Snarky Behavior

Entries tagged as ‘history’

Turn Around and Say it Again!

October 29, 2007 · Leave a Comment

Can’t explain why, but I find this hilarious:

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Generation Overwhelmed

October 23, 2007 · Leave a Comment

Aside from the fact that this article capitulates and accepts the generational typecasting that Friedman and others have patronizingly assigned to my generation (and I don’t buy that he was trying to be a provocateur so much as a disappointed observer), I generally agree:  1.) our clarity of understanding of power dynamics, including the historical perspective of previous generations’ naivety, combined with 2.) our overwhelming access and consumption of information, as mitigated by the limitations of our recognized self-impotence, results in a pervasive paralysis of quiet frustration.

Is that a cop-out?

It’s a cop-out insofar as it’s justification for the charges Friedman and other’s have made.  But I don’t think the charges are fair.  Let me explain:

Friedman’s argument in his “Generation Q” article is that, given the political tendency to mortgage the future for the present, America’s twentysomethings cannot afford to be as silent as they have been.  They cannot be reliant on insular forms of communication such as social networking, e-mails or blogs to organize and demand accountability from leadership.  They can’t afford to be snarky and cynical and vote for Stephen Colbert to express their discontent.

But does Friedman really have the expectation of the self-disenfranchised to demand change?  Or is he just another writer leveraging a condescending understanding of Generation Y to remind the boomer establishment of its paternal responsibilities to leave the world a better place than they found it?

The youngins, you see, are too unable or too unwilling to inherit the world that is their birthright.  Newsweek would have you believe we are “Peter Pans” refusing to grow up.  That we don’t want the responsibility that accompanies the power to implement change.  That we are “narcissists,” and too self-involved to engage in the pressing issues of the day.

USA Today, and Inc.com , ironically enough, probably paint the most accurate picture. Gen Y’ers are self-entitled, impatient, disloyal loudmouths who overvalue their own opinions.  And that makes for great leaders who challenge the establishment from within, that drive change and innovation, that carry the entrepreneurial spirit of a strong economy and democracy.

To Friedman, I would quote from the Simpsons:  “The politics of failure have failed.”  We have a more refined understanding than the hippies ever did of where power resides, how it acts and operates, and … most importantly…we’ve got a pretty good idea of how to obtain it.  Sure, we may be just as naive and just as tempted to “sell-out” once we get our piece of the pie.  And we may be obstructed in our ambitions by boomers looking to preserve their vertical heirarchies and save themselves from the assisted living future to which they themselves condemned their own parents (which, by the way, were proud members of “The Greatest Generation.”)

But just because Generation Y may not be making noise in the streets, doesn’t mean we’re silent.  Call us corporate carpetbaggers, call us self-entitled narcissists.  But don’t call us quiet.

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Dropping Knowledge: Rashid Khalidi

October 14, 2007 · 2 Comments

Yes, I know I promised a hiatus.  But this will be short.

All of my Conceptual Foundations of International Politics lectures are being hosted on YouTube.  Please enjoy for free the education that costs me a fortune.

It’s no Charlie Rose, and it can get a bit bland.  But Khalidi is provocative.   And he spit hot fire at the neo-cons when everyone else was buying what they were selling in 2003.  The lecture is framed through “Alternative Views of American Primacy” and was accompanied by the reading of Khalidi’s book, “Resurrecting Empire,” which I highly recommend.

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Do My Tears Surprise You Sir? Strong Men Also Cry…

September 5, 2007 · 2 Comments

I’m always quietly amused whenever I check my Yahoo! account (strictly for fantasy football purposes) and the homepage is some news story (in the loosest definition of that term) that gives just enough information to pique the interest of a readership which is only two rungs higher on the evolutionary ladder than that of the New York Post.

Yesterday the headline was so utterly hilarious that I admit I rubbernecked into a click-through… “Bush Tells Biographer: ‘I Do Tears’”.

Here’s exactly how this “biography” came to pass:

[Advisor]: Sir, you have historically low approval ratings, lower than any president in history.
[Bush]: Wapner.
[Advisor]: Sir, we’re going to have to do some intense public relations to make you a more sympathetic person, without having to reveal your dimensia.
[Bush]: (Wookie noise)

The ridiculously transparent and pathetic nature of this public image makeover attempt got me thinking: where does this rate on the “Ridiculously Transparent and Pathetic Public Image Makeover” scale???

The Ridiculously Transparent and Pathetic Public Image Makeover Scale

(Note: Ratings are from 1 to 10, 1 being “understandable and necessary” and 10 being “you’re making me uncomfortable and embarrassed just watching you trying to sell yourself in a new light.”)

1. Ellen Degeneres buys Converse, wears bed head pomade and white dress-suits with pants to reenter public sphere as “spunky funny lesbian” and not “emo Melissa Etheridge lesbian.”

2. Isiaah Washington goes on Larry King to say “I HAD A FREAKING GAG ORDER AND THEY STILL FIRED ME,” which he can’t actually say, because ABC would sue him.

3. Jason Giambi “apologizes” to the New York media, without actually saying what he was apologizing for. You know, just that he was sorry. For the wink wink nudge nudge. And the flick flick poke plunge lift recover pick your bacne.
4. Kobe apologizing for getting caught… er, cheating on his wife.
5. Vanilla Ice goes on “The Surreal Life,” because his “agent” (i.e. his boy Lil’ Dookey) told him the best way to stop people from making fun of him for being a wigger idiot 15 years ago is to establish his relative sanity in an environment of washed and boozed up D-list celebrities (on camera).

6. Paula Abdul launches a reality TV show so that the world can see the “real” her… only to discover that the “real” her is just as we all expected… a rich crack-whore on valium, 24/7.

7. Dave Chappelle goes on “Inside the Actors Studio” and “Oprah” to try to explain how he gets really, really high so much that he thinks crazy thoughts that nobody else could possibly relate to, and while we all think it’s hilarious, he is racked with inexplicable guilt and self-doubt.

8. Bush admits to crying, abandoning his tough cowboy demeanor as a pre-emptive application of vaseline for the wide loaded girth historians will leave behind while discussing his “legacy” for the next 18 months.

9. Clint Eastwood REALLY cries in “Million Dollar Baby,” instantly losing 7 decades’ worth of respect and admiration, so that he could win an Oscar. End of Western genre is officially demarcated shortly thereafter with the release of “Brokeback Mountain.”

10. Tom Cruise jumps up and down on Oprah’s couch, yelling “I’m in love!” If you could see beyond his widely set grin and squinting eyes, you’d find a self-loathing homosexual alien-robot.

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League of Dorks Ombudsman Report: Civilization IV

September 2, 2007 · 2 Comments

League of Dorks Ombudsman Report: Where I reveal my inner hidden dorkiness to the rest of the world for the benefit of dork-nondork relations.

The morning after the premiere of Spiderman III, I e-mailed my boss to tell her that I would be coming into the office late because the movie had a run-time much longer than anticipated and as a result, I had not gotten to sleep until well past 3 a.m. She replied with something to the extent of “That’s fine. But don’t forget to wear your League of Dorks underpants!”

For the purposes of maintaining the homeostatic balance of my fragile ego I am willing to concede loose affiliation to the “League of Dorks” (note: the original usage of this term, to my knowledge, was made by Bill Simmons’ wife in reference to his fantasy baseball team). But I don’t consider myself a full-fledge card carrying member, principly because a) I’m not a virgin and b) I don’t live with my parents.

I see my affiliation with the LoD more in the role of an ombudsman: I’m not smooth with women but I can hold a conversation; I don’t have disgusting amounts of dandruff but I cut my own hair; I don’t have a “second life” but I write a blog; and I don’t exploit polygons, but I have taken to drinking Mountain Dew for caffeine purposes, since Red Bull is so god damned expensive.

So without further ado I would like to invite you into the realm of dorks to discuss something of greater relevance…I will attempt to make this as accessible as possible:

Civilization IV by Sid Meier is the only computer or video game I play besides the occassional match of Wii bowling. The premise of the game is very similar to the popular SimCity series only Civilization is turn based while SimCity develops in “real” time. And while SimCity is limited to the growth and development of a single city, Civilization charts the path of entire societies.

The reason that I like Civilization so much is because it really drives home the point of economic determinism, or the idea of WHERE a society establishes itself in terms of latitude, access to resources and trade routes, and natural barriers, REALLY make a huge impact in terms of predicting the relative success and failure of a societies’ development. (I.E. Living in the mountains or deserts of Sub-Saharan Africa is really, really, really hard to do).

You see, you start the game as a nomadic tribe of settlers and warriors (YES, I GET IT, I’M A DORK), with only the simple tools and technologies of the stone age to guide your growth. As the game progresses and you allocate your resources, you discover new technologies which foster growth, new societies which encourage trade, and new lands which expand your borders.

The point of the game is competing with neighboring civilizations for discovery and management of land and resources, for the relative benefit of your own societies’ peoples. As continents are explored, lands claimed, and resources snatched up, border conflicts (unsurprisingly) arise over control of these resources.

All in all, the game does an excellent job of helping make real the painful demands that growth and development make on competing cultures and societies. But here’s where this gets interesting:

The objective of the game is clearly defined and easy to pursue early in the game: you start with no knowledge of the world map… so you explore. You start with a small capital city with limited access to resources…. so you expand and trade. Your countrymen are overpopulated or starving or unemployed… so you war for more space or cause a revolution in your system of government.

By the end of the game, when the globe is filled up, and the nature of the weaponry is massive destruction (nuclear missles… which effectively eliminate the possibility of war), and all of the systems of government are liberal democracies and all of the global economies are inter-connected by infrastructure and trade barriers are eliminated, and all of the space exploration programs have been explored… the game ends.

According to the structure of the game, sometime around the middle of this century, the “game” of our civilization ends. We arrive at Nietzche’s Last Man , “an apathetic creature, who has no great passion or commitment, who is unable to dream, who merely earns his living and keeps warm.” More than anything, this plateau of progress embodies the “End of History” that Francis Fukuyama speaks to.

If we already have arrived at the End of History, or at least are at its footsteps, is it true that we no longer dare to dream? Or do we evolve to a higher level of consciousness, above the fray of the base-level competition of a global economy that determines who gets what, but no longer why?

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Bourgeoisie Bullshit

August 26, 2007 · 3 Comments

Riding the express train from Brooklyn to the Bronx this morning, I read an extremely esoteric essay by Edward Said in which he argued to classify William Butler Yeats not as an Irish nationalist (as he is traditionally considered), but as a British anti-imperialist. (Note: being an unemployed student before classes start affords me such worth-less-while luxuries).

Said said something about the bourgeoisie class of colonial socieities that got me thinking:

The great colonial schools taught generations of the native bourgeoisie
important truths about history, science and culture. And out of that
learning process millions grasped the fundamentals of modern life, yet remained
subordinate dependents of an authority elsewere than in their lives.

If this were true in an era of colonialization and imperialism, is it not also true in an era of neo-liberalism and globalization? If transnational organizations truly dictate an environment of free flowing global capital, assets, and (soon) labor, and we are enlightened, passive observers of this process, aren’t we all then the “subordinate dependents”?

Not to get too crazy/Marxist about this, but “globalization” as an evolving term COULD mean something entirely different than what we currently accept and define it as, and what it is trending toward.

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Snarky Historian: This Date in History, August 14

August 14, 2007 · 6 Comments

Snarky Historian: Where I utilize my much vaunted History degree to, um, remember the past.

On this date in history, August 14, 1848, The Territory of Oregon was organized by an act of Congress out of the U.S. portion of the Oregon Country below the 49th parallel north.

The Oregon Territory, of course, was discovered by the great explorers Lewis and Clark, who drunkenly staggered through the Snake River on their way home from a Vegas trip. Lewis had insisted on visiting one of “dem legal brofels” out in the boonies of Nevada with the large sum of money he had won at the craps table, and Clark relented.

At the brothel located in the northwest corner of the state, Lewis took a particular liking to a young Native-American prostitute, whose large posterior he described as a “sack of da wee-ums,” an early lingual predecessor to the modern phrase “junk in the trunk.” Lewis proceeded to shower the young girl with over two hundred gold coins (at the time the coins were valued at a dollar each, which in today’s currency would be equivalent to over eighty-thousand dollars) while she gyrated to a traditional rain-dance (i.e. “Make It Rain, the Remix“). In 2000 the United States Treasury commemorated the event by introducing the “Sacajawea Golden Dollar,” so that the postal service could piss people off when they bought stamps from a machine, and also because “Susan B. Anthony, while influential enough to secure women the right to vote, proved too visually unappealing to sell Americans on the idea of using coins as currency.”

Legend has it that the name “Oregon” is a derivation of Clark’s surprised reaction one morning when he tore open Lewis’ tent to find Sacajawea as the newly adopted third wheel to their journey home: “Her agin?” This was a particularly fondly told legend by the throngs of “Mountain Men” who would later flood the territory with their own teengage scouts, ostensibly hunting for “beaver pelts” (i.e. huge perverts).

The Oregon territory became a hugely disputed region in the Presidential election of 1844. The surviving members of the Battle of the Alamo (The Lone Ranger, Squanto, Davey Crockett, Mickey Mouse, Goofey and Donald Duck) were adamant about annexing south-western boundaries so that they could realize their dream of building an entertainment center around an amusement park run by slave labor. In order to keep the precariously delicate free-state/slave-state balance, the Alamo vets established the very first 527 Political Advocacy Group to pressure the favored candidate James K. Polk to adopt the slave state of Texas hand-in-hand with the free-state of Oregon.

The 527 — keenly dubbed “Swifthorse Veterans for Truth,” was organized by the political mastermind Donald Duck, who moved to Oregon specifically to manage the political front and generate support for the cause. The rallying cry of the movement was “54-40 or fight”… a reference to the northern parallel cutting through Vancouver which was the preferred northern border of the territory, but was also claimed as British territory.
After intense negotiations with the Tyrant King George III (who had mastered the British monarchy’s black art of eternal youth, passed down from his predecessors Henry VIII and Elizabeth, today practiced by Victoria), an accord was reached at the 49th parallel, much to the delight of bankers from Boston, carpenters from Ohio, and farmers from Illinois, everywhere.

The end!

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Learning from Your Elders

August 13, 2007 · Leave a Comment

My grandma hates sports.

More specifically, she hates sports fanatics. She hates men who paint their faces. She hates tribal affiliations to symbols, colors and mascots. And she hates irrational hooliganism.

You see, my grandma lived through Nazi Germany. She witnessed her friends and family irrationally buy into the political fervor of social democracy. She chaffed at the nationalistic pride, later deemed facism, that was embodied by Nazi propoganda.

To put it bluntly, sports fanatics remind my grandmother of her shame for being part of a society that could exterminate 6 million Jews. The face painters and obscenity yellers remind her of a time when her individual voice, her conscience, was drowned out by irrational group-think.

In this context, social identity theory would classify my grandmother as a CORFer : Cutting Off of Reflective Failure. She has lived the second half of her life– the part as a German-American immigrant– distancing herself from her portion of the collective shame of WWII.

It’s fascinating to me how huge of an impact the experience of Nazi Germany had on my grandmother’s self-esteem, and really, the self-esteem of all Germans. The historical embarassment and shame of a failed and despicable facist state is deeply damaging to one’s personal narrative; so much so, in fact, that my grandmother was compelled to write her memoirs about how powerless she felt during that period of time.

The American narrative, of course, is spun in a much more positive light (Basking in Reflected Glory), despite Manzanar and the two atomic bombs we dropped on Japan. We constantly hear about how “history has judged Harry Truman much more favorably” than his popularity would’ve indicated at the time he left office; and this is presumably how George W. Bush contextualizes his own legacy.

So in today’s context, it seems the contemporary role of the American president has become advancing a foreign policy agenda abroad while managing the collective ego of the American public at home. That is to say, we can tolerate being duped into supporting a war, if it means replacing a dictator and promoting freedom/democracy in the Middle East.

However, as the success of a stable democracy becomes increasingly unlikely, are we strong enough as a society to accept and sustain the blow to our collective ego of a reflective failure? Or will we blast the Iraqis for their inability to manage the fledgling democracy we “provided” for them?

…if America were a sports team, we would all be Yankee fans.

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