"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Political Theater From Frank

Frank, apparently bored with data entry, sends this gem in:

I just read the entirety of Mr. Robbins' speech to the Press Corps, made me proud to have shared a black box with the man. I've been thinking a little bit more about the statement "Susan Sarandan's statements have endangered our troops." What's interesting about this to me is that the only non-com who actually endangered our troops works for Fox News (I would have given a half dozen Quatari prostitutes to the platoon that fragged Geraldo).

Or at mail call:

"Mail Call!"
everyone rush's around the dude with the mail

"Spitzer, you got a package"

opens it

"Oh Boy, my grandma's peanut brittle! I've shore missed this over here."

"Phillips, look like a letter from your girlfriend"

Phillips opens it "Wow she sent me nekked pics of herself, whooo-eeee!!"

"Santana, you got something from your cousin again" calls towards Santana, who is calling from inside of an outhouse.

"I'm kinda busy, Sarge, could you open it up for me"

"Sure thing son" opens up package "looks like a clipping from the NY Post"

"Swell, what's it say?"

"It's an article about Susan Sarandan"

"You mean the star of Bull Durham, Dead Man Walking and countless other classic films, whose every word I hang on?"

"Yep, that's the one"

"Oh boy, what's the new scoop on her?"

"Well, says here that she's not very happy about the military campaign in Iraq."




"Santana, you all right in there?"

sound of a gunshot from the latrine, men rush over, but it is too late, PFC Jeffrey Santana is yet another causalty reaped by Miss Sarandan's reckless machinations.

While we're at it, the BBC online is featuring a list of unanswered questions about coalition reporting and media coverage of various incidents in Iraq.

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For a while now I've been thinking about the future of videogames as a means of artistic expression and culture-building. Altering the premium blend that is America Culture is one of my long-term life goals, and I don't believe I have the chops to ever make it as a TV/Movie star, so there's a natural interest in other forms of expression. In addition, I don't think TV is going to be the cultural dominator that it currently is in another 20 or 30 years. Virtual entertainment will still be important, but the interactive forms are far more engaging and potentially impactful.

This is not idle speculation. Videogames, far more than television, can be a force for developing cooperative and equitable social norms and ways of thinking around highly charged issues of the day. At their best they can create a space in which something uniquely human can happen. This is not possible on the one-way street of movies and TV.

Jane of GameGirlAdvance has written a fascinating article about the use of gender in videogames entitled "Genderplay":

Something you hear over and over again in the research around what girls want out of games are themes like "open-ended" and "less-goal oriented" and "co-operative play". These are also the themes which most adult gamers seem to want, too. Talking with my friends who are game developers and designers, they don't want to see bouncy boobs, necessarily (although there's a place for that, sure); they want evolved gameplay, emergent gameplay - with great characters.

whole article>>>

Videogames offer a lot more potential in terms of cultural development and nuanced creative expression than any other entertainment form other than (perhaps) participating in team sports. Games offer the ability for users to test and develop their own personas as a creative act in and of itself. They can facilitate identity development and understanding, as the part of Jane's article about how her boyfriend deals with flirtation as a female character in online multiplayer role-playing games illustrates:

In another server on the sunny plains of Albion, Justin has an enchanting enchantress who caught the eye of a young paladin. I asked him whether he responded to the paladin's tentative flirting. "Well, sure," he said. "I would say, 'Thank you for the necklace, milord' and 'Thank you for the necklace - again , milord" because that's part of the game." And who knows? The paladin could well be the avatar of a young woman halfway across the world.

This is happening right now all over the world. Extrapolate five to ten years and integrate people's cell phones, email, IM, blog and other means of digital connection/expression. See the potential? If this sort of safe and creative exploration of roles becomes more of a norm, I believe the impact will be nothing short of revolutionary for our culture. By allowing users a means of understand social interactions from different perspectives, albeit in a simplified and fantastic context, the world of gaming can contribute to the development of more open-minded and well-rounded individuals.

A few weeks ago I was taking a car trip with two gentlemen I do occasional work with, Peter and Robbie, both of them fathers. They were talking about how videogames were toxic to children, Robbie having a nearly-grown son who he feels plays too much Xbox and Pete having two kids too young to play anything, yet.

"I'm never allowing it in my house," Peter says, as I bite my tongue. I understand the desire to not have a vidiot child. However, putting aside the fact that prohibition is the quickest avenue to producing keen interest, my belief is that videogames are a potential source of good things as well as bad. I tried to hint at this point of view, but it was clearly a sore spot for the two of them. I was suddenly in the awkward position of being across a generation gap from these men -- we might have been 45 years back in time and talking about Rock and Roll.

On a certain level, they have a point. Just as Rock and Roll was correlated with drug use, teen pregnancy and dropping out of college, heavy gaming often correlates with a shut-in lifestyle. At least, that's the popular perception. There are many happy, healthy, well-rounded people who play videogames; I'd go so far to say they're the majority. And while there are certainly game addicts and a number of otherwise socially stunted individuals who find a questionable and isolated solace in the virtual world, these phenomena are not necessarily caused by gaming itself. Far more likely these phenomena reflect pre-existing problems that are brought to the surface vis-a-vi videogames. Better the Playstation than gangs, drugs, spousal abuse, etc.

Furthermore, especially as games evolve to become more interactive, cooperative and open to user-instigated forms of expression, they could very well have the opposite effect: contributing to the development of more worldly and experienced adolescents and providing adults a meaningful way to engage with each other and have fun with their own identity. Games could be healing. They could be agents of progress. What actually comes has yet to be seen and is far from certain -- it's conceivable that games will become even more of a cultural sewer than cable television -- but I think the possibilities here are quite a bit more culturally exciting than those of American Idol.

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Stopping the Bully, Turning the Mob

Salon.com is running the text of a speech given by Tim Robbins at the National Press Club in Washington. It's good:

And in the midst of all this madness, where is the political opposition? Where have all the Democrats gone? Long time passing, long time ago? With apologies to Robert Byrd, I have to say it is pretty embarrassing to live in a country where a five-foot-one comedian has more guts than most politicians. We need leaders, not pragmatists that cower before the spin zones of former entertainment journalists. We need leaders who understand the Constitution, Congressmen who don't, in a moment of fear, abdicate their most important power, the right to declare war, to the executive branch. And please, can we stop the congressional sing-a-longs?

In this time when a citizenry applauds the liberation of a country as it lives in fear of its own freedom, when an administration official releases an attack ad questioning the patriotism of a legless Vietnam veteran running for Congress, when people all over the country fear reprisal if they use their right to free speech, it is time to get angry.

Again, the whole thing is here, thanks to kos for the link. You have to do a little registration dealy to get your day-pass to salon.com, but it's worth it. I can't agree more that the opposition needs figureheads and powerful leaders. Yesterday if possible. If we have to wait for my generation to grow up and get elected to congress, it may be too late.

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This is the Good Stuff

Life is beautiful right about now. It's about 77 degrees (enjoy it while it lasts), Pete and Swetlana just had a baby, I've got Monkey-Kim in tow. Oh, and I'm in love. Yeah. Love. More on that in a while.

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Smoking Ban Murder

In more proof that nicotine addicts are dangerously attached of their drug of choice, a bouncer was stabbed to death in an altercation arising from the recent smoking ban. I've already weighed in on the law here, but I would like to take this opportunity to remind y'all that no measure in history has ever stopped tobacco-smokers from getting their fix. Imperial Russia used to behead people for traffiking in nicotine. Pre-industrial England has similarly harsh penalties (later dropped when the American colonies became the #1 exporter) against the "stinking weed." Neither worked, though I imagine the pain of death made cigarettes something of an underground phenomina.

P.S. I'm linking to the post just to remind you all that it si out there and it is cheaper than a stamp and for the most part propaganda.

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Bad Dreams

I had two very disturbing dreams last night. In the first I was a young father having a backyard birthday party for a little daughter, when suddenly air-raid sirens started going off and we watched a massive arial battle commence above our heads. Planes of many different kinds we zigzagging and dogfighting, and then big planes were streaking through, dropping all-white-clad paracheuters across our neighborhood. Men with guns and masks and bad intentions. "Are they going to kill us Daddy?" Trying to be brave. Get the kids in the basement. Stress. Weakness. Terror. Why don't I own a gun? I woke up seconds later, palatably afraid.

The second dream was of a smilar military nature, but had a more structured plot. I can't recall the details, but it was also highly agitating. It's been a while since I've had bonafide nightmares like that. Am I finally suffering the feedback from the cuture of fear?

Also, it must now officially be spring: I have misquito bites. Any guesses as to how long before the West Nile media distress machine ramps up? Oh God, another flu-like virus that can kill people with feeble immune systems! Damn you Saddam!

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Which Way From Here?

People are quitting. As the war in Iraq seems to be winding down (at least the conventional part of it anyway), witness the fragmentation and dissolusion of the anti-war movement that sprung to life in the run up to conflict. Recently there's been discussion among the more progressive technorati about the validity of protest, hope, and the destructive nature of opposing "certitudes" in politics. Here's a sample:

I also stopped supporting the peace protests when I felt they did little good. And I won't attend the ones this weekend because, to me, they lack focus and discipline. Are we protesting to support Iraq? Or against Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Ashcroft? Are we for UN? Or against the Patriot Act? And before you say the lines are clear on all these issues, they aren't. The 'peace movement' needs to make a decision about what the fight is, develop an effective voice, and then stick with it.

On the one hand I must aggree, and I've been stressing the "develop and effective voice" point for a while. On the other hand, I find the attitude taken here to be quite diseartening. What I find disheartening is that Shelly (the author) has drawn a box around the "peace movement" and then difinitively placed herself outside it, as have many self-identifying progressive people I know. The message is that maybe we'll come back out if God forbid things get really bad or better yet y'all get your act together, but until then I'm staying home. Partly this is due to the nature of the people with juice in the peace movement -- they tend toward dogma -- but mostly it's because this is the easy thing to do, to abdicate responsibility. This is the thing which requires no work, no effort, no sweat, no arguments or struggle. It is a position of material and emotional privilige, predicated on the ability to comfortably abide by the current order.

This is the consumer mindset at work in politics. "Gee whiz, I don't like any of the current flavors of Peace Movement on the market just now, so I guess I'll just wait and see if they come out with something new next quarter. Maybe I'll submit some on-line feedback to help the process along!" I'm being harsh, and I'm not exempting myself from this criticism in any way shape or form, but this wait-and-see attitude will be the utter end to us. Lambasting ANSWER for not being more on-message (as I've done in the past) really is a waste of time and energy. I mean, when was the last time you got 100,000+ people to do anything? We the throughtful, less certitude-full, less likely to ramble off into Marxist rhetoric people need to pick up the slack.

However, I don't think there's a one of us that doesn't want the best for the people of Iraq right now, regardless of the events leading to this moment. Agreeing to this one point is not selling out, or going over to the enemy, is it? And it's a start, a follow up to a belief that there's hope.

And then there's this, which is highly debatable. How much are you (or I) really willing to give up to see that the Iraqi people get "the best"? This is not a pointless question. At what point do we put our money where our mouth is on this one? It's very easy to say you want the best for someone when it's not going to cost you anything.

But then again it is costing us quite a lot. It's costing us billions of dollars and it's costing us allies and it's costing us in terms of world opinion. These costs (deficets, geopolitical factionalization, decreased global security) won't really sting for a few years, maybe even a few decades, and so they're easy to ignore in the face of cheering crowds served up for TV. It's like smoking and cancer. As the carcinogens take root, we tell ourselves we'll quit tomorrow, next month, next year. "Hey I still feel good. No reason to stop now. Come on, let's be hopeful (cough cough cough), by the time I'm 60 they'll have a cure for cancer."

No, they won't. It's time we realized this. I'm not trying to attack Shelly for what she's saying. Most of my fury comes from the fact that I've heard her words echo around in my own head time and time again. It hits close to home. But we need to start seriously working on alternatives to the current swing of the pendulum, or it may be too late to turn back the tide.

At the moment, it's not looking good. I'm incensed by the plattitude/critical thought ratio among people I would like to believe are in "my" camp, and don't even get me started on the rest of the country. I've caught myself slipping into -- or passively aggreeing with -- elitest anti-plebian commentary far too often as of late to be really comfortable believing in my countrymen. But this is too damn important to pull the "screw those Ugly Americans" card. The future forks are either turning this country around or jumping ship, and I don't believe that running off into a green corner of utopia and living out the time between now and the end of the world in relative peace is a course of action I'll ever be cool with. If it ends up going that way, I'm going to be one bitter-ass ex-patriot.

I'm not being mellodramatic. From where I'm sitting, a good chunk of my future is riding on how this all plays out, and I don't like the crowd who are setting the course at the moment. Case in point, as hospitals and museums were looted, Marines protected the Ministry of Oil. The best possible spin on this is that we didn't have enough manpower to protect everything, and the Ministry of Oil is sure to be vital to the reconstruction effort. However, that begs the question of why don't they have the additional manpower to protect hospitals, museums, neighborhoods, etc? Why didn't we execute the Powell doctrine of overwhelming force? Why didn't we plan to have 3x as many people on the ground to keep the pressure cooker from exploding when the regime crumbled?

These are legitimate questions, and the only possible answers I can see are that Team Bush is A) incompitant, or B) willing to place personal/political concerns ahead of doing the right thing. Looking at the history and the resume's in play, I lean to the latter. And while I'm all for retaining one's sanity and not getting dragged down into the rhetorical mire that this polarizing course of events has created, I don't feel that I can simply float above it all and reasonably expect a positive outcome.

We can't quit now. We can't abdicate. We can't let someone else take care of this. Have you seen the poll numbers? Who the fuck do you think is going to come to your rescue other than your self? Ain't that America.

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I got a response to a question I posted to a more established personage online, asking about what one aught to do with ones life at a time like this. I talked about this a little last night with new friend (Reed/Portland Connection) Kathrine Sharp. Anyway, the advice that came through was good old human poetry:

Best advice I can give you is to seek the truth, fantasize, know the difference, do art, make love, eat good food, hang with good people, listen to music, practice non-violence, sing even if you can't carry a tune, speak the truth you find, travel, look around you, never be afraid to change your mind.

The whole think is here. While at first I thought this smacked a little too much of the "random acts of kindness and senseless beauty" that I was raised on back in good old Eugene (saw that bumper sticker everywhere), I gave it a second read and I really liked some of the practicals, especially the parts about fantasy, travel, and being able to change ones mind. It's still a little inspecific, but when it comes to asking strangers what to do, this is about as good as it gets.

All this makes me even more want to start meeting with people to talk about a vision, a future, a life worth living. Maybe I'll start asking around, see if other people are interested in meeting once a week or so.

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Daily Optimism/Pessimism

It seems like more and more people in my age bracket are talking about a vision for out generation, something that's authentically different and authentically ours. As I was drifting off to sleep last night I entertained a breif fantasy of starting a simple discussion group, pulling in people with different skills and backgrounds, and doing some salon-style meetings to just get all the thinking out in the open. The notion kind of excites me.

We need something to hang our hats on, dammit. In case you hadn't heard the latest war news -- a telling bit of irony -- one of the only buildings being protected from looters in Baghdad is the Ministry of oil. From this Knight Ridder report:

At the Ministry of Oil, Marines had set up a machine gun and barbed wire to prevent further pillaging. A tank sat behind a steel fence. A handwritten sign next to a machine gun nest said "Looters Lane."

"Why do the Americans go to the Oil Ministry and not the hospital, not the college?" asked Khader Alias, 45, a musician. "They must do something. Believe me, all Iraqi people are not like this."

The Ministry of Industry burned as looters ran off with furniture.

Nice to see we've got our priorities straight. Congradulations liberated people! It's almost enough to make me feel like grumpy bear in this comic by my old friend Eric Murray, escept it's a real spring day and I had encredible brunch at Enids. It's remarkable how good the early brunch vibe is at that place in contrast to the snide hipster one-upmanship that reigns throughout the night. Little bohemian families with little bohemian cherubs, mismatched serving-ware, flowers on every table, copious coffee, good music and lots of freindly faces. Strawberry and Brie cheese pancakes...

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I kind of got a kick out of this religious cartoon. Of course, as a non-believer, I simply enjoy it for the comic value. Still, it's a larf. Got the link off of JT's site, which is back in action and long-winded as ever. Shazam!

For other lovely bite-sized media, try www.freedomads.org. Here's my favorite so far. Thanks to reader Paul Feine for sending the link. Great stuff! Seemlingly connected to the essay contest I linked to a while back.

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