The 00s in Film: Dystopia in the UK

“And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there?”
-V, V for Vendetta

“And now one for all the nostalgics out there. A blast from the past all the way back from 2003, that beautiful time when people refused to accept that the future was just around the corner.”
-Unnamed radio announcer, Children of Men

“He Who Seeks Revenge Should Dig Two Graves.”
-Revengers Tragedy

If I had to pick one recurring theme that defined the cinema of the “aughts,” it would be “dystopia.” And if I had to pick one recurring setting for that theme, it would be the island of Britain.

Not since 1984, or perhaps even 1984, have so many disasters befallen poor Albion. Sure, New York City has been invaded by aliens, flooded and frozen, or otherwise depopulated a number of times this decade. But these films were hardly subtle—the focus was either on the disaster itself or on an individual in his (and usually "his") struggle to survive it. By contrast, British writers and filmmakers have since the end of the Second World War drawn from a trope, termed by some as the "cosy catastrophe." Instead of being world or civilization ending, the cosy catastrophe turns the spotlight toward society, and how it copes during and after the crisis. This, combined with Britain acting as a foil for the United States or the West at large, has opened the door to examination of the aughts.


NYC Subway Geode Sales Pitch

memorize, repeat. make dat money.

excuse me ladies and gentlemen sorry for the inconvenience my name is Luke and I'm selling geodes no I'm not selling geodes for any church group or basketball team but just trying to put a little honest change in my pocket and keep me off the streets geodes are great because I found a bag of them at school I was supposed to be in class first period which is geology because my cousin says don't go to school sell rocks and make your money geodes are rocks they are mad trippy too and you can get lots of colors too the geodes I'm selling are blue or green and are one dollar thank you and god bless would anybody like any geodes would anybody like any geodes



Delevarophobia: (IPA: /ˈdɛləvɛərofəʊbi.ə/) “The hatred of the U.S. State of Delaware.”

I am a Delevarophobe and proud. Why dislike one of the smallest (and—as they will incessantly remind you—the first!) U.S. states? The reasons are legion.

Delaware is named after Thomas West, the Baron de la Warr, known for his time as a governor of Virginia Colony, during which he adapted tactics previously utilized to crush Irish resistance to British rule toward crushing the Powhattan Indians. Though located in the Mid-Atlantic region, having little agricultural utility for slavery, and even freeing slaves gradually through manumission until in 1860 over 90% of the black population were freemen, Delaware strongly resisted the legal abolition of slavery to the point where it rejected the 13th Amendment in 1865 (it was subsequently passed by the state, in 1901!). Segregation in public schools was literally written into the state constitution until overturned by Brown v. Board of Education, of which one portion of the case originated in Delaware.

For such a small state to be competitive, a strategy of low taxation and lax laws were devised to attract businesses. Much like the Cayman Islands, Delaware does not tax profits of corporations made outside the state nor does it require a physical presence of corporations registered in the state. As such, today more than half of American corporations and more than 60% of Fortune 500 companies are incorporated in the state. Furthermore, taking advantage of permissive financial laws, numerous banks have made Delaware their home, with “$2.6 trillion in deposits from non-resident corporations and individuals in 2007” in the state according to the Tax Justice Network. Additionally, Tax Justice has declared Delaware “the most secretive financial jurisdiction,” beating out the traditional favorite, Switzerland. Unlike its European counterparts Switzerland and Luxembourg, Delaware has escaped condemnation as a tax haven by the G20 through its status as a subnational entity of the most powerful country in the world. To further promote itself to potential customers—I mean, "residents"—the state levies low income taxes on residents and no sales tax, advertising itself as “The Home of Tax Free Shopping.”

In 1802, a refugee from revolutionary France who ended up in Delaware, Éleuthère Irénée du Pont de Nemours, founded his namesake corporation, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. Better known as DuPont, the company in the nineteenth century established a monopoly over the production of gunpowder and explosives until parts of the company were split off under the Sherman Antitrust Act. Since then, the firm has remained an enormously powerful chemical corporation and is to this day the top private employer in Delaware. That the state is still effectively a plantation of the DuPont chemical company would not itself be such a large problem if DuPont were not the biggest polluter in the nation, nor if it were not the original synthesizer of CFCs, which severely damaged the ozone layer. Additionally, the du Pont family—in charge of the firm for over two centuries—is also filled with disreputable characters: T. Coleman du Pont was a corrupt Republican politician implicated in the Teapot Dome scandal and Irénée du Pont was accused of funding the Business Plot, a planned coup d’état to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Delaware’s low taxes may be nice for its citizens, but the state is thus forced to find alternative means of funding in order to pass the costs of governing onto others. Take for example the 11.2 mile Delaware section of Interstate 95, run by the state as the Delaware Turnpike. Motorists attempting to get from Maryland to New Jersey or vice-versa must pay $4.00 for the privilege of passing through the state of Delaware, at a rate of 35.7¢ per mile. Though (thankfully) this is avoidable, it remains ridiculous that such a fee exists at all; arguably the most expensive toll road in the United States per mile, it seems that the Delaware Turnpike's only purpose is to force out-of-staters to pay as much in tribute to Delaware as possible.

But what can we properly informed Delevarophobes do? For starters, skip the toll on the Delaware Turnpike, so that out-of-staters are not subsidizing Delaware's irresponsibly low taxes. Secondly, avoid the siren song of tax free shopping—it’s as meaningless as “duty free” shopping in airports as far as I’m concerned. Thirdly, don’t do business with a bank that shields its usurious behavior and arbitrarily increasing interest rates behind Delaware state law—join a credit union or local bank. It is high time time we divested capital from “The Corporate Capital.” Delevarophobes of America, unite!


Fictionary Addendum №1

Parisite: IPA: /ˈpærəˌsaɪt/
1. (derogatory) A denizen of Paris, France.
“Pfft, I had to leave that café, man—it was crawling with baguette-munching Parisites.”

Triton-lame: IPA: /traɪtən-leɪm/
1. Failing to be cool, funny, or interesting in a particular manner associated with Eckerd College.
“Anyone who declares repeated excitement over an upcoming foam party is definitively Triton-lame.”

trollin’ for strange: IPA: /trɒlɪn fɔɹ streɪndʒ/
1. (slang) On the prowl for an encounter, either romantic or erotic.
“We were just hitting up the bars and clubs, you know, trollin’ for some strange.”

Vladimir linen: IPA: /vlɐˈdʲimʲɪr ˈlɪnɪn/
Alt form: Nikolai linen: IPA: /nʲɪkɐˈlaj ˈlɪnɪn/
1. What occurs when a single red article of clothing is introduced to a wash of white fabrics; clothing/linen that have been stained or dyed red.
“Whose red socks went in with my whites? Pulling a Vladimir linen is not cool, man!”

Special thanks to LK Shov for "Parisite" and "Vladimir/Nikolai linen" and Samwise for "trollin' for strange"!


Profanity Superpower

The United States is not only an economic and military superpower, but also a superpower of profanity. That’s right, a profanity superpower, by which I mean American English swear words have spread to all corners of the world via our movies, music, and television, and have been adopted by many other languages. Take the Germans, who have a good base of swear vocabulary, yet you’ll often hear young Germans using English vulgarities. In pop culture, be it gangsta rapper B-Tight bellowing out the lyric “Halt die Fresse du Bitch” (“Shut your mouth you bitch!” though, honestly I think “pie-hole” would also be an apt translation of Fresse) or hearing something like “alles ist abgefuckt” (“it’s all fucked[-up]”), German has adopted these terms quite readily. The Russians, whom I will discuss on their own in a moment, have also embraced English curse words, especially “fuck.” Whether it is advertising an umbrella by the phrase “Фак дождю” (fak dozhdyu; “fuck the rain”) or making a statement like “На работе случился большой факап” (Na rabotye sluchilsya bol’shoi fakap; “At work a big fuck-up occurred”), the Russians have expressed an affinity for English profanity.

However, despite impressive American achievements in the field of profanity, Russia may just be the all-time achiever. There is an entire dialect of Russian called мат (mat), which has a vocabulary that is comprised almost entirely of vulgar words and their derivatives. The four primary words of mat: хуй (khui), пизда (pizda), ебать (yebat’), блядь (blyad’) mean “penis,” “cunt,” “to fuck,” and “whore” respectively. From this basis, entirely profane conversations can be spun. However, be cafeful with whom you use it—it can have dangerous consequences. One night in 2008 in Riga I was out drinking with friends when it began to rain heavily. We decided to take a cab, so we walked over to the entrance of the Reval Hotel Latvija, where several taxi-drivers were having a smoke while being accosted by a homeless guy. The hobo, scruffy and middle-aged, was insulting them all with an intense string of mat—I recall a fragment that went, “ёб твою мать…иди на хуй… хуёк!” (yob tvoyu mat’…idi na khui…khuyok!; “fuck your mother…go fuck yourself…little prick!”). After a pause in his rant I asked one of the cabbies for a ride (in Russian); in response, the cabbie nods and without saying a word starts walking with us to his taxi, but not before putting out his cigarette on the hobo’s neck[!!!!]. Needless to say, that taxi ride was spent in uncomfortable silence…

For some small peoples with more limited vocabularies, the import of foreign profanity is critical. The Latvian language has very few vulgar words and phrases that are native (“In Latvian, it's effectively abusive to tell someone to go take a crap” –Language Most Foul, p. 171) . Those words with Baltic roots are not particularly numerous: mauka (“whore”), pimpis (“penis,” though personally I enjoy how it resembles the word “pimp”), kuce (“bitch”), sūds (“shit”). Latvian profane phrases are not that impressive either: “Ej dirst!” (literally, “Go [and] shit”), “Velns un elle!” (“Devil and Hell!”), “Suņa bērns!” (literally, “Son of a dog!”), and “Nolādēts!” (“Damn it!”). The bulk of Latvian profanity—and certainly the most offensive thereof—is borrowed from outside sources, primarily German and Russian. Along with mauka and kuce, scanning the subtitles while watching trashy American shows (such as “Laguna Beach”) on MTV Latvija revealed slampa as another frequently used insult, which means “bitch” or “slut” (e.g. “She is such a stupid slut!”→“Viņa ir muļķīga slampa!”); slampa originates either from German (Schlampe) or Swedish (slampa). “Piss taisni” (“Piss off”) seems almost certainly to have been borrowed from the German verb sich verpissen. Pidars is borrowed from the Russian пидор (pidor) which in turn is a shortened version of the general European term “pederast.” Latvians, who often resort to mat for truly insulting language may become a little too used to it in everyday conversation; however, Latvians who have picked up the coarse Russian habit of ending every statement with “blyad’” (or its Latvian orthographical equivalents bļaģ or bļad) can soften it to bļāviens, which means “a yell” or “a scream.”

Before contemporary mass media allowed for the spread of English language profanity, Russian vulgarities had infiltrated well beyond the Russian frontier. By mid-twentieth century, the word suka had been adopted in Polish (suka), Hungarian (szuka), Kazakh (сука; suka), in addition to Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Yiddish. The word itself is still frequently used by speakers of Azeri, Uzbek, Tajik, Hebrew, as well as probably many others of which I am unaware. I have personally overheard use of this word across the Baltic States and the U.S. East Coast and even in small towns in Baden-Württemberg and the Irish Midlands. Unlike English slang, which relies on the enormous power of the American film and music industries to extend its reach, Russian slang has spread person-to-person, wherever Russians have ended up. The slang need not be profane: one of the most common international adoptions from Russian is “bistro,” derived—as the legend goes—from Russian soldiers in post-Napoleonic France demanding rapid provision of wine or food in street cafes by yelling “быстро!” (bystro!; “quickly!”) at their waiters. But even a number of speculative fiction sources imagine a further future adoption of Russian slang, most famously A Clockwork Orange’s “nadsat” dialect. Thus, though Russia is no longer an economic or military superpower, it may remain a profanity superpower for years to come…