Archive forJanuary, 2006

Get Your War On Stage

Wow, a stage version of David Rees’s fabulous political satire Get Your War On is being put on by the Rude Mechanicals in Austin, TX.

I think I could never go to a stage production of GYWO , because I’d die laughing. I think i’ve loled (lolled?) more often at Rees’s comic than any other, at least on a per strip basis. (Yeah, that means you, Achewood and DC) I don’t know if he started the clipart webcomic revolution, but he does it best. It must be the prolific cursing or something, businesspeople cursing into phones is hella funny, especially when done with a sarcastic tone. Yeah! Thats what Rees does so well, the sarcastic tone. The curses are just added to make it funnier.

Also he is just biting. Not clever (I mean, clever is so OVER! get with the program people-who-are-not-David-Rees). I mean, he will not spare anyone or anything, reader or subject. That is what I’m talking about. I need to go to Austin to see actors dressed as business-people screaming sarcastic curses into telephones.

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The Grand Soap

A while back I took a class about the media. One of the things we learned about was the episodic nature of reporting: a crime happens, they interview the victims or those close to the victims, talk to some official, and have a close up of the face (or sketch) of the perpetrator. There isn’t any in depth analysis of the causes of the crime, or any effects beyond the immediate. The audience is presented with a bad person who did a bad thing to some innnocent people. It makes a great tragic story. That’s entertainment. The problem is, in general, the media does nothing to address the problem of what is causing crime in a certain area, or what the aftermath of the crimes actually is, for both victims and criminals. In this sense, the media is not fulfilling its duty as the fourth estate to frame the crime as a deeper political issue. The obvious political response to this is just “tough on crime”. (Tough on crime isn’t bad in and of itself, but it leaves much to be desired, but thats a different story.)

Now why did I bore you with all this? Well, over the past couple years, we’ve seen the media’s shitworthy job of framing overtly political issues as any sort of systemic political problem with the current administration. Whether they are too scared, too careful, too biased, or too dumb to do this, I don’t know, but the fact remains they aren’t doing it. Let me tell you what I mean. Consider the weekly news cycle as a soap opera. There are the main cast: the administration, powerful members of congress, other politicians, some organizations, etc. They have a basic backstory, which progresses. But, some weeks, there’s some sort of guest star. It may be Michael “Brownie” Brown, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Jack Abramoff, Harriet Miers, Judith Miller, or Cindy Sheehan. They have big roles, shake things up for someone or another, and get phased out or killed off. The problem is, since they are guest stars, the media doesn’t write a plot arc to link them at all. It doesn’t seek to connnect the events of the television season. Each scandal, protest, or whatever is treated as a separate storyline, desptite the fact that they exist within the same universe.

This is exactly the kind of thing the Media, as the fourth estate, is supposed to help the public with. Sure, there is the occasional daring editorial about how this administration is screwing America in one way or another, and sometimes a big story form around wiretapping or a memo or a response to a hurricane. But the media as a whole, in written word and in broadcast, has not put together a coherent picture of the political landscape. They leave it as a simple right vs left battle, which makes a good story whichever side you’re on. Certainly, recent developments have caused some important people to jump party lines on some issues (republican congressmen), or admit problems in what they’ve done (the president), but that is because of the magnitude of the developments, not any magnificent reporting. Until someone is able to paint a clearer picture of the landscape in Washington and around the country, there won’t be any big changes in the way things are run. I blame the media because it’s their job, and they have the easiest time doing it, but a daring congressman or senator could surely start the ball rolling.

Anyways, that was a little more ranty than I’d intended to be, but I don’t feel like revising it (: you get my point.

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Albums for us to like.

I have always been too much of a music fan to really be able to talk about music in the public sphere (pfft, public sphere, I flatter myself). But I am going to try.

I am going to limit myself to albums released in 2005, because it makes sense. This will be mostly indie stuff because I have fallen for eMusic. Even though it is owned by Universal, its maintained a non-DRM download as you go model that is totally consumer friendly.

Also this will in no way be complete, but thats ok, otherwise I would never write it. So here goes.

  • Must hear
    • Witching Hour by Ladytron. Electrocrash at its best. If you haven’t heard “Destroy Everything You Touch”, you shouldn’t be dancing.
    • Feels by Animal Collective. This is their seventh album, and I wasn’t too familiar with them until it, so I can’t give much background. But this album is just plain pleasing. It’s kinda like Modest Mouse without the catchy hooks, and more obscure. But thats ok!
    • Picaresque by The Decemberists. I had an initial review of this one somewhere in my old (bad) blog (recall: this is a good blog), but whats important is that this is another strong release from the (failed) revolutionaries. “We Both Go Down Together” is the one you want to hear, imho.
    • The Cosmic Game by Thievery Corporation. This lounge electronica duo has been around for almost a decade, and earned the respect of thier peers. That respect paid off in several outstanding guest performances from big names including The Flaming Lips, Perry Ferrel and David Byrne. Those guests are not, however, what make this album outstanding. Listen to this album.
    • Talk Like Blood by 31knots. This album is just good. Its sort of mathy, but more nerdy. If you enjoy something listenable but entirely unexpected, you’ll like this. Check out “Hearsay” first.
  • Must maybe hear
    • Anniemal by Annie. This Norwegian bubblegum has been circling around the indie world, and made some mainstream headway, and is begging to be heard. The only reason its not must hear is because of a few weak tracks, which are in the long run far outbalanced by “Chewing Gum”, the title track, and a few others.
    • Separation Sunday by The Hold Steady. Talk singer Craig Finn’s lyrics are entertaining and powerful and the music is rockin’. The whole album is so good there are no standout tracks, but check out “Charlemagne in Sweatpants”; it’ll give you a good sample. The problem: either you like the vocals or you don’t. I like ‘em.
    • The Sunset Tree by The Mountain Goats. Folky and what people call “lo-fi” (altho that term keeps getting broader), this album is not quite as good as Tallahassee but better than We Shall All Be Healed, the two previous releases from John Darnielle’s “band”. Check out “Dance Music”, if you like that, you’ll probably like The Mountain Goats, and this album.
    • Make Believe by Weezer. This is Weezer at their best. Rivers has a unique ability to sing about things that would sound whiny and cheesy from anyone else. This album takes that to a new level. “The Other Way” and “This is Such a Pity” are my favorites. But don’t miss (as if you could have) “We Are All On Drugs” and “Beverly Hills” and the rest of them.
    • Get Behind Me Satan by The White Stripes. This is a solid White Stripes release. It won’t be easy to beat Elephant of course, but this album doesn’t attempt to do that. Instead it brings in new elements including lots of piano. Also it made me laugh out loud (lol), which is fun. I personally like it better than Elephant, even though I admit its not as good overall. Listen to “The Nurse”,”My Doorbell”, “Little Ghost” and the rest of the album.
  • Mustn’t hear
    • Illinois by Sufjan Stevens. For god sakes get over it! I mean, this album is worth at most one listen, to hear what the hype is about, but no more. The lyrics are uninspired, but make an obvious attempt to sound inspired, and the vocals are kind of inane. The music is downright boring. I get what he was trying to do with the music, but I’ll take Arcade Fire over this any day of the week. The only thing cool about this album is the gimmik (I like cool gimmiks). I just hope he doesn’t fulfill his promise (threat) to do all 50 states. If he starts, I reccomend breaking up the union.

Other noteworthy albums: Twin Cinema by the New Pornographers. Digital Ash In a Digital Urn and I’m Wike Awake, It’s Morning by Bright Eyes. Another Day on Earth by Brian Eno.

Sound good?

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Peter Jackson is too thin to trust

As the news has been reporting for a few months, Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and King Kong, lost hell of weight between completing The Return of the King. What is amazing is if you look at the first two pictures in the Wikipedia article, you see how much more scoundrely he looks now, as a thin man! I mean, even with that innocent smile you know you cannot trust him. Anyways, just thought it was worth pointing out, since you never can trust a thin man.

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Wikipedia and ads

When I first started editing Wikipedia a couple years ago, one of the first suggestions I made was brilliant. It was “why not have ads?” (it was a cleverer proposal of how I thought they could fit into the site, but, nonetheless…). It took me a few months but I became a firm believer in not having advertisements on Wikipedia. (The other thing that convinced me is that every advertisement/subscriber/click4freeipod model ever invented had been suggested like 4 times, mostly by newbies like myself).

This is why I am relieved to hear that the Times’ story suggesting Wikipedia might soon consider using ads was, built around a somewhat incidental comment.

Anyways, I have a couple main problems with ads on Wikipedia, one sort of idealistic, and one practical (man, I always do that!)

First off, idealistically, ads go against at least 2 of Wikipedia’s 5 pillars (which is sort of the Constitution of Wikipedia). The most obvious pillar it contradicts is the neutral point of view (NPOV). Wikipedia can’t be preaching to use NPOV and then direct its users to sites that pay for that service. Also, it violates the fact that Wikipedia is an Encyclopedia. To have advertisements for third parties in an encyclopedia creates a sort of “primary source leak” (i totally made that phrase up, thats why it sounds weird). Encyclopedia’s are essentially tertiary sources, and maybe secondary sources. While Wikipedia selectively links to various primary sources, to link to websites that are advertised would sort of encourage the belief that Wikipedia somehow condones said websites. This is essentially turning the advertising piece of Wikipeida (which, presumably would be located on the encyclopedia itself, to be of any use), into a primary source. I think I was confusing, but think about a paid advertisement for Coke in Encyclopedia Britainnica. See? No? Uh, recall the Absolut Vodka ads in your favorite magazine, that is not drawing from other sources in any way. Now you see.

Now, less idealistically. When there are ads on an article, there inevitably will be people (good people, not only evil people) who want those ads to be clicked, so Wikipedia can make money. But then this means many editors will draw bias (concious or subconcious) from Wikipedia in the way they write their articles. Granted, bias exists in a ton of Wikipedia articles, but it needs to be removed, not exacerbated. Bias coming straight from the encyclopedia is a bad thing, considering all the other sources of bias already out there.

Oh yeah, another ideal thing, Wikipedia is free. They shouldn’t have “include this banner/text to help sell our product/service” permissions anywhere, because that is not free enough. Use with permission is one thing, use requiring advocacy of a product or service is another.

There is also a slipperly slope argument, but thats always such an annoying argument, and I don’t think its worth saying. Mine are better.

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