And some of my babies:
And introducing, Franklin! (My best friend’s cat)
I have been playing video games as long as I can remember. I was born into this world equipped with a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and grew up beating my sister at Mario – as Luigi, of course, as I am the younger sibling. Later on, as technology advanced and my parents divorced I was fortunate enough to have a first generation Playstation at one house, and a Nintendo 64 at the other. Both of the systems were intended to be for the family, however I was the only one who really played them, as my sister would generally opt to watch me play instead. On the Nintendo I continued to play Mario and other Nintendo exclusive titles, but Playstation had many different types of games that expanded my taste. I tried out a plethora of genres, but my favorites were Spyro The Dragon and MediEvil.
As I got older and video game technology advanced, I moved on to the Playstation 2, and in high school was finally permitted to play the notorious Grand Theft Auto. I ran amok in the streets of Liberty City doing all of the things the media warned parents about: drugs, grand theft auto (of course), and shooting prostitutes for money after sleeping with them for health.
I continued to play games occasionally throughout high school, but didn’t play very often. My interest in new games also began to diminish as more of the games switched to first person perspectives were largely multiplayer shooters. Additionally, after the new video game systems had been released, my system became incompatible with all of the new games making it virtually obsolete. Because of these reasons I somewhat fell out of playing video games.
After high school I moved on to college, which left me too busy to play games, and then (during a one year hiatus from college) worked for the conservation corps, living in a facility with only a communal television. I was therefore either too busy or unable to play video games at that time, even if I had wanted to.
Upon finishing my time in the Conservation Corps, I went back to college and got a job working for a GameStop. Despite having grown up playing video games, I was a “newb” compared to my coworkers. I did, however, know about games that they were unfamiliar with, games suited for a seemingly forgotten, but profitable sub-margin of gamers. Though I played games such as Grand Theft Auto, I knew most about the “child friendly,” E-rated games that are overlooked by many due to their childlike appearance.
It was working for GameStop when I first became aware of just how much children are being exposed to, and the apathetic enabling of the parents. M-rated games, such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, must be purchased by an individual that is 17 years, or older or for another individual under 17 by a parent or guardian. Additionally, when these games were purchased from (at least) our GameStop the content descriptors were read to the parents so that they were able to make an informed decision when deciding whether or not to purchase the game. Sure, adults can read the back of the games for themselves, however many times children would try to deceive their parents, claiming the the game “isn’t that bad”. If staff had personal experience with the game in question, additional, personal information would be shared with the customer about specific incidences for which the game received the content descriptor, and therefore rating. In some instances the parents were appalled, denied their child the violent, or sexual, video game and insisted that they pick a more age appropriate game. In most cases, however, the response was either dismissal, or rationalization the purchase by saying: “All of their friends play the game,” or, “It’s nothing worse than what they’re exposed to on television.”
As I stated previously, I played games with cartoon violence when I was young and video games with more realistic violence in high school, however advances in technology have increased not only the visual accuracy of games but the level of immersion as well, with the first person perspective approach. Additionally, I sold parents of young children M-rated games frequently, and if it is true that they are equally exposed to violent television and movies as many parents so cavalierly stated, I truly worry about the effect all of the media exposure to sex and violence is having on our society as a whole.
At this point in my life I generally try to avoid violence and negativity in the media. I try not to watch violent movies or TV shows, listen to negative or aggressive music, or play violent video games. This, however, only applies to realistic violence. One reason is that fantasy or cartoon violence seems more disconnected to me, I can play the role, whether slipping myself into a movie or game, but realize intellectually that it is fiction – or so I though.
Myth 8. Unrealistic video game violence is completely safe for adolescents and older youths.
Facts: Cartoonish and fantasy violence is often perceived (incorrectly) by parents and public policy makers as safe even for children. However, experimental studies with college students have consistently found increased aggression after exposure to clearly unrealistic and fantasy violent video games. Indeed, at least one recent study found significant increases in aggression by college students after playing E-rated (suitable for everyone) violent video games.
In addition to my discontinuance of playing violent video games, I am generally still too busy to play console games. I do, however, enjoy the convenience and options available through mobile gaming. Instead of watching television, after studying all night I’ll play puzzle or role playing games on my tablet to de-stress before bed. And although studies show that games may increase aggressive thoughts and behaviors, I occasionally have even played video games to reduce stress, destroying things or punching someone in the face in the game instead of in real life. But does that contribute to my future behaviors? Am I adding to my “script,” conditioning myself to be an aggressive person in real life? It is definitely something to think about.
Video games, while generally attacked and blamed for violence in the media, have also received some positive coverage. Studies highlighting the cognitive, motivational, emotional, social and health benefits of video games including games from puzzles to first person shooters have also been published that remind us of the importance of looking at the effects of gaming from all angles.
As with most forms of media, there is good and bad. The key is acting as an informed consumer and wise, moderate use.
I decided to write about the documentary Religulous, written by and starring comedian Bill Maher, who is known for Politically Incorrect, and directed by Larry Charles, who worked both on Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, and directed Borat. Maher states at the beginning of the movie that one of his goals was to discover how seemingly intelligent, rational people could actually believe in religion. The film makers are coming from the point of view that religion is a bunch of ridiculous fairy tales and that to believe in the tenets of any religion is irrational. Maher also states that one of his goals was to incite the non-believers in this country to band together and become politically relevant. He argues that 16% of the country is non-religious, and yet other groups with fewer numbers have much more political power than what he calls “rationalists.” Maher interviews a number of people from many different faiths, repeatedly suggests that doubt is better than belief, and mocks many of the believers he interviews.
Is Religulous Honest?
Religulous is honest and it isn’t. Maher and Charles aren’t secretive about their bias or their purpose, at least not to the audience watching the movie. But he told the Los Angeles Times that he used the fake title “A Spiritual Journey” to obtain interviews, which means that those being interviewed were possibly deceived. The fake title may have led many to believe that the film makers’ intentions were different from what they really were. The interviews almost certainly were also edited to make the faithful look as ridiculous as possible. “When it comes to documenting reality, the lines between information and entertainment blur, as New York Times film critic A.O. Scott suggests.” In Religulous, those lines are obliterated. The purpose of the film is to be funny more than anything else, and real in depth discussions of faith and doubt are not to be found. So the film is an honestly expressing Maher’s point of view, but the means by which the information was obtained and presented are not necessarily as honest.
Is Religulous Independent?
Religulous was conceived by Bill Maher long before the movie was made. But it wasn’t until Maher met Larry Charles that anything tangible came from the idea. They got financing to produce the film from Thousand Words, an independent film finance and production company, and the film was distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment, the most commercially successful independent film and television distribution company in North America. Maher and Charles were free to make the movie they wanted to make, as neither of these companies answer to larger corporations who might not want to offend people of faith and would have pushed to make the film more conciliatory to religious people. The movie is certainly independent.
Is Religulous Productive?
The budget was 2.5 million dollars, and took in more than 13 million dollars, making it one of the top 20 grossing documentaries ever in the US. It was certainly seen by a lot of people, most of who probably already agree with Maher’s point of view. He never said that the goal of his film was to change believers into rationalists, so I don’t know that the success of the film is any indication of its productivity. If the purpose of the film was truly to discover what makes people believe in religion, than the film fails miserably and was not productive at all. Rather than attempting to discover why people believe what they do, he asks derisive questions and mocks those of faith. If the purpose was to motivate non-believers to join together and become more politically relevant, again I would have to say the film was not very productive. There is no atheist lobby, and congress still has no one who is openly atheistic. The film mostly preached to the choir, but didn’t really rally them in any significant way. However, just by adding his voice to the debate, Maher has, perhaps, reached a few people. Really significant change comes slowly; perhaps expecting one movie to make that drastic a change is too much to ask. Maher wasn’t bringing light to injustice and making an immediate change in people’s lives, at least not in the way Harvest of Shame or Thin Blue Line did. But the issue he’s tackling is far bigger than the plight of farm workers or an innocent man being sentenced to death; he’s asking people to rethink an idea that is central to most people’s lives. But his real goal was to make people laugh, he wanted the movie, above all, to be funny. And in that way he succeeded brilliantly – it’s funny as hell.
Turn on any news station, and you are likely to hear the same thing, almost verbatim spoken by every anchor. The homogenization and, demise of the “fourth estate” is due largely to the fact that “six mega-corporations… own more than 90 percent of the newspaper, magazine, internet, film, radio, television, and cable media.” Additionally, the news media has grown increasingly involved and enmeshed with particular political parties, resulting in biased, primarily anecdotal newscasts, often with misleading information. When virtually all media is just parroting itself, parody news, “Comedy Central style,” is becoming a better and more reliable source for news than the regular, mainstream news. Or, as Jon Stewart said, the regular news is beginning to look a lot more like him.
Professor Rachael Sotos, author of “The Fake News as the Fifth Estate,” argues that fake, or parody, news acts as a watchdog over the fourth estate, news media, which is supposed to keep in check the first, second and third estates (the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the government). As an active representative of the fifth estate, Sotos highlights the parallels between The Daily Show host John Stewart and America’s founding fathers. Sotos claims that The Daily Show “carries forth the creative, revolutionary spirit of the American Founders,” using constructive irony as a tool for revolution, much like Benjamin Franklin.
Additionally, Stewart’s “comic manner of reporting, often with gasps of exasperation and bewilderment” was compared to the dialogues of the great philosopher Socrates who “practiced philosophy ironically”. Sotos discusses the benefits of feigning ignorance, stating that because these men pretend to know nothing, thus do not press their own opinions, they are able “to expose the ignorance of [their] interlocutors.” The Daily Show, is therefore an important element in maintaining democracy, exposing Americans to alternate interpretations of the information that is repeated again, and again on every station, and inspires viewers to ask questions and think critically, rather than blindly digesting what they are fed. In fact, research has shown (according to Sotos) that viewers of The Daily Show are actually “more informed than consumers of mainstream news.”
Though he was discussed much less than John Stewart, Stephen Colbert was also mentioned in Sotos’ paper. Colbert, of The Colbert Report, used his star power and quick wit, to (mostly) satirically address the issue of migrant workers in America. Colbert first presented his opening testimony on his day spent as a migrant worker via the “Take Our Jobs” campaign initiated by the United Farm Workers of America. A decreasing number of Americans are willing to take farm labor jobs and Colbert, while using the experience as fodder for his show, was only one of only sixteen people who took advantage of the program. Colbert opened, in character, by stating that to solve the immigration problem Americans need to simply stop eating fruits and vegetables. Because this isn’t possible, however, as fruits and vegetables are “necessary forms of roughage,” Colbert then supported removing illegal immigrant farm workers rejecting the “idea that farm work is among the semi-mythical jobs Americans won’t do.”
“Really, no Americans?” Colbert exclaimed, “I did, as part of my ongoing series “Stephen Colbert’s Fallback Position: Where I Try Other Jobs and Realize That Mine is Way Better.” Even the title of the series oozes with satire. After Colbert’s opening statement, however, when asked questions by California representative Judy Cu, Colbert broke character. Unlike most of the panel, Chu treated Colbert’s presence with respect, and asked him honest questions. In her last question, acknowledging Colbert’s star power, Chu asks, “Mr. Colbert you could work on so many issues why are you interested in this issue?” Without reading from a script, without the jokes, Colbert responded “I like talking about people who don’t have any power, and this seemed like one of the least powerful people in the United States: Migrant workers who come and do our work but don’t have any rights as a result. And yet we still invite them to come here and at the same time ask them to leave. And that is an interesting contradiction to me, and… ‘whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers’… and these seem like the least of our brothers, right now… migrant workers suffer and have no rights.”
This is why I watch parody news. Colbert’s moment of raw emotion represented, to me, what parody news, “Comedy Central style”, really stands for. Although at face value The Daily Show or The Colbert Report seems like simply comedy, the purpose of the comedy is to open you up and make you more receptive to new and sometimes strange ideas. And the best comedy always makes you think as much as it makes you laugh.
There’s no question that The Learning Channel enables, encourages, and exploits an undeniably ignorant family for the amusement of their audience, and they apparently have a good sized audience (Honey Boo Boo is TLC’s third highest rated program). But Honey Boo Boo is only the latest version of playing to the lowest common denominator.
Token Black, South Park’s token black student, summed up my experience watching Honey Boo Boo almost perfectly:
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; a shameful fat family eating white-trash food, to their deaths? And then I saw what network it was on: The Learning Channel.”
What exactly are we supposed to be learning watching this family clean out a candy store or raid somebody’s refrigerator during an open house?
Americans seem to love watching horrible singers audition for American Idol, watching people in houses completely filled with garbage refuse to throw anything away, or watching a large group of women compete for the affections of one man. Whether it’s called lowering the bar or if it’s just the direction the culture is heading, being smart and knowledgeable have become less and less important in almost all aspects of American culture.
Television has been less and less about being informative and more and more about ratings and advertising for a long time now. News programming used to be about news, now it’s almost entirely human interest stories, because television programmers give people what they want. I am disappointed in The Learning Channel, The History Channel, Discovery Channel, and many others as they’ve all become more about marketing and appealing to mass audience as cable TV has grown in popularity. Everyone has to compete for an audience to keep their networks on the air, and if these channels continued to provide quality educational programming, no one would watch.
A common theme running through a lot of these shows is a spirit of the glorification of ignorance. If enough people want to watch a bunch of obese hillbillies revel in their ignorance and their total lack of regard for others, some TV producer will make that show. If we lived in a culture that valued education over entertainment, perhaps we’d be seeing different shows on these cable channels, but we’re not. All these reality shows make people feel better about their own crappy situation and entertain them just enough so that they never do anything about it.
All I can say is that I hope James Cameron dives down to the depths of the ocean before it’s too late to re-raise the bar and we end up like Idiocracy.
This week we were asked to discuss the heuristic value of cartoons, with special emphasis placed on the Simpsons. In The Function of Fiction: The Heuristic Value of Homer, author McMahon attributes four qualities to The Simpsons that lend support to the educational value of the program: the ordinariness of the characters, humor, animated medium, and the show’s mass appeal.
The Simpson family depicts an average suburban American family in which many can relate. This fact is so true, that when I was a child (I grew up watching The Simpsons) I was honestly disturbed by the fact that the episodes of the show were so congruent with my own life experiences. I felt so close to the characters in the show that I actually thought somebody had put cameras in my house and was basing new episodes on my life. Though my reaction as a child was extreme, this bares evidence to the fact that the ordinariness of the Simpsons family helps people connect and relate to the stories, providing a non-threatening avenue for information.
In addition to the the level on which the show allows people to relate to the characters of The Simpsons, the humor provided by the show also helps to “bring light to things that might otherwise be too uncomfortable to acknowledge”. There are many shows that attempt this, but The Simpsons so seamlessly intertwines slapstick with relevant social, economic, and environmental issues. While other shows, such as South Park, may interject these relevant issues, they are less approachable and often shoved in the viewer’s face quite brashly. The Simpsons takes such a subtle approach, it often takes reflection to realize if the writers are being satirical or serious.
The perfect combination of ordinary, comedy and serious lends to the mass appeal of The Simpsons, which in turn lends to a large captive audience. Because the show is relatable, and because the writers are so soft handed with presenting messages, coupling serious moments with light humor, this show has the ability to send important cultural messages to people all over the country. The Simpsons crosses class boundaries and appeals to a wider range of individuals than other forms of media, and other shows within the same form are capable of.
Finally, McMahon argues that the animated media of the show allows people to relate to the characters, but remain disconnected, which which promotes a deeper analysis of the content. “While we enter fiction imaginatively, we cannot change them,” which causes viewers to think harder about the situation being presented, and what they agree with, disagree with, and how they would do things differently in their own life.
The episode I watched for this weeks class (episode 12, season 25: The Man Who Grew Too Much) fulfilled all of these criteria. The ordinariness of the characters, allowed me to feel like the episode, which was on genetically modified organisms, could have been based on an Arcata town meeting. The humor allows viewers to personally asses a relevant, modern issue without the fear of being chastised, or without the soapbox rant. In addition to these aspects, the animated nature of the show not only allowed for disconnect, but I feel added to the reduced tension of discussing this controversial topic. As a person that is a part of the scientific community, I often feel that people are caught up in hot topics, with opinions based on the newest, most controversial information, regardless of the source. Additionally, many people feel, and this has been expressed to me personally (on the issue of windmills), that scientists cannot be trusted, that they only produce results to make money. This episode addressed both of these issues and made light of them using humor. Given the same scene with real people, however, I may have not been able to to enjoy the satire as much. I would have inevitably felt more connected to live actors and would have gotten angry at the nonsensical claims that were expressed during the town meeting, rather than laughed.
There in lies the importance of animated media as an educational tool. Fiction, and especially animation, breaks down walls and is able to reach people on an elevated, emotional level that is unrivaled by pure non-fiction.
A real reason to be scared of GMOs.
Voracious Worm Evolves to Eat Biotech Corn Engineered to Kill It
Act 1: This American Life:
Part one – Brigadoon; the thrill of radio.
Radio is a medium that when experienced, creates a feeling that cannot be replicated by other forms of communication such as television or internet. Iggy Scam takes us through his experience with a pirate radio station and the magic of not knowing who or where the signal comes from. DJ Funky One would play local songs, discuss local issues, and to Scam’s disbelief even take listener calls. It was raw, for the people, and enigmatic. Behind the static of the radio, the DJs could remain anonymous, by participating in gorilla radio they could talk about real issues and play music that was near and dear to the people who cared to find them, music overlooked by commercial stations.
Part two – The Invisible Leading the Blind.
“So much radio listening happens in the car,” and most of these stations sound exactly the same. That was the dilemma faced by Jack Hitt, stuck in the car scanning the stations, searching for anything different. That’s when Hitt came across a station that, although intended for the blind, was surprisingly refreshing even for the seeing. The program consisted of two men simply reading the local news. The animation with which the speakers read and the banter between the two, were what really caught the attention of Hitt, however. Radio has been reduced to over commercial bullshit that all sounds exactly the same, but it hasn’t always. Hitt described the program as surreal, sounding as if it were from thirty years ago.
Part three – The Radio Most People Listen To.
The reason for the lack of diversity in radio, the reason all the life has been sucked out of every last segment, is the democratic rating system. Songs are carefully chosen by stations, and then played with frequencies based on if the song is rated as an A, B, or C, or if it is a proven “classic”. The personality is, therefore, taken out of the station, which cannot play songs that aren’t popular with the masses, due to the risk of listeners changing the station. DJs are then forced to play set lists of songs at set times, are sculpted to have personalities that are congruent with the station, and are reduced to annoying sound bites that are played between songs.
Part four – Nobel Calling.
There is something about original radio that has an appeal to most anyone, even Nobel Prize winner Jose Ramos admits that he’d like to be able to host a radio program that is comedic and satirical, similar to the Howard Stern show. The Howard Stern Show is by no means a program for everybody; however Ramos enjoyed how shows like these can bring people together for a laugh, but also the honesty in the dialogue. “It is honesty. And that’s why it is so popular and many people hate him because of that. But he should, in fact, receive a medal of freedom for what he’s doing.”
Act 2: Radio in My Life.
Some of my oldest childhood memories involve radio. When I was just a kid, probably three or younger, my sister and I would make our own radio programs, with interviews and singing reordered over an old led zeppelin tape given to us by our parents.
As I grew older, the radio became a source of finding my identity, I could scan the stations trying out different subcultures until I found one that suited me. The radio, at this time, was also my source of creating playlists, by recording different songs to a cassette tape as they came on the radio. Initially, I started out first listening to the top 40 stations, but quickly realized that pop wasn’t my thing. Around this same time, my sister and I began also watching music videos on MTV in the mornings before school and I was introduced to the band System of a Down, spawning my butt rock phase, and moving the radio dial up to 106.7 (Z-rock).
But as my musical tastes developed, and I began liking less and less of what was on the radio, I took a hiatus, listening almost exclusively to CDs. For a few years my musical tastes stayed the same and I continued to have a general dislike for the radio. Then, sometime around the middle of high school, I decided that the music I was listening to was too negative and began looking for a new genre, finding electronic dance music. I first became interested in EDM because after seeing the movie Party Monster, which introduced me to house and club music of the 1980’s and 90’s. From there I began exploring the music on MySpace, which, at the time, allowed users to upload and make available original tracks. I was therefore able to find a plethora of regional, original artists, generally playing some kind of electronic based music. Once the golden days of MySpace had passed, however, I was left without an outlet for new music. That is when I was introduced to Pandora. When it comes to brand loyalty, there are very few corporations I would stand by, but Pandora has become one of them. Unlike FM radio, Pandora plays only music, with very few ads. Users can skip songs, dislike or like songs, put songs on a list to be skipped for some time if the song is overplayed, and add artists specific to the users choices. As I’ve gotten older, my musical tastes have changed, but have also grown to become quite eclectic. Pandora allows me to create a shuffle of artists ranging from hyphy (Bay Area hip hop) to happy hardcore (fast pasted EDM) and not only plays artists I like, but similar artists that I may like but have never heard of.
I now almost exclusively use Pandora, rarely listening to even music from my own playlists which grow tiresome. I do, however, occasionally listen to the radio, especially now that I am living in Humboldt – KSLG is a radio station that I sometimes enjoy (though increasingly less and less). Generally when listening to the radio, I’ll just press scan until a song that I like or sounds good comes on.
Act 3: The Future of Radio.
The future of radio is online. Myself and many others have begun turning off FM stations, replacing the seemingly outdated system for satellite or internet radio. On the internet people can find and create pod casts and unique stations that are tailored to smaller groups of people looking for something specific. Pandora, and programs like it, provide a music based radio experience that can be personalized. Traditional radio should not be forgotten, however, and the importance of radio and having a receiver during times of emergency should remain present in the minds of modern citizens. This was apparent in America during the Hurricane Katrina crisis.
Over the last few semesters I have been lucky enough to have seen three remarkable music performances at the Van Duzer theatre, including two of the artists written about in “Don’t Stop Believing” by Deidre Pike.
Not mentioned in the article, The Devil Makes three, is a sort of modern bluegrass band blended with country, folk, blues, bluegrass and rockabilly elements. The first three of their albums, self titled, “Long Johns, Boots and a Belt”, and finally “A Little Bit Faster and a Little Bit Worse”, a live recorded version of their second album, and my personal favorite, were all independently released. Since then, however, they have signed with Milan records and have seemingly boomed in popularity.
In addition to their independent start, The Devil Makes Three is honest, for the people music. Their lyrics don’t always seem deep at first listen; ostensibly the Devil Makes Three plays songs to drink and dance to, but in fact their songs often have profoundness to them all the same. One of my favorites off of the album “A Little Bit Faster a Little Bit Worse” is the song “Tow” which reminds the listener to keep pushing on, never settle, and always follow your goals. Instead of letting our dreams be nothing more than dreams and running “like children to [the] arms of mother earth” we must overcome, climbing our mountains and killing our demons.
Though the Devil Makes three has independent roots, and honest music, their productivity is questionable. Will the music of the Devil Makes Three actually change the minds of the people who listen to it, or simply inspire a round of shots of Jack Daniels?
The next artist I was privileged to see perform live was the talented Andrew Bird. A fan of his since high school, there wasn’t a chance that I wouldn’t be at that concert. Andrew Bird is a one man band, using technology on stage to create layered violin, all while singing and whistling (which is a lot more beautiful than it probably sounds). Andrew Bird is another artist that was originally self produced, but since has signed with numerous record labels including Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records. Although Bird can be quite abstract lyrically, his messages are honest and relatable. He sings about love, society, death or, sometimes, just simple life observations. Though Andrew Bird is one of my favorite artists who is, in my opinion, brilliant, touching, and beautiful, is his music productive? I have yet to be moved to action, unfortunately, listening to an Andrew Bird song.
Which brings me to the most recent artist I’ve seen perform, Ani DiFranco. Although all three concerts were thoroughly enjoyable, Ani DiFranco’s music, especially one song in particular spoke to me personally. So is her music independent? Yes, as we read in “Don’t Stop Believing,” Ani DiFranco is a model of independent music. Her honesty was also discussed in the article, mentioning her songs about “corporate greed, about loving a country that disappoints her, and about society’s expectations for women”, however the song that I was particularly fond of was of a topic relatively new to Ani herself. During the concert, and before playing this particular song, DiFranco, poking fun at herself, stated that she finally realized that there was more to write about than herself, the environment. As a species we have grown increasingly detached from the world in which we are a part of, including forgetting that we are all connected. So, DiFranco’s music is independent, it is honest, but, in my opinion, it is also productive. It can be discouraging being a part of a species that has tried in every possible way to create a distinction between human and nature. It is words like DiFranco’s that help to remind me to be a steward for the Earth.
“O women, won’t you be our windows
Women who bleed and bleed and bleed
Women who swim with the tide, women who change when the wind blows
Show us we are connected to everything
Show us we are not separate from everything”
The popular appeal of the Julian Assange story, to me was not only the shocking content that was revealed, but the personalities of the people behind such earth shaking acts. “We Steal Secrets” focused largely on the lives and workings of the minds of hacker Julian Assange and United States Army soldier Chelsea Manning.
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, believes all information should be public, regardless of the consequences, unless, of course, he is the one doing the lying. Consequently, although I think Assange deserves a great deal of credit for his website, therein lies one core difference between Assange and Manning. Unlike Assange, Manning seemed to feel a great weight carrying with him both the horrific images and experiences from being in the military, but a great deal of stress turning the information over, despite knowing that it was the right thing to do.
Collateral murders, one of the first leaks released by Manning, is a video an aerial strike team gunning down innocent civilians, including children, all the while making cold, heartless comments. Though sharing kill videos such as these is apparently be common practice, this video in particular disturbed Manning due to the soldiers’ behavior prompting the submission of the video to WikiLeaks.
After her arrest Manning reflected on the incident in her testimonial stating:
“After the release, I was concerned about the impact of the video and how it would be received by the general public. I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me about the conduct of the aerial weapons team crew members…After the release I was encouraged by the response in the media and general public…As I hoped, others were just as troubled – if not more troubled – than me by what they saw”.
Well, troubled I was. When I saw that video, I had to stop and compose myself until I was able to discontinue crying and continue the documentary. As a person who refrains from watching fictional violence in movies and television, I found the video to be especially disturbing. The gunmen were more than desensitized, but actually enjoying themselves. I knew that people die in war, but I had no idea that we were so cold-heartedly killing innocent people without a care in the world. It only made matters even more disparaging when the true number of causalities were revealed.
What makes this story even more intriguing, though not in necisarrily a positive way, is that while I believe what Manning did was coragous and honorable, and that this information should be known by the people that these actions represent, what do we do about it? Our government seemed to take advantage of the fact that Assange intertwined his personal life into the workings of WikiLeaks and has, as far as I know, relatively neturalized the situation because of it. In the end it seems that this was not much more than an embarrassment for the United States. What can we, as American citizens, do to stop the best killing machine in the world? I can only hope that there are those out there that see the heroism of Chelsea Manning in exposing this truth to us, and realize that we are being lied to by our government as well. It is not all of us that are evil.
FREE CHELSEA MANNING.
In the nineteenth century, Shakespearean drama was popular art. Instead of being placed on a pedestal, performed in halls created for the elite, theatres in which Shakespeare was performed in America were “a kaleidoscopic, democratic institution presenting widely varying bill of fares to all classes and socioeconomic groups.” Since that time however, elitist society has taken Shakespeare from the people, claiming him as their own and stripping the once widely popular, albeit modified, performances of their integration of modern cultural context. In addition to the “metamorphosis [of Shakespearean drama] from popular culture to polite culture,” in the twentieth century Shakespeare became “theatrical spinach” – largely due to the transformation of the presentation of Shakespeare from oral to written. One of the problems I personally have experienced with trying to enjoy Shakespeare is simply that his work has largely been presented to me as something to memorize and recite. Only when I saw a play of Shakespeare’s actually performed did I really begin to enjoy his work.
As stated previously, in the nineteenth century modern cultural context was added to his plays to make them more relatable to audiences. Other than a handful of theatres, modern performances of Shakespeare tend to be by the books. In Ashland, for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, for example, modern sets, garb, and occasionally even vernacular are integrated into their performances, somewhat bringing back the atmosphere that was present in the theatres of the nineteenth century.
Even more popular than the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the film Shakespeare in Love won both an Academy Award and Golden Globe, and was probably successful because of its integration of elements from past and present. Although it is hyper-fictionalized, facets of Shakespeare’s plays and history were woven throughout the movie. Not only was the form of media therefore more appealing to twentieth century audiences (movie versus theatre), but modern themes were added as well. Shakespeare was portrayed as a handsome man with his shirt constantly unbuttoned revealing the top portion of his chest. Viola, the sexy but innocent love interest of Shakespeare in the end is portrayed as the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Viola and The Twelfth Night. The success of the movie, therefore, was probably attributed to the “interaction between past and present”. A modern “rom-com” centered on Shakespeare and probably his most famous play in the modern age, Romeo and Juliet. Although I didn’t personally enjoy the movie, I can see why it was well received.