October 28, 2008

Elementary Reporting

How awesome is this kid?

October 23, 2008

Context Might Mean Something

I would submit to you that the following two phenomenon are related.

What do people do when confronted on the street and presented with contradictory information? Apparently, when making snap judgements (that's what these kinds of responses to unexpected circumstances and questions are) people ignore information that contradicts their initial assessment of the situation.

October 22, 2008

Readings: Rama on TV

In January 1987 viewers in India began to tune in each Sunday morning for a Hindi television serial based on the Ramayana story. Observers estimate that over eighty million people watched the weekly broadcasts...Despite the fact that Doordarshan, the government run network, had only contracted with the producer for a year's worth of episodes, the audience demanded more. In fact, sanitation workers in Jalandhar went on strike because the serial was due to end without depicting the events of the seventh, and final book of the Ramayana. The strike spread among sanitation workers in many major cities in North India, compelling the government to sponsor the desired episodes to prevent a major health hazard. Quite apart from such militant enthusiasm, the manner in which viewers watched the serial was also striking. Many people responded to the image of Rama on the television screen as if it were an icon in a temple. They bathed before watching, garlanded the set like a shrine and considered the viewing of Rama to be a religious experience.

From Many Ramayanas by Paula Richman

(image from wikipedia: A 17th century painting depicting Hanuman worshiping Lord Rama and his wife Sita. Lakshmana is also seen in this painting from Smithsonian Institution collection.)

October 20, 2008

Full Contact Voting

I voted today. Yup. Mail in ballot. I voted in the presidential election, for a federal rep, a federal senator, a state rep, and for the state board of education. I hadn't been following any of the other races so I politely abstained in those cases. The race that I was most excited about was the Federal rep race because I actually know one of the guys that's running. I've worked with him a little on some anti-war social justice campaigns.

On the topic of voting, here's a clip that goes out to my brother Diggs:

And this one's for my ma:

Readings: Johnston Island

Johnston [Island] considered valuable for its rich deposits of guano, was claimed by both the United States and the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1856. Migratory fowl stop here by the hundreds of thousands, and in 1926 the island was designated a federal bird reserve. After the Second World War it was acquired by the U.S. Air Force, and "since then," I read, "the U.S military has converted this formerly idyllic atoll into one of he most toxic places in the Pacific." It was used during the 1950s and '60s for nuclear testing, and is still maintained as a standby test site; one end of the atoll remains radioactive. It was briefly considered as a test site for biological weapons, but this was precluded by the huge population of migratory birds, which, it was realized, might easily carry lethal infections back to the mainland. In 1971, Johnston became a depot for thousands of tons of mustard and nerve gases, which are periodically incinerated, releasing dioxin and furan into the air (perhaps the reason for the cinnamon haze I had seem from above). All personell on the island are required to have their gas masks ready.

From The Island of the Colorblind by Oliver Sacks
Quoted section from The Micronesia Handbook by David Stanley

October 19, 2008

If This Is It

Strange things come from the likes of college radio stations. Strange and sometimes frightening things. I submit for you Exhibit C:

Huey Lewis and the News cover? Really? If that isn't the 7th sign, it has to be at least the 3rd or 4th.

October 18, 2008

October 13, 2008

Tax Dollar Pie Chart

People talk about this chart a lot but it deserves to be reexamined every now and again. What does the federal government spend money on?

(via sociologicalimages and nationlpriorities)

October 9, 2008

Why Debates Suck

I think that this will be a two part post. Introducing part one I have a little Ralph Nader action.

That right. For those of you who don't remember, in the year 2000, Ralph Nader wasn't merely banned from the debate, he wasn't merely banned from entering the debate hall, he was banned from even watching the debate at an "alternative viewing site" on the campus. And there were several sizable protests that didn't make the news.

But, let's take a step to 1992 and Brian Springer's brilliant documentary "Spin." It consists of hundreds of hours of satellite news feeds that he personally harvested during the 1992 presidential election. Until recently, I had only seen bits and pieces of it. Now, thanks to the wonder of the internet, you can watch the entire movie online. It's a look behind the TV news facade that still feels fresh today.

Larry Agran, former mayor of Irvine who was boxed out of the '92 presidential race by the media. Although I didn't know much about him in '92, I do remember hearing about his policy to drastically reduce military spending and using some of that money to support urban renewal. If I had been old enough to vote, he probably would have been my choice. In some sense, there's a parallel between him and Dennis Kucinich in terms of platform and in terms of treatment by the media and political establishment. Comparing Agran with another former mayor and presidential candidate, Rudolph Guiliani is also interesting. Agran was a proponent of very progressive policies, had a good grasp of urban problems and displayed the solid leadership. Guiliani really only had one thing going for him and that thing can be summed up in 3 numbers yet he turned out to be both a media darling and extraordinarily unpopular with the general public.

So, why do the debates suck? One reason has to be the exclusion of voices such as Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney, and Ron Paul.