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July 14, 2014 9:55 PM   Subscribe

Welcome to Utopia. On a remote island, a former airline executive and his wife are preparing for the world to end. Others are starting to join them. By Trent Dalton.
posted by valkane (52 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
That was certainly interesting. I'm of course curious to know what Ona's unrevealed secret is.
posted by justkevin at 10:11 PM on July 14, 2014 [3 favorites]


From airline owner to a king of colloidal silver who's on a mission from god.

Warning: article contains sentences like:
But a fact is a fact. Miracles should be shared. Ona does the impossible. Ona is between time and space and living and dying. Ona is magic.
Ona is pregnant with the Anti-Elvis.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:15 PM on July 14, 2014 [11 favorites]


My goodness, the jumping pictures nearly gave me a heart attack. Is there a version with just text?
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:18 PM on July 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Here's a less fancy version.
posted by reiichiroh at 10:25 PM on July 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


That article is brimming with woo-woo and benighted idealism. And I'm not sure they picked the best place to hide from the end of the world.

I swear, I didn't come here to just do Internet Snark. But (judging by that article at least) these folks really do seem to be more giddy than pragmatic; even adjusting for my natural cynicism I honestly suspect this "utopia" stands a fair chance of turning ugly, and that's a shame.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:27 PM on July 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yeah really, the plan B my friends and I are planning involves yukon mountain ranges, tapping into hot springs, and stocking up on ammo. I wouldn't want to be anywhere near the equator in 30 years.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 10:38 PM on July 14, 2014 [4 favorites]


If this man offers you Kool-Aid, do NOT drink it.
posted by Nerd of the North at 10:40 PM on July 14, 2014 [8 favorites]


My first thought was they better stock up on shark repellant.

Maybe they're nice folks, but they're a bit touched, as we say around here.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:41 PM on July 14, 2014


I know this style is going to be tremendously overdone in a few years -- and I could have done without the unexpected audio -- but the presentation here is something fantastic. The video clip of Ona emerging from the woods works better than any static image. Wonderful stuff.

Otherwise... shades of Vonnegut's Galapagos. I could see their descendants hanging out on the beach laughing at their farts for eternity.
posted by rouftop at 10:59 PM on July 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


"I try and fail to avert my eyes from Steve’s ­carefree and dangling penis."
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:10 PM on July 14, 2014


Better than "fraught and rigid".
posted by biffa at 12:04 AM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


If this man offers you Kool-Aid, do NOT drink it.

Because of the colloidal silver particles?
posted by sour cream at 1:12 AM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


That was equal parts interesting, ridiculous and sexy. The dynamism of HTML 5 is starting to hit a pace-- not since Flash splash pages (1998?) has my screen been so disruptive. All in all, a conscious effort of form and function.

Because Ona? Despite the author's observation of Quinto staring at Ona's exposed breasts, the presentation of her is pure Hefner-- She has a secret. She's wise beyond her years.

The laughable conceits are the claims of self-effacement: Not wanting the project to draw much attention and Quinto waxing philosophically about an abandoned ego: I used to have an ego; Now I only presume to offer mankind (or some of you) a utopian passage to its future from certain doom.

The last thread with an article like this, about Orwell's rented house on Jura, asked about a name for this type of long-form article…this one ups the ante. Just how many tricks are found in Scroll Kit? It's like Powerpoint is being assimilated by mark-up-- Good.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 1:27 AM on July 15, 2014


a name for this type of long-form article…

Wasn't the NYT "Snow Fall" article the first to catch people's attention, and give a name to the format?
posted by rory at 2:28 AM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Narcissistic white dude sees native people (and young women) as fauna.

Fuck this dude. People already live there and they want big screen TVs and iPhones too. Once Vanuatu becomes a platform for deep ocean mining the gates will open.

Loving the Kawasaki ATV -- what, does it run on coconut oil?

Figures the guy sold snake oil for his fortune.

Also, "black Chinaman" lolwut?
posted by spitbull at 2:47 AM on July 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


Wasn't the NYT "Snow Fall" article the first to catch people's attention, and give a name to the format?

December of 2012. Thank you.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 2:53 AM on July 15, 2014


Sigh.

I prefer my friend's far more pragmatic investment in 100 acres in rural somewhere East Coast with its own natural gas well.
posted by infini at 3:03 AM on July 15, 2014


I tried my best, but I found the style of the writing unbearable, even without the irritating formatting. All I got was older rich white dude who likes wandering around much clothes on is building his own weird fiefdom in eager anticipation of the apocalypse. I assume it will go about as well as all such initiatives do.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:21 AM on July 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


So it's the Republic of Dave, just with less voting and more dangling.
posted by pseudocode at 3:48 AM on July 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


investing his life's fortune in the shipment of 300 tonnes of materials from around the world..."Everything is for sale ... and it finally became impossible for us. We couldn't go on participating in it."

Lol at their lack of insight. Rich American couple think they can buy their way to "Utopia" and have discovered a new paradigm "living like natives" while importing materials and relying on fossil fuels for sustainability. Anyone is welcome to join them for $300... But I guess none of the "natives" are invited?
posted by saucysault at 3:55 AM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Survivor: The 1%-ers


Bad writing, bad life choices (she's had malaria seven times?) bad attitudes toward their neighbors. I think their world will end long before mine does.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:22 AM on July 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


I skimmed it (I find longform hard to bear) but think, in the end, the journalist did a good job. Impressionistic but not without sensible conclusions. Banal, but sensible. And nicely put together, story-wise.

Hard to read about this set-up without a sense of impending doom - Mosquito Coast somes to mind, as well as a few real-life incidents such as the Jan Little story. (As I recall a TV programme about it, she was never sure what had happened to the daughter but foul play was strongly suggested.) Anyhow I went over to TV Tropes to see if there is a name for this sort of transplanted Utopia-in-the-jungle endeavour but there wasn't anything very succinct. It's quite a thing though - I think there are Hutterite communities in the Amazon. In fiction there's usually a looming sense of impending or actual corruption (The Beach) as a necessary part of any Eden story.

The tropics are beautiful but damn harsh. Tropical people tend to be physically tough and bloody tough-minded. Also resilient - really, the notion that all human systems fail when government breaks down seems to me to be a bit of a western prejudice. I mean, in some countries our official systems have been broken for years, people still maintain their families and social circles and polite rituals and mutuality and manners and exchanges.

Yeah, and malaria seven times? Perhaps the Quinto's adaptation to their circumstances isn't quite as realistic as it needs to be, two years of medical supplies notwithstanding.
posted by glasseyes at 4:29 AM on July 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


Just thought - a really weird echo of Mosquito Coast is Quinto referring to Ruth as "Mum".
posted by glasseyes at 4:36 AM on July 15, 2014


I think there are Hutterite communities in the Amazon.

There are Amish/Mennonite communities on Ometepe island, in Nicaragua. Which is for sure one of the places I'd consider moving if I wanted to create an isolated utopia.

The people in the article seem like later Heinlein characters. With all the self-absorption and cluelessness. I definitely understand the impulse to do what they did, though.
posted by empath at 4:40 AM on July 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


That is some graceless and overcooked writing, I'll tell you what.
posted by jokeefe at 4:42 AM on July 15, 2014


For some reason I came away from this story with a real sense of fear for Ona.
posted by magstheaxe at 4:44 AM on July 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


I know this style is going to be tremendously overdone in a few years -- and I could have done without the unexpected audio -- but the presentation here is something fantastic. The video clip of Ona emerging from the woods works better than any static image. Wonderful stuff.

I found it highly distracting.
posted by odinsdream at 4:59 AM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


But a fact is a fact. Miracles should be shared. Ona does the impossible. Ona is between time and space and living and dying. Ona is magic.

Good fucking grief. Can you stop writing your screenplay for a second and just tell us the goddamn story?
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:13 AM on July 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


I know this style is going to be tremendously overdone in a few years -- and I could have done without the unexpected audio -- but the presentation here is something fantastic.

Whereas, I find this sort of page style gets in the way of my reading the story. In fact, it explicitly pushes me away from the story, rather than engaging me.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:22 AM on July 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


If I were going to undertake something like this, the very first thing I would do is create alliances with the local people. They obviously would know more than newcomers about just about everything: geography, food sources, social customs, potential dangers, health maintenance, etc. etc. etc.
If Steve et. al. are doing this, it was completely left out of the article. Just one "colourful local" named John, who seemed pretty incidental.
If governmental and social systems did disintegrate, you would certainly want to be on good terms with the local people. If you integrate yourself into the community and make yourself necessary in some way, there will be an inclination to protect you. If you isolate yourself as rich westerners with all the food and medicine but few personal connections, things could get ugly when things get ugly, so to speak.
Having said all that, this seems like a bit of a fantasy to me. Joseph Conrad, without the good writing.
posted by crazylegs at 5:48 AM on July 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


John McAfee is way more entertaining.
posted by bukvich at 6:06 AM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Don't worry about Ona, she will bring into being the Pure Legion, who will sweep the earth with their righteous fire in the days to come. She is appointed to the Right Hand of the Throne.
posted by aramaic at 6:08 AM on July 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


I have a news article in my pocket that might remind him, dated August 18, 1985, from the Sun Sentinel newspaper of his former home state, Florida.

OH! Now I get it. Florida Man.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:12 AM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Anyhow I went over to TV Tropes to see if there is a name for this sort of transplanted Utopia-in-the-jungle endeavour but there wasn't anything very succinct.

I'm surprised, because it's such a common theme in fiction, the attempted return to an imagined Eden in preparation for an apocalypse and the disaster that usually ensues. But I guess there aren't that many movies that use it, and most that I can recall are based on books -- Mosquito Coast, Swiss Family Robinson, etc.

I liked the piece. The older couple, and Ona, seemed very familiar to me from growing up on the west coast surrounded by a certain kind of hippie; the Onas I've known tend to do ok except for getting pregnant because birth control is unnatural, while the older patriarch guys creep me the fuck out and yet always have people hanging around. Clearly it's not my thing, but the only people possibly hurt by this kind of thing are themselves and they are all adults. Once they start having kids it gets more complicated (and that's another literary trope, the memoirs and fictional accounts of growing up the child of the kind of people who join these half-cocked intentional communities; Peter Carey's His Illegal Self is one of the best but there are many more) but until then it's just people making some different choices and more power to them.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:20 AM on July 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


Is this actually a real thing? Are these real people? Because I don't think I've ever heard of Northeastern International, which was supposedly once the largest airline in America. And it really, really reads like viral marketing for some cheap exploitation film that somehow picked up an A-list director or star who though he could make capital-A Art out of it, and now it's got massive studio machinery priming the pump with stuff like this.

I mean for the love of fuck, how does this whole thing not devolve into an orgy of illicit sex and betrayal, obsession, murder, and cannibalism?
posted by Naberius at 6:46 AM on July 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


I went over to TV Tropes to see if there is a name for this sort of transplanted Utopia-in-the-jungle endeavour but there wasn't anything very succinct.

Robinsonade.

Hard to read about this set-up without a sense of impending doom - Mosquito Coast comes to mind ...

Mosquito Coast is exactly the first thing that came to my mind.
“The world of man proceeds on a suicidal journey,” she says. “We’ve turned all of life into a commodity. Everything has a price. Everything is for sale … and it finally became impossible for us. We couldn’t go on participating in it.” — Ruth
"'But what kind of a country is it that turns shoppers into traitors and honest men into liars? No one ever thinks of leaving this country. Charlie, I think of it every day!' He kept driving. 'And I'm the only one who does, because I'm the last man!'"—Allie
posted by octobersurprise at 6:53 AM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


rouftop: I know this style is going to be tremendously overdone in a few years -- and I could have done without the unexpected audio -- but the presentation here is something fantastic. The video clip of Ona emerging from the woods works better than any static image. Wonderful stuff.

I don't know. I got unexpected stuttering audio and closed the tab. That's a worse presentation than anything up to and including plain text, since I probably would have kept reading that.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:31 AM on July 15, 2014


Because I don't think I've ever heard of Northeastern International, which was supposedly once the largest airline in America.

Wiki
posted by empath at 7:37 AM on July 15, 2014


Robinsonade is usually a forced exile, shipwreck etc.. in which there is a specific kit bag from which the protagonist(s) must survive. The most exciting part is when the items are listed: a wrench, 5 bags of flour, etc.. and the reader imagines how they will survive with these items. A recent example is Andy Weir's The Martian which carries on for 400 pages of nothing but pure MacGyver as the hero tries to survive with bits and pieces of found items. The novel is getting a film treatment by Ridley Scott.
posted by stbalbach at 7:50 AM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


(Not so) Related: Swiss Family Guy Robinson.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:52 AM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I was put off from the get-go by the description of Espiritu Santo as a "remote island" when it's a 300-buck flight from Brisbane. Forty thousand people live on that island.

Quinto shrugs off the small matter of the expiring lease because civilisation will have collapsed, but what does he imagine will happen to Edenhope when Santo returns to some more local form of government? You can't block out the outside world unless you build physical walls, and even those are no guarantee of utopian isolation.

That he isn't imagining any need for a future Edenhope to compromise with its neighbours suggests that he doesn't see them as actual people who might have their own ideas about the island. The notion that Edenhope's twenty additional residents will need to fly in from elsewhere would seem to confirm that. Why not bring in twenty villagers from up the road? It's colonialism in miniature: a survivalist's Darien, a New Age Roanoke.

Ona's great-grandchildren will either be firmly ensconced back in the Paradigm, or they'll be Tasmate villagers.
posted by rory at 8:07 AM on July 15, 2014 [11 favorites]


For some reason I came away from this story with a real sense of fear for Ona.

Ditto. Steve's attitude toward her had the flavor of an ancient vampire craving young blood.
posted by GrapeApiary at 9:17 AM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


This sentence is written. And this one. You will read this sentence. Stare at this sentence for thirty minutes.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:41 AM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


So, a douchy snakeoil 1 percenter has raped the populace of all the loot he can stomach, and now that he finally feels the dinner bell has rung for free market capitalism to eat it's own young he has bugged out to his island compound with wife and plaything, presuming that the global collapse of civilization will cut him a break on rent while he fondles his way into a jungle grave.

But, it's all marinated in peacenik consomme so it's all cool.

Fuck that guy.
posted by CynicalKnight at 10:13 AM on July 15, 2014 [8 favorites]


A few threads over, people reading the story of the dad who spent a bunch of money to travel to an unclaimed bit of the North African desert and stick a flag in it so that he could declare his daughter a "princess" are all saying "Blecchh! Colonialism, white privilege, what a waste of resources!"

That story is nothing compared to this one.
posted by OnceUponATime at 10:53 AM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Since the end of the world is likely going to be the ice caps melting and the sea levels rising, probably the worst place to wait it out is a little island in the Pacific.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:56 PM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Hey, leave the old man alone! It's really hard being white and rich! One decades mantra is "it's good to be the king". Then when you're feeling mortal again, it's like "why has god blessed me, I must me special, I have to get back to this. I'll use all my money to get to a place where I can live without it, and still see hot chicks" Then, when you're super old, you think, "the world is going to end if everyone's doing what I did. I will create a haven for the my family, a few 'select' white families (or brown ones with hot daughters), and the natives...who we shall rule. For I am Noah." And we have koolaid and telescopes. It's good to be the king.
posted by Flex1970 at 3:06 PM on July 15, 2014


I could not stop thinking as I read it that Vanuatu is listed near the top of most critically endangered places in the event of rising sea levels. This seems like a choice between death by Western Civ or death by the thumb of the universe. Either way, the ants seem to have 20 years, tops.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 4:44 PM on July 15, 2014


He never mentions climate change that I noticed, just economic collapse. Gonna bet he doesn't believe in it.

Fucking libertarians, so predictable.
posted by spitbull at 4:56 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


So far, at least, this is a lot smaller operation than Jonestown in Guyana 36 years ago, but the idea's an old one - build a paradise to await the end of the world - with many variations. So far it's never turned out well; at least, not that we know of.

I have to say, though, that if this man wasn't wealthy and of a certain class, he and his wife would both be patients in a care facility of some kind, probably involuntarily drugged to relieve the agitation of being forced to behave in a conventional manner. Most nursing homes and psych facilities have folks with similar ideas living there.

So I'm glad they're having a chance to follow their conscience/religion/philosophy, but I would only hope that they manage to do this thing without damage to others, which seems to be the way these things usually end.
posted by aryma at 6:12 PM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


infini: "Sigh.

I prefer my friend's far more pragmatic investment in 100 acres in rural somewhere East Coast with its own natural gas well.
"

He should put in solar, too.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:01 AM on July 22, 2014


Keep thinking of this - glad the thread isn't closed yet. Personally I'm not seeing the young nymphet woman Ona as any sort of a victim but as someone who very likely has a good idea of what she's doing (and what effect she's having.)

Anyway, from today's Guardian, a review of a documentary about another Paradise endeavour:

In the 1930s, the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, famed for Darwin's expedition, were thought of as the last great pristine territory, unspoiled by human habitation. In Europe, some hardy souls – disenchanted by what the first world war had revealed about humanity – decided to settle there. A German doctor called Friedrich Ritter, who had a passion for Nietzsche, left his wife and went there with a married woman, Dore Strauch. A visiting American scientific party was fascinated by these modern-day Robinson Crusoes and effectively publicised their lives for the press back home, and Ritter was horrified when other would-be settlers turned up too. A stolid, bourgeois family, the Wittmers, arrived, and then a bizarre fantasist and adventuress who styled herself the "Baroness" Eloise von Wagner Bouquet. This sexually alluring siren caused all sorts of tensions, which led to disappearances and rumours of foul play... Quite a few pounds of fat could have been cut from this film, but it's a remarkable tale.

Considering we (humans) live in peace and stability a lot of the time, I wonder just what it is about the Utopia Island ideation that makes these new world fantasies turn out so very badly.

May I suggest a lack of grannnies /half-serious
posted by glasseyes at 6:37 AM on July 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


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