The last day of June. It went fast, didn't it? But it didn't. It went at the same stately pace, and every day lingered longer. It's August that looks so big and collapses so quickly, like a massive star. I'm looking forward to July, which will have two distinct events I look forward to telling you about. Right now I have two distinct columns to write, and I look forward to being done with that. Summer columns are the hardest, if you're in the general-interest har-de-har racket; nothing happens and nothing matters much except the blue sky and the green grass.
Then I will watch some TV, which apparently we are doing more and more. This is generally regarded as a bad thing, but it depends, doesn't it? When I was young everyone sat down at night to LOOK AT THE TELEVISION MACHINE as if it was mandatory. It was what you did. You watched TV. First you said "let's see what's on TV," as if you had any question; you picked up the TV Guide to be reminded you weren't particularly interested in 75% of the shows; you noted that nothing you liked was on, but you watched anyway, because that was what we did. You LOOKED AT TV.
When you look at old movies and TV shows from the early era of TV, you see these people in bars, heads craned up to catch the Crosley in the corner, and you realize how that posture - looking up, to the side - was as annoying to some as the contemporary posture - looking down to your smartphone - is today. Technology had changed people's physical aspects, and for what? Wrestling? Old westerns? Facebook? Twitter? Oh for the old days when people spread their arms out and looked down slightly at a newspaper.
I've been working on an Odds & Ends series about the heyday of mandatory TV; it'll debut in the Fall, of course.
Anyway, TV tonight, perhaps "The People vs. O.J. Simpson." It's good. Cuba Gooding is not O J in any way shape or form, and makes you think who else could have played the role. If O J wasn't in jail, he would've played it. I'm certain he would have played it. I also started "Aquarius," in which David Duchovny, stone-faced and mumbly as ever, goes up against Charles Manson. The late 60s LA hippie scene is shown without sympathy, which is nice. Meretricious music, bad madness, lupine men stalking the flower girls, personality-cult communes. The late 60s were just the worst. I can't imagine being a guy in his early 40s who'd fought in the war and had a house in the suburb and a couple of kids and a nice wife and a good job. You'd look around and think it's all going to hell. It's all falling apart.
It would be a long crawl to the 80s.
I was thinking today about the shift in the 80s, how things got cooler and sharper and fun and interesting - from music to films to books to fashion to architecture - and how we were constantly told things were worse than ever. Nuclear war any day now, and society was collapsing all around us: "They Live," made in 1988, began in a vast homeless encampment which had arisen because of the economic despoilation of the era. The only era that will probably seem Fun in retrospect will be the 90s, because the people who shaped the culture were favorably disposed to the government. Don't think that will be the case with the Teens. Future cultural historians will wonder why Batman and Superman were foes, and why Captain America had a fistfight with Iron Man. All the right people in all the right places doing all the right things, and yet we were tearing ourselves apart. How deucedly peculiar.
Anyway. It was a good interval, this day. Interviewed Whit Stillman on the Ricochet podcast, if you're interested; could have talked movies all day, because who doesn't like to talk about movies? Even bad movies are fun to talk about.
At dusk I went to get Daughter from the bandshell, and this was the view from my open window.
The middle of my city.
Consider this paragraph, which appeared in an essay in Medium; it sums up a lot I've been thinking lately, especially after Brexit, but requires some detailed examination. In the comments the author is accused of being simplistic, and he responded by saying "I would agree it is an oversimplification but I think in many ways is directionally correct." So:
The world is quickly breaking down into Progressives and Culturalists. The progressives see the world as flat, equal, all the same, connected, global, multi-cultural and peaceful. The Culturalists want to preserve the culture they grew up with and associate with. They think that there are differences between people; there are still threats in the world, tradition matters and religion (for the most part) as well. What we should worry about is the stark differences between these two camps. As nuance has disappeared, so has the understanding between people whose base identity is either global or cultural. It is rare to find people who can accommodate both identities. As progressives gained the upper hand on the cultural agenda and Obama rammed it down people’s throats, the Culturalists have revolted.
The world is quickly breaking down into Progressives and Culturalists. The progressives see the world as flat,
I know what this means, but I still don't know what it means.
Obviously it isn't; it can't be. Equally what? Rich? No. Poor? No. Developed? No. It can only mean equal in terms of cultures, which they definitely do not believe, given their microscopic attention on the sins of the West. They only mean that you cannot criticize another culture because that implies a hierarchy of values derived from the West. You can't say X is a virtue and consider Culture #1 equal to Culture #2 if #1 does not celebrate X. You can only criticize #2, which invented and elevated X, for not doing enough to make X universal.
Oddly enough, the values of the Progressives are derived from Western values.
all the same,
Well, I don't think Progressives think the world is all the same.
It's true, but it doesn't mean anything aside from saying "you can text message someone in India now." It's often an illusion of connection that mistakes the superficial fact of interconnectedness with understanding or agreement.
Well, yes, the world is global. Economies are vast and interconnected; a singer from Venezuela can be popular in Canada if YouTube works its voodoo. What they mean is that the Global Ideal should eventually transform the regional idea, because regions - i.e., nations - act parochially and do not further "global" ideas. International law must be used to prevent climate change; international courts should be used for social justice; and so on. Of course this managerial elite will always work for the betterment of all. One of the Rumpelstiltskin jeremiads I read - can't find the link, alas - spat hatred for Brexit because it would stymie the redistribution of wealth. So Germany is obliged to pay for Greece until both are equal. And North Dakota is obliged to give its money to East Timor until they are both equal. It's global! It's flat!
Well, I believe the planet is multi-cultural, and also has multiple species of birds. It's a fact. What they mean is that some monocultures should become multi-cultural, while other monocultures must be protected from corrupting influences. It's a way of knocking down one's own culture - spitting at Dad for not letting you go out when you were 14 - while posing as the champion of the downtrodden. It also ignores the differences within supposedly monocultural societies, disregarding disputes over language, religion, folkways, foods, and so on as irrelevant because the culture taken as a whole has a common skin tone.
Or it would be, if it hadn't been for the depredations of marauding capitalism.
The Culturalists want to preserve the culture they grew up with and associate with.
Yes. Those who don't are free to leave. Those who wish to join are welcome to do so.
They think that there are differences between people;
Is this a matter of opinion? Is not the modern progressive ideology founded on the necessity of enshrining this concept? But there are good differences and bad ones; the former have to do with shared cultural experiences on one end of the scale, and negative experiences in relation to the dominant culture on the other end of the scale. People are expected to find the latter a rallying point, as if oppression is sufficient to bind disparate groups together in perpetuity.
People are, in one sense, the same; they have the same emotions, longings, basic requirements. Culture shapes those in ways that obscure the commonalities. Some people think that the commonalities are so obvious and ubiquitous they should lead to solidarity once consciousness has been appropriately elevated, but the differences matter. The differences are often critical.
there are still threats in the world,
Again, this is posited as a distinction between progressives and conservatives. I think both sides believe there are threats - it's a matter of identifying what they are and what the proper response should be. A better way of putting it might be this: the progressives believe that there are threats that stand in the way of progress, and the Culturalists believe there are threats that stand in the way of classical liberty. The Progressives are impatient with the Culturalists because there is a better world aching to arise; the Culturalists are suspicious of the Progressives because they does not recognize the illberalism in their own ideas or the cultures it seeks to elevate.
tradition matters and religion (for the most part) as well.
True. But let me break this down a bit more: tradition matters to the Culturalists, because it is the accumulation of ideas, behaviors, and rituals over time that provides a sense of identification with the culture as it is now, and as it was before. The Progressives believe in history, which is different; history is a curated set of arguments that point to an inevitable destination. History matters inasmuch as it shows how Marginalized Group A waged a century-long struggle to achieve Virtuous Goal A. Tradition is good if it helped; tradition is scorned if it didn't. Culturalists may hang on to tradition from a sentimental attachment to the past and an unwillingness to recognize its smothering hand. Progressives may scorn tradition because it was handmaiden to an injustice. The Culturalist impulse repudiates the past; the former, at its worst, puts it on a shelf and dusts it regularly with fond regard. One indulges and forgives the past; the other rails against it for not being precisely attuned to the sentiments of the present.
What we should worry about is the stark differences between these two camps. As nuance has disappeared, so has the understanding between people whose base identity is either global or cultural. It is rare to find people who can accommodate both identities.
That's why I excerpted this: the Big Wrong. It is entirely possible to be both, in varying degrees. It is not EITHER OR. It is not my tribe vs. pan-humanism. It is not open borders vs. Checkpoint Charlie. It is not regionalism vs. globalism.
As progressives gained the upper hand on the cultural agenda and Obama rammed it down people’s throats, the Culturalists have revolted.
Broadly stated, and it puts too much blame on Obama. But true. We are one world, in the sense that a kaleidoscope is one cylinder. Our commonalities will mesh for good only when we stop pretending that everything can be mashed into a grey mass of platitudinous banalities. An economic development official in the capital of Indonesia shares the language and tools of an economic development official in London. But a lower-class citizen of Jakarta is not a lower-class citizen of Liverpool. This is not a fatal divide, but the differences are exacerbated when the overclass pretends there's no difference at all, that it's just a question of different ants in different hives.
The humiliation of the overclass is new to them. They have no idea that they are experiencing what the Culturalists have been living for 30 years. Which is why it will take 30 years for them to learn.
Not a recipe for comity.
Billions in use every day! Millions fluttering to the floor when you open the photo book!
The phrase "no muss, no fuss" is actually used here; it's the first time I've seen it outside of a parody of ad copy. Could this be where it originated?
Mr. Albert W. Engel patented them, and probably built a three-story brick mansion from the proceeds. Everyone needed these.
Part two of the Joys of Hastings - there's quite a lot for a town of 25,000 souls.
I had to check to see if I'd sized this one correctly.. It looks as if it's been put on the rack.
The original sign; the original showcase entrance. Well, original in the sense that it was done long ago, and not altered since. It's part of a larger structure, but the other half doesn't make much - same details, but not symmetrically organized.
Don't care; cool storefront.
The juice flowed through the signage holes to light up the gas.
Say, sir, did you want windows on the third floor?
Nope; that's for murderin'.
It takes some confidence to literally gild the city's HQ, but I'm glad they did.
Take a look at that marble: it was the style to mix up all the slabs so the lack of pattern created an abstract effect.
For a tidy structure, it's impressive and self-possessed. I wonder if it's up to snuff for today's needs, and the bill to bring it up to date exceeds its original construction cost.
From a few years later, I think, another attempt to update an old building with our old friend, Colored Panels. Probably a shoe shop for families. Or dresses.
"Skin Flixxx Tattoo" now. Next door: no one comes to visit grandpa anymore.
That's the way you do it! Then again . . .
The painted cornice is recent; for years it was white with black letters. Now:
Now you can't see the name. Hmm. Anyway, Thomas Farrell was an early settler, and was part of the town's creation in 1872. Things moved along quickly, it seems. Wonder if they imagined that it would be standing in the unimaginable year of 2016.
While the occasional metal screen can bring a new spark to a building, somtimes it just makes the street look like condemned men wearing hoods:
I suspect big names may have been attached to the screens, but I can't see any holes where they were attached.
FOR GOD'S SAKE BRICK UP THE IMPERIAL JEWELERS BUILDING PEOPLE CAN LOOK IN AND SEE EVERYTHING
Here's what happens when you don't screen off every building: three individuals, but part of the same building.
Two floors for the corner building, and three for the others. Built all at once? In stages?
It was the Nebraska Loan and Trust. The historical society says it has "three stores at end sections and two stories above an elevated basement at the corner section." Okay. Bank vault in the basement, perhaps?
In a big city it would have been blacked by coal dust after a few years. In the clean air of Nebraska, it shines as it did the day it was finished!
Well, I suspect they've washed it a few times.
I showed some ground floor details for this one last week, and due to a peculiarity in the file naming, I didn't show the building itself. (By which I mean, I screwed up.) I am delighed to see this in a town of 25,000.
Let's zoom in and sharpen it up:
VB for Victory Building. Victory over the Hun, in this case. Finished in 1920.
Do you know what these fellows did? I'll leave that for the comments.
It's not what's there; it's what's missing.
Of course it's fireproof!
"When the Clarke Hotel was dedicated in February, 1914, it was hailed as a triumph of local initiative. The $175,000 project originated with the Chamber of Commerce, which established a corporation to construct it through sale of stock to Hastings residents. It was designed by C.W. Way and built by the John Hempel Company, both of Hastings. Bricks made in Hastings formed the exterior of the building, and local craftsmen made everything from the terra cotta trim and marquee awnings to the light fixtures, oak millwork and mosaic floors. It was named for Alonzo L. Clarke, a prominent Hastings businessman."
Local craftsmen made everything. More: "The grill room, with its life-sized murals depicting "Wine, Women, and Song," painted by an Italian member of the Royal Academy of Arts, was an especially popular gathering place."
It's been restored. The painter was Aniello A. Aprea of Minneapolis. He painted murals for the homes of the rich in Minneapolis - and how many are still there, or slumbering under wallpaper, I can only guess.
Lest you think it's all old, there's stuff from every era.
At least it tries to pretend some sort of classical style. Really, it's there.
I am partial to these, if only because I hear the Perry Mason theme every time:
Finally, just to conclude this interesting look at a remarkable little town, the one thing a dowtown needs.
They still have it.
Oh, er, ahem:
Okay, tomorrow? Construction pictures and dog photos! What a stunning surprise . . . but there's something else. If I remember to post it. See you around.
Oh - have some motels! I love this site so much. If I had to boil lileks.com down, it would be motels, matches, the Gobbler and recipe books.