Stupidity is Global, but so is Bravery

Posted by matthew on Nov 29, 2006 in travel

Lotte and I were in Barcelona on the weekend, travelling on a train when a young guy standing next to us was attacked by thugs. It was just before 11pm and the trains were full, mostly with soccer fans returning from a big game that day. As we entered the carriage I noticed two guys with short cropped hair, army boots and the sort of straight-legged jeans of a trademarked 1970s skinhead. To top it off, even though they were speaking Catalan, they were sporting Union Jacks on their jackets, which made me think more of certain skinhead revivalists and their Nazist tendencies. They were probably about 18, sitting with their legs propped up across the benches, and travelling with a girl who was carrying a small white bulldog. It was the sort of group you generally try to avoid. We kept an eye on them until they got up to leave, pushing past me towards a young guy with long hair, probably 16 or 17, standing near the door right behind me. They started to speak to him, obviously taunting him, and one of them reached out and pulled his hair. Hard. He resisted answering them, and then as the train pulled up to the station each of the guys took a swing at him. They hit him hard — one of the guys connected flush on with his face, sending his head backwards into the wall. It was all too fast to do anything much, and he just stood his ground. He was okay, physically, but I could see how shaken he was by it, as you would expect. All I want to do now is tell that guy how brave I thought he was to just stand there and not give the guys the satisfaction of a fight that could have ended very badly. We reported the thugs at the station, but that was all we could do. Sorry, kid.


UCPD Police Assault Student in University Library

Posted by matthew on Nov 16, 2006 in politics

If anyone needed any more evidence that the U.S. has become an out of control police state in the last few years, just watch the horrifying video that is doing the rounds today. The student was not able to produce ID on request. Despite the fact that he is quite clearly attempting to comply with the police, he was brutally attacked by several officers with a taser, a technology which is not used in many countries because of the potentially lethal effects. For more about the incident, see Student shot with Taser by UCPD officers and Community responds to Taser use in Powell in Daily Bruin, UCLA. Warning: the video below is distressing.


Does Bush Threaten World Peace?

Posted by matthew on Nov 15, 2006 in politics

Following up on my last post, it appears that a lot of people both in the U.S. and abroad agree. The Democrats now have control of both Houses, which no doubt has a lot to do with how out of touch the administration had become with public views on the War on Terror. I also noticed today that the Herald Tribune recently published an article entitled International poll ranks Bush a threat to world peace which states: “A majority of people in three countries with close ties to the U.S. — Britain, Canada and Mexico — consider President George W. Bush a threat to world peace, ranking the U.S. president right up there with the leaders of two countries he has labeled part of the “axis of evil” — North Korea’s Kim Jong Il and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad… Majorities in Britain, Canada and Mexico — 69 percent, 62 percent and 57 percent, respectively — said U.S. foreign policy has made the world more dangerous since 2001, according to the poll.” So what do you think? Does Bush threaten World Peace?


The US Government is Unhinged

Posted by matthew on Nov 3, 2006 in politics

Recently I’ve been following the case of Indiana graduate student Chris Soghoian, who got himself into trouble with the FBI after putting up a website that creates fake boarding passes, just to show how stupid airport security can be. You can argue that Chris made a mistake by creating a script to automatically generate a fake boarding pass, but he did it to prove a point. He probably should have stopped at describing how someone could do it rather than actually creating the script. But the FBI beating down his door to confiscate all of his computer equipment after the site had been taken down? That is not a response that’s in proportion with the crime.

Today’s Wired story on the incident has a good summary of what happened. Chris has been heartened by a back-down from one of the politicians who was rather hasty in calling for his apprehension, but the fact remains that undue force was used. The story reads more like something you would expect in China or a few years ago in the USSR, not “the home of the free”. The speed of descent of United States into a police state is truly astounding, and the sad truth is that it is probably only because Chris is young, articulate, English speaking and computer literate that we’re hearing his story at all. I happened to be watching CNN the other night when they were discussing the state of delusion that the US government appears to be in. I couldn’t agree more with Andrew Sullivan in that interview. If you happen to be a US citizen, you should do something about it. Write to a politician and tell them you don’t think it’s right. Link to Chris’ blog. And whatever you do, don’t vote for the GOP.


Desire Lines and Lacan

Posted by matthew on Nov 3, 2006 in education, eroleplay.net, research, roleplays

For the past week or so I’ve been doing a little research into the idea of “desire lines” after it came up in a discussion with my co-worker, Lee. I was talking about stories I’d heard about landscape architects waiting for people to make trails before laying down official paths, as metaphor for observing where people stray from the beaten path as a way to understand how the path is inadequate.

It occurred to me that this has happened with The Campaign. I know from talking to the students that the Mailbox function failed, and they strayed to email to take up their own interchanges there. This had the unintended effect of changing the students’ experience of the role-play, however, because they then spoke to each other out of character for the most part. This is a desire line for them — wanting to talk to each other, student-to-student. An oversight in the design of the system. An example of where the system was subverted.

What’s interesting is that they also described the fact that they knew how to subvert the system even further by getting to materials ahead of time, but they didn’t. While in The Campaign, where they knew they could be watched, they behaved. Foucoult, anyone?

Lee reminded me of Jacques Lacan’s work in relation to desires. I realise I’ve only really been in touch with Lacan through Turkle’s later work. So I’m hoping to get a hold of some of his stuff to check out what he says about desires.

Wikipedia tells me he wrote this:
The Language of the Self: The Function of Language in Psychoanalysis*, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1968