The good news, the bad news
Gas is $4 a gallon, but bike sales are up. Gay marriage is here, but so is the apocalypse. It's your choice!
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The good news: Gas is racing merrily past four bucks a gallon and oil is skipping over a previously unheard-of $130 a barrel and Big Oil execs are snorting like pigs in diamond-crusted mud, and hence people are quickly rethinking their transportive ways, driving less and dumping the land yacht in favor of more Priuses and Mini Coopers and Smart cars, as ultra-efficient auto technology suddenly becomes very attractive indeed.
Positive side effects: Bike sales are way up, as are roller skates and electric skateboards and walking shoes and SPF face lotion and hats and sidewalks and strolling amiably through the neighborhood instead of driving, waving casually to the neighbors and saying hi and suddenly noticing all manner of amazing detail, all the flower beds and stoops and architectural curiosities of the city you never really noticed before because you were too busy racing the stop light to get to IKEA. Just imagine all the happy socioeconomic shifting when gas hits six, seven, eight bucks a gallon. Mmm, uncomfortable market-forced behavioral adjustments. It's the American way.
The bad news: Market-forced behavioral adjustments are a bitch. Driving less, walking more, caring about small cars? It's almost unnatural. What's more, it's a shift brought not by any deep concern for the environment, but by the fact that it costs $125 to fill the damn Explorer and suddenly you're asking, wait a second: Tank of gas or new couch? Tank of gas or case of wine and the mortgage payment? Dammit, we're Americans. We hate thoughtful restraint.
The good news: Gay marriage is now legal in California by astonishing (Republican) State Supreme Court decree, thus confounding and infuriating and yet secretly titillating the religious right and sending shock waves through the culture, as notions of love and marriage get slapped and pinched and urged to finally move a few steps forward because, well, it's about damn time. Bonus: economy smiles, wedding and divorce industries cheer, lots of delightful social awkwardness as everyone tries to figure out who's the husband and who's the wife.
The bad news: Locusts, plague, apocalypse, people suddenly demanding they be allowed to marry their dog, a lamp, a large wheel of Muenster cheese. After all, isn't that the way it always goes? Unlock a door to one basic human dignity and suddenly it's a mad rush toward all manner of debauchery and depravity, as little girls suddenly shave their heads and turn Wiccan and little boys suddenly start asking if it's OK to wear Betsey Johnson to school? This is exactly like what happened when we gave those damnable women and blacks the right to vote. Total anarchy! God's wrath! What's next, a black president? Oh wait.
The good news: Everyone seems to be catching on: Bottled water is a giant, insidious scam. It's mostly refiltered tap, not to mention how importing water in plastic bottles from Fiji and France and the Coca-Cola Corp. is the environmental/ethical equivalent of driving your Hummer over a field of baby squirrels, giddily. Buy yourself a cool Sigg bottle and filter your own tap and knock it off with the sippy cup-sized bottles of Aquafina, OK?
The bad news: There are drugs in the tap water. California is on the verge of major drought. Some estimates say 36 U.S. states are predicted to have water shortages within the next 10 years. Clean drinking water is the new oil, gold and cocaine combined. Seattle and Portland are quietly preparing for a land rush, as millions of Americans begin to panic and start to relocate to where it rains all the time and there seems to be plenty of water and everyone's suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder from all the relentless drizzly grayness in a place where hideous green fleece jackets from REI are considered acceptable public attire. But at least we won't be thirsty.
The good news: absinthe.
The bad news: strawberry tequila creme liquor.
The good news: Dwell magazine, iPhones, materialicio.us, the 2009 Audi A1, Suzuki Crosscage hydrogen fuel-cell motorcycle.
The bad news: Southern Beauty magazine, Windows Vista, decorating with books, 18 babies from a single, sadly abused uterus in Arkansas.
The good news: Phoenix spacecraft lands perfectly on Mars, begins sending back astounding photos, gas analysis data, mapping coordinates for Burning Man 2028. Will aim to prove existence of water in form of either vapor or ice, which could prove once and for all that life existed, or could exist again, on the red planet, right along with potential for making beautifully exotic shaken martinis.
The bad news: Initial photos reveal inhospitable terrain, brutal climate, along with a small, ominous-looking shadow on horizon, an image reported to feel "vaguely evil" to scientists. Months of careful analysis using most advanced photo enhancement technologies available finally reveals dark shadow to be a new Applebee's.
The good news: More studies prove that regular, mindful meditation, the intentional calming of the mind via stillness and breath work and not thinking at all about gay marriage or strawberry tequila creme or what happens when we run out of water, can actually rewire your brain to be more compassionate, kinder, healthier, lighter, funnier, with better hair and more frequent oral sex and less desire for a hideous green fleece jacket from REI.
The bad news: A national policy of warmongering, torture, fear, homophobia, surveillance and aggression for much of this decade means you will probably need to meditate for roughly 127 years straight to offset the damage and the scarring and the repetitive clenching deep in your gut that tells you something is very, very wrong indeed. Then you remember the thing about the absinthe and the walking and the first black president, and you feel better. A little.
The good news: The pendulum is swinging. Can you feel it? From toxic war-happy neocon evangelical groupthink, back toward something resembling progress, and intelligence, and thoughtfulness, spiritual openness, a renewed respect for science and the environment and ethical foreign policy right along with a renewed desire for a president who doesn't embarrass us on the international stage every single day?
The bad news: It's a pendulum, not a stone. It swings one way, it's bound to eventually swing back again. Or is it? Is it possible that, as George Packer convincingly postulates in the New Yorker, that conservatism is over? Has the age of rigid, oppressive, insular right-wing ideology run its course? Is McCain the last gasp of a stale and outmoded worldview, a leathery hunk of a crusted-over party that's run out of ideas? Can we raise a martini at Burning Man on Mars, and hope?