Secret Mojo Dumbs It Down for You

October 31, 2006

Simple question: “Where?”

Filed under: Iraq,mediachumps,News,Politics,rants,war — secretmojo @ 12:17 pm

The BBC reports that the Pentagon is launching a new propaganda — oops, I mean “media war” unit — that will attempt to offset — oops, I mean “correct” — unflattering (I mean “inaccurate”) breaking news reports.

My only question, which is blatantly missing in this article, is, “Where?” Who are the targets of this propa — media war? Which stations, which websites? More importantly, which country?

The BBC won’t say. They mention TV, radio, and weblogs, and grant the Pentagon a fully dictated — oops, I mean “reported” — paragraph to sort-of explain the issue:

The administration is particularly concerned that insurgents in areas such as Iraq have been able to use the web to disseminate their message and give the impression they are more powerful than the US, our correspondent says.

But my question still remains. “Where?”

Where will these bold countermeasures be conducted? On Iraqi TV? Iraqi Radio? Insurgent web sites?

Not mentioned. Which forces me to conclude that most of this media warring will be conducted in America, on American radio, on American TV, on American blogs, toward American station owners and American citizens.

Seriously, where else is that scary 24-hour news cycle that keeps Donald Rumsfeld “up at night” located? Where else can lobbyists and politicians (uh, “surrogates”) gear up and appear on a TV show so quickly? (Hint: Baghdad is 6,211 miles away from Washington. New York is 204.)

I will hazard a guess that Rumsfeld and the top brass don’t receive their daily supply of heebie jeebies from Al-Jazeera pundits. If not, who are they afraid of?

On Monday, US Vice President Dick Cheney also made reference to the use of media, suggesting insurgents had increased their attacks and were checking the internet to keep track of American public opinion. [emphasis added]

Ahhhh! That’s who. Never mind.

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August 15, 2006

Victory, spelled with a ‘P’

Filed under: Israel/Lebanon,News,Politics,terrorism,war — secretmojo @ 12:30 am

Ceasefire is great news. And a humiliating slap in the face for all the warmongers who cheered this conflict as the chance of a lifetime.

It may or may not last. I’ve always thought a good judge of the strength of a truce is whether all sides come from the agreement claiming victory. It may be this way for Hezbollah, somewhat for Lebanon, but not for Israel. The two captured soldiers, the “reason” for the devastation in the first place, remain captured.

One more observation, and I’ll let everyone get on with their own Israel/Lebanon news saturation. After reading a bit on local reactions (here and here), a peculiar phenomenon struck me: while displaced Israelis are afraid to return to the north, Lebanese refugees are jamming up the roads heading back to their homes.

This is fascinating to me, because southern Lebanon and Beirut are decimated. Buildings turned into gravel dumps with twisted rebar poking out of them. If any Lebanese wanted to be afraid, they need only look up.

Israel hasn’t seen this kind of overbearing damage. Yet, the fear to return seems greater. Now, I don’t want this to turn into a debate about who’s the greater victim here, because the way I see it, everyone proved their humanity by honoring the ceasefire, and are victorious over the innate evil of War. Score one for sensibility and compassion.

But it is interesting how uncertainty is one of the main ingredients of fear. And how, after a certain predictability is achieved — even if that prediction is one of death and destruction — fear dissolves.

August 11, 2006

Terror Theater: when “explosives” become props

Filed under: mediachumps,News,terrorism — secretmojo @ 11:41 pm

Okay, so you’re watching a play. In a heated scene where you don’t know whether she’s going to succumb to his advances or explode in fury, she suddenly thwacks the door in his face.

But: the walls of the set tremor.

The emotional power of the moment derails. In an instant, the stove, the couch, the picture of their boy, and the trembling chandelier become ersatz; flimsy origami paper barely holding reality together.

But it’s a play. A minute or two of actors refocusing their emotions, and suspension of disbelief rescues the faltering advance of the show.

Consider, now, this observation. Are we all actors watching our own performances, from policeman to passenger to CNN reporter to reader? It’s clear here that nobody, not even bystanders in the thick of a terror alert, accepts that these liquids may contain nitro-glycerin. The procedure displayed here is so thoroughly divorced from any HAZMAT guidelines that any person with half a brain should conclude that it is pure theater — a “duck and cover” newsreel that pantomimes to the public that our officials are “on top of it.”

Yet, in a funky torque of the mind, everyone both believes and disbelieves the show, CNN contributing to theatrical legitimacy by vidding the event, without comment, as evidence of bomb threat reduction.

Imagine the kind of jedi mind trick a person must perform on himself to report it like CNN. First, you must accept the threat as real and the response as logical, otherwise, why report it so? Yet, in a magical dichotomy of cognitive weirdness, you must also be convinced there can be no bomb in those bottles — otherwise, you’d freak when witnessing a man blithely dumping explosives into a can.

All the world may be a stage, but we are, in the end, horrible method actors. I’ve seen plenty of movies with Thespians who simply cannot handle guns properly; carrying them like stress balls, resting fingers dangerously on triggers, looking dead in the barrel as if their brain had no chance of being blown apart by the act.

But to see abysmal acting in real life, with hundreds of unwitting zombies, from security guard to CNN reporter, all playing along as if it were both true and false at the same time, astonishes me.

August 8, 2006

Ceasefire: the whole world minus one

Filed under: Israel/Lebanon,News,Politics,war — secretmojo @ 7:44 pm

There were three, but now there’s one.

It’s a pretty crappy deal for Lebanon, who will now have to face two occupiers instead of one. They’ll be tending to both Hezbollah and Israel. And, if you’ve ever positioned yourself between two brawling guys in a bar, trust me, it’s neither fun nor easy.

Furthermore, I call it a “soft surrender” because it asks nothing of Israel but demands plenty of Lebanon. What do you expect when enemies craft peace agreements?

But I hope Lebanon takes the deal. The future may or may not work itself out, and war may explode again, but Lebanon’s getting UN forces—although Bush would like these forces to do more his bidding than Lebanon’s. And yes, I know, Bush says annoying throwaway words like “As these Lebanese and international forces deploy, the Israeli defense forces will withdraw.” These lying words are clearly not in writing, as they should be if you’re to speak them in the first place. Plus, they sound frighteningly like his highly successful “stand up/stand down” Iraq verbiage that have yet to see reality.

But I hope they take the deal anyways. Negotiate, get a couple of concessions perhaps, but take the deal. Otherwise, it gets worse for everyone, but mostly for Lebanon, who’s enduring a 6:1 kill ratio right now.

I realize the current proposal is “We’ll stop shooting if you do what we say,” but when you’ve got both a ceasefire and international troops to enforce it (sort of), take it. Otherwise, be prepared to defend the existence of your country, because this is an offer you honestly can’t refuse. And the crazies are on the verge of conflating the whole of Lebanon into a terrorist encampment, an idea oddly successful with Iraq. And everybody knows how great that’s going.

August 3, 2006

‘Freedom Fries’ renamed ‘Crow Fries’

Filed under: Humor,Iraq,News,Politics — secretmojo @ 7:22 pm

WASHINGTON, D.C – In the ongoing attempt to use the Capitol Hill menu as an artistic expression of Congressional angst, House Administration Chair Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI) announced two revisions of menu entries today in a press conference: Crow Fries and Your Words Toast.

“I figured we’d be eating them anyway, so why not keep it real?” said Ehlers.

Back in March, 2003, representatives Bob Ney (R-OH) and Walter Jones (R-NC) announced that the fries in the Capitol Hill cafeteria would no longer be called “French,” but “Freedom,” in protest of France’s love of dictators.

But now, that spicy name tastes different.

A food service worker at the cafeteria explained: “We requested they consider a different word than ‘freedom’ because Congressmen, who don’t have good memories, saw ‘Freedom Toast’ and belligerantly accused our servers of liberal sarcasm that belittled their rhetoric on Iraq. We had to remind them on many separate occasions that we do not control the name of the items; they do. Lot’s of stale fries laying around. Lots of stale fries.”

Contrary to popular understanding, creative menu names outliving their time period at Capitol Hill is nothing new. In the nineties, a particular salad dressing was named “Blue Dress Delight.” When Reagan was in office, reps could enjoy an appetizer named “Ain’t fraid of Grenada Tomata,” and during Nixon, patrons could eat a “Victory Sandwich” or a “Washington Toast.”

What does come as a surprise, however, is the self-deprecating honesty of the new entries.

The spokeswoman for Bob Ney explained. “In a forty-hour session, they debated the pros and cons of renaming the fries Belgium Fries, since that’s where they came from in the first place. Rejected Quagmire Fries outright. They also considered Gotta Crack a Few Eggs to Make This Toast. But in the end, they decided on ‘crow’ to showcase their innate humility, sensibilities of humoresqueness, and how we are all one of da people, dig?”

Future appellation plans include renaming the cafeteria itself to “Box of Hungry Buttheads.” But the project is encountering resistance in the approval process over whether it should be phrased “Hungry Butthead Oasis,” to win the hearts and minds of Arabs.

Joni Mitchell is Recyclable

Filed under: Music,News,Random Thoughts,war — secretmojo @ 1:48 am

sittin’ in a park in paris, france
readin’ the news and it sure looks bad:
they won’t give peace a chance
(it was just a dream some of us had)

July 31, 2006

New Op-Art Exhibition: To see or not to see the WMD?

Filed under: Iraq,News,Politics — secretmojo @ 9:52 pm

Experimental Chicago artist Canyu Sea launched a provocative illusory art exhibition at the Art Institute today featuring an Iraqi weapon of mass destruction that may—or may not—be there.

Depending on your political point of view (amongst other factors), you will see (or not see) a chemical bomb filled with toxic eggs.

“It’s remarkable,” said visitor Matt Frentelli. “My friend kept insisting that there was a bomb there, but no matter how I positioned my head, I couldn’t see it.”

Part of the exhibit are Viewpoints—little marks on the floor you and your friends can take turns standing on to conclude whether the view of the “bomb” is physical, or psychological. Nearly half of the visitors said the bomb was there, while the other half saw nothing, yet none concluded it was due to where they physically stood.

Floor Manager Simon Blade said, “We get a lot of visitors from Europe who think it’s just a clever joke because none of them nor any of their friends can see the bomb. We had a few Iraqis take a look at the exhibit, and none of them saw anything of interest either.”

It’s fascinating, explained Sea, when only one person of a group sees empty space. Sea watched, from the corner, a group of students on field trip. After some time looking and arguing with her friends, a teenager named Samantha eventually could make out a small outline of the “bomb.” By the end of their trip, Samantha was jumping up and down and pointing at the exhibit, saying, “Yes! I see it! I finally see it!”

Sea revealed only part of his method, citing “keeping a magician’s secret sacred.” He developed what he calls a Factual Ennui Distributor, which infuses a field of gullibility around the bomb area itself. Depending on one’s gullibility factor, a bomb may or may not show up. It sounds like jiggery-pokery, but it does indeed work: a non-scientific poll of the visitors entering and leaving produced a near match with the 50/50 split on the general public’s belief in the weapons in Iraq.

Many visitors could describe it in detail, with their descriptions matching others that came in later. But those who couldn’t see it would sometimes walk through it, to the dismay of those who did see. In contrast, those who saw the bomb typically tripped over it when trying to walk through it themselves.

Sea said he almost named it “American WMD,” but was afraid that no one would see his art at all.

When asked whether the bomb really was there, Sea said, “This is the most interesting part, in talking to reporters. I have said ‘yes,’ and I have said ‘no,’ but each and every time I read the paper, it always quotes me as saying ‘maybe,’ even in contridiction to the reporter’s own experience.”

So: is there really a chemical bomb at the Art Institute, and is it dangerous?

Maybe.

WMD, Yes or No?

Two pictures of the exhibit taken from the same camera in the same position. One snapped by my friend Missy, the other by my friend Joseph. Which one do you think you would see?

Surreal headline of the day

Filed under: Iraq,mediachumps,News — secretmojo @ 7:01 pm

This either proves that the headline writers at The Washington Times have a sense of humor, or no sense at all:

Army diverts funds to war

In other news: Microsoft allocated money to create software, American Airlines bought planes to fly, and Paris Hilton took time out to appear before camera.

How to redefine words so you smell more like roses, and less like crap

Filed under: Humor,Israel/Lebanon,News,Politics,rants — secretmojo @ 2:26 pm

Here’s a guide for those of you who, as facts come in regarding Lebanon, need stronger cognitive shielding (hat tip to Curtis, who’s always a fine read, but gets this one wrong). While not as succinct as “War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength, Freedom is Slavery,” it’s still a delightful romp into the benefits of self-defined cult language: Ceasefire is Surrender, Civilians are Combatants, Disproportionate is… Kickin’ Ass!

Pretty soon the semantic divergence will be so great that I’ll ask a conservative friend to “pass the salt,” but he’ll hear “appease the chemical weapon.”

Then he’ll start yelling about “taking the fight to them,” and I’ll be all, “huh?” and he’ll be like “Don’t treat me like I’m stupid,” and I’ll say, “whatever,” and reach for the salt.

Seeing the brisk movement of my arm, he’ll take a swing at me, and I’ll say “calm down, buddy, what the fuck’s gotten into you?” and he’ll be all “NO CEASEFIRE!” and I’ll again be like “huh?” and he’ll grab me by the shirt, puff up his chest, and scream “I’m sick of your ‘huh’ accusations!” and heave the table aside in massive clatter.

And the salt will explode all over, I’ll get pissed and tackle him, he’ll bite my earlobe and I’ll gouge his eyes. We’ll both be arrested, and, since he’s got a cop friend, I’ll get jail time for assault.

Then, months later, he’ll moan alone to a bartender, adjust his eye patch, and tell the sorry tale of how good our friendship used to be until, one day, I freakishly attacked him out of nowhere when he politely asked me to pass the salt.

July 29, 2006

Man, it’s all “boob this, boob that, boobie boob boob”

Filed under: navel gazing,News — secretmojo @ 6:15 pm

UPDATE: Take this, ya boob-frightened prudes.

Like we weren’t getting enough “measured debate” after Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl malfunction—at an event, by the way, that also sported a (less sexy, more British) male streaker who got past security and danced on the 50-yard line until getting sacked by a linebacker. Now we must deal with Babytalk—the magazine, not the discourse—which published a picture of a baby eating:

Fast Food

I’m reticent to deconstruct the pose here. Because the premise is that a boob is always an object of desire—and let’s be honest, the lack of an Adam’s apple would also spark a little “willy shift” if women’s necks were always covered. Deconstructing why this photo may be offensive leads, nearly instantaneously, into Pervertland, where grown men wear diapers and 18-month-olds have sex drives. But deconstruct it I will, because I am fearless.

First, that’s a perfect boob. I realize stock photography is all about idealized worlds that don’t exist, and that a character-free approach to any subject is needed. But for those in the know (not me of course), porn and even fashion photography also depends on characterless, idealized situations taking place beneath fantastic lighting, complete with perfect boobs and two models locked in actorly eye contact to sell an otherwise insouciant or improbable act. So it was a photographical gaffe here, which serendipitously made use of the “vague sexual satisfaction” groove so often implemented elsewhere. “I wouldn’t mind being that baby right now,” thinks 80% of man-kind, despite themselves. Conclusion? The boob shouldn’t have been so good-looking. It should have looked like a mother’s breast, not a model’s.

Second, look at the way the kid’s going at it. It’s almost as if life depended on it. As if, without feeding, the poor feller may die. Hunger and sexual desire have been associated in the psyche for eons. Admittedly, sexual desire and babies have not—but this doesn’t stop anyone from projecting onto a little one, who can’t utter a sentence yet, the same eager bodily need, albeit from a different nexus, experienced by under-sexed sailors.

See, I told you: comprehending it leads us into Pervertland. Even Oedipus, who didn’t do it on purpose, gouged out his eyes after discovering his own defilement. But here’s this baby—obviously full aware who his/her mother is—nursing away with eyes wide open, presumably checking out his/her mother’s pleasure or displeasure on the matter. Gross!

What’s interesting is that a picture of a baby drinking from a bottle doesn’t receive the same kind of controversy. I think that’s just pure lack of imagination. We can picture ourselves (or our 13-year-old sons and daughters) in the act sexually when it’s a real breast, but are too imagination-challenged to see “baby bottle” and think “blow-up doll.”

Maybe it’s because there aren’t too many pictures of blow-up dolls on fashion magazine covers. Or maybe—just maybe—everyone’s forgotten what breasts are for. There are plenty of orifices—mouth, nostrils, ears—that have little sexual connotation. There are many protrusions—ankles, nose, knuckles, knees—that don’t either. This doesn’t mean, of course, that kissing the mouth or tickling the knee cannot be erotic. It just means that we aren’t fixated on it, because we’ve more often experienced the mouth and knee in their functional rather than sexual context.

So the real problem isn’t this picture, but all the pictures that came before it. The swimsuit issue, any picture on the cover of Vogue, Angelina’s hot spreads, and, well, damn anything on television from Good Morning America to Sex and the City. The sexual connotation behind everything is so pervasive that we hardly notice it during the beer commercials anymore. We just watch, unconsciously note that it’s all about the sex, and judge anything seen in the future upon that. Including baby pictures.

At the center of sexual connotation are of course, boobs. Guys are a rather explicit lot, and the subtleties of collarbone shape, eye contact, and timbre of voice get lost when the magic nodules sculpt the tank top. So it only makes sense that this picture grossed some people out, because it’s pedophilia on one end, and on the other, yet another woman whose boob is her most photogenic part. So of course it seems disgusting.

But solely because of our own minds, reinforced by the culture we live in. Which is probably the central, if not the most and only, disturbing thing about it.

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