Thursday, May 14, 2009

TBI: How we got here.

As the U.S. military struggles to avert suicide (with whatever means necessary) and combat stress (one soldier killed five compatriots at a strees clinic), nearly 20 percent of soldiers struggle with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs):

In Their Boots does a phenomenal job of helping veterans. Some soldiers have faced further affliction by being inadequately supplied with water. The reason for their dehydration appears to be greed, since the contractors charged with water purification stockpile supplies rather than distribute them (just one reason for the astronomical inflation of operation costs). Furthermore, the presence of opportunist contractors really makes one question our arrival at this juncture.

Andrew Sullivan has done a great job detailing how torture’s primarily used to confirm what an interrogator, e.g. Cheney, already thinks they know, rather than obtaining fresh information; thus, an inherent bias lies within confessions (a victim only tells the interrogator what they want to hear when they’ll say anything to stop the pain). John Pilger has created an award winning documentary, The War on Democracy, which outlines America’s systematic dismantling of democracies to further their foreign policy goals: 

Although I was astounded by Duane Clarridge’s honesty, I found his sentiments a relief from the lies of various politicians and officials. Fidel Castro has outlined his role in saving Chavez in 2002 (the coup detailed in the film). The People Speak, another excellent documentary, combines quotations from lesser known historical figures read by famous actors with historical footage to highlight the necessity of civil disobedience in America’s democracy. It is very disturbing that you can’t even complain about a delayed flight these days.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Street Art and Design Innovation

Designers frequently get pitted against clients who feel ignored. The great exception seems to be the world of high fashion, where anything-goes. (Thanks to Can West for setting the record straight on Haute Couture). Christopher Raeburn has taken advantage of this freedom by designing an entire line using military surplus fabrics.

Outside of fashion Karim Rashid has strived to make design accessible and universal, especially with his publication of Design Your Self. Britain’s NHS illustrated the importance of a collaborative approach by consulting the Design Council to help inhibit the spread of superbugs: new hospital furniture eliminates bacteria harbouring fittings and seat cracks.

Moleskine for years has taken the simple notebook and impregnated it with innovation. Now you can design your own. They have produced an excellent website (MoleskineCity my favourite). For the most part attitude determines aesthetic, fortunately the spectrum’s forever expanding: Britain has officially classified graffiti as street art (unfortunately a Banksy work was painted over by zealous volunteers). Smashing Magazine presents a good selection of graffiti artwork from around the world (expand links to explore individual collections). My favourite is REONE.

Playing For Change has changed attitudes by recording artists throughout the world and producing videos.

They provide resources in impoverished areas to ensure that the power of music continues to foster peace. The BBC helps the world comprehend the devastation of Cyclone Nargis with their interactive map, which shows destruction on an individual scale (for other spectacular maps check out cybercartography, Vanishing Employment, and the Atlas of Canadian Cinema). Big Ant International has created a number of cautionary posters for the Global Coalition for Peace

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Hope over?

Scrict scrutiny of Obama began early. Naomi Klein produced some of the best. She noted that the public has suffered a hopeover, a hangover stemming from an overindulgence of hope. She’s correct; hope has led to expectation which has led to disappointment, but let’s reflect a little. Do you remember when it began? Recall the impeachment talk of the late 90’s and how many wished to hear such talk after Bush’s first 100 days. Bush proved what Clinton-Lewinsky reminiscers had feared true: he was extremely effective in moving the country wherever he wished, regardless of the consequences (global recession anyone?). Thus, on many levels pondering the etymology of hope is a luxury.

Although a global economic crisis provides a good measure of a man, it does not aid in evaluating Obama’s 100 or so days in office: first, the effectiveness of his stimulus package will not be measurable for years at least; and second, (theoretically) he could have accomplished much more if he were not so preoccupied (as could have many journalists). Nevertheless, Obama can be evaluated by four categories where he: a) accomplished positive change; b) marked a clear intention toward positive change; c) accepted a negative situation; d) stepped backward:

a) I think he made progress revising stem cell and endangered species legislation; releasing the torture memos (a Spanish judge is eager to prosecute if the AG won’t); classifying carbon as pollutant; and admitting to having contributed to climate change. b) He has made decisions to close Guantamo, but a recent vote puts this in jeopardy; to ease restrictions on Cuba, but further progress remains difficult; to reduce troops in Iraq, but when?; and to control nuclear weapons. c) He has accepted the status quo in Venezuela; in Israel; with the ICC; the automobile industry; and ANWR drilling. d) He increased the number of troops in Afghanistan (America could actually learn a thing or two from the Taliban).

I realize that progress is subjective, i.e., Swift Vets and Mavericks for Palin would probably reverse my order (progress for regress) and that progress takes time: many items may yet move up a category or two, e.g., Obama has a chance to challenge Netanyahu in a few weeks and Chrysler may pay back the bailout money. Overall, Obama has made very good progress, maybe not enough to avoid a hopeover, but enough. Remember that preventing regress is progress.


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