Cities have characters, pathologies that can make or destroy or infect you, states of mind that run through daily life as surely as a fault line. Chandler’s “mysterious something” was a mood of disenchantment, an intense spiritual malaise that identified itself with Los Angeles at a particular time, what we call noir. On the one hand noir is a narrow film genre, born in Hollywood in the late 1930s when European visual style, the twisted perspectives and stark chiaroscuros of German Expressionism, met an American literary idiom. This fruitful comingling gave birth to movies like Double Indemnity, directed by Vienna-born Billy Wilder and scripted by Raymond Chandler from a James M. Cain novella. The themes — murderous sex and the cool, intricate amorality of money — rose directly from the psychic mulch of Southern California. But L.A. is a city of big dreams and cruelly inevitable disappointments where noir is more than just a slice of cinema history; it’s a counter-tradition, the dark lens through which the booster myths came to be viewed, a disillusion that shadows even the best of times, an alienation that assails the sense like the harsh glitter of mica in the sidewalk on a pitiless Santa Ana day. Noir — in this sense a perspective on history and often a substitute for it — was born when the Roaring Twenties blew themselves out and hard times rushed in; it crystallized real-life events and the writhing collapse of the national economy before finding its interpreters in writers like Raymond Chandler.
But it may be that I betrayed myself. Since Dorcastle, my ability to supress my emotions has diminished. I know feelings are showing, not in ways which commons might see, but clearly enough for Mages to spot. My elders could well have decided that I am ruined, that my contact with you has corrupted me beyond correction." ..."What does it take to corrupt a Mage, anyway?""I told you. They thought that you had attempted to seduce me. Perhaps they thought that you had already succeeded despite my denials that such a thing had happened."Once again Mari stared at him, her face darkening. "I was under the impression that your elders thought I would try that at some future point. What did you tell them to make them think that I had already put my moves on you? Or that I had already hooked you?""Hooked?" Alain asked. "Ensnared." Mari got the word out between clenched teeth. "I told them nothing. That is the illusion they wished to believe, not thinking there could be any other reason for a female Mechanic to seek my company." Alain paused in thought. "A young and attractive female Mechanic, that is.""Oh right. The one with all those physical charms.""Yes," Alain agreed. She gasped a laugh. "I was being sarcastic again, Alain. I hope that isn't the only reason you've been attracted to me. Not the only reason anyway.""You are very pleasant to look upon," Alain said, and Mari's face flushed again. Had he angered her? "But my elders were foolish to think physical desire alone could corrupt me. It should not be possible with all of my training, but I found that a single shadow was by far the most important part of the world illusion. That is what doomed me, so my elders were correct in thinking that you had altered my thinking. Not with your body or other physical temptation, but with who you were and the things you did." Alain made another effort to bend his lips into a smile. "I will never be able to return to what I was before I met you.
[Free trade agreements] are trade agreements that don't stick to trade…they colonize environmental labor, and consumer issues of grave concern (in terms of health safety, and livelihoods too) to many, many hundreds of millions of people - and they do that by subordinating consumer, environmental, and labor issues to the imperatives and the supremacy of international commerce. That is exactly the reverse of how democratic societies have progressed, because over the decades they've progressed by subordinating the profiteering priorities of companies to, say, higher environmental health standards; abolition of child labor; the right of workers to have fair worker standards…and it's this subordination of these three major categories that affect people's lives, labor, environment, the consumer, to the supremacy and domination of trade; where instead of trade getting on its knees and showing that it doesn't harm consumers - it doesn't deprive the important pharmaceuticals because of drug company monopolies, it doesn't damage the air and water and soil and food (environmentally), and it doesn't lacerate the rights of workers - no, it's just the opposite: it's workers and consumers and environments that have to kneel before this giant pedestal of commercial trade and prove that they are not, in a whole variety of ways, impeding international commerce…so this is the road to dictatorial devolution of democratic societies: because these trade agreements have the force of law, they've got enforcement teeth, and they bypass national courts, national regulatory agencies, in ways that really reflect a massive, silent, mega-corporate coup d'etat…that was pulled off in the mid-1990's.
…if a thing can be said to be, to exist, then such is the nature of these expansive times that this thing which is must suffer to be touched. Ours is a time of connection; the private, and we must accept this, and it’s a hard thing to accept, the private is gone. All must be touched. All touch corrupts. All must be corrupted. And if you’re thinking how awful these sentiments are, you are perfectly correct, these are awful times, but you must remember as well that this has always been the chiefest characteristic of the Present, to everyone living through it; always, throughout history, and so far as I can see for all the days and years to come until the sun and the stars fall down and the clocks have all ground themselves to expiry and the future has long long shaded away into Time Immemorial: the Present is always an awful place to be.