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Václav Havel: a casual rememberence

vaclav havel “Tidy yourself up! We might be Czechs, but we don’t have to let the rest of the world know.” This is apparently one of the lingeringly popular jokes from The Good Soldier Švejk, one of the resounding classics of Czech literature. The fact that I don’t find it any funnier than you will tell you what you need to know about my embarrassingly sparse connection to Czech literature (if the fact that I had to Google it didn’t tip you off). With that serving as a pre-emptive appology, let me tell you as best as I can why Václav Havel was important (without any more Googling, I promise).

At the end of World War II, Roosevelt and Churchill sold my people out to Stalin at Yalta, and the big ‘ol Iron Curtain fell on us. And while it was a light-sneeze version of the Stalinist/Totalitarian sort of thing that they’re, for example, still living up in North Korea to this day, it was still a very different lifestyle from ordinary poverty. There’s an extremely real paranoia that exists, because even if you’ve never gone before the officials on charges that were made against you buy anonymous spies, you know that it happens all the time. Also, this: you can join “The Communist Party” or not. YOUR CHOICE. If you don’t join, the government and others in positions of power won’t trust you. You’ll be denied perks, career advancement, and safety. If you do join, you’ll loose the respect and trust of all your friends. Unless they’re all Party members too. But those are the people with sticks up their ass, right? You either sacrifice your integrity or you sacrifice your prosperity and comfort.

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War is over if you want it: a reaction to the withdrawal

war is over

The Iraq war took a notoriously low toll on the vast majority of Americans. All of the sacrifice on this side was borne by enlisted members of the military and their families. This is not to say, however, that Americans with a wisp of consciousness did not have to cope with the news that emanated from the war zone. How should those opposed to a war of choice feel when – day after day, year after year – proof of the folly is reported in the lists of dead soldiers and civilians?

I recall the eve of the invasion, as the countdown to Bush’s ultimatum ticked down on the corner of the screen, Bill Press and Tucker Carlson signed off from their crappy program, Spin Room.

“Well, I hope I’m wrong,” the anti-war Press volunteered gamely after articulating his fears of a prolonged occupation. At 21, I was nowhere near the level of maturity it took for Bill Press to admit that the best outcome would be a quick and decisive exchange of power and return to peace. In the run up to the war, I was tossing and turning in bed, talking to myself, consumed with righteousness. I wanted nothing more in life than to be proven right, war sucks, yet what could be grimmer and more psychologically unsanitary than feeling satisfaction at the protraction or intensification of a war?

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Videos of today's Occupy Miami protest by Crassmonster

Videos by Crassmonster.

I was just looking for socks and they showed up.

One more after the jump.

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I spent the night on the lawn outside of Government Center in solidarity with the Occupy Miami movement. I also wrote up a log for the Miami New Times describing my experiences out there. I’m obviously in support of the movement, but some of the other occupiers left me mean, bitchy comments implying that I am an asshole, which I am, but only out of love. I wanted to be honest and had to be a little jokey about the experience. What’s happening out there is mostly beautiful – community building, political discussions, people learning about democracy, I love it – but it is sprinkled with bit of a-hole bullshit. Any group of people working together for a common goal will have its downside and usually it’s battitudes. Anyway, read it, and go out and support.

by , posted Oct 21, 06:15 PM

Occupy Miami is serious business, so read about it.

occupy miami

I’ve been covering the Occupy Miami movement for Miami New Times, so make sure to click over there and read what I’ve seen and heard. This is an important exercise in democracy and you may not want to sleep out in the rain, but you should pay attention. It’s really something neat and special going on. People are working together to build a community. They’re learning to communicate with each other and about the democratic process. Go by and show some support.

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As of about an hour ago, Miami is now part of the growing Occupy Wall Street movement! Protesters gathered outside of the Torch of Friendship earlier, marched to Government Center, and came to the consensus that they’re setting up shop there indefinitely. Read about it on Miami New Times’ Riptide 2.0. Wow! What a day!

by , posted Oct 15, 07:29 PM

Occupy DC has unions and permits and a word on Occupy Austin

occupy dc

By Farrah Farley

Thanks to social media, and Democracy Now’s covereage of the NYC Occupy Wall Street and Occupy DC, I decided to take a “late lunch” from my federal job and walk on down to the Occupy DC rally on Wednesday to show my solidarity for the movement.

Here’s a rundown of what I learned:
Permits Occupy DC was just issued a permit for four months to stay in Freedom Plaza (on Pennsylvania Ave. and 14th St. ~ 2 blocks from the White House) as of Monday. About 100 campers’ tents are set up along with a First Aid tent, Media, and of course, “Food not Bombs” is there to provide nourishment for these dedicated citizens.

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A Walking Tour of Occupy Wall Street

OWS 008

I eat pizza across the street from the Occupy Wall Street protests maybe three times a week. With the exception of staring at some people drumming once or twice, I’ve never paid it much attention. Now that it’s grown significantly I figured I should stop and take a look around.

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Jessica Gross gives Rick Scott a Covergirl makeover

In an effort to soften up Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s image, we decided to give him a makeover via Covergirl’s Makeup Mirror.

I mean if you can make a frog look sexy, anything can happen? Also, with hair there is a creepy resemblance to Crispin Glover and Lyle Lovett! Success!

rick scott cover girl 2

Another sexy Scott and sexy frog after the jump.

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Maria & Vivian got married! An interview with one of NY's first same-sex couples to receive a marriage license

gay marriage new york

Maria loves Vivian. She has always loved her, and now, they are married.

Both Maria and Vivian are New York-born Puerto Ricans who live in Staten Island. Maria is a retired corrections officer who worked in Rikers Island for 20 years. Her longtime partner Vivian is a Manhattan bus operator. During their almost three decades together, they raised a grown daughter and built a life together that is filled with love and commitment.

A month after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the bill into law legalizing same-sex marriages, just three days ago, gay couples started getting hitched. We spoke with Maria about her marriage on Sunday, one of the first in the state. She is a friend of a friend who kindly offered us a description of what it was like at the courthouse this weekend and offered us insight into her hopes and fears.

How long have you guys been together for?

Twenty-seven years.

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Gibson and Ground Zero

I had an odd coincidence happen to me yesterday. I finished reading William Gibson’s Spook Country literally minutes before news regarding Osama’s death broke. You could use a lot of genre nouns to describe this book, none of which involve science fiction. “Thriller” is an easy one and “Futurist” is another, although both only really apply structurally: the thrills aren’t too thrilling and the future written about is maybe 2 weeks away as opposed to 20 years.

The easiest and most thrown about word though seems to be “Post-Millenial”, as Gibson was writing from a perspective that took not only global politics and 9/11 into account but also a sort of cultural malaise that has effected the cultural landscape during the aughts. It’s this malaise that I believe is to thank for the recent glut of post-apocalyptic novels and post-human non-fiction, but for all intents and purposes, Spook Country is a book more set in the “now” than any other I’ve read for a very long time.

The book ends anticlimactically, which many people have found disappointing but I found appropriate as it only punctuates the book’s ability to capture the openended zeitgeist of the past 10 years. A time that, to me at least, feels nothing more than endlessly anticipatory.

I wandered down to Ground Zero today because, hey, why not – I work 3 blocks away and the place I usually get pizza at is literally around the corner. There were few tourists in the area that weren’t heading towards or leaving it yet there was no real collection point that I found. Aside from the enthusiasm of lunching construction workers and the glut of wandering tourists, it was a normal Monday out there. Nothing had changed.

My friend Neal tweeted the following this morning: “So w/ OBL dead can we get out of the weird depressing pocket universe we’ve spent the 21st century in so far?” In recounting three different perspectives on Bin Laden’s death earlier today, Liz forgot that of mine and Neal’s. Specifically: is it over yet?


Shitty responses to Osama's death and why y'all are on my nerves


Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, I know way too much about what my friends are thinking all the time. And thanks to THL, they know more than they’d like to about what I think about things. This is all usually fine with me, but right now, it’s just turning me off.

I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the the social media responses to the death of Osama bin Laden. I noticed how half of my friends are hungry with bloodlust over the killing of Osama, while others seem to be horrified by the bloodlust. I find both of these attitudes incredibly obnoxious. No offense, guys.

Let me start like this. It’s a huge deal that Obama’s guys got Osama, and to not politicize it seems ignorant. Republicans, you can’t have this one. You just can’t. It’s important to talk about this significant event. It’s a big freaking deal. We should talk about it, its implications and repercussions, but that’s not what’s being posted up around the web.

Now, for everyone frothing at the mouth, excited about this guy’s death. I get it. He was a bad guy. He’s not just an innocent sacrificial lamb, he was a horrible mass murderer whose money and shitty ideas funded the killings of thousands and thousands of people. I definitely am not sad about this guy’s death. I’d even have a beer in honor of this targeted murder. Fuck it, and fuck him. The thing is, I really don’t want to see photoshopped pictures of a dead Osama. It’s really gross and unnecessary. I mean, I’m not like glad when someone dies just because they’re dead. I’m not a sick bitch like that. You are. I’m simply glad to have my Obama back.

To my other friends who are horrified by those lost in joyful celebration over a death: seriously? You don’t get it? I mean, if you want to give a shit about someone, how about caring about all those little kids and innocent people maimed and shrapnel-filled by this fucking monster. I get it, it’s not nice when people die, like I said, but really? Are you that much of a pretentious, self-rightous prick that you can’t understand why people might not rejoice in the removal of a horrible person from the earth. It’s just stupid to assume that killing someone as a form of justice for bad deeds is always poor form. I’m rolling my eyes at you. My eyes are rolling for real. I can barely type they’re so far up in my head.

I’m sure that you all will un-friend me now. I think most of you are a little creepy at this point, though I love you all the same. I do love you, you creepy judgmental, perverted, murderous assholes. Just remember to vote for Obama next year.


Obama beat Osama: AP video of people cheering outside of the White House

Our president just secured his reelection, powerful man that he is, by claiming responsibility for doing away with longtime U.S. enemy and big time bad guy Osama bin Laden. We’re breathing a sigh of relief around the house (about the upcoming election, mostly). Even my cat’s mood improved with the Osama news. I can’t believe he did it! He’s such a little hero that Obama. First he shows a clip from The Lion King as his birth video, and now he’s avenging Al Qaeda attacks and securing the safety of the free world. Hallelujah! A sense of humor and of duty. I love this guy, and I’m totally not regretting the 10 Obama bumper stickers that adorned my car. My car and I are ready for the 2012 election. It will feel good to win again.

Here’s a video of people celebrating outside the White House from the You Tube.


I Really Like Brunch
Sometimes Love

I’m lazy and I like to relax. I don’t want to rush when I eat. I prefer breakfast foods to all others. I also enjoy sleeping in well past traditional breakfast dining time. Therefore, I really like brunch. I can think of little better than zoning out for hours into the afternoon, chatting, eating, drinking. I have had some good times at a brunch, very pleasant, memorable, perfect times. God, that sounds pathetic. But there it is. There is nothing better than a day free of obligations and distractions.

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Submit your film about Mother Earth to the Rainforest Partnership and meet Richard Linklater


by Farrah Farley

The Onion published How Bad For The Environment Can Throwing Away One Plastic Bottle Be? 30 Million People Wonder over a year ago. Yeah, it’s funny, but the message is one people should have been listening to. It sort of seems no one really cares about the pollution they create except for a handful of hippies and nonprofits (in Austin) and a few “green celebrities” out there concerned in between filming moneymakers.

If you fancy yourself an environmentalist, or, at the very least, want to do something to help others reduce their carbon footprint, consider submitting a short 30 second to 3 minute film for the Second Annual Films for the Forest Fest. FREE to enter, it’s run by the nonprofit Rainforest Partnership and it will be screened in Austin on June 16 in front of a huge audience and 3 well-respected judges: Elizabeth Avellán, Ed Begley Jr., Richard Linklater, and Paul Stekler.

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Mohamed Bouazizi: Man of the Year

tunisian protests

Mohamed Bouazizi. Anyone who believes that technology saturation, mutually-assured nuclear destruction and globalization has deprived our era of romanticism need merely Google his name. What chasms lay between you, gentle reader, and an indigent 27-year-old Tunisian who immolated himself on an otherwise mundane Friday morning in December? And how could he have known that his violent end would mark the beginning of peaceful movements across the Maghreb?

His act, like many suicides in from Sharm el-Sheikh to Islamabad, was inherently pathological but also explicitly political. Nothing about his short biography leads me to believe that his grievances went beyond garden-variety Middle Eastern (or, if you like, North African) corruption. His suicide was basically over a little nose-bloodying by some municipal thugs in lieu of an unpaid bribe. I, for one, would have put a cold lamb T-bone on his face and said, “Suck it up, Mo. Shit happens.” But the young street vendor took his complaint downtown, was rebuffed by a local governor, and set himself on fire before lunchtime. Therein lies the point of the sword. The majority of South Tunisians, Tunisians, North Africans, and citizens across the region and the entire world think more about day-to-day pains in the ass and humiliations than eternity in paradise or a fiery grave. But corruption, unlike terrorism, rarely kills, so it seldom inspires revolutions and strengthens stable dictatorships. But when it does…

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Check out THL cousin Farrah’s blog post responding to some coverage of what’s going on in the Arab world right now.

by , posted Feb 7, 01:54 PM

Showing solidarity with Egypt, Tunisia, and Jordan: some links and love

austin egypt

My cousin Farrah is a studier of the Arab world and though doesn’t have much time to write now, she has given us some links and background on the peaceful revolutions that took place in Tunisia and are currently in progress in Egypt and Jordan.

Here are her notes and stuff:
Mubarak is the last pharaoh of Egypt and protesters are practicing civil disobedience until he follows bin Ali’s lead and LEAVES. For 30 years, the US-backed Mubarak regime has been more like a dictatorship than a ‘representative body.’ People have been frustrated and finally are RISING UP calling for major economic, political, social reforms.

From the Week of Jan. 25:
From The Daily Beast, Inside Egypt’s Facebook Revolt
From The Atlantic, After Tunisia: Obama’s Impossible Dilemma in Egypt
From Democracy Now, The Cairo Conundrum
From Al Jazeera, How Tunisia’s revolution began

From Jan. 30:
From the HuffPo Anonymous Internet Users Help Egypt Communicate
From NPR, Professor Samer Shehata, who will be on The Colbert Report last night. Professor: Regime Change Can’t Happen Overnight
From International Crisis Group, Egypt’s Muslim Brothers: Confrontation or Integration?
From Slate, Obama’s Shah Problem
Let’s not forget about Tunisia
A letter to Obama

And now, there’s more good news of change in Jordan.


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