Maybe I'm cynical, maybe I'm a realist, maybe I'm both or neither, but never for one second did I believe that the Taliban were serious, or should I say honest, about building a coalition government with other factions. It's like entering into an argument about the existence of God with a Jesus freak or a devotee of any number of Hindu gods - pointless. As were the months, years, of talks with the Taliban. Anyone knew that as soon as Western forces left, they (the Taliban) would break all agreements, take over all of the country, impose draconian and feudal religious law, and drag Afghanistan back to the era of the Timurid Empire, in fact far worse, as Afghanistan under the Timurids saw the flowering of Afghan culture in poetry, music, and art. The Taliban are too brutally repressive and uncultured to allow this to happen again. We have seen this film before, when Al-Qaida ruled Afghanistan: the brutal repression of women; mandatory sharia law; frequent be-headings for religious "crimes;" a criminal rule by the Taliban that will see opium become their major export, along with looted artworks; the destruction of any cultural artifacts that are seen as being against the most repressive interpretation of Islam, as happened with the giant Buddhas at Bamiyan, and so on.
Of course, this could all have been stopped, had Trump and Biden not put it on autopilot, and believed only what they wanted to believe, that the Afghan army and government could rule their own country. They can't. And the real choice was this: stay and Afghanistan as a modern republic has a chance. Leave, and we condemn Afghanistan to brutal repression through a government of fear and terror, run by religious zealots that by and large are not even Afghani. I saw this coming years ago, as did many others. And given the choice, we should have stayed, as no country or people are worth sacrificing simply because another country, on who could protect them, has become tired of being their protector. And we didn't even react with any force to the Taliban attacking Kabul. Would an air strike really have been so difficult to arrange?
Good job Biden. I'll not be voting for your re-election. I'm not a hawk, and I would never vote Republican, but seriously, you're looking too much like Obama, meaning an utter lack of spine.
And unfortunately, not in a good way. Not very optimistic news on the future of the earth, and capitalism as it is practiced now. From the Guardian. First here's the link:
I will add more from the article later, but in essence, the report claims that "business as usual" we last another 10 years, after which we face a terminal collapse.
What a wonderful world we are leaving for our children...
As reported across multiple media outlets, the NCAA has changed its rules to allow athletes to profit from their image, name, and likeness, thus ending the amateur status of college athletes, well, at least for some of them. And sorry Reggie Bush, the rule is not retroactive.
There are many facets to this. First of all, college students are not barred from profiting from use of their name, image, and likeness. More than a few actors have done so. And as far as other majors and degrees go, there are no limitations on what you can do, or make, while in college. Are CS majors considered to be amateurs and, if they develop a widely distributed application, are not allowed to profit from it? Business majors? Writers who achieve some fame and profitability while in college? Models? The list is potentially endless...
Good news for colleges is potentially that this will free up scholarships for students who need them who are not in a career path. Athletes could still win a scholarship, but written into the contract would be wording to the effect that should any money be earned by the athlete over the use of their likeness, image and/or name, this would count against the scholarship, and/or earnings over a certain amount would invoke a revocation clause, or something like that.
Do I like it? Not particularly. But its time has come. While I question the idea of an 18 basketball freshman, the subject of much hype since high school, making hundreds of thousands of dollars while at UCLA, that's his/her right now. The outcome will only fuel the TikTok generation(s) in every increasing self-exploitation and search for profit. We have child actors - why not child athletes? Or child politicians? We just had one childish president prone to tantrums...
Record temperature readings aren't just being shattered across the Pacific Northwest, where it reached 124 in British Columbia in Lytton, after previous days over 110 degrees, and then a tragic heat-caused fired that burnt 90% of the inland BC town. Temperature highs were being set across Russia, from Moscow to Siberia, the latter especially. The Kolyma highway, the main road from Yakutsk to Magadan, a main port on the Sea of Okhotsk, is completely closed as wildfires rage across Yakutia, the largest republic in Siberia.
The above photo shows some of the fires in Yakutia, taken from a NASA satellite. And across the Arctic north, through Scandinavia to Russia, Alaska and Canada, records have fallen this summer continuing a trend, as they did also in the summer of 2020, and in 2019. Fires have started in northern Sweden far earlier than usual, the same in Siberia, and now the Pacific Northwest, from Canada down to northern California is seeing outbreaks of big fires, like here in California, where two big fires have broken out, one near Weed just north of Mount Shasta, and another just south of there, north of Redding near Lake Shasta.
Not only is there no doubt that human induced global warming is a reality, the effects are apparent, and accelerating far faster than even most scientists predicted. How can anyone deny this reality? We need to take drastic action - I think more drastic than countries and economies are ready to take. Like eliminating coal burning power plants immediately, transitioning to completely electric vehicles in 5 years, and transforming all power to renewables as fast as possible. Otherwise many places could turn into a living hell, as happened in Lytton, or other places in the world where heat spell temperatures of over 50 degrees centigrade (122 F), the sort of temperatures associated with Death Valley, become a reality in cities around the world like Karachi - a temperature nearly reached in Portland this week...
Here's the goal for a trail permit I have for the second week of August this year - Tehipite Valley in the Sierras, the Middle Fork of the King's River, north of the rarely visited Monarch Divide and the Gorge of Despair. The famous Kings Canyon (of the national park) lies to the south of the Monarch Divide. I've been all around the area - King's Canyon, the Enchanted Gorge and Goddard Canyon, and Lewis Creek heading into the Monarch Divide. The trip up Lewis Creek (from King's Canyon) was a pretty difficult trail, in that it was straight up, and the first day of a two week trip in which the plan was to explore the Monarch Divide. I had a 70 pound pack, it was early June, and two days into the trip a snowstorm descended upon us. And it kept snowing for two days - a lot of our group of twelve didn't have heavy enough boots, or gaiters, so we had to hightail it outta there. Hopefully this trip goes better, but i am still concerned that in early August there will be a high fire danger, and potential heat problems as well.
Link to an article on SFGate this morning - two towns 6 miles apart with a degree differential of 34 degrees. And that's not unusual! I remember during a summer in LA I was working in Pasadena, and it reached almost 110 during a July day. I lived in the Valley near the 405 - and it was just a few degrees cooler there - and just on the other side of the Santa Monica Mountains, and that evening due to heat convection the sea air came streaming in, and by 10 at night it was getting down towards the upper 50s. Insane.
Kate Winslet made some interesting comments on acting, particularly how social media have essentially warped the current take on acting, with so many younger actors having experienced the world first through creating an image via Instagram and other social media, of "branding" themselves so eagerly without developing a sense of the craft of acting. Here's what she said:
“I have certainly heard, twice, of certain actors being cast in roles because they have more followers,” she said. “I’ve actually heard people say, ‘She’s not who we wanted to cast, but she has more followers.’ I almost don’t know what to say. It’s so sad and so extraordinarily wrong. I think the danger is not just for young actors but younger people in general now. I think it makes you less present in your real life. Everyone is constantly taking photographs of their food and photographing themselves with filters.”
Less present in your real life - that is absolutely true. If all your energy and focus are going in crafting your social media persona, then already you are behind as an actor. Behind, because you are approaching acting from the wrong direction, in conceiving of acting as crafting a likeable, appealing exterior, captured in little moments, with the only continuity being a superficial narrative of how wonderful you are. I guess it could work if all you play as an actor are glib, shallow socialites, but something tells me that you won't have much of an acting career if you do that.
At any rate, acting is an interior journey, as Winslet discusses via her latest creation, Mare. It takes months of preparation, of creating and filling a backstory. I remember reading about how David Mamet, in his school of acting, basically said he didn't give a shit about how much preparation an actor does, and all he wanted was for them not to fuck up his sacred script and sacred direction. Well, Kate Winslet is the total opposite of this approach, as is Daniel-Day Lewis, and dozens of actors - Brando, DeNiro, and so many others - who embody this kind of thoughtful, intensive, demanding approach to acting. They live on, while Mamet has, oddly enough, disappeared, and I have never heard of a single well-known actor who trained in the Mamet school.
As an investment, Bitcoin and its ilk have had their chances. Check out this article from Vanity Fair, "Inside the Rise and Fall (and Rise and Fall) of Shit Coins," and also Paul Krugman's article from this week's NYTimes . Here's the Krugman link:
And then the VF link:
The main takeaway - aside from the fact that so many promises and not even promises but hazy aspirations of a new economic order that would be even more open to corruption, manipulation, and cronyism than the current one have yet to come true - is that, like so much of the new economy that tech companies like Uber, AirBnB and others have promised is that it is a sham, a lie, and after 11 years of posing as the new and revolutionary way forward, it is clear that Bitcoin and its ilk are just a get-rich-quick scheme, and a great way to launder money - if you don't mind the possibility that you might lose most or all of your money's value in a matter of hours.