book, please do.
The situation now though is that as global warming starts sinking islands in the pacific there is a growing stream of refugees and a brief look at a map will tell you where a good deal of those people are going to end up. Even a desert continent is going to look pretty good when you’re drowning. I really wonder what’s going to happen to this place. We’ll be up in Alaska and the soon to be aptly named, Greenland. The Australians are going to have to take over Antarctica.

Did I mention that the flies are driving me crazy? In case I didn’t: The flies are driving me crazy!

Oh yeah. It’s raining!