Nude Mona Lisa painting found?

Could Leonardo have painted a version of the iconic Mona Lisa in the nude? As comical as that might sound, a painting that recently surfaced and is on exhibition at the Museo Ideale in Vinci, the painter’s birthplace, suggests this might just be the case.


Somali ‘Piracy’: The Story You Haven’t Heard

A few weeks ago for my Modern African History final, I had to answer a question about the ‘piracy’ situation in Somalia. This lead to some eye-opening research into some of whats really going on behind the scenes. Here are my findings.

First and foremost:

There are no Somali pirates. There is however, a makeshift Somali Coast Guard trying to fight off Western ships dumping nuclear waste into their fishing water. Nuclear waste normally gets dumped in cold water, slowing down the containers erosion time. The Somali waters are warm. This means, within 10 years these containers will probably start breaking down, severely poisoning the water, and killing all the fish.

Why then, would the US do something like this, and why is this story nowhere on mainstream US media?

I’ll tell you why:

Because the United States is at war with Somalia.

In 2004, after years of being without proper government, Somalia’s local Islamic courts joined the Union of Islamic Courts. Moderates and hardliners divide these courts. The hardliners want to curb foreign influence, which they believe to be immoral. This means banning foreign films and music from playing at theaters and on the radio. It also means harsh punishments such as public flogging and execution if caught selling drugs or committing murder. While harsh, after years of lawlessness most Somalis gladly accepted the order and stability. The US and Ethiopia however, are not so giddy about the new government

In retaliation, the US is arming Ethiopian troops to invade Somalia. Since the United Islamic Courts are Muslim, and the opposing forces to American economic interest are hard-line fundamentalist Muslims, this makes it very easy for them to be tagged terrorists. With the justification of terrorism, anything goes—including military intervention. The UIC poses a threat to the US’ continued media influence in Somalia, yes, but more importantly it is an obstacle to exploiting the newly-found oil within the region.

By supporting the Ethiopian forces trying to overthrow the UIC and returning Somalia to its lawless anarchic state, they then have an opportunity to erect a pro-America client regime that will go along with whatever the US wishes. This has succeeded. Immediately after US aerial attacks on Somalia in January of 2009, the new Somalia “president” came out in support of the US attacks, despite acknowledging that many people with no ties to terrorism had been killed.     

After years of lawlessness, the UIC wouldn’t want to compromise what little stability they’ve fought so hard to earn. Creating a state with ties to Al-Qaeda would be *asking* to get pounced on by the US with every other Western superpower covering the US’ back. Logically, if there was ever any ‘terrorist’ action going on, it would be while Somalia was a violent anarchy, with no one to stop them. Debasing Somali stability, interfering in their religious goals, and returning Somalia to a state of total chaos not only gives fundamentalist muslims reason to get militant (revenge), but then creates a space where it can happen unwatched.

 To report the “piracy” situation for what it is would do two things, neither in the US’ best interest. The cultural perception of Africa, especially Somalia is of being anarchic, primitive, prone to tribal-warfare and soul-crushingly poor. To report that the US is dropping bombs on Somalia would create an image of the “Big guy picking on the little guy”, hence suspected terrorism is the excuse. Americans are beginning to awaken from the trance of terrorism propaganda (much like we did with communist propaganda after the Cold War) and many wouldn’t buy it. Further investigation into US involvement in the area would show, yet again, another major motivator here is Oil. Not only would this do serious damage to our public moral, but can easily trigger dangerous responses from the other world super-powers who are completely against what the US is doing (i.e.; Italy and Russia).

And its only the tip of the ice-burg. This only begins to explain the socio-political spheres of the situation.

What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments section.

The Crash Course: Free Economics 101

The Crash Course seeks to provide you with a baseline understanding of the economy so that you can better appreciate the risks that we all face. 


The Crash Course

Oprah’s KFC Stunt Promotes Swine Flu-Causing Factory Farms

It’s long been known that factory farming, at the very least, presents animals with unseemly living situations—if not downright cruelty. It’s also widely believed that the practice fosters the spread of disease in animals, and in some cases, humans. Case in point: the US Center for Disease Control has confirmed that the current swine flu (H1N1) has its origins in a strain that grew out of a factory farm in North Carolina years ago.

From HSUS:

A preliminary analysis of the H1N1 swine flu virus isolated from human cases in California and Texas reveals that six of the eight viral gene segments arose from North American swine flu strains circulating since 1998, when a new strain was first identified on a factory farm in North Carolina.

So in effect, Oprah is publicizing a company that not only condones cruelty to animals, but relies upon an institution that’s partly responsible for the development of serious diseases like swine and avian flu.

Full Story here

Virtual Love? The Games of Tomorrow

Video-games are our new national past-time.

Months spent in eager anticipation of the latest batch of next-gen consoles, and late night online showdowns pepper the streams of nostalgia within our generation’s collective memory. Who could forget the age-old censorship debate over whether or not video-games were emotionally desensitizing and socially damaging?

The criticisms didn’t pop out of a vacuum; many of  the most popular video games are extremely violent, desensitizing, and addictive. 

Freud said many of our base-drives and primal forces are either repressed or subtly sublimated into more socially-acceptable outlets (sports, corporate competition, war, etc.). Is this what fuels feverish addictions to pretend violence? And is emotional sublimation the only reason video-games are fun?

Many big-name game companies seem believe so. However, one luddite game developer from Upstate New York by the name of Jason Rohrer is challenging that notion.

Rohrer’s vision is to use video games as a therapeutic medium for artistic expression.

From a visual standpoint, his games are very simple. But, as anyone who has played Passage, can tell you, it doesn’t take flashy 21st century graphics to make a quality game. Emphasis is shifted from the visuals to the the story-line, which he believes can be just as captivating as any film or novel.

‘Passage’ follows a young boy down the corridors of time into adulthood. The pivotal decision is whether to keep his ‘freedom’ and avoid falling in love, but play a much harder game, or choosing to  grow old and happy with his lover, while mindful of the inevitable end of paradise as death’s hideous face looms closer & closer with each step. The game is a meditation on transience, love, and the importance of cherishing the present moment.

Most of his games are like this. Simple RPG platformers that double as works of art containing meaning.

How different would the experience of growing up be for kids if more games were like this? Does turning mindless entertainment into art = snoozefest for million of overstimulated teens?

I don’t think so. A prime example of mainstream games already like this is Final Fantasy series.  The timeless scene of Aries from FFVII dying at Sephiroth’s sword followed by the pain of Cloud’s unrequited love remains permanently etched into the memories of many gamers and retired players alike. For those short moments, pixelated polygons on a screen meant more and spoke louder to us than most movies or books. The memory stuck because we were there.

In there, literally. The self-identification with the character you’re playing as in a video game is powerful. For a few hours, their life is your life, their experiences are your experiences, and their lessons are yours. 

This not only exacerbates the ill effects of violent games,  but the potentials for good also  blossom into fruition. How could games aid the coming of age process for millions of teens if they were deeper (ala FF, Passage), and left positive imprints? Could they help develop emotional & interpersonal intelligence, rather than reinforcing social anxiety and angst? The interactive quality of a game amplifies its possibilities as an art-form, potentially being more mentally and emotionally captivating than a movie or novel.

It can even become a therapeutic remedy to the pains of growing up and emotional callousness that develops as a defense in the more isolated regions of youth culture. If scenes of violence, degradation and escape only feed the insecurity and social awkwardness of adolescence, what would other types of role-play do to help?

Video-games, like all forms of technology, are objective and neutral by themselves. It is the mind behind it that assigns it use and gives it meaning and value. This is how high-technology operating out of a low ethical center of gravity can produce Nazi doctors and nuclear bombs, where high technology with a high center of ethical gravity can produce Appropriate Technology, Hexayurts, Solarchills and Starsights. And just as the mind behind the tech determines the type of impact it has, so does it determine the imprint left on the user.

You can put good ideas behind games and imprint the gamers psyche with good memories and positive experiences, or exacerbate the negative. Imagine a world where the escape of many had the power to heal. What would the world look like with more socially and emotionally intelligent teens? What would Art look like if games became a new mode of expression? How far-reaching is its ability to convey meaning and transmit experience and emotion by absorbing you IN the work?

What do you think? 

Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Thoughts on Obama Win

Is the darkness of the Bush years finally over? Is this really happening?

Obama won the 2008 elections by a landslide. And I, no doubt, am excited.

But don’t get me wrong, I’m no Obama fan-boy. I don’t hang by every eloquent re-phrase of ‘Yes We Can’ that comes out of his mouth.

Democrats and Republicans, while having their diffrences, are two sides of a very narrow political spectrum. The American ‘Left’ isn’t that radical and progressive at all. Both sides still make a majority of their decisions based on what is best for Corporate interest, not the average man. No matter how ‘average’ a politician may paint him or herself to be.

And, political campaigns are endorsed and funded to a large extent by major corporations. Under-the-table dealings between small circles of insanley rich folks guide decisions that effect an entire nation of working-class people. And, even if a politician such as Obama, has good intentions and is aiming for change, he is a president, not a king, and does not hold enough power in and of himself to undo nearly a century of public conditioning (thanks, news media) and the nightmare souvineer of the Bush years.

The Bush years happened because we wanted them to. Bush was voted into office twice, and, although he may not have been everybody’s choice, he was the choice of enough of us to get him into office, and keep him there.

But if Obama can’t change things, who can? And why be excited to have him win?

The answer is, you can. We can. And we did.

We got him into office, we voted for what he stood for–Change. Obama winning the election was indicitive of a deep wanting, a deep Will for change within this country. Nothing is more powerful than a Will, for where there is a Will, there is a way.

Depending on a politician is not the means of true change. Do not forget, for it was you who put the politician into office in the first place.. You are responsible for your own life, and noone else.

Community organization– people banding together and taking their social and political destiny into their own hands– is the one and only vehicle for true change, and the Obama presidency not only excites people to get involved, but unlike the Republican/Bush admin, creates a safe space for people to act without being labeled terrorists.

Cynicism is a dead end that needs to be avoided at all costs. The illusion of helplessness after all, is thee most powerful lie the capitalistic establishment uses to maintain its standing — either by duping you into feeling as if they’re working in your best interest, or making you bitter and cynical, throwing up your arms and settling with “they’re too powerful, I’m too small and powerless, we’re all going to hell”.

Its not even about “changing the world” in some abstract objective sense. That phrasing even makes it seem more difficult than it really is; we are choosing to change ourselves and our way of living, and all in all that’s all we’ve ever been doing from the start. A ‘better’ world isn’t impossible by any stretch, and the wonders the last presidency has done on our collective psyche, leading to this election, truly bring us one step closer to making it happen.

Obama is only a representative. A representation of the ideas, sentiments, and visions we want ruling our nation over the next 4 years. He has–we have– made many promises. It is up to us to keep our word and make them happen. That means getting up, organizing, and making our world one we truly want to live in.

Do ideas behave like viruses?

A Memetic Lexicon

A Memetic Lexicon

      An idea is something you have;
      an ideology is something that has you
      –Morris Berman