Pictures of Places

During the second week of March, a display of photographs from Palestine was on display in the Campus Center; however, possibly because I initially didn’t know what to make of it, I didn’t pay much attention. But on the final day the exhibit was up, I noticed something. I noticed a pine-cone, and other naturalistic imagery. I was considerably surprised when I found out that the country on display was Palestine. I thought the exhibit to be an interesting experience, causing me to realize how ignorant my, and likely other people’s, preconceived notions of what countries outside of the elitist tier of the “First World” U.S. is comprised of. When I think of the Middle East, I tend to lump the countries together into one desolate colossus of desert. It is tempting to do this because this is likely the sole image that I (and other Americans) am bombarded with and hence what we call upon in our recollections when creating associations with the Middle East. It may serve as a potential reason to pride ourselves as a developed nation.

Similarly, the tendency is great to simply associate Africa with AIDS and malnourished children, and not the lush images of palaces and flourishing cities that populate the country. The Facebook group “The Africa They Never Show You” has compiled over a thousand photographs of various locales in Africa, presenting an image of the country most Americans never associate the country with.

So why is the popular conception of these countries one that is much worse off than reality reflects? Is it solely our elitism and need to have this subservient relationship with these countries so, in comparison, our culture appears better in spite of its flaws? An important note to realize is that as America is not simply overrun by obese, ignorant people, as other countries may perceive us to be. Conversely, these one-dimensional views of countries that are not in the “First World” are incorrect as well--they are not a point that we can conveniently stop at and cease all analysis.
--Cassandra Leveille


George W. Bush Is One of My Favorite Presidents

I'm not a Republican. I think the war in Iraq, and the Terror War in general, is a monumental, epic, hands-down, mentally-deficient clusterfuck. I don't like globalization. I hate being lied to by my government. Practically everything the sadists and trolls in the White House have done for the past eight years has made me nauseous. Sometimes I think fondly about the good-old-days when unpopular leaders were drawn and quartered, or at the very least decapitated.

Still... I think I'll miss Big Dubya when he's gone.

For one thing, he did more for political satire than any other U.S. president I know of -- not intentionally, of course, but he doesn’t have to try. Whenever words fall out from behind that beady-eyed idiot grin, he put food on the table of every pissed-off comedian and editorialist in the country. Lewis Black and Jon Stewart will be able to retire to haciendas in Belize by the time November rolls around -- and they'll probably have to: once their Texan cash cow gets tossed out of office, the salad days are over. They'll have to go back to digging for jokes instead of just reading the news. We might never have the benefit of another wholesale satirical slaughter like we did when Stephen Colbert tore apart the '06 White House Correspondents' Dinner. The loss of the War Chief will be felt far and wide among the people who make us laugh to keep us from crying.

On a more personal note: I owe a lot to George. I was just starting high school when he came into office, so the foundation of my political awareness was developed in the context of Bush's administration. If I'd grown up under eight years of a different president, I might not have the healthy political cynicism I feel blessed with today.

All governments do shady things for selfish interests. Governments lie; governments murder; governments steal. Sometimes these things can be justified, to whatever small extent possible, by keeping people safe -- but acts of cruelty and stupidity are all too often committed for nothing more than profit. It's a sad and uncomfortable truth-- one that most people would rather not think about -- but it's a truth nonetheless. Fortunately, most administrations have the decency to cover their dirty secrets up, allowing us to maintain a comfortable front of naivety. People want to believe their government is a wise, benevolent guardian who watches over them while they struggle through a dangerous world. As long as the government allows us to feed that idealism and doesn't ask us to suspend our disbelief too much, a few high-level scandals and illegal wars won't be much bother. It's like making a good movie: as long as the acting is convincing and the special effects are distracting, the audience will allow themselves to overlook the holes in the plot and the zipper on the monster costume.

Bush and his henchmen asked way, way too much of their audience. Maybe they were unlucky; maybe it was sheer stupidity; maybe they just had too many skeletons and not enough closets to hide them in. Whatever the case, we've been hit repeatedly with the full scope of how diabolically callous our government can be at its worst. I don't think I need to list all the ways the Bush administration has screwed us during the past eight years--I'm not even sure I could if I wanted to-- but the moral of the story, at least for me, is that I'll never completely trust a government again.

I think it's a good thing. While the government -- ours or any other -- has a lot of potential to do good things for people, it has just as much potential, if not more, to exploit them. It'd be nice to believe that the people in control are looking out for our best interests but, as Our Fearless Leader has so aptly demonstrated, they've got no problem taking complete advantage of the power we've trusted them with.

Thanks George.

-Ryan Miga


The Wrath of the Raptor

In 1993, Jurassic Park was released. The velociraptor was introduced into pop culture and, as a result, those evil, door opening, conniving, dinosaurs that lived over 65 million years ago forever changed its landscape. More than any other dinosaur, raptors are viewed by the public as the “it” dinosaur.
Last year on ICTV’s DP Show, they had a sketch featuring Jake Alinikoff as a human/raptor hybrid http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7rH2f4Jgss. The sketch raises the question: Why not a human T-rex? Why not a human stegosaurus? Despite their differences, the T-rex and stegosaurus were rather dumb creatures. In Jurassic Park, raptors were described as being “smart as chimpanzees.” Perhaps it’s the intelligence factor that the public craves in their dinosaurs.
A cursory search on ytmnd.com yields nearly 450 animated GIFs about raptors. Most of them revolve around Raptor Jesus. Encyclopedia Dramatica defines RJ http://www.encyclopediadramatica.com/index.php/Raptorjesus as, “A minor, mildly retarded 4chan meme consisting of a raptor's head crudely photoshopped onto any picture of Jesus.” Raptor Jesus must be the missing link between deities and dinosaurs.
There’s another side to this raptor revival: dinosaurs are long gone, and yet, because of Jurassic Park, a fear still exists. Granted, T-rexes and dilophosaurs are scary too, but a raptor can open doors and slit open a man’s stomach. Raptors can problem solve. Their intelligence is both admired and feared.
Randall Munroe, author and creator of the web-comic XKCD http://www.blogger.com/www.xkcd.com, has a running joke about a fear of raptors http://xkcd.com/155/. Another comic shows a substitute teacher handing out a test revolving around raptors. The students question the test, and the teacher tells them that survival against raptors is more important than math.
A couplet of Sci-Fi channel movies plays out this fear in Raptor Island and Planet Raptor. These movies are like Jurassic Park but without the fat of other dinosaurs. The movies are pure unadulterated fear generators powered solely by raptors. The former stars of the series, Lorenzo Lamas (Renegade) and Stephen Bauer (Scarface – no relation to Jack), play a Navy Seal and Criminal, respectively, held up on an island populated by raptors.
There’s a sad (maybe fitting) truth about Raptors, though. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velociraptor), velociraptors were only about two feet high. And they were covered in feathers. I doubt that if Michael Crichton and Stephen Spielberg made their raptors in Jurassic Park reflect the actual dimensions of a velociraptor, this permeation into pop culture would have existed. And yet, here we are, in a society that both cherishes and fears a dead animal.


Advertising: Charlie Brown floats, other ads sink

Well, the Super Bowl is over; dreams of eternal undefeated glory crushed, unlikely dumped-on has-beens celebrated (Petty or Manning, you decide!), and of course shiny newfangled things pressed on the public. For those who are like me (gay? non-athletic?) the Super Bowl is good for one thing and one thing only. . . commercials!

This year, the abundance of energy drink ads must have had some adverse effect on the non-football parts of the evening. Most ads seemed like they were hopped up on speed-- or maybe the ├╝ber sexist, violent, tastelessly offensive offspring of a George Saunders short story.

Many people have already posted their best-of, worst-of lists, including Slate's Seth Stevenson. It's very funny, especially told from his perspective (a Patriots fan begrudgingly fast forwarding through the painful game). In it, he notes this Coke ad (posted above) as the clear winner of the night and I couldn't agree more. After much wincing and swearing off brand loyalty, one of my friends remarked incredulously, "That wasn't so bad. . ."

It was actually enjoyable. Let me elaborate: While other ads, obsessed with establishing a new customer base, went all out, Coke was the only company that came across confident in their consumers. They delivered an aesthetically pleasing spectacular, without horrible dialogue to boot! The nostalgic elements, a blimpy Stewie from Family Guy, Underdog (the Giants!) and Charlie Brown, were not nauseating like other ads that involved Richard Simmons or Night At the Roxbury references. And the back-and-forth battle for the flying bottle of Coke was clever in adding relevance to the viewing occasion. You stay classy, Coke!


Generation Me?

1. Inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.
2. Psychoanalysis: erotic gratification derived from admiration of one's own physical or mental attributes, being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development. -Dictionary.com

Apparently our whole generation is narcissistic. Reading articles about my generation, written by those not a part of it, I wonder about their conclusions. The articles (Don't Go Blaming Me. I Voted on 'Hot or Not.') in the New York Times say that we're narcissistic– but are we? To me, saying that a whole generation is narcissistic seems immature. Is writing off an entire generation just a self-obsessed cop-out due to the bad role models our parent’s generation provided? In my opinion, these articles ignore the role that society plays. Maybe we are narcissistic. On the other hand, we could just be products of the world around us– of the reality TV world we live in. We are told (or at least I was) to sell ourselves. To sell a product you have to believe in it, or at least pretend you do.

In the Ithacan yesterday, there was an article that revealed to the campus that not enough students are politically active. Is this another example of our self-involvement? Maybe we're caught up in other things ( like guitar hero, second life, the hills, etc...) maybe, just maybe, we're too busy with school. Our generation could just be suffering from anxiety about real life. There is so much pressure on us to succeed. We have been force-fed the American Dream so much that if we do break the law by protesting, or if we don't fill up our times with activities that will look good on a resume, we feel we won't get a good job. Maybe we're narcissistic because our parent's generation spent a little too much time talking about being successful and pressuring us to pick colleges while we’re still in middle school and a little less time letting us figure out things at our own pace.

I quote from an episode of Quarterlife, "A sad truth about our generation is that we were all geniuses in elementary school, but apparently the people who deal with us never got our transcripts because they don’t seem to be aware of it."

I’m not excusing us. We need to be politically active. I feel like I am, and most of my friends are. I have trouble keeping my head above water taking 15 credits. Does anyone else? If college was less about success and more about ideas, we would be more politically active.



Community Forum on Racism in Ithaca School District Leaves Some Skeptical

Yesterday evening, on January 24, a community forum was held at the Calvary Baptist Church on North Albany st. to discuss Ithaca’s ongoing problem with racism within the city’s school district. This was a follow-up meeting to a forum held last October, which took place after IHS students voiced concern that minorities were receiving unequal treatment in the areas of disciplinary decisions, expectations, and opportunities for interaction with ICSD officials as well as a feeling of being judged based on skin color and socioeconomic status.
Although the forum gave community members a much needed (and long awaited) opportunity to express their opinions and concerns to Superintendent Judith Pastel and Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Lesli Meyers, there was reportedly an overall sense of frustration among the audience that their concerns would not immediately be met with effective actions.
Two proposals were discussed at the forum. One proposal is to form a Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, in which, "approximately 20 students (will) meet monthly with the Superintendent of Schools, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services, and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction." This would allow students to give direct feedback to ICSD officials– the lack of communication between students and ICSD officials has been identified as one of the main problems.
The other proposal is to create a Student Discipline Review Panel, consisting of 8-10 students. This would give students another opportunity to voice their opinions to ICSD officials, this time on the concern regarding disciplinary expectations and actions.
For the long-standing race and class issues within the school district and the Ithaca community, this is a step in the right direction. However, some still remain impatient, skeptical, and concerned that Judith Pastel's words are worthless without further action. One audience member reminds us, "These (proposals) are words, not action. This is only the potential for action."


Desperation in Gaza

The top story on the BBC right now is about an impending food shortage in the Gaza Strip, which has been coping with an Israeli-imposed border closure since Friday. Al Jazeera, in its headline story, reports that hospitals have been hard-hit by the blockade and that sewer systems and water systems will have to shut down soon. The BBC quotes EU officials calling Israel's actions "collective punishment," and organizations like Oxfam, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency are warning of serious consequences to public health.

So what does the New York Times have to say about the situation? Their article on the Gaza fuel shortages is the sixth international story listed, not even making the front page of their Web site. (Interestingly, the top story from the Middle East today is about Israel deciding to promote electric cars.) The story appears not to have been updated today, reporting that the "temporary" closure has caused a fuel shortage, which will "affect" hospitals, water and sewage treatment facilities. Israeli officials are quoted saying there is no crisis and that the power plant was shut down basically to get attention. The Times has not mentioned that the UN may have to halt food distribution, nor has it reported on the international criticism of the blockade. The voices of international humanitarian organizations, who seem to be unanimously concerned for the fate of Gaza's 1.5 million residents, are conspicuously absent from their coverage.



Community Forum on Race

This just in from the Village at Ithaca:

There will be a community forum at the Clarion Hotel this Thursday at 7 p.m. to discuss the recent racial tensions in the Ithaca City School District and to develop a community plan to "produce a more inclusive district and community."
The event is being organized by the U.S. Department of Justice, Community Relations Service.

Free transportation via Gadabout buses will be provided from Caroline Elementary School (6:15 p.m.) , Ithaca High School (6:40 p.m.), Enfield Elementary School (6:15 p.m.), and Tompkins County Public Library (6:40 p.m.); return buses will leave the Clarion approximately 9:00 p.m.

The public, including the Ithaca College community, is welcome and encouraged to attend.

Slate's Hillary Hatefest

Today, Hillary Clinton finds herself in the crosshairs of Slate's scathing trio of articles titled, "Clinton-itis."

John Dickerson starts off with a look at the PR snafus of Clinton's campaign. Following on the heels of Bill Shaheen's--Clinton's ex-campaign adviser--resignation after publicly commenting on Barack Obama's drug use, the article discusses the Clinton team's continuous mishandling of similar situations, which land her extremely negative press.

The next two articles--Christopher Hitchens's "The Case Against Hillary Clinton" (or "I just remembered what I can't stand about her") and Timothy Noah's "Hillary's 'Experience' Lie"--thoroughly cut her down to size, criticizing Clinton's character and exaggerated claims of "experience."

I'm not the biggest Hill-fan to say the least, but I wonder whether other democratic candidates will be receiving such special treatment from the web-zine. After reading each article, which make some poignant observations, the Hillary hating was just a bit too much, especially with Hitchens's bilious tone. Take into account crucial primaries in the next week and a half, and it all just seems a bit unprofessional from a consistently judicious magazine.

I will give credit to Hitchens for opening his article with this Hillarious example:
On a first-lady goodwill tour of Asia in April 1995—the kind of banal trip that she now claims as part of her foreign-policy "experience"—Mrs. Clinton had been in Nepal and been briefly introduced to the late Sir Edmund Hillary, conqueror of Mount Everest. Ever ready to milk the moment, she announced that her mother had actually named her for this famous and intrepid explorer... Sen. Clinton was born in 1947, and Sir Edmund Hillary and his partner Tenzing Norgay did not ascend Mount Everest until 1953, so the story was self-evidently untrue and eventually yielded to fact-checking.

Don't block the shot!

While bored on a Tuesday, I took some time and searched YouTube for funny videos. It was most successful. One silly Arnold Schwarzenegger clip in which he attacks and defeats a poorly disguised man in bear suit, check. One cleverly edited cluster of clips from 2006's The Wickerman with Nicholas Cage, check. Then I searched for Bill O'Reilly, typically good material for a chuckle. And I stumbled across this video:

Apparently I'm way behind on this news story. Slate.com has a piece about the incident dated January 5, which covers the story from a insider angle. One reporter was standing next to him at the time. And Bill O'Reilly is selling the "DON'T BLOCK THE SHOT!" T-shirt at his site billoreilly.com.

I guess this is Bill O’Reilly version of hard-hitting journalism.