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Monday, 1 June 2009

Bankruptcy of General Motors

On June 1, 2009, General Motors Corporation and three domestic subsidiaries filed voluntary petitions for relief under chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York (“Bankruptcy Court”). The company has taken this action in order to accelerate its reinvention and launch a leaner, stronger “New GM” positioned for a profitable, self-sustaining, and competitive future. GM will sell substantially all of its assets to New GM under section 363 of the United States Bankruptcy Code (the “363 Transaction”), subject to Bankruptcy Court approval. (General Motors Corp.: Court Documents and Claims Register)
Solving the challenge of autodependency involves imagining economies that need them less; social arrangements and domestic habits that allow more people to be carfree, for the USA, where autophilia in the cultural DNA, to disown the maxim that "what's good for GM is good for America". I've digested the case against cars; rehearsed the arguments; helped spread debate about alternatives, increasing understanding of the distortions in work, retailing, leisure, and settlement patterns created by a century of auto-supremacy; the ruinous destruction wrought on the City of Detroit by the car; the conditions it sets for the liberties it celebrates; the price paid in death and pollution - Autogeddon. Our views of time, distance, speed, landscape, health, human relations, sexual attraction, work, leisure, shopping, child rearing, worship, and aesthetics have been so defined by auto-reliance that being rid of the car in our head is as tricky as removing reliance on the one in our drive.
Once it ceased to be an indulgence of the rich, the car always represented a fine balance between liberation and dependency. Today, the choices promised by cars are linked with increasing transparency to those they take away. Everyone knows about exhaust emissions and most drivers, outside of advertisements, experience worsening road conditions. There is growing despondency among those who would like to use their cars less. They realise alternatives won't work unless people switch in large numbers to other ways of getting around. But the public space needed to take to the streets to walk or cycle and take trains and buses is not available. Many see public space as hazardous for themselves, and perilous for their children. Those with a choice are reluctant to enter it except to take the few paces between car, home, school and shopping centre. Deprivations long imposed on people without cars apply, with increasing force, to people with them. New technology may reduce vehicle emissions, but it cannot recover the enormous interaction space that has been taken out of circulation by road traffic. Yet before that lost social space can become available for people outside cars, a legal and moral space has to be reclaimed. [see Michael Moore's comment 'Now it is time for us to say goodbye to the internal combustion engine'; André Gortz on The Social Ideology of the Car, written 1973; James Howard Kunstler Lagging Recognition 8 June 2009]
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I've been helping cut back the tall grass in the garden of Amy and Guy's house at Minworth using the excellent Austrian scythe I bought a couple of years ago to help mow St.Mary's Churchyard.
I'm delighted with their choice of location, half surrounded by fields and a few yards from the 'bottom road' - the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal - that starts in the city centre and which if I'm cycling out there, about seven miles, I can join by the canal bridge off Thimble Mill Lane, Aston, getting off at Cottage Lane bridge.
Birmingham-Fazeley Canal ~ a mile east of Spaghetti Junction
Their house is on a small waterworkers' estate built in the 1920s, just north of the mightiest sewage treatment works in Europe - processing vast volumes of effluent (lovely word), generating electricity, returning clean water to the river Tame that runs by it, surrounded by acres of rough grassland, scrub, woodland and wetland, harbouring a wealth of wildlife channeled westward via a green corridor into the city centre, eastward into open farmland. My daughter by intention or luck has found a perfect example of those cracks in the concrete that Jack advised me to seek, when he said that if you seek a an ideal place try to go "somewhere that's been spoiled."
View Summer Lane in a larger map
* * * On Monday evening I plunged again after a long break into Modern Greek Lessons, with a student of the philosophy of music called Yianni from Thessaloniki living in Harborne, found on the web. Cup of tea, at a table in a small back room, going over the alphabet, the dipthongs, and the verbs. We worked on pronounciation, on the basics. £20 an hour. Next week Lin will come too. We'll see how it goes. Those crafty dipthongs ... αι=ε, ει=η, οι=η, αυ=αφ, ευ=εφ, ου=like 'oo' in food, τσ=like 'ch' in chair, ξ=κσ, b=μπ, g=γκ or γγ, ψ=πσ, d =ντ ... Καταλαβαίνω λίγο Ελληνικά. Σήμερα αρχίζω να μαθαίνω την Ελληνική γλώσσα. Some nouns: ο κήποσ = garden, η καρέκλα = chair, το ποδήλατο = bicycle, ο άνδρας = man, το κλειδί = key, το παιδί = child......ένας (m), μία (f), ένα (n) = one
I'm getting tutoring at Apple Bullring in using Final Cut Express - a more versatile piece of film editing software than the versions of iMovie I've used to date, with on-line tutoring to back up what I learn from a human teacher. Hardeep my excellent teacher mentioned that I was a prosumer. .
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Monday morning and a second newsletter about the VJA from Birmingham City Council Allotments team (Contact detail):
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Wednesday evening - a meeting of the Friends of Black Patch Park at Centre of the Earth next to Winson Green Prison. Having seen Sandwell Council remove from the Smethwick Town Plan their intention to build on the park, we've been in a limbo for the last 18 months, pressing and probing for the support needed to revive the area, looking for agencies and individuals who share our hopes for the Black Patch. We've been in existence, as a voluntary group, for over six years, enjoying one another's company, joshing one another, pooling experience, sharing tasks, tea and biscuits.


  1. My husband has an identical scythe - bought to cut the small wildflower patch in our town garden a couple of times a year. Oh, why does the sight of it make me smile!

  2. Could it be your thinking of the angle of the blade to the snath - the lay of the blade, its hafting angle, and angle of incidence? Could it be about the skills required for sharpening, especially peening - to get that razor edge the groundsmen could achieve before the days of rotary mowers? I guess your husband is doing meadow cuts to bring on the wildflowers - urban transformation of an ancient craft.


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Simon Baddeley