Category Archives: Counterculture

Kony Kids, Mike Daisey, And The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Chic Kony Youth infographical photoshop by Edward Stafford with all due apologies to Sonic Youth and Raymond Pettibon.

Every now and then, I just have to sort of turn off the Internets and remind myself that there is a world around me that I am not powerless against and where my actions do make a difference.  Usually these actions involve making sure my son doesn’t break a limb or paint the floor silver.  This past week, it’s meant dropping out to finish some gratifying crafty projects and spending time with people who have become very dear to me.  I enjoy dropping out and venturing into the real world.  I used to think it was so much worse than the virtual world that springs into existence when I hit the Safari or Firefox icons.  But lately, that virtual world has become the bigger drag.

In the last week, a confluence of media clusterfuckery wafted across the binary landscape like that scary fucking dust storm that swept across Australia.  Or was it Arizona?  First, there was the Kony 2012 bear trap that Paul documented here.  I can’t add anything useful that hasn’t already been screamed across the Tweetisphere or Facebookistan.  Between everyone trying to tell me what I should think– or worse yet, how I should feel about it– I have to admit that I really just don’t fucking care.

There’s a term for this — Compassion Fatigue.  There is just so much of a shit one person can give.  Yes, what Joseph Kony is responsible for is reprehensible.  Yes, something should be done about it.  And yes, it’s a good thing that people are being made aware of it.  But I honestly believe that Invisible Children made things worse.  It’s the same problem that arose over the weekend with this douche nozzle:

Mike Daisey: pathological liar dirtbag infographical photoblop by Edward Stafford with apologies to all the 13-year-old girls who don't really work at Foxconn

I’m a big fan of This American Life.  I love Ira Glass and have a deep appreciation for the magic he and the crew bring to the radio box every week.  So I was stunned to hear this weekend’s show, “Retraction,” which is basically an hour long apology and serious look at how one of their most popular shows, “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory” was mostly a fabrication.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it’s basically an hour-long exposé of the shitty working conditions at Foxconn, the Chinese superfactory where many computer companies, including Apple, have their ideas turned into reality.  As you might imagine, the shitty conditions at the Chinese superfactory are pretty fucking shitty.  Like, way worse than working at Wal Mart or Starbucks.  This particular episode of This American Life was based on Mike Daisey’s one-man play, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, which was supposed to be based on his reporting done in China while he posed as a fatcat businessman, which I imagine he pulls off convincingly.  The problem is, well, he just made a bunch of shit up.

Which is fine.  I’m a big fan of making shit up.  But I don’t try to pass it off as the truth.  There needs to be a disclaimer, like when you go to the movies and it says something like “this film is based on actual events.”  You know it’s been cooked a bit for dramatic effect and it’s okay because the filmmakers gave you a knowing wink.  I understand that maybe Daisey thought that because it was This American Life, he could get away with not telling the whole truth and call it creative license and claim the high ground because he brought these deplorable conditions to the attention of millions of people.

Which brings us back to the Kony Kids and what they have in common with fellow numbskull, Mike Daisey.  There’s a danger in playing this game where you insert yourself into the story.  When it’s your story, you embellish, embroider, and embiggen.  It’s hardwired into our DNA.  When the story is about something particularly heinous, like Joseph Kony or the terrible conditions at Foxconn, isn’t it enough that the story is terrible?  Why the need to make it more terrible through exaggeration, misstatement of fact, or not being upfront with your reasons for bringing the story to light?  It’s pretty obvious that the purveyors of both of these stories are attention whores and it’s maddening that the media doesn’t call them out on it.

But the worst thing is that, just like that other famous attention whore, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, these guys ultimately do more harm than good and end up as dinner for the wolf.  Wolf Blitzer.  The important stories they try to bring to light become secondary to the rise and fall of the hero.  Daisey and the Kony Kids  become the story, the media looks at their belly buttons and wonders how the fuck they got duped, and everyone forgets about Foxconn and Kony because it was all just made up, right?

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Filed under Counterculture, Humor, News, Politics

Should Be More Famous, Volume 1: Dylan Moran

Dylan’s been around for years as a stand-up comedian and actor, and he’s gotten his share of accolades, sure. But he’s virtually unknown in America STILL, although his howlingly hilarious “Black Books” is now in late-night PBS Britcom syndication, so the notoriety dividends from that should be paying off…approximately never. But nevermind! Dylan’s one of the funniest people on the planet, even if the whole of his oeuvre is not available in Region 1. Look him up on the YouTubes; you’ll not be disappointed. Oh, yes, and Black Books is on Netflix streaming.

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Jac Mac & Rad Boy

All this talk about Nite Flights got me thinking about memories of a certain television show by a similar name.

If it was the mid-1980’s and you were up late and bored on a Friday night, you could probably find something interesting on Night Flight. I’m not going to go into specifics about the show here, but I think it’s a goldmine for forgotten film shorts, music videos, interviews… and way-out animation such as this:

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Filed under Animation, Counterculture, Music

Marcin Jakubowski: Open sourced blueprints for civilization

From TED:

Using wikis and digital fabrication tools, TED Fellow Marcin Jakubowski is open-sourcing the blueprints for 50 farm machines, allowing anyone to build their own tractor or harvester from scratch. And that’s only the first step in a project to write an instruction set for an entire self-sustaining village (starting cost: $10,000).

Marcin Jakubowski is open-sourcing a set of blueprints for 50 farming tools that can be built cheaply from scratch. Call it a “civilization starter kit.”

I don’t know if it’s specifically a product of the recession or if it’s a periodic generational thing, but I find it very encouraging to see more and more young college-educated people going into these very idealistic endeavors such as sustainable farming at exactly a time when small family owned farms are being put out of business left and right by large corporate owned farms.

I contrast this “be the change you want to see” kind of idealism with the cynicism of my own generation and it makes us Gen X’ers seem like a bunch of pessimistic blowhards. While I do think that the spirit of DIY was very much a part of Generation X, that spirit always seemed to be aimed at criticism and destruction rather than optimism and construction. We had the bad luck of being born at the ass end of a previous age of optimism, idealism and great social change, but the party of the 1960’s was over and Gen X was the hangover.

Recently though, it does seem like there has been another sea-change in the general mood of the entire world. People are angry, certainly, and things are bad, yes, but there is also this feeling that the tiny individual can actually change the world for the better. This is the feeling that was almost completely absent during the formative years for many people from my generation X and I am glad to see it here once more. Whether it be the Arab Spring, the Occupy Movement, or these young college-educated people buying small farms, I am really glad to see a return of the idea that the individual can make a difference.

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Filed under Counterculture, Design, Politics, Science!

House Calls

I’m down wit da sickness this weekend, dang it all, and while there are many things I would like to share, I am pretty much only up to lying in bed and passively absorbing the boob tube. Or boob Roku, I suppose. However. I do at least have a Youtube clip post in me.

As I was falling ill last night, I livetweeted a very strange film on TCM with other members of the Internet, and damn good times were had. The movie is called Hausu (House with a Japanese accent), it’s a Japanese horror movie, and you’ll find it in the Criterion Collection and your weirdest, way out nightmares. Where Ringu meets Scooby-Doo, where The Facts of Life meets The Evil Dead, that is the crossroads where whatever the hell this is should be staked and buried. But it’s definitely a must-see, possibly a must-own, and I highly recommend it.

I could attempt a plot summary here, but you wouldn’t believe me. So here’s the trailer. It is NOT subtitled, but I can promise you that in no way will affect your comprehension of the clip.

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by | January 14, 2012 · 6:42 pm

Iiiiiiiie post my first clip…

Leon Trotsky once said (in English, which is the cool part), “From the lessons of the past, we can prepare ourselves for the future.” Pretty generic sentiment for a Marxist, I guess, but it seems apropos. I discovered this clip when my long-suffering and too wonderful husband bought me Information Society’s “It is Useless To Resist Us” DVD as an Xmas present and was both horrified and entranced. Observe the characteristic plumage of the post-modern geek.

Perhaps it’s my natural and well-documented affinity for terrible things, but I love this clip, as much for its glorious amateurishness as its prescient anticipation of a culture that could support nerdcore and Thinkgeek and Doctor Who in primetime. With the advent of cyber bullying and a virtual tracer for everything you eat, say, do, or like now, I’m sure the dorky and ostracized don’t necessarily enjoy less social Darwinism these days than when I was a young geekling. They do have somewhat enviable access to all forms of media, terrible and otherwise, compared to my experience, and it is far easier to find the like-minded. I myself enjoy this latter advantage, as a map of the physical distribution of my friends who delight in terrible Hammer horror movies would be completely blank. However, I meet with online acquaintances every week to live Tweet these kinds of movies, and it is more fun than I can constitutionally tolerate.

I suspect there’s really never been a better time to be geeky in our culture, even if the idea of what is geek in a world with primetime Doctor Who is somewhat nebulous.

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by | January 7, 2012 · 3:50 pm

An Interview with Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat/Fugazi/Dischord Records

If you’ve got some extra time, sit down this weekend and listen to this excellent lecture by Ian MacKaye given in the form of a Q&A session for the music business students at Loyola University.

Don’t get discouraged when you hear the annoying first question, “Why straight edge?”. Ian seems as annoyed by that question as I was, but he gives a very thoughtful answer and moves on.

The rest of the questions focus mainly on the history of the various bands he has been part of and the DIY mentality and work ethic that he and Dischord records are famous for. He’s got some great stories about the sordid business tactics of the music industry (Ticketmaster specifically) that would make even the most chipper idealist cry. I’m not exactly sure when this was filmed, but it must have been a few years back because he also questions the validity of, and correctly predicts the demise of Myspace as a springboard for new bands.

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