Category: History - Silent Rogue
 
Samurai Armor
            Samurai have been the traditional fighting force of Japan for centuries. The idea of samurai has pervaded the present day with images of such romanticized feel that it has created an highly legendary connotation behind the warrior class. Sometimes this image has reached us so deeply that we fail to recognize we have any perception of a samurai at all. Often times, we assume that what we see in popular media concerning samurai is fact, but that is where we err. The media has distorted the true image of samurai.

            The truth behind the image stems from their creation centuries ago. They began as simple farmers trying to protect their lands, but eventually transformed and evolved into elite soldiers, only to become obsolete as Japan modernized into the 20th century.

            What is samurai? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes it as a military retainer of a Japanese daimyo practicing the code of conduct of Bushido; the warrior aristocracy of Japan. This definition leads us to ask what Bushido exactly entails. Why were samurai created and, why did they create such romanticized nostalgia in today's world?

            The image of the samurai, in particular, has pervaded our daily lives to such an extent that we do not even notice. There have been numerous films, TV shows, and mini-series made about samurai, including The Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa - 1954), Samurai Jack (Genndy Tartakovsky- 2001-2004), and Shogun (Jerry London – 1980) – not to mention all the novels created as well. While these deal directly with samurai as their subjects, the influence of samurai culture and philosophy can be seen everywhere. One of the most striking examples is the Star Wars series, in which Darth Vader's suit is reminiscent of samurai armor and also in the Jedi training process which is reminiscent of the samurai training process. This fascination is not simply a phenomenon in Japan or even the United States. This fanaticism extends all over the world with places like Britain and other European and Asian countries portraying samurai in their fictions and other works. Not only is the simple image emulated, but the very way of life of the Samurai is held in high regard; Bushido, Seppuku, and many other practices are looked at with great curiosity and also enacted from time to time. To better understand this fascination, we must first turn our attention to better understanding the subject of concern.

            The role of the samurai originated in ancient times when bands of farmers began to come together and align themselves with each other in order to protect their lands. From there, their roles evolved and samurai became more like land proprietors. They were the rulers of the land until about the sixteenth century, when they “exchanged their rural patrimony for residence in the castle town... [and] the institutionalized right to rule society by virtue of their two-sworded status” [1]. What this change did was put samurai under the guidance of daimyos and other higher officials as opposed to no real authority above them before. In essence, it marked the transition of Japanese medieval times into the beginning of the modern era. This metamorphosis, although allowing a great redistribution of wealth, was hurtful to the samurai because they lost many of their privileges and authority in the villages. Conversely, they did gain status in the society, security (both financial and biological), and monetary benefits.

            In 1559, a certain Register, which compiled a list of the samurai's retainers' landholdings, was created. With this information, the government was able to formulate a pseudo-army like structure, and with the changing profile of warfare (such as the need for more soldiers and the advent of modern technology like the rifle) there came a need for a larger and larger amount of soldiers who would fall into rank and file. By the second half of the century, battles had already shifted from the glory of a single samurai and his prowess to well-organized fights that did not allow for independent glory. This setup of battles made it easier to distinguished between lower-level samurai and higher-level samurai. The role of the samurai had continued its evolution and it would not stop here.

            This distinction eventually led to the formation of the four classes division of the samurai based on geographic region. However, this did not help simplify the idea of samurai. In fact, it became even more complex to tell who was considered a samurai. While samurai were thought of as those living in the castle towns previously, the increased number of samurai could not be contained within the castles, so there were numerous samurai in the villages. These warriors were considered the lower samurai while the castle warriors were the higher samurai. This distinction is important only because historians have divided these warriors as such and because it allows for an easier method of understanding later developments.

            During the Tokugawa era, the two divisions of samurai became the retainers of the Shogun (the higher level samurai) and the retainers of the daimyo (the lower level samurai). The Shogun retainers were banner-men and housemen while the daimyo retainers were lower and were not granted audience with the shogun. The difference between the two can be put simply (although not completely accurately) as soldiers of the army under the Shogun being the higher level, and the lower level being personal guards and hired hands for the daimyos, or feudal lords. This separation, as well as the developments of the political structure in Japan, eventually led to the slow downfall of the warrior class. However, that was a long way coming, and the samurai occupation would have to endure yet more changes.

            The samurai class transformed from its military position into a more administrative position, as there was no wars occurring at the time. They had evolved from the small-time fighters to intelligent bureaucrats. As Nippon prospered during this era, so did the economy. However, this effect towards the economy soon resulted in grievances from the samurai (especially the ruling samurai). Traditionally, it was believed that the samurai's disapproval resulted from the increasing poverty they felt. While this point has its validity, one study takes into account what it exactly means to have increasing poverty. This study suggests an analogy where the samurai have a fixed income rate in a growing economy, in effect “providing higher real incomes to others within the economy” [2]. As expected this led to discontent amongst the ruling samurai class and became one of the causes of the eventual downfall of the Tokugawa.

            Other sources of discontent include “political conflicts over national policy within the ruling Tokugawa coalition of daimyo, the spread of formal education and growing respect (at least in principle) for individual ability among the samurai, and the feeling of intellectual isolation... Insecurity of status and feelings of social discrimination in the samurai class may have been another important reason for growing disenchantment with the status quo” [3].

            In 1853, some samurai saw a hope that they would return to their former purpose when Perry arrived, however when later generations looked back upon the preceding events, they understood why “the Meiji state took away [their] swords and topknot” [4]. These samurai could see that the Tokugawa had failed to perpetuate and maintain itself for two reasons: “To perpetuate itself, the Tokugawa would have had to share in the increasing agricultural output, for only then would it have been able to withstand the increasing need for cash in the increasingly monetized commercialized economy. To maintain itself, the Bakufu would have required the loyal support of an economically well-rewarded samurai class. The Tokugawa Shogunate failed on both counts” [5]. In effect, the failures of the regime can be said to draw from its inability to appease its two biggest groups.

            As the Tokugawa faded, Japan was already well on its way to modernizing as a result of Perry. By the end of the Shogunate, they had already acquired multiple western-styled battleships and the army had lost the need for swordsmen. Seeing this need for reform, the Meiji era fostered in an official army (as opposed to the previously exclusive samurai class of soldiers). The transition to the Meiji era was similar to the onset of the Tokugawa because the samurai were once again compensated for their forced change. The samurai lost their prestige, but were monetarily stipened in order to aid their transition to normal citizens.

            The samurai had no problem doing this, as they played an integral part in bringing about the Restoration. They had had enough discontent with the Tokugawa. Unfortunately, this new era left the samurai with no apparent function – they had become obsolete as far as the rest of Japan was concerned. The Meiji government stripped them of their grants, their pensions, their authority, and their special place in society. However, “despite the wholesale deprivation of traditional status and role in these early years, the samurai remained very much a class” [6]. The members of the class, although stripped of everything, could not be stripped of their pride in the fact that they were samurai. As government officials began to recognize this, they came up with the idea to push for samurai involvement in business and industry. “Among the most delicate of the reforms was the disestablishment of... a group that comprised five or six percent of a population of some thirty million" [7].  This plan succeeded as numerous samurai entered the economic force and helped forge a new path in Japanese economy. Former samurai entered the government for work at a great percentage, and other entered law enforcement, education, and military. “And it may be, then, that the rapid transformation of Japanese society in the Meiji era was in large measure achieved because of the tools, training, education, leadership, and experience brought to it by members of the former feudal class” [8].

            A few extreme cases needed more persuasion for them to end their samurai lifestyle, and a special rehabilitation program was designed for these members. “In December of 1871, after limited experimentation, the Meiji government took its first step in formulation of a samurai rehabilitation program when it promulgated the so-called commercial law” [9]. This new law basically decreed that samurai could take up any job that they wanted. Even with these adjustments, samurai did not always have a permanent solution to their financial problems. Many scholars have differing thoughts on the success level of the samurai in the new age. Some argue that the samurai resulted in the success of the Meiji era while others argue that the samurai were unable to adapt to the Meiji era and were lost into the pages of history. In reality, a combination of both is probably true. The samurai were sure to have made an impact in the Meiji times, but there are always exceptions to the rule, and many samurai are sure to have faded into obscurity as failure ensued upon them. In modern days, the effects of the Meiji Restoration are still rippling as Japan has now become one of the world's leading economies.

            While the samurai may have affected the world most in economic implications, there are other areas that were also affected. One such area is the Japanese military, which forms a basis from samurai tactics. This effect deals a lot with the samurai ideal of Bushido. “In its origins Bushido was the moral code of conduct of the bushi (samurai) or military class of pre-modern Japan and the first systematic exposition of Bushido was written in the mid-seventeenth century at a time when the function of the warrior class was changing from that of being strictly military to that of also providing the political, bureaucratic and intellectual leadership in the centralized feudal state being developed by the Tokugawa Shoguns” [10]. While the ideals of Bushido were not completely followed, the Japanese soldiers took inspiration from the code, and used many of its points in their own lives. Certain points such as no fear of death and utmost obedience to superiors were highlighted by the military. These points are still highlighted today.

              Other influences left by the samurai have less profound implications. They include the popular image of samurai. In films, books, and even advertisements samurai have been depicted as mystical figures with superhuman abilities and charm. Much of these images have been romanticized to a grand extent. As a result, the image given by the media has taken on a caricature personification. A very persistent and prominent example of this comes in the form of teenage turtles that fight crime while living in the sewers of America – the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While they are named ninjas,  they  look and act more like a samurai. The creators of the show use the romanticized image of samurai to create a commercial product which can make them money. “Their images sell everything from cookies to dolls, cereal to towels, and their characters make special appearances in shopping malls and in the imaginations of young boys 'Ninja turtle-kicking' their way through elementary school and into the nurses' offices” [11]. The image of the samurai here has been reduced to a tool for economic benefit, and many other such images exist.

            Sometimes the images are negative, as in the crazed evil samurai of old films. Sometimes they are meant for comedy, as in the Saturday Night Live Skit of the Deli Samurai, and yet some are neutral or even positive as in the case of the popular children's cartoon Samurai Jack. There are just two common factors amongst these items: one, they all involve some image of samurai, and two, they are all made for the purpose of economic gain [12].

            In conclusion, the samurai have had an impactful and ever-changing history. They originated from mere farmers and peasants banding together to become an elite warrior class and back to normal citizens. While samurai have usually been at the top of Japanese society, they fell pretty far below during the Meiji restoration. They were looked down during that time by the average citizens, who had been fed up with being dominated by the “elite.” Often times they were spit upon, kicked around, and harassed in many other ways and forced to cut off their top knots. The only way to escape this treatment was to assimilate into the new era by becoming businessmen or government officials of some sort.

            As the samurai were able to escape their harassment, they made a grand impact in the economy by adding to the number of businesses and strengthening the industry with a large addition to the workforce. The most resounding effect left by the samurai in today's society is the economic boon they gave Japan. With their aid, Japan was able to speed into its miraculous growth in the 1800s and enter the age of modern states.

            The samurai also left a mark on the Japanese military by creating a template from which the army could gain ideas and create defenses. While the new constitution of Japan does not allow for invasions, the samurai's Bushido was effectively incorporated in their defense force with each member willing to give his life for complete obedience of the state.

            Probably the most prevalent effect left by the samurai is the popular images that exist. Children and adults are equally captivated by the lore that they have left behind. This is significant as it often influences dealing between the west and Japan.



[1]Birt, Michael P.; “Samurai in Passage: The Transformation of the Sixteenth-Century Kanto”  Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2; The Society for Japanese Studies (Summer, 1985); p. 369
[2] Yamamura, Kozo; “The Increasing Poverty of the Samurai in Tokugawa Japan, 1600-1868”  The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 31, No. 2; Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Economic History Association (Jun., 1971); p. 402
[3]Moore, Ray A.; “Samurai Discontent and Social Mobility in the Late Tokugawa Period”  Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 24, No. ½; Sophia University (1969), pp. 79-80
[4] Birt, Michael P.; “Samurai in Passage: The Transformation of the Sixteenth-Century Kanto”  Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2; The Society for Japanese Studies (Summer, 1985); p. 399
[5] Yamamura, Kozo; “The Increasing Poverty of the Samurai in Tokugawa Japan, 1600-1868”  The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 31, No. 2; Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Economic History Association (Jun., 1971); p. 403
[6] Harootunian, Harry D.; “The Progress of Japan and the Samurai Class, 1868-1882”  The Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 28, No. 3; University of California Press (Aug., 1959); p. 257
[7] Masatoshi, Sakeda; Akita, George; “The Samurai Disestablished. Abei Iwane and His Stipend”  Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 41, No. 3; Sophia University (Autumn, 1986); pp. 299-330
[8]Harootunian, Harry D.; “The Progress of Japan and the Samurai Class, 1868-1882”  The Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 28, No. 3; University of California Press (Aug., 1959); p. 266
[9] Harootunian, Harry D.; “The Economic Rehabilitation of the Samurai in the Early Meiji Period”   The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 19, No. 4; Association for Asian Studies (Aug., 1960); p. 435
[10] Holmes, Colin; Ion, A. H.; “Bushidō and the Samurai: Images in British Public Opinion, 1894-1914” Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 14, No. 2; Cambridge University Press (1980); p. 310
[11] Cobb, Nora Okja; “ Behind the Inscrutable Half-Shell: Images of Mutant Japanese and Ninja Turtles” MELUS, Vol. 16, No. 4, Toward the Multiculture; The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States (Winter, 1989 - Winter, 1990), p. 90 
[12] An interesting point to note is the idea of a perfect fighter in Japan and the West. In Japan, the samurai were normal framed men of no particular physical prowess, but in the West, knights were expected to be large strong-muscled men without flaws. The images of samurai these days suggest that samurai need not even be in proper conditioning – such as the blind swordsman Zatoichi – which once again adds to the lure of the samurai.
 
Melies Moon Landing
            Film is a means of presenting one's ideas, thoughts, and opinions. In its advent it was definitely a “new technological means of communication with the potential to reach a truly mass audience.” Film has been used for many purposes, but it can be said that film has been “increasingly deployed to represent difficult and contentious material.” Whether this “contentious material” represents some social commentary or some sort of message or request, film has a great impact on our lives. It has the potential to change the face of the earth. It has, in fact, been used many times to advance the opinions of its creators – and often, very successfully. This success can be attributed to the fanaticism of the many audiences that cinema has gained. These audiences are what allows films to spread their messages. As such, the main focus of most filmmakers has been to gather up the biggest force of loyal viewers, but this is not as simple as it sounds. With each change in cinema comes a change in its viewers. Each new period of film history must “[reconstruct] its spectator in a new way.” This was very evident in the sound era, when possibly, the most drastic change to cinema occurred. 

            Film brings things into familiarity. When we spend a few hours looking at a screen displaying images of people living their lives, we suspend our own existence and place ourselves into the existence of the characters on screen. Even after the film is over, the fact that we transported ourselves into an alternate universe leaves us with imprints of that world and more importantly with the messages contained within, behind, and in the film. With this familiarity, the audience softens up to ideas that come out of the film, assuming them to be real in the universe of the film. Even though viewers consciously believe that they are separating themselves by validating the ideas in only the universe of the film, the audience becomes unaware to the effects that come along with any suspension of beliefs at all.

            Film affects us in more ways than we realize. It can numb us to death, injury, and gore. It can inspire us to great things; it can produce in us such grief that we feel as if we have lost a brother or mother. Film has capabilities to fashion our lives. We seek to imitate that which we see on others, and film contains people that will be seen by multitudes of people. Even those who resist the initial urge to copy the characters will eventually follow suit as the rest of society deems it necessary. However, forming styles and beliefs are not the only effects, as disseminating beliefs comes into play with many films. Film can be used to produce a strong hatred for something or to rise people to take action against something as well – as in the case of Leni Riefenstahl's propagandist films. But why is film so good at these things? Is it that we simply see films as a source of truth and authority that we must follow? Is it that we see film as something familiar that we identify with (even though the familiarity that we feel may be false)? Is it something else?

            Ever since the inception of moving pictures, people have been captivated by the ability to simulate movement and in effect, life. From its very beginning film has had the ability to spread some message – whether it was one of change, hope, revolution, support, or expectations. It can bring about change in the world through social commentary, propaganda, and exaggeration. However, even with its potential for such impact film cannot exist without an audience to view them. It is the audience that allows cinema to be so effective in communicating its ideals and ideologies. Without first, engulfing the audience into its world, film has no hope of reaching its mass potential. Once the viewer is immersed in the universe created by the filmmakers, then only can the message be presented. As the audience become captivated, they also become susceptible and open to the ideas contained within each film, and in effect they take the content of the film and make it a part of themselves. It is no surprise then, that the introduction of sound films drastically changed the way films are watched. There was no longer the physical participation of reading and hearing the voices of other audience members. Those had been replaced with the voices of the characters and sensual participation that created a three dimensional world that could be imagined without ever being shown. No longer were audiences satisfied with what Gorky defined as a “shadow world.” They vied for a more realistic representation of life, which has continued to this day. Exaggerated acting and extreme close-ups took second place to witty dialogue and diegetic sound. In conclusion, film has been evolving from its very creation into a means of mass communication, and one of the biggest mutations in its genetic code occurred when sound-on-film was invented. Film has not been the same since, and it will continue to change as newer and grander methods of exhibition come into existence.

 
Corporate Flag
It's nothing new, but here's some info from the University of Washington:

"Growing numbers of observers contend that the dominant public role of our time has shifted from citizen to consumer. Indeed, respondents in polls typically cite entertainment, shopping, and other consumer activities as their top free time preferences. Commercial media and public entertainment venues offer environments carefully constructed to avoid politics and real world problems that might disturb these consumer impulses. 

As people in global societies increasingly enjoy the freedoms of private life, it becomes increasingly difficult to communicate about many broad public concerns. The personalized society enables people to choose individual lifestyles and identities that often lead to disconnection from politics. Many citizens become receptive only to consumer-oriented messages about tax cuts, retirement benefits, or other policies targeted at particular demographic social groups.

Culture jamming is an intriguing form of political communication that has emerged in response to the commercial isolation of public life. Practitioners of culture jamming argue that culture, politics, and social values have been bent by saturated commercial environments, from corporate logos on sports facilities, to television content designed solely to deliver targeted audiences to producers and sponsors. Many public issues and social voices are pushed to the margins of society by market values and commercial communication, making it difficult to get the attention of those living in the "walled gardens" of consumerism. Culture jamming presents a variety of interesting communication strategies that play with the branded images and icons of consumer culture to make consumers aware of surrounding problems and diverse cultural experiences that warrant their attention.

Many culture Jams are simply aimed at exposing questionable political assumptions behind commercial culture so that people can momentarily consider the branded environment in which they live. Culture jams refigure logos, fashion statements, and product images to challenge the idea of "what's cool," along with assumptions about the personal freedoms of consumption. Some of these communiqués create a sense of transparency about a product or company by revealing environmental damages or the social experiences of workers that are left out of the advertising fantasies. The logic of culture jamming is to convert easily identifiable images into larger questions about such matters as corporate responsibility, the "true" environmental and human costs of consumption, or the private corporate uses of the "public" airwaves.

The basic unit of communication in culture jamming is the meme: the core unit of cultural transmission. Memes are condensed images that stimulate visual, verbal, musical, or behavioral associations that people can easily imitate and transmit to others (see Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, second edition 1989). For example, culture jammers play on familiar commercial memes such as the Nike swoosh, the McDonald's happy meal, or the Coca Cola polar bears to engage people of different political persuasions in thinking about the implications of their fashion statements or eating habits. In one example, a jammer named Jonah Peretti strained the purity of the Nike image by creating an email exchange with a custom Nike web site that refused his request to put the word "sweatshop" on his custom Nikes. This e-mail circulated in viral fashion to a huge population world-wide. As a result of the meme play with a popular icon and the paths through which such messages often travel, Peretti's culture jam made its way quickly into mass media news and culture content. As a result, mass media content became a carrier of questions about the limits of consumer freedom and the fashion statement involving expensive shoes made by child sweatshop labor.

For Kalle Lasn, one of the founders of Adbusters, the best culture jam is one that introduces a meta-meme, a two-level message that punctures a specific commercial image, but does so in a way that challenges some larger aspect of the political culture of corporate domination. One metameme, noted above, is "true cost" which conveys the larger environmental and human costs of products beyond their sales price to the consumer. Another is "Media Carta" which calls for a serious charter to make the public airwaves truly public, and not just a corporate domain. Another is the call to rewrite the corporate "genetic code" so that corporations have less license to become social and environmental predators, and more responsibility to contribute to the well being of society. For example, a TV "subvertisement" produced by Adbusters begins with a series of tobacco executives lying to congressional hearings (the specific product/corporate jam) and ends with the question of whether such corporations should be allowed to exist (the meta-meme). Yet because of the lack of well developed public media rights (the "Media Carta" meta-meme), Adbusters has had little success in getting broadcasters to sell air time for these subvertisements. Most broadcasters reject the ads on grounds that they might contaminate the purity of media environments designed exclusively for communicating commercial messages.

Culture jamming and meme-driven communication offer interesting windows on the transformation of politics and communication in our time. We are interested in studying these developments and learning how they may be useful in striking a balance between commercial values and other human interests in society."

 
Is life on other planets possible? Scientists have debated this questions for years now, but we may finally be closer than ever to the truth. Astronomers recently discovered a planet that fulfills the "Goldilocks" requirements (aka the "just right" environment) that sustains life on Earth.

The newly discovered planet (located 120 trillion miles away in the constellation Libra) displays the similar habitable environments as our own planet. Chances are that liquid water may also be present, and as our own history shows, where there is liquid water, there is life. The planet currently holds the name Gliese 581g because it is the sixth planet orbiting the dwarf star Gliese 581 (given the letter "a") and is about three times the size of Earth. 581g orbits Gliese 581 once every 37 days and does not seem to orbit much, indicating that there may be widely varying landscapes across the planet ranging from -25 degress to 160 degrees.

The presence of water on 581g has not been confirmed, but reaching the faraway (yet cosmically close) planet would take a few generations of human life. Interestingly, according to the researchers, if you were to stand on the 581g, you would be able to see our Sun without the aid of telescopes. Where conditions for life are met, life follows eventually. Even if it is not an advanced life form, maybe we are not alone in this universe after all...
 
Ever wonder what google looked like the first day it went up? How about yahoo? facebook? myspace (the place for business connections)?

Well, wonder no longer. The Internet Archive Wayback Machine (for those of you who have yet to encounter its magnificence) allows users to input any domain they can think of, and chances are, there will be a litany of dates to choose from. Of course, the obscure website you visit every Saturday night alone in your room will probably not be found, but taking a look at the changes that have taken place on the more popular sites is definitely interesting.

The aesthetics and functionality of websites have definitely been increased over the years, but the most interesting things I noticed while using this program is that some of the major websites used today started off with very different purposes. Check it out for youself!
 
Ever get tired of looking at our boring dollar bills? Ever think: Why can't our money be as cool as the Swiss notes?

Well, you are not the only one. Designer Richard Smith feels so strongly that the drab dollar bill should be redesigned to reflect the modern age that he has set up the Dollar ReDe$ign Project. He has allowed any and all designers, fanatics, and amateur artists to submit their concept of new bills for the US currency.

He has also started a petition to get the government to consider a change in how the bills look; however, Washington has denied the request on the grounds that changing the currency would require a massive technological upheaval of ATMs, vending machines, and basically all money related bills, which would not be cost-effective for small businesses. (I find this surprising since the last change a few years ago also required a major change in how machines are programmed...)

In any case, this year's competition is over, but since the US has not agreed to any change, I'm sure there will be another one next year. What are your thoughts on this change?
 
Be careful what you post on your social media networks - it could cause you your job or land you in jail.

Earlier this month, a 20 year old juror (Hadley Jons) from Detroit posted "gonna be fun to tell the defendant they're guilty" as her facebook status when the defense lawyer's son discovered it. The next day, the juror was confronted by the judge (Diane Druzinski) and immediately replaced by a different juror.

While she was not fined or incarcerated, the defending lawyer (Saleema Sheikh) did provide the following statement: "I would like to see her get some jail time, nothing major, a few hours or overnight. This is the jury system. People need to know how important it is." The court still ruled in favor of the prosecutor in the end, but it just goes to show you, anything you put up on the web is visible by anyone.

On a slightly related note, sports writer Mike Wise was suspended from his position with the Washington Post for the duration of one month. The reason? He tweeted a story that Pittsburgh Steelers star Ben Roethlisberger (who has been accused of sexually assaulting a Georgia college student) would get a five-game suspension. Other news outlets immediately picked up the story and ran with it. Just one problem... The story was made up by Wise to prove a point: No one checks the facts for themselves these days when reporting.

While he made his point (and was quite correct in his reasoning), the Post only saw his violation of social media policy and suspended him. He issued an apology later but maintained that he "was right about nobody checking facts or sourcing."

Social media members, post with care.
 
If you don't know about The Pirate Bay yet, you will learn. Swedish filmmaker Simon Klose has spent the last few years gathering over 200 hours of footage on the founders of the world's most iconic torrent tracker/site - thepiratebay.org.

As the film's site states, "TPB AFK is not a fan movie about the Pirate Bay, neither is it a journalistic piece on copyright conflict. It’s an observational, character driven film about three guys whose hobby homepage became the embryo of a global political movement." Following the history between the three founders - Tiamo, Anakata, and Brokep - this film promises to be one filled with revealings of the unknown details of how The Pirate Bay came to be and how it came to be so controversial.

A little recent history for those of you who do not know: The Pirate Bay has become a defendant in a case involving copyright issues against the Swedish government after the US RIAA threatened to take action. The case is still ongoing, and it will not be too surprising if the schedule is moved up to ensure that the jury is not swayed by the film's release a full year from now.

In any case, this film will be one of deep interest for anyone who follows politics, torrenting, underground activities, or documentaries.

Here is a trailer I got off the official TPB AFK site (http://www.tpbafk.tv/):
 
I'm sure not many of you have read the recent July 2nd op-ed piece by Joel Stein in Time magazine. Entitled "My Own Private India," the article attempts to satirize the influx of Indians into the Edison, New Jersey area in the last twenty years, poking fun at stereotypes and other supposedly absurd Indian behavior.

However, Stein goes a little too far and cuts a little too deep in his work. From scathing lines attacking both the traditionally struggling Indian economy to mocking the predominant religion of the country, Stein questions why his childhood friends could not come up with a better insult than "dot heads."

To quote the article:
"For a while, we assumed all Indians were geniuses. Then, in the 1980s, the doctors and engineers brought over their merchant cousins, and we were no longer so sure about the genius thing. In the 1990s, the not-as-brilliant merchants brought their even-less-bright cousins, and we started to understand why India is so damn poor."

Stein propels his attack with further parallels between the recent Arizona rulings and the Indian influx into New Jersey, describing the emotion as "a sense of loss and anomie."

As soon as the article was published, an uproar within the Indian community erupted. The leaders of the SAALT (South Asian American Leading Together) immediately sent a direct response and requested for a face-to-face meeting with Time editors. Actor Kal Penn also responded in the Huffington Post with a quite enjoyable sarcastic article concluding with: "Critics might call Mr. Stein's humor super-tired or as played out as the jokes about that cheap Jewish car that stopped on a dime to pick it up, or that African American kid who got marked absent at night school. Although unlike Stein's Indian American piece, in 2010 those other jokes don't show up in mainstream media like Time Magazine. I wonder why that is.."

It was only then that Time magazine then promptly published its public apology: "We sincerely regret that any of our readers were upset by this humor column of Joel Stein's. It was in no way intended to cause offense."

Stein also responded with an apology: "I truly feel stomach-sick that I hurt so many people..."

Sound like weak apologies? Yeah, I thought so too...

Normally, I'm a very calm and collected person, but sometimes certain things just inexplicably anger me. This article is one such rare moment. Allow me to rant for a bit...

Why did this article even get published in the first place? It's just like Kal Penn said, anti-Semitic and "black" jokes of the same level would never appear in mainstream media, so why do other racial slurs pass? Is it because Indians haven't had the oppressive history to match American slavery or the Holocaust? If that is the case, why are white slurs like "cracker" considered just as taboo as the "n word"? I don't recall any recent white oppression. (Wait, I actually do, but the white people were doing the act, not being the victims...) Why then does this type of "joking racism" persist?
Why are all Indians supposed to be geniuses? Why do Asian females make the worst drivers? Why are all Hispanics illegal aliens? What makes a Middle Eastern man an automatic terrorist? I am left to wonder why the editors at Time let such an article be published in the first place...

As we progress deeper into a more connected age, I fear for our future as one collective identity. It appears to me that humans will never learn, and if that is truly the case, our species will be in for some terrible wars in the near future. All we can do is hope that once the wars are over, the survivors can band together as one people - humans.
 
"A six-year archive of classified military documents made public on Sunday offers an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayal." (NY Times)

Leaked by WikiLeaks, the documents detail the use of heat-seeking anti-air missiles used by militants in Afghanistan as well as a list of assassination targets pursued by special operative of the US Navy and Military. The text also reveals why the US has had such a difficult time shutting down the terrorist operations in Afghanistan and alludes to the alleged initial objective of the war: the capture of Osama bin Laden (who is apparently making use of his time acquiring weaponry and attending meetings in Pakistan).

The White House is definitely not pleased with the leak and states that the release of these documents could endanger the lives of US citizens. How exactly? I don't know, but if you want to read the documents for yourself click right here and download the files.