YGO COP 2: Duel 7 – Setting foot on black soil

Kaiba entered the Control Center in depths of the KaibaCorp building, a room as sanitized as a laboratory. Rows of female workers almost looking exactly the same, sat rigidly in front of a computer for each. With a sharp command to his drones Kaiba materialized a giant screen in front of him. With each computer connected to all KaibaCorp satellites, which provided a substantial portion of the world’s Internet service and all data of Yugioh, the Control Center was a window from which Kaiba could gaze at any part of the world he wished.

Kaiba knew this all too well. He aimed his gaze at Egypt from a bird’s eye view, registering each city the competitors arrived in, then zoomed in to Cairo. He snapped his fingers, disrupting each cable TV in all of Egypt to show his face, and announced, “Duelists, welcome to the 13th Battle City…”

Every duelist in the country stops and listens. Maria and Team A Capella put their hands together, “To win prestige and honor for the dueling world.” Michael and Team Homburg said in unison, “To win the title and prize money.” Akira and Team Gundam God Sayans shouted, “To keep Japan number one, where dueling should be!”

“…for the next twelve days the trials you will face ahead of you will be unlike anything you have ever faced. You won’t be merely competing in a tournament but will have your character as a duelist probed to its core…”

Stella and her companions gave each other the signal, “To win to take the game in an awesome new direction.” Mathias and his teammates bumped elbows with each other, “To win to save this world from a grave evil force.” Matthew and Alexis wait in the shadows with the Ghouls, “To win for vengeance.”

“Don’t think you will walk away from this tournament untested. Only those with the strongest willpower, those who cull their weaknesses as readily as they cull other duelists, those ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for their duelist’s pride, can hope to win.”

Maya glances at Yukio and Sophia, but speaks only to herself. “Will we win? Kaiba mentioned before how our character will be tested and how we’ll need to make the ultimate sacrifice. Is he boasting as usual or is there a deeper meaning? Who are the people behind the Ghouls? Why are they interested in this tournament? Even if I win, can I make my life relatively normal again? Will I be able to take my creative path where I want it to go?”

“LET THE 13TH BATTLE CITY TOURNAMENT BEGIN!”

DAY 1 : 9:30 AM : CAIRO

Yukio cracked his knuckles, ready for a fight. “All right! It’s time to take some Ghouls out. When we’re done they’ll be hung by their own hamstrings.”

“We will make them suffer. We will punish them so hard they won’t ever be a threat again.” Maya wholeheartedly agreed with Yukio’s fierce passions and eagerness since she felt them herself. “But since we’re dealing with criminals as well as top level duelists we have to play smart. We’ll sit and wait, examine our competition first, then pick a target.” Maya already had an idea who was the weakest link to take out, and it was Michael Gould.

Maria and the rest of her team took off from the Hilton Cairo Hotel, reasonably confidant in their skill and superiority. Whatever was out there, they would win as they always won.

Cairo was nothing like the ancient civilization it laid claim to. The entire city was incessantly noisy as a jackhammer and clouded in polluting fog. Every street was narrow and dangerous, overflowing with small cars and bicyclists. Maria and company only drifted away slightly from the main roads before they were surrounded by a gang of men in black. They tried to escape, but the rogues blocked them on all sides.

One of them took off his cowl, distinguishing himself as leader of the group. He was a middle-aged man with neck-length graying hair, a long nose, beady eyes, and wide lips always stuck in a smug grin. “Perhaps you are unaware but the Ghouls are taking over this tournament. You may call me Seeker and you are my first pray.”

Maria was caught completely by surprise. She knew Ghouls sometimes snuck in lesser tournaments, but a complete sabotage of a world championship? Either way, she didn’t care. A criminal was a criminal. She stood up to him, brandishing her duel disk. “You, scums, who pray on innocent duelists, who take cards duelists earned with their sweat, blood, and tears, I will never forgive you! Prepare to lose!”

Seeker’s didn’t faze his grin, not an inch. “Spoken like a true self-righteous hypocrite.”

Maria: 8000 || Seeker: 8000

MARIA’S TURN: “I know what you’re planning, Ghoul. Everyone knows your loss against the King of Games. You’re planning to summon Exodia, but I will defeat you before you can bring him out. Exodia decks aren’t even viable these days, anyway. I activate Foolish Burial. I mill Shaddoll Squamata, which lets me mill Shaddoll Falco. Since Falco was sent to the Graveyard, I revive him facedown. I activate Dragon Shrine, milling Rabidragon and White Stone of Legend, and by White Stone’s effect, I add Blue-Eyes White Dragon from my deck to my hand.”

“Blue-Eyes White Dragon? But only Kaiba has those!” Seeker remarks, his beady eyes wide open in surprise.

“Surprised, card thief? Seto may have three but I have the fourth and last one. It was torn in half before, but now it’s mended back together. I summon Maiden With Eyes of Blue.” A fair and serene girl, with white hair longer than Maria’s, graces the two duelists. “I equip her with Wander Wand, which lets me Summon my Blue-Eyes from my hand since my Maiden was targeted.” Her Maiden waves her new wand, and the legendary White Dragon shoots off from the fountain of light. It flies above the alley for a moment to roar and spread its wings above the city before flying down again.

“Think I’m done? Think again! My Maiden is also a Tuner, and I tune her and Blue-Eyes to Synchro Summon Azure-Eyes Silver Dragon!” The Maiden becomes one green ring and the White Dragon transforms into eight stars, which align with the ring and explode in a fountain of light. A large, silver dragon, even larger than the White Dragon emerges. “I activate Silver’s Cry. Welcome back, Blue-Eyes.” The White Dragon revives. “I banish Rabidragon and Shaddoll Falco from my grave to summon Black Luster Soldier.” A soul of light and soul of darkness fly from the graveyard and merge together, forging into the shape of a knight in black and gold armor. “And finally, I set three facedown cards.”

SEEKER’S TURN: He doesn’t look fazed at all. He still leers at Maria with his hungry eyes. He grins as a Cheshire cat, salivating at his prey, confidant he will win at any rate. “An impressive first move for a conventional duelist. I doubt you ever faced a duelist outside the sanctioned and protected tournament scene. I hunt down kids like you for breakfast. I summon Mokey Mokey.” A small, square being with wings flies into play. It looks like a marshmallow, except with small stubs for limbs and narrow eyes that are always closed.

Maria’s eyes widen in disbelief. There’s no way he’s playing with this deck against her! It has to be a joke!

Seeker seems to have registered her shock, for he says, “Relax. I won’t use something easy like Human Wave Tactics or Mokey Mokey Smackdown. I’ll play something much worse, but first allow me to get rid of your pesky backrow. I equip Black Luster Soldier with Darkworld Shackles.”

“I don’t think so. I activate Forbidden Lance and target my Soldier.” The Soldier’s sword is replaced by a white lance, which drains his strength. “He may lose 800 ATK but he’s free of card effects.”

“Oh, you naïve little grasshopper. I don’t care about your Soldier. I activate Release Restraint Wave. I get rid of Darkworld Shackles and all your spells and traps are destroyed.” Seeker’s shackles shatter, but they release a devastating wave of heat that incinerates Maria’s facedown cards that aren’t monsters. “I equip Mokey Mokey with two Amulets of Ambition and equip your Blue-Eyes with Ultra High Score.” Seeker’s fairy puts on itself two imposing gold amulets with eyes on them white the White Dragon has a bomb showing arcade scores branded in its scales.

“Amulet of Ambition makes my monster stronger by multiples of 500 for the difference in Levels between your Blue-Eyes and my Mokey Mokey. Ultra High Score makes your monster’s Level 12, and you lose multiples of 400 Life Points for the same difference in Levels between our monsters. Let’s do the math, shall we. Mokey Mokey gains 5500 ATK for each Amulet, giving it 11000 ATK total, which minus Blue-Eyes’ ATK is 9000 damage. Then, Ultra High Score does 4400 damage. You know what that means?”

All Maria can say is a silent “No.” She lost her first duel in the tournament!

“Mokey Mokey, attack Blue-Eyes White Dragon! Win the duel for me!” Seeker commands. Mokey Mokey dives at the White Dragon in full speed, its Amulets coloring it in blazing yellow like some golden meteor. It smashes straight into the White Dragon, causing the bomb to detonate, blowing up the entire alley in a fierce firestorm.

Maria: 0 || Seeker: 8000

Gleeful with victory, Seeker grinned so widely almost all of his teeth were showing. “Since you lost the duel you know what that means. You and your team will pay the price with your Millennium Item Card and your decks.” The gang of black-cloaked men pounced on the surrounded duelists, beating them helpless. Seeker held up the fourth Blue-Eyes White Dragon as if it was a gem of incomparable rarity and beauty. One of the rarest cards in the entire game was his!

———————————————————

“No!” Kaiba couldn’t believe his eyes. Maria lost the duel and was kicked out of the tournament? It must have been a lie! But true it was. To think that a duelist wielding the proud Blue-Eyes White Dragon could lose against a Ghoul! His heart blackened in deep shame and his face revealed as much. She couldn’t be unworthy!

A wireless phone rang. Kaiba picked it up. It was Pegasus. “Less than hour in the tournament and Maria is eliminated. I know it must hurt, Kaiba-boy, but you must let it pass. You can’t be shouldn’t be swayed by nepotism.”

Kaiba looked like he was about to kill Pegasus, albeit Pegasus was unable to see his death glare, let alone be intimidated by it. “Shut up.” Kaiba growled, and slammed the phone on the receiver. For a moment he was about to go to Egypt himself to help her. A battle waged in his heart over whether to intervene and cheat the rules or let the tournament run its course without her. As much as he felt for her, he chose the latter.
———————————————————

“Do you have any idea where Michael Gould is? I’ve tried searching for him but it seems KaibaCorp isn’t disclosing any of our locations on line.” Maya dug her fingers into her black curly hair as she often did when frustrated or trying to solve a problem.

Sophia, usually quiet, suggested that, “Kaiba and Pegasus made a lot of preparations so no one could cheat their way through. They want to make sure we can’t cut any corners.”

“I expected as much.” Maya admitted, mumbling under her breath in a way that sounded more like growling. “We have to come up with a new scheme.”

Yukio, who suggested the team look for duelists the old fashioned way only for Maya to chastise him, was eager to take a dig at her. “Right, you’re schemes are as effective as Malik’s from Yugioh the Abridged Series. A chessmaster you ain’t.”

“Funny. I always thought I was the Bakura of the evil duo. By that, I mean Jolene and I. You don’t make the cut.”

“I didn’t know there was a cut with you guys. What is there, some kind of evil counsel of doom? Do you need to get an evil high score on an evil exam to join the evil clubhouse to be evil enough?”

“Yukio, you’re as evil as a Catholic high school girl giving her first blow job. You think you’re Sid Vicious with a soul patch but you’re really Jack Black.”

Sophia had enough of their prattling. “Please, guys, get a room. Maybe if you play card games for a while you’ll cool down.”

“You’re mom plays card games, and in Hell!” Maya and Yukio rebuked Sophia together.

“If you keep ripping off Little Kuriboh he’ll have to sue you. But guys, seriously, look.” Sophia pointed at a group of duelists hobbling past them. They were Maria and her teammates. They clearly looked the worse for wear, their clothes torn and skin bruised and bleeding, as if a mob beat them up. They’re eyes were dull with the look of defeat.

Yukio rushed to grab Maria by the shoulders as if she’d fall down any moment now. Maya approached her immediately afterward. “Who did this to you?”

Maria confirmed Maya’s suspicions when she said feebly, “The Ghouls are back. His name is Seeker.”

“I know you two aren’t exactly nice to each other but you’ve got to help her.” Yukio said.

“Exactly! And I know how to!” Maya seized the Millennium Puzzle Card and put it on her duel disk. “The power of the Millennium Puzzle Card is to grand any wish you want but it has to be to help someone.” The holographs on her duel disk projected a holographic Millennium Puzzle, larger than life. “Puzzle, please show me where the Ghoul named Seeker is. He assaulted my rival and I want to get her deck back for her.”

Maria then pleaded to the Puzzle, “Show us the way so Maya can get my deck back for me.” The eye of the Puzzle glowed with light and projected a vision. In the vision they saw the Ghouls harassing a couple of duelists near the Cairo Museum. Now everyone knew where to go.

As they took a taxi, Maya realized the Ghouls were bolder than before. According to Maria, they ganged up on her team in an alley, far away from the public eye. Now, according to the Puzzle, they dared attack in the shadow of a museum. They were becoming arrogant and may just bite off more than they could chew. Yukio called the museum immediately just in case the Ghouls didn’t keep their word.

Maya, Maria, and their teams arrived just in time to see the Ghoul named Seeker deal a finishing blow to two duelists at once. He took their Millennium Item Cards and decks with glee, eager to capture more spoils of war. But it hardly satisfied him. He just beat “Insector” Haga and “Dinosaur” Ryusaki, two washed up has-beens who were nothing but the laughing stock of the entire dueling world. He wondered if Kaiba and Pegasus let them in the tournament as a joke.

“You, Seeker!” Maya suddenly declared in a startling, piercing voice. “I challenge you to a duel! I wager my team’s Millennium Item Card and our decks! But if you lose, you return everything you took back to us!”

Seeker clearly looked amused. “What’s this? My prey willingly comes to be captured in my net? Very well then, I accept you’re challenge. You go first.”

“No. I demand a coin toss.” Maya called on a neutral crowd member to toss a coin for them. She called tails and Seeker called heads. The coin landed on tails, so Maya chose Seeker to go first.

He seemed not to mind. “Humph! It makes no difference to me.”

“You’re probably the Ghoul equivalent of a capo with an army of foot soldiers. You’re an experienced criminal with an Swiss army knife of dirty tricks up your sleeve.” There was another reason, which Maya didn’t state. If she went first, it gave Seeker an opportunity to kill her in one turn.

Seeker’s ugly grin was as steady as ever. “Maybe, but why should your band of comrades trust you any less than me? I looked at your records, Marina Bozovic. You have been guilty of petty crimes since your adolescence, including theft, vandalism, usage of illegal drugs, and contumacy. You think because you weren’t put in prison nobody knows, but we Ghouls always know. What true difference lies between you and I besides experience and magnitude?”

Maya admitted she didn’t have an answer to his challenge. Even if she did she wasn’t in the mood to engage in a debate right now. “Fine, I am a criminal, if you insist. But I warn you. In a duel between thieves there is no mercy or decency. You’re as good as dead.”

“So we have a philosopher as well as a criminal amongst us. What an odd combination, but all the more entertainment for me. Let’s duel!”

Seeker: 8000 || Maya: 8000

SEEKER’S TURN: “I activate One for One. I discard a card to Summon Mokey Mokey from my Deck.” His stoic, marshmallow-shaped fairy appears as it did last duel. “Surprised to see me play such unusual cards? You think that just because you figured out how to play against the meta that we Ghouls didn’t do the same? We’re not dumb enough to actually play with the same decks pros, or rather prey, do in the tournament scene. You may have a good learning curve but it’s time for the fish to leave the water.”

Maya is unaffected, or at least appears unaffected. “Weren’t you the first guy to lose in Battle City? Granted, you lost against Yugi himself, but don’t exactly have any bragging rights, least of all to lecture to me. You’re as dense and smug as JC himself. You make a perfect first opponent, really.”

“You’ll pay for your insolence. I equip Mokey Mokey with Amulet of Ambition,” The fairy sports an ominous gold amulet with a piercing eye in the middle. “And I set two cards facedown.”

MAYA’S TURN: She evaluates the duel so far. To his credit, he does use an interesting deck, but she doesn’t know anything about it. She has to test the waters, to make him think what she plays this turn is all there is to her when she has more in store. “I summon Rescue Rabbit and use his effect. I banish it to summon two Spinodon from my deck.” A white and gray rabbit wearing a hard had appears only to disappear, replaced by two ferocious dinosaurs of fiery temperament. “Now I overlay them both to Xyz Summon Evolzar Laggia.” The two Spinodons fly into a black hole as beams of energy, which then bursts into light. The light clears, revealing a leprous dragon circled by rings of fire.

“An Evolzar deck. Interesting choice.” Seeker observes, but not for long for Maya has no patience for his conceits.

“Laggia, destroy Mokey Mokey immediately!” The dinosaur-like dragon fires a pillar of flame at the fairy.

“I activate Swords at Dawn, and I target the Ultra High Score I discarded last turn.”

Maya is all too prepared for a response, so she responds in kind. “I detach two Materials from Laggia to negate and destroy your card.” The two flames that circled Laggia leapt from it to the quick-play spell card.

“Not bad.” Seeker admits, “But not good enough. I activate Power Frame.” A steel cube constructs itself around Mokey Mokey, protecting it. Laggia continues its onslaught, first combusting Seeker’s quick-play spell in particles, then firing a cannon of flame, eager to hit its target. But the attack merely bounces off, and Mokey Mokey’s ATK rises to 2700.

Maya gruffly acknowledges his decent plays. If she is to win she must commit to more unorthodox strategies. She realizes that this applies to the whole tournament, not only this duel. She may have a two-card advantage, but that is no reason to relax. She never faced this kind of duelist before. “I set two cards facedown. You’re move. You’re at a disadvantage. Make it count.”

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“Downtown is for People” Response

Jane Jacobs by Alex Waterhouse-Hayward-788622
The civil servant Robert Moses was a symbol, if not a leader, of a powerful modernist movement to rebuild American cities worldwide. Moses remains controversial to this day because while he rebuilt blighted city areas with his new housing projects he also introduced new problems to the city. Jane Jacobs in “Downtown is for People” criticized the redevelopment projects, not just the practical problems they would cause but also the modernist ideal behind them.

Jacobs states clearly that the projects will deaden city life. She criticizes the modernist city ideal: spacious, depopulated, uniform, and monumental, as having “all the attributes of a well kempt dignified cemetery”. The dominant design philosophy places buildings ahead of people, with the goal of fulfilling an “abstract logical concept” and ideal of what a city should be like. In Out Culture, What’s Left of It, Theodore Dalrymple criticizes the French projects for similar reasons. He cites Le Corbusier, a Swiss totalitarian architect and urban planner. “The despot is not a man… It is the… correct, realistic, exact plan… that will provide your solution once the problem has been posed clearly… This plan has been drawn up well away from… the cries of the electorate or the laments of society’s victims. It has been drawn up by serene and lucid minds.” (Dalrymple 2005)

Jacobs and Dalrymple both state that modernist building projects are fundamentally inhumane. I have some first hand experience to testify in their favor. I helped my friend move into an apartment building in the Bronx last November. The first thing I noticed was how massive, forbidding, and uniform all the apartment buildings were, similar to how Jacobs described the redevelopment projects. Inside the brick behemoths the stairs and hallways were narrow and the lighting was dim, and very thick metal doors sealed the elevators. The apartment itself was decently sized but had poor lighting, so the apartment was often dark.

Jacob’s alternative to Moses’ modernist “grand plan” is to “micromanage”, to make the city with the people in mind. She proposes we should focus on the street and local neighborhood in our building projects. Streets should be aesthetically pleasing, which means they should look beautiful, have contrasts in color and shape, and should have many different engaging places for people. She says downtown streets should be seen as dividers and not unifiers. I interpret her words as suggesting downtown is full of different people who seek to be in their own little niche, not as a population to put into large boxes that all look the same.

Reading Jacob’s proposal on a better way to build a city reminds me of Williamsburg and the Greenwich Village. – I lived in Williamsburg for five years before I went to graduate school. – Williamsburg in particular looks similar to a small-scale community. Every street has at least one small, independent shop with their unique brand of clothes and doo-dads. Williamsburg has a comely and warm feel to it. Perhaps I am being nostalgic, but I wish I spent my time better in Williamsburg enjoying it more. But alas! Perhaps Jacobs would like Williamsburg and see it as some kind of small-scale city. It is a small scale community, at least.

“Turkish Berlin” Response

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Turkish Berlin, a well-written and accessible book, explores the lives of Turkish immigrants in a thorough and humane way. Unlike last class’s readings, the chapters about airports and globalization, Turkish Berlin steers clear of abstract writing and esoteric terms, focusing on the immigrants themselves and their lived experiences. Of course, formal academic writing and terminology have their place, but Hinze uses them to highlight the lives of the immigrants, the subject of the book and most important part.

Writing about the lives of Turkish immigrants in Berlin opens an important discussion about immigrants worldwide, but especially of American immigrants to most American readers. Like Germany, America also has a battle about what policies to make regarding immigrants. America swings more to the conservative or liberal side depending on location. In coastal states like New York and California, American are much more liberal about immigration. Immigrants in turn are more visible and have more options, in a cultural not just in an economic sense. They can be more open in mainstream society, since said mainstream society is more multicultural.

The American heartland is different, not too different to Germany’s overall attitude. Immigrants face a more black-and-white choice of assimilating into the mainstream culture, which is decidedly more WASP, or remain excluded. America can show some extreme cases of what immigrants and descendants of immigrants will do (or feel they must do) to assimilate. A striking example is when Bobby Jindel, Louisiana’s current governor of Indian descent, commissioned a painting with his skin paler and his nose slightly smaller. Jindel’s statement is explicitly political, not merely symbolic, because by looking more WASP Jindel legitimizes his power as governor by looking like a “real American”.

Regardless where American immigrants live, they associate in a similar way, by clustering into dense neighborhoods or exclusive suburban communities. It is an intelligent and understandable move, since they form a community and social network. New York is full of immigrant enclaves like Chinatown and Little Italy. Serbians congregate in only a few churches. One of them, Saint Sava Church in the West Village, packs around 6,000 Serbs when full, which is about the size of the Serbian population in Manhattan. In the suburbs, there exist specific communities, such as Orthodox Jewish communities. Unlike immigrants in cities, Orthodox Jews who moved to suburbs had to be “religious pioneers” of sorts, adapting their religion and culture so they can assimilate in the suburb, yet still remain faithful to their heritage.

Turkish immigrants in Berlin behave in a similar way to New York immigrants. They cluster in neighborhoods to create a tight community and social network. A phrase Hinze uses often in her work is “neither here nor there”, reflecting that Turkish immigrants neither feel exclusively German or Turkish. This mixed identity becomes highlighted when Turkish immigrants constantly struggle between being accepted by mainstream society and remaining faithful to their heritage. It is a struggle similar to that of suburban Orthodox Jews. Turkish immigrants respond to the struggle by creating a unique identity more than German, Turkish, or German and Turkish. They base their identity in the neighborhood they stay in. Interestingly, the neighborhood culture becomes their new “homeland”, their new yardstick of being true to their culture.

Immigrants of America do not share the same lived experiences and struggles, even if they are of a similar ethnicity. Korean Americans in California, for instance, live in different communities. Koreatown is a compact city with working-class immigrants who hold tightly to their heritage because they created a tight community. When Chinese Americans proposed building a bridge that signified only Chinese culture, Korean Americans in Koreatown took to the streets at the forefront. Eventually, they won with their protests and the bridge was cancelled. For Korean immigrants farther in the suburbs, however, they show less of their heritage overtly, and assimilate more into WASP mainstream culture.

Similarly, Turkish immigrants do not live the same in Berlin. Hinze contrasts two neighborhoods in particular: Kreuzburg and Neukolln. Kreuzburg is a more white-collar neighborhood, but nevertheless Turkish immigrants, women in particular, have to overcome ethnic and class hurdles to get a university education. Women who do not get a university education try to make ends meet in other ways. Turkish immigrants of Kreuzburg are more visible and closer to mainstream culture, but likewise they it upon themselves to become accepted but still remain true to their identity.

Neukolln is a tighter and downtown area, and primarily blue-collar. While Kreuzburg is wealthier, it faces the problem of gentrification, which often happens when immigrant neighborhoods become “acceptable” enough. The rising apartment prices force a lot of Turkish immigrants to go to Neukolln, where the apartments are cheaper. Neukolln, ironically, does not have a strong network, and many women who moved there miss the social networks they used to have, missing the “homeland” that is Kreuzburg.

Race and discrimination both rear their ugly heads frequently, both in America and Germany. Race places a barrier on immigrants, for a part of being accepted and assimilated into mainstream culture is looking “white” enough. This causes some immigrants both in Europe and America to have an easier time assimilating than others. A Serbian immigrant or Serbian American has an easier time assimilating because they can more easily pass off as “white” or WASP. A Middle Eastern immigrant, by contrast, has a harder time, especially since the 9/11 bombings, since the Middle Easterner Muslim has become the folk demon of America and Europe since then. Interestingly, about fifty years ago, almost the reverse was true. Back then, Slavs, including Serbians, were the folk demon because of Cold War politics.

Turkish immigrants face a similar struggle. Not all Turkish immigrants are treated the same. Turkish women who don’t look “too Turkish” are treated better and face less discrimination. German politics tends to conflate different groups of people together. Turkish people are frequently grouped with Arabic and Middle Eastern immigrants as the “stereotypical immigrant”. It would not be unlikely to say that Germany’s, and much of Europe’s, image of the stereotypical immigrant is partly fueled by racism towards Muslims and Middle Easterners.

“More Than Just Race” Response

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William Julius Wilson gives to his readers a multilayered and nuanced analysis if black oppression in America. His arguments rest upon studying the structural, socioeconomic, and cultural forces that cause black poverty earlier in the book. In the later chapters he focuses specifically on the poverty of inner city black men and the fragmenting of the black family. His analysis is typical among sociologists and rests on a backbone of research and activism over a hundred years old. The fact does not discredit his work at all. His volume is slim, but thorough and powerful.

In the summary in the back of the book, a writer claims the book “challenges both conservative and liberal dogma”. He or she is completely correct. Both mainstream conservatives and liberals are similar in some fundamental ways. They both tend to eschew critical theory, or at least understanding systemic oppression, and instead have a “lassaiz faire” belief system. Both parties fundamentally say we live in a post racial and post feminist society. We live in a meritocracy and humanity is composed of atomized individuals, so individual’s successes and failures are based largely on their free will. Yes, racism and sexism does exist, but they come from a minority of people who are just bad apples and do not reflect society as a whole. Of course, these conservative and liberal dogmas are just that: dogmas. It is unsurprising and saddening that a book as lukewarm as “More Than Just Race” is still outside of mainstream politics.

A tenant among conservatives and liberals is that racism cannot exist unless it is explicit. Wilson counters by saying that not only that implicit racism does exist; it is a huge force of American culture. He brings up the changes of global economy, like how manufacturing jobs are going out while ever more service, white-collar jobs are coming in. He also brings up black people not being mobile, unable to move away from the inner city to pursue jobs. It’s a very important argument to make because frankly I have rarely heard it. Call me a hard-lined Marxist, but understanding economics should always be in the forefront because a society’s class and economic structure profoundly shapes its culture. This is especially true for the dominant or mainstream culture, or ideology.

Wilson counters conservative and liberal dogmas best when speaking of the poverty of inner city black males, especially in his cultural analysis. Conservatives, both white and black, often bring up the “degradation of black culture” to blame black men for poverty and crime. Wilson makes a “thoughtful cultural explanation” as he puts it for black poverty. Black men have difficulty getting employment because of discrimination and industrial jobs being outsourced to the third world. Black men become increasingly hopeless and self-defeating after taking so many blows. Posse culture rises both because of a self-defeating attitude and as a statement to resist white culture.

While you can claim with some amount of honesty that black men cause their own poverty in some degree, the socioeconomic and cultural factors that cause black men to be in such a defeating position should never be forgotten. Americans do not live in a post racial society, and Wilson amplifies this fact throughout his book. Class oppression and racial oppression go hand in hand for many black people in America, and have done so for the last three hundred plus years. American history has cast such a long shadow of racism it is dishonest not to acknowledge it.

YGO BAM Immortality Deck Again

Vampire Genesis
3x Vampire Lord
3x Vampire Genesis
2x Jinzo – Lord
2x Hieratic Seal of the Sun Dragon Overlord
2x Stardust Dragon / Assault Mode
1x Blackwing – Aurora the Northern Lights
2x Raigeki

Fixed the problems with the deck, so I am better able to fight immunity monsters. Raigeki is strong, because it can kill immunity monsters early before they can activate their abilities. Stardust acts both as a Zombie Master, bringing back monsters, and a Neo Aqua Madoor, bringing back Raigeki. Blackwing – Aurora has been a thorn on my side for half a year now, so why not add him in the team. He protects himself with immunity and can grow very strong, very fast.

Response for Development Politics and Urban Culture

Hipsters: annoying?
The point of interest in the reading is that businesses, communities, and culture are changing because a new generation of adults is shaping cities and economies in ways that are different from their predecessors. This new generation is called the “creative class”, an adequate name because a lot of “creative class” people are liberal young adults who are rather countercultural and artistic. Unlike their parents, they don’t look for corporate-like jobs with prestige in cities with malls and sports franchises. They look for a diverse, countercultural, and artistic scene, with the intent of building and nourishing a unique culture.

The author’s research opposes a lot of old theories on economy. Such theories are that people primarily move because of “jobs” and that geography is no longer relevant because of the Internet. Since we can talk to anyone across the globe, it shouldn’t matter where we live, right? No. While we can communicate with people online, it’s nowhere near as intimate as being physically with another person. We can meet all sorts of new people and form online groups, but we truly flourish and benefit from each other in a physical place.

I felt the author spoke to me in some important ways. Most of the “creative class” he talks about is made of millennials, Generation Y and Z kids, who are looking for something more fulfilling than the careers their parents had. What they’re looking for is not so much a place to be “unique” or “authentic”, so much as to thrive as a creative being, which entails finding a community of companions who will share your interests. That way, creative people find fulfillment and become happy.

As a member of the “creative class” (if you pardon me presuming to be one), I face similar questions and struggles about my future. I went to Bard College, one of the most liberal schools in America, to get Bachelors in Music. My goal at the time was to learn to compose music for my own benefit, because I didn’t have any clear idea of what “jobs” I wanted. I attend Fordham University right now, striving for a Masters in Urban Studies, for a compromise of many different reasons. I am passionate about politics and social justice, and I really want to make a change. While I still want to do my own writing and music, I feel Urban Studies is more relevant for me at the moment, and that I will learn valuable information about politics, activism, research, and history.

Notice how little I think about the things such as salary, reputation, or social prestige. Don’t get me wrong. Making a living is on the back of my mind. It’s even one of the reasons I want to Major in Urban Studies, because while being a professor or social worker is not a prestigious job it is a profession. Like my fellow millenials, my reasons focus more on things such as creativity, education, and activism. These are new realms (from a professional standpoint), with a lot of potential. At the same time the old prestigious jobs of being a doctor or a lawyer aren’t as secure as they used to be, and the old motivations of pursuing such jobs are going out. I’m just bringing up my life story because what I’m dealing with right now is similar to what a lot of young adults like me are grappling with, which the author of Development Politics and Urban Culture writes about.

Battle for Brooklyn Response

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The most obvious thing I noticed in the film was how standard it was for gentrification. Towards the end of the film, one of the staff who helped create it said the Atlantic Yards Project was the biggest case of eminent domain in American history. Eminent domain, as far as the film portrays it, is deeply undemocratic because a billionaire like Ratner can take over city space for his own purposes. He can easily use his wealth to lobby the government or influence it in some other way to deem an area blighted, and therefore needing to be removed, without a civic decision.

The film is like Streetfight in that you can study mayor Bloomberg and Ratner like you can study James Sharpe, and find similar ways they all abuse political and corporate power to serve their own ends. Throughout the film Bloomberg and Ratner frequently use glamorous clichés to captivate their audience, words such as “world class city”, “vision”, “success”, “cherry on top of the cheesecake”, “progress”, “groundbreaking”, and so forth. Such language should make an intelligent and observant person feel suspicion. Ratner and private developers know to captivate an audience’s attention by giving them their bread and circuses, like by throwing expensive parties and inviting celebrities to give cameos. The baseball stadium itself is a circus, used to give Ratner his money. (In the end of the film he gained $726 million dollars while Brooklyn lost $40 million.)

The private developers employ two particularly insidious tactics. Firstly, they both know how to “play the race card”, as the deviant homeowner Daniel Goldstein said. They invite token black spokesmen to appeal to Brooklyn minorities. After all, if a black person isn’t alarmed at a billionaire and private developers seizing the property of poor minority homeowners, then why should you? Ultimately, they divide minority groups, fueling self-defeating intraracial conflicts. Their second tactic is repeatedly use talking points that have some grain of truth in them but are ultimately false. For instance, they claim building the stadium will create 10,000 jobs, from construction, to management, to VIP services. The facts speak otherwise, as most of the minority construction workers will be out of state and the minorities who are evicted from their homes will lose their entire life’s savings.

The buildings Ratner and the private developers build resembles the modernist buildings Jane Jacobs criticized in her work. The stadium itself takes up most of the space, and the buildings that should have accompanied were never built, at least by 2011. I doubt the stadium was built with people as more than consumers in mind. In the film Golstein and other people show models and computer simulations of how the stadium and new buildings would look like. In all models the stadium and buildings are disproportionately large. They stick out in the neighborhood like an eyesore and have the same austere, imposing, and inhumane architecture Jacob’s describes as like a cemetery.

Goldstein describes his ordeal as a war of attrition. He is right. Unfortunately, the little guy rarely wins such a war. He simply does not have the money, resources, or time to outlast a billionaire. The film can be fairly interpreted as another obvious example of private owners and corporations plowing over the people’s civil rights and destroying people’s lives in the process. Battle for Brooklyn proves how hypocritical and flimsy our “democracy” really is.