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Note: This column originally appeared on Nintendorks

By Adam

My relationship with my older brother has always been awkward. While five years is really not much to overcome, we straddled different generations. Luke, my brother, was on the tail-end of Generation X (an incredible name, by the way) and I was on the bleeding edge of the Millennial Generation (a significant step down in generational names). When we were kids, we truly loved each other in a way that only brothers can. But time will pass, and it has a tendency to change things.

This may surprise you, but I was a quiet kid growing up. I mean, now I’m known for Lewis Black-esque rage sessions about videogames and pop culture but, growing up, I was kind of shy. Luke was anything but shy, though. He was boisterous and in love with the limelight; he’d tell the same story three different ways in order to be the focus of the party. It was simultaneously amazing and infuriating. Things like that came easy to him. Me? Videogames came easy to me.

I don’t remember getting a NES, but I do remember playing Super Mario Bros. with my brother. As far as Luigis were concerned, I was a cancer. When his Mario died, I’d take over for multiple levels. We’d even do the “toss some elbows, fuck the other guy up” kind of one-upsmanship. It didn’t matter what kind of game we played, but I was always superior to him. After a while, I would throw him a game or two. I’d say, “Dang, Luke, you are getting really good at this,” but he would know what was going on. He would never say anything, but our gaming sessions would get shorter and shorter as time went on.

While I don’t have a Nintendo-64-Kid like documentation of the occasion, I remember getting a Nintendo 64 for Christmas. We didn’t get it at launch; we got it with Mario and Pilotwings and, most damning, Star Fox. The day after Christmas, Luke and his best friend, J.J., played Star Fox for hours. I would sit there, studying each craft movement, what each button did, how each evasive maneuver was beneficial in a given a situation. After a while, J.J. passed the controller to me, and I dominated the following games. For an hour, I was a furry Red Baron. Each time I would win a round, my brother would put the controller down harder, until he was slamming it against the coffee table. It, unlike other things, never broke.

In 1999, my family moved from Alaska to Minnesota. At this point, I was 14 and just discovering my personal identity. Luke was 19 and had moved out of the house; he had had a falling out with my parents over a number of different issues. He stayed in Kodiak while I moved away. The fact that this didn’t bother at me the time is something that, today, shakes me to my core. I sometimes wonder at which point in our lives we stopped being brothers and became acquaintances, but I dismiss the thought. You can recover what was lost.

When we moved to Minnesota, I decided to change myself. I was going to be outgoing and loud and funny and just like Luke. And it worked. It didn’t take much effort to make myself into a person I barely knew. Osmosis is very funny that way. One thing I never gave up, though, was videogames. I kept playing and buying and getting better. And unbeknownst to me, so did he. While our lives were on separate courses, our passions remained parallel.

Eventually, Luke moved to Minnesota, but only just so: he lived in a town that was close but still a drive. We saw each other, as family should do, but only on special occasions. When we talked, it was stilted and awkward until, of course, we talked about what the other had been playing. We didn’t know what to say to the other person, but we knew what games were good, and could recommend them to each other.

When we would hang out, we would have to get drunk to have any sort of rapport; that is, unless we played games. On my own, I was lucky enough to afford all of the major systems: the Wii, the 360, the PS3. It was bizarre; I had all of these gaming consoles, but very rarely played by myself. If friends or family came over, it was time to break out the games and grease the wheels. Luke and I would visit from time to time: his now-wife was pregnant and my job was going well and boy, he’d really like a chance to play that Playstation 3 and man, I would love to have someone to play Smash Brothers with.

For a very long time, my brother was a stranger that I was attached to through fate. We had some similar hobbies but our interactions were forced and uncomfortable. Recently, my girlfriend, who I was planning to marry because that’s what you do, broke up with me. Alone for the first time in my adult life, stranded at the age of 24, I called the only person who I knew would talk to me. Luke drove down to Minneapolis at 11:00 pm, sat with me while I cried, and played Goldeneye with me. In the morning, we watched the Super Mario Bros. Super Show and had pancakes.

My brother and I are completely separate people; we want different things out of life and have opposite tastes in almost everything. But we will always have Nintendo, and videogames, and those unspoken moments of companionship when you earned an extra life. I regret that, as a person, I will never know and understand his motivations. In the end, though, we both strove for the same thing: a green and white mushroom, which signaled the chance to spend one more minute with each other.

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By Anna

She sees the young boy everyday around this time. He squats on his hams a few feet in front of her work place, which doubles as the house for her family of eight, and defecates.

hippoThe slums have some sectioned off areas for pooping, but it’s not required. She refuses her body’s function until the cover of night, as many women do. She exists in Nairobi, Kenya. In Tijuana, Mexico. In Mumbai, India.

The struggle to sanitize water isn’t a technological or scientific one, but comes with political unrest and resource availability. Ecotact began to solve the problem of open defecation. It provides a city with pay-per-use public toilets, according to Good. The facilities cost three cents to use and provide 11 people with jobs at each location.

Even if open defecation decreases, water must still be sanitized. The Manna Energy Foundation and Engineers without Borders partnered to create “a rainwater-collection-and-filtration system that pumps the water through a solar-powered UV light to kill bacteria,” according to Good. The system is energized from biodigested kitchen and toilet waste. Manna uses carbon credit sales to pay for the 20 million dollar investment.

Finally, once water is far-and-away from defecation and cleaned with UV light, it still has miles to travel since few people live near their sanitized water source. What better way to transport water than with a Hippo Roller? The wheel shaped bucket can be ROLLED!  (hipporoller.org) Though the concept derives from our Neanderthal ancestors’ invention of the wheel, it took long enough to apply to developing countries’ needs.

The technology and resources are available. Even when governmental greed precedes elected office, humanity coexists on what remains of our eroding earth and must constantly protect one another in order to sustain, which requires, from those who are capable, a willing imagination to progress and money to sustain the progression.

We don’t need government permission to roll a hippo.

By Ryan

NobelAlfredEFSWith all the controversy surround President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize win, little discussion has taken place regarding the other 2009 Nobel laureates.  This is surprising given that not only is the Nobel the most distinguished award in Physics, Chemistry, Literature, Peace, Medicine, and Economics, but that, as usual, most of the winners are from the United States.  Yes, those United States.  Come on, Europe, what are doing over there?  Let’s break it down.

Physics:

Willard S. Boyle (dual citizenship—Canada, U.S.) and George E. Smith (U.S.) “for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit.”  This sounds pretty good, until you realize that Boyle and Smith invented their charge-coupled device at AT&T in 1969.  Really, no one did anything more impressive in physics last year?  Or the last 40 years?

Chemistry

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (India, U.K.), Thomas A. Steitz (U.S.), and Ada E. Yonath (Israel) “for studies of the structure and function of the ribosome.”  A female winner from Israel?  Now, we’re talking.  I guess technically Ramakrishnan works in Cambridge, but he was born in India and educated in the U.S.

Literature

Herta Müller (Germany) “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.”  Alright, finally, a true European.  This category is usually pretty favorable to Europe, with Toni Morrison (1993) the only U.S. writer to win the award in the last twenty years.

Physiology or Medicine

Elizabeth H. Blackburn (U.S., Australia), Carol W. Greider (U.S.), and Jack W. Szostak (U.S., U.K.) “for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by miniature bodyguards trained in the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu .”  I did not make that description up, I promise.  It makes sense that the U.S. would lead the way here, due to our heavily-funded medical research, about the only part of our healthcare system that’s worth celebrating.

Economics

Elinor Ostrom (U.S.), and Oliver Williamson (U.S.) “for analysis of economic governance.”  This one really gets me fired up.  The U.S. has had this category on lockdown since 2004.  Does the Nobel committee even read the newspapers?  If the U.S. has the best economists in the world, we’re surely misusing them.

In some ways it’s comforting to know that the rest of the world thinks we’re doing better than them.  But mostly it’s pretty disturbing when a country embattled in multiple wars, struggling with one of the worst health rates in the developed world, and scrapping by on poor economic indicators can take home the highest awards for peace, medicine, and economics.  If this is the best of what humans did in these fields last year, we’re all in serious trouble.

By Erin

Epstein

Epstein

When it comes to the massive failure of an intelligent healthcare debate, I blame the geniuses.  A couple of weeks ago I heard Richard Epstein participate in a debate regarding healthcare.  Professor Epstein, who teaches at NYU School of Law, is of the Chicago school of law and economics, which is to say that he believes in capitalism, or more specifically, in laissez-faire capitalism.  His is the kind of intellect that Ayn Rand fantasized about, and he leads the field in torts, contracts, and health care law.  Basically, if anyone could articulate best why Obama’s plan could fail, it should be Richard Epstein.

And maybe he did.

Unfortunately, the only words I understood were the names he called government employees.  Like listening to Dr. House ridicule his fellows while solving the case, I understood his tone—his general disbelief that people below his I.Q. score can do anything right—but I could not understand his evidence.  Technicalities and jargon riddled his argument which left me wondering whether or not he won the debate.

Now, I don’t necessarily lean populist.  I think the smartest people should work on the country’s toughest problems in order to come up with the best solutions.  But the healthcare debate illuminates the flaws of such a process—in a democratic society, the smartest people need to be able to articulate why their solutions are the best in order for the rest of us to make an informed vote (or, more accurately, in order for the members of Congress to make an informed vote).

I’m not calling for a dumbing down of the geniuses, but I am calling for a new skill set to be developed in the ivory towers.  Communication is key.  Otherwise all we’re left with is name-calling from both the idiots and the intellects.

By Anna

It is in American nature to hang on to the curtails of bureaucracy.  What we don’t know doesn’t matter, except when the media says it does.  In the case of this Twin Cities news clip the media reinforces the long standing racism and classism of society from its white privilege view of East Phillips in Minneapolis.

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What reinforces racism in this clip:

  1. After dark = safe.  Jody reports live in East Phillips at 10 p.m., yet the shots of the neighborhood throughout the news clip are only during the day.  They wanted to show her live in order to reinforce that the neighborhood is safe after dark, but she’s not going anywhere and the news truck is probably right in front of her.  I’d feel awful safe at 10 p.m. anywhere in the Twin Cities with a camera crew too.
  2. Crime = Black thugs.  Forty-five seconds into the clip Jody says the block club was started to “combat crime” as the camera jumps to three black kids walking down the street in baggy clothes.  Only reinforcing the fact that surely if they are black and wearing baggy clothes they are criminals.
  3. Block clubs are not new to combating crime.  The report makes block clubs look like new ideas, yet the Banyan Community block club has been around for a decade and has contributed all along to the decrease in crime.

Though the report is news, it is not helping with issues of race and class. Of course the editor cutting the clip was focused on time, it is difficult to combat racism and classism when people in the media are not aware of the stigmas they present. Viewing media from a lower class and different race’s perspective is imperative in understanding in an effort to change your view of race. We must all, at least a little, take on the role of black spectatorship.