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Non-standard digital pogs
whoops, forgot about my self-imposed bandwidth limit for the front page of the blog, so...
I really like Matt Stoller's writing at MyDD:
So anyway, if you need evidence that journalists in DC adopt the biases of their sources and eagerly sop up conventional wisdom, you need go no further than [New York Times temporary columnist Thomas] Edsall. Look at who he doesn't like in this article--pro-choice groups, unions, and minority rights groups. These groups, if you are a Democratic insider, are annoying. They make you do work. They force you to not cut deals with the other side, and they hold Democrats accountable for bad economic choices. They make people like Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel uncomfortable because they demand good policy choices, and by and large aren't (or shouldn't) be willing to trade away core principles to the right for better parking spots.
Edsall of course didn't talk to a janitor who just got a raise in Houston, he didn't talk to a Goodyear worker losing his job, or a displaced New Orleans resident, or a NJ retiree with good pension and benefits because of his union. Edsall talked to his friends, and his friends know, they just know, how important better parking spots are. To these people, knocking labor unions just feels so right, doesn't it? I guess it's a testament to how firmly the intellectual core of journalism has rotted that journalists now work strongly against their own economic interest. Even as Edsall attacks unions as an out of touch "pressure group on the left" that "no longer command broad popular allegiance," his former colleagues are relying on their union to improve journalism and stop the job cuts devastating newsrooms across the country.[...]
I suppose in Edsall's world, corporate media barons are part of the coalition of "dominant," and unions are not. So even though the Republican Party was soundly repudiated at the polls in favor of a strongly populist Democratic Party backed by labor, and a touchstone abortion ban was popularly rejected in one of the reddest states in the country, Democrats have no choice but to reject unions and pro-choice groups, or they will face judgment at the polls.
This digital pog design, by Jeff Sisson, is one of my favorites, so I enlarged it.
Mark Danner on the bad decisionmaking that led to the Iraq quagmire. (Part One) (Part Two) Long but well written and worth a read, the essay will appear in the December 21, 2006 edition of the New York Review of Books. From Part Two:
Nearly four years into the Iraq war...the consequences of [the U.S.'s] early decisions define the bloody landscape. By dismissing and humiliating the soldiers and officers of the Iraqi army our leaders, in effect, did much to recruit the insurgency. By bringing far too few troops to secure Saddam's enormous arms depots they armed it. By bringing too few to keep order they presided over the looting and overwhelming violence and social disintegration that provided the insurgency such fertile soil. By blithely purging tens of thousands of the country's Baathist elite, whatever their deeds, and by establishing a muscle-bound and inept American occupation without an "Iraqi face," they created an increasing resentment among Iraqis that fostered the insurgency and encouraged people to shelter it. And by providing too few troops to secure Iraq's borders they helped supply its forces with an unending number of Sunni Islamic extremists from neighboring states. It was the foreign Islamists' strategy above all to promote their jihadist cause by provoking a sectarian civil war in Iraq; by failing to prevent their attacks and to protect the Shia who became their targets, the U.S. leaders have allowed them to succeed.I still think about the argument I had with someone in 2003, after I had marched in protest of the war: "I just have to believe that the government has expertise and access to information that we don't have and we have to trust that they know more than we do," I was told.
"I Hate The Others" [mp3 removed]
I posted this a few weeks back but I "pumped up the volume" so here it is again.
Update: and again, with better equalization.
Good essay by Bob Somerby about the over-analysis of Borat by the punditocracy. Or mis-analysis. He chops down several supposed examples of the film's condescension to its subjects, suggesting that the critics don't have any better understanding of the film's various awkward situations than Borat does. "[New York Times columnist] David [Brooks], a stranger in a strange land...fails to see that the film concerns Borat himself—and that Borat is in many ways us." I certainly felt at sea in the scene where Borat gets drunk with three real life fraternity brothers: I understood them on one level having grown up in the South, but in their racism and general all-round incoherency they were as strange and scary to me as bug-eyed extraterrestrials.
Somerby notes the humorlessness of many critics of the film. In one scene, Borat tries to check into a Dallas hotel after learning the vernacular and dress code of some local black kids, and is promptly evicted by security. The scene gets its yuks from the cultural disconnect and Borat's low-riding suit pants, but the earnest commenters on blogger Kevin Drum's board are tut-tutting that it makes too much fun of the desk clerk. The footage was all a set-up--the clerk thought he was going to be giving a tour of the hotel (the Adolphus), and had no idea who the erratic "walk-in guest" was. In an email reproduced by a Drum commenter, the clerk writes: "I also called a friend at the Dallas Film Commission and she told me that she was certain that this had some connection to a man who had been spotted driving around Dallas in an ice-cream truck with a bear in the back of it." But he can't see the comedy in that sentence, says Somerby--he can't laugh at himself.
Lux Provocateur TM soap commercial [.mp4 movie]. Not American TV-safe, according to cartoon brew. Girl discovers bar of soap in woods, turns into Steve Madden model. Illustrates the theories of Camille Paglia "in the field," as it were. Note aroused forest animals, and leather dude at end. (via schwarz)
Happy Thanksgiving to all, by the way.
Digital Pog Criticism (aka "pog bloggin'")
Some thoughts on Michael Bell-Smith's digital pog collection. Briefly, pogs started as illustrated milk bottle caps in Hawaii and grew into a kid-collectibles crazelet in the '90s. Digital pogs are 177-pixels-in-diameter GIF files that exist and can be "bartered" mainly via the Internet and web browsers. Whether Bell-Smith's pogs catch on and actually become viable mock-nostalgic anti-commodities remains to be seen.
As Bill Schwarz said when a few of these were first posted: the pog "is the low man on the collectible ladder. Lower than beer cans, lower than glass insulators, lower than advertising drink glasses, lower than everything. Congrats to mbs on recognizing a commodity that faint."
Whatever happens with them in the Internet's gift-exchange economy, these pogs are interesting to think of as a different kind of icon model. If you look at avatars dredged up by something like the LiveJournal icon-scraper they're all rectangular. Talk about "conventional"!
As an artist, working with the circular format makes you think about different content issues--what kind of subject matter lends itself best to this form? (Cameos for portraits, views through viewfinders and portholes, puns on circular imagery, etc.)
Down side: they require more steps to make than rectangles. Also, not every viewing situation respects the GIF's command to "transparencize" the area outside the circle--if that doesn't happen, the effect is blown.
Update: the above comments address the collectible aspect of pogs. Of course in the physical world their main purpose, and means of exchange, is a game where the pogs are stacked and knocked over, with the pogs landing face up going to the winner. Some serious thought needs to be given to how digital pogs can acquire the edge of competition, gambling, and class disruption that led to their banishment in schools across America in '94-'95.