"There's so much in the papers about Ronald Reagan and it looks like he's on his way to become president, ti does look scary. I voted once. In the fifties, I don't remember which election. I pulled the wrong lever because I was confused, I couldn't figure out how to work the thing. There was no practice model outside, it was a church on 35th Sreet between Park and Lex. This was when I was living at 242 Lexington. And then I got called for jury duty and I wrote back: 'Moved.' I've never voted again."
Andy Warhol - diary 07.16.80.
THINGS I DO:
It's an article of political faith that conservatives fear and abhor renewable energy in directly inverse proportion to its embrace by liberals. The Bush administration will gladly turn Alaska into a snowbound version of Texas, a forest of derricks growing above the treeline, while the Gore presidency would have had millions of fuel cell cars on the streets by now, and solar panels on the White House lawn where Dubya holds his slow-pitch tournaments.
A nice fantasy, but it doesn't quite fly when you read about the wind turbine farm some private enterpreneur wants to build off the Cape Cod coast, one of the only spots in the New England area where you can rely on strong, constant winds, enough to generate enough power to make a dent in the area's considerable power demands. We've seen these wind farms before - fields of spindly white propellers on slim white trunks, spread over sun-bleached brown fields in the Southwest, on windswept coasts facing the North Sea, or sitting in thick, perilous-looking groves spiked through boiling, dark blue waves.
They're undeniably striking vistas, sci-fi images that shout "The Modern World!" And the illustration the NY Times Magazine provides of the one proposed for the Cape is jarring and impressive and - to my eyes at least - austerely beautiful. But it's apparently just a bit too modern, a bit too ... striking ... for the well-heeled summer residents of the area, like Walter Cronkite, and Robert Kennedy Jr.
"I'm all for wind power," Kennedy insisted in a debate about the wind farm on NPR Boston. But the wind farm would cost too much for the Cape, for "the people of this region", and as a "diminishment to property values, the diminishment to marinas, to businesses..."
Most importantly, Kennedy claimed, it would diminish history and nature: "People go to the Cape because they want to connect themselves with the history and the culture. They want to see the same scenes the Pilgrims saw when they landed at Plymouth Rock.'' Never mind, as the Times points out, "that the Pilgrims never saw Nantucket Sound, and if they had, they wouldn't have spied the Kennedy compound."
Sensing that appeals to scenic conservation aren't enough, opponents of the wind farm have insisted that it would destroy the local fisheries (long in decline, according to the Times), would litter local beaches with dead birds (high rises kill far more birds than wind turbines), even that whales would bump their heads on the submerged pylons (uh, there's this little thing called "sonar"...).
Most important of all, though, it would ruin the view! And diminish real estate values, even as it provided 75 per cent of the Cape's electrical needs. "Everybody will see it, anyone who wanders on the water, who has a home that faces the water,'' pleaded Walter Cronkite, after invoking the whales and the fishery and the "marvellous boating area". When the writer brings up the spectre of NIMBYism - Not In My Backyard - Cronkite is willing to admit that it's a factor, but...
Cronkite squirmed a bit at this characterization. ''The problem really is Nimbyism,'' he admitted when I reached him by phone not long ago, ''and it bothers me a great deal that I find myself in this position. I'm all for these factories, but there must be areas that are far less valuable than this place is.'' With prodding, he suggested the deserts of California. Then, perhaps realizing that might be a tad remote to serve New England's energy needs, he added, ''Inland New England would substitute just as well.''
As we talked, his discomfort was so keen that he interrupted his thought and pleaded, ''Be kind to an old man.''
I suppose the problem isn't conservative versus liberal but the rather older, deeper spectre of rich versus poor. Fishermen and whales and birds, yes, certainly, but what about the people who've spent literally millions for this view, for the comforting illusion that they own a glimpse of the unchanging, eternal face of nature. Surely they deserve an exemption from progress, from the encroachments of "The Modern World". Surely there's some dusty trailer park somewhere outside Pittsfield that wouldn't mind a hundred or so giant blades swooping over their head. I mean - the view!
And so the asshole of the month is Walter Cronkite, for revealing how poorly he presents an argument when a room full of writers aren't feeding him the words. For showing us once again how easily successful journalists can be persuaded to adopt the viewpoints of the people who pay him, and for the sad spectacle of a journalist invoking pity and the dubious privilege of age as a shield from the third degree. Walter Cronkite: stooge, crybaby, toadie, snob. Asshole.
©2003 Rick McGinnis - all rights reserved
The blessed event - at last. It took me a month to write this, but I'm sure - if you've every gone through this - that you'll understand just what kind of month it's been. The dust - or rather, the doo-doo - is just beginning to settle now, so I'm hoping to get back to updating some, or all, of this sadly neglected site. Bear with me.
PLACES TO GO:
Armin A. Brott
My wife is always complaining that mens' things are, on the whole, better made than womens' things. Socks, underwear, clothes in general - it seems that women's clothes are sewn with thread made from lawn clippings. I still have socks and underwear I bought years before I met my wife.
And so it is with parenting literature. There are shelves and shelves of books for women on the subject of maternity and motherhood, yet scarcely anything for men. And yet, the single book I was able to find on the subject for men has become my wife's favorite book.
"It's so practical and straightforward," she tells me, "and there's none of that 'Motherhood is magical and empowering' crap." The state of a new parent is exhaustion and anxiety; sometimes you're not sure if you like your spouse; sometimes, horror of horrors, you wonder if you like your baby. These things, writes Armin Brott, are perfectly natural, and if you're a halway sane, decent person, you'll overcome then. There's nothing nearly this realistic, so my wife assures me, in The Birth Book, What To Expect When You're Expecting, or - God help us - the hateful Hip Mama's Survival Guide.
Brott's book is full of reasonable advice, tales of dark times ahead, and a withering little anecdote about actress Roseanna Arquette that fully confirms the widespread wisdom that actors, male or female, are both rude and insane, well beyond the usual self-involved psychodrama.