Tinkering culture has slowly entered the mainstream. Once the province of Popular Mechanics and Wired, coverage of the making and hacking trend has been appearing regularly in such unlikely periodicals as the New York Times. It’s hard getting adjusted to big media gushing about geek wads tweaking bits and bytes and building fire breathing robots in the back yard. (More…)

Bruno Schulz was a genius. He invented his own language and sensibility.  His narrative style and its fantastic voice create a complex reality, much like the piled-high small shops he describes.  Schulz has been mislabeled ‘the Polish Kafka,’ a mistake because Franz Kafka had a far more specific social vision that addressed relations between citizen and state.  For Schulz, the subjects were self, family, neighbors and the cityscape surrounding them all. His best-known work, The Street of Crocodiles, repeatedly articulates a sense of foreboding. (More…)

My wife and I were at a burger joint the other day, waiting for our order. A garrulous fellow with an English accent, upon seeing my San Francisco Giants cap, began regaling me with tales of his life as a fan of the English football club Chelsea. Actually, he said “I love football, and I love Chelsea,” and proceeded to explain why he put the sport first and the favored club second. I understood his argument in the abstract, but for me, when we are talking Giants, baseball comes second. There is nothing abstract about it. (More…)

Has any conflict in history had more ‘solutions’ than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? From Tel Aviv, to Ramallah, to the ends of the earth – everyone has an opinion as to who should do what to bring peace to all or victory to some.

At the same time, despite the cacophony of voices, the range of ‘final status’ visions is rather limited. The essential issue is that two self-defined peoples claim sovereignty within one small patch of land. (More…)

April 18-24, 2011 was Digital Detox Week, conceived and encouraged by Adbusters, along with other campaigns (i.e. Buy Nothing Day, Blackspot shoes) to “reclaim our mental and physical environments.” I’ve always been impressed by the magazine’s design-savvy ads, whose sleek look share in the aesthetics of their corporate equivalent, the presumed enemy. (More…)

Arizona’s extreme right deludes itself that it occupies a central place in American politics. However, there is a difference between being influential, and throwing legislative temper tantrums that gain global notice.  Its leading political figures have become internationally scorned, which doesn’t trouble them, and does not harm their electability either.  The disjunction between local and external opinion is a matter of local pride, an insularity characteristic of oppressive governments in many areas beyond the American Southwest. (More…)

Ryu Murakami’s Popular Hits of the Showa Era, just released in English translation, has a plot that is both straightforward and surreal. Six single men in their twenties, all social outcasts touched by madness, band together to form a karaoke club. Six single women in their thirties, similarly cut off from society but much less demented, do the same. When one of the men randomly assaults and murders one of the women, a grisly chain reaction ensues, turning these outwardly unassuming ensembles into de facto gangs worthy of the American inner city.

When we first saw the cover of the Sunday Telegraph we did a double take. The photo of the burning MiG 29 above the fold immediately caught our attention.  Combined with the left-side headline “British Forces Attack Gaddafi,” the layout suggested that the Russian-made fighter had been shot down by the RAF. (More…)

For an astonishing three decades, since he was only thirteen years old, Berkeley native Aaron Cometbus has been publishing the eponymous zine that, more than any other, testifies to the power of low-fi print. With personal touches like his distinctive block-capital hand lettering and bracingly honest assessment of his travels and travails, Cometbus remains a crucial bulwark in the battle against inauthentic living. Reading even a few pages is enough to put the feed-me-now mentality of our technologically oversaturated age in perspective.

Although it’s been subsumed in the news by the more explosive revolts in the region, Iran’s Green movement provided its own blueprint for how to take it to the man—or imam—a couple of years ago. Its currently nebulous and undulant nature may provide the model for how to make a movement last until victory. (More…)

Arizona has become the site of a little-noticed literary flowering:  it is home to some of the best prison writing in North America. During the last two decades, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Ken Lamberton, and Richard Shelton have converted their experiences with Arizona’s penitentiaries into prize-winning books.  No US state can claim a similar cluster of prominent prison writers. (More…)