Late Night Thoughts on a Middle Eastern Union because why not

Some other night at 3am while browsing YouTube videos when I should have been sleeping or writing, I came upon the above video and watched it multiple times in a row. Each time I watched it, this feeling in my chest grew. At first I thought it was love and laughter, but then it turned into sadness and worry.  I will call this feeling a Peace-in-the-Middle-East-itis that ultimately left me with a low opinion of myself, one that described me as a naive and ridiculous person. Because you know, that inexplicable desire for global peace, the one all beauty contestants are mocked for expressing? Yeah. That. It’s so silly to even think about these things as it is far outside my area of expertise… but I went with it, as a thought exercise. How could the West effectively help solve the “ongoing crisis” that is the Middle East? What I came up with was a Middle Eastern Union.

I realize Israel probably won’t go for a plan like this, but let’s suspend disbelief and pretend they would.  Actually, no, let’s just keep them outside of it for now, as well as Egypt.

The MEU could work like our democratic system with two “houses,” one house where every country gets one vote (representative, etc), and one where every country gets votes (or representatives) based off GDP. (Think “bicameral” like parliament or the US congress) The MEU doesn’t even need to be bicameral, they can just do this GDP thing. Countries with higher GDP get 2 votes, as opposed to lower performing countries who get 1 vote. (The map below is from 2007 and very out of date, and does GDP per capita… but I am using it because it is a good visual aid for you dear reader. Nominal GDP map of 2014 is here, GDP per capita from 2012 is here)

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When I was Late on September 11th

me with twin towers

Me at the Statue of Liberty trying to point at the plane flying over the WTC

The train had rocked most of us on this New Brunswick to Penn Station train to sleep but not me; My MP3 CD with 100+ songs burned from Napster had not yet lost its novelty. I was listening to the Cure as a good teen Catholic high school pseudo-goth when a man sitting by the window blurted out, “there’s a fire!”

We were about to go under the tunnel, still on the New Jersey side. When the buildings cleared again before we descended under the river the few people that had gathered peered out but the angle had changed, or the wind picked up. We didn’t see anything. “I saw smoke” said the man. “I really did.” We were unconvinced, and returned to our seats. I focused on the task at hand: filling out a yellow slip and forging the signature of my school’s lobby receptionist.

I was late, really late, and when you were late at my school, you had to check in at the front desk to collect a slip, which you then gave to your teacher. Once you collected three, you got detention. I was late a lot — my parents had moved out to New Brunswick for the birth of my step-brother and I was having trouble catching the 6:20 train every day to get to school on time– which is where the stolen packet of late slips came in. On September 11th, I was on the 8am so I was “missed first period” late.

Riding the 6 train and running the couple of blocks to my school felt odd but I attributed it to rush hour being over. A classmate let me in the side door and I bounded up the stairs, my teacher waving my late slip away not even bothering to sign it. Class was not in session, everyone was talking about the Twin Towers. That man on the train was telling the truth!!! My chemistry teacher burst into the room and ordered everyone into the basement. We were under attack. The Pentagon had just been hit. Read the rest of this entry »


Inadvertent sexism in the outrage over Lara Croft rape attempt!

A conceptual render of Lara Croft in Tomb Raid...

A conceptual render of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. She wields a bow, pistol and climbing axe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

August 2014 edit: TRIGGER WARNING FOR DISCUSSION, DEPICTION OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE

In case you can’t tell from the title, in the latest Tomb Raider installment (and reboot!) the lead female almost gets raped by her captors. This made a shit ton of people mad, and while their intentions were good, the outcome was ultimately…worse.

The game designers explained this rape attempt was to make Croft, who is known for being a gun-toting bad-ass, more “vulnerable” and “human,” perhaps thinking society could finally have a rational discussion about rape.  Boy were they mistaken, judging by the online reaction!  (Which incidentally led to a  detracted statement that could easily be construed as a silencing attempt, almost mirroring the aftermath an actual rape victim would find themselves in.)

The online reaction was the typical knee-jerk foaming-at-the-mouth feminist “oh my god how could they do this to my favorite female hero and literally one of the only few strong female hero’s” arguments. And it was especially nice to see the men wringing their digital hands louder than any one else.

But how often has a video game tackled rape? And have they ever approached the subject in even as remotely delicate of a manner as the latest Tomb Raider?

The answer is a no, again easily answered by the level of outrage.

Mic Wright wrote in the Kernel, “I don’t remember Master Chief ever being anally raped to help us empathise with him more.” Helen Lewis also compared Croft to the male Halo franchise hero in the New Statesman: “Bungie didn’t think that the only way players would root for Master Chief was by having him raped.”

I don’t know how Wright or Lewis can be confused, but in case you dear reader are too, I’d like to take this moment to point out to you that Master Chief is a man, and Lara Croft is a woman.

And not only that, but, RAPE is one of those weird sexual things men have been doing to women since the dawn of time.

The Hebrew Muslim and Christian god condoned and advocated using rape as a weapon of war in the Old Testament, and armies to this day still use it as as demoralizing tool all over the world. Even military contractors and soldiers in modern war zones still rape women, and they even rape  women who are not their enemies but their comrades-in-arms.

Recent statistics for rape in the United States put a sexual  assault or rape at every two minutes, and 1/6 of the female population in America will be raped, or fight off a rapist in her lifetime. Globally, one in every five women will be raped. But you didn’t come here to read rape statistics, and if you’re bored by all those numbers, sorry. I just thought I had to note them, because I laughed when Kellie Foxx-Gonzales wrote, NOT IRONICALLY, on The Mary Sue:

“The responsibility is wholly upon her to protect herself, it is not upon the scumbag rapists who are trying to hurt her. “

Duh, Kellie. Do you not know how rape happens? Women usually have to protect themselves alone, from the men attacking them. And rapists are generally scumbags. That’s why they’re rapists!

Not to keep picking on Kellie from The Mary Sue, but she went on to say rape shouldn’t be in any video game because she’s “had enough of that in real life.”

Great. So now we can’t talk about rape because it happens too much? I thought one of the biggest problems with rape was that people don’t talk about it enough: the crime doesn’t always get reported, etc. Read the rest of this entry »


Positive thinking on Japan’s March 2011 crises

Tsunami wall at Tsu-shi, Japan

Tsunami wall at Tsu-shi, Japan (Image via Wikipedia)

I seem to have only posted negative things about the situation in Japan, so this post is an attempt to be positive. This post is really a list for myself.

The first, most obvious positive is: the Fukushima nuclear plant has not exploded.

Second:

The US Military support in Japan has been extensive, and unlike most foreign aid that is now arriving, the US military aid has been in Japan since the beginning.   This article offers a comprehensive list of all US military missions conducted, or to be conducted.   Rather than “running the show like they usually do in a disaster zone, U.S. troops are taking cues from the Japanese on how to assist in recovery efforts in the heart of the tsunami-ravaged coastline“.  This aid has not gone unnoticed by the Japanese people: In a e-mail I saw, forwarded to my mate from his father’s business account days after the Sendai earthquake:

“Lastly, I as a Japanese really appreciate the help from your government. American troops and some war ships now arrived close to my home town. They are working hard to help the people over there. They knew there is the risk of exposure to radiation, but they came. I can’t express how much I appreciate that.”

Admiral Robert Willard has stated he is willing to send troops “into the danger zone” to assist the Japanese Defense force, however he is “cautiously optimistic” that the Japanese can handle cooling the plant themselves. Reuters states the US Military will not “be called into the most affected areas around the plant.

This positive is a direct outcome of WWII, as the US wouldn’t be stationed in Japan if it wasn’t for the Treaty of Francisco.  Normally I advocate the shuttering  of military bases overseas, but in this one instance, I have to make an exception.  Though – we shouldn’t keep our bases open around the world just so we can help if there is a natural disaster – I am not advocating that.

Third:

The Japanese people have remained calm. The sense of community at the Japanese refugee centers is heartwarming:   children and women cook and clean,  and men go into town to wait in lines for food and water.

“As far as I can tell, people around Tokyo are very calm and haven’t heard any strange rumors. Avoiding panic is the benefit for all, and people seem to understand that.”

And it’s that message that is apparently getting lost in translation as the outside media cover the events in Japan, particularly the nuclear situation.

“CNN seems to be reporting ‘people leaving from Tokyo’ and Tokyo becoming a ‘ghost town,’ but it seems that it’s a bit overemphasized,” he wrote.

via Melony Plenda’s “Student reports from Japan: People remain calm

Here is a picture of a younger man helping an older man carry supplies. The New Yorker even mentioned the lack of looting and government exploitation. I would like to think that if something like this happened in the United States, Americans would refrain from looting and rioting, but past natural disasters show otherwise.

Internet comments have stated the calmness of the Japanese is a direct result of their community spirit and culture, sentiments echoed in The New Yorker article linked above.

Fourth:

Japan has the most technologically advanced earthquake detection and broadcast system in the world. This system undoubtedly saved lives.

The video above includes a frantic news producer yelling directions.

Fifth:

Japanese skyscrapers were built to withstand earthquakes and no engineered buildings have collapsed.

This list will be updated should I find out/read about other positives regarding the Japanese 2011 earthquake-tsunami-nuclear crisis.


Japanese Earthquake, Tsunami reveal American Stupidity, Insensitivity

Avenge Pearl Harbor. Our bullets will do it, c...

Image by The U.S. National Archives via Flickr

EDIT: The internet is telling me all these anti-Japanese sentiments began with  a Family Guy staff writer’s joke tweet. He deleted the tweet and apologized, though other Americans might actually mean it as evident by their Facebook vitriol?

The last 48 hours for Japan have been rough: two earthquakes, a tsunami, and fears of nuclear meltdown.

A logical, possible explanation? A solar flare.

Some  cesspoolian Americans, however, viewed these natural phenomena as the work of a spiritual deity. These Americans believe the universe was angry at Japan for Pearl Harbor, and decided to wait more than 50 years to dish out karmic justice.  Except these Americans  didn’t say it like that.  More like:   “Fuck Japan! Remember Pearl Harbor? Karma’s a bitch!” Yeah.

When I think of all the Americans that never learned of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings,  my forehead wrinkles with worry. No Child Left Behind is doing a worse job than we imagined!

If I had to pick a country, between the United States and Japan, that would get karmic retribution for actions in World War II, I’d pick the United States (body count, occupation).   If I were to follow the Facebooking-karmic-justice-Americans logic, where  nature takes it upon herself to punish man for the things he does to his fellow man, I’d have to assume that Katrina, the tornadoes tearing up the midwest,  the BP Oil Spill (why not?) and every other natural catastrophe to hit the states EVER,  is retribution for things America did in prior wars. Or am I being silly here, because America don’t have to worry about karmic retribution? I don’t know the rules to this karma-blame-game… maybe America is exempt.

But what about New Zealand? Following the logic stated above, one could argue the Christchurch earthquake happened because of the Anglo-Maori wars centuries ago.   And the flooding in Australia? Oh, the universe is always punishing that country – they’re a country of criminals, you see?

But really, why Pearl Harbor?

My hypothesis:  the film  “Pearl Harbor” played recently (ahem, on repeat for a week) on some cable channel, making the battle of Pearl Harbor  fresh in commonplace American  minds.  These Americans heard the world “Japan” on the news, and were like, “I just watched a movie with Ben Affleck, and that tsunami country bombed us in the movie!   Serves them right, durrr, derr.”

(I don’t know if “Pearl Harbor” aired recently, but this makes me think my idea has merit…)

CLOSING EDIT: That joke flew over my head and now I feel silly. Perhaps all those Facebook people were really imitating Alec Sulkin. Reddit does not know this yet, nor does Viceland.com, linked above. (3:30pm CST)


Why Crysis 2 is better than Call of Duty: Black Ops

No competition, really.


Civilization 5 offends my Hungarian sensibilities

This post was written on a horse, while reading about Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary.

I understand Americans learn very little of Eastern Europe, so I don’t hold it against Civilization 5 for making Budapest a city-state instead of an actual civilization.  Sure sure, it hurts, but Americans get such lousy education these days  I can’t expect the Firaxis team to know that Hungary is one of the oldest  and best countries in Europe.

What I absolutely cannot dismiss, for its outright heart-piercing egregious nature, is the kind of city-state Budapest is: …militaristic. How is it that Bucharest, of Romania, is a “cultured city”, but Budapest is not? What has Bucharest contributed to the world?

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