Posts filed under ‘politics’

Spook Country by Gibson, Scrublands by Joe Daly, Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan

Spook Country

It’s good but surprising. Gibson’s previous books work up to a clever use of technology that often subverts or changes society or yeah know it’s a kinda how do all these techno-cultural parts come together type of thing, Spook Country is more about simply a good story that’s climax is surprising simply because it’s underwhelming. Gibson’s riffs on the future of the U.S. Latin American population (he for-sees hyper-hip locative art and Cuban infused techno… both which already exist when I think about it) are interesting and his imagining of the artistic possibilities of GPS are pretty cool too. Gibson continues to take on the ghosts of post-9/11 politics with a peculair gusto, but then again it’s William Gibson and what else is he going to write about. Book probably ain’t worth it if you aren’t a fan (pattern recognition is about a 100x better), but it’s enjoyable.


Joe Daly is a South African cartoonist whose work centers on hipsters and their remarkably bohemian lives. Daly’s work reminds of the better parts of sixties acid drenched comics, but it’s commentary on South Africa and it’s consistent play on modern day traumas (Aqua Boy is briskly divorced from his father and  Daly has a heavy obsession with vaginas) definitely make it seem more modern day. Daly, seems to feel his generation of Africans and the olde counter-culture of old have a lot in common. He’s probably correct and Kobosh is probably the best cartoon character in quite a while.

Exit Wounds

Rutu Modan is one of the founders of an Israeli comics foundation similar to  L’Association in France or Fantagraphics in the US. Her work though differs from almost any other illustrator I can think of, her stories are full of pathos and while much of indie comics is male and often sexual, Modan writes charming short stories that deal more with the slight imperfections of the pysche that bother us day to day. Exit Wounds centers around a cab driver (Koby) whose father spends his day seducing women of all ages and one of his ex-lovers (Numi) a well off Israeli who’s a tad ruff around the edges and finishing up her time in the military. Numi is convinced Koby’s father is dead and Koby, who seems to have been extremely estranged from his father, doesn’t care. The two end up trecking around Israel where in they end up finding out Koby’s dad is alive and well it’s a good story. What makes Modan so different is that the story really does center on the minor travesties and heart break of her characters, while many comics dismantle the emotions of the protoganist unless they’re A. performing a superhuman feat or B. having sex with a woman Modan’s palette of emotion is diverse and the dimension she draws out of her characters has depth that even most novelists could use. Exit Wounds doesn’t hinge on a quest for identity or any such higher goal, it merely focuses on a short moment in a couple of young Israeli lives, the influence of politics on them, and finally with the way resolve their own problems. It’s wonderful and well worth reading.

October 3, 2007 at 8:23 am Leave a comment

Some thoughts FPSes and Identity

Battlefield, like counter-strike, operates w/o giving us a firm narrative or identity. Identity is surpressed, the only differences between oman and america or GSG9 and Terrorists is simply the weapons used.  Competition begets competition free of ideology as if all the world’s conflicts arrive from frivolous needs for juxtaposition instead of belief, many FPSes do this, they submerge our identities and then occupy us with puzzles and challenges, goals and other operatives that keep us focused on one goal at a time instead of asking questions about who we are. Similarly, societies choose to ignore certian aspects of the mind or self, Americans are occupied by ideas of GDP, technological progress, and rarely the narrative of nationhood that sorrounds us. Counter-Strike and Battlefield advertise the enjoyment of military jobs by subtracting the ideiology behind them, as it stands they become forms easily open to subversion whether it’s Hezbollah’s Special Forces or America’s Army both of which are competing to put a narrative of their own politics in the form of tactical FPSes and in that are ads for the positions they inhabit. It’s interesting though the trick both games use, by chucking out story they create an environment in which doing is simply the main enjoyment of the game. We play for our teams sure, but really we also play for the simple pleasure of denial, keeping the other team away etc. Do we really care if we’re Chinese, America, or from Oman? Is that a political statement, or do such games ignore politics entirely?

To read someone like J.G. Ballard is to see the world in a more disturbing light. Mr. Ballard discusses the psychological effects of our society whether in consumerism or restaging world war III, but few products are designed from such an angle except perhaps advertising. Battlefield and Counter-Strike’s magic formula (which has made them more popular than Special Force or America’s Army) is to ignore giving the player a narrative, in that their effects on us are limited to the repetition of violence, the reaching of simple goals, such games are amoral to the psychologist simply becuase they ignore the field entirely. How would games intended to teach us how to feel work? Instead of them blindly influencing us with out an intended provocation?

September 19, 2007 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

The Simpsons Movie as a Christian vechile


Every movie is a little world that creates it’s own little precepts. The Simpsons movie though might very well be the largest critique of 90s American liberalism I can think of though. God exists in Springfield and Homer Simpson, whose Jebus joke once represented a growing national apathy towards religion, is now an outsider lacking the warm family values and influence on morality that Ned Flanders has. Homer’s “jebus” comment not only seems used, but he makes it in church where the humor changes from being freeing oneself from religious dictate to being oblivious to the insentitivty of the joke. Once upon a time Flanders was a shinning example of the confining strictures of traditional values, while Lisa expelled neo-liberalism, and Homer was a good hearted man whose pleasure seeking seemed a healthy, but self-obsessed past time. The Simpsons have now become something of the outcastes of their block versus the way they almost perfectly caught the dysfunctional, but loving aspects of the American family in the mid-90s. Flanders has become a foil who knocks Homer and his family off the block. While Lisa’s idealism has become more sharpened and she still commands a certian amount of respect, you can’t help but feel as the show changed from Bart to Homer it is now becoming little more than a vechile for Flander’s philosophy. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Ned isn’t a bad guy, but part of what made The Simpsons fun was its acceptance of our imperfections, the way not only god had died, but the way we’d lost our fathers and families had exploded from homogenous cultures like the Flanders to the plurality of views of The Simpsons’ address. Flanders was funny becuase next to memories of Tammy Fay Baker, the boredome of childhood church pews, and the utter exasperation of the religious right to deal with the yuppie ideals of the 80s as they became the engine of the country’s progress and enshrined in the form of tolerance, such an image of a Christian seemed not only ridicilous and out of whack with the country as a whole, but down right unwholesome. One gets the feeling that Murdoch and company have reshaped the show for a new demographic, but it’s telling that in order for the christian values of right-wing american to entertain, they have to borrow a story and a people from those that opposed them.

August 17, 2007 at 6:08 am Leave a comment

IQ Gaps and pre-school

The average IQ in New Zealand is 103 from what I could google around 100 for the USA

Additionally, as two papers I have delicioused recently show, pre-school matters with IQ. More New Zealanders go to pre-school and while it’s far from proven after all the noise between cause and effect is rather large it does seem to matter. Hence, you could nip part of America’s IQ gap not only with other nations, but with in it itself simply by subdizing early education and providing for free for those under the poverty belt.

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August 1, 2007 at 3:36 pm 1 comment

Chinese Workers, Trade, Human Rights

from dave pollard

(I couldn’t find this image on google images of the AFP website so if this picture is inveitably bumped just go here to get it and my apologies for stealing from How to Change the World)

Reading through Mamdani’s Citizen and Subject it’s amazing how much of what made Africa so unbearable a moral tradegy was the emphaisis on relative or cultural values. Apartheid began as a system to “respect” the autonomy of African culture although as Mamdani points out it was, to say the least, it was a bit of fabrication in actual application (the colonialists didn’t bother to look at africa’s governments historically but only the tribal bands that existed after the fall of slavery and africa’s massive economic and political losses). Double standards were common, South Africans banned a slave trade in women only to proceed to force african children into labor to catch up with the then economically superiod local tribes. Similarly, As the WTO goes, human rights are the jurisidiction of each country in it, it is up to Bangladesh to decide if children should be allowed to work and for how long and who are we to say if families there might need their children to work extra hours to help them especially if they aren’t provided daily education etc. But pictures like these (and yes I know it’s a limited thing) do bring up just how much universal human rights being part of the WTO would help, after all these men could have been saved burns, bruises, and other things if we’d just agreed on some basic safety standards, ensured every government had regulations to ensure whistle blowers are protected anonymously, labor couldn’t be forced, etc. While the respecting of each country’s autonomy in labor rights might seem like a good idea it’s practice seems to only allow the unscrupolous in each country to further take advantage of their countrymen for their own gain. After all these men have probably never paid taxes, but China’s government is relaint on factories just like these to stay afloat (corporate taxation comprises almost all of the government’s income). Preserving people isn’t the incentives of the chinese government as it stands and while an absence of taxation probably helped these men, that they were so disenfranchised to go through this shows how little we push for the morals that we obviously need to live in a globalized world. At the very least thought the local system here did eventually bust the labor, but how much still exists and what level of transparency are we guarnteed in labor rights anyway?

June 17, 2007 at 12:37 pm Leave a comment

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