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Thursday, November 20, 2008
The end of the world is nigh, perhaps. The temples of doom, a recent Guardian piece by Rory Carroll draws parallels between the 'population explosion, ecological disaster and weak leadership' that did for Mayan civilisation and the apparent limits being approached by today's global culture, six centuries after the Renaissance.

The piece isn't especially alarmist; there's plenty of hand-wringing online and elsewhere. It wasn't so long ago that merchants of doomsday saw the enemies of progress as those most likely to send global culture backwards. Unsurprisingly, the writings of Ayn Rand, particularly those that date to the heady, corrosive, pick-your-corner period of American environmental history, kick-started by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (given an 'honorable mention' in Human Events' list of the 'Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries').

Why so harmful? As Rand pointed out gleefully, the environmentalists were hell-bent on returning America to the Dark Ages:

-

'Your wife gets up at six A.M - you have insisted that she sleep until the coal furnace, which you lighted, has warmed the house a little. She has to cook breakfast for your son, aged five; there are no breakfast cereals to give him, they have been prohibited as not sufficiently nutritious; there is no canned orange juice - cans pollute the countryside. There are no electric refrigerators.

She has to breast-feed your infant daughter, aged six months; there are no plastic bottles, no baby formulas. There are no products such as "Pampers"; your wife washes diapers for hours each day, by hand, as she washes all the family landury, as she washes the dishes - there are no self-indulgent luxuries such as washing machines or automatic dishwashers or electric irons. There are no vacuum cleaners; she cleans the house by means of a broom.

There are no shopping centers - they despoil the beauty of the countryside. She walks two miles to the nearest grocery store and stands in line for an hour or two. The purchases she lugs home are a little heavy; but she does not copmlain - the lady columnist in the newspaper has said it is good for her figure'
-


This lengthy fantasy about an enforced return to a life of pre-push button drudgery, dimly lit and bereft of the benefits of planned obsolescence and consumer desire was a central element of Rand's rant against the apparently Luddite tendencies of the emerging American left. It's a perverse combination of Threads and the River Cottage.

*

Other things. Stills from the Fountainhead at the LIFE Archive / Show me your wardrobe, a sort of in-your-face Sartorialist / a fashion blogs, Miss at la Playa / Make Mine Shoebox, a neat retro styled animation by Chris Harding. Some stills / English translations of Asterix / the guitar toolkit seems like a very good reason to have an iPhone.

Why mailmen give up / playing Mirror's Edge apparently makes you sick / paintings by Stuart Shils / paintings by Michael Tompkins, represented by the Paul Thiebaud Gallery. Fine art websites are stuck in a world of frustratingly tiny thumbnails / the Objectivist dating site, currently getting a lot of online attention.

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