Category Archives: Culture

Fear of a Capitalist Planet

Martian Canals

A map of the so-called Martian canals, an optical illusion witnessed by astronomers in the late 19th century. Image courtesy NASA.

A Popfront contributor wrote how scientists and businessmen project our economic system onto the stars:

Have you ever seen an alien? Scientists haven’t, but that hasn’t stopped them from speculating that imperialist extraterrestrials could be on the way.

With the exception of one inconclusive blip in 1977, we haven’t detected signs of alien intelligence. Having scoured our solar system with probes and turned up empty, extraterrestrial (ET) signal searchers now survey the galaxy on the radio portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, where photons can traverse interstellar distances and arrive on Earth unscathed.

The most prominent and well-funded organized effort to search radio bands is led by the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, a private nonprofit foundation that borrows time on radio telescopes or scans the skies using their own arrays.

While the SETI Institute has been actively searching for forty years, there have been few attempts to send out focused radio signals of our own towards presumptive inhabited worlds. This poses a conundrum: why should humans expect aliens to send out focused “hello” signals of their own, if we do not do it ourselves? This idea, that we should send out messages in addition to listen for them, is known as “Active SETI.” Continue reading

The Way Out is Through: Class Conflict in Bogota

 For many in Colombia, the election of Bogotá mayor Gustavo Petro represents a step forward for democracy and the fight against poverty. The former leader of the revolutionary-socialist guerrilla faction M-19, Petro’s policies in office have explicitly recognized class tensions in the city and work to transform them. For the city’s wealthy, however, the election of an extreme left-wing politician threatens Colombia’s newfound security—or at least that of its monied neighborhoods. A recent proposal to build affordable housing in a wealthy enclave, isolated in the north of Bogotá, reveals the class conflict that defines life in the city. Continue reading

Art Made of Trash is Anything but Trashy

Jeremey Rourke video still.

While San Francisco prides itself on being one of the most environmentally conscious cities in America, a lot of unnecessary materials still end up in the landfill because we either don’t know how to sort or we fail to see the real value in what we toss. According to Recology San Francisco, the city’s primary resource recovery company (which is also worker-owned), 1,400 tons of landfill-destined waste are collected daily from San Francisco residents in Recology’s well-known green, white, and blue trucks that sport “Sunset Scavengers” on the sides. Additionally, 600 tons of compostable materials (green bin) and 600-700 tons of recyclables (blue bin) are collected daily. Continue reading

The Liberal Line

Why do privileged liberals care more about property damage than black lives?

“Riots,” wrote Martin Luther King Jr., “are the language of the unheard.” King is one of many civil rights radicals whose politics have been rewritten, his memory whittled into a sanitized, non-threatening corporate version fit for a Google Doodle. Liberals remember that he had a dream, even if they forget his sermons on sanitation worker strikes.

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Julien Blanc Is The Rule, Not the Exception

The Internet is a remarkable means of expressing terrible ideas and feelings towards women, particularly through social networking and blog sites like Reddit and 4chan. Both have become hotbeds of this male subset where belittling women and expressing anger and thoughts of violence against them are discussed and encouraged—through various geek fandom threads to so-called “men’s rights activists” (MRA) threads. Such misogynist sentiment was the motivation to post nude pictures of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton. These women’s phones were hacked in an event titled “The Fappening,” a frivolous title incongruous to the misery inflicted. This invasion of privacy exposes a fundamental need for men to have access to women at any cost possible—and to thwart women’s success and talent by tearing down their bodies. Continue reading

In the Tenderloin, Freedom is a Dance to Victory

Fall season of Skywatchers continues on Wednesday, November 12 with live music, dancing, and a photography exhibit at the Tenderloin National Forest.

Tenderloin National Forest

If there is one thing the Tenderloin has more than any other neighborhood in San Francisco, it is heart. Walking through the streets, you would never expect to find a redwood, but tall trees and lush growth in planters line what used to be another dark and dreary alleyway. As an urban renewal project started by The Luggage Store, a local arts non-profit, this formerly dark corner is now the Tenderloin National Forest.

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The Stars, Our Destination?

Is interstellar space travel a Western, colonialist fantasy?

considered:
Interstellar (2014)
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Bill Irwin, and Ellen Burstyn

space colony

The collective consciousness of Wikipedia, in their plot summary of Interstellar, wrote1 that the film’s version of the USA depicts an “agrarian, stateless society.” In Nolan’s not-so-distant-future, America is ravaged by Dust Bowl-size superstorms, crop failures are abundant, and Big Government is a thing of the past—indeed, there’s hardly any government at all, save an allusion to a “federal” textbook. In this world, where the conspiratorial, anti-government pundits seem to have won, the moon landings are widely regarded to have been faked. (Professional conspiracy-mongerers like Alex Jones and Glenn Beck have reason to smile at this.) Continue reading

Avenue Q at Novato Theater: A Pop Culture Snack

Avenue Q was conceived of as an adult update of the classic Sesame Street, and sets out to skewer the illusions of childhood with the same formula of upbeat songs, teachable moments and (of course) silly puppets as the original. And in many ways, Avenue Q’s shortcomings mirror Sesame Street’s. Whereas Sesame Street presented an often-inadequate primer on education, multiculturalism, and how to tackle problems related to growing up, Avenue Q is a little too flippant about turning real issues into punch lines, and thereby claiming the mantle of intelligence. Continue reading

Sirron Norris: Murals With a Mission

San Francisco is a city of murals: from the Progressive Era to the waves of Latin American immigrants in the 1970s and 1980s, the city’s radical history lends itself well to splashes of life and color. By the time the Mission Muralismo movement peaked in the 1980s and 1990s, San Francisco was post-industrial, grimy, and full of artists and punks: in a sense, the perfect locale for a burgeoning graffiti and mural scene. Continue reading

Finding Fandom

OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE A’s

When it comes to sports, calling me a fair-weather fan would probably be… well, fair. At the last Super Bowl party I attended, I announced my intent to leave after the next inning, to the chagrin of everyone around me. I was swiftly corrected, my colleagues seemingly less concerned over my departure than my attempt to count the innings in football. I’d thought it was simple: there were four. Continue reading