Thursday, March 26, 2009

Doomed To Repeat It

Doomed To Repeat It
Doomed To Repeat It?
A television series concept
Perhaps for the History Channel
By Mason Williams
Written: 7/25/00
Revised: 3/7/09

“Doomed to Repeat It” wanted to be a show on TV, a documentary style program that took a look at current social or political problems. Then, using similar situations from the past, presented historically equivalent solutions, illustrating how these analogous problems were handled in history, showing the causes, the manifestation of the problem, and the aftermath/fallout, good or bad.
Assessing the wisdom and efficacy of the decisions and strategies undertaken
that either solved the problem or exacerbated it.
The idea’s philosophy was rooted in the wisdom of the old saying that goes:
“Those who can not remember the past, are doomed to repeat it.”
-George Santayana

This idea wanted to bring history into the present.
“Doomed to Repeat It” is a provocative title that asks / proposes to answer the big question which is “doomed to repeat what?”
It wanted to put the lessons of history in the more relevant context of today’s issues.
These shows would, in essence, delve into the past pertinent lessons of history.

This idea had big plans.
The show could have been a great gig for historians.
It dreamed of someday being a show that the people would look to
not only for its entertainment value, but as something useful as well.
Who knows, maybe America’s leaders & policy makers of today
would watch the show and make more informed decisions re: current issues?

Excerpts from…
“Woe from WTO: Environmental and labor groups say the trade body will bring grief to U.S.”
by Kevin Phillips (a political historian and author)
The Los Angeles Times / reprinted in The Register Guard (11/28/99)

“The World Trade Organization, though officially only 4 years old, represents a huge intrusion on U.S. politics and on national, state and local decision-making, largely in the interest of multinational corporations and trade lobbies.”

“The historical evidence from the two previous great economic world powers is that whatever financial elites want—high profit global priorities—is bad for ordinary citizens, who are more vulnerable and require that domestic economics come first.”

“History’s example, however, raises major cautions. Indeed, the two great world economic powers before the United States—the Dutch in the 17th and early 18th centuries, and the British thereafter—followed the same internationalization trajectory as their world leadership peaked and then went into decline.
This precedent is as frightening as it is clear. As the Dutch and British global economies peaked, their future, said the elites, lay in embracing international rather than internal economic opportunities. As the old industries started to fade—textiles, shipbuilding and fisheries in the Netherlands; coal, textiles and steel in Britain—the elites said: Never mind. We now lead the world in services: banking, finance, overseas investments, shipping, insurance, communications. And that’s where the payoff is.
Within each nation—the 1720-40 Holland and Britain in the “Upstairs, Downstairs” era of 1900-1914—two things came to pass. First, common people started losing the old industrial jobs that had made ordinary Dutchmen and Britons the envy of Europe. The old industrial districts deteriorated. Second, even as industrial decay worsened, finance and investments soared, inequality mushroomed and the elites buzzed about a new gold age. But then, something went wrong; finance, investments and services lost their way. The golden age imploded and the economy became no more than a shell of its old broad-based heyday—Holland in 1770 or Britain in 1945.
This is the enormous risk that ordinary Americans—the huge two-thirds in the economic middle—now take in allowing U.S. democracy and representative government to be undercut and restructured by the U.S. equivalent of the financial and multinational elites that so selfishly misdirected early 20th-century Britain and 18th-century Holland. Recent statistics showing the top 1 percent of Americans soaring on financial wings, even as inflation-adjusted median family incomes are about the same as they were 25 years ago, buttress the parallel. So do efforts of current U.S. elites to move their investments overseas, as the earlier Dutch and British elites did, and to sell technology to nations like China that could easily become a threat to U.S. interests.”

“Ordinary Dutchmen and Britons couldn’t stop the earlier trends, and maybe Americans can’t stop these.”
Excerpts from…
“The Desert Empire: In its desperate search for water, the American West meets the limits of the technological ideal”
by George Sibley
(a former newspaper editor and owner, is a free-lance writer living in Colorado)
Harpers Magazine (October 1977)

“This is a story about a river, but it is also about the desert.”

“Anyone who has spent a few afternoons in the desert has probably seen the clouds billow up and try to rain on it, but the trailing gray sheets and ribbons of rain (often woven with segments of rainbow) are vaporized by the desert’s shield of heat long before they can reach the ground. And when the rain does manage to find its opening and pour in a cloudburst, the earth is baked so hard that even then it fights the downpour; the water doesn’t stay with the ground but goes ripping off, itself frustrated and raging by then, to see what it can find to tear up, break down, and generally raise hell with.
The desert, in short, rejects water; and being myself not much more than an uncountable number of minuscule water vessels, I feel the rebuff: whatever rejects water rejects me, and the feeling is mutual. I resolve the antipathy by generally staying away from deserts.
What this story is about, then, is the temptation that periodically comes over people to take the rebuff as a challenge to go fights the desert—“make it bloom,” as they say. Many of our great ancestral civilizations—Egypt, the so-called Fertile Crescent, Persia, India, central Mexico—evolved in areas with a semi-arid or arid climate. The key technology here has always been the ability to divert and spread the waters of rivers onto lands otherwise too dry for agriculture.
It is a part of our own cultural tradition to think of these ancient civilizations and their great temple-cities as evil and corrupt places—they were, after all, the Egypt from which Moses led the faithful, the Babylon whose towers God cast down, the Sodom and Gomorrah from which the righteous fled, all of them sprung from the alienated seed of that Cain whose “innovative agriculture” the old I Am of the desert refused to accept. If we can accept that it was the destiny of what we call Western civilization with its “Judeo-Christian heritage” to come to America, then we should probably also accept that at least part of the effort we have been gearing up for, in a thousand years of phenomenal technological advance, was our own confrontation with the same age-old nemesis and challenge, in the presence of the Great American Desert west of the Rocky Mountains and its mad river, the Colorado.
After all, like Oliver Wendell Holmes said:
“To understand what is happening today or what will happen in the future, I look back.”

This idea had it in its head that it would be the perfect place to pursue current global issues; economic, political, social, ecological… the timeliness would give the show a sense of immediacy.
It dreamed that even larger philosophical lessons could also be explored.
It could have examined, i.e., how Japan’s economic mess a decade ago parallels our current one and show what worked and what didn’t to solve the problem.
What the hell, this idea wanted to be about the lessons of history, but now…its just relegated to the dust bin of history.
Doomed to regret it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Art Talk at MOCA

A Little over a year ago I gave a talk at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
At the time BUS was on display as part of the exhibition Artists’ Gifts: Michael Asher.
I talked about my career and the role art and graphic design have played in my creative life.
At the bottom of this post you'll find 3 links - the first will connect you to the audio/webcast page at MOCA - the second two links connect directly to parts 1 & 2 of my talk.

Goodbye Liberty

A Friend of a Friend put togehter this video -
It's definately worth taking a look at

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lessons in Failure

Rush Limbaugh has stated that he hopes President Obama fails…
If Rush were to have his way, the President, obviously, would take lessons from the Republicans.

Homeless Ideas

Until Now!

These ideas have been wandering around without a home for so long they don’t even try to fit in anymore.
They don’t have their hands out, they’ve got their hands up in the air. They give up.

For years they’ve lived on the fringes of opportunity. But everybody has walked right by them, except me. I gave birth to these ideas, so they’re my responsibility.

A lot of them didn’t always have a great start in life. They were jotted down on some cocktail napkin during wild and crazy nights out with friends. Now they’re just unfulfilled promises left for years in drawers and filing cabinets. Deserted, they moldered in maybeville.

These homeless ideas never had a home but, thanks to the Internet, now they’ve got one. My blog is basically an internet flophouse for these homeless ideas. Who knows maybe someday they might even get a job?

At least they’ll find some solace in the company of all of the other homeless ideas out there on the web, after all, misery loves company.

All they’re asking for is a little of your attention, so brother can you spare some time?

Thank you, peace and god bless!