November 2023

… take the only tree that’s left/ stuff it up the hole in your culture … or, my robot left home to solve the world’s problems

… in January 2020 Greta Thunberg went as far as to specify just eight years [to avert a global castrophe].

Just a few months later, the president of the UN’s General Assembly gave us 11 years to avert a complete social collapse whereupon the planet will be simultaneously burning (unquenchable summer-long fires) and inundated with water (via a rapid sea-level rise). But, nihil novi sub sole: in 1989, another high UN official said that “governments have a 10-year window of opportunity to solve the greenhouse effect before it goes beyond human control,” which means that by now we must be quite beyond the beyond …

Such predictably repetitive prophecies (however well-meant and however passionately presented) do not offer any practical advice about the deployment of the best possible technical solutions, about the most effective ways of legally binding global cooperation, or about tackling the difficult challenge of convincing populations of the need for significant expenditures [the] benefits [of which] will not be seen for decades to come. …

Why should we fear anything–be it environmental, social, or economic threats–when by 2045, or perhaps even by 2030, our understanding (or rather the intelligence unleashed by the machines we will have created) will know no bounds and hence any problem will become immeasurably less than trivial? Compared to this promise, any other recent specific and intemperate claim–from salvation through nanotechnology to fashioning new synthetic forms of life–appears trite. What will happen? An imminent near-infernal perdition, or speed-of-light godlike impotence?

Based on the revealed delusions of past prophecies, neither. We do not have a civilization envisioned in the early 1970–one of worsening planetary hunger or one energized by cost-free nuclear fission–and a generation from now we will not be either at the end of our evolutionary path or have a civilization transformed by Singularity.

–Vaclav Smil, How the World Really Works: A Scientist’s Guide to Our Past, Present and Future, 2022, pp. 212-213

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Баба-Яга … lives with her two sisters also called Baba Yaga in in a forest hut that spins continually on birds’ legs

… Baba Yaga is also the name used by an Ukrainian aerial reconnaissance unit under the command of Ruslan Mazovetsky, known as “Barmaley.”

At the end of Claire Dederer’s Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma two things happen. Dederer admits to her own monstrosity. She’s a drunk. The other thing is less predictable, Mark Fisher. Fisher lets her off the hook because it’s the system to blame for making us think our ethical decisions–who is deserving of cultural approbation and who of opprobrium and cancellation–are important.

The system makes us individual consumers, us consumers individuals. We are individuated as nothing other. And so the system elevates our individual choices to the level of ethical decisions. It makes them mean something but all the system is really doing by making whether we can stand to watch a Polanski film knowing what he did seem important is reinforcing the only choices it allows us, to consume or not.

Whether yes or no, our vote is for the system. Saying we have ethical responsibility as consumers limits ethical responsibility to consumption. Nothing more.

Cancellation is another spin. It doesn’t remove Woody Allen from the mix. The only freedom is to consume

,

still, what does this say about the freedom we afford the art monsters with whom most of Dederer’s book is consumed?

What has this to do, rather than with its cancellation, with the creation of culture?

— Dora Maar, Portrait d’Ubu, 1936

“Allow me to mention here that a stupid girl, one who spends the whole day picking her nose and lazing on the stove, and eventually becomes a princess or a queen, is completely unthinkable in fairytales! The imagination of folktale-tellers created an equivalent of male heroism in the characters of Slavic Amazons (the Russian Sineglazka or the ‘Giant Girls’, Div-devojke, in Serbian folksongs), but grubby, idle, and stupid girls are usually punished with death. Wealth, a throne and love are only conceivable as rewards for grubby, idle, stupid guys!”
― Dubravka Ugrešić, Baba Yaga Laid an Egg, trans. MS Ellen Elias-Bursac, 2011

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