Monthly Archives: January 2009

Journalism and Gaza

I read Ethan Bronner’s article today in the New York Times, “Bullets in my Inbox,” and I thought he did a very good job summing up how hard it is to navigate reporting the story of the Israel/Palestine conflict. So much is based on narrative, definition of terms, context/history, and perceived hidden biases/agendas. The idea of narratives and definitions made me think of this great book I read, “The Culture of Conformism: Understanding Social Consent,” by Patrick Hogan (though I wish he would publish an updated edition; the first is from early 2001, before Sept. 11, and is really before the Bush Presidency and the Iraq War, though Hogan does talk a lot about Desert Storm).

Anyway, re: Ethan Bronner’s Times’ article, I really understand in terms of looming deadlines and the struggle to be fair in one’s reporting, how much of the time, reporters don’t think one way other the other about an agenda or bias. However, just because they’re not explicitly thinking about it, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t seep through. We all have biases, we all have agendas and everything is politics. I believe that there is no such thing as objective reporting, but that there is a thing called fair reporting.

Bronner points out that Israel banned all foreign journalists from Gaza during the three week assault on the narrow strip of land (which has been under a near total blockade since 2005, and had been fully occupied by the Israeli military before that). What happened was that you had all these foreign journalists reporting from towns in southern Israel that were being hit by Hamas’ rockets. As such, in the West, we didn’t see the death, damage and destruction in Gaza; instead we saw the aftermath of rocket attacks on civilians in southern Israel. The proportionality of what we saw did not match reality. It is crucially important to point out that over 1300 Palestinians died in Gaza (many if not most of them civilians), while 13 Israelis died. That is a 100:1 ratio of death. There is no getting around that fact when telling this story.

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Some Fall 2008 work

I’ve been plenty busy with graduate school as well as other obligations, but I just wanted to point to some of the work I did in the Fall semester at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism:

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A New Era of Hope

President Obama

President Obama

I’m still pinching myself every time I hear a news anchor refer to President Obama, or when I see a picture of the president with a caption that describes him as such. In some ways I feel as if I woke up in a dream. I watched history be made last Tuesday along with millions of others. Then as Barack and Michelle Obama made their way along the post-inauguration parade route, it seemed so surreal. Yet I am filled with hope for this country’s future despite the overwhelming nature of problems the U.S. (and the world) faces. But to be optimistic is the only wise course at this time. If there is a chance that we all get through these next few years or decades, we have to be optimistic that true change will come. I just hope it all translates into reality.

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Into the New Year

It is 2009. Frightening how fast time moves sometimes. And it only seems to go faster. I have this theory on why time seems to move faster and faster the older we get. Let’s call it the “Fraction of Age” theory, just for fun. The theory is, as follows: When you are seven years old, you experience one year as 1/7 of the time you are alive. But when you 14 years old, you experience one year as 1/14 of the time you are alive. And as such, when you are 26, one year is about 1/26 of the time you are alive. So each year that goes by, you think, “Wow this year went by so quickly — seems faster than last year.” And, according to my theory, it has, at least in terms of your life experience as measured in years. One-seventh is a much larger (in terms of time, “longer”) fraction than 1/14, which is larger (longer) than 1/16 and so on. Think about it. Time accelerates. Speaking of time, have you seen The Curious Case of Benjamin Button? Just was nominated for 13 Academy Awards. I wonder if my theory would apply to Mr. Button… but have the opposite effect? He is born as an old man, and ages backward, getting younger over his lifetime. So, for him, does each consecutive year seem longer than the last year. Of course, one could argue that if we’re talking about life experience — years spent alive — he would be no different than any of us, he just physically ages younger. And then I remind myself it’s just a movie. But a good one. I recommend it (if you don’t mind slow movies — it clocks in at about two hours and 45 minutes).

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Brooklyn Sculptor Builds Community, Using Shop Artists as his Parts

By Kieran K. Meadows

Industrial shop machines clutter the inside of a gutted former church on Pioneer Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The roof rises about 60 feet and a steep wooden staircase leads to a loft-like second floor. Orange extension cords snake along catwalk-like structures and thick ropes hang from wooden rafters. Inside a room on the second floor, methodical instructions cover worktable surfaces reminiscent of a plant assembly line.

A small tour of three artists wound its way around the studio space, intrigued by the organized chaos—a cross between a shop artists’ funhouse and endless storage space.

“There are about 1,000 parts in Raining Tree,” boasted Chico MacMurtrie, the artistic director of Amorphic Robot Works, as he pointed to a large silvery tree-like structure slumped in storage. At one point the tree was a robotic installation that responded to the presence of viewers by moving and dripping water rhythmically from its branches.

“I need hands all the time,” MacMurtrie said to the group—a sculptor, a painter, and a seamstress. “I can’t always pay, but I can feed you.”

MacMurtrie, 47, calls himself a robotic sculptor. He founded Amorphic Robot Works in 1991 as a collaboration of artists, engineers and programmers to help him realize his mechanical kinetic sculptures. Much of MacMurtrie’s work consists of many small parts that must fit perfectly and move together for the sculpture to function. In many ways, his work serves as a metaphor for the way he runs his studio: like another one of his machines, but with artists and co-workers as the integral parts.

“The people here are like the components,” MacMurtrie said.

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