September 23, 2019
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Rags and Bones

by Jonathan Wallace

Why There Is No Image On The Top Page

For twenty-three years, I have had a fresh image on the top page of each issue of the Spectacle. This one is the first, to my recollection, that lacks any.

I discovered some years back there is a new legal specialty in the world, of suing people who unwisely use images they found on Google Search to illustrate their own newsletters and web sites. Congress had actually modified copyright laws to facilitate these lawsuits and eliminate potential defenses. I saw this as a phenomenon of Late Capitalism: Google makes it easy to find and download images without copyright information visible; Congress then creates lawsuits to sting the unwary for substantial damages.

I began to download all my own images from the Open Clipart site, ensuring that they were subject to Creative Commons licenses. (For much of the life of the Spectacle, I paid an artist friend to create the art.) For some months, the Open Clipart site has been offline (claiming to have been the victim of Denial of Service attacks and to be coming back soon, a promise it has been making almost the whole time).

I decided to use a photograph I took myself. But I need to reduce it in size by 75% or so to have it display appropriately on the top page. Microsoft, without asking me, has deleted Paint from my computer and substituted Paint 3D. It has a different interface and I could not figure out how to rescale photos. I went online, found advice, and followed it. The image I saved was the same size as before I began. This too is a case study in Late Capitalism.

So no top page image until I get it all figured out again.

Democratic Weakness

I was thrilled when the Democrats took the House, but very little has come of it. Last week they were delighted that Corey Lewandoski, unlike so many other figures from Trump world, actually had agreed to appear, but it was a set-up, allowing him to launch a Senate campaign by making fools of them. Since not one person who declined to cooperate has yet even been charged with contempt, Congress looks weaker than it ever did in my life-time. Marx said every historical event happens twice, first as tragedy, then farce. This seems to be the farce version of Watergate.

Quoting Marx

I was very entertained when MSNBC host Alex Wagner quoted that Marx saying, without attribution, on the air. I assume, since she is an intellectual (now at the Atlantic), she knew the source. She was fired not long after (though not necessarily because of). I would love to know whether anyone recognized the phrase, which is the first sentence of The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.

As I get drawn into local politics in East Hampton, I am sometimes asked whether I would ever run for Town Board. My stock answer is that I have cited Marx far too often on my web site to be electable.

San Diego scooters

I visited a friend in San Diego. On every street were apparently abandoned scooters, not locked to anything. She explained the business model under which, if you have an account with the company, you can start the scooter, use it to get to your destination, and then leave it on the street for the next person.

There is a case study here of promise and execution as seen through the overlapping mirrors of (delusive) idealism and Late Capitalism. In Kim Stanley Robinson's Three Californias, in the utopian version, there were piles of bicycles on every corner. You picked one up, rode it wherever you wanted, and left it in another pile. It seemed simple and brilliant. In the real world the scooters are ending up thrown in rivers and piled on private property, and being collected by entrepreneurs and ransomed back to the company.

Tree cutting in East Hampton

I have written extensively about Billionairism. We have a controversy now in East Hampton: a billionaire bought property subject to a conservation easement: a prior owner had accepted money never to cut down the trees. The very rich new owner has cut more than a hundred old trees on the property, because he is so wealthy that any possible fines are merely a cost of doing business. Also, in Trump universe, as the rot spreads locally (and I have seen some signs it is), there may not even be fines.

Pixel 3A, pocket dialing wizard

I had an older IPhone which was a complete lemon (buggy, slow, ran out of charge in three hours, wouldn't let me buy music or video from Amazon), so I bought a Pixel 3A instead. It is a net great improvement but pocket dials more creatively than the IPhone ever did. Among the calls it made on its own initiative in recent weeks: to the helpline at my ISP, which I don't remember ever calling; a client I had not spoken with in five years; and my wife, in background, while I was writing a message in Gmail.

In the monopoly world of Late Capitalism, nothing works quite as it should, because what is the incentive?


A shocking factoid: There are many fewer African American students at Stuyvesant High School than there were when my stepson attended in the 1980's.