I need to say something, and I want you to promise me you won’t get angry.
You see, I’m just really afraid you’re going to get angry and defensive, and you’re not going to listen to what I’m saying. Please, just take some time before you react.
I’ve been listening to my friend David Graeber again, (remember him?) and he’s got me thinking. I know, you told me I shouldn’t be talking with him anymore. You don’t like how I get after our talks.
The thing is, I think he really helps me see the world in a way I haven’t seen it when left to my own devices. He shares ideas that give me a hope I find otherwise hard to harbor given the current state of the world.
I know you think I’m melodramatic.
I guess I don’t care that many people are angered by what David has to say, or perhaps they write him off as a utopian dreamer with no grounding in the “practical” world.
I, for one, want less of what is practical. I want less of what currently “makes the world go round.”
Because it’s a very horrible and demoralizing way to live. You don’t have to look very far to see that.
I need to believe that things can be different.
I have friends who are entrepreurs and/or are very supportive of the entrepreneur community.
But when I listen to them talk, I don’t hear them talk about the economic system.
They are busy discussing ways to raise money within the current landscape: Network. Build entreprenurial communities. Find yourself angel investors.
To me, it represents a blindspot in their approach to the world and their passion — it represents a poverty of thought.
If we really want more entrepreneurship and creativity, we need to strive toward a new economic structure within which to work.
David (who does not like being called an anarchist, by the way) gave me some perspective that I want to share with you:

Throughout most of recorded history, the only people who actually did wage labor were slaves. It was a way of renting your slave to someone else; they got half the money, and the rest of the money went to the master. Even in the South, a lot of slaves actually worked in jobs and they just had to pay the profits to the guy who owned them. It’s only now that we think of wage labor and slavery as opposite to one another. For a lot of history, they were considered kind of variations of the same thing.
Abraham Lincoln famously said the reason why we have a democratic society in America is we don’t have a permanent class of wage laborers. He thought that wage labor was something you pass through in your 20s and 30s when you’re accumulating enough money to set up on your own; so the idea was everyone will eventually be self-employed.

One idea that could be worth looking at is a guaranteed basic income. It’s not a new idea, as Bruce Bartlett demonstrates in this New York Times piece. But it’s a concept that I’ve seen talked about more in recent times, and David offered some thoughts on it.
I know, you’re worried that such a system will just make everyone lazy and the world will crumble around our sloth. Listen to what David had to say about that while talking with PBS:

Philosophically, I think that it’s really important to bear in mind two things. One is it’ll show people that you don’t have to force people to work, to want to contribute. It’s not that people resist work. People resist meaningless work; people resist stupid work; and people resist humiliating work.
But I always talk about prisons, where people are fed, clothed, they’ve got shelter; they could just sit around all day. But actually, they use work as a way of rewarding them. You know, if you don’t behave yourself, we won’t let you work in the prison laundry. I mean, people want to work. Nobody just wants to sit around, it’s boring.
So the first misconception we have is this idea that people are just lazy, and if they’re given a certain amount of minimal income, they just won’t do anything. Probably there’s a few people like that, but for the vast majority, it will free them to do the kind of work that they think is meaningful. The question is, are most people smart enough to know what they have to contribute to the world? I think most of them are.

What are we missing by not having a basic income? Oh, perhaps just some of the greatest cultural and scientific breakthroughs:

The other point we need to stress is that we can’t tell in advance who really can contribute what. We’re always surprised when we leave people to their own devices. I think one reason why we don’t have any of the major scientific breakthroughs that we used to have for much of the 19th and 20th centuries is because we have this system where everybody has to prove they already know what they’re going to create in this incredibly bureaucratized system. …
So they have to get the grant, and prove that this would lead to this, but in fact, almost all the major breakthroughs are unexpected. It used to be we’d get bright people and just let them do whatever they want, and then suddenly, we’ve got the light bulb. Nowadays we don’t get breakthroughs like that because everybody’s got to spend all their time filling out paperwork. It’s that kind of paperwork that we’d be effectively getting rid of, the equivalent of that.
Another example I always give is the John Lennon argument. Why are there no amazing new bands in England anymore? Ever since the ’60s, it used to be every five, 10 years, we’d see an incredible band. I asked a lot of friends of mine, well, what happened? And they all said, well they got rid of the dole. All those guys were on the dole. Actually in Cockney rhyming slang, the word for dole is rock and roll — as in, “oh yeah, he’s on the rock and roll.” All rock bands started on public relief. If you give money to working class kids, a significant number of them will form bands, and a few of those bands will be amazing, and it will benefit the country a thousand times more than all of those kids would have done had they been lifting boxes or whatever they’re making them do now as welfare conditionality. …
I remember thinking, why is it that Germany in the ’20s, you have Weber, Simmel, all these amazing thinkers? In France, you have this endless outpouring of brilliant people in the ’50s, Sartre… What was it about those societies that they produced so many brilliant thinkers? One person told me, well, there’s a lot of money — they just had these huge block grants given to anybody. And you know, again, 10 out of 11 of them will be people we’ve completely forgotten, but there’s always that one that’s going to turn out to be, you know Jacques Derrida, and the world changes because of some major social thinker who might otherwise have been a postman, or something like that.

Entrepreneurs out there: Are you listening to this? It should at least be food for thought.

I know that there is plenty of criticism of the concept of a guaranteed basic income. Check out some of it here.

But I believe humans are capable of a better economic system that is not only more moral but produces more happiness. We need to keep pointing out the shortcomings of what we have and dreaming of ways to make it better.

Thanks for your patience with me. I don’t give you enough credit.

So now I’ll ask: What do you think?

———

• Editor’s Note: I do recognize that David Graeber and I have never actually spoken, and he is not actually my friend. After reading about a guaranteed basic income, some may question my grasp of reality and I don’t want to provide them any more fodder for that line of criticism. :) However, I certainly look to Graeber as a wealth of knowledge and insight on matters of economics. Check out “Debt: The First 5,000 Years.”

I know many of my South Dakota friends got a shot of adrenaline from the above headline.

“Who isn’t trying to escape Nebraska?”

Others may be excited at the thought of Tommy Lee Jones playing an older Snake Plissken (you know, from “Escape from New York”) in a dystopian future where Nebraska is an industrial wasteland.

Well, that’s not quite what you’ll find in the story of “The Homesman,” which Jones directed.

Rather, Jones’ plays a claim jumper in the Old West that teams up with a pioneer woman (Hilary Swank) to escort three mentally ill women from Nebraska to Iowa.

It looks really good — and anyone who saw Jones’ 2005 film “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” knows the man can direct.

Check out the trailer:

It was announced today that the film will play at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

John Lithgow, James Spader and Meryl Streep are also among the cast.

While set in Nebraska, it doesn’t look like any of the film was shot in my home state. The Internet Movie Database lists shooting locations in Georgia and New Mexico.

In other Cannes news, I’m also excited to see that David Cronenberg has a new effort called “Maps to the Stars” premiering at the festival (and the trailer is NSFW):

 

 

Sad songs and Sundays.

This is among my favorite couples, and I’m enjoying my time with them today.

We are reminiscing, laughing, conducting amateur therapy sessions and hopefully cooking something delicious this afternoon.

It’s lovely.

We snatch the hours of fire from life and make our own light in the darkness. I’ve learned you cannot count on the sun to illuminate the path before you. It has no vested interest in the proceedings and is just as likely to lead you nowhere as it is to lead you somewhere. It’s the light from within that will probe the cracks and knock on walls to find the secret passages and the hidden worlds to which they connect.

But there are times when that internal flame must be tampered down and sculpted into a new form. For that, you need the damp presence of sadness. It can exaggerate your perspective, and it can give you clarity. Sometimes, those are complementary attributes.

Today, we are cultivating sadness so we have the right tools to rebuild the flame.

For this, I love sad songs and Sundays.

———

“Even though it hurts, even though it scars,

Love me when it storms, love me when I fall,

Every time it breaks, every time it’s torn,

Love me like I’m not made of stone.”

———

“And all this rain, love, don’t wash away shit …”

———

“Chasing Sundays round and round …”

———

“Today, you were far away, and I didn’t ask you why …”

———

“What are they doing in heaven today,
Where sin and sorrow are all done away?
Peace abounds like a river, they say.
What are they doing there now?”

Did you miss the weird and wonderful Future Islands performance on the “Late Show with David Letterman?”

If so, you need to watch it now and actively participate in its glory. Letterman loved it, and I think you will, too.

Lead singer Samuel T. Herring will guide you.

I came across Baltimore’s Future Islands in the last year or so when one of their songs was played on the “Sound Opinions” podcast, and I have been listening to them ever since.

The video for the song above — “Seasons (Waiting On You)” — was released in January, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. The song goes surprisingly well with scenes from the cowboy lifestyle.

The band released the newest video for their upcoming album, “Singles,” this morning. Check it out:

Best Supporting Actor
Nominees: Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”; Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”; Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”; Jonah Hill, “The Wolf of Wall Street”; Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club.”
Nathan says: I look at this field and recall all the great performances I saw this year in great films. I wouldn’t be unhappy with any of these choices. I was particularly impressed with newcomer Barkhad Abdi’s difficult yet sympathetic performance in “Captain Phillips.” It’s tempting to argue Michael Fassbender should get the award for all the great performances he has given us. My heart is ultimately with Jonah Hill. However, Jared Leto’s transgendered Rayon was a standout performance that will earn him gold.
WHO WILL WIN: Jared Leto
DARK HORSE CANDIDATE: Michael Fassbender
WHO SHOULD WIN: Jonah Hill
WHO GOT ROBBED: Jonah Hill’s teeth, “The Wolf of Wall Street”; Matthew McConaughey, “The Wolf of Wall Street”; Will Forte, “Nebraska”; James Franco, “Spring Breakers”; Ben Mendelsohn, “The Place Beyond the Pines”

Best Supporting Actress
Nominees: Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”; Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”; Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”; Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”; June Squibb, “Nebraska.”
Nathan says: I’m in love with Jennifer Lawrence along with everybody else, but I found her role in “American Hustle” to be rather slight and not particularly worthy of a nomination. And who is surprised that there has come a day when a Julia Roberts nomination is met with virtual silence? I would love to see June Squibb win for her biting, spot-on performance as a bitter Midwesterner in “Nebraska.” I think Nyong’o’s heartbreaking turn in “12 Years” will end up winning, though. She earned it.
WHO WILL WIN: Lupita Nyong’o
DARK HORSE CANDIDATE: Jennifer Lawrence
WHO SHOULD WIN: June Squibb
WHO GOT ROBBED: Margot Robbie, “The Wolf of Wall Street”

Best Actor
Nominees: Christian Bale, “American Hustle”; Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”; Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”; Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”; Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club.”
Nathan says: I would really, really like to see Bruce Dern win for his dazed and confused performance as Woody. He deserves to win. But it doesn’t look like that is in the cards. All the momentum seems to be behind the emaciated Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyer’s Club.” McConaughey has been on an incredible streak lately, and I love watching him. Still, I thought he was outdone by Dern and Leo DiCaprio this year.
WHO WILL WIN: Matthew McConaughey
DARK HORSE CANDIDATE: Leonardo DiCaprio
WHO SHOULD WIN: Bruce Dern
WHO GOT ROBBED: Tom Hanks, “Captain Phillips”; Joaquin Phoenix, “Her”; Mads Mikkelsen, “The Hunt”

Best Actress
Nominees: Amy Adams, “American Hustle”; Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”; Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”; Judi Dench, “Philomena”; Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County.”
Nathan says: For the first time in many years, I enjoyed a Sandra Bullock performance. (Maybe she was good in “The Heat,” but I have yet to see it.) In “Gravity,” she was completely mesmerizing. With the most recent scandal involving director Woody Allen, it could impact Cate Blanchett’s chances of winning and open the door for the always brilliant Judi Dench. Overall, I find this category rather weak this year, I have to admit.
WHO WILL WIN: Cate Blanchett
DARK HORSE CANDIDATE: Judi Dench
WHO SHOULD WIN: Sandra Bullock
WHO GOT ROBBED: Amy Seimetz, “Upstream Color”; Julie Delpy, “Before Midnight”; Adele Exarchopoulos, “Blue Is the Warmest Color”

Best Director
Nominees: David O. Russell, “American Hustle”; Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity”; Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”; Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”; Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Nathan says: Because of the pure technical spectacle he created with “Gravity,” I think Cuarón is poised to get the best director award. Some have said that “12 Years” was done so skillfully that it seemed undirected. I find truth in that line of thought. This may very well be one of those years wherein the best director and best film go to different movies — both of which are very deserving in each category.
WHO WILL WIN: Alfonso Cuarón
DARK HORSE CANDIDATE: Steve McQueen
WHO SHOULD WIN: Alfonso Cuarón
WHO GOT ROBBED: Jeff Nichols, “Mud”; Shane Carruth, “Upstream Color”

Best Picture
Nominees: “American Hustle,” “Captain Phillips,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Gravity,” “Her,” “Nebraska,” “Philomena,” “12 Years a Slave,” “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Nathan says: What a great field. Five of these films were in my top 10 for 2013, and three others were honorable mentions. “Gravity” was a tour de force in technology and vision. Slightly cliched at times when it came to storytelling? Perhaps. But wow. I didn’t name it my movie of the year for nothing. “The Wolf of Wall Street” was a close second, and I’m probably rooting for that just because I love Martin Scorsese so much. But my feeling is that the historical and moral weight of “12 Years a Slave” will win the night.
WHO WILL WIN: “12 Years a Slave”
DARK HORSE CANDIDATE: “Gravity”
WHO SHOULD WIN: “The Wolf of Wall Street”
WHO GOT ROBBED: “Mud,” “Before Midnight,” “Upstream Color”
———
Some awards you won’t see at the Oscars:
MOST REALISTIC LOVE SCENES: “Blue is the Warmest Color”
BEST USE OF SATAN: “Post Tenebras Lux”
BEST FILM ABOUT WORLD WAR II: “Lore”
BIGGEST D-BAG IN FILM: Steve Carell, “The Way Way Back”
COOLEST GUY IN A FILM: Sam Rockwell, “The Way Way Back”
COOLEST GIRL IN A FILM: Brie Larson, “Short Term 12”
BEST OVERALL FILM SOUNDTRACK: “I Used to be Darker”
MOST DISTURBING FILM: “Antiviral”
MOST LIKELY TO BE A CULT FAVORITE: “John Dies at the End”
FUNNIEST DIALOGUE: The magazine argument in “This is the End.”

BEST COMEDY: “Bad Grandpa.” (I’m a sucker for fart jokes. I can’t help it.)
WORST APPEARANCE IN A FILM BY AN OTHERWISE LAUDABLE ACTOR: Brad Pitt, “12 Years a Slave”
BEST BAD FILM I CAUGHT UP WITH IN 2013: “Miami Connection.” It’s hilarious. Watch it immediately.
FILM THAT I LOVED TO HATE ON A SUNDAY MORNING WHILE EATING PIZZA: “The Last Stand”
WORST MOVIE OF THE YEAR (THAT I SAW): “Man of Steel.” Its monotonous destruction, tasteless 9/11 references and laughable plot points left me with a steely gaze of hatred.

HarukoMaeda

Painting by Haruko Maeda. Learn more about the artist at http://harukomaeda.blogspot.com.

The sun sets on your silhouette. I can’t believe that it’s you.

I saw the birds lift your spirit to the sky, and I thought that was it.

I thought you had departed.

But here you are among the trees, shrouded by their skeletal hands.

It’s hard to comprehend.

I wonder if you can hear these words. Can what remains of you forgive me?

If I ignite the trees tonight, can you go to the light and leave? Because I’m incapable of so much these days.

I’m incapable of finding a way to live.

I call this place home, because my heart is buried in its depths.

The roots of these trees wrap it tighter and tighter, but it won’t collapse.

It won’t quit.

It’s like a stone that drags me deeper and deeper, but there is no bottom.

What I couldn’t say to you then, I’ll say to you now.

The reason he left was because he loved someone else. I promised my silence.

I didn’t know there were demons whispering in your ear.

Maybe that knowledge wouldn’t have changed your mind. Maybe your pain was too deafening.

But I can’t help but feel like I failed to speak when I should have known you were hurting.

The snow came, and you withdrew into your room.

A door can be so foreboding if you don’t know what you’ll find on the other side.

When your seclusion ended and you flew to the river, I didn’t notice until morning.

The water washed away your dreams, but the winter preserved your body.

Now you are here, to glow and behold.

You stand so still, and you’re not speaking.

Tell me what you want me to do.

I can help you find your way.

Or is it something else you need?

Is it me?

Have you come for me?

engloutis_49

“Engloutis No. 49″ by Rafael Sottolichio. Find out more about the artist at http://www.rafaelsottolichio.com/.

With your arms outstretched, you attempt to sing me to sleep.
I won’t listen. I can’t listen. Too many things to think.
But you don’t stop. You sing so believably. Like it could only be for me.
I haven’t slept with a soul as old as yours, as soft around the corners. But I know. I know what awaits.
Those sad spirits in my heart go right to my dreams. They call for me incessantly.
Please keep trying. I want you to try for me.
Do this, and I won’t ask for another thing.
I want to wake with you, within you. I want to know a different day.
Tell me when … Tell me when … It’s safe to fall.
Keep your arms outstretched, and I’ll trust you to catch me.
I may just be a shadow at first with this slow descent.
Sooner or later, I’ll end up with you. I want to believe I’ll end up with you.