Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Last Entry of 2019 and the Craptacular 2010s to Include Reposting-In-Full of Ross Douthat N.Y. Times Op-Ed "The Decade of Disillusionment"

Late afternoon view, 1900 block New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., 4:07 p.m. December 31, 2019

Just FYI, this was the 1,000th picture I took with my current flip-open cellphone. The pictures I take are numbered sequentially, although I presently only have 157 saved in my phone.


The Balfour as seen at the triple point intersection of U and 16th Streets and New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., 4:05 p.m. December 31, 2019


Up front mea culpa: I didn't actually post this entry until about 11:40 p.m. on Jan 1, 2020, but backdated it to 7:45 p.m. Dec 31, 2019. The photos in this upfront part of the entry were taken on New Year's Eve as I was walking to the Dupont Circle Metro to catch a train up to Twinbrook to meet David and his family for dinner in Rockville.

U Street looking toward New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., 4:05 p.m. December 31, 2019

The large apartment building -- The Brittany -- is located directly across the street from where I live. The other, rounded structure is some weird formal reception place called the Congressional Club. It is next door to where I live. I went in there one night when a reception was ending but the fat, young woman who runnin' the event couldn't wait to get me out.

There used to be large bushes in front of the place -- since replaced with a handicap-accessible ramp that had the added advantage of clearing out a makeshift homeless encampment in the shrubbery.


The triangular park formed by the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue, 17th Street, and T Street NW, Washington, D.C., 4:08 p.m. December 31, 2019

That ginormous tree is either a swamp white oak or a swamp chestnut oak. I just don't know, although I'm leaning now more toward the latter.


New Years Eve 2020 -- that is, the last day of 2019 and the whole fucked up 2010s decade.

For starters, I'm actually home teleworking today as I am going up to Rockville by 5 p.m. on the Metro to meet David for dinner, though I am again tired. I'll be back before the actual New Year's Eve midnight hour.

The Harrowgate -- half of the Windermere-Harrowgate apartment building duo, 1833 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., 4:08 p.m. December 31, 2019

This was the first place I lived in Washington, D.C., back in the period Feb 2001 - Dec 2003. It was a difficult time finding a place to rent in the District -- and I remember how thrilled I was when the then-property manager, the late Wendy Johns, of what was then a William C. Smith property, said that, yes, in fact, she had available units. I was dying to get out of College Park back then.

I should have remained there.

The Windermere -- the other half of the Windermere-Harrowgate complex, 1825 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., 4:09 p.m. December 31, 2019


Honestly, I'm perfectly happy just being home at the midnight hour -- even ringing in a new damn decade. I just love my old TV shows on MeTV and then Antenna TV.

Last night, for instance, the episode of Murphy Brown ("And So She Goes") and of Wings ("Heartache Tonight") on Antenna TV were hilarious. The Wings episode guest starred the late Rose Marie (of The Dick Van Dyke Show fame) as Roy Biggin's mother.

Rose Marie passed two years ago (Dec 28, 2017) at age 94.

As for being tired, I dunno … It's been more so than usual since my injury 11 days ago. About that, I'm just about fully healed, only the faintest residual black eyes blackness remaining. It's noticeable in certain lights -- especially when shadowed in the glow of, say, television light. That's when I look zombie-like. Mostly, though, I just look 50-years old old because, well, I am 50-years old.

Large house, 1700 block New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, D.C., 4:11 p.m. December 31, 2019


I am in my tiny, dim apartment, my window a/c humming. Yes, I keep the thing in all year because, well, I like the hum of it, and more practically, it is more often too warm in the building than too cold outside. The a/c goes into automatic blower mode (rather than chilled air) if the outdoor temps is above about 50F -- regardless of the inside air temperature.

Street view, 1700 block New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., 4:11 p.m. December 31, 2019


This is actually annoying because in this old building with radiator heat, it can get unpleasantly warm even with my own radiator valve turned off because heat going to other units just leaks (radiates) in. So, for instance, it can be 45F outside but 74F or so inside -- even with the radiator off -- and that's too warm for me. I prefer it cooler and I just get warm via clothes or, if in bed, under the quilts.

Oh, and I should the cost to run it is just part of my utilities, which are covered under fixed rent in this building.

The Perry Belmont Mansion, now the International Temple of the Order of the Eastern Star (a Masonic group), 1708 New Hampshire Ave NW, Washington, D.C., 4:14 p.m. December 31, 2019


Today, by the way, is a partly cloudy (mostly sunny), brisk, tranquil day -- afternoon temps around 53F, which is actually nearly 10F above the "normal" daily high temp, but in our globally warmed world, theoretical normal doesn't mean what it used to.

OK, I don't have a lot of time today … The day is already slipping away from me. Looking ahead, I will try to post a quick entry tomorrow -- but then, owing three reports I need to finish for work by next week, I probably won't post anything for several days.

Now, for the remainder of this entry, I'm reposting in full -- but minus the various inline text embedded links -- a recent Ross Douthat New York Times op-ed piece that I think is a nice concluding entry for the decade of the 2010s.

To break up text, I'm posting images from the following MSN photo-montage (link embedded):

America's abandoned towns falling into ruin

I'm not captioning these pictures, but the file names contain the location.

Happy New Year 2020 and see you on the other side of the decade …



The Decade of Disillusionment

Why the 2010s were at once strangely uneventful and yet psychologically traumatic.

By Ross Douthat
The New York Times
Dec 28, 2019 (online) / Dec 29, 2019 (print edition)
Source here

Nothing much happened in America in the 2010s. The unemployment rate declined slowly but steadily; the stock market rose; people's economic situation gradually improved. There were no terrorist attacks on the scale of 9/11, no new land wars to rival Iraq and Vietnam. The country was relatively calm: Violent crime and illegal immigration trended downward, teenage delinquency diminished, teen birthrates fell and the out-of-wedlock birthrate stabilized.

In Washington, D.C., only two major pieces of legislation passed Congress, both of them predictable -- a health insurance expansion under a Democratic president, a deficit-financed tax cut under a Republican. No enduring majorities were forged; control of government was divided for seven out of the 10 years. There were few bipartisan deals, even as the policy fads that came and went — education reform, deficit hawkishness -- left underlying realities more or less the same. Inertia and inaction were the order of the day.

If this doesn’t sound like a complete description of the decade -- well, it isn't. It's a provocation that leaves out a lot of important indicators (the opioid epidemic and the collapsing birthrate above all), that deliberately doesn’t mention populism, the Great Awokening or Donald Trump, and that ignores the feeling of crisis, the paranoia and mistrust and hysteria, that have pervaded our public life throughout the later 2010s.

But the provocation represents a truth that’s important for interpreting all that paranoia and polarization and mistrust -- because even if you believe that the mood of crisis, the feeling that the liberal order might be cracking up, is the defining feature of the departing decade, you still have to reckon with why that feeling has crested so powerfully in a period surprisingly short on world-altering events.

Consider, by way of contrast, the prior decade to this one. Between 2000 and 2009, the United States experienced the Florida recount and the dot-com bust, suffered the worst attack on our shores since Pearl Harbor, launched two major foreign invasions, attempted and failed at the transformation of the Middle East and entered the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression.

Meanwhile disruption was everywhere: Newspapers perished, partisan cable networks ascended, the smartphone took over the world, and the Amazon-Google-Facebook internet consolidated into something like its current shape.

Compared to this litany, the 2010s look a little uneventful, don’t they? Even if you declare Obamacare a big [expletive] deal and grant Trump’s election world-historical significance, even if you bring in European dramas like Brexit and the Syrian refugee crisis, even if you pretend self-driving cars are really happening (just as soon as they learn to drive in rain …) … even then, the last decade's disruptions don't quite measure up.

So why does the psychology of the 2010s, relative to the country's mental situation in the Bush or Clinton era, feel so disappointed, distrustful, and deranged?

Let me suggest, as one possible answer, that we consider American history since the end of the Cold War as a three-act play. The first act, the 1990s, was a period of hubris, when we half-believed that we were entering a new age of domestic dynamism and global power -- that our leaders deserved trust again, that the emerging digital age would be a blessing, that our innovators were on the threshold of great discoveries and our military was ready to spread liberty's blessings round the world.

The 2000s, in turn, were an era of nemesis -- when the most overstretched expressions of that '90s hubris, from the Pets.com version of the new economy to the Bush doctrine to the exurban housing boom, all met their grimly-predestined fate. In one bust after another, in failed wars and Wall Street fiascos alike, the confidence of the Nineties collided with unavoidable realities, and Rudyard Kipling’s gods of the copybook headings made their inevitable return.

But as the 2000s ended, the revenges of reality had not yet been properly interpreted. The failed administration of George W. Bush was there as a scapegoat, Barack Obama was there to play the savior, and first liberals and then some ideological conservatives insisted that in fact everything would have been fine, the optimism of the 1990s indefinitely extended, if only Bush had taken their preferred policy course instead.

Bush was, indeed, an unsuccessful president, but this conceit was false, and the gradually unfolding revelation of its falseness made the 2010s an era of disillusionment, in which the knowledge we gained mattered more than the new events that we experienced. The sense of crisis, alienation and betrayal emerged more from backward glances than new disasters, reflecting newly awakened -- or awokened, if you prefer -- readings of our recent history, our entire post-Cold War arc.

Thus, for instance, our Afghanistan and Libyan follies weren’t nearly as important or destructive as our Iraq debacle of the prior decade, but they were more revelatory -- in the sense of demonstrating that humanitarian interventions and nation-building projects don’t work out any better with liberal technocrats in charge than under Cheneyites, that there wasn't a simple "good war" waiting to be fought by smarter people once the Bush-era cowboy spirit went away.

Or again, the election of Trump probably wasn't the moment of authoritarianism descending -- but it was an important moment of exposure, which revealed things about race relations and class resentments and the rot in the Republican Party and the incompetence of our political class that inclined everybody to a darker view of the American situation than before.

Or yet again, what changed in our relationship to Silicon Valley in the 2010s wasn’t some new technology or business model, but our gradual realization of what those technologies and business models were doing to our minds, what they probably weren't doing for social or economic progress, and how the internet might need to be resisted rather than just happily embraced.

Even the apparent trend toward secularization, the decade's most notable religious shift, partially reflected a pattern in which Americans who had effectively ceased practicing Christianity years earlier finally made that disaffiliation official.

Meanwhile, in case after case the 2010s were a decade when cranks were proven right and the establishment wrong about developments from prior decades -- about the wisdom of establishing Europe's common currency, about the economic and political consequences of the turn-of-the-millennium opening to China, about the scale and scope of sexual abuse in elite institutions (not just the Catholic Church, though the cranks were right there, too).

In this sense the Jeffrey Epstein scandal was an appropriate capstone for the decade. Epstein's worst crimes belonged to the 1990s and the 2000s rather than the 2010s, but the full revelations only arrived now, in the age of disillusionment, adding to the retrospective shadow cast across the entire political and journalistic class.

And that shadow feels deeper, in a way, because of the stability with which this essay opened. The 2010s were filled with angst and paranoia, they pushed people toward radicalism and reaction -- but they didn't generate very much effective social and political activity, beyond the populist middle finger and the progressive Twitter mob.

They exposed the depth of problems without suggesting plausible solutions, and they didn't produce movements or leaders equipped to translate disillusionment into programmatic action, despair into spiritual renewal, the crisis of institutions into structural reform.

It is this peculiar cultural predicament -- the combination of disillusionment with stability, radicalization with stalemate, discontent and derangement with sterility and apathy -- that I keep calling decadence. Whether it will last another 10 years is an open question; a catastrophe or a renaissance might be just around the corner. But as we usher out the 2010s, this decade of distrustful stability and prosperous despair, it has no rival as the presiding spirit of our age.

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