Truthiness in '08

Can't even describe how stoked I am to be able to write about Presidential Candidate Stephen Colbert. Colbert announced his candidacy on October 16th's episode of The Colbert Report; he already has corporate campaign sponsorship from Doritos -- very, very savvy, Doritos -- and the Donorschoose.org Straw Poll has Colbert as the top choice for President, with Obama second and Mike Gravel third. In other words, the man is not screwing around.

Colbert's bid for War Chief was covered intrepidly here by the Chicago Tribune. Obviously, the good people at the Tribune are not taking this seriously, and I think they damn well should be. The video clip compares Colbert to other joke candidates in the past -- at least I hope to every God conceived by humanity that the "Supreme Vermin" campaign was a joke -- and was apparently trying to demonstrate with their beat-on-the-street interviews that nobody really cares about Colbert.

Not so, says I.

For starters, maybe the clip would have been a little less biased if the reporter had not, presumably, staked herself out in front of the local AARP offices, and perhaps tried to interview a few people who weren't old enough to remember Lincoln's campaign; I have the utmost respect for the elderly, but I think it might have been a bit difficult to get an accurate read on society's pulse from the people featured in the clip -- considering they barely seemed to have pulses themselves.

Next: I'm not sure if it's willful denial or simple ignorance, but the Tribune seems to know as much about Colbert as did the poor schmuck who infamously set him loose at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner--which is not much.

There are two lessons that everybody -- everybody -- in the media business should have learned from that massacre. First, Stephen Colbert is not some brainless jester with nothing to do but crack jokes: the man has an agenda. Second, he has the logistical means to carry out that agenda: unless the Correspondents' Dinner was a massive, epic, once-in-a-century fluke, Colbert obviously knows people who know people, and in politics, that's most of what you need. Third -- and I hate to sound sexist, but I know of no better metaphor -- the man has bulletproof cajones. My God, what must he have been thinking at that dinner: he stands up from his seat, walks past the President of the United States of America, moves to the podium not ten feet away, looks out at a sea of dignitaries and politicians, takes a deep breath -- and commences to unload a righteous hellfire barrage of thinly-veiled criticism, aimed at practically every breathing creature in the room, including -- especially -- the Most Powerful Man in the World, who is no doubt wishing he could give the word for the Secret Service to empty every weapon they have into Colbert's bespectacled frame and dump his body in the Potomac River. It was epic. It was Biblical. It damn near brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it. And if that is what Colbert is capable of -- if nothing else -- then nobody, not even the Tribune, had better be taking him lightly.

It goes beyond that. Not only does Colbert have an impressive pair of...
...values, he has an army backing him up. The "Colbert Nation" commands a substantial chunk of that delicious 18-to-24 age demographic, and many of them are rabidly loyal to Colbert: they almost got a bridge named after him, for God's sake. They'll carry him as close to the White House as he wants to go.

Everybody's always lamenting how college kids never participate in politics: what are they going to do if Colbert allows himself to win in the primaries? I know it's practically impossible, but it's worth wondering: what would happen if the 18-24s turned out in record numbers in 2008 and handed Colbert the popular vote? What would that say about our political system? Is it really that impossible?

I have the utmost respect for Colbert, but I hope to God this madness stops soon: if the rest of the world realizes it's possible for a comedian to be voted President of the United States, every nation of people who can hold so much as a tree branch will be scrambling to invade us. Canadians armed with chainsaws and broken maple syrup bottles will swarm over the northern border. Migrant workers turned sleeper-cell invaders will raise the Mexican flag over the entire Southwest. Greenlanders riding polar bears will conquer New England. Ithaca itself will surely be subjugated by gravity-defying Buddhist monks from Namgyal Monastery a la Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Mark my words: if Colbert succeeds, the nation will burn.


Bitches and Hoes, or Women & Prostitutes?

In the gym I see your ass up on the Stairmaster
But you got it on level two bitch go a little faster
Look girl, I ain’t gonna lie, I'll tell you how I feel
They should handcuff your big ass to the treadmill – 50 Cent – Fat Bitches

Since I was little, my parents have given me many of my beliefs. Two of the ones that are most important to me are my love of music and a positive self-image / self-respect. Today, however, those two parts of my life are clashing. It seems that everywhere I look (or listen), “bitches” and “hoes” are dancing around men who seem to only care about sex. For example, "I’m sick of using technology, why don't you come sit on top of me" [50 cent ft Justin Timberlake - ayo technology]. Isn’t there a slightly nicer way to ask a girl to have sex with you? And God FORBID a woman has a normal body shape. For example, Britney Spears in the VMA’s this year. I’m not condoning her horrendous performance, but in no way shape or form was she overweight. If anything, she looked healthy. So girls see healthy women being called fat bitches and lose their self-esteem and stop eating. But that’s not okay either. Because then they’re anorexic whores who are talked about by everyone from Perez Hilton to CNN. How are girls that are exposed to pop culture supposed to feel good about themselves? Granted, there are songs that promote positive self-image like Mika’s “Big Girls.” But there aren’t nearly enough. I’m all for freedom of speech, but personally, I don't see the need for "bitches" and “hoes” to be in songs. I understand some artists want to be "shocking" and "outrageous" to gain more fans. But does Ludacris really need to yell out "move, bitch; get out the way"? Can’t he just say “excuse me miss, I need to pass by you”? All I’m saying is there should be some sort of happy medium that artists can reach without being misogynistic and sounding like sexual pigs. I don't know, maybe I just need some "sexual healing."


Poem to Present New Perspective on Patriotism?

Okay, enough with the personal attempts at trying to be witty. In all seriousness, when a friend sent me the poem, "First Writing Since (Poem on Crisis of Terror)" written by Palestinian-American Suheir Hammad, I was blown away. And it wasn't necessarily because she presents new perspectives that I haven't thought about, it's the level of depth and emotion congealed into her poetry that only comes from real, personal experience. Hammad's poetic memoir of 9/11 and it's post-affects on her personal life and our society are perspectives that (I believe) every American needs to read.

In one of my classes, we've been discussing what it is about the word "patriotism" that has created so many black and white barriers in our country. Since 9/11, the abstract notion of patriotism is so close to being defined on paper by our government that it leaves almost no room for personal evaluation. Who is to say what encompasses true patriotism? Hammad takes you inside her mind for anecdotal and psychological hindsight on her feelings of true terrorism and patriotism, and the mess that lies in between. I've included Hammad's poem in this blog; it was first published in the November 7, 2001 issue of In Motion Magazine. Also check out Hammad's personal website to see more of her work. Enjoy.

First Writing Since

(Poem on Crisis of Terror)

by Suheir Hammad
New York, New York

1. there have been no words.
i have not written one word.
no poetry in the ashes south of canal street.
no prose in the refrigerated trucks driving debris and dna.
not one word.

today is a week, and seven is of heavens, gods, science.
evident out my kitchen window is an abstract reality.
sky where once was steel.
smoke where once was flesh.

fire in the city air and i feared for my sister's life in a way never
before. and then, and now, i fear for the rest of us.

first, please god, let it be a mistake, the pilot's heart failed, the
plane's engine died.
then please god, let it be a nightmare, wake me now.
please god, after the second plane, please, don't let it be anyone
who looks like my brothers.

i do not know how bad a life has to break in order to kill.
i have never been so hungry that i willed hunger
i have never been so angry as to want to control a gun over a pen.
not really.
even as a woman, as a palestinian, as a broken human being.
never this broken.

more than ever, i believe there is no difference.
the most privileged nation, most americans do not know the difference
between indians, afghanis, syrians, muslims, sikhs, hindus.
more than ever, there is no difference.

2. thank you korea for kimchi and bibim bob, and corn tea and the
genteel smiles of the wait staff at wonjo the smiles never revealing
the heat of the food or how tired they must be working long midtown
shifts. thank you korea, for the belly craving that brought me into
the city late the night before and diverted my daily train ride into
the world trade center.

there are plenty of thank yous in ny right now. thank you for my
lazy procrastinating late ass. thank you to the germs that had me
call in sick. thank you, my attitude, you had me fired the week
before. thank you for the train that never came, the rude nyer who
stole my cab going downtown. thank you for the sense my mama gave me
to run. thank you for my legs, my eyes, my life.

3. the dead are called lost and their families hold up shaky
printouts in front of us through screens smoked up.

we are looking for iris, mother of three. please call with any
information. we are searching for priti, last seen on the 103rd
floor. she was talking to her husband on the phone and the line
went. please help us find george, also known as a! ! del. his family is
waiting for him with his favorite meal. i am looking for my son, who
was delivering coffee. i am looking for my sister girl, she started
her job on monday.

i am looking for peace. i am looking for mercy. i am looking for
evidence of compassion. any evidence of life. i am looking for

4. ricardo on the radio said in his accent thick as yuca, "i will
feel so much better when the first bombs drop over there. and my
friends feel the same way."

on my block, a woman was crying in a car parked and stranded in hurt.
i offered comfort, extended a hand she did not see before she said,
"we"re gonna burn them so bad, i swear, so bad." my hand went to my
head and my head went to the numbers within it of the dead iraqi
children, the dead in nicaragua. the dead in rwanda who had to vie
with fake sport wrestling for america's attention.

yet when people sent emails saying, this was bound to happen, lets
! ! not forget u.s. transgressions, for half a second i felt resentful.
hold up with that, cause i live here, these are my friends and fam,
and it could have been me in those buildings, and we"re not bad
people, do not support america's bullying. can i just have a half
second to feel bad?

if i can find through this exhaust people who were left behind to
mourn and to resist mass murder, i might be alright.

thank you to the woman who saw me brinking my cool and blinking back
tears. she opened her arms before she asked "do you want a hug?" a
big white woman, and her embrace was the kind only people with the
warmth of flesh can offer. i wasn't about to say no to any comfort.
"my brother's in the navy," i said. "and we"re arabs". "wow, you
got double trouble." word.

5. one more person ask me if i knew the hijackers.
one more motherfucker ask me what navy my brother is in.
one more person assume no arabs or muslims were killed.one more person
assume they know me, or that i represent a people.
or that a people represent an evil. or that evil is as simple as a
flag and words on a page.

we did not vilify all white men when mcveigh bombed oklahoma.
america did not give out his family's addresses or where he went to
church. or blame the bible or pat robertson.

and when the networks air footage of palestinians dancing in the
street, there is no apology that hungry children are bribed with
sweets that turn their teeth brown. that correspondents edit images.
that archives are there to facilitate lazy and inaccurate

and when we talk about holy books and hooded men and death, why do we
never mention the kkk?

if there are any people on earth who understand how new york is
feeling right now, they are in the west bank and the gaza strip.

6. today it is ten days. last night bush waged war on a man once
openly funded by the
cia. i do not know who is responsible. read too many books, know
too many people to believe what i am told. i don't give a fuck about
bin laden. his vision of the world does not include me or those i
love. and petittions have been going around for years trying to get
the u.s. sponsored taliban out of power. shit is complicated, and i
don't know what to think.

but i know for sure who will pay.

in the world, it will be women, mostly colored and poor. women will
have to bury children, and support themselves through grief. "either
you are with us, or with the terrorists" - meaning keep your people
under control and your resistance censored. meaning we got the loot
and the nukes.

in america, it will be those amongst us who refuse blanket attacks on
the shivering. those of us who work toward social justice, in
support of civil liberties, in opposition to hateful foreign

i have never felt less american and more new yorker, particularly
brooklyn, than these past days. the stars and stripes on all these
cars and apartment windows represent the dead as citizens first, not
family members, not lovers.

i feel like my skin is real thin, and that my eyes are only going to
get darker. the future holds little light.

my baby brother is a man now, and on alert, and praying five times a
day that the orders he will take in a few days time are righteous and
will not weigh his soul down from the afterlife he deserves.

both my brothers - my heart stops when i try to pray - not a beat to
disturb my fear. one a rock god, the other a sergeant, and both
palestinian, practicing muslim, gentle men. both born in brooklyn
and their faces are of the archetypal arab man, all eyelashes and
nose and beautiful color and stubborn hair.

what will their lives be like now?

over there is over here.

7. all day, across the river, the smell of burning rubber and limbs
floats through. the sirens have stopped now. the advertisers are
back on the air. the rescue workers are traumatized. the skyline is
brought back to human size. no longer taunting the gods with its

i have not cried at all while writing this. i cried when i saw those
buildings collapse on themselves like a broken heart. i have never
owned pain that needs to spread like that. and i cry daily that my
brothers return to our mother safe and whole.

there is no poetry in this. there are causes and effects. there are
symbols and ideologies. mad conspiracy here, and information we will
never know. there is death here, and there are promises of more.

there is life here. anyone reading this is breathing, maybe hurting,
but breathing for sure. and if there is any light to come, it will
shine from the eyes of those who look for peace and justice after the
rubble and rhetoric are cleared and the phoenix has risen.

affirm life.
affirm life.
we got to carry each other now.
you are either with life, or against it.
affirm life.

Published in In Motion Magazine November 7, 2001.


Second Life Anyone?

Second life is an online internet world which allows you to create a fun avatar, whether a fuzzy bunny or ripped weight lifter, and participate in all sorts of activities. Appearing very much like Sims these people participate in discussions, take classes, go to work conferences, sell and buy virtual items with real money, and build whatever their creativity allows them to. The creeping reality is the interest of companies to create a second life presence, and the profit which may evolve from such an intricate playoff of the real world. Hotel businesses are popping up along with entertainment and even fashion industries. The main draw to me though, was your limitless ability to create. You are given tools and basic geometrics to build whatever you please, to understand and use these tools allows you to build works of art that are impossible to create in the real world. Many limitations of the real world fall away in Second Life, some very interesting discussion can be viewed on, http://www.ugotrade.com/category/second-life/. The architecture, the ability people are given in this world that they lack in the real world (e.g. ability to walk), the learning opportunity, the global connectivity, the idea of artificial general intelligence and artificial life are just a few. Also the Park school offers classes, check it out, kimgregson.com.