Technosis Externality What?

September 14, 2007

Seriously, James? Does that even mean anything? And that wasn’t a rhetorical question. I think its one of the most brilliant, crass, and impenetrable phrases I’ve ever heard; the more I like it the more I don’t understand it.

Without focusing too much on one particularly brilliant turn of phrase, I want to aid in spreading this video as widely as possible. A quick search of my email shows I’ve sent the link to at least two other people in the past two months. Obviously a 48 hour old blog is the best place to continue its dissemination.

So why pass this video around?

Suburbia-bashing seems a particularly well-honed skill of many writers for both screen and print. I guess it could rise out of any number of wellsprings: maybe a desire to lash back at the author’s roots, maybe to justify thousand dollar a month New York City rents, or maybe out of a genuine dislike of the stereotypical suburban malaise.

But while I might agree in very little parts with a movie like American Beauty, I walked away (from a second viewing years after the first) impressed at the sheer laziness of the creator, who consistently goes for the easiest blows possible. McJobs? Check. Repressed homosexuality? Check. Escape from complacency through “art”? Check. Sure, Desperate Housewives is a satire, but are its targets more than straw women?

In both of these examples, Suburbia is a character, but a poorly sketched out one at best. It dominates everything, but the assumption that it is a dark and looming presence goes unexplained and uncontested. James Howard Kunstler has a far superior take on Suburbia. More than just complaining about the problem, he knows how to fix it.

I couldn’t possibly do justice to the liveliness of Kunstler’s lecture, and there’s probably not much I can add to a lecture given 3 years ago and mentioned elsewhere since, so I’ll leave the video as its own testimony to the importance of design in creating livable and enjoyable spaces.

I will reiterate that unlike his fellows in fiction Kunstler does more than just whine about the way of things. He grabs it by shoulders, shakes it vigorously, and screams “Snap out of it!” Whether you agree with his advice or not, its nice to see someone stepping into the ring, rather than commenting disdainfully from afar.