Monday, November 29, 2010

Scanners: The TSA and the false left/right paradigm

The Opt-Out protest “fizzled”. Yes that is the official term for what happened over the holiday at U.S. Airports. A Google search for “TSA protest fizzle” yields about 169,000 results. Interesting that so many journalists came up with the same term. “Fizzled”.

Meanwhile, twitter-ers from airports across the country reported that the TSA had actually turned off many of the scanners in order, presumably, to avoid conflict, head off the protests and claim victory.

The recent brouhaha over the Transportation Safety Administration's newly implemented invasive search regime shined a light on a growing crack in the facade of our two-party government. Civil rights advocates on the left have been put in the uncomfortable position of taking sides with the “freedom” activists of the far right. They are both opposing the Obama administrations adoption of new airline security measures that include full-body scanners and humiliating pat-downs. The debate has become a semantic snake-pit- utterly dislodged from reality- with Democrats and Republicans switching sides on “security” issues in an attempt to take the political high-ground.

Thankfully, the resolve of the Republican critics was not tested by an actual airline attack over the holiday- we can only speculate on the level of spinning that would take place in the event of an actual incident. Instead, the FBI trotted out the “Portland Patsy”, 19 year-old Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who was arrested for attempting to deliver a a fake bomb that was supplied to him by FBI handlers
The cold war between the Democrats and Republicans has become so extreme that they have completely thrown away any pretext of honest debate based in fact. An Orwellian hodge-podge of newspeak (“TSA... ensure(s) freedom of movement for people and commerce.”)and pop catch-phrases (“don't touch my junk”) reduces the discussion to just the type of easily parroted wedge-issue pablum that keeps the independent majority divided and confused.

Can activists at both ends of the spectrum wake up, shake off their thread-bare allegiance to the two wings of the ruling class and work together to protect personal freedom?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Call For Submissions!!

    Issue #3 of OBSOLETE! is going to be our biggest yet. Coming out in February, 2011, the theme of the issue is "Feral Technology". I am looking for essays, fiction, poetry, cartoons, photos and other artwork that relates loosely to the idea of setting technology free, unusual or arcane technology, adaptive technology, non-technology, anti-technology, primitivism...

Definition of FERAL
1: of, relating to, or suggestive of a wild beast
2a: not domesticated or cultivated : wild
2b: having escaped from domestication and become wild

Definition of TECHNOLOGY
1a : the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area : engineering 2
1b : a capability given by the practical application of knowledge
2: a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge
3: the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor

So far we have an interview with author and Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow, and I am slated to work on a piece with San Francisco post-industrial folk artist Kal Spelletich. An article on the history of Hoodoo is also in the works. Why not contribute your own ideas?
Deadline: January 15th
Want to pitch an idea? Send me an outline?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Put the "Big O" in National Opt-Out Day!

    Just 6 days left until National Opt-Out Day! On Nov. 24th, indignant holiday flyers across the country will be standing up against the Transportation Safety Administration's latest draconian, rights-smashing policies. Rather than being sent through the new and potentially dangerous "Advanced Imaging Technology" scanners, protesters will be choosing to "opt-out", at which point they will be subjected to "enhanced pat-downs" - a humiliating physical search that includes TSA agents fondling their genital and breasts in a misguided attempt to keep America safe from Terrorists.
    There have been suggestions of ways to go one step further on National Opt-Out Day - Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic suggests going "Braveheart" and wearing a kilt to the airport on the 24th. Better yet, Goldberg suggests going "commando", supposing that flying without pants is probably illegal, but flying without undies probably is not.
    I suggest going one step further- I propose that November 24th be "National O-Face Day", in which flyers not only opt to receive the advanced pat-down, but show the TSA agents and fellow flyers their best fake orgasm. As they search up your legs toward your "crotchal area", give them a little heavy breathing. "Oh... yeah baby, a little higher... higher... HIGHER... OH YEAH!" I mean, street theatre has always been a mainstay of protest, but you certainly aren't going to get through security with a giant puppet, so why not rock a little personal theatrics? Just imagine the security cam footage- a line of cubicles- in one an elderly grandmother, in one a man in a suit and tie, in one a hipster college student- and as the TSA agents in each cubicle disappear from view below the partition, their subjects each throw back their heads and howl in ecstasy... maybe offer them a tip after?
    Okay, a little too much for you? How about reciting the pledge of allegiance or singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic? Reciting the Lords Prayer? "...And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil..."

    For those of you gutsy enough to participate in "National O-Face Day", here is a classic scene from the very 80's romantic comedy, "When Harry Met Sally"- a movie that I first saw, ironically, on a plane.... while being served chicken Kiev and a fresh the smoking section.

And for the fellas- a little reminder of how it's done by the original "O Face" guy...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Free Preview: A Night in the Zone by Jonathan Shaw

Check out Jonathan Shaw's excellent story from OBSOLETE! #2 at his kick-ass blog, SCABVENDOR.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


In the era of Total Information Awareness, representative democracy as we practice it in the U.S. is looking more and more quaint and out-dated. The Obama administration continues the Bush post-911 paranoia with increased surveillance of “we the people”. While the government's ability to collect data on it's people (more than 99.9999% of whom have done absolutely nothing wrong) increases so does the paranoia, creating a feedback loop of diminishing civil rights.
As rights-infringing technology has advanced exponentially, the technology of democracy has not. Our leaders make decisions very much in the same manner that they have for the last two centuries. They travel to a central location and meet in committees. They pound the needs and desires of their campaign contributors into a slurry of semantic abstractions. They ad heaping spoonfuls of pork-fat earmarks, appropriations and amendments, obfuscate the intent with archaic legalese, then force-feed the resulting pablum to the public while claiming victory for their party. With any luck, these franken-laws, stitched together from the putrid flesh of dead ideas, rise to zombie-life in the course of several months- but more likely several years.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

OBMag #2 preview: Review of "Borderland"

Seven Lives. Seven Stories.
As Told by Victims of Human Trafficking.
by Dan Archer and Olga Trusova
published by Archcomix

    In what artist Dan Archer describes as a "comics journalism project", he collaborates with Fulbright Fellow Olga Trusova to tell the stories of seven of the 12.3 million adults and children forced into bonded labor and prostitution around the world.
    Trusova traveled to the Ukraine in 2009 to study human trafficking and returned with stories of the desperate and risky lives of people in a country ravaged by economic collapse. Archer transforms these stories into stark, monochromatic graphics, highlighted in sepia to convey the gray, eastern European atmosphere. At times the drawings almost feel like Soviet Era agit-prop, yet the heroic workers have become grimly ill-defined and the crimson backgrounds has faded to the color of clay, as the hammer and sickle has disappeared from view. The workers paradise has become the workers purgatory.
    The introductions to each of the seven stories convey the hard facts and statistics about the situation in the Ukraine. For instance, over 14% of the victims of trafficking have university level degrees. One story tells of an educated, middle aged woman who, desperate for money, took a construction job in Russia and ended up chained in a shed, forced to milk cows until she was too weak to work.  Luckily, she escaped, and through the kindness of strangers, made it back home.
    Comics have a long tradition as a serious story-telling and news medium in other parts of the world, and Borderland is a fine example of how a serious subject can be addressed in an engaging and graphic format for an English-reading audience.  The stories are tightly packed, with interludes with statistics, references, and links to the websites of NGOs working to stop the abuse.
    Borderlands is a cautionary tale for those of us in countries with our own "dirty little secrets" and stories of worker exploitation. It's an eye-opening read.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Video: Abandoned Six Flags New Orleans Tour

A beautiful and haunting video tour of the abandoned New Orleans Six Flags amusement park by videographer Teddy Smith. The park will be demolished and sold for scrap in January, 2011.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Why I blame Rush (the Band, not Limbaugh) for the Tea Party.

By Rich Dana

I read an article this summer that the Canadian rock band Rush was filing a lawsuit against Kentucky senatorial candidate and Tea Party love-child Rand Paul. The power trio's lawyers alleged that the Paul campaign's use of their song "Spirit of the Radio" constituted copyright infringement.

"Oh, the irony," I thought. The band, who have openly promoted libertarian philosophy through their music, credited Rand Paul's namesake- polemical sci-fi writer Ayn Rand - for the inspiration of several of their records.....

The remainder of this article has been removed temporarily, as Little Village Magazine has chosen to publish it.  Check it out exclusively in the December issue of Little Village....  Thanks Everybody!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Issue #2- Intro

Here is another preview of ObMag #2 - this is the introduction to the "What I did on my summer vacation" issue.  I thought it might be a good read for those of you with post-election blues....

What I did on my Summer Vacation

    As I write this introduction, it is fall, 2010. Summer is over. I sit alone in the house of a dead woman, looking out the door toward the Puget Sound. The sun is bright above the thick quilt of fog. I’m waiting for the movers, who missed the ferry.
    Barbara was a journalist, an artist and interior designer; she transformed things and places. Now, her meticulously arranged home is being disassembled- the last pieces carefully packed for their trip to a Seattle auction house.
    It’s fall and school is back in session. If you had to stand at the blackboard on the first day of school, what would you tell the class? What did you do on your summer vacation? Did you have a great adventure? Did you max out your credit card for a few days of blissful escape?  Or did you stay at home and pray the AC kept working and that you might soon find work? Did you fall in love... or did you sit on the couch and watch 24-hour cable news coverage as the US of A declined into a made-for-TV remake of the Weimar Republic?  In the current state of the Union, the idea of a “summer vacation” is disappearing over the societal horizon faster than my Dad’s Country Squire station wagon crossing the Badlands. But we still have “The Holidays” to look forward to, right?
    Barbara understood how things worked. She carefully restored Victorian furniture that she found at Goodwill. She practiced Ikebana, the art of floral arrangement, which she first studied in Tokyo as a G.I. Bride during the Korean War. She understood time.
    She survived a decades-long fight with disease through faith, not in God but in herself. Faith... and just the right amount of denial. She didn’t sweat the small stuff, but she was obsessed with
detail.  I wish I could talk to her. I talk to her.