Monday, September 17, 2018

Economic equality as principle

This is an interesting article on how the recent widespread interest in economic equality seems to be more instrumental (inequality is bad because it has perverse economic and social effects), as opposed to principled (inequality is bad because it's not right or fair).  I'm not sure I understand all the nuance, but I agree that the distinction is important, and that we collectively need to remember that inequality is wrong, that it goes against our American principles of equality and fairness. 

This focus on the value of equality as a concept, and not just as a means to a stable society or other desireable outcomes, also provides a flip side to an observation I made in my blog about the book The American Soul.  Namely, that the idea of our founding American principles is often used to justify an excess focus on individual freedom, to the detriment of a concern for the collective wellbeing.  But if we remember that equality is also a core value of our great nation, it gives us a useful vocabulary for talking about inequality and why it's important to fight against it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sobering numbers on the black exodus from Chicago

According to this article, Chicago's black population by 2030 is projected to be 665 thousand, about half of what it was when I was born.  This is a sad situation for a city that has been largely defined by its black citizens.  I want to do everything I can to counteract this trend.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Dirty Computer

So I just wanted to share with everyone this amazing, far-out short film put together by Janelle Monae for her latest álbum, Dirty Computer.  It is basically a montage of videos for songs from the álbum, but with a coherent dystopian narrative going throughout.  It somehow melds 2018 political and racial commentary, with a Blade Runner-esque future, and Monae's trademark 1980s revival musical and aesthetic style.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Filming in Chicago

I have been taking my kid to summer camp in a park in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago for the past few days.  As we walked along 18th street, I noticed a lot of businesses that seemed to have an old sign still up from a prior iteration, but then a newly-printed vinyl sign proclaiming them to be a different business.  For example, a hat store sign was undermined by a vinyl sign proclaiming that the business was in fact a cafe, and was indeed still open. 

Later the same afternoon, I saw lots of people painting new signs in an old-style on the walls.  And there were little notices about businesses still being open during filming.  Finally, the real clue was that there was a "Negro travel agency" with the NAACP's guide for safe roads, businesses, and hotels.  I put two and two together and realized that the old-style signs were part of a movie set, but the current businesses wanted you to know that they were open for business selling cupcakes or tattoos or whatever instead of hats and 1930s fountain drinks.  It hadn't really registered on me before, since there are plenty of businesses in Chicago with signs still up from the 1950s or before, and often these old signs might be left up out of nostalgia even though they no longer describe the current commercial occupant.  People painting walls in Pilsen didn't seem odd either--it is famous for its Mexican-style mural art.  As for all the people working in the street with heavy equipment, I just assumed they were doing summer road resurfacing, another Chicago staple. 

Anyway, I just thought it was funny that this film set, which was very accurately evoking a 1930s commercial strip in the US, didn't register as odd to me.  I guess they chose the location well, if it only needs relatively light, unnoticeable touches to look like a street from the past.

For your information, the show is Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country, which looks like it will be really good.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The cost to be smuggled

Here is an in-depth photo essay from the NYT about the experience and the financial cost of hiring a coyote to take you from El Salvador into southern Texas.  It is very expensive, and I can't help but wonder whether that money could have been better invested in starting a small business or getting a college education in the country of origin.