Sunday, April 18, 2010

Net Neutrality

Here's a good video I found explaining what Net Neutrality is, and why it's so important. Now, we are so accustomed to the freedom that we experience on the internet, but it's not difficult to imagine how quickly companies that have money idealogical interests, i.e. Rupert Murdoch could infiltrate internet consumption and prevent the free flow of information. I don't think the internet has been harnessed to its full potential for good...yet. But I do think that if the neutrality is not protected, it will almost certainly begin to be used as a tool for those that do not have individuals best interests at heart. Speak up for Net Neutrality!

Here's the video:

Visit to speak against this.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

New Orleans Has A Caveat

In many ways, this past weekend was a New Orleans classic for me. I rushed home from work, ran to the shower and was on Frenchmen within 20 minutes. After mixing my flask of whiskey with some diet I bought from the market, I met up with a friend from out of town and ran into a two groups of friends on the street. We all went into the bar together and drank pitchers of Andygator until we decided to walk two blocks to the other great bar. We drank more, my friend from out of town went to Bourbon with a girl I just introduced her to, and I end up in my bed realizing my wallet was still at the bar. Damn.

Spent the afternoon on Saturday having one of the best philosophical conversations of my life, then drove to Mid-City and went to a friend of a friend's birthday crawfish boil. Ate so much crawfish I felt a little ill and started to feel like these people I'd just met were going to end up being the best friends of my life. Exhausted, found out Rebirth was playing for free at the French Quarter Fest and we all pile into an SUV. I sit in the way-back and get to watch the city move backwards.

Eventually we park, go to the port-o-potties by the aquarium. A drunk tourist screams that "You just can't fucking trust these people in New Orleans" and the girl behind me tells me and the guy behind me, all of us strangers, "I really like the people in New Orleans.". We all smile and nod in agreement.

We dissolve into the crowd. Rebirth is in the last 20 minutes of their set. The sun is setting behind the stage that is right on the Mississippi river. A fucking steam boat passes as they play for god sakes. They're really grooving now, the songs are well over 8 minutes, the transitions between tunes difficult to parse out. I can't help but bounce my butt up and down and simultaneously feel like they're singing the most profound lyrics I've ever heard. Is there ever a moment when Do Watcha Wanna doesn't feel deeply, penetratingly true, completely undeniable? I feel exalted, heavenly, of a special breed. How is it that I have been lucky enough to be from, to truly be a part of, the best city in the entire world? Is there anywhere else where pure joy like this is allowed its rightful position as ultimate, singular goal? It seems that the rest of the world is constantly trying to carve out a time for these activities, to neatly differentiate from 'festive' time, where this ecstasy is permitted, and 'regular' time, where things are not suppose to be this fun, where we must do things that we all know are unpleasant, where this is the definition of work. Where we are suppose to pretend that we are all just individuals who happen to be residing in a similar area, not a community. Live our lives as if we are just trying to tolerate each other's intrusions on our privacy, instead of realizing it is precisely those intrusions that make us who we are. We are not suppose to stand together, young and old, rich and poor, black and white, hispanic and asian, and dance to the music that resides in all of our bellies. We are not to bask in the glorious connectedness that makes all of us feel whole again, knowing that everyone in this community is united in similar pleasures, supported by familiar pains.

I end the night on Frenchmen street. I order the drinks friends miles away might order, and reminisce to another friend about drinks we all had together, some other night. It's like everyone whose ever lived New Orleans with me is with me when I'm back with her. I spend a while talking to an older black man who runs a theater company on the Westbank. We talk about the racism that is implicit in our conversation, even when we don't feel any judgment from each other, as some of my white friends come to ask me if I'm okay. And still, we connect. Eventually, I get a ride home with some people from the Crawfish boil. Our walk across the city leaves us all desperate for the bathroom. The driver negotiates with the valet at the hotel. We end up parking for free.

When I get home, I log on to Nola.COM, buzzed from the high of such a classic New Orleans weekend. And then the Headline reads: 7 SHOT AT CHARTRES AND CANAL ST., LEAVING THE FRENCH QUARTER FESTIVAL. New Orleans has a caveat.

This is a real crisis.

New Orleans must fundamentally remake its police department and larger criminal justice system so that it can effectively uphold the law and pursue justice and safety for its residents. It is not about the pursuit of a flowery ideal – criminal-justice reform is a matter of life and death for the residents of New Orleans more than it is about avoiding more international embarrassment and shame.

There is also the matter of race. There is simply no denying that the consequences of our broken criminal justice system disproportionately harm the African American community. It isn’t just that there is a racist subtext (and obvious context) to be condemned while examining the attitudes of NOPD officers toward suffering African American New Orleans residents stranded in September 2005. It is the patently disproportionate harm experienced by African American residents throughout the criminal justice system. While the NOPD crisis is such that everyone can share in their disgust, there is simply no denying the historical precedent within the African American community." --

4/12/10, @The Lens by Eli Ackerman

New Orleans, no matter how glorious, how heavenly, how purposeful it seems, has an equally horrific caveat, a taste of the devil and his destruction paired with every manna like bite. Until this wound heals, descriptions of New Orleans will always--SHOULD always have a but. We can not toast to its recovery when our citizens are dying in its streets. I'm as guilty of this as anybody. When outsiders ask about the crime rates, I tell them, "Oh you don't have to worry about it, nothing will happen to you, because you're rich and white. Crime does not effect people like us." All the time denying, that the crime IS us. That we basically ignore these things that go on in our streets defines who we are as individuals. As we let it continue and carry on with our lives, we turn a blind eye to horrible suffering that we could potentially do something about.

I often struggle with, well what could I do? There are too many factors, too many causes, too many unsolvable situations. Luckily, the Silence is Violence organization has provided a great start. And just imagine the kind of power they could have if we all dedicated a day, or two, to volunteer with this organization? The point is not that we could definitely solve the problem. Rather, the gesture would recognize our role in perpetuating violence: simply that we do not speak out against it loud enough, and do our part to make the city whole again. If you love New Orleans, your words can not be against the people who are bearing the brunt of this violence. This is not us vs. them, an argument, a time to point fingers, a time to fight . This should be a call for peace. A recognition of our mutual, eternal, essential human agreement, that we allow each other to live.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I don't think we should have causes anymore. This is not to say that we should ignore the worlds problems. But rather that causes create a dogmatic 'us vs. them' mentality. They perpetuate the idea that there are certain causes one can choose to fight for or not, and the strength of your engagement in that fight is equivalent to the moral fortitude of your character. I think this keeps a lot of people out of doing what is good and right for the world, which is exactly what causes are created to promote.

Don't get me wrong: adopting a cause takes a lot of guts, and really representing it takes a lot of hard work. Fair or not, if you declare that eradicating sweatshops is extremely important to the world, you're gonna get a lot of flack from people who just don't care about sweatshops, or resent you for making them feel guilty about their Nikes or their tees. Plus, if you dedicate yourself to the cause, and you want to have some success in your life, the fight is EXTREMELY difficult and long. Even if you work your butt off, you may never see any significant change for what you were fighting for. And I know there are countless numbers of individuals who engage in this struggle on a daily basis without judgment, suspicion or cynicism of others who are not a part of the fight.

But I have also met those that strongly represent causes, be they political, health-related, civil rights, environmental, etc, that were often too quick to write you off as one of 'them'. If you didn't sign their petition or knock on doors or whatever else was really urgent to them right then, you were part of the problem instead of the solution. Not unlike religious dogma, their conviction that their cause is the right one is only confirmed by societal rejection. Drawing lines between those that 'see' or 'know' what's really going on and those that don't, the world becomes a constant battle, and those who represent 'causes' can always find ways to feel like the enemy is everywhere. That conspiracy theories abound in some of the most entrenched literature of these causes is not surprising. It seems to me that there is no quicker way to feel isolated, judgmental and cynical about the state of the outside world.

I think my uneasiness with causes comes down to a basic challenge that I've struggled quite a bit. Ok, I want to be a good person, and do something that is good for the world. But which cause? Believe it or not, I don't think that this is a rare goal of individuals. (I really do believe that most people want to be good, and want to do things that are at least non-harmful to others or society in general. I know some will disagree with this, but I don't think it is a matter of knowable fact, and thus I feel that my faith in it is both justified and beneficial.) So what should I do?

The sheer number of causes, of issues and problems that one could approach is daunting. Beyond that--I feel strongly that my choice would be arbitrary. Sure, I could dedicate my life to infectious diseases in 3rd world countries. But why not try to save the rainforests in Brazil? That you have to 'pick one', and 'do something' is a fine enough answer, but hardly a good reason to convince others they should join the fight. And how can you ever expect to really make progress if you can't even justify to yourself why one cause should be fought for over another?

And thus, I think the current structure of activism is backwards. To be good, I do not think we fight for causes that represent problems we want to solve. Instead, we should observe ourselves more closely, and solve the problems for which we are the cause.

I'm not suggesting that this is easier than adopting a cause--I don't think it is. There are a lot of problems that we contribute to without realizing it, and discovering these transgressions is difficult and at times uncomfortable and unpleasant work. And yet, it is in some ways easier to know where to start. As a taxpayer in New Orleans, my money causes the disfunction that I observe in my city. Because I don't voice my opinion to my elected representation, I fail to do my part to solve the problem. As someone who drives a car, I am a cause of global warming and of the harmful relationship our country has with oil. Because I don't pay close attention or attempt to ration my use of gas, I fail to do my part to solve the problem. And so on and so on.

More importantly, approaching doing good this way will eventually free individuals from having to represent ideals instead of themselves. I think living as a solution, or as someone committed to solving only the problems they directly contribute to, will make the responsibility more balanced and allow people to be more in tune with themselves instead of the external issues that surround them.

I certainly, as usual, don't claim to have succeeded in doing what I suggest here. And I don't know if I'm saying anything much more complicated than 'do your part' or 'be a part of the solution'. But sometimes, just writing them down brings them that much closer to happening, and sometimes, the simplest things are worth saying again.

***P.S> I want to in general give more credit to all my amazing friends/family who, w/o the conversations I have with them I would never get half the ideas that I do, so thanks for all the other ones I should have and for this one esp. David and Jordan B.!***

Thursday, April 1, 2010

DIY U out in stores!!


My sister's book, DIY U has hit the shelves/palms. I'm so excited about it. It's really shocking for me to realize that almost half of the people that start college never finish. Further, only about 1/3 of people in America have a degree at all. And yet, a vast majority of people in this country believe that without a college degree you'll never have a decent career, and if you can't finish school you're either lazy, stupid or some combination thereof. It's very limiting for young people trying to figure out what to do with their lives. Our world is changing rapidly and we need an educational system that will change with it. Anya impressively outlines how the system we have currently was put in place, and why it is failing so many today. Most importantly, it provides empowerment to the reader that is interested in fixing the problem for themselves.

When I was a senior in high school my sister gave me "The Teenage Liberation Handbook". After being in school for 12 years, the idea of going to college was totally daunting to me. It was an amazing breath of fresh air to be exposed to the idea that systemized education is not for everyone. After I read it though, we talked about how ideas like the one in that book were so fringe people didn't take them seriously. I feel like Anya is really packaging this message in way that can reach a much broader audience and I am so proud of her for that! I hope you'll read the book out and see her on tour. Don't forget to check out the site:

IN NEW HAVEN: Labryinth Bookstore, Saturday April 10th, 3pm
IN NEW YORK: Vox Pop Bookstore, 1022 Cortelyou Road, Brooklyn, Sunday April 11th 4pm
Bluestockings Bookstore, 172 Allen Street, Wed, April 21, 7pm
IN NEW ORLEANS: Octavia Books, 513 Octavia, Tuesday, May 4th at 6pm