Sunday, November 29, 2009

Apocalypse Now: The Fantasy of Urban Decay Becomes Reality

The late 1980's Robocop series were much the like the mechanical protagonists of the current Transformers series: wildly popular and critical failures. As ridiculous as both of these movies' plots are, the setting of cybernetic Robocop is eerily relatable as it takes place in the "dystopian near-future, Detroit, Michigan is on the verge of collapse due to financial ruin and unchecked crime". Additionally, the criminals of the movie seek to force "the old City of Detroit todefault on its debt, so that they can can foreclose, take over the city government, demolish the old city, and put up a planned community (Delta City) in its place. As part of this plan, it forces a police strike by terminating their pension plan and cutting salaries by 40%." Regardless of the director's decision for picking the city, their fictional basis for the collapse of a city and system is mirrored by Detroit's present downfall as the heart of American Industry.
And surely enough, as of 2009, a downturn in the economy and unwise if not criminal acts based on the securtization of debt have caused Robocops outlandish foreclosure plot to be quite believable. While there is not a Delta city in the works, the Times of London writes of detroit:

The murder rate is soaring. The school system is in receivership. The city treasury is $300 million (£182m) short of the funds needed to provide the most basic services such as rubbish collection. In its postwar heyday, when Detroit helped the US to dominate the world’s car market, it had 1.85 million people. Today, just over 900,000 remain. The motor city that once boasted the highest median income and home ownership rate in the US is today in the midst of a long and agonising death spiral.
The theme of struggle seems to be highly relatable at this current place of time no matter what its specific context. The novel and film adaption of The Road, though written in 2006 will prove to be rather timely as the author sought to create a world for his characters of ""a world in severe trauma"". The film is a "post-apocalyptic tale of a journey taken by a father and his young son over a period of several months, across a landscape blasted by an unnamed cataclysm that destroyed all civilization and, apparently, almost all life on earth." While Robocop predicits a future yet to happen with sets, The Road directors were able to find enough post-apocalyptic setting in America's rust belt so that sets were not necessary, in fact much of the filming was done in
" Pittsburgh as a practical can be very bleak. There are city blocks that are abandoned. The woods can be brutal. We didn't want to go the CGI world." Filmmakers also shot scenes in parts of New Orleans that had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina".
No critic could call Robocop prophetic, but no-one at this given point in time could argue with The Roads's setting, as it is not an interpretation, but a reality.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Intel is Thuggish, Oh Really?

The Attorney General of New york has filed suit against Intel, alleging that the company has been systematically bribing manufactures, effectively monopolizing the market through hundreds of millions of slush money:“Rather than compete fairly, Intel used bribery and coercion to maintain a stranglehold on the market,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Intel’s actions not only unfairly restricted potential competitors, but also hurt average consumers who were robbed of better products and lower prices.”

One could have predicted such a story much earlier by simply looking at Intel's ad campaigns. If you think a producer enjoys its consumers being a slave to its products, imagine how much money they could make if they had actual slaves working for them. Though tongue and check, what colorblind historiographically challenged idiot cued up this ad. "Oh lets have one geeky white guy to whom a non-unique photoshopped group of blackmen are bowing down to, oh lets also make the cubicles look like a galleon, or some ship thats really fast, our processors are fast, that will get the message across, by the way don't forget to send out those bribes to europe and south korea"!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Surreality TV

The Balloon Boy captured everyone's attention, it was a media spectacle and tugged at our heart strings. Then the Ruse was up: the public was mad, the family became a joke, and writers made "hot air" puns and left it at that.
The story should not be left at that, the length the Henne family went to be come known needs to be discussed further and fleshed out. This story is important not because of its drama or even bizarre context, but rather because it is indicative of a greater fame obsessed culture, partly produced by the prominence of reality and famous for nothing celebrities. The Henne family was so obsessed with reality TV that when they themselves became the news that the reality was at the moment a surreality.
Now we hate the family and make jokes about them. They attained fame, whether it was in the manner they intended or not and now they have been consumed, rebuked and tossed away.
Just as in Whorhal's Monroe, the 15 minutes of fame we seek may seem to be surrounded by regal gold, but on closer examination it is always revealed to be cheap metallic spray paint. It this light, it is fittng that the Balloon Family rose to fame on something that silver and glimmering, but ended up being fragile and cheap Mylar.

Friday, October 23, 2009

High and Mighty, The Internal Threat of Afghanistan's Opium

Besides inspiring a slew of drug fueled Vietnam melodramas, which every baby boomer mentions when they talk about how "bad" war is, China white heroin undermined the élan and fighting effectiveness of US forces. Drugs may help you deal with the burden that is the duality of man, but they also make you a piss poor soldier. Why is this relevant?
During the USSR's invasion of Afghanistan and subsequent occupation, statistics reveal that more that 20 percent of the Soviet army became dependent on Heroin. What a grunge rockstart might spend thousands on, the laws of supply and demand make a day's supply of herion availible to US soldiers in Afghanistan for less than a few dollars. Though I have absolute faith in our fighting men, Patriotism has been known to bend to opportunity.

Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UNODC, follows a common strain of thought as he remarked, "The Taliban's direct involvement in the opium trade allows them to fund a war machine that is becoming technologically more complex "

Everyone knows that 92%, or some huge percentage whatever it be, of the world's opiates come from Afghanistan and that money and drugs pose significant external threats. The untold time bomb is this plentiful drug's internal danger to US fighting forces. Its not the guns that the taleban gets from drug money that may be the most dangerous to US interests, but the drugs that make our guns less effective. Statistics point to a relatively, and suspiciously low number of US troops testing positive for drug use. Numbers in this case are not as important in their volume as they are in their trends. And the Trend is this: According to the VA’s 2008 report on substance abuse, 22,024 veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) sought treatment for substance abuse of all kinds at the VA. That was double the number of just two years earlier. Double trouble. Rates will rise and will potentially mushroom depending on a potential deployment increase. That being so, George Wight, a Pentagon spokesman said, "“Through September 2006, [there were] no positive urinalysis results among deployed soldiers for heroin,”. Really, no one? Even if the Vatican deployed 10,000 saints to Afghanistan, I have no doubt that at least one would succumb, divine as they are.
If we wish to take care of our soldiers and win wars, perhaps the pentagon should reconcile their treatment of symptoms with a denial of its cause. A taste for heroin followed the Red Army soldiers home, thanks to deployment a drug that had little presence in Russia has made it the world's number one consumer. Consequently,today Russia's HIV rates are off the charts also, $1a gram heroin has far reaching ramifications that even the atlantic may not isolate. Remember American Gangster and those cargo planes, that was a true story: "In 2005 an Air National Guard pilot and a sergeant used a C-5 Galaxy military transport plane to sneak nearly 300,000 Ecstasy pills from Germany into New York".

And we are not talking about the hopelessly hashish smoking Afghan national army, that is another story in itself.

see :

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The American Taliban

Let me start out by saying that I am not a Cultural relativist. The Western conception that has based society and government on the individual and his rights, is the most Just. The Taliban are awful medievalists, but beyond the immediate context, there are undertones to their resistance and resolution that are, oddly enough, parallel to a revolutionary American ethos.
Though distinct events in American history, the American revolution and civil war linger in collective memory and helped form an identity forged in part in the heat of battle. Along with the blood of patriots being the breast-milk of liberty, it has been a devotion to the close knit familial units that have moved Americans to rebel against what they perceived to be unjust systems. Whether it be Imperial George or Federal Lincoln, the imposition and distrust of centralized rule is a strong narrative to this day. Favorite son of the South Robert E Lee writes that despite his,

"devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I have therefore resigned my commission in the Army, and save in defense of my native State, with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be needed, I hope I may never be called on to draw my sword..."

The loose federalism prior to the civil war helped to create very local identities and loyalties. With the absence of the Federal system as a source of governance and services, family and local structures galvanized to form the distant south's political and social fabric.

Likewise, from the loose reign of the British colonial government prior to the 1760's grew a unique and localized colonial identity. If a disengaged and distant central power could allow the emergence of shattered and colloquial identities, than it can only be imagined challenging it would be to form a national identity and consensus for a people that have existed in a vacuum of Federal Government. That vacuum realized is Afghanistan.

Enter Mullah Omar, the military leader of the Taleban who has amazingly fought and evaded US capture for eight years. On Omar, Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who coordinated the Obama administration’s initial review of Afghanistan policy in the spring says of Omar, “This is an amazing story,” “He’s a semiliterate individual who has met with no more than a handful of non-Muslims in his entire life. And he’s staged one of the most remarkable military comebacks in modern history.” When you get over the fact that he is an Islamist, he sounds an awful lot like the frontier educated Davey Crockett or Daniel Boone, fighting a lopsidedand ultimately futile fight at the Alamo. This Underdog construct is another parallel, but that is another discussion. Think of that moniker often seen on bumper stickers or protest signs of patriotic and not so subtle vets, "Gods, Guns, Guts".
Though the context is entirely different, if Omar had an SUV, i don't think he'd change the bumper sticker.