Tuesday, July 5, 2011

the curfew: britain's answer to a dangerous liberty

The year: 2027
The place: Britain

The setup:  A quarter century after the 9/11 attacks, a prolonged world-wide recession, and the rise of fear-mongering autocrats is nearly complete.  A population exhausted by economic collapse and startled by a near-miss nuclear catastrophe elects a government that promises to bring security by pre-criminalizing suspect populations, forcing individuals to earn citizen rights by accumulating citizenship points, and establishing the curfew which makes it illegal for sub-citizens to be out of their homes after dark.

The Curfew is a game that propels the player into a creepy, logical extension of the surveillance culture that permeates Britain today.  It comments directly on the too-common authoritarian tactic of using security concerns to convince citizens to give up their freedoms for personal safety.

You play a sub-citizen on the run.  Entrusted with mysterious information that must be passed along before your impending arrest, you find yourself in a seedy safe-house with four people who will divulge their secrets if you gain their trust.  Your task is to decide who is most trustworthy to receive your information.  Richly bleak cinematics amidst a Bladerunner-esque view of the future weave a compelling story line that will delight doomers of all ages.

Teenagers are the game's primary target, and as a vehicle to create awareness, if not outrage, at the increasing erosion of freedoms for the professed sake of security, The Curfew is a sincere and entertaining lunge at the heart of the matter that has garnered the endorsement of Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch among others.

Does it hit the mark?  We don't want to spoil things, so get to the endgame and see for yourself.

Although the game was released a year ago, we find the technology freshly impressive, the design appealing, and the message as relevant and important as ever.  Perhaps more so.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

bleak links: ddt to ducks edition

Drought, floods, shrinking icecaps, and Atlantis revisited in the Pacific provide plenty of material for the committed bleakophile's dark enjoyment.  In the midst of impending worldwide catastrophe, the blaring calliope of the farce politique finds GOP leaders bailing madly to keep their 2012 hopes afloat as their gunwales are swamped by message-stealing Tea Partiers and a growing perception that the minority party is so hungry to win back the White House and the Senate that it is actively obstructing the economic recovery.

Only the most determined aficionado is able to tune out the din of corporate reportage and seek the rarer delicacies which coat the pallet with gag-free goodness.

Allow us to demonstrate:

--- It was a simpler age when we sang DDT Is Good for Me-e-e!

--- It costs one million dollars to keep just one soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan cool.

--- Poverty porn eyes your bulging wallet.

--- College entrance exam wastes half of your time.

--- EFF is our BFF when the fuzz wants to see your junk (pdf).

--- Media makes poverty blacker than it really is.

--- We indulge our fetish for abandoned sites at a rocket factory (video).

--- Can meta recursion be funny?

--- The college president as chief entrepreneur in extremis.

--- Dope-digging duckies

--- Be a retronaut <--- our new favoritest word.  It's retrolicious.

--- Explore online media with Dr. Oblivion.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

a boulevard of broken dreams

A fan who frequently summers in Southern Europe told us of a museum she visited this week that inspires us to cheat our landlord and buy that trans-Atlantic-ticket-to-ride and see it for ourselves.

The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia offers a sumptuous buffet of objects representing the emotional debris that remains after the loved, the lover, or the love is gone.  Everyday items, each with its own story of a failed relationship become powerful symbols of affection, cruelty, longing, and emancipation.

While artful, this is no artistic creation.  Each piece on display was donated to the museum by victims and perpetrators of breakups, some of whom seem motivated by the need for solace, while others seem bent on seeking recognition, or revenge.  A hatchet lies on a table, hinting darkly at a violent and vengeful breakup.  A Teddy-Bear with a heart that says, "I Love You" recalls a tender moment passed and forever lost.  Some delightfully tacky pink and furry handcuffs reveal a couple's adventurous romps in the bedroom before things went sour.
Founders Olinka Vištica and Drazen Grubišić

The museum's curators believe that relinquishing these items, knowing that they will be on display, is therapeutic for the survivors of a broken relationship.  From the museum's website:
"Unlike ‘destructive’ self-help instructions for recovery from failed loves, the Museum offers a chance to overcome an emotional collapse through creation: by contributing to the Museum's collection."
Paying homage to a messy end is one way the Museum of Broken Relationships seeks to help clean things up and provide a balancing capstone experience to the celebrations that often marked its beginning:
"Our societies oblige us with our marriages, funerals, and even graduation farewells, but deny us any formal recognition of the demise of a relationship, despite its strong emotional effect."
Like moths to the bug zapper, we are drawn to any celebration of the bleak inevitability that all relationships we create with each other are but temporary liaisons; doomed to end one day through betrayal, resignation, or death.  We can't wait to stroll along this boulevard of broken dreams someday and sort through the museum's discarded artifacts from relationships that faded away, spun out of control, or just hit the rocks.  Perhaps we will mumble, "There, in spite of the grace of God, go we..."

The collection travels internationally, combining permanent traveling pieces with local objects drawn from the exhibiting community.

Zagreb not on your itinerary?  The traveling collection hits Houston, London, and Buenos Aires in the coming months.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

flash menagerie

Information wants to be free, and when it escapes, the results can be, well... weirdly satisfying.

File sharing software has long been the great emancipator of pirated music and movie files.    Millions have installed titles with names like eDonkey, Kazaa, Napster, Limewire, and Gnutella to gorge themselves on a worldwide buffet of rip'd CDs and DVDs only to unwittingly give the rest of us denizens of the Internet permission to thumb through their own personal collections of music, movie, and picture files.

Foundphotos.net is a repository of photos lifted from the hard drives of thousands of unknowing file sharers around the world.   Images from parties, weddings, portraits, family vacations, and goofs that were clearly unintended for our eyes are there for all the world to see.  Old and young people, lovers and loners, gangbangers and grandparents, all smile, mug, frown, or flip us off as if we ourselves are holding the camera.

Friday, June 17, 2011

site of the week: the best laid plans...

Dr. Hank Snaffler has a site that we are looking forward to loving a long time. Abandoned Journeys chronicles his explorations of abandoned buildings around the world.

bleakday's gentle readers know how we get all worked up over the symbols of a deteriorating society, especially when they include delicious photographs of once busy centers of human activity that have been abandoned and allowed to rot.

Snaffler's latest entry took us in another direction.  The Sathorn Unique, a 50-story high-rise in Bangkok, was abandoned before it was ever completed.  Finishing work had begun when the developers ran out of cash and investors ran out of confidence.  It stands high in the Bangkok skyline as a decaying monument to the Asian economic crisis of 1997.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Tale of Two Weiners

We've already seen far too much of Congressman Anthony Weiner and have left it to the rest of the world to make mountains out of his mole hill.  For us, it has been a predictable non-story from the beginning, not requiring too much imagination to know what was really going on:
Weiner: "I didn't do it."
Us: "Yes you did."
Weiner:  "I won't resign."
Us: "Yes you will."
Weiner: "I am so sorry."
Us: "Yes you are."
As we were waiting patiently for the scandal du jour to dry up and blow away, we couldn't help noticing the vas deferens vastly different treatment this story got from the left and right rings of the political circus.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

summer bleak links

---the oil apocalypse

---"Seven Problems a Recovery Won't Fix" by Umair Haque

---climate change and the rising price of food

---getting by without the middle class

---the disappearing fish in the sea

---"We're cooking our planet to refrigerate the diminishing part that is still habitable."

---air conditioning promotes obesity

---the news is turning into ideologically slanted misinformation

---looming shortages in water

---stuck in post-crisis gloom

---the dystopians

---how will the world really end?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Slaveships vs. Economy Class: No Comparison (please)

Steve Heller, over at Imprint, notes that a recent cramped airline trip reminded him of the similarly cramped conditions that slaves experienced on their cruises to America.  Mr. Heller has received quite a bit of flack accusing him of trivializing the horrific experiences that millions of humans faced on their journey from freedom to slavery.

We feel his pain.  Smaller seats, larger flight attendants, and cage-style wrestling matches to find a place for our carry-on makes us feel penned up and terrorized by our flight-crew overlords.  That cold smile you get from the steward/ess when you ask for the full can of soda really says, "I don't care what your old name was, your name is Cheesestick, boy!  Say it!."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hating the sin AND the sinner

The family values guys are at it again, although this time they have jettisoned that hot and itchy sheep's skin in favor of something a little more revealing (NSFWish).

Remember when the poor were
dignified and a little hot?
Probably use drugs: Rick can tell.
Florida Governor Rick Scott was trying to lead the mangy pack as he announced his state's new requirement that anyone who receives welfare will have to complete drug testing.  Nice one, Ricky... in an economy that nearly bled out and is in an anemic recovery at best, why not pick on the poor a little more?  Need some help? Pee in this cup.  Got a little THC in the bloodstream?  You can starve.

Gov. Scott, if you really want to solve the problem, get poor people a good dental plan.

We aren't in favor of subsidizing illegal drug use, but we think that attacking an entire population segment because some do bad things is just another kind of racial profiling and distracts us again from the real problems facing the U.S.  Yes, it looks good to go after the small-time do-badders, but really, the sanctimonious posturing and pandering to white fears is getting tiresome.

Scott with the base.  We'll bet he didn't bring up gutting
Medicare with these voters.
Here is the official bleakday prediction:  Gov. Rick Scott will keep on treading on the heads of the powerless, decrying the vast moral decrepitude of the poor, and his trembling white base will shake their heads, cluck, and send him money, votes, and the names of yard workers who look like they weren't born in Connecticut.  Within the next year, he will be making the rounds of the morning shows, explaining an affair, harrassment, a twitpic, or some form of substance abuse.  He'll apologize to his family and all the supporters he hurt, but never will he utter a mea culpa to those whose lives he ruined in the name of getting tough on crime.

You read it here first.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Winklevii Maneuver Revisited

One of the interesting things about being Fabulously Wealthy (F.W.) is that we can forget all that lower-level Maslow stuff and work on our own self-actualization.  In the absence of a daily struggle to survive, we are free to examine our bellybuttons help others with their struggles as an adopted raison d'etre.  We have discovered that the key to post-poverty happiness is to invest in causes that improve the earth and the human condition.  Many in our social circle believe that large-scale philanthropy is a way to achieve relevance beyond the simple creation of capital wealth.
But sometimes all this good-doing just isn't enough.  Sometimes, we need to dip our crazy bone into the warm depths of public lunacy.  Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg provides a classic example in his attempt to connect with his inner hunter-gatherer.  We have read here and here, among other places, that civilized man has been disconnected from the food s/he eats, although if that were truly true we wouldn't need toothpicks to get the clingy bits out.  Mr. Zuckerberg was epi-curious to find out what it feels like to kill a living beast, then eat it, thereby taking a more active role in the circle of life.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Boys are Back

We have fond memories of plastic bags filled with armies of little green soldiers posed in the glorious postures of war.  Campaigns fought on Mount Sofa and across the Plains of Shag got us through more than one rainy Saturday morning.

Years later, those soldiers are back home and living with the scars of war.  The Dorothy Collective has recast these familiar figures with a dismal dose of the real, making us wish we could go back to the breakfast table and work harder for peace.

(Thanks, Lisa and Gwen)

PS: Ron English also abuses little green men to illustrate the bleak reality of warfare.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

RIP: Spirit (2004-2010)

It was the little engine that could, except this one could do it from Mars for nearly five and a half years; far longer than its originally anticipated mission of ninety days.

Yesterday, NASA pronounced the Spirit Mars rover dead and ended attempts to contact it after the robot stopped phoning home on March 22, 2010.

A quietly heroic voice in the night sky has fallen silent and a world away, things are a little bleaker.

Here is a gallery of this craft's finer moments.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Looting the Future: Update - Everybody Flunked, Nobody Chosen

The shelf life of this post may be shorter than usual.  Righteous types might want to read it before Saturday to keep  their appointment at the pearly gates of Heaven.  Others will have more time, but will likely be busy adjusting to the new world order and fighting over all of the boats,  BMWs, and McMansions which the recently ascended won't be needing anymore.  Yes, the end of the world is, once again, nigh.  

Harold Camping is at it again.  His 1994 prediction for Judgement Day turned out to be a little premature, but this time he is sure he has it right.  His mathematical calculations (Harold's mom always said he was a math whiz) prove beyond reason that the Apocalypse will begin this Saturday,  May 21, 2011.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In Loving Memory...

What do President Obama, al Qaeda, the Taliban, Mrs. bin Laden(s), and Fox News agree on?  Osama bin Laden was killed shortly after midnight on May 1, 2011.  What else do they agree about?  Not much.

Before we dip our thirsty quill into the unctuous inkwell of irony that is bleakday's guilty pleasure, let us say simply, Good. (Irony after the break)

The world is better today than it was a week ago when Osama bin Laden was free to inspire thousands with his message of hate.  His backwards philosophy was dangerous to western civilization, but perhaps more importantly, it was deadly to middle-eastern civilization's ability to secure safety and prosperity in an increasingly connected global village.  His death is good news for us and gives hope to those who struggle directly under the oppression of feudalistic, pseudo-theocracies clinging to power through isolationism, censorship, and the invention of foreign devils to unite the gullible and silence the dissenters.

Good, we say.  Not Yippee, or USA! USA!, or even Hallelujah.  We will save that for the World Cup.  Those he hurt and those he threatened are breathing a little easier now and we are gladdened if their burden is lightened, if only a little.  The killing of OBL was a victory, not in the competitive sense, but in the survival sense.  Nobody scored a touchdown, and nobody deserves to take a victory lap in celebration.  Such comparisons cheapen the real suffering of his victims and the commitment of those who put their own lives in peril on May 1st.  Instead, we gratefully acknowledge those who found and killed him for the service they provided to those he threatened, which was all of us.  Good.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Repo Games: The Descent Continues

When future historians chronicle the downfall of western civilization, they will likely note the rise of popular entertainment genres which cynically exploited the least fortunate among us and appealed to our basest natures.  They will no doubt chronicle our descent into a culture that burned its food in its cars as it created an intellectually malnourished population of thrill seekers, whose sadly anemic idea of a thrill was watching someone squirm through life's embarrassing moments on shows like Repo Games.

Brought to us on Spike TV by the producers of Jersey Shore, Repo Games is just what you are afraid it is.  Real repo men jack up the car of someone who has gotten behind on their payments.  Then, with lights blaring and cameras rolling, they pound on the door of the unsuspecting contestant  victim and announce that their vehicle is being repossessed for non-payment.  But... and here is the real genius of the show... if the repossessee can answer three out of five trivia questions correctly, they can keep the car, and have it paid off in full.

Decent Christians imprison neighbors if they are scary

Consider us ardent fan-boys of Sociological Images, a blog that almost always makes us think, and when it doesn't, it makes us wish we had.  This time, the SI ladies pointed out a WWII-era U.S. War Department propaganda video that bleakly outs a government trying its darnedest to portray the imprisonment of 100,000+ Japanese American men, women, and children as the beneficent, caring, actions of a government protecting its citizens from the menace of Japanese provocateurs living among us.

Six thoughts came to our mind as we watched the film.  That sort of thing doesn't happen often, so we decided to write them down:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

unemployed and in despair

Unemployed and in despair:

"Brian Goodell, of Mission Viejo, Calif., won two gold medals in the 1976 Olympics. An all-American, God-fearing golden boy, he segued into a comfortable career in commercial real estate. Until 2008, when he was laid off. As a 17-year-old swimmer, he set two world records. As a 52-year-old job hunter, he's drowning.

Brock Johnson, of Philadelphia, was groomed at Harvard Business School and McKinsey & Co., and was so sure of his marketability that he resigned in 2009 as CEO of a Fortune 500 company without a new job in hand. Johnson, who asked that his real name not be used, was certain his BlackBerry would be buzzing off its holster with better offers. At 48, he's still unemployed.

Two coasts. Two men who can't find jobs. And one defining moment for the men in the gray flannel suits who used to run this country. Or at least manage it. Capitalism has always been cruel to its castoffs, but those blessed with a college degree and blue-chip résumé have traditionally escaped the worst of it. In recessions past, they've kept their jobs or found new ones as easily as they might hail a cab or board the 5:15 to White Plains. But not this time.

The suits are "doing worse than they have at any time since the Great Depression," says Heidi Shierholz, a labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute. And while economists don't have fine-grain data on the number of these men who are jobless—many, being men, would rather not admit to it—by all indications this hitherto privileged demo isn't just on its knees, it's flat on its face. Maybe permanently. Once college-educated workers hit 45, notes a post on the professional-finance blog Calculated Risk, "if they lose their job, they are toast."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

two pleasantly bleak quotes from Wallace's The Pale King

"I'm talking about the individual US citizen's deep fear, the same basic fear that you and I have and that everybody has except nobody ever talks about it except existentialists in convoluted French prose. Or Pascal. Our smallness, our insignificance and mortality, yours and mine, the thing that we all spend all our time not thinking about directly, that we are tiny and at the mercy of large forces and that time is always passing and that every day we've lost one more day that will never come back and our childhoods are over and our adolescence and the vigor of youth and soon our adulthood, that everything we see around us all the time is decaying and passing, it's all passing away, and so are we, so am I, and given how fast the first forty-two years have shot by it's not going to be long before I too pass away, whoever imagined that there was a more truthful way to put it than `die,' `pass away,' the very sound of it makes me feel the way I feel at dusk on a wintry Sunday--"

"And not only that, but everybody who knows me or even knows I exist will die, and then everybody who knows those people and might even conceivably have even heard of me will die, and so on, and the gravestones and monuments we spend money to have put in to make sure we're remembered, these'll last what--a hundred years? two hundred?---and they'll crumble, and the grass and insects my decomposition will go to feed will die, and their offspring, or if I'm cremated the trees that are nourished by my windblown ash will die or get cut down and decay, and my urn will decay, and before maybe three or four generations it will be like I never existed, not only will I have passed away but it will be like I was never here, and people in 2104 or whatever will no more think of Stuart A. Nichols Jr. than you or I think of John T. Smith, 1790 to 1864, of Livingston, Virginia, or some such. That everything is on fire, slow fire, and we're all less than a million breaths away from an oblivion more total than we can even bring ourselves to even try to imagine, in fact, probably that's why the manic US obsession with production, produce, produce, impact the world, shape things, to help distract us from how little and totally insignificant and temporary we are."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Preserving an impossible past

Preserve the buildings, but remember a truer past.
This month's issue of Garden & Gun takes a look at Gone: A Photographic Plea for Preservation, and we could hardly rip our occulators from the strangely beautiful images of decaying homes, churches, and iconic landmarks of the Old South.

Nell Dickerson's lush photography creates a haunting cyclorama  for the reprinting of the late Shelby Foote's short story, Pillar of Fire.  (View a promotional video from the publisher.)

As Southerners, we are repulsed and fascinated by the ironic train wreck of our history and culture.  Dickerson's wounding vision documents the erosion of iconic civil-war era structures in sweet, melancholy compositions that contrast powerfully with the Gone With the Wind inspired ideal of a South that never existed.  Romancing an era that willfully caused millions of Americans such misery is the vulgar irony of Southern gentility, but we support preservation of these iconic mansions, cabins, and churches to keep the conversation alive for future generations.

Perhaps they will be sufficiently distant from their past to reject its impossibilities in favor of a truer remembering.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The brainwashing game

Marley was always a critic.
Please don't call us fascists, but in the mornings... well... we like to listen to NPR for some good ol' lefty propaganda.  You know, those are the guys who heap praise on the be-nice-to-each-other, respect-everyone, save-the-planet, use-your-brain, ride-a-train socialist agenda.  Normally, we prefer to have our self-centered WASPy world view unchallenged by the refreshingly unbiased, everything-is-ok-except-for-the-smart-ass-commies-who-say-it-isn't, your-mother-was-a-socialist-for-making-you-share-with-your-little-sister reporting from the insightful commentators at FOX News.  But on some mornings, we like to see how the other side lives. Also, we think that Renee Montagne is hot.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Virtual Victims: PTSD brought to you in HD

Photo by christiancarron2000@flickr
Sometimes, information is a bitch.  Consider the young woman living in an isolated and primitive culture, media-blind and blissfully ignorant of the atrocities, natural and man-made, that afflict humankind.  She and her kin may not know that last month, Mother Nature shrugged off the coast of Japan, killing thousands and setting up a series of calamities that are only just now being eclipsed in the U.S. news by coverage of violent uprisings in the Middle East and the U.S. House of Representatives.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Site of the Week

Abandoned buildings, theme-parks, and factories describe the flip-side of human endeavor and we admit that we find it difficult to drag our hungry eyeballs off these images of rotting corpus metropoli.

After even the vultures have gone, what we have left has been skillfully captured in soulful images like these at the Broom Factory, bleakday's site of the week.

What, me worry?

Few would accuse Go Daddy co-founder Bob Parsons of being an idiot.  When the globe-trotting millionaire hunter was attacked in the global press for killing an endangered African elephant, he fought back using the medium he knows so well.

Just trying to help.
Parsons released a video describing the plight of Zimbabwean farmers whose crops are often trampled by marauding elephants.  The video shows a flattened sorghum field and tells how a local farmer pleaded with Parsons, his hunting team, and videographers (who just happened to be in the area) to take care of his problem.  Leaning on the dead elephant's shoulder, Bob was photographed smiling, with his gun on its head, flush with the joy of adding his name to the long list of white men who have come to the aid of the thankful African.  The villagers, who have no means of killing elephants themselves, ate the meat without forks and turned the tusks into plowshares.  So, not to worry... everything is alright after all.

Yes, few people call Bob an idiot, but he is pretty sure you are.