Spies on Bikes - Man Overboard
A musical journey. Immersive, dynamic, and unexpectedly good. One of the best albums I have listened to in a while. The way that it’s structured, it doesn’t fit nicely into any genre, which is one of the things that distinguishes it as a great album. Progressive beats are accompanied by guitar and coupled with some well done sampling to make something amazing. The song above, Long Walks and Recorded Talks, samples Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. Who does that? This guy. Hats off to you sir.
No Answers Here. Just Some Thoughts.
by Shane Morris
We all want a simple answer for why our country seems to be coming apart. I wouldn’t even venture to say it’s “coming apart at the seams”, because the seams are remarkably intact. We’re staring directly at an implosion from within the core of our country. Democrats want to blame Republicans, and Republicans want to blame Democrats. Our two parties are at a complete deadlock.
The most alarming symptom of all this distress is just how little we have looked at ourselves, and how we, the people, have directly and deliberately sailed America onto a rocky shoreline. Pointing fingers has shown limited efficacy, and every single political pundit seems to have an answer for one, singular problem.
“We don’t have enough money.”
My grandmother used to spend long hours in her kitchen, and I remember our kitchen discussions vidly. Whenever we would strike an impasse, she’d say, “six in one hand, half a dozen in the other”. Mawmaw’s little saying has some weight here. All our current solutions fail to address a larger viewpoint of America, how we’ve changed over the past six decades, and what true economic growth really is. Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t feel like creative games with carrying percentage points, different taxes on different people, or tinkering with arithmetic actually has value.
To boil everything down into something simple and easy to understand: America experienced an economic boom after World War II because we were the only country not recovering from being a bombed-out mess. America had no real head-to-head capitalist competition for the better part of four decades. It took the world about 40 years to recover and adjust.
Culturally, our economic prosperity allowed U.S. citizens to slack off, for lack of a better term. My parents were free to choose almost any career they wanted, because they were Baby Boomers, and fuck it, they could do whatever they wanted to do. There were a few blips on the radar (The Oil Embargo, Vietnam, disco…), but for the most part, Baby Boomers were free to choose just about any career. Largely, Baby Boomers ended up in manufacturing and finished goods markets. Under the Baby Boomers, the U.S. economy saw a trade surplus with almost every country in the world.
Everything was ostensibly on cruise control for two decades. Before the computer/internet revolution, technological advances moved much more slowly and information couldn’t travel as quickly. As a result, our prosperity saw a continuation that would be unnatural in today’s market.
Then came Generation X’ers. The first round of kids popping out of Boomers was born into an unnaturally odd political and economic landscape. These were kids born in the peak of the Cold War, while our only economic opponent was playing by a set of rules destined to fail. But hey, we did build quite a military, right?
So, setting aside the imminent threat of nuclear holocaust - Gen X’ers had parents who didn’t really have the foresight of knowing computers would soon take over the world. Our education climate began to shift around this time, and unfortunately, our edge over the rest of the world started taking a hit.
Cultural differences are really important to understand here. In Europe and Southeast Asia, the “we’ll rebuild everything and be better mentality” was pervasive. Children were indoctrinated into the mindset that they have to keep up with America. We, as Americans, were an economic and technological target for every capitalist nation in the world. That’s a pretty damn big bullseye. The strangest part of that juxtaposition was our lack of awareness regarding this multi-national race.
Our non-competitive mentality was really something I began to understand as a child. “Everyone is a winner”… right? (Raise your hand if you remember this culture.) Across the Atlantic and Pacific, kids were being raised to actually compete and win in what would soon become the most competitive global economy, ever. There would be winners and losers, and in our country, everyone was about to be the winning-loser.
This is where technology comes into play. Sometime around the early 1980s, Japan won. After years of giving its citizens better educations, and pushing the most talented to excel in engineering, computer science, etc - Japan started putting distance between themselves and everyone else. Then it was Korea. Then it was China. In the early 1990s, Europe closed the gap. The United States was woefully unprepared for the technological revolution.
No sane politician in the United States will say it out loud, but we’re years behind the rest of the world when it comes to science and technology, and things aren’t getting better for us. People in positions of economic power knew it was happening as early as the mid 1980s. This is the first time we began to see the first of our three economic bubble collapses that eventually left the country ostensibly in shambles.
The 1980s saw the stock market rise into a massive bubble and then completely fall apart. Everyone thought they would get rich buying and selling pretend value on Wall Street. It didn’t work out.
The 1990s saw our mini-tech bubble come and go with the Dot Com wave. Who knew you couldn’t make millions of dollars selling pinto beans online? Everything came crashing down again. Our entire country seemed surprised.
Then, in mid 2000s, everyone started playing Monopoly - in real life. We’d just buy and sell each others houses until we were all millionaires. Where could that possibly go wrong?
For three decades, America tried gimmicks to catch up economically, and none of it worked. Not surprisingly, everyone else in the world kept on kicking our asses. The wealthy people selling these gimmicks to the middle class made off with quite a ransom. America’s economy basically turned into a vulture, picking at its own intestines for food.
America’s middle class had little real upward mobility to begin with, so “get rich quick” seemed like a decent enough plan to most people. It’s not like they were actually educated enough to create competitive products in the world market, so getting lucky would just have to do. (Spoiler Alert: It didn’t work.)
So what’s really going on here? Well, if you’re an economist (I’m not), you’re probably going to get mad at me for boiling down our economy into a simple dichotomy. However, America’s economy can really be broken down into two sectors: Goods and Services.
Right now, our services market is strong, because we have a preponderance of young liberal arts majors looking for interesting careers in fields like “Wilderness Therapy” or “Social Media Marketing” - you know, things that you don’t need any real talent or skill to pull off. When it comes to nurses, hotel managers, servers, customer service, and just about every other internal market, we’re totally set.
The problem we’re looking at is really based upon the lack of goods we export. When you buy more than you sell, you go into debt. It’s honestly that simple. When we think about why we’re actually in debt, it has little to do with Obama, Bush, Clinton, or perhaps even Bush before that. Our economy and its spending levels were fixed alongside an assumed productivity and growth curve a long time ago.
We (incorrectly) assumed the line would keep moving diagonally up the chart, away from the rest of the world. When the world caught up, we started borrowing, under the assumption we could catch up eventually. The big problem here isn’t the past four years - it’s the past 40 years. The reason our old chart was moving upwards was because we could innovate at a higher level than the rest of the world. Local economies had worldwide impact. Now, things are different, and it’s not because “the jobs were sent overseas by greedy corporate overlords”. The jobs left because we never progressed. No one wants to say it, but we’re not supposed to repeat the same things over and over again. If you don’t grow, someone else will surpass you.
The reason we were great was because we had better educations, more refined logistics, and we could make better products. Eisenhower’s freeways meant we could get products from Pennsylvania to Long Beach in two days. Our ports in Long Beach could reach around the world in a week. (Perhaps I should have prefaced that anecdote with “Once upon a time…”)
When we talk about how we’re the leaders of the free world, what do we really mean? Mid-pack in education? Perhaps we’re talking about our electrical power grid designed for the early 1900s? If energy is truly the only real currency, why are we not empowering ourselves with more alternative energy sources?
In fact, let’s ask a bigger question: Who the fuck said “alternative” energy anyway? Why is being a responsible, logical and pragmatic person an “alternative” way of generating energy? Perhaps I’m not 100% okay with being so reliant on a finite resource for almost everything on the planet. That’s not an alternative viewpoint - that’s just sensible and reasonable.
Today, many of you are going to step into a voting booth because you want something to change in your life. Right now is a good time to take a long hard look in the mirror, and ask yourself what kind of country you want to create. Realize that no presidential candidate on the ballot today has what it takes to completely shift the culture of America.
If you want change, it’s not going to happen by asking representatives in Washington for more paperwork. Change happens from within. It happens when you say, “I need to get a lot better at math and science, because technology is the future, and that’s where the new jobs will be.” If solar power, high speed rail, wind, thorium reactors, portable computers, algae farms, nano-tech, and like a zillion other ideas are the future - why are we focused on pumping out liberal arts majors?
It’s truly a wonder what can be accomplished in four years. I’m not talking about what happens The Oval Office. I’m talking about what happens in a classroom.
Wham! - The Final
It’s silly, to say the least, but it’s just so catchy, like-able, and enjoyable.
Tame Impala - Lonerism
Although I’m sure it’s certainly clear at this point, I don’t have time to blog the way I used to. College…There’s always time for music though, so I’m gonna share what I’m listening to a few times a week. And because you trust my musical expertise, you should check it out.
Me and my comrades made a video for a competition for the band Other Lives. We’d greatly appreciate it if you check out the video, and vote it up if you want (facebook like button on the banner).
Showing some love for the now 10,200 fans on his Facebook and around the world, Sun Glitters (Victor Ferreira) has released a brand new single in collaboration with the ever-mysterious Denmark band Sleep Party People. The lulling, almost alien-like vocals of S.P.P. go perfectly with the lull of the lush drum sounds that have come to define Sun Glitters. A track that is serene throughout, it allows you to block everything out and simply escape. The song is available for free download from his Bandcamp. Chillout and enjoy.