Category Archives: World

Dir En Grey: Japanese Metal from Hell (Saturday Video Roundup)

Godzilla ain’t the only hardcore badass from Japan.

I’m not the Japan expert around here – that distinction falls to blogger, poet, photographer and Japanophile extraordinare Dan Ryan – so I won’t pretend that I know anything about J-Pop. It just felt like a nice day to do something a little different for SVR, and I’ve been thinking about Dir En Grey for the past couple of days.

They’ve been around for a number of years and seem to have evolved through some changes (both musical and visual), so you can surf YouTube and find a range of styles – everything from a sort of melodic Metal that we might associate with, say, Queensryche, to moments that, more than anything, remind me of Tool, to hell on Earth horror Metal that would scare the piss out of Lordi, to straight-up Nu Metal. I’m not so much into the weasels-ripped-my-throat-out brand of singing, but hey, you might like it.

So let’s get our J-Metal on, shall we? We’ll start with “The Final.”

Continue reading Dir En Grey: Japanese Metal from Hell (Saturday Video Roundup)

Are the kidnapped Nigerian school girls really America’s problem?

Boko Haram is evil and we all want to see the victims rescued. But how is it our responsibility?

Many of us have watched in horror as the story of the kidnapped Nigerian school girls has unfolded. The idea of a terror group like Boko Haram selling these victims into “marriage” violates every atom of our shared morality.

But the other day I saw this headline from the Beeb:

Nigeria abducted schoolgirls: Was US slow to act?

I have to tell you, I was a little taken aback. Continue reading Are the kidnapped Nigerian school girls really America’s problem?

П is for Pussy Riot: thinking ahead to the next Russian Olympic Games

Pussy Riot’s commitment to social justice in the motherland is more than admirable. It perhaps merits a spot in Russia’s artistic canon.

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia closed today, and if you set aside the homophobia and generally strong-armed approach to governance by the host, one Vladimir Putin, these games were remarkable in just about every way.

The images of the opening ceremonies have lingered with me for the past couple of weeks. If you watched, you know that the creative team built their narrative around the highwater marks in the nation’s glorious history, honoring their accomplishments in the arts, literature, science and technology. Given Russia’s considerable heritage, the little girl’s interaction with Cyrillic alphabet primer, associating a historical moment with each letter, couldn’t help being an impressive reminder to the world of the nation’s rich cultural legacy. Continue reading П is for Pussy Riot: thinking ahead to the next Russian Olympic Games

Sochi opening ceremony: when Goebbels and Reifenstahl met Cirque du Soleil

Alexander Putin may not be preparing to invade Europe, but he understands the value of spectacle in establishing a nation’s place in the world.

Sports_OlympicsThe Winter Olympics opening ceremonies in Sochi may have been the grandest show in history. It may also have been the grandest propaganda spectacle in history. It’s easy to get caught up in an artistic endeavor of that magnitude – I sat here with my jaw hanging open for a couple of hours – and the fluency with which President Putin’s creative department embedded a boldly geo-political program within some of the most breathtaking artistry we’ve ever seen. Continue reading Sochi opening ceremony: when Goebbels and Reifenstahl met Cirque du Soleil

Death, Iowa and being 30 minutes late to an orgy with Marcia Brady and Laurie Partridge: What’s the best time zone in America?

The United States spans six time zones. I have now lived in four of them (Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific), visited a fifth (Hawaiian-Aleutian) and flown over the sixth (Alaskan), so I feel comfortable addressing the question of which one is best with some authority.

Eastern Time Zone

I begin with a certain bias. Like most kids, I hated going to bed. The big reason: I was afraid I’d miss something. I knew that other people were still awake and doing things, and it drove me crazy. Truth is, this is the same thing that bothers me about dying. Death doesn’t scare me, but I think about things like all the Chelsea FC matches that will be played without me and again, it drives me bonkers. And yes, I’m actually serious about this.

During the summer months, especially, I’d have my anxieties confirmed on occasion. Back in the old days we didn’t have the Internet or cable or a 24/7 news cycle or ESPN. All we had was newspapers. Hell, we didn’t even have touchtone and wireless phones. I’d get up in the morning, grab the newspaper and flip to the sports section to see how the Orioles had done. That was the team that had four 20-game winners, Boog Powell, Davey Johnson, Mark Belanger, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, and Earl Weaver at the helm. They were my favorite team. But when they were on the road playing West Coast teams, the games would still be in progress when the East Coast papers went to press (I lived in NC, which was in the Eastern time zone back then; these days it’s lobbying for a move to the 17th century time zone, but that’s another conversation). So there, where the score ought to be, would simply be the word “late.”

DAMMIT! See, I went to bed and something that I care about happened and not only did I miss it, everybody east of Louisville did, too.

I lived the first 27 years of my life alternating between Eastern Standard and Eastern Daylight, the whole time feeling like the kid who got sent to bed early because mom and dad were throwing an orgy downstairs and they’d invited both Marcia Brady and Laurie Partridge.

Verdict: Sucks.

Central Time Zone

Then I marched off to grad school at Iowa State, which sits smack-ass in the middle of the Central time zone. This was a tad better. Going to bed early-wise, anyway. Of course, I was in grad school and club DJing on the side to make ends meet, so it’s not like I went to bed early very often, regardless. The downside was that time zones notwithstanding, if something interesting did actually happen, at any hour of night or day, it highly unlikely to happen in Iowa.

Verdict: A little better but, you know, Iowa.

Mountain Time Zone

In 1993 I moved to Colorado for yet another round of grad school. I know, I know – how much book learnin’ does a simple country boy really need? But it worked out great. Colorado’s tourism motto ought to be Come for the Doctoral Programs, Stay for the Time Zone! Seriously, that beats the hell out of Iowa’s Gateway to Nebraska, don’t you think?

The bottom line is that as time zones go, the MST/MDT combination rocked. Braves games came on at 5pm and were over by 8, which meant I could watch them lose in the playoffs and still have plenty of time to take a shower and head out for a beer by 9:30. When I wasn’t studying, that is. But even when I had to spend the night reading 2000 pages of single spaced, 6-point blather about Semiotics (double sided, no pictures, written in a language that only vaguely approximated English), it was comforting know that I could, in principle, have watched the game and gone out for a beer.

All those losers in the Eastern time zone were going to bed right about the time I was ordering my second pint of stout and settling into SportsCenter (or rereading the same page by motherfucking de Saussure for the 12th time because the first 11 bounced off my brain like a superball off the deck of an aircraft carrier). HAH! Send this to bed early, bitches.

The West Coast was still out there with an hour in hand, but by now we had cable and 100 sports stations and the worst case scenario was an excuse to stay up an extra hour watching the Nuggets in Portland.

Verdict: Rocks!

Pacific Time Zone

Now I live in the Pacific Time Zone and by god nothing happens before I go to bed. Or, you know, before I would be going to bed if I had a mind to stay up. I have a job and am approaching middle age, so I go to bed earlier than I used to. But not because I have to. No, it’s because I choose to.

The upside of PST/PDT is obvious – you don’t miss anything. If you’re back east, you’re thinking about bed right about the time I’m thinking about dinner. You’ll be snorking into a drool-soaked pillow for three hours by the time the orgy gets started out here. Advantage: me.

The downside is that if you aren’t careful, you can miss things because they happen too soon. Take Thursday night. The Broncos game was timed for a nationwide viewing audience: 8pm Eastern. Which, if you do a little math, you’ll realize is right about the time those of us in the Emerald City are getting off work. Holy fuckstockings. I had to bus home, then go pick up Ronan MacScottie from daycare, then get home, walk him, feed him, grab a bite to eat, and it’s gonna be halftime before I can tune in.

Fortunately there was a lightning storm in Denver that held the game up, and I flipped on the game just as whoever she was got thoroughly into her enhanced interrogation of the national anthem. But this was what’s known as an “exception.” The “rule” is that things used to be too late for me and now sometimes they’re going to be too early.

Back in Denver I’d sometimes have to get up at ungodly hours on the weekends because Chelsea, sitting over there in Cockney Standard Time, had the early game. On multiple occasions I was down at the Bulldog for a 5:30am kick on Saturday or Sunday (heck, there were two 3:30am kicks when they were playing in the World Club Championships in Japan). Which means I might be looking at 4:30am starts out here on the left coast.

Yow.

Verdict: Can we change Pacific Time so that it’s only 30 minutes behind Mountain instead of a whole hour? Because that’d be great.

Those Other Time Zones

I haven’t spent a lot of time in the Hawaiian zone, but boy howdy, let me say that there was nothing wrong with Kauai that I could find.

Verdict: More research needed.

Never been to Alaska. I hear it’s pretty. Also, cold and devoid of single women.

From what I could tell looking out the airplane window, the Alaskan zone is mostly water. (This, by the way, is known as dramatic license. In reality I was nowhere near a window. The way this jet was laid out you had a section on either side with a window seat and an aisle seat, then you had the middle section which featured an aisle seat on either end and 16 seats in between. 16 very narrow seats. I had my ex-wife, who was mostly zonked on Dramamine to deal with her terror of flying on one side and a sweaty guy who was only able to get into his seat with the help of butter and large shoehorn on the other. At one point I had to fight my way out to go to the lavatory and by the time I got back I’d missed three episodes of Friends. Also, the big guy had slumped over and drooled on my seat. I spent the rest of the flight feeling like I was sitting in an inflatable kiddie pool.

Verdict: Sarah Palin.

To sum up, then:

Eastern: Everything interesting happens while you’re asleep.

Central: Iowa.

Mountain: Theoretically makes even de Saussure okay.

Pacific: You’re 30 minutes late to the orgy with Marcia Brady and Laurie Partridge.

Alaskan: Sausagefest.

Hawaiian: Poipu, Brennecke’s Beach Broiler.

Have a nice Sunday.

Bush III: Obama’s deteriorating legacy

Way back in March of 2008, as the campaign was running in high gear, I made clear that while I wasn’t in love with the Democratic frontrunners, the emerging alternative was worse: John McCain represented the third Bush presidency.

I was undoubtedly right. But… You knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you?

Poppy. Dubya. And now Barack. I was right – the 2008 election gave us the third installment in the Bush Dynasty.

Perhaps we’ll get to see Colin Powell back in front of the UN again soon…

Bolivia, Nicaragua, Venezuela to Obama: “Suck it, bitch.”

Remember how the other day I called your attention to Barack Obama’s little playground bully act re: Bolivian president Evo Morales’s flight? Uh-huh. Well, as it turns out, BarryO ain’t the only one who can send a message. Item:

(Reuters) – Bolivia offered asylum on Saturday to former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, joining leftist allies Venezuela and Nicaragua in defiance of Washington, which is demanding his arrest for divulging details of secret U.S. surveillance programs.

Snowden, 30, is believed to be holed up in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo international airport and has been trying to find a country that would take him since he landed from Hong Kong on June 23.

Bolivian President Evo Morales had said earlier this week that he would consider granting asylum to Snowden. But he took a harder line on Saturday, angered that some European countries banned his plane from their airspace this week on suspicion it carried Snowden.

“I want to tell … the Europeans and Americans that last night I was thinking that as a fair protest, I want to say that now in fact we are going to give asylum to that American who is being persecuted by his fellow Americans,” Morales said during a visit to the town of Chipaya.

Things just got tougher for the apparatchiks running the Bush/Obama security state operation. They absolutely have to figure out how to a) keep Edward Snowden holed up in Russia, or b) flush him out in a direction where they can capture him – and at this point it’s clear that legally or illegally makes no difference whatsoever.

If they fail, their choices get even uglier:

  • invade everything south of the Panama Canal
  • send in Seal Team 6 on a Whack or Extract mission
  • deal with the humiliation of being one-upped by a bunch of Third World pissants

Of those, the second seems most likely. These days Obama is so drunk from slurping his own Kool-Aid that he’d invade Canada if he felt like a point needed making about his commitment to protecting the safety of US citizens protecting the economic interests of his corporate employers and making sure you know his dick is bigger than yours.

Regardless, this is all pretty entertaining as political theater goes. My advice to Mr. Obama is to tread carefully. You’re dick may be bigger than Morales’s, but you’d rather stick it in a turbocharged sausage grinder than piss off Latin America any worse than you already have. And your little closed airspace stunt has done a lot to bring them even closer together.

The smart play here is

  1. re-read the Constitution (there’s probably a copy lying around somewhere in the White House, and if not you can Google it)
  2. admit that “mistakes were made,” and
  3. position yourself at the forefront of a campaign to eradicate the Bush security state that you have so far done nothing but expand.

We might know that you’re a self-dealing, mealy mouthed weasel the whole time, but we’ll make allowances if you’ll actually do the right thing.

Blatter “appalled” by racist abuse of Balotelli: hey Sepp – less talk, more action

CATEGORY: Racism in SportsRacist abuse of AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli by AS Roma fans in yesterday’s Serie A match caused the official to briefly suspend play. After an PA announcement warning the offending supporters to cease and desist, the game was resumed.

While these things are hardly uncommon in Italian football (or throughout the rest of Europe, for that matter), FIFA dictator-for-life president Sepp Blatter is appalled

“Appalled to read about racist abuse in Serie A last night,” Blatter tweeted Monday. “Tackling this issue is complex, but we’re committed to action, not just words.”

Blatter added that FIFA’s taskforce against racism and discrimination is “serious about devising a unified approach for FIFA’s 209 members.”

Blah Blah Blahtter. I’m not a big Sepp fan, of course. While he is to be praised for his humanitarian efforts, the pungent aroma of Eau de Fixer follows him wherever he goes. In the case of world football’s persistent racism, I have no doubt that he means what he says – he’d like it to be gone, and FIFA is exploring a variety of remedies. On this I take him at his word.

The thing is, I survey the landscape and as far as the eye can see there’s nothing but inaction. Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri had it about right in the post-match interview:

“Stopping the game doesn’t work. It’s a happy medium and like all happy mediums, it doesn’t do anybody any good.”

The fact is that FIFA (and UEFA) responses to racism have been ineffective because they favor, as Allegri says, the happy medium. The half measure. The symbolic gesture. The sternly worded warning. The slap on the wrist.

The failure to stop an undesired action by an individual or group is a function of either a) a lack of power, or b) a lack of will. There’s not a lot FIFA can do about the racism of fans as they share a pint in the pub after the game, perhaps, but there’s a great deal they can do in the stadiums. For instance, in yesterday’s match the game could have been suspended and resumed later in an empty stadium. AS Roma could be fined and docked points in the standings. If none of these measures achieve the desired result over a set period of time, the club could be relegated to Serie B. And so on.

[UPDATED: It has now been announced that AS Roma is being fined 50K euros by the Lega Calcio. This number represents nearly 3.5/1000ths of a percent of the team’s annual revenue.]

What happens as soon as the governing bodies begin taking meaningful action? Well, the technology exists to monitor every corner of a stadium, and it wouldn’t take long to identify the perpetrators. A club facing the loss of revenue associated with meaningful action would have pegged and permanently banned the perpetrators for life before the crew had the stadium swept.

The club would find itself receiving a lot of help from its more civilized fans, too. There are people in the crowd who don’t want to see their team penalized and you can bet the farm they’d be willing to help finger the troublemakers.

FIFA and UEFA could do these things tomorrow. They might encounter a legal challenge if things progressed far enough, but my guess is that they’d be on solid footing.

But they don’t. Why not? If you have the power to solve a problem and you do not do so, then it can only mean that you lack the will to solve the problem.

We can speculate as to motives all we like, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Racism of the sort directed at Mario Balotelli yesterday persists because it is allowed to persist.

I assure you, Blatter isn’t any more appalled by the actions of those fans than I am by his inaction. Perhaps less bluster, less impotent indignation and more leadership is in order.