The Alaska Capitol. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)The Legislature avoided a state government shutdown by passing an operating budget on Thursday, eight days before the deadline. But they haven’t addressed the capital budget, or other important issues facing the state’s future.To discuss this, Alaska Public Media’s Lori Townsend spoke with Andrew Kitchenman of Alaska Public Media and KTOO.Listen nowTOWNSEND: What paved the way for the budget?KITCHENMAN: Well, throughout the year, pressure was growing on both the House and Senate majorities to avoid a shutdown. This is really getting pretty intense in the last couple of weeks. And that’s not just for the effect on government workers, but for the impact on private sector jobs like commercial fishing. So the House and the Senate showed a willingness to give ground. The Senate agreed to a budget including a smaller cut than what it had passed. This budget also includes a $9 million increase for school funding, rather than the $65 million cut that the Senate had passed. The House agreed to drop a nearly $2 billion payment to fund schools in the future. But no one wanted a shutdown. And workers could breath a sigh of relief today when the state officially rescinded their layoff notices.TOWNSEND: And what about the Permanent Fund Dividend?KITCHENMAN: PFDs are going to be $1,100 in October. That’s $100 more than last year. But they’re only half of what residents would receive under a formula set by state law. So it’s the first time the Legislature hasn’t fully funded PFDs since the reduction last year came from a veto from Gov. Walker. House Speaker Bryce Edgmon says more PFD could be added in the capital budget, but even if the Senate agreed to that, which is a big if, Gov. Bill Walker could veto the money like he did last year.TOWNSEND: Andrew, there’s some major items the legislature hasn’t passed.KITCHENMAN: That’s right Lori. This year has seen the fewest bills passed of any year since statehood. Gov. Walker didn’t include anything but the budget in his call for the second special session last week. So the Legislature hasn’t agreed on a plan to balance future state budgets. I spoke with longtime budget expert Gunnar Knapp about where things stand.KNAPP: “The good news is, the state government’s not going to shut down. The bad news is, it’s barely a dent in, you know, facing up to the continuing problem we have with our, you know, the imbalance between the spending and its revenues.”KITCHENMAN: The Senate majority insists the state doesn’t need new taxes. The House majority says they won’t draw from Permanent Fund earnings without taxes, such as more taxes on the oil and gas industry, or a broad-based tax like an income or payroll tax.TOWNSEND: What else did not happen?KITCHENMAN: Well, there’s no capital budget. The state faces an informal deadline of the end of September in order to benefit from federal funding.TOWNSEND: Okay. So what’s next for the Legislature, Andrew?KITCHENMAN: Walker added a bill making changes to oil and gas taxes to the special session agenda late last night. Lawmakers and aides say informal talks could ha[[en outside of Juneau in the coming days to decide how to handle the Governor’s request to consider the bill. But the two sides are far apart on the oil tax bill. And it’s also not clear if Walker will add the capital budget to the agenda. Here’s what House Speaker Bryce Edgmon has to say about where things stand.EDGMON: “At this point, I think the Legislature is going to stand down for some time, work with the governor, and we have more work to do on the capital budget. And I think the governor may at some point later on want the Legislature to address fiscal measures.”KITCHENMAN: We may know early next week about whether the Legislature plans to do anything more during the special session which ends on July 15th, or whether it will wait for Walker to call another special session later on this year.
Stay on target Real Good You Guys: ThinkGeek’s Bags of Holding (Fast Travel and M…Real Good You Guys: Mercenary Kings Reloaded Despite telling myself that I wouldn’t, I saw Ready Player One over the weekend. And, like MovieBob said, it’s pretty good as a movie. I could appreciate that, even though I had a hard time seeing it in the theater. That’s because underneath the sprawling paean to 80s and 90s pop culture, I found Ready Player One to be horrifying. It shouldn’t be seen as a celebration of the past, but a warning of the future, and I’m not talking about the film’s hastily tossed-in admonishment of spending all your time online.The cultural references in Ready Player One are so hypersaturated that almost every screen has some logo, character, design, or other shout-out to a property we recognize. That we recognize, the teens and 20-somethings, 30-somethings, 40-somethings, and 50-somethings who are reading this now, in 2018. The movie takes place in 2045, with the main characters born in the 2020s. That’s absolutely terrifying.Parzival and Artemis and H (Aech) and everyone who spends all their time in the Oasis does so while obsessing over cultural touchstones created before they were even born. They drive the DeLorean from Back to the Future and wear Thriller jackets and know the ins and out of Atari 2600 games. Whatever glimpses we have of non-branded designs, like Parzival and Artemis’s avatars, are incredibly generic designs with little identity of their own. Everything they see and do is defined by media created in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The newest references you can spot are from Halo and Overwatch, but that’s as far as it goes.This is a generation of kids who don’t have their own culture. They have hand-me-downs from their parents and grandparents. Anything new created in the 2020s, 2030s, or 2040s are so bereft of iconic aesthetics that they look like placeholder assets in a sea of licensed game models. They have nothing of their own, and everything they create is some sort of shuffled variation of something that was made, released, and obsessed over decades ago.There’s an in-universe explanation for this that internally fits, but thematically doesn’t address the problems it presents. The creator of the virtual reality Oasis, James Halliday, loved all of those things and because the world is such a singular reflection of his vision, and because of his contest to get control over it, everyone chases after all of those things he likes. That’s fine, but it still leaves Ready Player One with a full generation without its own popular culture. They don’t have their own music, their own movies, their own TV shows, or their own games outside of the Oasis. They just have a big trunk of 1980s ephemera.That’s the greatest tragedy of Ready Player One, and it goes almost completely unspoken. Apart from a few personally nostalgic recordings of Halliday wishing things could change, no one considers just how weird it is that teenagers born in the 2020s are rocking Marty McFly chic. It gets really uncomfortable when I find some of the nostalgic references dated and best left behind, and I’m 34. Atari 2600 games are the video game equivalent of cave paintings, and the game didn’t reach a state where it holds up over time until the mid to late days of the NES, but it’s an Atari 2600 that becomes critical in the movie’s climax.James Halliday is the world’s biggest unintentional monster in Ready Player One, and it’s not because he created a virtual world that takes up everyone’s attention. It’s because his obsession with his own childhood resulted in everyone becoming just as obsessed in his childhood than they were with their own, or with their kids’. First, he made the Oasis, and everyone loved it, and it would have been fine if it ended like that. But then he created his contest and announced it on his death, and that contest nudged everyone already exposed to his nostalgia into becoming utterly fixated on it.Kids today like things that I don’t. Yes, they have things they enjoy that even my cartoon-watching manchild ass doesn’t get. They have Roblox and Fortnite and Peppa Pig and, I don’t know, apps and stuff I’ve never heard of! Even when they’re getting our cultural hand-me-downs with remakes and reboots and reimaginings, they’re still getting some things they can call their own. And those variations on the things we like are still variations, with new concepts being developed and explored so the next generation can enjoy them in their own way. Teen Titans Go! is not Teen Titans (and is fascinatingly steeped in its own anachronistic nostalgia), but it does its own thing and does it very well even without drama or Ron Perlman. New things are made, even with old things.Ready Player One doesn’t have any of that. It’s a generation raised on stagnant nostalgia, without anything new for themselves. It’s tragic, and it shows a very real danger we should be mindful of when mining our own nostalgia. Which is what the movie itself is intended to do.I love old stuff from my childhood. I have a SNES Classic. I religiously watched Toonami. I still think the DCAU is the greatest adaptation of DC comics into TV or film. There are things we can’t totally move on from, and that’s fine. They’re the things we loved and still love. But I love new things, too. Gargoyles gave way to Avatar: The Last Airbender. Dexter’s Laboratory gave way to Gravity Falls. My Little Pony gave way to, well, My Little Pony, but it also became its own thing in the process. And all of these things came to be because their creators loved what came before them and were inspired to make new things, or to take those old things and change them so they can be seen in a different way.We’re not immune from our forebearers’ nostalgia, ourselves. We were all raised on Looney Tunes and Disney movies made decades ago. But we still managed to get our own things and eventually create new things for the next generation. We need to remember that as we look forward. I don’t want 2045 to be defined by a virtual reality bundled in my own personal cultural comfort blankets. I want it to be unrecognizable, new, and interesting. And maybe filled with things that I can learn to enjoy in my old age, instead of forcing the old things I enjoyed on younger people as the only defining factor of their own culture.As a movie, Ready Player One was fine. But what the next generation will be able to come up with when we stop weighing them down with our chains of nostalgia? The stuff they make is going to be real good you guys. Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.