State Bakery

ONCE, THE NSW GOVERNMENT tried to run a State Bakery. As readers may know, the Party card of the NSW Labor Party, to which every member signs a pledge, are partially as follows:

...I will actively support the Constitution, Platform and Principles of the Australian Labor Party including the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange, to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other antisocial features in these fields...


What I'm reading (corporations)

Aaron Timms, 'Jet Age Capitalism Redux': The Baffler

In their new skins, these buildings usually see history relegated to the corner—an earnest commemorative plaque here, a terse historical recap there—if not forgotten altogether. The TWA Hotel makes the building’s history—or rather, a saccharine slice of it—a core part of the new venture’s branding. The structure is as much corporate museum as hotel. Exhibits assembled by the New-York Historical Society lovingly recount the nostalgia-drenched story of TWA—both the airline and its terminal—as a triumph of Jet Age imagination and daring. In the process, the true history of TWA, the U.S. airline industry, and the deregulatory pains that followed the 1970s is erased, even as the hotel’s exhibits strain to maintain the cheery lie of capitalism’s “good years” after World War II...

Doni Gewurtzman, 'Let Us Now Praise Corporate "Persons"': Public Books

A nuanced form of corporate humanism flows through Winkler’s and Greenfield’s timely accounts of the Constitution’s long and rocky relationship with corporate America, spotlighting the actual people that own, manage, work for, and represent corporations. Best of all, they both explore the counterintuitive idea that treating corporations as independent “persons” might, in fact, actually advance progressive ideals and make it easier to regulate corporate America.

Matthew Willis, 'The worst British aircraft company? Blackburn – a history of infamy': Hush-Kit

Blackburn seems alone in the largely awful reputation of its products. No UK aircraft manufacturer has escaped its share of unfortunate aircraft – much of the latter designs of Supermarine were clumsy, dangerous and had a loss rate that made them virtually disposable. Avro, meanwhile proved itself incapable of designing an airliner bigger than a regional feeder machine that didn’t kill frighteningly high numbers of passengers. In most cases this didn’t define the company. With Blackburn, it seems, all the mud stuck.


Whole Hog Barbecue

READ THIS YOU MUPPETS, on cooking and intangible cultural heritage: the rocket scientist who's also a whole hog pit master.

Whole hog barbecue is different from other styles of barbecue. The hog is cooked in one piece, versus cooking it in parts. It’s considered the oldest form of barbecue in the United States, with roots in the cooking styles of the indigenous peoples of North America. However, the process gained traction in the American South, where enslaved people would cook whole hogs on plantations for celebrations and political gatherings...

“When I cooked in the ground in 2017 … it was the first time that anyone in my community had done that in 40 years,” he says. “If I don’t recreate that, then it would be lost. I wasn’t going through a WPA narrative to recreate it.” [WPA stands for the Works Progress Administration, a government program that documented local life from 1939-1943.] Instead, he says, “I asked my dad to recreate it. If it hadn’t been done, then I wouldn’t know first-hand."


The Importance of Being Earnest

I HAVE LATELY BECOME slightly fixated on music and other cultural artefacts that have a specific quality to them: that they are straightforward, uncomplicated, unashamedly enthusiastic, and completely lack sardonic detachment. There is almost a dialectic here, between works that have the quality, and works on the other end of the scale, which must be appreciated only as context. Bluey, the children’s show about talking dogs, is earnest, straightforward, lovely. Muppets films like Muppets Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island have the quality too. Seinfeld, on the other hand, can only work as comedy at multiple levels of awareness of humour, that the nothingness of the show’s jokes are key. It’s impossible to enjoy TISM, for example, without enjoying the double- and triple-entendres, and being aware of the many levels of irony going on, and appreciating that the jokes come mainly at the expense of the band themselves (if only because the rhymes don’t often scan, and the music isn’t very good). Movies by Tarantino are just violence and slurs on the surface, on top of a context of layered, appreciative irony and meta-context, that is, if you can stomach the blood.

Let’s call it earnest vs. ironic. Neither is inherently better than the other, this is simply a model I’m proposing. Salt ‘n’ Pepa were earnest, the Wu-Tang Clan ironic. The best of punk music is earnest, but the moment any kind of punk music requires a ‘scene’ to be enjoyed it shifts to the other end entirely. Folk music is earnest, shoe gaze ironic. Sometimes it’s counterintuitive: WWE wrestling is earnest, despite none of it the ‘kayfabe’ being technically true, because it’s the single-level appreciation of fans that matters, while all ‘mixed martial arts’, Ultimate Fighting, combat sports, and the like are essentially ironic riffs on their fans’ weird ideas, on multiple levels, about violence. Prince, despite the many layers of his pop performances, was essentially an upfront, simple, earnest soul singer at heart. Madonna was infinitely ironic from the beginning, and challenges everyone to find the next onion layer of meaning there. Some cultural products have shifted in time between the poles, like Star Wars, which started out as deadpan-earnest Western Ninja Space Opera pastiche, and has gained an accretion of context-driven catchphrase fan-service.

The apotheosis of earnest, I think, of this is Neil Diamond’s 1972 double album Hot August Night. How can anyone resist lyrics like:

I got a song been on my mind
And the tune can be sung, and the words all rhyme…


Log off

HAVING FACEBOOK ARGUMENTS WITH people is generally unpleasant, frustrating, and pointless. You won’t win them, and they only increase the engagement figures of the kind of people who engage marketing consultants, or use the word ‘yarns’ without irony. Arguing on facebook and twitter is why everyone’s racist uncle is in charge of our political parties and civil institutions, jumping into your conversation to say, well, ‘you might not like Trump but he reflects how real people think’, or other infinitely facile opinions that simply cannot be engaged with because there is no ‘there’ there, and people with critical self-reflection skills get off social media, retreat further and further from any sphere that can be called public, and work on their hobbies and addictions.

The key image of the early 21st century is major corporations shitting in the gemeinschaft.


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