Nothing new under the sun

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Last night’s Plantopic screening of Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 is, in a word, depressing. It’s post-May ’68 and everyone is officially off the high that comes from the explosive hope abundant during times of progressive social movements. There’s no real linear plot or Hollywoodian driving force behind the action. The plot is instead structured more like a collage showing the interactions among four couples living in the Geneva area.

Two of the major conflicts presented in the storyline are 1) the issues faced by people who work in Geneva but live just over the border in France because there’s no work in France and no affordable housing in Geneva, and 2) the rampant land speculation/urban housing shortages in the Geneva area that play into the fact that it gets harder and harder to find and be able to afford decent housing. Luckily, we’ve moved on since the 1970s.

Ha! I kid! It’s worse.

Jonah, as they say, could have been filmed today. Change May ’68 to Occupy Wall Street and swap out some of the superfly turtlenecks and platforms and you’re good.

The conversations the Jonah characters had, the long and meandering debates, philosophizing, ranting — all of it pretty much sounded like the sorts of conversations my friends and I have on a regular basis. I am well aware that there’s nothing new about discussing the means of production, wealth inequality, environmental degradation, wage slavery, etc, but the situations and conversations in the film nevertheless had a pin in the balloon effect on me. The bad guys were doing the exact same thing they are doing today, and the little guys had the exact same anger and frustration, the same discussions, the same desperate searches for alternatives, and the same disillusionment and sense of hopelessness that so many utopian minds have today.

Crisis Resolved + Tonight’s Film

I managed to relocate my sanity (or perhaps happily lose it again?) after an existential crisis this weekend, so I’m back to believing that crochet will save the world. It really helped my spirits to focus myself on doing things I feel are productive and that make me happy. I did a good bit of reading yesterday, got caught up on some video links that I’d been saving for a gruesome mood, finished an assignment for next week’s predoctoral seminar, and learned how to double crochet. That, it turns out, was why my baby slipper prototype looked nothing like the tutorial’s baby slipper — I was doing a half double crochet instead of a double crochet. Rookie. In any case I’m going to have to do two fresh slippers (which I tried for last night but kept messing up), because my friend Mélanie pointed out that the one I did was too open and would probably fall off a baby’s foot. Above all I do not want young Pepper’s feet to be cold, ever, so I’m going to start from scratch.

And that, friends, is all I’m going to write for today because since I am not yet living in a bureaucracy-free utopia, I need to spend the rest of the afternoon taking care of Life Administration (health insurance, post office, residency papers, bank). All of this must be finished before 5 pm, when I have a meeting followed by a Plantopic screening of Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000.

A clip:

The whole thing is available on YouTube in French with Italian subtitles, if that’s of any help to you. Otherwise it might be possible to download or rent it from somewhere. I’ve never seen it before — in fact, I’d never even heard of it before a few weeks ago, but apparently it’s cult in the US. So go watch and be cult.

Midweek reading & viewing

I’m filled with rage after seeing the video at the end of this post. I’m going to go for a walk in the woods to cool off.


What does it mean to sustain humanity?

I read an essay on a blog this afternoon that led to me losing about two hours of my life pondering how I felt about it. I don’t want to post the link here unless someone really, really wants me to, because I don’t want to subject anyone else to what I consider to be an unconstructive rant, nor to the very muddy rabbit hole of the comments section.

In sum, it was a manifesto of sorts against … I’m not sure what, exactly, and that’s what bothers me. It started off with an attack on the concept of sustainability, but at first the author didn’t define what he meant by that word. Later on in the essay, I understood that his definition of “sustainable” was sustaining any human societal structure on this planet other than that of hunter-gatherers. And that made me very, very sad. I am so tired of reading such misanthropic, self-hating, browbeating, not to mention delusional diatribes coming from people in radical movements. Yes, it would have been awesome for the planet and all lifeforms on it had the human population not exploded exponentially, but it did, and we need to figure out how to manage this mess holistically. In the end, blowing up parliament and imposing a post-scarcity lifestyle on people is only going to lead us back to the hierarchical structures that got us into our current mess. If it all comes crashing down tomorrow, people will adopt a simpler life because they will have no choice, not because they’ve changed their relationship with the planet, with their neighbors, and with themselves. That — a change in relationships — is what needs to happen. Some may say we don’t have time for such nice ideas, that these are urgent times (I agree), but I really don’t believe it’s impossible to change people’s hearts. I just think that individuals who believe in a just and balanced world haven’t yet figured out how to enact large-scale change that takes hold and sustains.

Obviously it would be inconceivable to try and go back to the old formulas, which relate to periods when the planet was far less densely populated and when social relations were much stronger than they are today. But it will be a question of literally reconstructing the modalities of ‘group-being,’ not only through ‘communicational’ interventions but through existential mutations driven by the motor of subjectivity. Instead of clinging to general recommendations we would be implementing effective practices of experimentation, as much on a micro-social level as on a larger scale.

Félix Guattari, The Three Ecologies.

My DIY / Knowledge Sharing / Seed Sharing / Small Producer-Supporting Christmas Gift List


This is Baby Slipper 1 of 2 for Pepper, my friend Jane’s newborn daughter.* I found the tutorial here, an offering from Happy Berry Crochet. Mine doesn’t look much like the finished product in the video because 1) I did a solid color instead of stripes, which seemed slightly too complicated — I did only start crocheting a week and a half ago; and 2) I made several mistakes, which I intend to cover up with tiny crochet flowers or something like that (once I learn how to do things like tiny crochet flowers). But I’m still pretty happy with it because it resembles a baby slipper. The only problem is that I have to do a second one, and it is of course not going to look exactly like the first one because according to my knowledge of statistics, which I was forced to take in college, it is highly unlikely that I’m going to make the exact same mistakes in the exact same spots. So if I manage to make slipper #2 without mistakes, I might try to make a slipper #3 to match it. And then probably make a bunch of new mistakes on that one, and continue in the same vicious cycle until Christmas, when I will have a pile of unmatched baby slippers. This is a true labor of love (or madness).

I am someone who, while carrying a great rage inside me against the insanity that is the commercialization of Christmas, really likes giving presents to people. Gift giving, to me, is not just for Christmas, but rather whenever I feel like it, and so I’m really excited about the future gift possibilities that come with this whole crochet business. It adds to the list of gift possibilities, my criteria for which are limited but variations many. I only ever give one of three things: good books (either second hand or from a real book store, not Amazon), something homemade or locally grown, or time. An example of the latter: My dad is a sucker for a father-daughter date and no, he’s not just pretending to be excited when he opens an envelope with an IOU card. Half my chromosomes come from a man who cries when the family cat dies, during a moving scene in a film, and when looking at old photos. He’s a soft heart, as my grandmother used to say.

For my dad this Christmas, however, I got a big bottle of wine from a local producer. I hesitated in getting it because it’s going to be hell to lug back to the states, but the other weekend Alvaro and I went by the tasting booth at our farmer’s market and were wooed (ie, intoxicated) by this particular wine, and moreover by the old grape grower selling it. So I bought a gigantic bottle of it for my dad, because second to father-daughter dates he likes big bottles of wine. I also asked the old grape grower to write a little something nice on the inside of the box, which he did, with great poetic flair. In addition to being delicious and organic, this bottle of wine may save my dad’s sanity and mine. Apparently we are going to be playing board games on Christmas Eve (my brother’s idea), and I hate board games, so at the very least maybe I can convince dear old dad to break into his present for the good of all.

My mom is getting seeds: some I picked up during a trip to Armenia this summer and some saved from my own garden. She’s also getting a jar of the best raspberry jam ever, made by a local lady.

My brother, who likes computers, computers, computers, hot sauce, movies, the power of science, and subcategories of the above, also makes booze in the basement. He is therefore getting the best gift of all: I’ve proposed a Fermentation Festival, in which he teaches me the magic of moonshine and I teach him the magic of bread baking.

* PS – Baby slipper 1 is photographed on the desk that Alvaro built me for my birthday last May. 100% recuperated wood. He knows the way to my heart.