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When King Amanullah had held the cloak above his head in 1929 it symbolised the end of his dreams of creating a modern world in Afghanistan. Now – in 1996 – Omar was saying the same thing – forget the future, listen to the ghosts of your past – and follow their rules. … But before we in the West criticise the Afghans too much for their failure to uproot the forces of reaction, we should remember that in our own society we have also been unable to eradicate powerful forces of tradition and reaction. In 1997 the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Amritsar.
Months before, the Indian government asked them not to visit the city. But they did. Indian newspapers reported that most of the population were indifferent. The Queen gave a quick bow – but no apology. And then the Duke caused a terrible row. He found a noticeboard at the site of the massacre which said that 2,000 people were martyred that day in 1919. He said that this was wrong and the Indians were exaggerating. –“The Weird World of Waziristan,” Adam Curtis, BBC
Now this is all very clever, and the gameplay seems cogent enough and gets twisted through as well as you expect from a less artistically ambitious title just trying to be fun, but it is the game’s final (or first?) level that rivals Braid’s end-sequence in terms of sheer amazity. It’s a parody of the monolith scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey with a MIDI rendition of “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, children that can be turned into bouncing monkeys or enlightened, slowed but monolith-immune folks, and the Changed Barack Obama is like a cyborg version. When you get to the end the final boss is a Bush/BHO hybrid with six nipples that shoots out laser milk, and the kids have to combine the slowed versions with the bouncy versions to kill him, reach Canada, and start civilization anew. The national bias is obvious, since Quicksand Games is composed of two Canadians. My reading of the whole thing as the denouement is that they’re talking about synthesizing our primal and rational natures to break out of the complacency of a false messiah who would impose a false enlightenment through a sort-of transhuman death-march — which is the game itself. –“Why I Want to Fuck Barack Obama,” Play This Thing
The safest subject to approach with Stanley, I soon found out, was basketball, which he’d played in the schoolyards of the Bronx as a teenager, alongside the great Dolph Schayes. I’d never heard of Dolph Schayes but gave an impressed nod anyway, and then looked him up when I got home. “He’d still be the best player in the league,” Stanley said, “even with all these big shines and their slam dunks. The man knew how to pass.” Stanley and I were both Knicks fans, and this season—1993–94—was the most promising we’d had since I was old enough to watch. Our star center, Patrick Ewing, was getting old for the game, and his knees were fragile. Before they gave out, we had one last chance to come away with a championship. Stanley brought a little transistor radio to work, one he must have had for the past twenty years, with a single flesh-colored plug he’d slip into his left ear when our supervisor was out of the room. Between calls he’d lean around our divider and update me on games in progress, giving more detail than I needed—not just who’d scored but who’d taken down rebounds or made steals and assists. “It’s all about passing,” he said whenever the Knicks blew an offensive possession. “That’s what these people don’t understand. Pass, pass, pass. And always keep moving. No one should ever be standing still.” –“Dolph Schayes’s Broken Arm,” Scott Nadelson, Ploughshares
More from Rafe Bartholomew:
Estimated acres of forest Henry David Thoreau burned down in 1844 trying to cook fish he had caught for dinner:
The bombardier beetle, which can fire liquid at its enemies from its rear end at up to 300 squirts per second, was being scrutinized in the hope of building a better airplane engine.
London Fire Brigade investigators blamed a building fire in South London on a bird that carried a lit cigarette to its rooftop nest. “Smokers,” said neighborhood baker Richard Scroggs. “What can you say?”
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”