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Next week, Wednesday, July 19, I'll be guest moderating a talk at the Brooklyn bookstore BookCourt; the featured speaker is Ed Halter, Village Voice critic and author of the just-published book From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games (Thunder's Mouth Press/Avalon, 2006). The announcement for the event is a here, on the book's blog.
After exploring the intertwined histories of combat and play, from chess to modern "war game" exercises, Halter probes the nexus among the US military, academia, Hollywood, and the gaming industries that led to the development and promotion of such popular games as Full Spectrum Warrior and America's Army. I almost wrote "unholy nexus" but that's probably not the phrase Halter would use. He has a deceptively calm "just the facts ma'am" style that lays out all the information and leaves it to readers' heads to explode. As in, how sick is it that these "fun" games are both a recruiting tool aimed at the poor and impressionable and a trainer of hardened killers to be sent into the Iraq/Afghanistan meat grinder? How ridiculous is it that our tax money is paying for laboratories that explore "subtle effects of light" that heighten a game's realism? The book then ends with descriptions of projects by creative types with a bit more leftist, activist slant. I'm just starting the last chapter and taking notes as I go--doubtless I'll have additional placid thoughts up on the blog as next Wednesday approaches.
From Juan Cole, an update on the sectarian civil war in Iraq (thanks, George!). See also the PS at the bottom of the post: It's great to hear the feds "fired" Halliburton but it's not likely corruption will end any time soon--too many military procurers in the Executive and Legislative branches enjoying cocktail weenies with contractors. We're going to suffer when the real bill comes due.
At Muqdadiyah, a mixed Sunni-Shiite town north of Baghdad, guerrillas came to a bus station, separated out 24 or more Shiites from the other passengers, and took them to a nearby village where they killed most of them (al-Zaman says they murdered 22). The massacre is a continuation of the tit for tat "identity killings" that began last Sunday when Shiite militiamen massacred Sunnis in al-Jihad district of Baghdad. This tactic has brought the low-intensity civil war in Iraq to the boiling point.
In a rare outbreak of brutal candor, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki revealed on Wednesday that the daily violence in West Baghdad has not been random, but rather derives from a concerted plan by the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement to take over West Baghdad politically. He insisted that their advance in Karkh district had been repulsed, whereby they were attempting to move north.
My guess is that a key objective of the guerrillas is to surround and besiege the Kadhimiyah district of north-central Baghdad, which lies to the west across the river from Adhamiyah, a Sunni Arab stronghold. Kadhimiyah is the site of a very major Shiite shrine, that of Imam Musa al-Kazim,the seventh Imam or divinely-guided dynast of the House of the Prophet. The middle-class Shiites there are more or less behind enemy lines and isolated from the lower-class Shiites of East Baghdad (Sadr City). The guerrillas already have demonstrated that they can plunge Iraq into the fires of Hades by blowing up a shrine. I am sure that everyone in authority in Baghdad knows all this, but I don't have any confidence that Kadhimiyah is properly protected. It has been the site of many horrific bombings.
Eyewitnesses to the massacre at the al-Jihad District are now saying that the Shiite militamen who undertook the killings had with them long lists of ex-Baathists who had held office under the old regime but had been purged by the Debaathification Committee. The Debaathification Committee has been dominated by Ahmad Chalabi, and much of the documentation for its work was turned over to Chalabi by Donald Rumsfeld's Department of Defense. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki also played a central role in the Debaathification Committee. How have these lists leaked to local militias[?]
Al-Zaman/ DPA say that Sunni Arabs in the West Baghdad districts of Amiriyah, Khadra, Jihad, Ghazaliyah, Sayyidiyah and Al-Dura (Dora) have formed emergency neighborhood patrols for fear that Shiite militias from nearby Shiite-dominated districts to the east will make further raids into their areas. Muezzins or callers to prayer in the Sunni mosques of the Khadra district used amplifiers to call for volunteers, and dozens of young men responded by taking up arms. They especially hastened to do so after armed militiamen attacked the Muluki Mosque in al-Amiriyah District near Karkh late on Wednesday. They set up concrete blocks as barriers barring entry to the Khadra District. As soon as the callers to prayer broadcast the attack on the Muluki Mosque, shopkeepers and merchants in the commercial district closed their establishments.
This narrative of innocent Sunni Arabs policing their neighborhoods from predatory Shiite attacks on mosques obscures those other processes that PM al-Maliki described, whereby the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement is trying to take over these districts politically and extend its sway to Karkh. In a civil war, disentangling offense and defense is no easy task.
About all those health centers supposedly built in Iraq with our $20 bn. in US tax money. Not so much.
"Mutator OD Bass (Long Version)" [4.8 MB .mp3]
I came back to this piece from a few months ago, adding some more arpeggios using a different Mutated (filtered) synth and a jaunty "surprise" theme at the end to lighten up the doom and gloom.
From Justin Strawhand's series Desktop Portraits. Screenshots of his desktop showing Tiananmen Square tanks made entirely of "shrink and enlarge" icons. (Other drawings include a self portrait, Popeye, and Bush Junior, made with other types of icons and desktop objects.) Sort of a new Internet-era cargo cult art. One thinks of the Afghan rugs depicting helicopters and Kalashnikov rifles.
A different view of the infamous World Cup "head butt." (To paraphrase Alicia Silverstone, "I may not know my soccer but I know my LiveJournal.")
In the comments we've been discussing the issue of presenting Paper Rad artists as individuals as opposed to promoting them as a collective. Someone asked whether the decision to do the former originated with the gallery or the artists. My reply:
I don't think it matters so much how the decision got made. Every step in the art world ends up being so strategic and fraught with importance. When I said the power of the status quo is huge, well, I'm up against it, too. All our brains are colonized by these social Darwinian ideas of individuals struggling against individuals. I think here the issue is one of mystique-building. Everyone assumes the weight of commerce and habit will eventually turn the collective into a "bunch of talented, readily identifiable individuals" so it would be cool to hold out as long as possible resisting that "inevitability." A good role model would be the musical group The Residents, who perform in masks and reveal little of their back story--I still have no idea who those people are. Who sings? Who does the writing? Are the southern accents real? Are they really from Louisiana? Are they men? WASPs? I'm sure I could figure some of that out googling but they never really made me *want* to know. We should just be listening, not nosing after "stories." And they're in music where a certain amount of ego-submersion is expected. In art you would drive the whole art-historical trainspotter structure insane if you continued year after year to thwart the all-important Alfred Barr chart of which rugged individualistic genius influenced which. This would never happen but it's nice to dream.