“If you could change one thing about adults, what would it be?”
“I’d give them more money.”
“Yeah. Some of them don’t even have money to buy food.”
Here’s a little story to illustrate how curious my parents’ perspective on even the simplest things in life can be given everything they’ve lived through:
My father has been having increased trouble walking for various reasons over the past year to the point that he even has a handicap placard now because he has trouble walking even short distances, although he isn’t quite at the walker or even cane stage yet. I was talking to my mom yesterday about how he was doing and in describing the way he used to walk, instead of just describing a limp, she said (paraphrased from the Korean):
Remember the Korean president who had trouble walking? He was limping like that.
She was talking about Kim Dae-jung (김대중), president of South Korea from 1998 to 2003. I was actually lucky enough to hear him speak at Stanford (and see him limp in real life) shortly after he won the Nobel prize in 2000 for his policy of engagement with North Korea, known as the Sunshine Policy.
Now, the reason Kim had a limp was from being injured during the years of political persecution and exile along the road to his presidency and his longtime involvement in the struggle for democracy in South Korea. (Yeah, news flash: the Korean War didn’t magically make South Korea a democracy. It’s not even technically over.) According to Wikileaks data, when Kim passed away in August 2009, the U.S. Embassy in Seoul described him as “South Korea’s first left-wing president”. Specifically, Kim was a vocal dissident of the Yushin (유신) program of then president Park Chung-hee (박정희) which granted him near dictatorial powers, and after narrowly losing the presidential election to Park in 1971, Kim permanently injured his hip joint during a car accident. The accident was actually a failed assassination attempt by Park himself; later, in August 1973, Kim was eventually kidnapped by intelligence agents of the then military government of South Korea that was, of course, led by Park.
This was all around the time my parents immigrated to the U.S. and this is how my mom describes a limp. This is literally her automatic / natural frame of reference to describe something as relatively simple and seemingly innocuous as a limp.
And FYI, who was the father of the current and first female president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye (박근혜)? Former president Park Chung-hee.
I loved The Dark Knight Rises— I thought all 2 hours and 45 minutes of it was gripping and had great twists and turns, surprising even someone like me who has been keeping up with all the pre-release buzz, news and teasers. Overall, it was an excellent finish to an excellent trilogy. (And I hope all the talk about rebooting the series already is just that– talk. Can’t we just take a moment to enjoy the long-awaited arrival of this film?)
However, the recent shooting at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises at a suburban Colorado movie theater raises some interesting questions– and not just about gun control. It’s hardly worth a “spoiler alert” to say the movie contains a lot of violence– if you’ve been paying any attention to all the press for the movie, you’ll know the much-advertised, primary antagonist of the film is the diabolical, masked Bane, one of the most violent, cold-blooded and ruthless villains in the DC universe (and the wonderful Tom Hardy’s portrayal of the character is much truer to the comic book and therefore, much more frightening than the almost farcical version in 1997’s Batman & Robin). As comic book fans know, Bane’s intelligence and cunning only make him that much more terrifying and dangerous– after all, he’s the only man to have “broken the Bat”*. His role in the story and the sheer scale of his nefarious plans up the ante considerably when it comes to violence.
So, there was one particular scene in The Dark Knight Rises where guns are being wildly shot in a crowded place during which I couldn’t help being reminded of the shooting in Colorado (there’s more than one of these scenes in the movie so I can’t even remember which specific one it was– just my immediate reaction). I don’t really subscribe to the much-debated idea that violence in entertainment somehow promotes violence in real life, especially among young people (think video games like Doom and Marilyn Manson being blamed for the 1999 Columbine High School massacre), but those who do often blame and point out the popularity and commercial success of movies like those in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy or, little more than a decade ago, The Matrix films. They say that, in addition to the large amount of it, the way in which that violence in such entertainment is depicted glorifies it and thereby promotes it. For example, Batman may have a strict “no guns, no killing” rule, but certainly those around him don’t always follow that rule, so there’s always plenty of both– and often more. And though Batman isn’t an alien or superhuman– ridiculously athletic, highly trained, and combat clever as hell, but still just a “normal” human being– he’s still kicking a lot of ass and taking a lot of names. After all, despite their efforts at diplomacy (how many times have we seen the “Superman achieves global nuclear disarmament” storyline?) and the admittedly key ability to outwit their opponents, superheroes ultimately win through the use of physical force– not non-violent protests, marches, or civil disobedience. And in the end, watching superheroes like Batman– the very definition of the “good guys”– beat up a bunch of bad guys is incredibly violent, but also incredibly satisfying (hello, they’re the bad guys?!) so there is certainly some glorification in that.
But long before there were riveting “Army of One” commercials, even before someone hit someone else for the first time so they could steal the Coke bottle to mash up their vegetables, humans have been telling fantastic tales of battles, wars, and ultimately, warriors– both fictional and real. And while violence continues to exist as part of the human condition, we will need warriors– in fact, heroes– to meet those challenges to not just protect themselves, but those around them as well. They fight so we don’t have to and certainly, there is and should be glory in that and those stories should be told, including on the screen. Of course, not every movie is so cut and dry on X being good, Y being bad, and therefore, standing on moral high ground when it comes to X having to beat the crap out of Y, not to mention all the collateral damage. And of course, with media, a lot of it has to do with context and tone: do we see at least some of the ugly, bloody, grotesque side of violence or do people bounce back like cartoon characters? Is the music– or any music at all– appropriate for what’s happening on screen? A violent rape is graphically depicted in the 2002 French film Irréversible, but I don’t think anybody who has seen it– and it is so powerful that many cannot tolerate just watching it– would say the act is in any way glorified. Even in comedy, violence can be put into a context in which we know not to take it as seriously, that we don’t have to be realistic here because the entire situation is absurd.
I suppose the real question is whether highly increased, repeated exposure to such violence in media– all of it or just the stuff you think glorify it– desensitizes us, especially people like teenagers who are either too young or otherwise so impressionable that they become swept up in romanticized depictions of violence and suddenly, moral high ground isn’t so important anymore. How exciting was it to watch Neo and Trinity blow that building and those Agents to pieces to rescue the beloved Morpheus? Yes, even in the fictional sense, they didn’t really do that since they were in the Matrix and nobody really died because those Agents were just computer programs, but that kind of goes along with my point, right? Such key plot points allow us to justify and reconcile such violence by “good” people. So, if we consume more and more of such violent media, does that subconsciously encourage us to lose touch with the horrifying reality and consequences of such events, thereby, if not promoting, at least justifying and distancing ourselves from the reality of more and more violence?
Yet, as I watched The Dark Knight Rises, rather than distancing myself from it, I felt like the realism provided by the high quality of the production intensified the seriousness and impact of what we were seeing. Perhaps more than any news coverage short of actual footage of the shooting could, the added drama created through movie magic somehow makes up for the fact that you’ve temporarily suspended your disbelief. You know it’s just a movie, but what you’re seeing is such a well-made dramatization that the terror of such a moment is really driven home and has the added benefit of not requiring the exploitative and tasteless showing/viewing of the tragic and ugly deaths of real people. Essentially, just the news of the shooting still fresh in my mind changed my visceral reaction to seeing the fictional presentation of a similar event– while I might have been more apathetic or, for the most part, unaffected by such a scene before, the experience and perhaps my outlook on such violence were fundamentally changed, much like how most of us felt and perhaps still feel about anything related to airplane/air travel safety and terrorism in the wake of 9/11 (think how sensitive Americans were about just seeing or not seeing the Twin Towers in the New York City skyline in movies released shortly after the attacks).
In the end, it’s a bit of a “chicken or the egg” problem– does watching “glossy” depictions of violence in popular entertainment and media promote violence in real life? Or do such realistic and/or dramatic depictions discourage such violent acts by giving us a “harmless” way to experience the severity and horror of such events? Considering all those “bombs bursting in air” in the lyrics to our national anthem alone, from music (in addition to the obvious, think lyrics to the popular French-Canadian children’s song “Alouette”) to movies, from books to TV (they get away with showing some truly sick stuff in countless police procedural and “true crime” shows), from Internet videos to even commercials (think the heavy amount of cartoonish violence in Super Bowl commercials), one thing is certain: depictions of violence are an essential part of the human art of storytelling. While some may like to think of violence in entertainment and media as something new– an unfortunate sign of modern times– we’ve actually been riding this cycle of violence from the very beginnings of human history and culture.
That’s the first and only comment posted when I uploaded this video to YouTube (thanks, ImportOwner!) before it was taken down because of a copyright infringement complaint. I don’t know what their complaint criteria are because a quick YouTube search shows plenty of other Archer clips posted by fans (doesn’t count as snitching), but I should probably lay off a bit as this is my second strike. (I know, how ironic that I’m caught up in a three-strikes copyright policy situation…)
But of course, my intent (as usual) is not to infringe on copyright, but to show how amazing Archer is and actually get more people to watch, so I’m still going to try to share this clip with the world. (Hey, I would embed their video and drive traffic to FX directly to promote the show, but their video clip collection is a bit sparse.)
Anyway, so here is it: from “The Limited” (season 3, episode 3), a great clip with Archer & Babou (the ocelot) that perfectly captures a key part of how awesome the show is. I’m obligated to give you a SPOILER ALERT warning since the clip is from the end of the episode, but watching it really won’t ruin anything for you since almost every Archer episode ends with some crazy chaos. Enjoy!
Just listen to this crazy idea for a second– there’s a nice and funny Colbert Report interview for you at the end:
Many believe World War II not only helped, but was one of the biggest factors in the US pulling itself out of the Great Depression— some do not— and I’m sure it’s been joked many times over that another war– in addition to the one we just finished fighting like, 5 minutes ago (did you know military operations had websites?), and the one we’re still fighting in Afghanistan— would help us out of this Great Recession. Well, the thought of someone in government or similar sphere of power seriously considering that idea is a morbid thought, but perhaps this is an even more twisted one: although domestic growth created to support wartime efforts could help us get out of our current, particularly deep economic rut, the thought of waging war for economic benefit– essentially letting the blood of American soldiers be payment for a way out of our current economic state, one created by Wall Street’s high risk, shady deals with subprime mortgages and derivative markets— is too “distasteful”. So, instead, those in power look at alternatives and given the somewhat misguided, but constant ranting about how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its regulations are “job killers”, a conspiracy is born to systematically lower EPA regulations to allow corporations to redirect resources they would normally have spent ensuring they were abiding by various environmental laws and regulations, knowing that it may cause adverse health effects on millions of communities around the country. They decide that considering it takes much longer for you to die from cancer than a soldier to die from a bullet or a bomb, and it is much harder to prove that the chemical waste improperly dumped near your home’s water source is the direct reason why you get a particular type of cancer at a particular point in your life– especially if litigation gets tied up in the court system and you die before its conclusion, should you decide to sue your health insurance company and/or the owner of the factory or plant that caused the pollution in the first place– that slow, causally ambigous death of a few million is not only a more preferable and conveniently politically advantageous, but morally justifiable route for economic growth compared to more American soldiers dying in another war (or ideally, just working harder to come up with better economic policies). Besides, the increased health problems may boost the healthcare industry and once we’re out of the rut, the EPA can create even more jobs by raising– or in some cases, re-raising– regulations, therefore creating a need for corporations to go back out and hire workers and obtain other resources to abide by them.
And then the next time there’s an economic slump, all over again… until they find “the next thing”…
I’m not saying this is what could happen under a President and/or Congress that rails just a little too much against the EPA or that anybody is even seriously considering it, or if anybody seriously believes anybody is seriously considering it, but if I thought of it, someone else must have…
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Indecision 2012 – Job-Killing EPA – Carol Browner|
There are many wonderful things I could say about the HBO documentary “Citizen USA: A 50-State Road Trip“, but here is a quote from newly naturalized citizen and intentional American Zeenath Larsen that captures not just one of the primary reasons people to come to the US (legally and illegally), but a valuable message for US-born American citizens (especially those who think immigrants come to the US just to steal jobs, collect welfare, and commit crimes), the politicians who are looking to influence, lead, and win over the support of the people, and any American who has ever taken America for granted (me included):
“The bottom line is that your country and you have to be on the same page where values are considered, principles are considered, what you believe in. And if that is not the case, then it’s… you may be born somewhere and brought up somewhere, but then you don’t feel that same type of loyalty. Because loyalty comes through ideas, not through the earth, not through mud and trees and hills. That’s the same everywhere in the world. Is there any country in the world that has it enshrined in the constitution that you have a right to be happy?”
And to underline the point even more, note that Larsen is originally from Pakistan. Food for thought– check out the trailer for “Citizen USA” below:
Excellent (as usual) Daily Show segment on the NPR/Juan Williams firing. I already tweeted the hilarious part on DC’s city design/architecture (do you know how to navigate a roundabout?), especially re: all of the columns on the buildings– “… simultaneously magnificent and useless… like they designed the whole thing as a metaphor.” But the best part is discussion between Team Black and Team Muslim, having fun by playing on the irrational fear of Blacks and Muslims, culminating with Aasif Mandvi’s response to the accusation that their behavior only feeds into things:
“If they’re not gonna make a distinction between Muslims and violent extremists, then why should I take the time to distinguish between decent, fearful white people and racists?”
It’s been a whole year since my last IdeaFarm post and I thought I would post an update. I didn’t see the truck around for a while (at least in Mountain View– they apparently have people at locations all over the Bay Area), but then, a few months ago, they popped up again, parked near the intersection of Central Expressway and Rengstorff Avenue. They’ve apparently downsized to this trailer and bike (plus what looks like solar panels?).
This week, the trailer was parked at the corner of El Camino Real and Phyllis Ave after having been “silenced by MVPD” (Mountain View Police Department). I’m not sure what they did since I’ve never actually seen anybody next to/around the truck or trailer, but I suppose just parking for long periods of time in front of businesses and at busy intersections could cause problems. Nevertheless, I haven’t seen anything that would actually be illegal and if they had done something illegal, I assume the truck/trailer/whatever would have disappeared altogether.
So, I’d be curious to know what caused them to be “silenced” and how MVPD silenced them, but I still haven’t figured out what the actual, practical purpose of IdeaFarm is, what they do or how they do it. (One commenter summarized it as a version of “libertarian socialism”.) In any case, the IdeaFarm website has been updated once again, so maybe you can take a look and try to make some sense of it.
Otherwise– or perhaps as background– you can check out my previous posts:
I meant to post this a while ago, but here it is now: the IdeaFarm™ truck reappeared at the corner of Castro St. and El Camino in Mountain View, CA in late August. It disappeared apparently on September 11 at the conclusion of its Political Economy course. If you can’t read the sign, it reads (I think): “Mexicans colonize because you don’t receive them as brothers.”
An amazing story about two women (partners) who got pregnant at the same time, using the same donor too!
A sweet quote:
At night, we started putting our bellies together so the babies could say hi and tap at each other. It was sweet.
What could make this more perfect? Marriage.