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Watching Avatar, I was continually reminded of Zizek’s observation in First As Tragedy, Then As Farce, that the one good thing that capitalism did was destroy Mother Earth. “There’s no green there, they killed their mother,” we are solemnly informed at one point. Avatar is in some ways a reversal of Cameron’s Aliens. If the “bug-hunt” in Aliens was, as Virilio argued, a kind of rehearsal for the megamachinic slaughter of Gulf War 1, then Avatar is a heavyhanded eco-sermon and parable about US misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan…. What we have in Avatar is another instance of corporate anti-capitalism such as I discussed in Capitalist Realism in relation to Wall-E. Cameron has always been a proponent of Hollywood anti-capitalism: stupid corporate interests were the villains in Aliens and Terminator 2 as they are in Avatar. Avatar is Le Guin-lite, a degraded version of the scenario that Le Guin developed in novels such as The Word For World Is Forest, The Dispossessed and City Of Illusions, but stripped of all Le Guin’s ambivalence and intelligence. –“They Killed Their Mother: Avatar as ideological symptom,” k-punk
In 1962, the American Phillips Petroleum Company started looking into the possibility of drilling for oil under the Norwegian Sea. The decision was up to the King (no, really) and I can only assume that he gave his silent nod; a few years later the first big reserves were found. “The Oil Adventure” changed everything. Norway now has one of the world’s most advanced social welfare systems, and the population of 4.8 million enjoys higher living standards than ever. A semester at university costs about $100. There are state-subsidized scholarships for everyone, so students take out only small loans to cover their living expenses. Working parents receive a year’s paid maternity or paternity leave and universal health care assures that no one pays more than around $400 per year in medical expenses. The United Nations keep placing us at the top of their Human Development Index. When the Labor Party’s ski-loving Jens Stoltenberg was reelected prime minister last September, Norway’s stock market was rising and the unemployment rate hovered at 3 percent. –“Into the Woods,” Silje Bekeng, n+1
The rodents were stowaways on sealing and whaling ships that visited the island until the mid-20th century. When the hunters stopped coming, the rats were left to their own devices along with a small population of reindeer that had been brought for food and now roam wild. Without natural predators, the rat population has swollen to many million, eating their way through tens of millions of ground-nesting birds’ eggs and chicks in the process. As a result, the island’s endemic wildlife is under threat, and its only songbird, the South Georgia pipit, is on the brink of extinction…. Absolute eradication is the only option because rats breed rapidly. They can live for around two years, achieve sexual maturity at two months old and are able to produce seven litters of 8 to 10 offspring a year. Female rats reach menopause at around 18 months. Even in the harsh climate of South Georgia, a sexually mature female is likely to have around four litters a year. If just one couple survive, it will only take a few years before the island is overrun again.–“Extermination in Paradise,” Sanjida O’Connell, New Scientist
Chances that a deep breath inhaled today will contain a molecule from Julius Caesar’s dying breath:
Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences, by John Allen Paulos, Hill and Wang (N.Y.C.)
The earth once had three moons; the two lost moons may have crashed into the surviving moon, or been sucked into the sun, or flung out of the solar system to drift through deep space.
In Florida, an 87-year-old World War II veteran flying touch-and-go drills in a Cessna collided with an airborne skydiver. “There was a ‘woof’ sound,” said a witness, “like falling on your face into your pillow.”
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”