Tag Archives: History

Manic Mondays

It occurred to me that today is the 68th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It’s funny how for most people today, December 7th is just another day at work. In 1941, and in other points in history, people were fleeing for their lives. As much as I go on and on about war and the importance of history, I have to concede that most of these conflicts are not mine. I was never drafted. I’m not mourning the loss of friends in a Japanese prison camp. Concerns about Communist expansion had pretty much evaporated by my 10th birthday. However, I do have friends and family in the military today. Some of them are over there not to promote a nationalist foreign policy so much as they want to be able to afford a house in today’s lending market. I’m more likely to know someone who has been killed by drug dealers than by any military power. Knowledge of history can keep us from repeating our mistakes, but if we want to solve today’s problems, we will have to do it using today’s solutions.

What’s with the cryptic facebook status?


Enlighten us. Fill us in. Give us the scoop, the lowdown, the dirt and the muck. What the hell were you just blathering about in that cryptic-ass facebook status?

Are happy? Are you depressed? Are you horny? Are you high? Really, it’s anyone’s guess. “So-and-so is…” are three dots really supposed to express yourself to your friends and family? Do we need to get the “real you” to get past the disjointed poetry, the typos, and the inability to use nouns?

All right. I get it. You’re deep. Special even. You have me completely enthralled with your non sequiturs. Now what am I supposed to do? Facebook messages often go unheeded because the reply box is aaaallll the way down at the bottom of the message. Should I phone you? Not a possibility. Your personal info was deemed much too precious to be molested by the rabble on the Internet.

Facebook has the potential to be the greatest gossip rag in the history of all communication. Tabloid celebrities are only a bland substitute for the people we are really obsessed with- each other.

Each one of us has a basic need to relate to the people we actually have a chance of meeting face to face. We want to praise the highs, console the lows, and occasionally engage in a bit of recreational schadenfreude. When we click “yes” on that friend request we not only agree to abide by the site’s terms of service, we pick up an obligation to relate to that person, as well as make some goddamn sense.

The Story of #iranelection

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#iranelection was for many people the top news source for the aftermath of incumbent President Mahmoud Amedinejad’s so-called victory over reformer candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi last Friday. It’s not a new cable news channel, or even a news website. It’s what is known on twitter.com as a “trending topic”, a self-declared association of posts on the micro-blogging site. Every post with the word “#iranelection” self-identifies as having something to do with the Iran situation, be it opinions, links to mainstream news articles, or even first hand reports. It’s a new form of primary historical document, one that combines the intimacy of personal letters, the immediacy of video or sound recordings, and the openness of a mass media broadcast.

Twitter is by no means new technology. I find it very similar the web-based chat rooms I myself used in highschool. What is different about it is that it has repurposed current technology to be used in a unique way. Where other systems wanted to emphasize privacy and security, Twitter emphasizes publicity and openness. Most of the 140 character “tweets” are meant for the rest of the Twitter community and the internet at large. It’s easy to write it off as some kind of narcissistic toy, I’m guilty of that myself. However, Twitter’s status as a toy rather than a serious social networking site probably kept it from being blocked in Iran within the first few hours of the protests. Other aspects of the site, like the 140 character limit and interoperable architecture have allowed bloggers in Iran to deal with shoddy connectivity and the government’s attempts to block communication from within the country.

The result is a riveting stream of human emotion, rumor, and anonymous people from across the globe communicating like they never could before. Take a look at this feed from @Change_in_Iran

from the looks of it they are waiting to arrest all the students! it’s also explains the vans9:14 PM Jun 13th from web

some people are now parking their cars in middle of the street trying to block the vans. #iranelection9:16 PM Jun 13th from web

Police is trying to stop people from gathering around while Intel guys still holding a line in front of the gates #iranelection9:05 PM Jun 13th from web

police demanding people to move their cars and start crashing car windows. more people are coming. I will try to get a better view9:18 PM Jun 13th from web

Down with the dictator! Mousavi, Karoubi; support us! #iranelection9:30 PM Jun 13th from web

my eyes are burning hard to keep them open #iranelection9:46 PM Jun 13th from web

I’m dizzy but ok. some people are getting shelter in the nearby unfinished bank building. police arresting a middle aged man10:11 PM Jun 13th from web

@ahmadinejad no wonder you are OK Mr president 24.5M10:13 PM Jun 13th from TwitterFox in reply to ahmadinejad

it’s 9:54 AM -Amirabad street near Pasargad bank and to be honest I don’t have the courage to leave the roof right now #iranelection10:27 PM Jun 13th from web

There are more accounts like this on #iranelection interspersed with rumors of riot police stings disguised as Moussavi rallies and burning ballot boxes. Some tweets supply the Iranians with lists of proxies to get around the government’s internet filters. A hacker’s toolkit of programs to shut down Iranian propaganda websites is making the rounds. From the rest of the world, there are notes praying for the safety of the protesters, “retweets” of some of the more vital bits of news for fellow bloggers, and criticism of mainstream media outlets for their lack of coverage on the events. To see people communicate like this on such a personal level, the future of totalitarian regimes is doubtful. Any government that oppresses its own people on the basis of the threat of an external enemy cannot survive like this. The Great Satan has no horns or pointed tail, and he’s able to send a twitpic to prove it.

This is not to say that Twitter and services like it are going to replace more mainstream froms of news gathering. CNN doesn’t deserve its own #CNNfail channel for the coverage of the Iran Election. The network has to tread carefully to get the kind of access it has. President Obama had just recognized the USA’s involvement in the 1953 installment of the Shah only a week before. The US would do well to keep its distance and establish that it has nothing to do with the current unrest. Besides, it doesn’t matter whether True Blood is the higher trending topic or the mainstream media has to wait a few dozen hours to report on what it finds. That’s not what this is about. We all have an opportunity now to witness history. If we can’t take to the streets, if we can’t tend to the wounded, if can’t tweet from our laptops on the roof, the very least we can do is watch and pray that freedom wins out.

The Friday Files: June 12, 2009

voltroncam

This Voltron Camera shows us how much poorer the world is now without transforming merchandise. Via Topless Robot.

It’s Yamato. It’s Starblazers. It’s one totally awesome trailer from the new 2009 series. What more do you need to know? Via AnimeVice.

banckruptgood

Sure it’s depressing, but there’s something refreshing about this scale of financial destruction. Here’s an infographic of the largest bankruptcies in US History. Check out the full chart here. Via BoingBoing.

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For those of you wondering what a bubble looks like while it’s being pierced by a BB Gun, wonder no further. Via ImageShack.

While arcade cabinets are mostly a thing of the past in the West, technology seems to be taking an alternate path as this Japanese company has developed a machine that can switch from vertical to horizontal in one easy step. Via GameSetWatch.

The Terminator Theory of History

christian_bale_stars_as_john_connor_in_terminator_salvation
Friends, Moviegoers, Spambots, lend me your browsers. I come not to review Terminator: Salvation, but to analyze it. In the movie, John Connor is the one person to lead the resistance, bring balance to the Force, and be the boy who lived. But the question is why? It’s no spoiler that most of the series has been spent trying to allow Connor to live up until the point at which he fulfills his destiny. So much so that it has started to bother me.

In the first movie, the computer network, Skynet, sent an Ah-nuld shaped robot 40 years back in time to murder John Connor’s mother to prevent him from being born. Without the glorious leader of the resistance, the computer was sure to win the genocidal war it was waging against all humans. From a conceptual standpoint, it sounds like the perfect assassination plot. The only problem is that it only works under certain assumptions of history. Take for instance, the problem of Adolf Hitler. If the Allies could go back in time and assassinate his mother, Klara Pölzl (or at least keep him away from Alois Hitler through a series of Back to the Future style hijinks), they’d be nuts not to do it, right? Wrong. If they went through with the operation, they’d be rid of Adolf himself and perhaps reduce the severity of the holocaust, but they still couldn’t get rid of the Versailles Treaty, the Great Depression, the centuries of anti-semitism or any of the other thousands of factors created by the actions of millions of people that led to World War II. The Command & Conquer: Red Alert series took this idea to its logical conclusion when a fictionalized Einstein erased Hitler from history, which brought to bear a more powerful and aggressive Soviet Union as a result from the absence of Nazi Germany.

So even if Skynet succeeded offing John Connor, who’s to say that there wouldn’t be someone else to get the ball of human survival rolling? That’s good news for the human race, but does it make for good film-making? A lot of these grand celluloid adventures like Star Wars, Harry Potter, and even the new Star Trek carry themselves on the idea that there is one man, one mission, one movie that will blow your Summer away! Do we need films to be so wrapped up in one character to have effective conflict? I don’t think we’re that selfish. These movies draw on our need to feel special, but no one wants to be so special that it cancels out the need for any other member of the human race. We go to the movies to meet interesting characters, not just look at our own faces pasted on Christian Bale’s body! Besides, so many great deeds of history have been committed by people who weren’t the ones mentioned in the prophecy. In fact, I would say that better movies will emerge when we realize that true greatness doesn’t come from lineage or tea leaves, but from the simple choice to do the right thing when no one else will.