Category Archives: mobie

Cough It Up! Overdue VA Claims Need to Get Paid

Exercising Your Public Voice- Post 4

It’s no small feat to deploy an army. Or to strategize and plan a battle, for that matter. The United States has a solid 237 year military history. We have one of the most powerful military forces in the world. So why can’t we figure out how to take care of our veterans properly? Because it hasn’t been a priority, that’s why.

And this needs to change.

The photo at the top of the page shows a room containing VA claims. Notice all the paper. Despite the fact that we can drop into a country and have fully functional, effective computer networks setup within 48 hours, 97% of VA claims are paper-based and an estimated 900,000 vets are waiting to start their lives anew and take advantage of the benefits they were promised to do so.

We made a contract with these veterans. As a country. They have fulfilled their part, but with an average claim currently taking 273 days to process, it can hardly be said that we have fulfilled our end of the deal. Re-assimilation back into society involves these benefits. Getting a loan, receiving an education, healthcare and mental health care are all essential.

Funding the VA has to be a priority, even if it means cutting our defense budget to accommodate these needs.

Use your democracy. Make your voice heard:

Let them know that we Americans support our vets.
Let them know that the current situation is unacceptable.
Let them know that may not be re-elected
if they don’t take immediate action.

For information, see Newshour’s report: 
Returning Veterans Face Huge Backlog, Disorganization in Fight for Benefits

Connections Are Not Bonds: Communication in New Media

Cook’s Choice: POST 6

Mom with Dad and Grand Kids

My mom died recently and one of the tasks that we were beset with was letting everyone know and to get the information out for the visitation, funeral and interment. It was through this process that I realized, again but in a different way, how much our modes of communication have changed and how splintered communication has become to me.

Contacting our longtime family friends was easy. My dad has meticulously kept the same Rolodex all our lives. We simply divided the letters and started calling everybody. We also placed an obituary in both Twin Cities papers. Covered!

For my own friends, I sent out a mass text, email and I posted the obituary to Facebook. It did not even occur to me to call anybody. It is a reflection more of my friends than of myself, because so many of my friends are on Facebook now and never even listen to voice mail, much less pick up their phones.

It was surprising who showed up and who didn’t. One of my best friends, who has become a Facebook junkie during the course of our friendship, didn’t show up even though she responded to the initial text without the obit info. Two weeks later texted me to ask me when the funeral was. When I told her she missed it she said she was “in and out” of Facebook and that I had the wrong email address. To bad she didn’t send out an update on her contact info. On the other hand, my oldest friend showed up because of the post on Facebook. We hadn’t seen each other in decades and it was really good to reconnect.We have a date for dinner next week.

In the old days, before cell phones, I knew the habits of my friends. I knew when it was too early or late to call; I knew when they ate dinner and when their kids went to bed. There were life patterns that you were in tune with because you had a certain amount of intimacy with your friends and the most common way to communicate was by phone. This is not the norm any more and I think it has a lot to do with how our modes of communication have changed.

In the Atlantic article, “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” there are a ton of studies cited and points made about loneliness, narcissism and the difference between connections and bonds. The main point I took away from this fascinating article is that bonds are much deeper then an online connection. Research bears out that face to face contact is still the strongest method to build true bonds between people. In Facebook, you get out of it what you put into it, and the more “complex” a communication is, especially if it causes you to connect in person, the more high quality the interaction it is.

Especially after this class, I realize I need to use new media more intentionally than I have been, both for making a better world and for making my personal bonds stronger. But I won’t forget to invite someone to have a cup of coffee or have new people and old friends over for dinner on a regular basis. These actions build the bonds that truly are the ties that bind and keep a strong social net.

I’m Fascinated with Guns… BUT

Contributing to Critical Public Discourse- POST 3

I grew up with no guns in my house, or so I thought.

I knew where everything was in my parents house. My parents were Catholic and yet, I knew where they kept their condoms. We never talked about sex or cussed without consequence, yet I knew where my mom kept her Anais Nin and Lenny Bruce books by the time I was eight, wrapped in an old shirt on a high shelf in an unused closet in the basement. I was young. I was curious. I was a snoop and yet, I never knew we had guns in the house until my younger and only brother came of age to hunt- and my dad broke out the guns.

All of our lives none of us ever knew there were guns in the house. My dad showed a certain amount of low-key German satisfaction that he pulled one over on us for damn near 15 to 20 years. I was dumbfounded.

American Sharpshooter, Annie Oakley

One of them was a hair trigger, ornate, long-barreled pigeon gun. It was my mother’s mother Ann Carey’s gun, who everybody said I was exactly like though I never knew her. I was fascinated that my grandmother was reportedly a “good shot” and used the gun to provide food for her family. I was already fascinated with tales of strong women, Annie Oakley included. Years later, when reading “Pretty Birds” by Scott Simon, I discovered that in the Balkan War, it was common practice to recruit and train athletic, highschool-age women as snipers because they excelled at the occupation. I was curious. I wanted to try shooting a gun.

Jeb from the Beverly Hillbillies found oil with his gun.

When I lived in Tennessee, a group of what most definitely would be considered “rednecks” by Yankee standards, took me to their homestead deep in the mountains and let me shoot every gun imaginable: legal, illegal, modern, vintage, “kicking” guns I should avoid and easy ones they felt I could handle. I hefted World War II machine guns that American infantry would have carried and gained new insight at how heroic these men were by understanding the sheer weight of the weaponry they carried such long distances. 

Poke fun if you must, but my hillbilly friends were very serious about my training. They lectured me considerably on gun safety before I laid a hand on so much as a clip. They taught me about the safety and even if I knew a gun wasn’t loaded, to never, ever waive a barrel anywhere near or in line with a human body: the barrel had to be straight up in the air or down on the ground and son (yes, “son”) you better not get that wrong more than twice or you were an idiot that didn’t get to shoot anymore. Not only that, you were ostracized. Period. You were not to be trusted if you were reckless with something as simple as a gun. Let’s face it, we’re talking about a tool that is designed to kill. Life and death- there are few things more basic for any human being to understand.

It saddens me greatly to see stories like the one in the Star Tribune, “Kentucky Child Shooting Spotlights Urban-Rural Gun Debate.”  The article is about the death of a two year old girl at the hands of her five year old brother. The gun was sitting loaded and unattended in a corner when the boy got a hold of it. It was a Crickett “My First Rifle” .22 caliber rifle that was designed for a child.

If my redneck buddies were letting their children shoot guns, I’d assume they’d be tougher on their own kids then they were on me. I believe they would not allow their child to handle a gun unless an adult was closely present and the gun, as any of my Tennessee redneck would tell you, was unloaded and properly stored (aka: locked up with the safety on) when not in use.

Crickett Video Safety Faux Pas #1

Check out this promotional YouTube video from Crickett Rifles for Youth and Small Frame Shooters. I’d take you to the manufacturer’s website, but oddly enough, it’s been taken down for “routine maintenance.” Despite safety goggles, ear protection and a quick reference to safety features, at least twice in a very short video some really bad safety practices are going on, starting with the boy being given the gun with the barrel pointing at his sister’s head, and mom pointing the barrel at her son’s head later on.

Crickett Video Safety Faux Pas #2

Although I like to shoot, I have never killed anything. Someone loaned me a handgun (a Jennings J-22 with a pearl grip, aka “Saturday Night Special”) for an extended period of time and I could not get over a preoccupation with finding the safest place to store it since I had no locked cabinet- and I never was satisfied. Long before the debate over gun control, I realized I never felt so unsafe as when I had a gun in the house. I politely returned the gun to my friend after many months.

Here is a link to John Oliver’s hilarious interview with Phillip Van Cleve of the Virginia Civil Defense League. The interview demonstrates that hardcore gun advocates are against any form of gun control, even if it is simply good sense.

I have heard the line “with rights come responsibilities” uncountable times on the gun control side of the debate. I have nothing against guns but I do have a problem with unnecessary proliferation of innapropriate guns and the tragic number of gun-related deaths in this country. There’s always going to be stupid people and models of unsafe behavior. That’s why we regulate dangerous things. I’ve never heard of an IQ test being part of a background check, but perhaps it should be included. Certainly, passing a gun safety course periodically should be required as well as proof of secure storage.

Perhaps Darwinism will run it’s course. But even an idiot’s child should not have to pay the price.

Revolutionary Communication: 1968 Paris Uprising Posters

Cook’s Choice- POST 5

My first sighting of Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster was at Barbette in Minneapolis. I routinely peruse billboards and I don’t think I hesitated more than five seconds before I unpinned it from the cork board, rolled it up and gently tucked it under my arm. I knew I had a treasure (and besides, there was more than one). The bartender noticed and I had to do a little sweet talking, but I still have that poster, among others. Not all of the posters I’ve collected are political, but it seems that some of the best posters in history have been either musically or politically oriented. 

“Return to Normal”

It’s widely acknowledged that the political posters from the Paris Uprisings of 1968 greatly define the genre. I was first exposed to this period of French history through the steamy film The Dreamers, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and set before and during the uprising. The posters shown briefly in the film piqued my interest more than the NC-17 content did, yet I could only find limited information, most of which was in French. Thanks to the Arab Spring and Occupy, the history of protest and protest art seem to have gained a lot of attention lately. There are all kinds of sources on the net and also a few beautiful new books dealing specifically with the poster art of this brief period.

“Be Young and Shut Up”

The uprising started with a small student protest and burgeoned into a 11,000,000 worker labor strike- 22% of France’s population at the time. They shut down the country and President Charles de Gaulle’s government was dangerously close to being toppled. You will often see de Gaulle caricatured as a large-nosed figure (see poster to the left). At the end of the protests, the National Assembly was dissolved and new parliamentary elections were held. The uprising forever changed France- all in two weeks!

“A Youth Disturbed Too Often by the Future”

The posters are the product of a group of art students called the Atelier Populaire (Popular Workshop). They took over the printing studios of their own university and cranked out an impressive volume and variety of posters in a remarkably short time. They switched from lithography to silkscreen because the prior method was too slow– the group often produced over 2000 posters per night. Most of the posters are monochrome, simple in design and direct in message. Posters were chosen by vote within the group and then posted nightly for the public to see current issues every morning. I will never again complain about how much work a social media campaign can be!

Although Occupy and these students share a common root (Situationist International), there is nothing vague about the poster messages of May 1968. They express anxiety for the future and distrust of authority and the press. They warn and inform of police brutality and call for for unity of the workforce and a better quality of life. They express that merely producing and consuming goods is not a good way to live and encouraged the viewer to believe that so much more was possible. They encouraged people to fight for change.


Atelier Populaire Mission Statement:
“The posters produced by the Atelier Populaire are weapons in the service of the struggle and are an inseparable part of it. Their rightful place is in the centers of conflict … in the streets and on the walls of the factories. To use them for decorative purposes, to display them in bourgeois places of culture or to consider them as objects of aesthetic interest is to impair both their function and their effect.”

Individual artists never took credit nor signed their work and long after these events had passed, the Popular Workshop refused to put any of the posters up for sale. I’m sure if these students had the media at the time, they would of been gods of Twitter and Facebook. Fortunately the media of the time left us a lasting and powerful record that is still relevant today. Despite the fact that the Popular Workshop would despise and discount me for a bourgeoisie, I would love to have just one of these posters prominently displayed in my collection. Ça, c’est dommage!  

To view more posters check out Art for Change.
To buy a book, see Beauty Is in the Street: A Visual Record of the May ’68 Paris Uprising

Tearing Our Eyes Out: What the "Springs" Have in Common

Blogging as Connected Writing- POST 2

Protestors in Iran during the Arab Spring

 I watched an animated video by Evegny Morozov called “The Internet in Society” that addresses how the internet may not help the cause of democracy. There were many things that struck me about this video, but in particular I was chilled by Morozov’s lecture point that currently in Iran, authorities are using the documents left online from the protests as evidence to crack down on the creators (bloggers, posters) and as tools to find the protesters depicted by re-posting pictures of individuals and encouraging people to turn them in.

It reminded me of Milan Kundera’s book/film “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” which takes place during the Prague Spring of 1968 when the Soviet Union and most members of the Warsaw Pact occupied Czechoslovakia to squelch liberal reforms that were taking place at the time. Kundera is Czech and lived in Prague during these historic events. A liberal communist and a patriot, he was deeply committed to Czech communist reforms along with other leaders such as Václav Havel.

Tereza, one of Milan’s main characters in the book, is a photographer struggling for inspiration and is deeply moved by protesters in the streets when the occupation begins. In frenzy, she shoots roll after roll of film and in the chaos, hands her exposed film to someone claiming to be a foreign journalist. The photographs are powerful- I have posted actual photos taken during this time period. With the exception of some suicides and incidents of self-immolation, protests were non-violent and there was no military resistance whatsoever.

Later in the story, Tereza is taken to a place where hoards of people are being interrogated in a large, open space by the occupiers. Scattered throughout the room, light boxes display the images she captured. The people in her photos are the people being interrogated. In Tereza’s photographs, each person is caught in a heroic and passionate movement or act of protest. In the room, the same people are beaten, injured, small and terrified.

Earlier in the film a public statement is made by Tereza’s husband Tomas (who seems to portray Kundera in his youth) asserting that despite lack of prior knowledge, people should be held accountable for the outcomes of their actions. He draws a metaphor that Czechs pandering to the Soviets should eventually claw their eyes out just as Oedipus did when their naïveté eventually and inevitably falls away.

When Tereza realizes the film she shot is being used as evidence, her hands fly to her eyes in horror of what her camera lens has revealed and the consequences her art has sown.

I still cannot look at the images from the Prague Spring of 1968 without getting tears in my eyes and an ache in my heart for the courage and obvious sense of mass betrayal and despair the Czechs collectively felt at the time of the occupation. When I look at Iranian protest photographs such as the women at the top of the page, I wonder if they are still alive. I wonder if any of the bloggers/posters in Iran or other countries like it, are feeling a sense of deep guilt or despair as a result of their online activism being used as evidence to punish those who dared to protest- that is of course, if these individuals themselves survived the subsequent response to their initial courage.

The media may change, but the tactics of oppressive regimes never do.

Ricky Gervais Says Television is Dead…

Blogger as Intelligent Filter POST 1

… and that YouTube is the world’s largest broadcaster.

On The Daily Show April 17th, Ricky Gervais announced that he has started the Ricky Gervais Channel on YouTube. Jon Stewart seemed somewhat surprised that such an enormously gifted talent as Gervais would throw down with the idiocy of cats getting sprayed with coke and Ricky’s answer was that he would sign that cat up and take 90% of his earnings. 

Some of my favorite clips on Ricky’s YouTube channel are the pilot titled “Ricky Gervais Teaches English” and the “Idiot Abroad” series where Ricky and friends seem to relentlessly pick on their friend and straight man Karl. Ricky offers pilots and gets feedback on them from his audience which replaces the old, expensive and time-consuming process of playing bits in front of live audiences to craft and hone content such as was the creative process of many film makers and comedians, like the Marx Brothers for instance. He is completely in control of the content so he can take feedback directly from his audience and change or discontinue as he chooses without contracts or movie studios getting in the way. 

But the thing I found most hilarious and intriguing is that Ricky also talked about his Twitter Feed. Like myself, I have heard a lot of classmates express confusion about how to use Twitter as an element of a successful social media campaign. Ricky is a master. He often turns Twitter in on itself as a tool to analyze and comment on the social media and the people that use it. For example, he offered to donate 10,000 pounds to a charity if no one re-tweeted his offer. Thousands of people re-tweeted. He clarified to NOT re-tweet and again, thousands of people re-tweeted his offer of charity.  “Do you really think I have to think about a Tweet?” Gervais asked. He pulled this stunt in the car on his way to The Daily Show. 

Still from Ricky’s new film, Derek

He often re-tweets his followers- especially the hecklers who did not fully think about what they were tweeting. It is the easiest comedy writing that ever was- he has abundant content without writing a word himself! Everything is free, engaging and entertaining. And at the same time, he is linking to Australian reviews of his new  film, Derek. Sounds like Gervais has taken some points from Meerman Scott. Did I mention that there are also links to Ricky’s Web page and Blog? It’s a social media 360 and a really good example to all of us of how one man has used social media to create interest and engagement, entertain, and above all, promote himself in a way that makes us want to observe and participate.

Since an element of truth is the essence of quality humor, comedians often make the best teachers. I signed up to follow Ricky on Twitter not only because I know he’ll make me laugh. I know that his pranks, re-tweets and interaction with his followers will give me valuable insight into social media- and we’ll have lots of fun along the way.