Archive for July, 2007

  • Rob Spectre
  • 31
  • Jul
  • 07

MSNBC reports today that iTunes has sold its 3 billionth song. This new milestone makes Apple the third largest music retailer in the world, behind only Wal-mart and Best Buy. And, on top of it all, they are producing those huge numbers with a catalog that dwarfs all comers by many orders of magnitude for only a dollar a song.

What makes this earth shattering is that the team behind the iTunes Music Store numbers ~100 people. For reference, that means that the organization selling $3 billion in music over four years employs fewer people than Amoeba, Rasputin, or Newbury Comics.

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  • Reem Bazzari
  • 26
  • Jul
  • 07
This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Once and Future Homeland

My time in Jordan was a time during which I temporarily removed myself from my life. A time to just sit back and let the play continue; miss an act or two. In doing so, I became the actress and audience of the play that is the colony of Jordan.

You see at the end of World War I, the territory now comprising Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem was awarded to the United Kingdom by the League of Nations as the mandate called “Palestine Trans-Jordan.” In 1922, the British, with the League’s approval under the terms of the Mandate, partitioned Palestine at the Jordan River and established the semi-autonomous Emirate of Trans-Jordan in those territories to the east.

Because these and other Middle Eastern borders have been drawn up by European powers, that did not take into consideration people, old tribal boundaries and history. As such the Middle East’s present-day struggle for identity can be traced back to imperialism and colonialism. Therefore, in “countries” such as Iraq and Jordan, leaders of the new state were brought in from the outside, tailored to suit colonial interests and commitments.

The British installed the Hashemite Prince Abdullah I while continuing the administration of separate Palestine and Trans-Jordan under a common British High Commissioner. The mandate over Trans-Jordan ended on May 22, 1946; on May 25, the country became the independent Hashemite Kingdom of Trans-Jordan. It ended its special defense treaty relationship with the United Kingdom in 1957.

The installed leadership continued. The current king of Jordan, King Abdullah, was until lately a political unknown. But he was catapulted into the limelight when his father, King Hussein, pushed aside Abdullah’s uncle Hassan, who had been crown prince for thirty four years, to select him as successor in 1999. Educated in Britain and the United States, Abdullah faces the gap between the traditional Arab values of his citizens and his utterly westernized upbringing.

But this gap does not only exist between the king and his citizens, it is also apparent within the different social and economic classes and generations within the populace. In Amman, the younger generation is highly knowledgeable about the latest Hollywood trends, scandals and fashions. The more westernized fractions of society are enamored with Cosmopolitan, Starbucks, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, American Idol, sitcoms and reality shows. On the other end, people are disgusted with the western garbage broadcasted via satellite and the Internet and retreating deeper and deeper into a more religious lifestyle, rejecting more and more products of the West, equating democracy with reality shows and freedom with promiscuity.

In this state whose boundaries were so artificially drawn, there is a an evident identity struggle for the individuals and the population in general in trying to reinvent their historical roots after colonialism, not only by the British rule, but the Ottoman Empire prior to it as well.

This blind love affair with the West or complete rejection of it is the dilemma of developing national identity in the wake of colonial rule. People attempt to express and even celebrate their cultural identity, wanting to reclaim it from the colonizers, but at the same time seek to maintain a strong linkage with the culture of the ex-colonizer. The medium by which they attempt to find and celebrate an independent identity is an adopted western medium. For example, writing in the language of the colonizer. As a result of the struggle to even form an independent identity, there is a strong sense of inferiority to the West.

What’s different now? In this era of globalization, people do not have to travel to the West to be exposed to others. The West does not have to come as a colonizer to impose its culture or economic rule. What fits and what does not fit is adapted and very rapidly. There are more McDonald’s restaurants than mosques in every neighborhood. The Arab awkward versions of trashy reality shows mirrored by the awkward adaptation of fashion and pop culture. All this counter-parted by more extreme religiousness and unrealistic nostalgia to a secluded Arab world.

There must be something in the middle, an identity for this former colony to embrace and a new way of life to help people progress forward, not follow like sheep.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 22
  • Jul
  • 07

CNN files a slow news day item on the history of terrible haircuts.  Having possessed many of the masculine styles listed, I was delighted to be directed to a new finding in the history of my favorite one.

Having grown up in the Midwest, I had long believed that the modern mohawk had tribal beginnings.  How pleased was I to discover that the progenitors of this hairstyle were not Native American, but in fact Irish.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 17
  • Jul
  • 07

A recent poll by the Associated Press identifies the leading candidate in the Republican primary for the President of the United States as None of the Above.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 12
  • Jul
  • 07
This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Bender on the iPhone

A Mac hater is just too light a turn of phrase to descrbe my lifelong loathing for Apple computer. I was less their enemy and more their nemesis; I didn’t develop a dislike, I was born with it. There is a difference, I think, between preference and identity. Easy, proprietary, and incompatible, all the things that drove me to my first Linux PC were what drove me away from the former Apple Computer. Even that they were filthy with goddamn, dirty hippies was a tangental concern. I loathed their very *approach*. They called it “holistic,” combining software designed for very specific and proprietary hardware. They said they looked at the whole “experience.” I said that the Holocaust was an “experience.” The Armenian genocide was an “experience.” That in anything in this world when one guy is in control of the whole thing it can’t ever be good. To me, every Mac represented the tyranny of evil men and the shadows they cast were long as Alaskan days and inky black as Alaskan nights.

A little piece of who I was died when I walked in, the broken iPhone weeping in my pocket. I can’t detail a long drawn out story with the iPhone once I went to the Apple Store though. I can’t describe a convulted series of obstacles in order to render satisfaction vis a vis spending $600 on a busted cell phone. I didn’t even have to wait in a fucking line.

I showed up. I showed them the iPhone. They saw it was broken. And then, even though it was a full half hour after they were supposed to be closed, they told me to have a seat, have a Coke, and hang tight for a few minutes while they got me *another fucking one*. The customer experience of replacing an iPhone was as pure as child birth, twice as beautiful, and not even a little bit painful. I was only kicking myself for going to AT&T first.

So when Jon – the hippie that replaced my iPhone – smiled at me, I knew it wasn’t the joy of helping a man in need that caused him to grin the way he did. It was because he knew that I knew that every customer experience I’ve had from hamburgers to hotels to hockey games was completely and totally inferior to his. He knew the lies I had told myself to remain chaste in the face of temptation. And he knew in that moment that my lust for Apple would never once be satiated for so long as I live. He was a heroin dealer in the clothes of a hippie, and these rocks were half price to get you twice as high.

Ever since my iPhone has been a frightening crucial component of my everyday life. Setting up appointments in the calendar no longer a hokey fumbling with a stylus, but a casual flip that only those immediately near me in the meeting can notice. A mere three weeks into working in downtown San Francisco and I’ve navigated the better part of downtown without ever going home with aching feet. And, as opposed to every Windows Mobile or Palm or Blackberry based device I’ve ever used, I can answer the phone when my ma calls every goddamned time.

It’s not just that its the best phone on the planet right now. It’s the best phone that has ever or perhaps will ever exist. Journalists, bloggers, analysts, and pundits in the Post, Times, and Journal can talk about the hype or the battery or the phone plan or whatever the fuck they want. To me it is the mewling of the damned merrily cludging like blind retards through the hell of their electronic lives. In its very first try, Apple made a phone that gets every phone call anyone makes to my number.

They made a phone that fucking works. I’m just as unhappy as you are about it.

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