November 23, 2004
Most accounts I've heard of the genocide in Rwanda include at least one mention of Paul Rusesabagina, a Kigali hotel owner whose derring-do saved hundreds from the slaughter. If you haven't heard his story, Philip Gourevitch tells it in this excellent episode of This American Life (it's the third story, and starts about 38 minutes in). Basically, Rusesabagina uses three unlikely weapons -- liquor, influence, and the telephone -- in his battle against the unthinkable. But he employs a wonderful savvy and a knack for misdirection. "I think the key thing about Paul," Gourevitch says, "is his instinct that everything is negotiable."
Paul's story, and (I hope) the story of the genocide, will be told in theaters for the first time next month, with Don Cheadle in the main role. The main site is awful, but it's got clips from the film (hint: to turn off the music, click the microscopic text in the upper-right corner), and offers an excellent repository of links about the tragedy that I hadn't seen (like this page, where you can hear an incomprehensible-but-nevertheless-chilling sample of the RTLNM radio network, the chief instrument the killers used to incite the genocide).
Whither the Liberal Arts? (Plus An MSU Shout-Out)
Cool article in the BoGlo's Ideas section about the fate of the liberal arts education.
Indeed, if you look at the humanities today, there is considerable excitement and growth at places that don't look or feel anything like Dartmouth or Harvard or MIT, for that matter. Michael Bub, for example, a star in literary studies and a leader in the field of disability studies, is based at Penn State University the kind of place that Gaita might say isn't hospitable to serious scholars because it offers degrees in a range of decidedly non-liberal-arts fields. Or look at the development of a serious philosophy program at Texas A&M University, or at how H-NET, a series of websites and Internet-discussion groups created by Michigan State University, has created "communities of scholars" across the humanities and social sciences, and around the world.
"Garbage is garbage," Menand said, "but the history of garbage can be scholarship."
Where is the Xbox's Pauline Kael?
Terra Nova is with me: There's not enough video game criticism.
This last graf is interesting, if convoluted:
But it's an interesting cart-and-horse problem. Do you get a compelling and widespread form of mainstream games criticism only when the demographic of a national population that plays games becomes less isolated, or could the commitment of journalistic resources to developing a games criticism that matches the breadth, relative depth or resource base of film criticism help to write games more visibly into national narratives of popular culture, in line with their economic significance?
I recall someone telling me recently -- who was it? -- that film writing began a lot earlier than we generally realize. Even back in the silent film era, in the earliest part of this century, people were publishing little newsletters with film synopses and recommendations.
And I guess that's about equivalent to the video game journalism we have today... jeez, are we only in the silent film era of video games? Is that heartening or scary?
If Halo 2 is like The Jazz Singer, what's the video game Citizen Kane going to be like? Or Star Wars? Dang!
*Note the absence of quote marks or italics around any of the movie or video game titles. I've decided I'm done with that junk. It's all plain capitalization from here on out. I know you were wondering.
November 21, 2004
I'd Hug Dat
This is the kind of sharp focus and fun utility that all blogs (except, of course, this one) should aspire to:
TreeHugger is the definitive modern-yet-green lifestyle filter. It will help you improve your course, yet still maintain your aesthetic.
So basically it's a blog of stuff that is both a) environmentally responsible, and b) cool. And if you think that is a product category limited to recycled coasters and hemp necklaces, then you must click the above link immediately.
(P.S. Hemp necklaces are not cool. Dork.)
I love TreeHugger's unabashedly commercial sensibility: "Consumers also rely on the directory to help facilitate their buying processes." And they have helpful categories for gifts under $100, gifts under $50, etc.
November 19, 2004
What To Do Over the Thanksgiving Holiday
Step 1. Make sure you own an iPod (or iPod-like device) and iTunes.
Step 2. Download iPodder.
Step 4. Let iPodder sync while you sleep. It downloads the e-funk straight to your iPod.
Step 5. Dance... dance... dance!
November 18, 2004
Matt and I had planned to build a full-blown website around a souped-up version of our Googlezon presentation (you know, the one that masquerades as a transmission from the Museum of Media History circa 2014).
Buuut it didn't look like that was going to happen anytime soon, so we decided to just go ahead and release our eight-minute Flash opus into the world.
Not ideal, as it's basically without context and therefore somewhat weird, but hey! Let's see how it fares in the howling chaos of the web.
Here it is: the Googly future of news. (Note: updated link... file has moved as EPIC madness washes over the Internet in a great flood of dread and wonder.)
Watch it spread on Technorati.
November 16, 2004
An End to Objecto-droids
Let me get a few things out on the table before we start:
1. I wanted Kerry to win. Badly.
2. I am a journalist.
3. I have been a journalist for a month.
4. I couldn't tell anyone about #1 because of #2, and I don't know why because of #3.
Read on -- it's sharply composed.
He wraps up with a smart point that I think not enough people have been making re: journalism and bias: False objectivity is dehumanizing. And people don't like to talk to non-humans. They'd much rather have a normal conversation with a normal person with normal beliefs. So I think there's a real journalistic benefit to being straight with people -- and hey, if being straight means you can't do your job, then maybe you should get a new one. How 'bout that!
(Link via the hip, happenin' LauraFries.com.)
November 8, 2004
Walk of Electoral Shame
The Country is bound for one LONG walk of shame. America, the once beautiful, is slowly making its way back to its apartment, still wearing last night's clothes. The country has sex hair, and can taste its own breath.
Parental advisory -- exteme lyrics, visceral imagery, rank partisanship, &c.
Arrrr! There's a Bounty on This Software!
Ransom is a software publishing model where the rights to the source code remain restricted until a set amount of money is collected or a set date passes, at which point the code is automatically freed under an OSI/FSF-approved license.
(Red Ferret for President.)
November 6, 2004
My Name Suggestion: 'Da Internet Boyz'
The New York Times this morning has a story about the successful emo/electronica project called Postal Service and their relationship with... the United States Postal Service.
The legend of the project, recounted in this story, is that Jimmy Tamborello and Ben Gibbard sent tracks back and forth in the mail to make the album. Thus the name. Huge commercial success ensues.
But then apparently the USPS was like, "Yo dudes, you can't just call yourselves Postal Service, 'cause that's us" and Tamborello/Gibbard were like, "But we will use our indie mojo to promote the USPS," and everything was settled.
But hold on: They sent tracks back and forth in the mail? Haven't these dudes ever heard of a certain global web of interconnected computers? This just makes no sense:
[Tamborello] noted that the regular mail is inexpensive and easy to use, and that packages containing their working discs arrived in a couple of days, a comfortable margin for their unhurried schedule - although when finishing the album, they did use Federal Express a couple of times.
"Just to get it back and forth as quick as possible," he said. "It saved a day."
Yeah, you know what's even faster than FedEx? THE INTERNET.
I mean, Postal Service's skittery beats and mellow tones were clearly engineered on Tamborello's Powerbook... are you telling me he couldn't just download an FTP program and get wit' the 21st century? AIM file transfer, anyone?
Anyway, whatever. It's weird. I'm going to go buy some donuts now.
November 5, 2004
Enough electoral maps! Go look at some cool concept cars designed by teenagers!
November 4, 2004
Sad, Beautiful Map
Let There Be Light
Well, I think this page basically shows that everyone with electricity voted for Kerry.
Ooh, so maybe that's why the Democratic candidates are always pushing for alternative energy? More porch-lights = more progressives!
Okay, this probably didn't deserve to be an entire post.
November 3, 2004
What Happens Now?
Kevin Drum nailed it, I think. Scandal earns the day. History, the President's first term, and the current political dynamic are brimming with evidence for this, as Drum points out:
Consider the highlight reel of reelected presidents over the past 50 years. Ike won a second term and watched in dismay as his chief of staff was forced to resign over a vicuņa coat. Richard Nixon buried George McGovern in 1972 and then resigned a year and a half later when Watergate finally caught up to him. Ronald Reagan sweated out his second term wondering if he'd be impeached over Iran-Contra. Bill Clinton didn't have to wonder: Two years after his reelection, he was defending himself in the first impeachment trial in over a century. ...
Second, there's the problem that second terms are, well, second terms. It takes more than two or three years for a serious scandal to unfold, and problems that start to surface midway through a president's first term usually reach critical mass midway through his second term, a phenomenon that shrewd political observer Kevin Phillips calls "the sixth-year itch." It's like a political SAT: What's the next year in the series 1958, 1974, 1986, 1998?
You don't have to be a math whiz to know that 2006 is the next stop. And once again, George Bush is especially vulnerable to this since his first term already has several good candidates for scandals waiting to flower. Take your pick: Valerie Plame? The National Guard? Abu Ghraib? Intelligence failures? Or maybe something that hasn't really crossed anybody's radar screen yet, sort of like the "third-rate burglary" at the Watergate Hotel that no one took seriously in 1972.
I don't expect the scandals will do much more than papercut the President himself, after all, the biggest head anyone's expecting to roll in the Valerie Plame incident is Scooter Libby, if any head rolls at all.
I half expect everything else but the Supreme Court to be pretty calm, nothing tremendously catastrophic or exhilarating in the near-term. Of course, several countries could change things drastically on the foreign policy front. More speculation tomorrow. Bed for now.
Four More Years
OK, it's essentially official. Even if, by some miracle, legal battles in Ohio throw the outcome of the election into question, President Bush will remain President Bush until the year 2008. Half the networks have called Ohio for Bush, enshrining him as the victor in the sleepy minds of many. And as my one true love, the Supreme Court, informed us in 2000, we mustn't disturb our fragile national psyche with silly questions of absentee whozits or civil rightamajiggies or provisional whatnots. If the people think Bush won, he won.
And they do, so he did.
I had expected this outcome long ago, but there's one disappointment I wasn't numb to. Justice Rehnquist. The evidence suggests his thyroid cancer is fatal. I can't imagine he'll be returning to the Court for any real tenure. Sure, he'd love to attend to his legacy, but you know, can't cheat death and taxes 'n' all.
To me, the Supreme Court is a fragile miracle. It's my favorite thing in our entire government. Even Scalia and Thomas, the big lugs. After all, lose them, and you lose the legitimacy of the Court in the eyes of much of America. And America, despite its lack of faith in all else, somehow continues to believe in the Court.
I don't think the Court will turn drastically conservative or anything, but I think it could lose its progressive edge if the balance is tilted by a Bush nominee. And then it would become just another muddy, stale brick in the wall.
Ohio: Seriously Low on Holla
I'm going to bed. We'll see about this election thing in the morning.
November 2, 2004
If You Voted, Holla Back
Aww. Soon our "Election 2004" category tag will be obsolete. (Well... I better not say that yet. But seriously, I think it will be.)
NPR this morning was doing a cool thing where they'd just play the raw, unfiltered voices of voters and poll workers -- it sounded almost as if these people had called and left messages on some big NPR answering machine, e.g. "Hi, my name is Chet, and I'm workin' the polls here in Shreveport this morning... it's a cold day... but let me tell you, the line is out the door!"
Anyway, it was really cool: Everyone sounded excited and, well, surprised by the long lines of voters.
I still think E-Day ought to be a holiday -- in fact, it ought to be the holiday, a national celebration of democracy replete with parades and BBQ chicken.
But barring that, it's nice to feel a sense of enthusiasm and engagement.
Can't wait to tune in tonight. Kerry by 2.