Weekend Things, W28–17
My heart’s in peril, Cheryl
In the eighties, there was a sculpture in the Melbourne City Square called Vault, which came to be known as Yellow Peril (it was yellow, and people didn’t like it). When I was a child, the expression “yellow peril” was known to me solely in relation to this sculpture — did its angles make it somehow dangerous? The nature of the peril was unclear — and the fact that a racist slur had been repurposed did not become clear to me until Australian history class in my late teens. It still requires a mental step for me to connect the expression “yellow peril” with “racist fears of East Asian immigration” rather than “controversial Melbourne sculpture”. ANYWAY. The Age tweeted about a new public bike scheme this week, referring to it as a possible new “yellow peril”, and I saw how easily I could have fallen into that trap. It was slightly hilarious imagining how shocked I would have felt to read that tweet if I hadn’t been an 80s Melbourne child.
It feels like the whole world has been pursuing information about the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia forever, and then on Wednesday night Donald Trump, Jr. (punctuation note) decided to just… tweet an email exchange he’d had with a Russian lawyer who was promising access to dirt on Hillary Clinton. His theory apparently being that it’s fine to admit colluding with the apparent agents of a hostile foreign power if it turns out they didn’t come up with the good stuff.
(My favourite meme this week is definitely “I… worked on this story for a year… and… he just… tweeted it out.”)
A late entrant for Best Thing This Week: this video of a French military brass band playing a Daft Punk medley at Bastille Day celebrations, to Macron’s delight and Trump’s utter, utter indifference.
I would not be at all surprised to learn that this quite beautifully photographed NYTimes interactive feature about the Australian outback is actually a Tim Winton novel (“Clinton Paradise, 40, crocodile farmer”).
The Earth has experienced five mass extinctions before the one we are living through now, each so complete a slate-wiping of the evolutionary record it functioned as a resetting of the planetary clock, and many climate scientists will tell you they are the best analog for the ecological future we are diving headlong into. Unless you are a teenager, you probably read in your high-school textbooks that these extinctions were the result of asteroids. In fact, all but the one that killed the dinosaurs were caused by climate change produced by greenhouse gas. The most notorious was 252 million years ago; it began when carbon warmed the planet by five degrees, accelerated when that warming triggered the release of methane in the Arctic, and ended with 97 percent of all life on Earth dead.
I don’t even know why I read these articles anymore. There’s something like it every few months that gets shared enthusiastically in my networks, but the message just is not reaching the people who have the power to vote out the craven motherfuckers who refuse to consider the state of the world beyond the end of this week. How would we take this information and present it in a way that doesn’t just trigger despairing retweets from middle-class white people?
It certainly doesn’t help that our political class is populated with people whose lives are barely comparable with those of their fellow humans.
And I hate to do this, but: thread. (“And here we have politicians treating new energy technologies like they are medieval peasants encountering a comet.”)
One of the few making an actual effort has been Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, who had to resign after discovering that he holds dual Australia / New Zealand citizenship (he was born in New Zealand, but moved with his family to Australia as a three year-old). He’s behaved very gracefully, but what a bullshit law. Ludlam can vote, so why can’t he stand for election?
We lived around the corner from Franny’s in Brooklyn, and it was one of our favourite places to eat (and drink). I’m very sad to learn that it’s closing. We had a particularly memorable dinner there for my birthday, during which we were bailed up and threatened by a mentally ill woman who had a metal hook instead of a hand.