Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The emo thing

I suppose it could be part of human nature to conform. This might be why people discriminate against minorities. But as society has become more socially liberal, the primal desires of people to discriminate against others have become repressed by laws which protect minorities from being harassed for their differences. This system works for the public and most of the time in the workplace, but not necessarily in private, where people can privately vent their prejudices about others in the company of like-minded family and friends.

For example, one guy from the University of Plymouth writes in the Facebook group Anti-Emo Army, "emo's are tossers, their not emotional, their just boring and a waste of space".

Emo is a complex definition. Some people say it's short for an emotional person. The majority, like Tom, probably hate emos who pretend to be emotionally depressed to get attention from others. Then there are the emos who don't act like that, but just look the part: They're pale and skinny, have long, black hair in front of the face, wear vintage clothes, or black clothes, or tight pants, or a Ramones shirt, or a Canada shirt, etc...

Then there's this other guy from West Alabama who throws in his bone, "Look emo is all unorigional, corperate music that all sounds the same. Those trashy kids wear all of that ugly ass black stuff because they are depressed about having no sense of style, I'm glad this group was created so sensible people like me can vent about all this uninterperitable bullcrap that's coming out of todays radio stations."

This is the other definition of emo: a type of music. According to Wikipedia users, the word emo evolved from a type of music that branched off from hardcore punk in the 1980's. Today, bands that promote the stereotypical emo image have been commercialized, as Erin alludes to, by corporations. This promotion of the emo image has caused it to become popular amognst mainstream radio listeners. This seemed to start around the time that boy bands started to grow up and fizzle out. Blink 182 might be the first example of a commercialized emo image, though a very benign one. The most successful marketer of the emo image, and possibly the most hated by the anti-emo crowd, is the band My Chemical Romance.

Meanwhile, another guy from West Alabama also has some strong feelings on the issue, "Fuck emo people,fuck emo music, and fuck their boo fucking hoo attitude. Do the world a favor emo people, just go off and drop dead".

I find this guy's quote amusing as he left one piece of evidence that would seal his hypocritical doom: his avatar, or profile picture, is the cover of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album. From here, I assume that Joe likes Pink Floyd, and from his quote, I know he doesn't like "emo" people, music and sympathetic attitudes. Well here we go, Joe: Lucky for you, Pink Floyd, but mostly Roger Waters - the most popular and influential member of Pink Floyd - is by your standards, very emo. If they weren't more emotionally sensitive, Pink Floyd probably wouldn't exist. Not to mention Joe, going on Facebook and venting your feelings about emo kids isn't exactly a masculine trait, either.

So why all this anger about a group of people who like to be a little different than the majority? Granted, someone dressing in black and acting depressed just to gain attention is a little dramatic, but is it so bad to inspire hate groups? There's something else going on here that makes people hate these "emo kids" that I don't know, but let me extrapolate...

You're a guy in high school or college and you like this girl that's in your class. She's available, and you're interested. But she's taking to this other guy in your class - he's mysterious, skinny, kind of weird, a little introverted, has long black hair that hangs in his face, doesn't look like he's played any kind of sport in his life, and he's real weak looking - you know that you could kick his ass. So why does she like him! I mean he's completely opposite of what a girl expects from a guy. You sit there in your polo shirt wondering this the entire class. It frustrates you to see a guy succeeding at what you think is completely wrong.

I see this as a possible explaination because most of the emo criticism comes from males and is directed at emo males. On the other hand, if a girl is emo, it's more acceptable - I think there are a lot of guys that like the bad-girl look. While I think most girls don't like the emo look on guys, it's completely unbeknownst to me what they think about fellow females adopting the emo look. Ultimately, I think that mainstream guy's think emo on guys is gay and mainstream girls think emo on girls is lesbian. In fact, I'm willing to bet that the same feelings of hatred towards homosexuality are activated when a bigot sees an emo of the same sex.

Most importantly, most of this is hearsay. But I think it's worthy of discussion. I mean why can't people just let these nonconformists be? Is it that important to people that we are all the same - all identical and follow the same trends?

Are there any queers in the theater tonight?
Get them up against the wall!
There's one in the spotlight, he don't look right to me,
Get him up against the wall!
That one looks Jewish!
And that one's a coon!
Who let all of this riff-raff into the room?
There's one smoking a joint,
And another with spots!
If I had my way,
I'd have all of you shot!

- Roger Waters, In The Flesh, Pink Floyd The Wall

Saturday, February 24, 2007

This Film is Not Yet Rated

When I was five or something I pretended to sleep through the film Alien. I was terrified. But today, it's probably my favourite film. When I was ten or something I saw Silence of the Lambs; the only thing that scared me was the moth. I snuck in to Eyes Wide Shut when I was sixteen, but I left because I was too young and stupid to find it interesting. However, if I was living in Iceland (14+), Quebec (13+), Finland (16+), Denmark (15+), France (Anybody), Germany (16+), Italy (14+), Netherlands (12+), Norway (15+), Sweden (15+), or Switzerland (16+), it wouldn't have been a big deal for me to see the film. But here in the United States, we have what is called the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and their autocratic rating system - a cornerstone of Hollywood's success and a stronghold for socially conservative bread-basket whores.

The MPAA is funded by the major Hollywood studios. In addition to establishing a ratings system, the organization also lobbies for copyright protection and establishing digital rights management consensus in the industry. I don't have a problem with their anti-piracy lobbying, but I do have a problem when it comes to their ratings system. First of all, the Hollywood studios have made it a monopoly. Although other ratings systems exist for christian groups and more progressive parents, they don't have any impact because the studios and theaters have agreed to only use the MPAA system. Hence, 95% of films distributed in the United States are rated by a board of seven people. Seven.

Because the MPAA's rating methods are veiled in secrecy - it was all but impossible to find out who was rating more than 95% of distributed movies. That is, until the documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated decided to investigate. What they found was that none of the board members are trained before they start rating the films, none of them are versed in film technique, and none are educated in child psychology or any other kind of child development. They are just a random sample of whites (and two Asians) that live in the Los Angeles area. These people are paid $30,000 a year to watch movies and point out obscenities. Even though the Supreme Court of the United States hasn't really defined obscenity, the MPAA feels like they have a good idea.

After watching the documentary, it's obvious that the MPAA ratings system is worthless and is used as a device to keep big Hollywood studios in control of what the public watches. The ideal situation would be a ratings system that represented all social groups. It would also be nice if the MPAA divulged the questionable parts of movies, instead of "R for language and violence." What kind of violence? What kind of language? The best ratings system I've come across is the Common Sense Media organization. My favourite part of their ratings system is they have a category for commercialism/ product placement (let's not brainwash the kids into becoming whores to consumerism.) Netflix uses their ratings on many of their popular movies, and every review will point out certain scenes that a parent might want to know about before letting their child watch it. After looking at their ratings system, a concerned parent might wonder why the MPAA is still in power. Well, if they want to know, they should rent This Film is Not Yet Rated (distributed by Netflix), a vital film that is, of course, unrated.

Illustration credit: FunKinki

Monday, February 19, 2007

The end of music

Imagine this scenario: Civilization is done for and electricity is gone, and your laptop or music player have only two hours of battery life remaining. What would be the last music you would listen to? I've prepared for such a scenario by creating an END OF THE WORLD playlist. If you value music like I do, you should do the same. Mine pans out like this...

1) Take a Bow Muse
2) Paranoid Android Radiohead
3) Viðrar vel til loftárása Sigur Rós
4) Time Pink Floyd
5) The Great Gig In The Sky Pink Floyd
6) Ongyilkos Vasárnap Venetian Snares
7) Life In A Glass House Radiohead
8) Stars and Sons Broken Social Scene
9) Jesus, Etc. Wilco
10) Wish You Were Here Pink Floyd
11) Heysátan Sigur Rós
12) Comfortably Numb Pink Floyd
13) The Show Must Go On Pink Floyd
14) In The Flesh Pink Floyd
15) Waiting For The Worms Pink Floyd
16) Salt Mugison
17) Második Galamb Venetian Snares
18) Starálfur Sigur Rós
19) Us And Them Pink Floyd
20) Any Colour You Like Pink Floyd
21) Brain Damage Pink Floyd
22) Eclipse Pink Floyd
23) Untitled 8 Sigur Ros

Illustration credit: Karsh

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mystery computers

Years ago a friend of mine, Ray Calitri, referred me to, the website of the illusive computer company Liebermann Inc. I say illusive because when I went to the site - must have been back in '03 - they were allegedly offering amazing computers for purchase - up to 5.0 ghz machines with solid state hard drive options and many other cool features. But a year later the company "closed its doors" because of cash flow problems.

The Wikipedia article on Liebermann Inc. says that it wasn't clear if the company was even ligitimate. Nonetheless, the company re-launched its website late last year. Looking at it two years later, not much in their computer line up has changed. And as there's no option to actually buy the computers, it will still remain a mystery if the products they advertise actually exist. But putting such technicalities aside, the website is still fun to look at.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Second Life: More

After spending some more time with Second Life, I decided that my initial reactions to the online world were presumptuous. It's difficult to enter SL and not expect something that a video game offers - some kind of goal or objective. Initial reactions suggest it should be something like an online version of The Sims - but it really is much more different than that.

First off, Second Life is huge. Too huge to walk around in, drive in or even fly around in. This is why the game has the "teleport" feature. Teleporting is very important. It's implemented on two leves: the local level and the macro level. For example, if you're in a big establishment such as a college in SL, there's a visual directory at the entry like most big buildings - but in SL, when you touch a location like "front desk" you will be taken to the front desk. Once you get the hang of doing this instead of walking around or flying, your time in SL will be spent more efficiently. On the macro level, you teleport through the Search feature. From here you can find just about anything you're looking for in SL: places, people, events, groups and even classifieds. Whenever you find what you're looking for, you click "teleport" to go there.

This all might sound novice, but I'm about to draw similarities here: teleporting is just like hyperlinking online. In fact, you could call Second Life a three dimensional internet, and maybe a new type of internet all together. The main difference besides the visuals is the social element - you can always see a physical representation of users navigating. Not only that, you can talk to them if you want. This might not seem like a big deal, but consider these scenarios...

The year is 2025 and you're in Sony Style's Second Life outlet shopping for a computer. But unfortunately, you're becoming that age where you can't keep up with advances in technology, thus you have no idea what a Intel Quantum processor means to you. Luckily, there's a virtual Sony representative in the room waiting to answer your questions over voice chat. You end up buying the computer with the new Adobe Photoshop pre-installed, but there are some nuances to the new version you don't understand. So you go to the Photoshop forum in SL and direct yourself to the appropriate room where people can help you solve your problem. Instead of typing, you talk - you can hear everyone else talk, too.

The idea is more interaction. I can't help but think of when I was recently interviewed by Apple for a job, they asked me if I was offered Apple Care when I bought my iBook G4. I said no, because I bought it online, and therefore didn't really know much about it. In a Second Life Apple Store, there would be an Apple rep to explain to you why Apple Care would be a good investment. This kind of interaction with customers can't happen today online, so one could easily see why companies would value the kind of technology Second Life is building. This tech doesn't just apply to customers, either. Imagine working in a virtual office in Second Life. I think you can go from there and see how dramatically this kind of interaction can change the world.

But this is a long way off. The current Second Life has its limitations. Technology in many sectors would have to advance a great deal to create a truly fluid experience that the majority could easily comprehend and tolerate. My install is glitchy and nearly every journey I initiate ends in a lock up. Considering the PC I run the program on is no slouch, you'll quickly see that the program requires a great deal of overhead to run. My iBook G4 will run it, but at a terribly low frame rate. The problem is bandwidth, really. Because every visual element in Second Life is variable, the program requires a 500kb/sec data rate to run. Even though the cable companies say they can accomodate this, sustaining that amount of bandwith for long periods of time is unlikely on the user end and more so on the Second Life server end.

This is where I propose that a great improvement to the system would be the option for users to install static elements onto their hard drives. Granted there is a cache, but I'm not seeing the benifits. I think certain areas of SL could be static. For example, if the owner of a retail outlet wasn't planning on changing its design for a while, they could give the user the option to download static elements of it to their hard drive and if elements do change, the user would be prompted to update. This is why games like Counterstrike, Halo and other online games work so well, because they're accessing static elements locally. The only variables would be the avatar and other small interactive elements.

Someday, I think Second Life will have real use outside of perversions. Until then, I see it being exploited for such uses. Though I appreciate the anarchy, but if SL wants to preserve itself as an example, it should think about moderating the proliferation of crap. While there are areas of SL that are highly developed and have a strong sense of organization, the majority is an endless plane of disorganized useless crap.

Though I knew Second Life was special when I dropped in on a Temple where a dozen Jews were about to light a candle to bring in the new day. I had some place to be in my first life, but I couldn't leave the Temple - they had aknowledged my presence and I was felt I had to stay for the sake of politeness - there are real people behind these avatars. And so I stayed until the ritual was over - experiencing something I never would have in my first life.

Monday, February 12, 2007

They know what you deleted last summer

If you're thinking about selling your computer for whatever reason, think about shipping it with a new hard drive. You might have heard how when you delete a file it isn't actually deleted. I've heard about this and was curious to know more. Even after a file is removed from the recycle bin/ trash, it still exists on the HDD. The only thing that the operating system removes is the link to the file. The file will remain on the hard drive until it is overwritten by another file (if ever.) And even then, special forensic methods can ressurect long lost files after they've been written over multiple times. And because there is constant research in the field of magnetic storage devices, it is likely that in the future it will be more difficult to make information disappear.

Of course, as there are programs which find these deleted files, there are also ones which make them more difficult to reconstruct. These file wiping programs basically write garbage data to the "free" spaces on your hard drive where these old files lay dormant. Thus, they effectively overwrite the files. When the U. S. Department of Defense wipes their drives, they overwrite the files at least seven times. These programs exist for both Windows and Mac, but lucky for Apple users, OSX has a built-in "Secure Empty Trash" option.

When emptying the trash with SET, OSX overwrites the file seven times before it is completely disposed of. But even that doesn't work most of the time. For example, if the file you deleted (Windows or Mac) was frequently used or modified, it was more than likely copied to various areas of the hard drive. This is done to increase read performance, but when it comes time to delete the file, apparently SET can't wipe all of the copied files that exist on the drive. But there still exists (only is OSX Tiger and above) an option in Disk Utility to write over all the free space on your disk - up to 35 passes.

While it's a noble effort from Apple to include a wiping program on their OS, some still believe that the safest thing to do is designate any sensitive information you might not want others to ever see to a separate partition or physical drive with a non-journaling file system. Because it is in a journaling file system's nature to protect the integrity of files against failures, they write data in places and in ways that a wiping program might miss. So keeping a seaparate non-journaling drive or partition might be a good way to go, but skeptics say that the most sure way to destroy data is to melt the physical drive itself. Trying to demagnetize it will allegedly not work.

The ethics of this issue are typical for annoying big-brother issues: bad for privacy, but I'm sure they'll argue that it's indispensable to wars on terror - like the fifteen-year-old punk down the street who downloaded a leaked video of the film 300 and Warner Bros. is wanting to prosecute. And while they're in there, they might as well get him for those pictures since his dad is running for a political office to help protect consumer privacy and they want to humiliate him.

I wouldn't expect these issues to change unless an outright violent revolution took place. And I'm sure the largest software manufacturer in the world, because they're in bed with lots of interests who enjoy less consumer privacy, won't be so sensitive to consumer complaints about this aspect of their product. Loss of privacy: expect this to be part of tomorrow.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

GM made a hybrid in '69

I've been sitting on this one for a bit. I'm not sure what's tougher to acknowledge - that GM still doesn't have a worthy production hybrid car, or that they made a working concept of one decades before Honda and Toyota. Frustration aside, Finkbuilt came across an ancient Popular Science article that talks about GM's working XP-883 hybrid-drive commuter car. From a '69 issue of Popular Science...

You may think this little hybrid is pretty far advanced, but the fact is that it could be built today.
Even though the technology may have been available, it was far from meeting the expectations of the American consumer. It did zero to 40 in 12 seconds and reached its top speed of 60 in another 16. And the batteries, however adequate they might have been for the prototype, were far inferior to the NiMH batteries that make today's hybrid cars work. These and many others would probably be GM's excuses.

Nonetheless, GM doesn't seem to have any plans to offer a "from the ground up" hybrid car. Instead, they are offering hybrid drive as an option on many of their existing Silverado/ Sierra based trucks as well as the Saturn Vue. Much of these offerings, however, do not yield much of an increase in gas mileage, so they are not likely to sell as well as hybrid cars like the Prius and Civic. To curb the criticism for the time being, GM will talk more about hydrogen technology and how they'll allegedly be working real hard on that.

Illustration credit: Finkbuilt/ Popular Science

Friday, February 9, 2007


Two days ago Steve Jobs of Apple Inc. released an open letter, Thoughts on Music, on the Apple website. The letter wasn't about music, but about DRM - an acronym for Digital Rights Management. DRM is used on various forms of digital media from movies, television shows, and most talked about, music. It's a technology that protects digital content from being distributed by an unauthorized vendor like Timmy down the street who wants to give all of his friends copies of a song he got off iTunes. But Timmy will quickly find out that isn't possible as Apple has a licensing agreement with record companies that a song purchased from iTunes can only be used on a limited number of authorized devices - like maybe two of Timmy's computers and his iPod. This makes Timmy's friends mad, because now they'll have to go buy the music themselves. It also makes Timmy mad one year from now when he's convinced his parents to buy him the new Microsoft Zune - a device that won't play media purchased from iTunes; if he wants his music on the new Zune, he'll have to buy it again from Microsoft's store.

So even though DRM does an okay job protecting songs from piracy, it's obvious that there are still some kinks in the DRM system which negatively effect consumer choice. An example is when you buy an iPod, you can only purchase songs from iTunes; this is the same with Microsoft and Sony mp3 players. The companies have separate DRM systems and don't want to mix them together for fear of leaking trade secrets to one another. France has apparently had enough of it, and is lobbying for Apple to remove DRM from its iTunes content, or face possible expulsion from European markets. Jobs argues that Apple has no control over DRM because it's part of the agreement they made with the music companies to distribute the music in the first place. The music companies argue that DRM is essential to protect the music from piracy. Though Jobs points out that music companies sell twenty billion songs a year that aren't protected with DRM: good old CD's. And I'll point out how to get around DRM later, but first let's talk about the real problem here: cheap bastards.

The fact of the matter is DRM probably wouldn't exist if people didn't steal music. The majority of people who want to abolish DRM are people who steal music. I don't give a shit about DRM because I buy CD's and rip the unprotected music right into iTunes. If I decide I want to get a Sony player ten years from now it won't be a problem for me, because I buy physical albums. And honestly - I know the music that the majority of people are stealing is mainsream music that I don't care about anyway. So go ahead and steal it. It's a song you'll probably only listen to for two weeks anyway, so I understand that you'd be frustrated if you had to actually spend tons of money on disposable music. Maybe if you were a person who actually appreciated good music that you can keep around for a long time, you could buy CD's and DRM wouldn't be a big issue, but I suppose people are born with poor taste and I'm sorry for that.

And for those of you who think you're stuck in an iTunes vortex, here's how to get out: Burn the songs you purchased to a CD in the audio format (not an mp3 CD.) Then remove the CD and stick it in your new music player. Rip the CD. DRM hacked.

Illustration credit: Grriscout

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Second Life

I have recently downloaded Second Life. It's not a game - you can play games in it - but there isn't any real challenge or objective. So what's the point? Well, I suppose if someone is unhappy with their own life, they could very well lead a virtual second life in this game. Sure there are some little obligatory things that are different: You can fly in Second Life. You don't have to eat or defecate. You can stay under water for great lengths of time. And after falling from great hights and tumbling into a pit of fire, I've discovered you probably can't die.
Unlike your real life, you can choose your name. You can also craft your own appearance. No ugly sticks in the world of Second Life unless willingly applied. In effect, the majority of people end up looking roughly the same - tall, muscular, bronzed, big breasted, etc... Though there are many detractors who opt for the goth or furry animal look.
Yet after all of this, the developers carried over one of the most undesireable things about real life into this dream world: money. You can't die, but there's still money. You use your real money to buy virtual Linden dollars which allow you to purchase virtual things in your second life like land, clothes, transportation, furniture, or genatalia (since you aren't given any at the start of the game.) After leaving the bright and sunny tutorial world, you're dropped into the real virtual world of Second Life. Once this happens, it becomes pretty clear what Second Life is all about.
I was dropped into a parcel of land that was labeled mature. It was a party island of some sort where a bunch of virtual people were danicing, sunbathing, chatting and shopping for kinky items that were scattered around a pool. I decided to teleport to a different area of the world and ended up landing in a casino where you can virtually gamble your money away. After some more exploration of the map, I found that much of the world in Second Life that I saw was dedicated to showcasing sexual content. The rest of the world is and endless maze of residential or commercial spaces that is less populated by users. It's evident that there's little community planning that keeps things organized. Thus, it is not easy to locate things. A solution to this could be having street names, cities and maybe even states and nations.

I think the main problem with Second Life is that you are introduced to this world completely alone. You don't have a family and the traditional institutions that are set up to make friends are non existant. I think the game would be amazing if you were born into a family. I think if you started with that and combined the open source environment of Second Life with the inginuity of games like The Sims, Sim City and Vice City you would end up with something that would really suck away someone's first life.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Terror-Free Oil

The first filling station to offer terror-free gas opened last Thursday in Omaha, Nebraska. It's a franchise started by the Terror-Free Oil Initiative. The organization hopes to send messages to oil companies which purchase crude from middle eastern nations that harbor and finance terrorists; mainly Saudi Arabia.

The idea is to promote energy independence, so any contribution to those ends is rewarded. Thus, in addition to offering terror-free oil that has been extracted and refined in North America, a Terror-Free Oil gas station will offer (by franchise rules) either E85, biodiesel, or a 2% rebate for hybrids. A franchisee is also required to donate 1% of revenues to an approved counter-terrorism organization.

Currently, however, it is impossible for the United States to produce all of its crude oil domestically. But ultimately, connecting terrorism with gasoline is a clever way to get people who wouldn't traditionally think about energy conservation to think twice. The downside to the program is people driving fifteen miles to get to a Terror-Free Oil station - and that's not efficient at all. Definitely something to look out for, though.

Video: MSNBC report on the Terror-Free Oil Initiative.

Illustration credit: Robin Dude

Protocols of Zion

Probably one of the most interesting aspects of 9-11 is why it happened. Ask the average American why it happened and they might say, "because they hate America." From here, media outlets and politicians don't seem to get into the specifics like why they hate America. Sure we hear about how there are schools in the middle east who indoctrinate young Arabs with an extremist interpretation of the Koran, turning them into Islamic fundamentalist militants. But we never hear about something else that is probably more likely to influence anti-American sentiments in the Arab world: The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion.

The Protocols in the western world is known as the epitome of anti-semetic literature. Published sometime in the early 1900's, it purports to describe a Jewish plot to achieve world domination. Because of its amazing insight on how any organized group, Jewish or not, could take over the world, it is, in my opinion, the "best" conspiracy theory of all time and therefore one of the most dangerous pieces of widely available literature in existance. When notorious anti-semite Henry Ford got ahold of them, he gave them out to his customers for free. And when Hitler read them, The Protocols would surely make their way into Nazi anti-semetic propaganda.

Even though numerous independent investigations have repeatedly proven The Protocols to be a hoax and a plagiarism of a variety of earlier fictional stories, the book is still widely distributed across the world. Especially in the middle east. It is no doubt a large reason why many Arabs despise Jews - or as they so often refer to them, the "Zionists." That hatred of the Jews also carries over to hatred of America because the same Arabs believe that the United States is a Jewish nation. Not because most American's aren't Jewish, but because there are many Jewish people in America that are in positions of power, wheather that be in politics, business, or entertainment. They see America as just another Israel.

No doubt there are countless Jews in positions of power. Even though Jews only make up less than 2% of the American population, we'll find that there are two serving on the U. S. Supreme Court. Fifteen out of the one hundred senators in the senate are Jewish. The current and former chairman of the Federal Reserve (Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan) are both Jewish. Of all Nobel Prize winners, twenty-three percent have been Jewish. And of course, the list of Jews in entertainment reads like a who's who in Hollywood. So when someone reads this who isn't Jewish, they might come to two conclusions: 1) Damn I wish I was Jewish. 2) I'm jealous - there must be a conspiracy.

I think one thing is for certain - whatever the Jews are doing - they're doing it better than most people. This, unfortunately, makes some people frustrated. Feeling inferior - especially to a minority group, threatens some people. Some of these people grab hold of literature like The Protocols and embrace it as if it were an answer. I see The Protocols like a religious text - very ambiguous and therefore open to individual interpretation. I think this is the one of the reasons why The Protocols is rarely covered on the media - because many Americans would read them - and some would actually believe. (The skeptic would say The Protocols are never covered because the media is owned and operated by the Jews.)

Unfortunately, many Americans have recently become anti-semites because of exposure to conspiracy theories on 9-11, many of which lead to The Protocols. This resurgence in domestic anti-semitism is documented in the film Protocols of Zion by Marc Levin. Though from the perspective of a Jew, Levin seems to approach the subject as balanced as possible. He's curious to know more about a conspiracy theory being spread which says all Jews (allegedly 4,000 of them) who worked at the World Trade Centers didn't go to work that day. A cabbie Levin rides with cites The Protocols as further evidence.

Thus begins Levin's journey to understand more about these Protocols and the people who believe in them. From Arab Americans to Black and White Nationalists - they all probably hate one another but agree on one thing: Zionist pigs are taking over the world. Levin even engages in some dialogue with the founder of the Jew Watch website. The film is a brief dip into the rabbit hole of skepticism, though we're brought back to reality and the hard truth when Levin cites the deaths of a few Jews who did in fact die in the twin towers on 9-11. One of them was only discovered from DNA tests of a bone fragment found on a building rooftop a couple blocks away.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Pennies a minute

It costs 65,000 pennies per month to rent my apartment. I'll pay $21.67 per day to live here, $0.90 per hour, and one and a half cents per minute. And I'll never see that money again.

Illustration credit: The MegaPenny Project

Friday, February 2, 2007

Jesus Camp

There are some things I won't forget - the documentary Jesus Camp is one of them. The film examines through as unbiased-as-possible eyes the unbelievable world of the fundamentalist Christian Evangelical; more importantly, how they go about spreading their faith: indoctrinating impressionable children.

No doubt nearly every child is exposed to and taught religious doctrine at very young ages. But rarely are their fragile emotions and impressionable minds taken advantage of to such great extents; such is the case when the fundamentalists teach their children the ways of God. A good example of their tactics is when Becky Fischer, the camp director, is preparing a Power Point presentation and decides to change the type font of the word "Death" so that the word looks like it's dripping in blood. She then goes on to explain that this generation of children learn better through audiovisual content instead of reading words in a book (like the bible.) In fact, we never see any of the children actually reading from a bible - they are either being taught through music, videos, presentations - things that are easy to enjoy.

This, in my opinion, is the whole gimmick to the Evangelical movement. People go to the megachurches because it's like going to a concert instead of, well, church. Indeed there's nothing wrong with celebrating any religion in such a format, though I think that because it's that much easier to practice, it will also be that more influential. A long story short: people have attention deficit problems and Evangelicals have recognized that. They also recognize that children are easy to influence. Or as the saying goes: get 'em while they're young.

The result is boys and girls who are doubtful of any other alternative to what has been taught to them. That means complex issues such as abortion, homosexuality, evolution, and even global warming have already been resolved for the children as one hundred percent wrong. Because of this, the children become outspoken footsoldiers for the fundamentalist Evangelical Christian movement.

Boys and girls younger than ten solicit pro-life paraphernalia on D. C. street corners. One girl jay walks to ask a man if he thinks he'll be going to heaven. And an eleven year old boy preaches to other Evangelicals his age and younger. When the boy converses with Ted Haggard, a very well known Evangelical preacher (who has recently resigned after admitting to allegations that he had immoral relations with a former male prostitute), Pastor Ted asked the boy if he thought people liked his preaching because of his content, or because he was a child. After the boy was at a loss of words, Haggard said that when the boy's thirty, he'll know. Hopefully, he'll know more than that.

As the credits roll, a boy and a girl stand on a corner trying to hand out pamphlets to passerby, one of them aks the other, "Do you ever think people think we're trying to sell something?" They decide they don't think so.

The Right Brothers

After I came across the gay bands list (see below entry), I also came across a list of "safe" bands. One of them was The Right Brothers.

It turns out that The Right Brothers, or as they abbreviate themselves TRB, are a politically charged band of the "conservative" flavor. With songs like "I'm In Love With Anne Coulter", "Bush Was Right", and "The List (of Liberals We Can't Stand)", you should get a good idea of the bands messages. With a pop country delivery an lyrics like...

Bush was right!
Bush was right!
Bush was right!

Ted Kennedy - wrong!
Cindy Sheehan - wrong!
France - wrong!
Zell Miller - right!

...they keep their message as crystal clear as possible for all of those good old boys who have a tough time hearing music lyrics. Mind you these two Tennessee tools wrote the song before it was proven that the Bush administration was, in fact, wrong about a lot of things. So I suppose you have to respect the risks they were taking - but I doubt that there was ever a doubt in their minds that Bush could ever be wrong. So it seems they're either just fools - or selling out for their fifteen minutes. But by the looks of a video on YouTube where they plead for fans to send in some video that will get them on a TRB music video that will "be watched by millions" - it seems that these guys are probably just thick headed douche bags.

There's a crisis on the planet
It's heated up almost a whole degree
It hasn't been this hot in a long time
Not since the 16th Century
When there were no evil SUVs

Stop Global Whining
It's up to you
The earth's been heating up and cooling back down
Since the day it started spinning 'round and 'round
Stop Global Whining
Get your head out of the clouds

What I really don't like about TRB is that they end up just as bad as the liberals they can't stand: extremists. That's hypocrisy - and there are few things that I dislike more than hypocrisy. Denial might be one of them, but being hypocritical when it comes to politics is very irritating to me. The extreme right, like the extreme left, will only travel in circles while the many in between will progress forward by making compromises.

We use it, we need it almost as much as air
Dependent on the Middle East and no one seems to care
That billions of barrels of oil are in the ground
And the “freakenvironmentalists” won’t let us get it out

So before you go and point your finger covered in gasoline
And whine about their record profits
Remember things aren’t what they seem
Try and educate yourself with the facts or just admit you’re spoiled
If you don’t like it don’t buy it
It’s not the fault of “Big Oil”

We want it, they sell it, what’s not to understand
It’s simple as the law of supply and demand
They’re making just pennies per gallon at the pump
While the government gets double and the roads still suck

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Love God's Way

On January the 24th I went to a Jeff Tweedy concert. In between his songs, he spoke of a critic who called him surly, a baby-arm-sized turd his son made during their vacation, and amognst other things, that Wilco had made it onto a list of gay bands.

After the concert I was curious to see this list. I discovered it on Love God's Way, a website supposedly run by Donnie Davies, a musician who claims that he's a reformed homosexual. The site, or ministry as he calls it, claims that through his C. H. O. P. S. (Changing Homosexuals into Ordinary People) a gay person can become straigt again and loved by god. Details of the C. H. O. P. S. program have yet to be released, but Davies says in a video on YouTube that they soon will.

Judging by the nature of Davies (and the use of a jib in the YouTube video) it's highly suspected that he is a fraud and the whole thing is an elaborate hoax. Even so, Davies has stirred much controversy not just over his anti-gay messages, but that major media outlets like Google and MySpace have apparently censored his videos (even though his videos are on YouTube which is owned by Google.) More interesting is that Wikipedia has prevented an article on Davies himself from being re-created, even though the man has been spotlighted by Spin magazine's website and many other blogs.

Though Davies might speak against private internet entities censoring his work, none of them have censored the works of the real deal: Fred Phelps. There is nothing fake about this man and the followers from his Westboro Baptist Church who go to such lengths as protesting at military funerals, holding up "God Hates Fags", "God Hates America", and "Fag Troops" signs. The church operates several websites...

'Priests rape boys' is an air-tight, three
word case against the Catholic church.

Illustration credit: C.D.2006