A British Person’s Guide to the US Election
As President Barack Obama faces off against sinister cipher Mitt Romney, for those of you who continue to be baffled by the simplicity of American politics, I’ve carved through the three remaining salient facts to bring you a bluffer’s guide to understanding the greatest election since Goldwater-Johnson. 
SWING STATES

This election will be decided yet again by these things that keep getting called “swing states”. These are the most unhappy places in the union because there are equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. In these squalid misery-zones, Americans can’t even have an abortion without 50 percent of their friends tutting disapprovingly and the other 50 percent cheerleading them into the stirrups. Let’s have a look at some of those key battlegrounds.
FLORIDAKey inhabitants:Pensioners. Minor rappers. Cubans. Hanging Chads.AnalysisPensioners love Romney because he also gets confused whenever he walks into a room. Minor rappers prefer Obama because Jay-Z said they should. Cubans prefer no one knows their immigration status and so will be staying at home, apart from Pitbull.Predicted outcome: Romney wins.
OHIOKey inhabitants:Tire factory workers. People who have given up hope of ever living a normal life. Canadian refugees.AnalysisOhio is famous for being ugly and polluted. However, it’s still hard to know whether voters there will want to hurt the rest of the country as much as they’re already hurting by voting for Romney, or whether they are just going to vote for Romney because they want to ship more of their pitiful jobs overseas to relieve themselves the burden of having to commute through its wretched streets every day. Predicted outcome: Obama wins.
VIRGINIAKey inhabitantsJockeys. Tobacco farmers. Perpetrators of random killing sprees at technical colleges.AnaylsisIt’s hard to know why Virginia always gets flagged up as a swing state. Just because it’s halfway between north and south, pollsters often think it has a toe in liberalism. In fact, while jockeys may want to vote for someone who has promised to “stand up for the little guy”, overall, this is a state that thinks entirely with its handguns and has consistently voted for the candidate with the largest semi-automatic weapon and the boldest vision of America visible through a telescopic sight.Predicted outcome: Romney wins.
Continue

A British Person’s Guide to the US Election

As President Barack Obama faces off against sinister cipher Mitt Romney, for those of you who continue to be baffled by the simplicity of American politics, I’ve carved through the three remaining salient facts to bring you a bluffer’s guide to understanding the greatest election since Goldwater-Johnson.
 

SWING STATES

This election will be decided yet again by these things that keep getting called “swing states”. These are the most unhappy places in the union because there are equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. In these squalid misery-zones, Americans can’t even have an abortion without 50 percent of their friends tutting disapprovingly and the other 50 percent cheerleading them into the stirrups. Let’s have a look at some of those key battlegrounds.

FLORIDA
Key inhabitants:
Pensioners. Minor rappers. Cubans. Hanging Chads.
Analysis
Pensioners love Romney because he also gets confused whenever he walks into a room. Minor rappers prefer Obama because Jay-Z said they should. Cubans prefer no one knows their immigration status and so will be staying at home, apart from Pitbull.
Predicted outcome: Romney wins.

OHIO
Key inhabitants:
Tire factory workers. People who have given up hope of ever living a normal life. Canadian refugees.
Analysis
Ohio is famous for being ugly and polluted. However, it’s still hard to know whether voters there will want to hurt the rest of the country as much as they’re already hurting by voting for Romney, or whether they are just going to vote for Romney because they want to ship more of their pitiful jobs overseas to relieve themselves the burden of having to commute through its wretched streets every day. 
Predicted outcome: Obama wins.

VIRGINIA
Key inhabitants
Jockeys. Tobacco farmers. Perpetrators of random killing sprees at technical colleges.
Anaylsis
It’s hard to know why Virginia always gets flagged up as a swing state. Just because it’s halfway between north and south, pollsters often think it has a toe in liberalism. In fact, while jockeys may want to vote for someone who has promised to “stand up for the little guy”, overall, this is a state that thinks entirely with its handguns and has consistently voted for the candidate with the largest semi-automatic weapon and the boldest vision of America visible through a telescopic sight.
Predicted outcome: Romney wins.

Continue

Warren Ellis’ Last Post About the Election
So I wrote this book called Transmetropolitan, set in the US, and partway through there’s a Presidential election between a man nicknamed The Beast and a man nicknamed The Smiler. The thing about The Smiler is that, in the dozen years since I wrote that book, people seem able to map half of all politicians on to him, dependent on their personal politics. Anyway. It’s clearly going to be a close-run election, and that gets even tighter when a huge, freakish storm strikes the biggest city in America.
So you can imagine what my week’s been like.
It was bad enough when Romney’s “47 percent” talk eerily echoed a speech The Beast gave inTransmetropolitan. Now I’m being blamed for a lethal storm striking New York City.
I write this about eight days before voting day. US Presidential politics are a favorite spectator sport of mine, and I’m sad to see the cycle end, even though this one hasn’t really been a good game. President Obama’s fairly grim, toothless, meandering and perfunctory presidency gained excellent contrast from an assemblage of GOP candidates so demented and corrupt that even to describe them as such would be an insult to the many hard-working demented and corrupt politicians extant today. It was an array of desperate, shambling criminals (and Jon Huntsman, who presumably was there on a bet) that may have been unprecedented, even in the stinking cesspool of American politics, in its lunatic evil. The “winner” of the GOP race was always going to be the one who didn’t shit themselves on stage. But the GOP itself couldn’t win, because, considering the bunch running, the best you could hope for was a candidate who didn’t shit themselves on stage.
Continue

Warren Ellis’ Last Post About the Election

So I wrote this book called Transmetropolitan, set in the US, and partway through there’s a Presidential election between a man nicknamed The Beast and a man nicknamed The Smiler. The thing about The Smiler is that, in the dozen years since I wrote that book, people seem able to map half of all politicians on to him, dependent on their personal politics. Anyway. It’s clearly going to be a close-run election, and that gets even tighter when a huge, freakish storm strikes the biggest city in America.

So you can imagine what my week’s been like.

It was bad enough when Romney’s “47 percent” talk eerily echoed a speech The Beast gave inTransmetropolitan. Now I’m being blamed for a lethal storm striking New York City.

I write this about eight days before voting day. US Presidential politics are a favorite spectator sport of mine, and I’m sad to see the cycle end, even though this one hasn’t really been a good game. President Obama’s fairly grim, toothless, meandering and perfunctory presidency gained excellent contrast from an assemblage of GOP candidates so demented and corrupt that even to describe them as such would be an insult to the many hard-working demented and corrupt politicians extant today. It was an array of desperate, shambling criminals (and Jon Huntsman, who presumably was there on a bet) that may have been unprecedented, even in the stinking cesspool of American politics, in its lunatic evil. The “winner” of the GOP race was always going to be the one who didn’t shit themselves on stage. But the GOP itself couldn’t win, because, considering the bunch running, the best you could hope for was a candidate who didn’t shit themselves on stage.

Continue

Rocky Anderson Knows Mitt Romney Well and Thinks He Has No Integrity
Being trapped in this presidential election’s echo-chamber bombarded with talking points and half-truths from both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, it’s easy to forget that there are third-party candidates out there who are actually saying things and sharing ideas that are worth caring about. Ross “Rocky” Anderson is a perfect example of one of those candidates. The former mayor of Salt Lake City is running for president as the nominee of the Justice Party, which he created to campaign on a platform calling for campaign finance reform and an end to the Bush tax cuts, among other issues. What makes him stand out from other candidates who have similar policy prescriptions is that he worked closely with Romney on the 2002 Winter Olympics—the pair got along so well, they even traded campaign endorsements after the games. Today, Rocky and Romney couldn’t be more diametrically opposed. Rocky’s campaign is based on the novel idea that justice—economic, social, and environmental—is vital for the wellbeing of our nation, while Romney… Well, I don’t think any Republican has said the words “social justice” in the past two years.
Not only is Rocky dissatisfied with Romney, he also believes our government’s current trajectory, which has been set by Barack Obama, is unacceptable. He thinks if the next president governs like it is business as usual, it will lead to catastrophic consequences. 
Since I was stuck in Utah thanks to Hurricane Sandy, I decided to take the opportunity to sit down with Rocky and talk to him about his campaign, mobilizing young people, and why Mitt is a slimeball and Barack is a war criminal.

VICE: Why even bother running as a third party candidate?Ross “Rocky” Anderson: Because this country needs to be taken in a different direction. Although we knew there was no chance of prevailing in the election, we could certainly prevail in helping launch and sustain a broad-based democratic movement that will eventually bring about change.
I thought Obama was going to bring about change?Those who are elected take advantage of a corrupt system that has brought us the plutocracy we have today. They should never be trusted to reform that system. Today is not unlike the situation before woman’s suffrage or the labor and civil rights movements. There was so much inertia on the part of our elected officials that it took people at the grassroots level organizing, mobilizing, and making it clear that they were not going to let up until there was change. Further complacency by the American people will sustain the status quo and exacerbate it. The mantle of leadership is on all of us, hence the call for an engaged, broad-based citizens’ movement. And that’s what this campaign is all about, that’s what the Justice Party is about. That’s why you’ll hear me talk so much about not just about this election, but what needs to be done beyond this election.
How can we counter voters simply not giving a damn? We have to pay attention to psychological and linguistic research. For instance, people who are self-described conservatives are much more likely to hang on to their worldview regardless of the facts and the evidence. You can see that with respect to evolution and certainly towards climate change. Our job is to keep paying attention to that research and not to keep rolling Al Gore out to talk about climate change. We need to utilize the religious leaders and the business leaders who can make the case within the context of a lot of people’s pre-existing views and value structures.
It’s interesting that you bring up climate change. I watched all the debates and thought it was strange that the topic wasn’t discussed.You didn’t watch all of them then, because in the third-party debates, we certainly raised the issue.
Continue

Rocky Anderson Knows Mitt Romney Well and Thinks He Has No Integrity

Being trapped in this presidential election’s echo-chamber bombarded with talking points and half-truths from both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, it’s easy to forget that there are third-party candidates out there who are actually saying things and sharing ideas that are worth caring about. Ross “Rocky” Anderson is a perfect example of one of those candidates. The former mayor of Salt Lake City is running for president as the nominee of the Justice Party, which he created to campaign on a platform calling for campaign finance reform and an end to the Bush tax cuts, among other issues. What makes him stand out from other candidates who have similar policy prescriptions is that he worked closely with Romney on the 2002 Winter Olympics—the pair got along so well, they even traded campaign endorsements after the games. Today, Rocky and Romney couldn’t be more diametrically opposed. Rocky’s campaign is based on the novel idea that justice—economic, social, and environmental—is vital for the wellbeing of our nation, while Romney… Well, I don’t think any Republican has said the words “social justice” in the past two years.

Not only is Rocky dissatisfied with Romney, he also believes our government’s current trajectory, which has been set by Barack Obama, is unacceptable. He thinks if the next president governs like it is business as usual, it will lead to catastrophic consequences. 

Since I was stuck in Utah thanks to Hurricane Sandy, I decided to take the opportunity to sit down with Rocky and talk to him about his campaign, mobilizing young people, and why Mitt is a slimeball and Barack is a war criminal.

VICE: Why even bother running as a third party candidate?
Ross “Rocky” Anderson: Because this country needs to be taken in a different direction. Although we knew there was no chance of prevailing in the election, we could certainly prevail in helping launch and sustain a broad-based democratic movement that will eventually bring about change.

I thought Obama was going to bring about change?
Those who are elected take advantage of a corrupt system that has brought us the plutocracy we have today. They should never be trusted to reform that system. Today is not unlike the situation before woman’s suffrage or the labor and civil rights movements. There was so much inertia on the part of our elected officials that it took people at the grassroots level organizing, mobilizing, and making it clear that they were not going to let up until there was change. Further complacency by the American people will sustain the status quo and exacerbate it. The mantle of leadership is on all of us, hence the call for an engaged, broad-based citizens’ movement. And that’s what this campaign is all about, that’s what the Justice Party is about. That’s why you’ll hear me talk so much about not just about this election, but what needs to be done beyond this election.

How can we counter voters simply not giving a damn? 
We have to pay attention to psychological and linguistic research. For instance, people who are self-described conservatives are much more likely to hang on to their worldview regardless of the facts and the evidence. You can see that with respect to evolution and certainly towards climate change. Our job is to keep paying attention to that research and not to keep rolling Al Gore out to talk about climate change. We need to utilize the religious leaders and the business leaders who can make the case within the context of a lot of people’s pre-existing views and value structures.

It’s interesting that you bring up climate change. I watched all the debates and thought it was strange that the topic wasn’t discussed.
You didn’t watch all of them then, because in the third-party debates, we certainly raised the issue.

Continue

A TOUR OF THE MONUMENTS OF SALT LAKE CITY:ROBERT SMITHSON, THE MELVINS, AND THE MORMONS
by Bob Nickas


Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty (1970), Great Salt Lake, Utah, black rock, salt crystals, earth, 1,500 feet long, approx. 15 feet wide. All photos by Jason Metcalf unless otherwise noted.
On Monday, September 3, I took a cab out to JFK for a nonstop flight to Salt Lake City. In the lounge area, sleepily waiting to board, no one really looked like a Mormon. This wouldn’t have actually occurred to me, but I had been warned. There would be young men coming back from their missions, wearing white shirts and ties, clean shaven, well scrubbed, and, as a rule, always traveling in pairs. This may have something to do, I was later told, with how they keep an eye on and watch out for one another, how they try to avoid being tempted or seduced, as they might be if they were out on their own. While this does make sense, it doesn’t account for those non-believers who, shall we say, prefer a challenge, and are not actually averse to a three-way. I had bought a copy of the New York Times, and at the moment the prospects of the paper were slightly of greater interest. The cover stories were mainly election-related, such as: “Effects of Romney’s Tax Plan? Key Variables Are Left Blank.” One major point of contention raised in the story is Mitt Romney’s claim that his policies won’t raise the taxes of middle-class Americans, and yet you have to wonder how he expects to do this while covering about $1 trillion in tax breaks annually, and without increasing the federal deficit. Economists and tax experts—no mater what their political affiliations—don’t see how he can pull it off without seriously hurting the middle-class, but boarding a plane and the economy have one thing in common: it’s always business first.
Members of the Manson “family” congregate at the Los Angeles Hall of Justice on February 24, 1970, for the arraignment of Patricia Krenwinkel, a defendant in the Sharon Tate murder case. From left are Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Sandra Good, Mark Ross, Paul Watkins, and Catherine “Gypsy” Share holding Good’s son Ivan. Photo Wally Fong, AP.
Flipping through the paper, a headline jumped out at me, waiting as I was for a flight out west: “Inspired by the Pull of the Desert.” The photo below showed a bright-eyed attractive woman, probably mid-to-late 20s, identified as Claire Vaye Watkins, while further down the page was another photograph, obviously of a certain period, showing a hippie-ish group of young people, with brightly patterned, velvet, silk or crocheted shirts and blouses, long straggly hair, some of the men bearded, all of them smiling, laughing or looking slightly bemused or high. The only person who does not appear happy is a small baby in the arms of one of the women, perhaps overdue for a nap or just bored. According to the caption in the Times: “Claire Vaye Watkins’s father, Paul, center, and other members of Charles Manson’s family in 1970. Ms. Watkins was relieved to discover that her father was not found to be a killer.” The piece on Ms. Watkins, who is a writer, is more interestingly an interview rather than a review of her first collection of short stories,Battleborn, which was published last month. From the start, the Times refers to the book as having a “notable provenance,” the fact that her father was “Manson’s chief procurer of young girls,” though not one of his murderous henchmen, and how the opening story, “Ghosts, Cowboys,” is “a mix of history, memoir, and fiction.” We learn that she was only six years old when her father died, and was mostly raised by her mother in the isolation of the Mojave desert, near Death Valley, and later in Nevada, where all of her stories are set. In the interview she refers to these places as “pretty remote, geographically and culturally. They’re places you go if you want to be left alone.”
Robert Smithson on the Jetty, 1970, photo: Gianfranco Gorgoni.
I thought of this as the flight finally departed, and it was still very much on my mind five hours later as the plane made its descent over the Great Salt Lake, the sunlight bouncing off the water and also intermittently shadowed, as if a mirror of my own anticipation, and I couldn’t help but wonder: if your writing is about your life, and it’s somehow meant to be true, isn’t it always a mix of history, memoir, and fiction? Why should it seem exceptional, or an exception to the rule? As I craned to see out the window, I hoped to catch a glimpse of the Spiral Jetty, the great earthwork of Robert Smithson, created in 1970, and my main reason for making this trip. After all, I had waited more than 25 years to see the Jetty. It is one of the landmarks of contemporary art, and a personal touchstone. At a time when art is routinely bought and sold, and for some it’s just another form of currency and instant cultural cachet in an increasingly money-mad and superficial world, here is a work that represents, above all, the higher elevations, art’s relationship to nature, to time, to a mystic idea of a journey and endless turning. And yet it also reminds us of the limits of life, particularly where humans are concerned. The Spiral Jetty, as it appears and disappears with the rise and fall of the lake, and in terms of its setting within the landscape, is one of the only monuments of any consequence in this country. Even when it’s submerged it’s there, a question mark coiled around itself, its uncertainty at the center of the artist’s fascination with how space and time reverberate, as traced in the form of the spiral. The fact that Smithson died young, and not long after completing the Jetty, gives the work and the place a haunted quality, though in an otherworldly rather than morbid sense.       
I had also come to Salt Lake City to give a talk at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as to see one of my favorite bands, the Melvins. They are, both bravely and preposterously, attempting to play all 50 states and the District of Columbia in 51 consecutive days, and are driving to all the shows except for those in Anchorage and Honolulu. Their goal: to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. My aim, minuscule in contrast, was simply to arrange a friendly ambush and surprise them at one of the stops on their tour of tours, and the more unexpected the location the better: destination, Salt Lake City. Over the course of three days, the triangulation of the Mormons, the Melvins, and Robert Smithson was too good to pass by. Time better spent, I thought, chasing some ghosts and cowboys of my own, un-spiraling myself from the irreality of New York in order to get a closer look at the West, a very red state, and the Temple to which Mitt Romney owes his spiritual if not his political allegiance—though all places of worship, as Smithson would have it, are ultimately non-sites. But no matter. If you worship God, power, and the almighty dollar, a place will always be made for you in this mean old world.
I was picked up at the airport by Aaron, a recent transplant from Berlin, who had invited me to Salt Lake City. Once in town, we stopped for a coffee and ran into the filmmaker Trent Harris, best known for The Beaver Trilogy, one of the most bizarrely moving and unforgettable semi-documentaries of all time, starring an incredible Crispin Glover and also Sean Penn, for whom it is probably no longer listed on his resume. From there a quick stop at Ken Sanders Rare Books, where you can easily and very pleasurably lose a few hours. (Friends who knew I was making a trip to the land of the Mormons had suggested Jon Krakauer’s book, Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, but it seemed too heavy, and anyway I preferred to see what the city itself would yield.) At Sanders I found copies of Thorstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class, for only $6, a mere pittance, and J.G. Ballard’s 1996 collection of essays and reviews, A User’s Guide To the Millennium. I had interviewed Ballard just after the book was published, and remember well how he mused on our temporal dislocation:
"Does the future still have a future? That’s what I want to know. Is it what it used to be? No, I think the future is about to die on us, actually. I think it may have died a few years ago. I think we are living in the present. We theme-parked the future just as we theme-park everything. We theme-parked the past. We theme-parked the future, and visit it only when we feel we want some sort of glittery gimmick.1
Smithson had memorably referenced Ballard in an important essay in 1966, “Quasi Infinities and the Waning of Space,” in which he quoted from the author’s story, “The Overloaded Man”—”Without a time sense, consciousness is difficult to visualize.” I kept this all in mind as I settled into a comfortable room at the historic Peery Hotel, built in 1910, a few blocks from the city’s original arrival points, the Rio Grande Depot and the Union Pacific Depot, magnificent relics of the great fortunes made here a very long time ago, twin portals which symbolized the importance of Salt Lake as the crossroads of the West, as it was once proudly acknowledged. Just 90 minutes away, near the location of the Spiral Jetty, is the marker for the Golden Spike, where the Union and Central Pacific Railroads joined the country, East and West, in 1869. Abandoned by Amtrak in the late 1990s, the depots today are used for restaurants, shops, concerts, and the offices of the Historical Society. Where travelers once boarded and disembarked the California Zephyr as they made their way purposefully across country, you now find the mindless idling of impassive tourists, weary office workers, and indifferent teenagers with skateboards tucked under their well-inked arms, all appearing leisurely bored. If only the bland airport terminals of our theme-parked present will one day be resigned to a similar fate, then the Ballardian/Smithsonian future will have truly arrived.
CONTINUE

A TOUR OF THE MONUMENTS OF SALT LAKE CITY:
ROBERT SMITHSON, THE MELVINS, AND THE MORMONS

by Bob Nickas


Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty (1970), Great Salt Lake, Utah, black rock, salt crystals, earth, 1,500 feet long, approx. 15 feet wide. All photos by Jason Metcalf unless otherwise noted.

On Monday, September 3, I took a cab out to JFK for a nonstop flight to Salt Lake City. In the lounge area, sleepily waiting to board, no one really looked like a Mormon. This wouldn’t have actually occurred to me, but I had been warned. There would be young men coming back from their missions, wearing white shirts and ties, clean shaven, well scrubbed, and, as a rule, always traveling in pairs. This may have something to do, I was later told, with how they keep an eye on and watch out for one another, how they try to avoid being tempted or seduced, as they might be if they were out on their own. While this does make sense, it doesn’t account for those non-believers who, shall we say, prefer a challenge, and are not actually averse to a three-way. I had bought a copy of the New York Times, and at the moment the prospects of the paper were slightly of greater interest. The cover stories were mainly election-related, such as: “Effects of Romney’s Tax Plan? Key Variables Are Left Blank.” One major point of contention raised in the story is Mitt Romney’s claim that his policies won’t raise the taxes of middle-class Americans, and yet you have to wonder how he expects to do this while covering about $1 trillion in tax breaks annually, and without increasing the federal deficit. Economists and tax experts—no mater what their political affiliations—don’t see how he can pull it off without seriously hurting the middle-class, but boarding a plane and the economy have one thing in common: it’s always business first.


Members of the Manson “family” congregate at the Los Angeles Hall of Justice on February 24, 1970, for the arraignment of Patricia Krenwinkel, a defendant in the Sharon Tate murder case. From left are Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Sandra Good, Mark Ross, Paul Watkins, and Catherine “Gypsy” Share holding Good’s son Ivan. Photo Wally Fong, AP.

Flipping through the paper, a headline jumped out at me, waiting as I was for a flight out west: “Inspired by the Pull of the Desert.” The photo below showed a bright-eyed attractive woman, probably mid-to-late 20s, identified as Claire Vaye Watkins, while further down the page was another photograph, obviously of a certain period, showing a hippie-ish group of young people, with brightly patterned, velvet, silk or crocheted shirts and blouses, long straggly hair, some of the men bearded, all of them smiling, laughing or looking slightly bemused or high. The only person who does not appear happy is a small baby in the arms of one of the women, perhaps overdue for a nap or just bored. According to the caption in the Times: “Claire Vaye Watkins’s father, Paul, center, and other members of Charles Manson’s family in 1970. Ms. Watkins was relieved to discover that her father was not found to be a killer.” The piece on Ms. Watkins, who is a writer, is more interestingly an interview rather than a review of her first collection of short stories,Battleborn, which was published last month. From the start, the Times refers to the book as having a “notable provenance,” the fact that her father was “Manson’s chief procurer of young girls,” though not one of his murderous henchmen, and how the opening story, “Ghosts, Cowboys,” is “a mix of history, memoir, and fiction.” We learn that she was only six years old when her father died, and was mostly raised by her mother in the isolation of the Mojave desert, near Death Valley, and later in Nevada, where all of her stories are set. In the interview she refers to these places as “pretty remote, geographically and culturally. They’re places you go if you want to be left alone.”


Robert Smithson on the Jetty, 1970, photo: Gianfranco Gorgoni.

I thought of this as the flight finally departed, and it was still very much on my mind five hours later as the plane made its descent over the Great Salt Lake, the sunlight bouncing off the water and also intermittently shadowed, as if a mirror of my own anticipation, and I couldn’t help but wonder: if your writing is about your life, and it’s somehow meant to be true, isn’t it always a mix of history, memoir, and fiction? Why should it seem exceptional, or an exception to the rule? As I craned to see out the window, I hoped to catch a glimpse of the Spiral Jetty, the great earthwork of Robert Smithson, created in 1970, and my main reason for making this trip. After all, I had waited more than 25 years to see the Jetty. It is one of the landmarks of contemporary art, and a personal touchstone. At a time when art is routinely bought and sold, and for some it’s just another form of currency and instant cultural cachet in an increasingly money-mad and superficial world, here is a work that represents, above all, the higher elevations, art’s relationship to nature, to time, to a mystic idea of a journey and endless turning. And yet it also reminds us of the limits of life, particularly where humans are concerned. The Spiral Jetty, as it appears and disappears with the rise and fall of the lake, and in terms of its setting within the landscape, is one of the only monuments of any consequence in this country. Even when it’s submerged it’s there, a question mark coiled around itself, its uncertainty at the center of the artist’s fascination with how space and time reverberate, as traced in the form of the spiral. The fact that Smithson died young, and not long after completing the Jetty, gives the work and the place a haunted quality, though in an otherworldly rather than morbid sense.       

I had also come to Salt Lake City to give a talk at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as to see one of my favorite bands, the Melvins. They are, both bravely and preposterously, attempting to play all 50 states and the District of Columbia in 51 consecutive days, and are driving to all the shows except for those in Anchorage and Honolulu. Their goal: to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. My aim, minuscule in contrast, was simply to arrange a friendly ambush and surprise them at one of the stops on their tour of tours, and the more unexpected the location the better: destination, Salt Lake City. Over the course of three days, the triangulation of the Mormons, the Melvins, and Robert Smithson was too good to pass by. Time better spent, I thought, chasing some ghosts and cowboys of my own, un-spiraling myself from the irreality of New York in order to get a closer look at the West, a very red state, and the Temple to which Mitt Romney owes his spiritual if not his political allegiance—though all places of worship, as Smithson would have it, are ultimately non-sites. But no matter. If you worship God, power, and the almighty dollar, a place will always be made for you in this mean old world.

I was picked up at the airport by Aaron, a recent transplant from Berlin, who had invited me to Salt Lake City. Once in town, we stopped for a coffee and ran into the filmmaker Trent Harris, best known for The Beaver Trilogy, one of the most bizarrely moving and unforgettable semi-documentaries of all time, starring an incredible Crispin Glover and also Sean Penn, for whom it is probably no longer listed on his resume. From there a quick stop at Ken Sanders Rare Books, where you can easily and very pleasurably lose a few hours. (Friends who knew I was making a trip to the land of the Mormons had suggested Jon Krakauer’s book, Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, but it seemed too heavy, and anyway I preferred to see what the city itself would yield.) At Sanders I found copies of Thorstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class, for only $6, a mere pittance, and J.G. Ballard’s 1996 collection of essays and reviews, A User’s Guide To the Millennium. I had interviewed Ballard just after the book was published, and remember well how he mused on our temporal dislocation:

"Does the future still have a future? That’s what I want to know. Is it what it used to be? No, I think the future is about to die on us, actually. I think it may have died a few years ago. I think we are living in the present. We theme-parked the future just as we theme-park everything. We theme-parked the past. We theme-parked the future, and visit it only when we feel we want some sort of glittery gimmick.1

Smithson had memorably referenced Ballard in an important essay in 1966, “Quasi Infinities and the Waning of Space,” in which he quoted from the author’s story, “The Overloaded Man”—”Without a time sense, consciousness is difficult to visualize.” I kept this all in mind as I settled into a comfortable room at the historic Peery Hotel, built in 1910, a few blocks from the city’s original arrival points, the Rio Grande Depot and the Union Pacific Depot, magnificent relics of the great fortunes made here a very long time ago, twin portals which symbolized the importance of Salt Lake as the crossroads of the West, as it was once proudly acknowledged. Just 90 minutes away, near the location of the Spiral Jetty, is the marker for the Golden Spike, where the Union and Central Pacific Railroads joined the country, East and West, in 1869. Abandoned by Amtrak in the late 1990s, the depots today are used for restaurants, shops, concerts, and the offices of the Historical Society. Where travelers once boarded and disembarked the California Zephyr as they made their way purposefully across country, you now find the mindless idling of impassive tourists, weary office workers, and indifferent teenagers with skateboards tucked under their well-inked arms, all appearing leisurely bored. If only the bland airport terminals of our theme-parked present will one day be resigned to a similar fate, then the Ballardian/Smithsonian future will have truly arrived.

CONTINUE

Obama is going to get reelected, and then he’ll be so, so fucked.

Obama is going to get reelected, and then he’ll be so, so fucked.


The Mexican drug cartels are at war… with Mormons. VICE founder Shane Smith went down to Ciudad Juárez, near the US border, to investigate this bizarre story.
In Part 6, we learn what Mitt’s Mexican cousins think about his strict immigration policies.

The Mexican drug cartels are at war… with Mormons. VICE founder Shane Smith went down to Ciudad Juárez, near the US border, to investigate this bizarre story.

In Part 6, we learn what Mitt’s Mexican cousins think about his strict immigration policies.

Drug Cartels vs. Mitt Romney’s Mexican Mormon Family

The drug cartels of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, are at war with a group of polygamous Mormons, some of whom are related to Mitt Romney. VICE founder Shane Smith went down there to investigate the conflict.

We went on a road trip with The Daily Beast to ask Bostonians what they think of Mitt Romney, but things didn’t turn out as planned.

(Source: thedailybeast.com)

Welcome to my new column, More Eddy, by me, Eddy Moretti. Every Wednesday I’ll be here with questions, comments, and observations on all things, especially politics. The one thing I will not write about is food. Better brains than mine have already espoused on the subject; I’d rather just show up and eat the stuff. But until it finally grinds to an end in early November, I’ll be devoting this space to the US elections.
So what do I think about this election? First of all—and I’m not being hyperbolic here—it’s the most important one of our generation. Yes, that’s what we say every four years, but if you listen to the dangerous gibberish that gets spouted by the Tea Party and all of their mouthpieces, you’ll understand that the ideological stakes of this election are as high as they’ve ever been in modern American history. As always, voters face a decision, but this one is imperative in a way few have been: The choice fluctuates between preserving the “modern America” of the post-Depression period (the functioning, populist society represented by programs like minimum wage, Social Security, national highways, and so on), and alternatively re-engineering, or if you prefer de-engineering, these institutions once and for all. Nothing less than the core social complexion of America is at stake in 2012.
But the above is only true if you actually believe the impassioned rhetoric on either side, or if you’re impassioned about these issues. If you see the campaign and its byproducts as rote political theater, then it doesn’t matter if Obama or Romney wins; you’re probably a hardened cynic and I want to have a strong drink with you. But if you believe that underneath all the pointless day-by-day sniping over gaffes that constitutes 90 percent of our political discourse, there are some important differences between the parties, you need to plunge headfirst into the debate because the country is at a crossroads and your voice matters, believe it or not.
Whatever you might think about the Tea Party (I think a lot of things about it), their undeniable value lies in the stimulating (they’d hate that word) effect they’ve had on political discourse in this country: The issues they have brought to the fore are big ones and real ones and they deserve our attention—do we need to reduce the deficit? By how much? What role should government have in our lives? I said the same thing of the Occupy movement: They elevated the political discourse in America because they were successful in popularizing the notion of income-equality by capturing the wealth distribution of the country so memorably—there’s a 1 percent and a 99 percent and never the two shall meet. But then they took the summer off to go camping and smoke pot, so actually fuck them.
Continue

Welcome to my new column, More Eddy, by me, Eddy Moretti. Every Wednesday I’ll be here with questions, comments, and observations on all things, especially politics. The one thing I will not write about is food. Better brains than mine have already espoused on the subject; I’d rather just show up and eat the stuff. But until it finally grinds to an end in early November, I’ll be devoting this space to the US elections.

So what do I think about this election? First of all—and I’m not being hyperbolic here—it’s the most important one of our generation. Yes, that’s what we say every four years, but if you listen to the dangerous gibberish that gets spouted by the Tea Party and all of their mouthpieces, you’ll understand that the ideological stakes of this election are as high as they’ve ever been in modern American history. As always, voters face a decision, but this one is imperative in a way few have been: The choice fluctuates between preserving the “modern America” of the post-Depression period (the functioning, populist society represented by programs like minimum wage, Social Security, national highways, and so on), and alternatively re-engineering, or if you prefer de-engineering, these institutions once and for all. Nothing less than the core social complexion of America is at stake in 2012.

But the above is only true if you actually believe the impassioned rhetoric on either side, or if you’re impassioned about these issues. If you see the campaign and its byproducts as rote political theater, then it doesn’t matter if Obama or Romney wins; you’re probably a hardened cynic and I want to have a strong drink with you. But if you believe that underneath all the pointless day-by-day sniping over gaffes that constitutes 90 percent of our political discourse, there are some important differences between the parties, you need to plunge headfirst into the debate because the country is at a crossroads and your voice matters, believe it or not.

Whatever you might think about the Tea Party (I think a lot of things about it), their undeniable value lies in the stimulating (they’d hate that word) effect they’ve had on political discourse in this country: The issues they have brought to the fore are big ones and real ones and they deserve our attention—do we need to reduce the deficit? By how much? What role should government have in our lives? I said the same thing of the Occupy movement: They elevated the political discourse in America because they were successful in popularizing the notion of income-equality by capturing the wealth distribution of the country so memorably—there’s a 1 percent and a 99 percent and never the two shall meet. But then they took the summer off to go camping and smoke pot, so actually fuck them.

Continue

This Week in Florida: Tampa Police Are Pretty Sure Republicans Like Prostitutes

This Week in Florida: Tampa Police Are Pretty Sure Republicans Like Prostitutes

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