New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

The Working Dead

December 09, 2016 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Politics, Randall Amster

Signs of Life in Making a Living?

by Randall Amster

I’ve noticed a subtle shift in recent years that seems relatively minor but is perhaps quite revealing of larger trends. People rarely seem to ask the question anymore, “what do you do for a living?” Instead, it’s usually expressed in more transactional terms as, “where do you work?” or “what’s your job?” By itself this appears insignificant, except that when coupled with more macroscopic shifts in the nature of employment across a wide range of fields, it says something about the erstwhile notion of “making a living.” Indeed, with increasing routinization and the advent of 24/7 technology, work is becoming less about our living (as in, someone pursuing their “life’s work”) and more about trying not to let it kill us.

With all of the post-election analysis about the issues of the “working class” as a determinative factor, we now find ourselves in a liminal space between the reality of economic dislocation and the fantasy of redemption. How much disbelief needs to be suspended in order to buy the notion that (a) outmoded industrial jobs will literally be coming back, and that (b) a billionaire real estate magnate is the one to do it? The burgeoning Cabinet picks and associated rhetoric should be all working people need to read the tea leaves. As such, we are steadily traversing the fine line from fake populism to genuine dystopianism. (more…)

Spoiler Alert

November 21, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Family, Missy Beattie

Reality Is No Stranger to Fiction

by Missy Beattie

Laura and Erma had a solution for my anxiety. “We’re calling a moratorium on reading news articles after dinner. Start The Walking Dead.”

Pillow-propped in bed, I’ve watched the series on my laptop, via Netflix.

In two frenzied installments, I zipped through Season 1, saying, “Just a little more,” and I’d click another episode as soon as the previous ended, seduced by each cliffhanger ending. I finished Season 2 and then 3, ahead of Laura and Erma.

I had a couple of panic attack symptoms, racing heart for one, and had to talk myself down with, “This isn’t real.” I was without discretion. Because this horror story is frightfully entertaining. Plus, it is plump with metaphors. If you’ve seen The Walking Dead, now in its 4th season, you know this — all those existential questions of morality. (more…)

On Dystopias and Hope

January 10, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Priscilla Stuckey

Can We Imagine a Better Future?

by Priscilla Stuckey

A blog reader named Ray contacted me a while back to say that he shares a deep concern about climate change. In fact, he’s publishing a novel about it on his website. In his book the Arctic polar ice cap melts quickly (as we can already see) and causes more abrupt global warming than we expect. The rapid climate change leads to a collapse in agriculture, there is a surge of terrorism, and right-wing extremists stage a coup against the US government.

He was curious what I might think about his book.

I had to confess my discontent. I don’t enjoy dystopian fiction. And that’s putting it mildly. I usually don’t subject myself to it. These days, it’s getting hard to avoid, since dystopian visions always surge in popularity during a time of crisis. People sense that the world as they know it is dying, and they are frightened beyond belief — and I mean this quite literally. (more…)

Palm Reading

August 06, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Politics, Randall Amster

Will Smarter Phones Mean Dumber People?

by Randall Amster

The road ahead was clearly marked as “closed” and a “dead end,” but the voice from the back seat insisted that we go forward anyway. “My phone says go straight ahead,” counseled the voice, ignoring the driver’s observation that the street was apparently closed. “The GPS in my phone is smarter than you are,” chimed the voice, good-naturedly yet sardonically. Obviously trumped, the driver continued forward — until we inevitably reached the advertised road closure that forced us to turn around and start over.

In itself, such a minor folly is entirely inconsequential and worthy of a little chuckle at best. Yet it’s also indicative of an increasingly prevalent attitude whereby the reliance on “smart” technologies is steadily supplanting human assessments and instincts. By now, such an observation is quite nearly passé, in that we have already given so much of ourselves and our reasoning capacities over to machines in one form or another. But the advent and rapid permeation of personal technologies like so-called “smartphones” raises further concerns that have been less explored during this most recent consumer frenzy. (more…)

A Happy Ending?

January 26, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Economy, Jennifer Browdy

Shades of an American Kristallnacht

by Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

Watching the spectacle of the Republican primaries evokes deep sadness over the unavoidable truth that now, in the wake of Citizens United, it has become totally legal for rich people to run politicians the same way they might run horses or greyhounds.  Just like that.

Maybe that’s what provides the eerie, zombie-like atmosphere in politics these days. You really have the sense that most politicians, especially the ones at the top echelons of power, are like old-fashioned Kabbalistic golems, animated out of clay by skilled magicians who can control them from afar.

Of course, that’s been going on for a long time.  Remember George Bush, a wind-up man getting remote control instructions through his earphone in the 2004 Presidential debates?

But it’s getting worse and worse.  That’s why I can’t stand to watch Gingrich and Santorum and all the other Republican wax model men mouth their lines on the stage these days.  You know they’ll say whatever they’re told … whatever they think it will take to win. (more…)

Apocalypse Not Now

February 01, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Ecology, Politics, Randall Amster

In Search of a New Beginning … Before the End

by Randall Amster

Undertaking even a cursory review of the news queue evidences the apocalyptic overtones in our collective midst. In the most recent additions to the canon, 2010 ended with semi-sardonic coverage of the so-called “Snowpocalypse” and its aftermath, and 2011 began with perplexed musings over the “Aflockalypse” in which birds and fish seem to be dying in odd ways due to mystifying causes. Not long before, we had the perceptive invocation of the “Shopocalypse” by Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping, and next year’s 2012 allusions promise to spawn a new generation of nomenclatural evolutions.

While we may be tempted to dismiss the suffix “-ocalypse” being deployed much like “-gate” as an all-purpose distortion device, on another level we can also perceive that its very utilization as both a linguistic tool and interpretation of concrete outcomes is telling about the times in which we live. We’re actually in good company on this, at least historically speaking, as the sense of looming apocalypse has been woven into the fabric of Western civilization since its earliest days of recorded reckoning. And there certainly has been no shortage of cataclysmic harbingers in the modern era, from the inception of cinema itself to the invocation of the “mushroom cloud” as part of political theater. This is, in short, our cultural talisman, and its influence upon us is palpable. (more…)