Tuesday, September 28, 2004

War Games Conference 

So this week I was invited up to UMaine Orono to hang out with some of the artists that were participating in the War Games conference that the New Media Department put together. The whole thing was great, so I figured I'd let you know about some of the projects I saw:

Ruth Catlow, Three Player Chess, which is actually different from the variant that most chess players know as "three player chess". I prefer calling her version "pacifist chess", but that kind of screws it up when you try to convince your non-political, liberal-hating chess buddies to participate in what is really a pretty awesome game. The rules are as follows: traditional chess board, but you need a coin and a piece of paper. Every turn, white and black flip the coin- heads, they go, as usual, but they can't move their pawns, just nobles. If tails, the third player gets to move a pawn of their color, with the intent of blocking either side from taking any other pieces. For every turn that goes by without any "bloodshed", the pawns player gets a point, and at every five points they get a safe tuft. I've played it a few times, it's fun and ridiculously illuminating. You can play it online, too, here.

Alex Galloway wrote an essay highlighting the differences between American kids who play war games and are far removed from war, as opposed to the gaming cultures of societies like Palestine, where war is right outside- and how war games manufactured by Hamas where you take Israelis hostage are more or less the same as "counter strike" except for context. It's a great essay but you can't read it because it isn't online.

Anne Marie Schleiner is one of the minds behind Velvet Strike, where you can download "intervention recipes"- strategies for disrupting online war games, particularly counter strike. One recipe: During the battle, tell everyone you are martyrs for peace, then jump off the tallest structure in the level, killing yourselves. Rulz0r. You can also download custom sprays for the game, to get the message out.

John Klima designed The Great Game, which is a video game representation of the daily ins and outs of the war in Afghanistan.

Lastly, I heart Mary Flanagan. She created The Adventures of Josie True, a web-based historical adventure game for girls. The hero of the game is Chinese-American Josie True, a regular girl who becomes involved in intrigue across time and space as she tries to find her inventor-turned-teacher Ms. Trombone. She time travels with one of Ms. Trombone's inventions, the Intellicat ™.

Here is Mary Flanagan's dog.

The Daily Show is Brain Comedy 

Anyone see the new poll that says viewers of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart were more educated on political and international issues than people who didn't watch the Daily Show?

"In recent years, traditional journalists have been voicing increasing concern that if young people are receiving political information from late-night comedy shows like The Daily Show, they may not be adequately informed on the issues of the day," said Dannagal Goldthwaite Young, a senior analyst at the Annenberg Public Policy Center who conducted the research. "This data suggests that these fears may be unsubstantiated. We find no differences in campaign knowledge between young people who watch Leno and Letterman – programs with a lot of political humor in their opening monologues -- and those who do not watch late night. But when looking at young people who watch The Daily Show, we find they score higher on campaign knowledge than young people who do not watch the show, even when education, following politics, party identification, gender, viewing network news, reading the newspaper, watching cable news and getting campaign information on-line are taken into account."

If you don't have cable, here's some of what you're missing:

JON STEWART: Well Stephen, what do you think is going to happen now at CBS News?

STEPHEN COLBERT: Jon, there's got to be some accountability. Dan Rather is the head, the commander in chief, if you will, of his organization. He's someone in the ultimate position of power who made a harmful decision based upon questionable evidence. Then, to make things worse, he stubbornly refused to admit his mistake, choosing instead to stay the course and essentially "occupy" this story for too long. This man has got to go!

STEWART: Uh ... we're talking about Dan Rather...?

COLBERT: Yes Jon, Dan Rather. CBS is in chaos, it's unsafe, riven by internal rivalries. If you ask me, respected, reputable outsiders need to be brought in to help the rebuilding effort.

STEWART: ... at CBS News?

COLBERT: Yeah, at CBS news! What possible other unrelated situation could my words be equally applicable to?! Now people need to be held accountable. The commander in chief, the vice president, the secretary of defense, the national security adviser -- everyone at CBS News needs to go!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Chris Lydon 

Chris Lydon gives us what we need: an analysis of the Kerry debate history, and the reassurance that maybe truth wins over swagger- and that John Kerry might, actually, be a half decent candidate after all.

The Young Kids 

I don't know who they hired to write the art stuff in the NYTimes, but my guess is that they got started at the Onion, or at least McSweeneys...anyway, this is about a four year old.

"I think Marla is as gifted as any child I've ever seen," said Anthony Brunelli, the Fine Arts gallery owner in Binghamton, who is displaying Marla's work. "I don't think she's aware of what she's doing. I think it comes from within."

Marla uses bright acrylic paints, which she brushes, splatters and scrapes on large canvases to create art that commands attention. She sometimes works on one piece for days at a time. When she decides she is finished, she gives her paintings titles like "Dinosaur," or something reminiscent of a bedtime monster. Then she leaves the grown-ups to see images and meaning. [...]

This spring, a friend of Mr. Brunelli's bought one, and brought it to him at the Fine Arts gallery. Mr. Brunelli is a painter whose photorealistic works are displayed in SoHo. He was drawn to Marla's work. He and his friend stared at it like children staring at clouds, seeing flamenco dancers and their vivid movements on the canvas.

Then the friend told him the artist was a toddler. "I admit I was a little skeptical at first," Mr. Brunelli said. He discovered Marla's father was his high school classmate. A week later, he visited the family, scrutinized more of Marla's work and watched a video of her painting. He bought one for himself and gave up his August vacation so he could organize her show.

"When I'm in Marla's presence, there's a weird little feeling 'cause I know there's something inside this girl that many artists look for their whole lives and never have," Mr. Brunelli said. "But it's in this little 4-year-old."

Sunday, September 26, 2004


An interesting graph of Bush's opinion polls since he was appointed into the Presidency. (It's a bit confusing, but "0" is actually "50% approval.") For all the bellyaching about slim chances for this election to be the one that takes him out- myself included- it shows some interesting info. For one, the bouncing ball element of the Bush popularity chart- it bounced highest in 2001 after a terrorist attack killed 3000 people while he was reading a children's book, then dribbled down, but stayed high, until it bounced again when we went to war for no reason against a nation that would kill over 1000 of our soldiers for a goal the CIA says is unobtainable. Then it started dribbling down again, getting to a lower peak but then bouncing again after we caught Saddam Hussein, the man who had nothing to do with 9/11 and wasn't controlling the Iraqi Insurgency. Then it dropped, and then came Abu Ghraib, which was similar to all the other warmongering atrocities that happened under Bush's rule except that it involved sexual themes of gay rape- which totally took the president down, lower than he had ever been, until he got on a podium and talked about "ownership society" and the rights of OBGYN's and oh yeah, a bunch of people died when he was supposed to be in charge of America's safety but he looked real tough afterwards so...

The numbers went back up. The thing is, the most recent two "bounces" weren't any higher than before 9/11, meaning that the 9/11 factor is kind of out of the picture now, really. Also, all of his peaks start significant drops within two months- which means that, if all goes according to tradition, the Bush bounce will dip the lowest it ever has by just around election time.

Of course, I can't be the only guy in America who noticed this, so I am sure Rove and co will cook something up- following tradition, when a lot of people get killed, Bush's approval goes up, when gay rape happens, his approval goes down, with a cycle shift (a new peak) every 9 months. So, you can expect some bombs to drop by...drum roll, please- October!

Ready, set...

You Have Got To Be Kidding Me 

CBS News said yesterday that it had postponed a "60 Minutes" segment that questioned Bush administration rationales for going to war in Iraq. The announcement, in a statement by a spokeswoman, was issued four days after the network acknowledged that it could not prove the authenticity of documents it used to raise new questions about President Bush's Vietnam-era military service.

The Iraq segment had been ready for broadcast on Sept. 8, CBS said, but was bumped at the last minute for the segment on Mr. Bush's National Guard service. The Guard segment was considered a highly competitive report, one that other journalists were pursuing. CBS said last night that the report on the war would not run before Nov. 2.

"We now believe it would be inappropriate to air the report so close to the presidential election," the spokeswoman, Kelli Edwards, said in a statement.
- NYTimes

Completely scary. Like, horrifying. Go tell CBS what you think of them, here.

[c/o Americablog]

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Bush at the UN 

We did not expect President Bush to come before the United Nations in the middle of his re-election campaign and acknowledge the serious mistakes his administration has made on Iraq. But that still left plenty of room for him to take advantage of this one last chance to appeal to an increasingly antagonistic world to help the Iraqis secure and rebuild their shattered nation and prepare for elections in just four months. Instead, Mr. Bush delivered an inexplicably defiant campaign speech in which he glossed over the current dire situation in Iraq for an audience acutely aware of the true state of affairs, and scolded them for refusing to endorse the American invasion in the first place. NYTimes

Froomkin has a gem from Bushies speech:

"We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace," Bush said.

Peace Plane 

You may have heard that the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens was pulled off of a plane in Bangor after the FBI wigged out. You might have thought this was a sort of ironic mistake resulting in our policy of targeting people who have changed their name to Yusaf Islam and grew a beard. But no.

"Yusuf Islam has been placed on the watch lists because of activities that could potentially be related to terrorism," Doyle said. "It's a serious matter."

A second government official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said U.S. authorities think donations from Islam may have ended up helping to fund blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, convicted for a plot to bomb New York City landmarks, and Hamas, a Palestinian militant group considered a terrorist organization by the United States.
- AP

I Must Be Doing Something Right 

The Bushmaster Firearm's Discussion Forum, or whatever, has decided that I am "Rabid", which is kind of funny, considering how I've been agreeing with the right on more issues than usual this week.

I came out against gun control, except for weapons that kill everyone on the planet at once, which I assumed was a safe call. I called for Dan Rather's resignation and I called John Kerry a bullshitter. I even- no shit- considered joining the NRA.

I'm relieved I still get pegged as rabid when I felt like I was maybe selling out.

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Products of Bulls and Horses 

I agree with the shit-stained monkeys on one count: I think Rather should resign. It doesn't matter whether it was an "honest mistake" or not. That's the rules you play by when you do the news gig. You live and die by accuracy, and in matters related to national security (which this election is) then a lot more of us can live and die by your accuracy, as well- in this case, the newfound association of "Bush" with "The Media Lies" has all but delivered Bush the election because it colors how receptive individuals are to statements like "The War In Iraq is going better than you might think." No one is going to vote for or against based on this crap, but it affects the degree to which Bush can get away with any varying degree of his horseshit on any varying degree of his horseshit subjects he wants to trick people with.

So Rather should resign, and should wallow in the full disgrace he's earned as a reporter who got bullshitted and caused me to get bullshitted. I am sick of being bullshitted. I get bullshitted by the government and now by the media. I get bullshitted by Bush and I get bullshitted by Kerry.

New rule: If I get bullshitted, you resign. Can everyone sign that pledge? I'll vote for them, whoever signs that first.

Ah, Fuck. 

So I guess George W Bush is totally an awesome guy who has a great soul and vital spirit of statesmanship alive and well in his heart, because Dan Rather and CBS admitted that they fucked it all up.

So I guess I have to vote Republican now, because George W Bush has secretly been totally awesome and I just didn't know about it because all the documents were forged. All those fucking republican bloggers get to gloat about how the country will now turn to total shit faster because the Bush memos were discredited.

Fuckin' fuck. I guess maybe Bush is actually a war hero now.

I was duped, but it is nothing compared to the level of duped that the entire nation underwent under this president, and there is something horribly nauseating about being exposed as a sucker by people who are voting for George Bush. It's like a chimpanzee laughing at you for stepping in shit while he's smearing it all over himself.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The French Are Smarter Than Us 

You mean the Bushies are against an international tax that helps poor people? Maybe if we told them that it was proposed by the French?

The 150-page study drafted by the working group of experts is aimed at advancing efforts to reduce the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by half between now and 2015, consistent with goals the United Nations adopted in 2000. Their document suggests that a tax could be imposed on greenhouse gas emissions as well as certain financial transactions, arms sales or multinational corporations.

Globalized Taxes for a Global Economy? Yeah, that totally makes no sense. Why should gun manufacturers have to pay to support the poor third world people that their clients are oppressing? That's like taxing McDonald's to cover the health care threat that their food poses, or charging corporations for the pollution they create...

Louisiana Bans Gay Marriage 

Not that I'd expect any southern state to give the ok to gay marriage, but here's something a little funny:

Many New Orleans voters were unable to cast ballots for [six] hours Saturday on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage because voting machines had not been delivered to polling places, a state official said. - AP

Gee, do you think there are any homosexuals in New Orleans?

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Two Ebays 

John Edwards poked fun yesterday at Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that economic indicators do not measure the financial gains of Americans selling items on eBay, the online auction service. "He said people are selling a lot of stuff on eBay. When we count the bake sales and lemonade stands, we'll have a roaring economy," Edwards told a union hall rally. - Boston Globe

Quick! They're On To Us! 

In the NYTimes:

Campaign mail with a return address of the Republican National Committee warns West Virginia voters that the Bible will be prohibited and men will marry men if liberals win in November. The literature shows a Bible with the word "BANNED" across it and a photo of a man, on his knees, placing a ring on the hand of another man with the word "ALLOWED." The mailing tells West Virginians to "vote Republican to protect our families" and defeat the "liberal agenda."

Gay marriage is a good start, but I think I speak for all liberals when I say that I will not be happy until dogs can marry genetically altered half goat, half human stem cells in a Catholic Church, right before we close the church down and send all its money to communist Islamic training camps for home schooled children who were deemed to have "too many values" just before we tell them there is no Santa Claus, just Hillary Clinton.

The Fought Fallacy 

In the comments regarding the last post, "John G Fought" provides an interesting argument: since you and I are alive, assault weapons were clearly not a problem. I imagine that this logic also applies to suicide, cancer, and international terrorism? Of course, the guns have been banned- no doubt helping us with the whole "still alive" part, but also, there are people who are not alive as a result of semiautomatic weapons:

1. On January 17, 1989, Patrick Purdy killed 5 small children and wounded 29 others and a teacher at the Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California, using a semiautomatic AK-47 assault rifle imported from China. That weapon had been purchased from a gun dealer in Oregon and was equipped with a 75-round "drum" magazine. Purdy shot 106 rounds in less than 2 minutes.

2. On January 25, 1993, Pakistani national Mir Aimal Kasi killed 2 CIA employees and wounded 3 others outside the entrance to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Kasi used a Chinese-made semiautomatic AK-47 assault rifle equipped with a 30-round magazine purchased from a Northern Virginia gun store.

3. On February 28, 1993, while attempting to serve federal search and arrest warrants at the Branch-Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, four ATF special agents were killed and 16 others were wounded with an arsenal of assault weapons. According to a federal affidavit, the cult had accumulated at least the following assault weapons: 123 AR-15s, 44 AK-47s, 2 Barrett .50 calibers, 2 Street Sweepers, an unknown number of MAC-10 and MAC-11s, 20 100-round drum magazines, and 260 large-capacity banana clips. The weapons were bought legally from gun dealers and at gun shows.

4. In Manassas, VA, July 24, 1988, Five Manassas City police officers responded to a call about shots being fired in a quiet Washington, DC suburb. The gunman, armed with an AR-15 assault weapon, opened fire on Sergeant John D. Connors III, hitting him in the head, chest, arm, and leg. He became the first officer killed in the line of duty in the department's 113 year history.

5. In Los Angeles, CA, on September 3, 1988, Los Angeles Police Officer Daniel Pratt was following a vehicle suspected to have been involved in an earlier drive-by shooting when approximately 30 rounds were fired at his police car by gang members armed with an AR-15. Pratt was shot in the face and pronounced dead at the hospital.

6. In Dallas, TX, on December 13, 1988, a 17-year veteran senior corporal with the Dallas Police Department was killed while making an undercover cocaine purchase. The officer was killed when the assailant pulled a TEC-9 assault pistol from under his coat and fired seven shots.

7. In Dayton, OH, on March 21, 1991, a 15 year veteran of the Dayton police force, William "Steve" Whalen, was shot and killed by a mentally ill man armed with an AR-15. The deranged suspect had been pursued by two officers for firing shots at a local motel. Upon being pulled over, the suspect sprayed the officers with fire, killing Whalen.

8. In Northridge, CA, on February 22, 1994, Officer Christy Lynne Hamilton of the Los Angeles Police Department was gunned down with an AR-15 assault rifle by a teenager who had already used the gun to kill his father. Officer Hamilton graduated from the Police Academy three days prior to the shooting.

The next argument in the NRA handbook is that criminals and terrorists are capable of getting guns anyway, making a ban "legislative recreation". This isn't supported by the facts: Murder rates dropped 20% the year following the ban. 4,077 assault weapon traces in 1994 to 3,268 in 1995. So, that is 800 people alive today as a result of the ban.

But all of this is besides the point- I am not a full disarmament kind of guy. I think guns are an important reminder to people of the fact that liberty can be dangerous, which, in an ideal world, reminds people to be responsible with what it is that liberty affords them. I make my comments merely to say how odd it is that Bush can put out something so opposite of libertarian principles as the Patriot Act and yet still have no mention of assault rifles. These weapons are, themselves, an abuse of liberty, a completely irresponsible concoction of death and uselessness that are being handed out like subpoenas at a Bush rally.

I challenge anyone to give me one valid reason why the assault weapons ban is not appropriate. I won't take the constitutionally protected freedom route, either, because I do not believe that constitutional freedoms would go so far as to protect all kinds of weapons that could ever be devised in a form roughly approximating a musket. If a nuclear powered nanotechnologically advanced radiation gun was devised that could destroy four city blocks but it looked like a glock, I can't say that the NRA wouldn't embrace that shit. Let's get serious, people.

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