Ahhh. Finally, after crap and worse crap, a documentary focusing on corporate wickedness I can sink my teeth into. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room backs up from its subject far enough and offers a facts-and-document based picture clear enough that I could sit there without thinking "this is Naomi Klein-esque bullshit that mixes up revolution, ethics and pop-counter-culture whining." Yeah - I still haven't got over The Corporation. Fuck, that was a shitty movie. An hour with Naomi Klein is about as appealing to me as an hour with Bill O'Reilly; I get the feeling they both spit when they talk. For anyone who's been over-exposed to Naomi Klein recently, try reading Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Won't be Jammed. Written by academics in philosophy therefore for therapeutic use only.
Anyways, Enron is really good. The makers let the actors involved do most of the talking, either in person or from records, and one of the makers, Bethany McLean, was actually an actor from her role as a critical Fortune magazine columnist. The bit about bleeding California dry during the rolling blackouts was especially interesting, with its relation to the fall of Gray Davis and the rise of - fuck - I forget how you spell his name. The Austrian movie star Republican. Make sure to watch the bonus material to get a clearer illustration of that.
While I'm on the subject of whatever I'm on the subject of - social criticism, I guess - yesterday while the doctor kept me waiting FOREVER I read Dark Age Ahead, by Jane Jacobs. It's not that great, which is a shame, because there really is a central argument to it someone needs to have made. Jacobs discusses five deteriorations she thought led to a culture's descent into a dark age (of family and community, of the relevance of education, of scientific practices, of responsible and transparent taxation and professional codes) by allowing a sort of mass amnesia; mass forgetfulness of how things ought to be, in a sense. That should have been really interesting.
The problem is she discusses them in such a meandering, querulous tone one can lose her gist for pages at a time. One is irresistibly reminded this is the work of a woman well into her eighties - kudos to her for that, but it ends up serving her ideas badly as her style no longer has the limpid clarity of, say, The Economy of Cities. Both books were written in a very non-academic tone, but while that resulted in a friendly accessibility in the The Economy of Cities it results in a overly-specific personal mess here. Dark Age Ahead is a good reminder of why staid, dry academic writing models are really not all that bad . . . the ideas end up getting short thrifted with something this personal, and the ideas here are good enough to deserve much better.