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Bleeding red April 29, 2006

Posted by Matt Hurst in Uncategorized.
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It was at the end of an exam when I got the call but couldn’t answer for fear of invalidation. An associate of mine, Miss Manley, had scored the kind of fix that junkies of a different breed have been known to sacrifice half a year’s salary for – two Cardinals tickets. It’s all I needed to hear. I heard myself muttering out loud “what the hell? take the ticket, offer the ride”.
The NEW Busch Stadium is the latest is high-tech gimmickry and Authentic Baseball Expeince(TM). A marvellous collosium built almost overnight, in the downtown of a second-rate metropolitan city. NEW Busch represent the culmination of thousands of years of architecture with the hegemony of cultural imperialism. For the affordable cost of a $430 million bond to be payed over the next 30 years by the taxpayers of St. Louis County, we have been promised a stadium so electirfying accross the Cardinal nation that tourism would exceed that of the Gateway Arch. All things considered, NEW Busch Stadium has the charecterising quality of looking exactly like every NEW baseball park built in the past several years – this is a baseball town after all.
Walking into the park past the massive brick facade you are immediately impressed by the ambience of the corridors; a tasteful mix of generic stadium “gourmet” food stands with television scrren tuned to the game and an overhead filled with exposed piping that reminds you of your favorite discount chain store. Only further down do you enter the exposed open air sections, offering great views of the countless sponsored sections of the park (you are after all in “Ford Family Pavillion”). There is seldom a crowd making their way to seats, if only because there are nearly half as many seats in NEW Busch as OLD Busch – they have to advertise somewhere. But NEW Busch is more than just a place to watch a baseball game; it is a family entertainment destination, filled with carnival style pitch-speed games and a “Build-a-bear” workshop.
As we made our way to our seats (two rows behind the centerfield line) and the game got underway, we couldn’t help but notice the visual extravanganza around us. Even with our back turned to the megatron video scoreboard there were full color, wrap around lcd displays between seat levels. They are there for one singular (heh) purpose – to offer advertising inteaction of a new, deeper level. Sure, you could watch a baseball game, but you could also watch and submit text messages from the crowd’s cell phone users. I watched with eager intrigue – would the crowd use the merging of technology as a public paging system or like a chat room. AS it became obvious that the crowd was more interested in giving public shout outs and decries, I knew I had to make my own contribution. I won’t name the wireless communications company running this $2.99 per message operation, except to say they purvey in their own “family pavillion” (there are 2 I found), who isn’t ready to let the know that “Brian, I’m gay – Dolly”. This is after all a family ballpark, right Bubba?
In case you actually cared, the Cardinals played the Pittsberg Pirates like a salmon plays with a girzzly bear. To say that the Cardinals have a good shot at the pennant this season would be like calling the midterm elections a good chance for the Democratic party. That might be a poor example to follow, but the primary difference is that the Cardinals might actually create this opportunity. They have been second only to a team in New York who share a similar frustration with the Red Sox over the past several years, yet haven’t won a World Series since 1982. But hell, it’s not like I work for The Sporting News (who seem to make this pick every year). Consitancy is a rare thing for franchises in this cuthroat league where the team with the largest payroll will always be consistant.
The only constant, change, is what led me here. This is a whole new game, a whole new park. If a $7 plastic bottle of local beer (sold natonally) isn’t much to your liking, you can always have your publishing company buy one of the new club boxes (double those in OLD Busch). From there you should have a catch a clear view of the eastern downtown skyline (from the open section of the park facing the arch), the unfinshed seat sections immideiately to their left, or at least a glimpse of your companies’ advertised section (double points for fast food chains). Anything but baseball. Even the least affluent fans below and above them can grab a taste of the sweet life at a cost within reach; it is only a short walk around to the bar behind home plate. Imagine the luxury of watching a game in plastic seats, sipping eagerly on your premium ginintonic.
In between innings, your thereby necessary visit to the restroom represents the fullest in gender equality. Despite the controversy over inadiquate numbers of bathroom fixtures, disproportionately favoring men’s facilities, you’ll find no gender bias in the park. Men wait in line just as far outside their respective restrooms as those provided for the fairer sex. In case you wonder, the line is even longer if you want to sit. There isn’t even a need to take an additional smoking break, as the designated smoking areas of the ballpark are located immediately outside the restrooms. No need to however, as I worked my way back to my seat with a plate full of thinly disgusised funnel cake: the drink straws will do the trick for you.
Yes sir, nothing is more American than going to a baseball game.

i’m out (as of tommorow) April 29, 2006

Posted by Matt Hurst in Uncategorized.
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From the Myspace terms of service:

“By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content, messages, text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, profiles, works of authorship, or any other materials (collectively, “Content”) on or through the Services, you hereby grant to MySpace.com, a non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, worldwide license…”

“The Fog of War” and Iraq April 27, 2006

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I have seen “the Fog of War” before, and own a copy of my own. The format of the film really gives Robert Mnamera a chance to tell his side of history, and a controversial period of history at that. In some ways the documentary is enlightening on the process of reasonable people in the time of war. You can understand the judgments made at the time in the way he is able to explain them – the domino theory, saber rattling, and other pragmatic assessments with the given understanding and intelligence. In other ways he has been given the benefit of hindsight to make his judgments on. However, this alone does not make his lessons any less significant or applicable to policy informed philosophically. The lessons McNamera offers are well understood through the examples in his own life that he offers, though I’m not sure how much a lesson in maximizing efficiency has to offer us. Most of these pragmatic lessons can be applied to the art of politics quite well, and a few apply generally well to our everyday expenses. 

One of the lessons that ought to have been applied or at least considered in the run up to the Iraq war was Lesson #7 – “Belief and seeing are both often wrong”. Especially considering the mind set of many in America in the run-up to the war in Iraq, many of the justifications for the war fell flat on their face. In presuming that Saddam Hussein was interested in pursuing the development of weapons of mass destruction, the administration was acting on prejudiced attitudes towards their regime. This is probably why the administration still insists that Saddam Hussein’s regime itself was a threat to the United States, because they believe that he would have pursued WMDs even if he didn’t have any when we invaded. These beliefs of intent translated the administration’s perception of anything they could see in Iraq. Spy satellite photos were famously presented as evidence before the United Nations of military trucks moving between bases – they would then be identified as mobile weapons laboratories. When people talk about how the intelligence for the war was “Fixed” around administration hostilities, they are talking about seeing and then interpreting anything as a threatening action. Even without retrospect, the public (much less the administration) should have questioned the evidence for themselves rather than relying on provided evidence to be true – most of it fell on its face before the war began.
Because the evidence used as justification for the Iraq war was not carefully considered the first time around, the administration ought to have followed Lesson # 8: “Be prepared to re-examine your reasoning”. After all, even if we can presume that Saddam was intent on getting WMD capacity he cannot simply will these weapons into reality. When the Iraqi regime produced a list of how previously existing WMD (the one’s the US gave him in the 1980s) had been destroyed and their factories disabled, the US still presumed he still had some – the Kurdish massacre used as evidence that he had them for use (it was used before he destroyed them). Likewise, even after UN weapons inspector Hans Blix was unable to find weapons of mass destruction (he had unprecedented access to facilities), the Us still insisted those weapons were hidden. All the while, the administration insisted he had a weapons program without offering proof beyond personal testimony they believed true that he was developing them. More significantly, in tying Iraq to al-Queda, anyone should have reexamined the reasoning because the two groups were diametrically opposed to each other – even bin Laden used to call Saddam the godless Socialist tyrant, in opposition to his theocratic ideals. A careful re-examination of the testimony would have looked into the interests of those telling the US about a WMD capacity Saddam might be developing. 

The most important lesson that should have been considered in the run up to the Iraq war was Lesson #1 – “Empathize with your enemy”. Before the war the Iraqi regime was vilified as the embodiment of evil incarnate, intent on destroying the whole world. Of course the purpose of doing this was only to make an attack on them easier to accept – us against them. But really, even if Iraq was developing WMDs, they would only be doing so in response to perceived threats to their state. Even now, in combat, this lesson is still important. An exercise of restraint might actually benefit the security of Iraq, if only because so many insurgent forces insist on autonomy from what they perceive as an imperial occupation. In order to understand the insurgency, you have to understand how the US might respond to another nation’s armies running around our streets. Its hard to imagine perceiving any foreign army as anything but occupiers in the absence of war, so the best solution to securing the peace in IRaq might still be withdrawing our presence there – empathizing with your “enemy”. You need to be empathetic with your “enemy” in order to understand it and act accordingly with that understanding.

Plato’s Cave April 25, 2006

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In asking what is in my cave, a place of limited perception and reinforced understanding of my cave (the world I know), we must determine my perception of human nature. Because I might fall under the influence of other ideas of how to interpret the information/perceptions I am presented with, I’d have to ask if the intention of this reinforcement is for the greater good or for individual suffering. When the man returns to the cave with new information about a different experience of reality, he can be ridiculed because it is threatening to their system in place or even be pitied for misunderstanding. The world is full of good natured people, acting on their best presumptions of what is good, who are often unaware of harm being done. Their understanding of the world also informs them on how to order events – a war might be us against them, where objectively it is an infliction of harm from both parts. However I percieve humans have a calling to overcome their mistakes, challenge their presumptions on a regular basis, and often will when presented with more ways of understanding. These are the people in my cave.
My cave is like a glass box, an invisible separation, between myself the other things around me. I can still interact with the things around me, but cannot change their nature. The air that we breathe is like this; particles separated that cannot be destroyed. Some things can be changed, through rearrangement or alteration, but they exist as before even in change. It is merely our way of understanding it is different – copper and bronze make iron – but it is still two separate interchangable things.
MY cave also echoes, but not just in sound. An echo is a reverberation that carries the sound across a large distance, the cave itself a carrier of the sound. Just as the cave carries sound, other actions I make might have a stretched effect that caries them across to others. Though we might not always be aware of it, most of our actions have consequences beyond our recognition or comprehension. I might buy a cup of coffee in between places, drink it, and throw away the cup in what would be understood as inconsequential beyond the drink itself. But if the disposed cup were made of Styrofoam, it will disintegrate but not biodegrade, enter the water supply for years to come, and shape the lives of those consuming it in one way or another. Consequences shape future decisions, future realities to understand and shape, and the lives others around us, beyond even our own life cycles. If I help someone across the street (or across town for that matter), they might change their perception of others (because the decision does not benefit them directly) and themselves help others where they would otherwise be reluctant. These actions are carried like echoes without knowing if they will be or that they are heard (consequences).
But as I said earlier, it is not impossible for my cave, my perception of reality to change. In Plato’s cave the man is led into a larger reality that he gradually becomes aware of, and in this same way I might also become aware of a greater reality or even just a different one. The process of ascension toward the light, of gaining knowledge and understanding, is just another gradual process whose consequences I have not yet become aware of. I cannot tell for certain if a larger reality beyond my cave exists, but I can conceive of another reality as others have in a spiritual sense.

an open call April 18, 2006

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Several years back, after an absolute minimum of consideration, I came to this understanding:

Everyone thinks they’re special and others should be able to recognize it. Many people get frustrated when this does not happen. We think to ourselves “i’m not going to waste my time calling someone who doesn’t think i’m important to hang out with. if they think i’m important enough they’ll call me”. The problem comes because that other person is probably thinking the same thing – after all you think they’re special enough to accept their invitation. The result is too people waiting for the other to call, and neither willing to make it. It gets really disapointing for both – a total misunderstanding of judging self-worth.
In order to maintain friendships, the response is not to withdrawl and let others offer, but to keep reaching out. It can be easy to wait, but anything worth waiting for is worth acting on. You have to act on the presumption that at least one of you is waiting for the other to call, to agknowledge how special they really are. The alternative is too wasteful to consider, and you are special by making this effort. There is no way they’ll refuse when you make the first call.

a retraction April 17, 2006

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In light of recent happenings and a changing enviorment, I am prepared to make a retraction of many of the complaints listed in THIS ARTICLE. IT was the subject of much chargin between me and my friends for awhile now, and I have stuck to my line because much of it is true. But, and it’s a big one, I am a member of this community.
While it is true that St. Louis is very much like the insular atmosphere of a small town, I am inside of the these circles. I can find things that you just have to have heard of. The glory that the city has known in the past is still what makes St. Louis such a great place to live. Nostaglia in itself is not what I speak of, because remnants of it are still alive in different nieghborhoods. The reason ST. Louis is not a beacon of culture is not the hoosiers on the outskirts, but the actions attempting to bring them back in. Every time the rich history of neighborhoods is paved over for a strip mall or a housing complex, a bit of the ethnic flavor of the town is lost by turning it into a suburb. We literally pave over our history, but as long as it stays in our hearts and minds, ST. Louis is a great, culturally rich place to live.
Now if we just had an easier account of German socialists in this neighborhood and FRench anarchists there, it might be even easier to finda good time.

PS – the Botanical garden is great on weekdays too, and the smell of spring permiates an otheriwse smog soaked neighborhood. Be sure to check the new photography exhibit on show at the Art Museum (yes, the only one). And this is perfect camping weather in the midwest – grab a friend or two for the ride and make it a trip.

Andy Rooney was out tonight April 17, 2006

Posted by Matt Hurst in Uncategorized.
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It’s that time of year again, but I don’t ever remember being this distressed about taxes. Sure, a journalist like myself can afford them, but should I even have to pay them? Now sure some social programs of government construction seem beneficial, even necessary; not to mention some of those cut over the past year. And yes, my taxes have been cut drasticly the last several years, to the point where I contribute minimum in spite of social accountability. But it seems that the incentive to contribute and improve myself is diminished in a tax bracket that chages at least a quarter of my income until I approach an income that negates losses of those kind. Even if I were to garner a career of respectability, any monentary gain short of poverty just pushes me back that much harder. None of this is to speak of any political reasons to withold taxes, though it seems increasingly dubious how my efforts if any will be spent by a government that doesn’t benefit those at the bottom of the tax bracket by gutting social programs will spend my money. In the vietnam era thousands of individuals protested by witholding their dues (much lower in cost-benefit ratio then today), only to have the full faith and credit of the US government use those troops threaten them into paying. In a government of and BUY the people, the minimum owed is a filing of their expenses in a way we might understand and consent to.
I’m Thadius Elliot, and I approved this message.