Monthly Archives: March 2018

Our Bright Commie Tomorrow

(This one’s a little loopy.  I’ve had the flu.)

Greetings, Comrades!  The capitalists are now so entangled in their own greed that the end of the corporatist, globalist world order can be clearly seen.  The means of production will be freed from theownership classes and their running-dog lackeys, and given to the people. They will be equitably used by all, and for the good of all. And soon!

How do I know this?   Because today’s capitalists, most of them, won’t make a microwave oven that lasts five years.  Not can’t do it — won’t do it.  At least that’s what it looks like from where I sit. We got our first microwave in the mid-80s: an Amana of moderate size and feature set.  Even in those days microwaves had a million modes — of which we used maybe three or four, as most do today. Fast-forward 25 years.

The Amana finally died.  It didn’t really have to — we had a decent appliance repair shop back then, and the techs found the problem.  But the (inexpensive) part that we needed was no longer available.  The faithful Amana went to recycling.

And in the seven years since, we’ve bought  three more microwaves.  They die in two to four years. We just got our latest.  They all look like the Amana; they all have the same feature set.  Their magnetron tubes are a little more powerful,

But they don’t last.

They all cost about $140; pay more, and you get power and features and size that we don’t need.  The Amana cost about $260 back in the ‘80s — I remember this, because I was and am cheap.  Inflation-adjusted, in 2018 dollars, it cost us around $550.  So you get what you pay for,right? In 1986, sure.  But not now.

If you spread that $550 across 25 years, the distributed capital cost is about $22 bucks per year. If you spread the $280 we’ve spent for two ‘waves that died in the seven years since, the distributed cost is $40 annually. We’re paying more for microwaves now — not less.

It wouldn’t cost much to make microwaves last longer; somewhat better parts, slightly better engineering. If they’d lasted even seven years each at $140 a unit, the cost per year would match the old Amana’s.  But then the corporations wouldn’t sell as many microwaves. They wouldn’t keep the factories humming — factories sited in the cheapest possible labor markets. And people who buy microwaves would hang onto money that they could be giving to the stockholders of the world.

So: thirty years of technological advancement have NOT been applied to make microwaves cheaper and better.  In fact, they are now expensive and worse.  And more waste is produced: the endless stream of shoddy microwaves has to be recycled.

Intentionally inferior goods, waste of resources, regulation flight, the decline of first-world manufacturing, and higher prices: this is what globalism has brought us.  While it has created and fattened a surfeit of billionaires who want to buy the governments of the world, and are doing a good job at least at that.

So I’ve got this new, really cool-looking stainless-steel Panasonic microwave that will probably be dead in just over four years.  I know this because the retailer offered to sell us a “free return” insurance policy on the oven — for up to four years.  Everybody knows.

Your mileage may vary, but if a modestl microwave can’t last last at least seven years, after decades of microwave production, somebody’s doing it wrong.  On purpose.

And the world can’t take it forever.  It can’t waste the resources.  The people can’t continue to be paid less for their labor but pay more for the goods that they must buy.  The swelling billionaires cannot hoard the wealth of the world at a time when we’ll need that wealth to save the world.

Left to itself, it will all collapse.  But people are starting to catch on. This past Year of Trump has mobilized progressives and Democrats (there is some overlap, he said with a bit of sarcasm). And it has caused honest conservatives to consider the difference between true conservatism and a shameless, honorless kleptocracy which has stolen conservatism’s name.

Let’s hope this year’s elections at least kill the momentum of the kleptocrats and rock them back on their heels.  It’s for their own good, after all. Because if the people aren’t taken care of by the system, they will eventually take down the system itself.

All it would take is for Americans to start asking themselves: “If somebody works hard all their life, or as hard as they can, isn’t that enough? Should their worthiness to survive depend on knowing how to invest?” Americans believe in “fair;” if things get bad enough, we have the mindset to act on that.

And the Glorious People’s Revolution will come at last! I remember a quote attributed to hero socialist Eugene Debbs: essentially, that the United States will be the last advanced country to go socialist, but the first to go communist.

We do tend to get overenthusiastic when we buy into something new.  I see a wondrous wave of all-American communists spilling across America in red electric SUVs with gun racks, wearing t-shirts of Karl Marx hoisting a beer glass and shouting, “To each according to his needs!”

It’s so American.  And the capitalists and their lackeys will be issued blue uniforms and s be put to work building low-income housing or teaching underprivileged children to read.

Believe me: it’s much, much better than the tumbrils.

The Great Library

It’s a little-known fact that the fabled Library of Alexandria had an annex for a small but select collection of t-shirts.

Sarajevo ParkTees were an integral part of Graeco-Roman culture. When Caesar led his army to Gaul, his vanguard of muscular young Legionnaires wore the message VENI VIDI VICI block-printed on oversized tees (to accomodate their armor).

No visitor to ancient Greece would ever return home without WHAT HAPPENS IN ATHENS STAYS IN ATHENS written across his back on a fine tee of Egyptian cotton: beige for the masses, purple-dyed for the upper classes. Or the ever-popular PLATO DID IT WITH LOGIC.

Clutch Couriers PhillipsThen as now, people wore t-shirts to make a statement.  Roman t-shirt shops were busy printing tees with the cultural and political statements of the day.  Woe on the man wearing a POMPEY THE GREATEST tee shirt in an alley full of Crassus’ supporters. But a VISIT BEAUTIFUL VESUVIUS tourist tee would get no one in trouble.

Tragically, the fabled tee shirt archive vanished with the rest of the Alexandrian Library collection.  And the tee itself vanished from western civilization for 1500 years.

But it’s back.  And I’ve taken it upon myself to rebuild the Library.  In my garage.

Sanford Marial Arts Savage BuddhaFor years now I’ve been chasing this mutant white whale: the meaning behind t-shirts.  Not the ones that people sell to make money, but the ones that people make to represent themselves: tees for business, sports, causes, personal events, hopes, fears, and particular times and places where — something happened.  Or was supposed to.

Tees are powerful. If you don a tee with a message on it, you become the message.   Everyone around you will see you that way. There’s almost no other medium that makes people into walking memes  with their full cooperation.

Ride 4 Life on Bone MotorcycleWhy do people make these tees? What are they saying? What’s the word they want to get out? And why do people happily slip a meme-on-cotton over their heads and wear it off to the Olive Garden?  Or, and this is the kicker, even pay for the privilege of doing it by actually buying the tee shirt?

I’ve been chasing meaning ever since I picked up a tee at Goodwill for a Minneapolis beer ba, one that read FEAR THE CHEESE across the back in dire block letters. What the hell did that mean? It was like a secret message. You had to be there, to know.

Unnamed CA Gang Task Force 2009 Tee 1I took it home and found out over the Internet.  And I’ve been taking them home to find out ever since.  Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.  Sometimes there’s little to know.  Sometimes there’s a lot. And sometimes it’s a trip to Oz, only — and here’s the important part — the people who made the shirt think they live in no such place.  They might wonder, doesn’t _everyone_ live in a place nicknamed HogSkin County? What’s there to be curious about?

Eel River Organic Brewing Drink Naked 1I’ve got tees from the Guantanamo Bay prison guard detachment. From the poor devils who spent years in Iraq looking for the weapons of mass destruction.  From some tiny town in the Carolinas that held a Collard Greens Festival because they had nothing else to boast about.  I got a tee from a bunch of musicians who gathered in a quake-ravaged city to set a world record for the most people to play “Shake, Rattle, and Roll!” at one time. Outside, among the ruins.

Justice for Janitors 1And more: surfing carpenters, apes in hard hats swinging drywall hammers, Sarah Palin in a dirndl serving beer (for “Sarah Pale Ale,” and yes, it’s real). I’ve got tees from the godfsaken base where  death drones launch themselves to terrorize Yemen, and from the bar with the only decent margaritas on the Persian Gulf. Heartfelt memorial tees for teenagers who died young, or for firefighters who died in 9/11 — standing with one foot on the bar rail while Jesus mixes their drinks.

Asleigh Swain Funeral Shirt, 2011And many more that I can’t remember.  See, that’s the problem.  Most of these shirts are stuck in the Catacombs, a shack out back filled with  towering stacks of silver-brown 30-gallon plastic storage tubs (available from Target at the low everyday price of five dollars plus tax). Every one of those tubs is stuffed with tees.  Some of them have been sealed for years.

What good is a collection you can’t see and search? Can barely even remember? For all I know, the concentrated presence of all those message tees ripped the fabric of the universe, so that alien tees from strange dimensions are spilling into the Catacombs even as you read this.   Peek  inside one of those tubs, and you can’t say it’s not true.

Master of Cloning 1So over the last few months, a plan has materialized.  The garage walls have been painted and patched.  Racks sufficient for a thousand tees have been constructed on one wall.  Hundreds of hangers have been purchased, and protective plastic sheathing. A database has been created, and a system of color-coding by which each particular shirt can be located. There’s even a heat pump in the garage now to keep things from getting too cold, too hot, or too damp.

Kong 1Now all I have to do is unpack, photograph catalog, color-code, and hang 1000 tee shirts.   It’s slow going. Talk to me in six months.    At which point the Great Library will stretch out before me, and I will be able to find for you an Italian restaurant tee shirt illustrated in the low-art style of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth with the flick of a key or a sharp eye for the right color code on a clothes hanger.  Or a U.S. Army basic training tee with homoerotic themes. Or a tee commemorating Sarah Pale Ale  Or a tee memorializing the life and death of a local tee-shirt artist.  How meta can you get?

Greenway Santa Cruz Marijuana Dispensary 1Why dot this? Why not? I want to show off.  I love this stuff.  I love the stories behind the tees.  So many things in this world come, go, and leave nothing behind but a tee to say that they were even there.  Tees are a small thing, but I like to find the big in the small.  It’s in there, somewhere.

And after the Library is in order, I’ll write up the history of every single tee, as best I can.  It’ll be, practically, a book.  And then, who knows? Put it all up online and let the world have a shot, I’m thinking; I could call it “The Tees of Mystery.”  Californians will get the joke.

Hillary 2016 Bayside 1Because four out of five people hear about what I’m doing and go cross-eyed with puzzlement and boredom.  But the fifth smiles oddly and wants to know more.  Here’s to the lucky fifth, and I’ll see you on the Internet someday. In the meantime — stop in for a tour if you’re ever in the ‘hood.