The Creation Museum in Kentucky is really a marvelous testament to what money can buy. A temple of Mammon, if you will. Designers and craftspeople work for money, not ideology, and the money here paid for some good ones. It reminded me a lot of Las Vegas that way.
You won’t learn much about the Bible here, since creationists really pick and choose. From an Old Testament perspective the whole place is outrageously idolatrous, violating the Second Commandment: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness [of any thing] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under the earth…” —Exodus 20:4-6 (KJV)
Finally, the Creation Museum is a magnificent monument to the limits of human psychology. Here it’s especially easy to see the extraordinary lengths humans go to to make some kind of PALATABLE sense of the world. I vastly prefer science to biblical authority, but even the best method of inquiry gets mashed through our squishy, emotional, fallible, fragile human minds. It’s easy to make fun of creationists, but we all have similar longings to understand the world, and there’s only so much cognitive discomfort we can handle before we just project on reality as we see fit.
An image representing “domestic coupledom,” inspired by Against Love: A Polemic by Laura Kipnis, which I have really been enjoying lately.
Primitive species turned carbon from Earth’s earlier, carbon-rich atmosphere into more of themselves:
Now we’re taking that carbon out of the earth and spewing it back into the atmosphere…
…creating a climate suitable for bacteria and prokaryotes, but not for the complex life forms we cherish today (such as ourselves).
To restore climate balance, we must put carbon back into the earth.
We should throw carbon into large holes, cover them up with layers of rock and soil, and allow them to compress for millions of years, over which time they will again form a viscous underground carbon sludge safely distant from our preferred oxygen-rich air.
Paper comes from tree farms, which are carbon sinks. In an ideal climate-restoration system, farmed trees would fix atmospheric carbon, become paper, and get buried back into the ground, with earthbound carbon accumulating every year as atmospheric carbon diminishes. By this logic, the junk mail industry is helping the environment, as it converts atmospheric carbon to bury-able waste, paid for entirely by advertisers.
Plastic is made of carbon humans dug up from deep within the Earth as petroleum. If it’s buried it can become petroleum-like again in several million years. If petroleum is burned as fuel, more carbon goes into the atmosphere. Petroleum is more valuable as a plastic source than as a fuel; solar energy can power vehicles but it can’t become plastic (without the intervention of billions of years of photosynthesis and compression).
So bury your paper and plastic (carbon) waste. Bury it in a good landfill.
But recycle metal. It’s much more efficient than mining anew. Metals aren’t carbon. And recycle glass. It’s silicon, not carbon.
Based on numerous conversations with Theodore Gray.
Note: none of this is going to fix the world. We’re all doomed for many reasons. It does however take some air out of the sails of “recycling paper and plastic helps the Earth!!!” The ritual of recycling paper and plastic is mostly just that – a ritual which eases denial of environmental catastrophe in progress. I’m suggesting we can abandon that ritual now.
Update from Theo* (via email):
*Please note Theo’s opinions are his own; I’m sharing them here because I think they’re interesting and worth discussing.
The “European Jew/Zionist” label has has drawn the most criticism in This Land Is Mine. Apparently to Israelis (correct me if I’m wrong – this is what I’m learning from the many comments on the movie, and emails) “Zionist” means “historical Zionist” – the mostly-secular, mostly-socialist, hardworking kibbutz-founding idealists who settled mostly-peacefully in Palestine prior to the establishment of the State of Israel. According to one correspondent,
Some viewers seem to think my illustration is a Chasid. It’s not; it’s supposed to be an Orthodox-ish Jew. Orthodox Jews apparently don’t have to join the Israeli army (WTH not?!) so this depiction further bothers some people. Orthodox Jews, they point out, are not Zionists.
Here I must clarify that “Zionist” means something slightly different to me, as an American Jew. Wikipedia sums it up:
I labelled my Orthodox-ish Jew “Zionist” to distinguish him from Jews who aren’t Zionist – like me. When I was growing up, well-meaning relatives and acquaintances would keep asking me when I was going to Israel. “Why should I go to Israel?” I’d ask. Stricken, they would explain how important Israel should be to me. “Everyone needs a homeland!” they’d insist. But I already had a honemland – Urbana, IL. I felt no need for another one, and was troubled that I should create in myself such a need where one didn’t exist. I had enough insecurities already.
Many people use “Jew” and “Zionist” interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. I am a Jew because I’m descended from a long line of Jews, and because even as atheists my family retained some Jewish cultural quirks. But I am not a Zionist. I don’t need a “homeland” in Israel, and I don’t care if my “Jewish identity” is upheld and assimilation resisted; in fact assimilation is part of my “Jewish identity,” something I’m proud of (as much as I can be legitimately proud of anything other people did before I was born).
I realize as I write this that I represent the religious conservative’s worst nightmare. Like most religions, Judaism requires indoctrination at an early age; Orthodox and Chasids encourage breeding as many offspring as possible, to enlarge the tribe. Assimilation is anathema to religious Jews, because it leads to people like me. I’m supposed to be supporting the Tribe, and instead I’d rather make graven images and spout individualism. I’ve even refused to breed altogether, let alone indoctrinate any spawn.
Anyway, my Orthodox-ish Jew character, if he’s in Israel, is what I’d call a Zionist, although most Israelis would not. That said, I could have left the confusing Zionist label off of him, because he obviously was in Israel in my cartoon.
The “European” part of the label refers to the pressure a vast influx of Jewish refugees from Europe put on Palestine. Yes, there were Zionists there already, living peacefully alongside Arabs and others in the region. And yes, the State of Israel welcomes (or is supposed to welcome) all Jews, not just European ones. But the post-war influx of European Jews really changed things in the region. Would the State of Israel have been established had that not occurred? Would the US have backed it otherwise?
Why did I draw my character Orthodox-ish at all, when most Zionists and Jews and Israelis don’t look like that? To show the religious side of a “Jewish nation-state” (remember it’s the Jewish nation-state idea that defines Zionists here in the U.S.) And to refer to what I consider the most problematic element in Israel and elsewhere: religious nuts. My character doesn’t look too different from these folks hanging out at the Wailing Wall:
Then of course you have “The Settlers“:
There are Jews who are not Zionists. There are Zionists who are not Jews. Most Jews are not Israelis; most Israelis are Jews. Many Jews are not religious; many Israelis are not religious. There are deeply religious people who aren’t violent. There are violent people who aren’t deeply religious.
But when you combine religion, cultural identity, and statehood, you get a bigger mess than any of those things alone. My Orthox-ish dude is contemporary to his State counterpart:
(Thanks to another group of comments, I now know he’s holding the wrong kind of gun, and he’s holding it wrong. That I can live with.)
I envisioned This Land Is Mine as the last scene of my potential-possible-maybe- feature film, Seder-Masochism, but it’s the first (and so far only) scene I’ve animated. As the Bible says, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Who’s Killing Who? A Viewer’s Guide
Because you can’t tell the players without a pogrom!
Mamluk of Egypt
The Angel of Death
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Some people love Sita Sings the Blues enough to devote time and energy (and probably money!) to protesting it in public. My movie is now in the same league as the paintings of the late M. F. Hussein. I have arrived.
Related: Aseem Chhabra on Sita Sings the Blues and free speech, in the Mumbai Mirror.
Adapted from a talk and slide show I presented at the Open Knowledge Conference in Berlin on July 1, 2011. –NP
Why are the Freedoms guaranteed for Free Software not guaranteed for Free Culture?
These are the Four Freedoms of Free Software. They are foundational principles, and they are exactly right. They have served and continue to serve the Free Software Movement very well. They place the user’s freedom ahead of all other concerns. Free Software is a principled movement, but Free Culture is not – at least not so far. Why?
1. The No Derivatives (-ND) Restriction
If you tinker with software, you can improve it. You can also break it or make it worse, but the Freedom to Tinker is one of the foundational 4 Freedoms of Free Software. Your software may also be used for purposes you don’t like, used by “bad people,” or even used against you; the Four Freedoms wisely counsel us to GET OVER IT.
The problem with this is that it is dead wrong. You do not know what purposes your works might serve others. You do not know how works might be found “practical” by others. To claim to understand the limits of “utility” of cultural works betrays an irrational bias toward software and against all other creative work. It is anti-Art, valuing software above the rest of culture. It says coders alone are entitled to Freedom, but everyone else can suck it. Use of -ND restrictions is an unjustifiable infringement on the freedom of others.
For example, here I have violated the Free Software Foundation’s No-Derivatives license:
Without permission, I’ve created a derivative work: the Four Freedoms of Free Culture. Although I violated FSF’s No-Derivatives license, they violated Freedoms # 2 and 4, so we’re even.
2. The Non-Commercial (-NC) Restriction
The Freedom to Distribute Free Software is essential to its success. It has given rise to many for-profit businesses that benefit the larger community.
Yet the Cultural ecosystem is stunted by the prevalence of Non-Commercial restrictions. These maintain commercial monopolies around works, and – especially for vocational artists like me – are functionally as restrictive as unmodified copyright. Yet they are widely mislabeled “Free Culture,” or even “Copyleft.”
This is a still from the mostly excellent and popular documentary RIP:a Remix Manifesto. This film is many peoples’ introduction to the term “Free Culture” and “Copyleft.” But as you can see, the Non-Commercial restriction is lumped in with actual Free license terms.
See that dollar sign with the slash in it? That means Non-Commercial restrictions, which are most definitely NOT Copyleft. (I’ve posted about Creative Commons’ branding confusion before, but it’s only gotten worse since then.)
This film is itself licensed under unFree Non-Commercial restrictions. As an artist and filmmaker, I have found confusion is rampant among my creative colleagues. Some filmmakers are beginning to think the term “Free Culture” is cool, but they still want to restrict others’ freedom and impose commercial monopolies on their works.
The book Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig its itself not Free culure, but it is widely looked up to. It sets an unfortunate and confusing example with its Non-Commercial license. It illustrates the absence of guiding principles in the Free Culture movement.
I have spoken to many artists who insist there’s “no real difference” between Non-Commercial licenses and Free alternatives. Yet these differences are well known and unacceptable in Free Software, for good reason.
So what do I want?