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Month: March 2005

Still not king

Answer: not. The big snag in forming an Iraqi government is, as expected, whether or not Kirkuk winds up in Kurdish hands or not. Add to this the Kurdish insistence on maintaining their own separate militia, and what you’ve basically got is a demand for functional independence plus a big chunk of the Iraq oil reserves.

It is, to say the least, difficult for the Shiite majority to agree. Turkey is still very edgy about Kurdish independence. I don’t know how this gets resolved, short of the Kurds compromising.

It is perhaps relevant that the current leader of Iraq, Allawi, has absolutely no incentive at all to resolve this crisis. The moment a new government is formed, he’s out in the cold. Well, he’s leader of the minority bloc — but if he was in any position to be part of a coalition government, he’d already have done so, and the Kurds wouldn’t be a problem.

2d6 envelopes

The 2005 Origins Awards nominees have been announced. The nomination process was very different this year; in each category, a jury voted on the nominated products in order to select five nominees. Some of the results are fairly interesting. At first glance, I can’t say I think the process was a success.

The Best Role-Playing Game category is fairly heavy on the retreads. In particular, Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game is not a new role-playing game by any definition. The Authority RPG is borderline. A new edition of GURPS seems reasonable — oh, but of the five jury members for this category, two of them were Steve Jackson Games staffers last year. Well, OK, then.

And there’s no wholly new product among the nominees. Surely at least one of the five top products from last year was fresh and new?

Best Role-Playing Game Supplement, which shares the same jury as Best Role-Playing Game, has two GURPS supplements on the list of nominees. Gotcha. I will say that I agree that all the nominees I’ve read on the list are very good. Um, but there are six nominees listed, and the rules say there should be five.

I can’t really claim expertise on the other categories, so I won’t comment on them. The full list of nominees is in the extended portion of this post, for the curious.

Lose the key

My friend Jere pointed out, quite accurately, that the question isn’t really “what did the kid in Kentucky write about?” The question is “when did we start arresting people for writing stories, no matter how disturbed?” Or, perhaps, “when did we stop trusting parents to raise kids and deal with problem situations?”

It’s probably relevant that the biggest policy victory (pending) for the Democrats over the last few years has been Social Security, on which issue they’re coming down on the side of the government protecting people. We really like being protected these days.

Eating our own flesh

Remember the kid in Kentucky who got in trouble for writing a story about zombies taking over his high school? It’s more complicated than he claimed. According to local police, there weren’t any zombies in the stories, and there’s more to the case against him than just some fiction.

I did a little poking around to see if I could find anything out about this “No Limited Soldiers” gang. The only sign of it on Google is, um, a Command and Conquer clan. Their page seems to be down. I found their home page on, and whois data shows that the domain is registered to someone in the Netherlands, so probably no connection there.

In defense of something or other, the kid’s teachers still look like they’re overly nervous. They’re on record saying that “they had not assigned such a story or talked to him about it — and had they seen it, they would have been obligated to report him to authorities.” Zombies are scary. Overreaction to zombies makes me wonder if the police didn’t overreact to something else.

Or, hey, the kid could be a junior whacko who was thinking seriously about armed revolt. Hard to tell at this point.

Whose domino?

The United Iraqi Alliance/Kurd talks are not going well. I’m saddened, if not surprised. While it’s certainly not unprecedented to have no clear winner a month after polls close, there’s no sign of the deadlock lifting. I suppose we’ll see what happens in three days.

For all the talk about how the Iraqi election was the first domino, and about how recent events in Syria and Egypt are more dominos falling, I can’t help but wonder if the dominos represent democracy. Populism? Almost definitely. The ability of the people to force regime change? Sure. Newly found bravado for Shiites throughout the Middle East? Hm.

There are pro-democracy protests in Lebanon, but right now, the Shiite protests are larger. It’s good that the Saudi government is loosening up, but it would be foolish to ignore the fact that protests in Saudi Arabia are likewise Shiite-driven.

We’ll find out, one way or another.

Pop beat

I had this entry going where I was trying to contextualize M.I.A. and talk about influences and stuff, but screw it, truth is I don’t know about about the British music scene to do that. So here’s a 17 meg QuickTime video. Square-wave synth beats — very video-game — with a melodic poppy rap going on over them, and a tribal chorus that takes over the song by the end. The imagery is pop violence; her father is (to some unspecified degree) connected with the Tamil Tigers. Careless appropriation of terrorism chic? Conscious rebranding? Damned if I know.

I sort of think conscious, though. The music’s too pop culture literate for this to be accidental. She name checks Jimi Hendrix and the Clash, and the whole thing is primitive sophisticate: raw talent filtered through limited resources. One Roland synth is all she needed, plus tri-continental influences and bam, there it is. There’s an interview somewhere, I can’t find it again, where she’s talking about her clothing and how in Sri Lanka people just make what they need. That seems to be to be both very true and a very conscious statement about her music slash image.

Insert obligatory Gibson reference here. Seriously, though, this is what he was talking about.

She has a Web site which is huge Flash that takes over your screen. But there’s more music there if you don’t feel like downloading 17 megs. Now, if only the big MP3 archive of her mixtape would come back…

Addendum: there’s a nifty Bollywood/Galang mashup here.

Big music

Sure, you can listen to a lot of interesting singles by way of MP3 blogs — but SXSW just published a BitTorrent torrent containing 2.6 gigs of music from bands which will be playing at this year’s SXSW. That’s 713 songs and almost two straight days of music.

Boston locals who want a copy of it without the 1+ day download period should get in touch with me.