Archive for August, 2009

  • Robert Taylor
  • 31
  • Aug
  • 09

In the United States of Amnesia, the press follows cage-rattlers and free thinkers only for a brief moment, and when its agenda is no longer being served, they are discarded into the wasteland of yesterday’s news. Remember Cindy Sheehan? After losing her son in the early stages of the US occupation of Iraq, she became one of the most outspoken critics of the war and of the US empire in general. A thorn in the right-wing militarists’ sides, she gazed inside our Boy Emperors’ suit, found it empty, and tirelessly defied the Pentagon’s global hegemony.

Sheehan, with courageous consistency, continues to speak out against US imperialism in the Middle East (and elsewhere) despite the new hope-and-change in the Oval Office. When President Obama began his vacation last weekend at Martha’s Vineyard, Sheehan planned to travel to the President’s safe haven and protest the Air Force killing machines that still buzz day and night over Iraq and Afghanistan.

But things are different now; a “historic” President is now doing the missile-lobbing. When asked about her protest plans on a radio program, ABC anchor Charles Gibson had simple advice for Sheehan: “enough already.” Their guy is in charge now, and her racket only stands in the way of the American media’s long and noble history of serving whatever regime happens to be in charge.

Gibson’s comment is especially ironic considering how he treated Sheehan just four years ago:

On August 9, 2005, the ABC anchor conducted an extensive on-air interview with Sheehan. ‘Cindy Sheehan is her name,’ Gibson began. ‘She says she’s not moving until the President meets with her, and I had a chance to speak with her a few minutes ago. Cindy Sheehan, bottom line, what do you hope to accomplish with all this?’

During the next week, Gibson and ABC continued to cover Sheehan. On August 17, 2005, when Sheehan left Crawford, Gibson reported, ‘We’re going to turn next to the standoff that is playing out near President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. Cindy Sheehan, you know, the mother who lost a son in Iraq, is now on the move, but she’s still standing her ground.’ ABC’s Geoff Morrell is in Crawford with the details…” The next day, Gibson reported, ‘All across the country last night, people held candlelight vigils in support of Cindy Sheehan…’

From candlelight vigils to the wasteland of amnesia.

The vitriol aimed at Sheehan isn’t just coming from nauseating news anchors like Gibson, but from people she calls allies. The “progressives” and the “peaceniks” have labeled her an “attention whore,” wishing her “good riddance” from the public eye.

The silencing of Sheehan is revealing more and more about Bush’s former opposition. During the last eight years, libertarians were tempted to break bread with the Left on a common cause: peace and opposition to empire. But as the pendulum of power swings back to their side, liberal criticism of Obama’s militaristic foreign policy is nearly absent, and in the case of groups like VoteVets, have their fists furiously beating the war drums in unison.

Despite this broken alliance, Sheehan and the always entertaining Code Pink will continue to rattle the cages of the US war machine, with numerous protests planned for this Fall.

Cindy Sheehan is an intellectual hero, someone who refuses to sell her soul to the current party in power, who can always be counted on to tell the truth, like it or not. Despite my many political differences with her, America needs Cindy Sheehan back in the public eye.

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Just Press Play

  • Rob Spectre
  • 30
  • Aug
  • 09

This week’s episode captures an awkward evening with a crew of nerds as they brave that critical component of the American bachelor’s party: the strip club.

 

Just Press Play

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  • Daniel Austin
  • 30
  • Aug
  • 09
This entry is part 24 of 40 in the series The (d)SP0T

Last week I picked up a Loreo 3D lens in a cap to play around with some stereoscopy.  The lens is pretty much a toy, but like all good toys it’s proving to be very fun.  Stereoscopy puts that missing dimension back into photographs and with it an additional aspect of realism.  I will be posting a lot of resources and information over at Protanoptic.com relating to this technique, so head on over if you’re interested in learning some more.

The following images are parallel can be viewed in 3d by relaxing your eyes and letting them drift as if you’re looking beyond the picture.

Golden Blake Bridge

Big Bug Small Bug

Over and Under

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 29
  • Aug
  • 09

“Lollapalooza killed rock and roll!” the hipster cried, clutching her soy mocha in one hand and her ironic Betty Page sunglasses in the other.  Seemingly oblivious to her own role in its demise, her entreaty was an overture to the soap opera that would follow, detailing how Perry Ferrell unintentionally destroyed the work of Paul Westerberg by creating the festival show as a commercial juggernaut.

With its $4 bottles of water and $12 20 ounce beers, she argued, Lollapalooza turned rock and roll into a cinema megaplex offering an ever more absurd number of screens while attaching obscene concession stands on their hips. She said that the poor outdoors sound makes it impossible for the true music lover to appreciate the performance and the increasingly prohibitive expense conflicts fundamentally with the ideals of rock.  And most damningly, she said, it makes it impossible to see one’s favorite bands individually between July and September, as they have now been sucked into all the offshoots that sprung from Lollapalooza’s trailblazing.

The lumbering circuses that followed Ferrell’s brainchild including Lilith Fair, Family Values, Taste of Chaos, Warped, Ozzfest and the dozen regional festivals like The Bamboozle, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Coachella, SXSW, and this weekend’s contribution to the genre in San Francisco Outside Lands were abominations of commercialism, she argued.  The experience of a festival show was always inferior to seeing your favorite band headline a club show and the true aficionado should never accept anything less.

Though I’m not the first, I stand in wholehearted defense of the festival show.  Yes, the hotdogs are shitty and expensive and yes good beer is hard to come by.  The sound is always shitty no matter what festival it is and the pure experience of appreciating a live performance is undoubtedly diluted.  And, what she didn’t observe in her tirade, is that the performers never have the same compelling delivery at a festival that they do at their own shows.

But there are more than a few reasons to get up at the crack of noon to go to an Outside Lands over one’s favorite music hall.

1) Curation

Every promoter for these festivals finds a way to insert their personal taste into the lineup.  Obviously, they are wont to commit cardinal sin in the pursuit of profit, but they always manage to fit surprises that one would never find on one’s own.

I first heard Teddybears at Coachella.  I found The A.K.A.s at Warped.  I picked up my first Sage Francis record from the back of a car at a WBRU Birthday Bash.  All now near-daily spins on any playlist on any of my devices, I never would have made it out to their shows when they came through town.  The gold nuggets promoters sprinkle in their lineups are easily the best part of festival shows.

2) Collaboration

One of my favorite memories of Rage Against The Machine’s reunion was actually outside their performance when Tom Morello, Perry Ferrell and The Coup’s Boots Riley getting together for a stirring rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Our Land.”  A few years later Riley and Morello would form Street Sweeper Social Club, a music project whose genesis those in attendance at Coachella got to witness with an American standard on acoustic guitar.

Festivals are the only spots we mere mortals get to see our favorite bands join one another in onstage for some spontaneous merrymaking.

3) Concentration

Only when having that many bands in one place can one efficiently find the trends that will define the next year’s releases.  Always filthy with industry employees and press, the trickle of news one gains at club shows is a river of valuable intel at a festival show.  Somebody at these things know when the next hot record is going to drop or when the next band is likely to break up.

For those of us who live for knowing what’s next, the festival is an irresistible font.

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  • Rob Spectre
  • 27
  • Aug
  • 09

Occupation sews itself into the cultural tapestry of the conquered in disquieting ways.  The national anthems of several African nations are set to traditional French folk tunes.  German silverware can be found in the kitchen drawers of many elderly Polish homes.  One can find a Roman dildo in the National Museum of Ireland.

A forceful penetration that damages more than just a nation’s military might, occupation leaves an impact that endures longer than shattered concrete and pockmarked countryside.  From Carthage to Germania, from Persia to the New World, the after effects of imperialism live long even after the empire dies.  In the music and in the paintings, in the language and in the customs, occupation irrevocably changes the cultural production of the occupied, altering forever even the smallest parts of identity.  One can see it in Anglicanized names and in Catholicized tribes, in the Communized Asia and the Capitalized Middle East.  Every time one sees a picture of a Native American drinking whiskey or an Irishman in a redcoat or a Vietnamese teenager wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt or a bedouin driving a sportscar, one is seeing the real damage of occupation.  The destruction of culture endures far longer that the capture of territory.

So it was suggested by Desmond Tutu in an interview today with Haaretz. Tutu, responding to comments by the newly recrowned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, suggested that the culture of Judaism was damaged by Nazi occupation, so much so they were committing the sins of the former occupiers themselves.

The West was consumed with guilt and regret toward Israel because of the Holocaust, as it should be.  But who pays the penance? The penance is being paid by the Arabs, by the Palestinians.

I once met a German ambassador who said Germany is guilty of two wrongs. One was what they did to the Jews. And now the suffering of the Palestinians.

The South African archbishop – who should know a thing or two about the damage occupation does – is suggesting that three generations after Israel’s independence the Jewish people are endanger of becoming the tragedy that birthed their nation.  That the horror visited upon their society so damaged their culture that it has become one that has forgotten its morality.  And, in some respects, Tutu is close to being accurate.

But the Israelis are not Nazis and the Palestinians are not Poles.  The tragedies people choose as synonyms for the Palestinian plight are all inaccurate in the sense that they suggest domination, not subjugation.  What makes the Palestinian people so singular in the history of occupation, what makes theirs a beauty unique to the stunning array offered by Arabia is their indefatigability.  How they remain a people occupied, but unconquered.

Just below an article describing Tutu’s interview was a daily reminder of this truth, a dispatch from an NGO working in the West Bank.  USAID, an international aid organization, announced Palestinians were undertaking a four-year, $20 million project to replace all the Hebrew road signs with those reading Arabic and English.  American funded and already underway, the effort is one of little practical value, but huge cultural import.  With Gaza still buried under rubble, a hostile right-wing government stealing the Israeli Knesset, and an Obama administration seemingly preoccupied with domestic concerns, $20 million on road signs seems like a misappropriation by the wildly optimistic.  More now than in the last decade, Palestinian sovereignty seems unlikely and with such suffering throughout the country, surely that sum could be used to better ends.

But then, you have to understand Palestine.  Their Nakba is far from over and those that occupy them are far from leaving.  But, these Palestinians resolve, they will one day.  One day they will have their nation back.  One day they will begin to rebuild what their occupiers have destroyed.

And, they figure, they might as well start with the signs.

he West was consumed with guilt and regret toward Israel because of the Holocaust, “as it should be.”

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“But who pays the penance? The penance is being paid by the Arabs, by the Palestinians. I once met a German ambassador who said Germany is guilty of two wrongs. One was what they did to the Jews. And now the suffering of the Palestinians.

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