Jul 25, 2012

Justice and Black

Apartheid, segregation, racism, affirmative action, civil rights movement, "sans-papiers" in France, etc... Strong phrases and expressions linked in a way or another to the (just or unjust ??) treatment some people receive because of certain physical traits. What course of action to take to eradicate these? Why can't we all just get along?

After following the long and tiring Health Care a.k.a. Obamacare feud over the past year or so and following the recent US supreme court decision to uphold the controversial law, I have been looking a little bit into this not so public branch of the US government: The Judiciary.  
My investigation led me straight to one of the 9 most powerful people of that branch: Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the USA. He is the second black man in that position after the beloved Thurgood Marshall, and because of his very strong conservative beliefs and rulings, he is portrayed by many in the African-American community as a traitor or at least a hypocrite because he is in favor of striking down many of the laws that create governmental programs to help minorities, some of which he might have profited himself to get to the top of the chain.

Personally, I disagree with him on many issues, but I can't help acquiescing to his idea that minorities (Black, Hispanic, Women, etc...) cannot possibly keep fighting for their God-given right to be considered at the exact same level as the corresponding majority and then insist on having special treatment policies based on the fact that they are different. 
For example, Justice Thomas argues that preferential treatment under the pretense of affirmative action or equal opportunity employment/admission will build "a cult of victimization", i.e. it implies that minorities REQUIRE special treatment to succeed. I feel uneasy every time I hear the argument that affirmative action should be in place to repay for the historical discrimination. Do not get me wrong, I am not against it, I just believe a better argument could be presented, such as the fact that statistics have demonstrated that individuals from minority groups tend to excel when given the opportunity, especially those from a more or less poor background, it's a fact.

We could probably debate some of these ideas, but it doesn't underplay the fact that Justice Thomas is one of the most important figures of contemporary history and definitely a man worth knowing. Check out his interview on 60 minutes.

The (Not so) Normal Heart

OK! So, it looks like I might be falling in love with staged theater (thanks Fauna! #Sarcasm), who knew? Well a few days ago I went to watch my first professional Broadway play, at the gorgeous Arena Stage: The Normal Heart

The Tony award winning show written by Larry Kramer is a passion-filled count of the experiences, mostly horrific, of a few gay activists in New York City, during the early days of the HIV pandemic.
It would have been cool if Jim Parsons (Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory) was actually playing; he was in the original Broadway crew, but was not available for the DC tour. 

At any rate, I had no background info on the play until I got there: I was mostly in an artistic mission, looking not at the depicted story, but all the other external aspects of such a production, i.e. anything that would convince me to abandon my TV (acting, clothing, stage props, decoration, lighting, etc...), and from my front row seat (a man can brag!!) my eyes were right where they needed to be.

Verdict: I was mesmerized! The level of production is phenomenal. The fast-paced dialogue and change in between scenes, the details in the clothing, the choice of lighting sequence and the acting, etc... It's amazing what they can achieve with a hospital bed, a table and 3 chairs. I think I understand why I love Aaron Sorkin so much, as he was first a playwright before migrating to television.

Because I was so captivated by the production, I had to listen to the story which although has brought a third of the crowd to tears, lacked perspective in my opinion. The author chose to make his points almost only from a unique view, that of the modern LGBT: open, proud and loud, not afraid to get out not only from the closet but also from the house and their comfort zones to challenge the system, not hesitating to use questionable political maneuvers. The lead character Ned and his doctor Emma are prime examples and their monologue is very touching. The obvious goal from the playwright and director was to get to the heart of the crowd, but they somewhat failed to get to me.
I feel like some of the other characters could have been used a little more to bring other viewpoints: The other two activists, for example, who preferred to make back-room deals and concessions without trying the issue front and center, maybe because they were afraid to lose their job (I am thinking about the guy from the city's Health Services who had been fighting for gay rights even before the HIV issue) or other consequences to their actions.

No matter what I think of this, I feel very strongly about the quality of the show presented on that stage, and well now theater is definitely on my list of sources of entertainment.

P.S: Oh and yeah, the Jewish jokes were on point ;)

Jun 25, 2012

Aaron Sorkin "Reaching for the Stars"

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you the future hottest show on TV: "The Newroom". I just watched the premiere of this a few hours ago, and I am already hooked. I can't wait for my Sunday dose!

The HBO show is a fiction showing the backdrops of news TV shows. In this day and age where the role of the media is central to shaping the future of nations, numerous news organizations around the world are prone to political bias and misinformation campaigns for profit (ahem, Fair and Balanced ;). The Newsroom attempts at an ideal news show where the listener is not considered dumb, and accurate facts are presented without a spin, letting the viewers derive their own conclusions (watch trailer below).

To be fair though I have been looking forward to this for the longest time. Indeed, this show is written by my favorite screenplay writer of all time (he co-created and wrote half of my favorite TV show of all time The West Wing): Aaron Sorkin. He simply is a genius and his dialogues are like music to my ears: a pure joy!

The title of this post is inspired by a recurring theme in Sorkin's work. In a couple of President Bartlet's speeches in the show the West Wing, you can hear the following phrase "This is a time for american heroes. We will do what is great, we will do what is hard. This is a time for american heroes and We Reach For The Stars!!". In the premiere of The Newsroom, again, one of the characters (pretty girl with a British accent), also talked about "Reaching for the stars", when convincing the main character that they could do a worthy news show together, no matter their history (just watch the show!!).

You may not like the politically driven type of shows, but just for the art, give it a try!

Jun 22, 2012

Breaking the Rules for a better Tomorrow

Society: a bunch of entities interconnected and related through geography,physiognomy,  "culture", "beliefs" and/or institutions. The human version of this is quite fascinating: multicultural yet global, chaotic yet organized in its own way.That's where the Rules come in: laws derived from common sense, approved by the commoners and enforced for the common Good! 
These rules are however more tested and contested than not, more bypassed and purposely misinterpreted than not.Just think about the percentage of the world's population in jail, the number of crimes, the number of activists, the amount of law enforcement and military personnel out there. 

Rules are meant to be broken and often are, or to the least misused and abused for personal gain. My argument is simple: breaking the rules is not a nemesis to progress, on the contrary, it induces it. Indeed, because of infractions and through the complaints of activists and revolutionists, laws are repealed, modified and created; i.e. "mistakes themselves are often the best teachers of all".

Lets now look at all this from the computing technology perspective. The Society here is the Internet (diverse, interconnected, global) and other communication channels. Hackers play the roles of rule breakers, eager to test the system in place and show/fix weaknesses. Unfortunately, very few global rules exist, leaving the society at the mercy of wrongdoers.

Anonymous, Cyberwarfare, Viruses, Trojan horses, Malware, Stuxnet, Flame, stolen Linkedin passwords hashes, botnets, cell-phone hijacking, software key generators, illegal music and video download, Web vulnerabilities (SQL Injections, Cross-Site Scripting), privacy policies on websites, etc... These infinite avenues to abuse the system for fun and profit have got governments and cyber-security experts on high alert. What can we do to stop or at least reduce this?

White-hat hackers of the world, this is a calling: Learn how to break the rules, and use that knowledge to the make the Interweb a better place.

Also, check out this interesting conversation between Gary Mc Graw and Bruce Schneier, two big names in cyber-security: click here.

Mar 1, 2012

So You Think You Can....... Run For Office?

While at  a birthday celebration, some pictures of me were taken in a questionable state (you know C2H5OH) and I asked not to be shot again, just like I always do (not very photogenic), justifying my request by saying that I did not want these pictures to pop out years from now when I am campaigning for a public office . The joke flirted with my brain probably because I have been following the ongoing US presidential republican primary elections and I am shocked by how the most meaningless controversies are used to bring down adversaries.
I would have probably forgotten about this stuff if it wasn't for one sentence that one of my good friends, who was also in a happy place, said as a rebuttal to my comment: "Yeah, I could see you run for office". On the spot, I did not react to it, but its been bogging my mind since then. What in the world is there about me that shouts trustworthy or acclaimed leader and public servant, I have no idea... Heck I'm not sure I would vote for myself, I don't think I have seen enough of the world to be a leader of men.With that said, let's assume I actually do have the necessary predispositions. On what grounds, where, how and for what kind of office could I possibly seek election? (Notice that I said election and not nomination by an elected official).

In the US first of all, there is very little chance of that happening, I would probably need to start at a very local position in a county and maybe work my way up to congress or gubernatorial positions and besides these usually require the subject to have the U.S. citizenship (for at least 7 years to seek the House of Representatives), which is not a possibility for me right now. However, if I had a choice, I would definitely be registered independent as I am not from around here and i am already fed up by all the partisans woes.
My best bet is then in my beloved Cameroon, even though the current regulations in place do not encourage a young mind to come and serve and the environment is not really prone to people with a strict sense of duty and morality (not that I have any). If I manage to overcome these big walls that cloud the political spectrum, there is still the challenge of the message I would pass to the constituents I hope to represent. In the specific case of Cameroon, there is this concept (actually true or not) that the only way the country is gonna get better is by killing everybody that is older than 10 as they are already corrupted. My personal belief is that development is not happening majorly (not the only reason but i think the most important one) because the population does not love their country anymore.. I mean they wish they could (just looking at how patriotic we get when our soccer team is playing), but the condition in which their family live is a civic deal breaker. My campaign platform will then be based on restoring the pride and patriotism (Paix-Travail-Patrie n'est ce pas?). A tentative slogan would then be:

Fier d'etre Camerounais!
Proud to be Cameroonian!               

So would you vote for me if you had a chance? Why or why not?

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