Flight Papers

feminism and creativity, art, madness, and play

Archive for March, 2008


Monday, March 31st, 2008

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Damn the Facebook app list is depressing.

A few bumper sticker / button / anarchy patch programs, which are kindof meh, but at least cute. A whooole bunch of games where the whole point is to bite / claw / jab / zombify / whatever as many of your friends as possible, so they can get to play the game, too! Which involves… biting, clawing, jabbing, or zombifying as many of their friends as possible. Which has no effect other than to make the userbase grow to omg and make the “developers” a whole bunch of ad money.

Also, there are ten billion quizzes. With a similar parasitic, advertising-driven model.

It’s to Facebook’s credit that they’ve managed to keep this explosion of stupid crap from making browsing Facebook a completely intolerable experience. But seriously. Scrabulous and Chess and, obviously, my favorite Meaningless Black Square, are amongst the best apps on there. And they’re just straight-up ports of tabletop games.

It’s not exactly I expect some great revelation from Facebook apps. I expect that many of them will be things that you could do outside of Facebook, but it’s a bit easier to do on Facebook. Scrabble and other long turn-based games are one nice example; forums would be another. It’s nice to have these apps all in one space, where they’re easy to share with your friends without all the hassle of getting a new account somewhere. They aren’t mindblowing, but they’re still pretty cool.

That being said, having easy access to a relatively complete social graph is fairly novel, and I think there’s quite a bit of unexplored space there. I think the most promising developments are more creative and community oriented. Facebook’s groups are a start, but we may want more or less formalized versions, with more or fewer modes of expression available. I know there are probably some apps exploring this, but they’re so fundamentally buried that it’s depressing. I don’t know if there’s actually any there there, and I don’t know exactly where this line of development leads, but I think it’s at least interesting.

More interesting, at any rate, than finding out which Harry Potter slash pairing ARE YOU?!.


The new fireside.

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

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In fact, while conventional wisdom says that users would love to watch downloaded video content on the television set, Macrovision found that only 10 percent of those surveyed said that they have any desire to do so.’ —ars

Funny story.

A couple of days ago, some friends and I were lying in bed talking about Obama’s speech on race relations, and it came up that only one of us had actually seen it. So, seeing as we had two laptops in the bed with us, we opened up YouTube and watched it.

Now, YouTube isn’t particularly good for this. For one thing, its design is pretty distracting, and it doesn’t have a “hit the lights” button. For another, videos are cut to ten minutes, so the speech was broken into four parts. And it doesn’t have a playlist feature, so we couldn’t just queue them all up.

None of this mattered.

Silently clicking through the clips felt like this lovely confluence of then and yet-to-come. We were lying under blankets, gathered around a glowing laptop listening to a fireside chat on YouTube.

The tenor of the speech built the mood, but the way we obtained, watched, and interacted with it was much more established than that. This is how we channel surf; this is how we interact with media. When we’re watching music videos (say) we’ll be passing the keyboard or laptop around, pulling up different artists and concerts or whatever. The social protocol for this sort of thing is well-established: we are all watching, and we are all in control, and there is zero room for a TV set in that equation.

Point of interest: there were two laptops within three feet of us that night. There are no TVs in her house.

And sure, sometimes we’ll download movies or shows that we plan on watching, turn the lights down, and project them on the wall. But those instances are much rarer, and the setup time required means that there isn’t any significant issue with just plugging a laptop or computer into the TV and futzing with it for a few minutes. And as often as not, we’ll just turn a convenient monitor around, or bring a laptop onto the bed, and watch stuff that way.

Not just bad — black bad.

Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

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Obama’s speech is beautiful, in its way. Let that be said.

I’ve been hearing about it on news outlets for the past three days, until the stupid passport news “broke” and every fragment of news media dropped “the race issue” like the hot potato it is. (Let it also be said: if I were into conspiracy theories, that’s the one I’d be supporting).

The words he’s saying are incredible, coming as they are from the mouth of a very real candidate for the throne. Race and class and the complex interactions between them are real issues that this nation has simply failed to address in a substantial way. It’s profoundly heartening to hear someone, anyone—let alone someone in such a strong political position—saying that we need to include these issues in our national discourse. This speech made me respect him more as a candidate, without doubt.

And still, there’s that twinge of doubt. I understand why he didn’t say that this is an anger we can all understand, and an anger that everyone must understand before we can move forward; I understand why he didn’t pin the responsibility for continued oppression on white America; I understand why he dipped deep into the well of reconciliatory rhetoric to find issues and language that some-substantial-subset-of-everyone can agree with. I get it, and it still makes me afraid.

Because it tells me that as a black candidate, he can’t address these issues head-on. Because if he does, he will be Angry, and there is nothing more dangerous. If he had gotten up on stage last week and said, “I need you to understand that I believe the good Reverend Wright’s sentiment is correct even if his rhetoric is inflammatory,” he would have been crucified as an Angry Black Man in a fraction of a news cycle.

And though I have that understanding, it does. not. help. There is a part of me that cries every day that these are still problems—but they are. Some tiny bit of me dies at every moment because there are people who will grasp at anything including the amount of melanin in your skin to explain why you deserve to be fucked and they do not; because there are people who prize the sanctity of their ephemeral, exploitative institution above your human rights, and will happily steamroll the latter if only because they can.

I understand that we cannot have a politician stand up and say, “It is okay to be angry.” I understand why we are still talking about “tolerance” (in the way that you tolerate a wasp sting) rather than acceptance (in the way that you accept your family*).

I understand all of this, yet still it is a catastrophe. Peace is not the absence of bombs. Nor rockets, nor gunfire. Peace is both the absence of violence and the reconciliation of former violence; peace exists in the acceptance of anger and the ability to channel that force through channels that may create, may destroy, but do not harm. Repression is not peace. Construction is.

Peace requires justice; we require peace. As Americans, as people, we need it like water and air, and we will never get there by gritting our teeth, understanding each other and building labyrinths of words that keep us away from one another. It’s like a pleasing and pointless gray pill—that pattern will not bring us hope or love or peace. Not now, and not ever.

* Family. Not blood relations. Not mutually exclusive, but not implied.

A Helpful Graphic.

Monday, March 17th, 2008

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Peculiar Creatures, One.

Friday, March 14th, 2008

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I didn’t go looking for the man. We crossed paths in the street, and he spun like I was a magnetic thing.

Hey. Hey, girly. Hey!

He stumbled slightly, not drunk, just unsure of his feet. I tried to walk past him, but he was stuck on. Shoe-bubblegum. I stopped, I turned. The man was surprisingly clean, his face shaved, his hair cut, his breath was musky but not terrible. His eyes were clicking around in their sockets, but they focused on me, and I felt a muscle clench just above my stomach.

“You know something? You know what? You know what? I did it. You see that guy? Did you see him? On the corner?”

He gestured vividly to a building, behind which was a street lined with yellow tape.

“The police were there,” I said. Trying to say: and that is because it is their job to be there. In the same way that it is not yours and not mine. In the same way that we are not a part of this, not even if you pulled a random trigger on a random guy on a random street. And so you should run away. You should go home to your sixteen-year-old wife and two-year-old kid and you should forget me and forget this street and if you walk away right now and never come back, you will be free in a way you can’t even imagine.

I suppose it didn’t get across, because the man continued, “’cuz I blew his brains out. I shot him in the head.”

You couldn’t have shot his brains out, I did not tell him, because he stumbled two blocks before collapsing in front of that restaurant. The waiters came out, and he mumbled. Said some guy tried to mug him, said he ran. They called 911. And when the paramedics came to take him away, he muttered something that nobody else could hear. They lifted him into the ambulance, and he muttered more, the parts of his brain still there firing at random. It was beautiful day. Lovely and white and crisply chilly, and it was so bright that there was nothing to do but lie down on the sidewalk and try to die. He left a pool of blood behind, which it is somebody’s job to clean up.

A reporter came up to me as I left the place, and asked if I’d seen anything. I hadn’t, save for the medics, and the blood.

“Why are you telling me this?”

“I blew his brains out! And that motherfucker ran! He was running, even as his brains were leaking out! Like he’s a fucking Stranger. Do you think he was a Stranger? Man, if I killed one, that’d be it.”

He said “it” like he’s reveling in it. Like it’s a jubilation. Like he’s won the lottery, and all he has to do is pick up the check.

There was a bulge in his jacket pocket. I hadn’t noticed it before, but once I did, it was impossible to not see. It expanded like a cancer, becoming bigger than the man, bigger than me.

“He didn’t do it right, you know? When someone has a gun, you respect them, right?” It’s not a question. “That’s what you do. That’s what’s done. But he was, like, I’m bigger than you. I know you. I have power over you. But whose brains are now on the sidewalk all like paint?”

I felt a burning in the back of my throat, rising up very slowly.

“Jesus! Why are you talking to me? Why are you saying these things? Why are you saying these things to me?”

“I guess I just like you,” he grinned a little, goofy and genuine. And then he was all business. “But you’ve seen me.”

His hands slide towards to the pocket-balloon-cancer-gun, and my legs lock up. The sun is just dipping below the buildings, spilling that brilliant red-orange glow over the glass and concrete, and I realize once again that knowing the future does not bring calm.

“You can’t just go. You can’t. Isn’t how it’s done.”

“That’s stupid,” and I am at this point very aware that I’m reading from a script, “I don’t know you. I couldn’t pick you out from a bunch of random guys. Witnesses don’t mean shit. Our eyes lie, your face lies”

“You can’t,” he shook his head vigorously, “You can’t.”

I tried to look him straight in the eyes, but they were sliding over the street and buildings and twitching into the sun.

“You are not going to enjoy the next few minutes of your life. I am a Stranger.” And as I turned away, he tore out the just-a-gun, and pulled the trigger.

If you don’t know you’re going to get shot, I’m told, it’s not so bad. Shock sets in immediately, and every medic has a story of someone who comes in not even knowing they got shot. When you know you’re going to get shot, it’s all different. You tense up. Every muscle just locks into on, and this is the most worthless possible response. And knowing the pain is coming, your brain looks for it, and finds it before the shock jumps in and cuts all the switches.

He fired two bullets. One went into my leg, and cracked my femur, and broke into nine separate pieces. One went straight through my left lung. I screamed in a way that’s so loud and so piercing that it doesn’t have a sound. They don’t make sounds like that, not after Babel.

He’s saying something, but at that point, crumpled and screaming on the sidewalk, I was somehow much more concerned about the mess I was leaving than I was worried about what he was going to do. He just drifted away, like I was being pulled into a bog, and he couldn’t keep up. His voice and footsteps dulled, became soothing and muted and rhythmic.

The Stranger pulled me up again, and I had no choice but to spasm, choke for air, and swear profusely.

“Fuck. Fuck! God.”

“Shh. It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay. Not meeting him today.”

Her voice was light, and clean, and crisp. She held my head up and massaged my scalp as her fingers probed inside the hole in my torso. This hurt exactly as much as it sounds like it might.

It was almost dark.

“Jesus, Naz. How long?”

“Five minutes, honey. Sorry.”

“Had to take a shit?”

“There’s a lot of damage here.”

I could feel her fingers inside me, pulling and kneading tissues together like they’re putty, repairing me like a damaged sculpture, trying to avoid the nerves that would cause me the most pain. I try to avoid thinking about how her hands must look right now, while they’re inside.

“They get him?”

“Kasta and Ikasi bound him. They’re waiting for the police.”

I had to laugh at that, slightly, though I immediately regretted doing so. She became more serious.

“He’s very damaged. You shouldn’t play with them.”

“Fuck, Naz. This isn’t a game. Which of us is dying, huh?”

I tried to look up at her, but my eyes could barely open through the pain. I had seen her before, though. Gleaming. Pure. The Protector. Her eyes are white, her hair the pearly-clear of fiber-optics and polar bear pelts. These were natural; she was born an albino. Her skin is not skin, but a coat of tiny, soft feathers. You would not notice this from afar, and it is, relatively speaking, a recent development.

“You are not dying,” she told me, her fingers now twisting tiny lead shards out of my leg. “You are the opposite of that.”

I heard another bullet fragment drip onto the sidewalk. I heard, far away, a three-eyed man and a winged woman moving on the ground. They were holding a man in thin chains not made of silver, with a scarf not made of silk tied around his jaw and head, and something similar wound around his heart to keep him quiet. He and they were waiting. And I heard, far, far away, a gunshot, a scream, dripping blood, running.

“So if it is either of us,” she worked a bit free—twist, twist, plink—“Then it must be me.”