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Archive for September, 2012|Monthly archive page

Here There Be Monsters by Brendan Fitzgerald

In academia, community, education, internet, media, research, universities on September 30, 2012 at 04:14

From: Here There Be Monsters by Brendan Fitzgerald, The Morning News, http://www.themorningnews.org

The first warning came in 2008. Kelly, a history professor at George Mason, had launched a new course called “Lying About the Past.” For two months, his students studied “the history of historical hoaxes”—photographs of the Loch Ness monster, forged Hitler diaries, Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds broadcast. Then, they created their own hoax—a deception Kelly previewed on the first day of the semester on his blog.

“We will work together as a group to create an online historical hoax that we will then turn loose on the internet to see if we can actually fool anyone,” wrote Kelly. He signed off: “You have been warned.”

Kelly’s students decided on a project they called “The Last American Pirate.” They invented a man named Edward Owens. He was a Virginian. He lost his money and job after the Panic of 1873. Desperate, he turned to robbing boats on the Chesapeake Bay to regain his lost wealth. And with that, once Owens’s background was complete, the students lowered him delicately into history, like optimistically introducing a Chinese mystery snail into an Appalachian lake.

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Reposted with permission from: The Morning News

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Hospitality at a Fractured Table by David J. Walbert

In community, culture, politics, society on September 30, 2012 at 04:02

From: Hospitality at a Fractured Table by David J. Walbert, Front Porch Republic, http://www.frontporchrepublic.com

“It sure is hard to have people over to dinner these days,” the food writer lamented, at a talk I attended the other week. She told a sorry tale of a dinner party involving two vegetarians, their father who expected to be served meat because he couldn’t get any at home (“poor man”), and a guest who was lactose intolerant. Everyone chuckled. It’s becoming the stylish refrain of the decade, that people’s food choices and fad diets and principles and medical ailments have so splintered us that we can’t break bread together any more; the pot luck is devolving into a brown bag lunch.

It’s a sad state of affairs for anyone who enjoys cooking, who enjoys cooking for friends, who would rather show love and appreciation through food than get all mushy about it, who is frankly looking for an excuse to spend half the day on a dish, that sort of effort being embarrassing unless offered up to others.

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Reposted with permission from: Front Porch Republic

Mental Disorder or Neurodiversity by Aaron Rothstein

In biology, books, nature, psychology, research, science, society on September 30, 2012 at 03:52

From: Mental Disorder or Neurodiversity by Aaron Rothstein, The New Atlantis, http://www.thenewatlantis.com/

One of the most famous stories of H. G. Wells, “The Country of the Blind” (1904), depicts a society, enclosed in an isolated valley amid forbidding mountains, in which a strange and persistent epidemic has rendered its members blind from birth. Their whole culture is reshaped around this difference: their notion of beauty depends on the feel rather than the look of a face; no windows adorn their houses; they work at night, when it is cool, and sleep during the day, when it is hot. A mountain climber named Nunez stumbles upon this community and hopes that he will rule over it: “In the Country of the Blind the One-Eyed Man is King,” he repeats to himself. Yet he comes to find that his ability to see is not an asset but a burden. The houses are pitch-black inside, and he loses fights to local warriors who possess extraordinary senses of touch and hearing. The blind live with no knowledge of the sense of sight, and no need for it. They consider Nunez’s eyes to be diseased, and mock his love for a beautiful woman whose face feels unattractive to them. When he finally fails to defeat them, exhausted and beaten, he gives himself up. They ask him if he still thinks he can see: “No,” he replies, “That was folly. The word means nothing — less than nothing!” They enslave him because of his apparently subhuman disability. But when they propose to remove his eyes to make him “normal,” he realizes the beauty of the mountains, the snow, the trees, the lines in the rocks, and the crispness of the sky — and he climbs a mountain, attempting to escape.

Wells’s eerie and unsettling story addresses how we understand differences that run deep into the mind and the brain. What one man thinks of as his heightened ability, another thinks of as a disability. This insight about the differences between ways of viewing the world runs back to the ancients: in Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates discusses how insane people experience life, telling Phaedrus that madness is not “simply an evil.” Instead, “there is also a madness which is a divine gift, and the source of the chiefest blessings granted to men.” The insane, Socrates suggests, are granted a unique experience of the world, or perhaps even special access to its truths — seeing it in a prophetic or artistic way.

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Reposted with permission from: The New Atlantis

Byrd Hale on Blues

In academia, audio, music on September 28, 2012 at 05:09

From: Byrd Hale on Blues – “Entitled Opinions (about Life and Literature)” with Robert Harrison, Stanford University

Listen to part 1 of the show

Listen to part 2 of the show

Byrd Hale, also known as Byrd of Paradise, has been Blues Director at KZSU 90.1 Stanford radio for fifteen years. For twenty years, Byrd has hosted the blues show “Blues with a Feelin’,” which can be heard live on KZSU 90.1 and at http://kzsu.stanford.edu/ on Saturdays from 9 am to noon. He also hosts a talk show entitled “The Lunch Special,” which can be heard on Mondays from noon to 3 pm.

Reposted with permission from: Entitled Opinions

On Never Being Alone Again by Zygmunt Bauman

In civilisation, community, Europe, government, North America, privacy, society, sociology, technology, war on September 28, 2012 at 04:52

From: On Never Being Alone Again by Zygmunt Bauman, Social Europe Journal, http://www.social-europe.eu

Two apparently unconnected items of news appeared on the same day, 19 June – though one can be forgiven overlooking their appearance… As any news, they arrived floating in an “information tsunami” – just two tiny drops in a flood of news meant/hoped to do the job of enlightening and clarifying while serving that of obscuring and befuddling.

One item, authored by Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker, informed of the spectacular rise in the number of drones reduced to the size of a dragonfly, or of a hummingbird comfortably perching on windowsills; both designed, in the juicy expression of Greg Parker, an aerospace engineer, “to hide in plain sight”. The second, penned down by Brian Shelter, proclaimed the internet to be “the place where anonymity dies”. The two messages spoke in unison, they both augured/portended the end of invisibility and autonomy, the two defining attributes of privacy – even if each of the two items was composed independently of the other and without awareness of the other’s existence.

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Reposted according to copyright notice from The Social Europe website

Days of the Locust: An Interview with Jeffrey Lockwood by David Serlin and Jeffrey Lockwood

In biology, ecology, Europe, history, North America, religion, research, society, writers on September 28, 2012 at 04:37

From: Days of the Locust: An Interview with Jeffrey Lockwood by David Serlin and Jeffrey Lockwood, CABINET Magazine, http://cabinetmagazine.org

In the summer of 1875, an infestation of Rocky Mountain locusts measuring 198,000 square miles—a square 450 miles on each side, containing an estimated 3.5 trillion locusts—descended upon the midwestern United States, the largest locust swarm ever recorded. (By comparison, the second-largest swarm, in Kenya in 1954, covered fewer than one hundred square miles.) Although an unprecedented convergence of specific climatic, agricultural, and ecological conditions was responsible for creating the 1875 outbreak, many communities interpreted the locust swarm as an objective sign of pending apocalypse and confirmation that the modern world could not escape the wrath of an angry God. By the early years of the twentieth century, however, the Rocky Mountain locust, with its turbo-charged capacity for devastation and destruction, had vanished, leaving scientists, theologians, and historians to ponder the cause of its mysterious disappearance.

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Reposted with permission from: CABINET Magazine

On the Highway of Love, Jack Kerouac Divides Men and Women by Stephanie Nikolopoulos

In books, gender, literature, North America, writers on September 25, 2012 at 05:42

From: On the Highway of Love, Jack Kerouac Divides Men and Women by Stephanie Nikolopoulos, The Millions, http://www.themillions.com

In the past few years, culture critics have speculated that in general men read less than women and that specifically they don’t read much fiction — Kerouac presumably excluded. It appears, then, that men and women read quite differently. If men are more likely to read nonfiction, it seems likely that men are reading to obtain information. In contrast, women maybe read fiction for the entertainment of a character-driven story. And this is where it gets interesting. Every so often, social debates arise whether women are more “sympathetic” than men, “sympathetic” being defined by dictionary.com as “acting or affected by, of the nature of, or pertaining to a special affinity or mutual relationship.” If it is true that women are more sympathetic, either because of their genetic makeup or because they have been conditioned to be so, then perhaps women read relationally, placing themselves within the story. It would be natural then for female readers to cast themselves as the female characters instead of the male characters. In a work written by a man, the female character is usually going to be the subject of the male gaze. If that work happens to be On the Road, you’re going to end up with women like Marylou and Camille, flat characters being two-timed by hyperactive car-thief Dean Moriarty. It’s no wonder then that many women, even when they put his personal lives aside, don’t relate to Kerouac’s writing.

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Reposted according to CC copyright notice from The Millions website

Please read: Thank you note & updates

In Announcements on September 24, 2012 at 22:23

I would like to let you know that I deleted about 40% of posts from the archives. These were the original posts that we did not receive permissions for or that we are still waiting for answers to our requests. If any of the websites writes us back you will see them back on-line.

That said I wanted to thank the wonderful group of people: editors, website owners, scholars who responded positively to our inquiries (or websites that list their content under the CC licence). Thank you all! This website could not exist without you.

HG

ABC Radio National
Adbusters Magazine
America Latina en movimiento
APHELIS
Berfrois
BibliOdyssey Blog
Boston Review
Brain Pickings
Cabinet Magazine
CafeBabel – The European Magazine
The Caravan
Common Dreams
CORPUN
David Quinn
Democracy Now!
Documentary.net
Dostoevsky Studies
Electronic Frontier Foundation
e-flux Journal
Entitled Opinions
Foreign Affairs
Frontline Club
Front Porch Republic
The Great Debate
The History Guide
A Hoover Institution Journal – Definining Ideas
The Humanist
Institute for Peace & War Reporting
Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
The Mass Ornament
Jim Mussell
John Zerzan
LibCom
The Literal Magazine
Marxists Internet Archive
Mass Ornament
Michael Geist – Blog
The Millions
Mongabay
The Montreal Review
The Morning News
N + 1 Magazine
National Association of Scholars (NAS)
New English Review – The Iconoclast
The Noam Chomsky Website
The New Atlantis
Open Democracy
Orion Magazine
The Oxonian Review
The Quarterly Conversation
The Philosopher
Philosopher’s Imprint
Phys.org
Radio Open Source
SciDev Net
Scientific American
Social Europe Journal
The Society Pages
The Quarterly Conversation
TomDispatch
YES! Magazine

 

Film Reviews: The Window (La Ventana) directed by Carlos Sorin

In film, Film Reviews, philosophy, South America, video, visual arts on September 23, 2012 at 20:29

The Window (La Ventana) by Carlos Sorin, Drama, Argentina / Spain, 2009, 77 min.

It is a rare treat to find a director that follows simplicity and presents us with something as minimalist as The Window. A window into the soul of an older man, bed-ridden with a debilitating heart condition, a window out of a hacienda, out onto the Patagonian landscape, a window to the simple and the everyday. This is an intimate look at the life of Antonio, an 80 year old man nearing the end of his life. A fly on the window, the clock ticking away the minutes in anticipation of the arrival of Antonio’s estranged son. A slow and philosophical film, with a wonderful taste of Bergman’s Wild Strawberries mixed into it. The same pattern of the return to childhood at the end of a man’s journey, takes us on the trip into the stark beauty of Patagonia. Details of life, raw and often touching in every little aspect of everyday existence, even the most ordinary and unimportant for many. The spaces are clean and minimal, everything bathed in natural sunlight coming through the windows of the old estate. There is no background music, though the piano and Antonio’s musical past is everpresent throughout the film. This silence underlines the simplicity and complexity of the life lived in the past and what is left of it in the present. The rhythms are dancing around the central theme, never completing the circle in the end. But maybe it is all about the journey, not the final destination.

The sweeping frames of the verdant Patagonian hills pull us back to the times of our own lived experiences, but the scenes are not intended to sentimentalize or offer consolation at the end of the film. Everything is being prepared for the arrival of the son, but time and space have its own way of directing reality as events stay open-ended. Perhaps, just as in life, things turn out not as perfectly planned, but open to more questions about the end of life for each of us. With the director’s poetic eye on beauty and with questions never being answered, the film allows us to touch the philosophical roots of questions about human existence. The story is intentionally simple, the film relatively short, but the life behind it is large and the poetry exquisite.

HSG

© 2012 anagnori

 

Bumblebees Quickly Learn Best Paths to Sweet Flowers by Katherine Harmon

In biology, nature, research, science on September 23, 2012 at 07:35

From: Bumblebees Quickly Learn Best Paths to Sweet Flowers by Katherine Harmon, Scientific American, http://blogs.scientificamerican.com

Bumblebees, it turns out, don’t bumble. Using tiny radar tracking devices, motion-activated cameras and artificial flowers, scientists have learned how the bees themselves quickly learn the best routes to take when they go foraging from flower to flower. In fact, their cognitive competence in this area seems to match that of bigger-brained animals.

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Reposted with permission from: Scientific American

Auguste Comte – High Priest of Positivism by Caspar Hewett

In Europe, history, humanities, research, science, society, sociology, writers on September 23, 2012 at 07:21

From: Auguste Comte – High Priest of Positivism by Caspar Hewett, The Great Debate, http://thegreatdebate.org.uk

Auguste Comte [1798 – 1857] was the father of Positivism and inventor of the term sociology. He played a key role in the development of the social sciences and was highly influential on thoughts about progress in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Comte believed that the progress of the human mind had followed an historical sequence which he described as the law of three stages; theological, metaphysical and positive. In the first two stages, attempts were made to understand the nature of things through supernatural and metaphysical explanations. In the positive stage, by contrast, observation and experiment became the principal means to search for truth. Applying the law of three stages first to the development of the sciences, Comte later claimed that it applied to human intellectual development in general and that it held the key to the future progress of humanity.

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Reposted with permission from: The Great Debate

Featured Essay: Dubai – A City Manufactured by Curiosity by Bilal Khbei

In aesthetics, architecture, Asia, culture, economics, Featured, politics on September 23, 2012 at 07:10

Featured Essay: Dubai – A City Manufactured by Curiosity by Bilal Khbei, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com

Reposted in full with permission from: e-flux (Marianna Silva)

It is hard to distinguish individuals in a crowd. Citizens of the Gulf states appear to the visitor as crowds, with their identities as individuals momentarily suspended. Such a crowd is slightly different from the kind described by Elias Canetti. This is a crowd perceived as such by a visitor conscious of his individuality against the multitude. The crowd exerts no control over this visitor, nor does it repress his personality. Rather, this visitor exerts a form of authority—engaging in an exchange of power with the crowd. For him, the citizen is imprisoned within the crowd, incapable of assuming the authority of an individual.

Visual encounters between citizens and visitors take place primarily in neutral public spaces where the visitor’s behavior is less restricted. By entering a hotel lobby, for instance, the citizen declines the possibility of establishing authority and becomes helpless. The citizen can be neither a soldier nor a noble person, but is also incapable of becoming a barbarian, an indistinguishable part of a great multitude—a grain of sand along the seashore, as Ernest Renan described barbarians. Barbarians for Renan are numberless; they tirelessly procreate despite the numerous deaths they suffer. Furthermore, their deaths complement their procreation, which is why they appear countless to Renan and other nineteenth-century European racialist thinkers.


Burj Al Arab Hotel Dubai Lobby.

But this is not how the visitor perceives the citizen of the United Arab Emirates; this citizen is part of an absent crowd. In public he appears isolated and weak—lonesome in a colonized land. The citizen appears to be performing the role of an individual, summoning a display of mannerisms in the hope of finding a place for the national costume in public space. This “uniform” is a national disposition, or perhaps an assertion of loyalty to an identity in spite of knowing it is restrictive. It is a form of reconciliation between a constructed identity and a possible connection to a formalistic modernity. The modernity experienced in hotels is superficial, and this citizen seems to imply that his costume is but one extra mask in a stage full of masks.

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Detropia with Amy Goodman and Rachel Grady

In community, documentary, economics, film, interview, media, North America, politics, society on September 19, 2012 at 04:34

From: Detropia: New Doc Takes Intimate Look at Detroit’s Struggle with Manufacturing Collapse, Urban Decay with Amy Goodman and Rachel Grady, Democracy Now!, http://www.democracynow.org

Once known as the Motor City, where the middle class was born, Detroit’s auto industry and manufacturing sector have collapsed. Today the city is on the verge of bankruptcy, facing a thinning population and massive cuts to basic services. The new film “Detropia” takes an intimate look at at some of the city’s former members of the middle class as they struggle to make ends meet and refuse to abandon hope. We’re joined by the film’s co-director, Rachel Grady, a private investigator turned filmmaker who, along with her co-director Heidi Ewing, has made several films, including the Academy Award-nominated “Jesus Camp.”

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at the PBS station WGVU. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn now to a new documentary about one of Michigan’s hardest-hit cities, Detroit. Once known as the Motor City, where the middle class was born, Detroit’s auto industry and manufacturing sector have collapsed. Today the city is on the verge of bankruptcy, facing a thinning population and massive cuts to basic services.

Well, the new film Detropia takes an intimate look at some of the city’s former members of the middle class as they struggle to make ends meet and refuse to abandon hope. I want to turn for a moment to a clip of Detropia.

REPORTER: This is the downsizing of Detroit. You’re watching it live. These are houses that are never coming back. It’s going back to the prairie, and these houses are just disappearing from the landscape.

GEORGE McGREGOR: I want to show you something. All this is empty. They built a new plant in Mexico and took all the work to Mexico.

NICOLE: For factory support, which is the guys that are making $14.35, their new proposal is $11 an hour, which means they would lose $3.35 an hour on their wage.

AUTO WORKER: Why? What do you think you’re going to feel every day going into work?

REPORTER: One of the big hot-button issues in Detroit is the layout of the city, and right now there’s questions about what parts of the city may be shrunk.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I don’t know if y’all understand, but they’re shutting down schools. They’re shutting down futures, basically.

DETROIT RESIDENT: We’re not going to accept any more downsizing. We want to hear about upsizing, big-sizing, super-sizing Detroit.

MAYOR DAVID BING: It’s going to be difficult. The city is broke. I don’t know how many times I have to say that.

STEVE COY: I mean, we looked at Baltimore. We were looking into New York City. And Detroit came up. We can experiment here.

TOMMY STEPHENS: What happened in Detroit is now spreading throughout. There’s no buffer between the rich and the poor. Only thing left is revolution.

Watch the video

Reposted according to copyright notice from: Democracy Now! website

 

How writing began with Maria Zijlstra and Professor Antonio Sagona

In archaeology, Asia, audio, civilisation, culture, history, interview, languages on September 19, 2012 at 03:52

From: How writing began with Maria Zijlstra and Professor Antonio Sagona, ABC Radio National, http://www.abc.net.au

The texts on the tablets, written in the Old Assyrian dialect of Akkadian, describe the Assyrians bringing textiles and tin to Anatolia on the backs of donkeys, and trading it with the locals for silver and gold. This letter is from Ashur-malik to his brother Ashur-idi complaining that, although winter has already come, he and his family have been left in Ashur without food, clothes or fuel. Lack of space obliged him to finish his letter on a small supplementary tablet. Often, as in this case, the tablet was encased in a clay envelope. These were sometimes inscribed with a summary of the contents and sealed by witnesses, using the traditional Mesopotamian cylinder seal rather than the local Anatolian stamp seal. Here the sender’s seal shows figures approaching a seated king with a bull-man at the end of the scene.

Listen to the broadcast

Reposted with permission from: ABC Radio National

Video: Getting into Cirque Du Soleil – The Audition Process

In art, culture, film, music, North America, performing arts, video, visual arts on September 17, 2012 at 04:59

From: Getting into Cirque Du Soleil – The Audition Process, Documentary.net, http://documentary.net

Getting into Cirque Du Soleil

Ever wondered what it takes to be a part of Cirque du Soleil? Getting to be a one of a kind performer is no small feat. For four months, the film team followed Cirque Du Soleil scouts as they scoured the world, searching for the best of the best.

Watch the video

Disclaimer from the website: “Yes it is free and legal. Films are provided by the filmmakers or rights-holders themselves. Or they claim their copyright protected contents on YouTube and monetize it (like National Geographic).”

Reposted with permission from: Documentary.net

Fiction books give a boost to the brain, says Stanford professor by Corrie Goldman

In books, humanities, literature, psychology, writers on September 17, 2012 at 01:28

From: Fiction books give a boost to the brain, says Stanford professor by Corrie Goldman, Phys.org, http://phys.org

Readers of literary works by the likes of Samuel Beckett, Stéphane Mallarmé and Geoffrey Chaucer are getting lots of exercise from these personal trainers for the brain. New research by Stanford’s Joshua Landy, associate professor of French and Italian, illustrates how authors throughout the ages have sought to improve mental skills like rational thinking and abstract thought by leading their readers through a gantlet of mental gymnastics. In contrast to the common practice of mining fictional works for moral messages and information, Landy’s theory of fiction, outlined in his new book, “How to Do Things with Fictions,” presents a new reason for reading in an age when the patience to tackle challenging pieces of writing has dwindled tremendously. Reading fiction “does not make us better people in the moral sense, whether by teaching us lessons, making us more empathetic or training us to handle morally complex situations,” said Landy. However, for those interested in fine-tuning their intellectual capacities, Landy said literary works of fiction can offer “a new set of methods for becoming a better maker of arguments, a better redeemer of one’s own existence, a person of stronger faith or a person with a quieter mind.”

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Reposted according to copyright notice from Phys.org website

Is There an End to DR Congo’s Suffering? by César Chelala

In Africa, ethics, government, news, politics, society, technology, war on September 17, 2012 at 01:07

Is There an End to DR Congo’s Suffering? by César Chelala, Common Dreams, https://www.commondreams.org

DR Congo. A relative holds a war-wounded patient’s hand in a Goma hospital. (Photo: © ICRC / Phil Moore)

The rebellion in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), which has spread to the South Kivu province, has caused the humanitarian situation in the country to deteriorate significantly, warned the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Human Rights Watch. The conflict in the DR Congo has already caused almost 6 million victims and caused enormous environmental damages.

Behind the war in Congo are what are called “conflict minerals,” such as coltan. Coltan is the name for Columbite-tantalite, a black mineral found in great quantities in Congo, from which the elements niobium and tantalum are extracted. Coltan is a crucial element in creating devices that store energy, and which are used in a wide array of small electronic devices such as cell phones, laptop computers and prosthetic devices for humans. Once coltan is processed, then it is sold to big companies which use it to make their products. Although it is mined in several countries, Congo has large amounts of this mineral.

The prime exploiters of coltan in the Congo are Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, whose proxy militias are responsible for thousands of rapes and killings, part of a history of exploitation of natural resources such as coltan, cassiterite, wolframite and gold. In addition, the Congo has 30% of the world’s diamond reserves. To exploit more freely those resources, militias from those countries have conducted for years campaigns of intimidation, and brutal rapes and killings, leaving afterwards a terrorized local population.

Although Rwanda and Uganda possess little or no coltan, their exports escalated exponentially during the Congo war. For example, recorded coltan production in Rwanda increased from 50 tons in 1995 to 1,300 tons in 2001, when coltan was the biggest single export earner. Much of that increase was due to the fraudulent re-export of Congolese coltan. The Tantalum-Niobium International Study Centre in Belgium has asked international buyers to avoid buying Congolese coltan on ethical grounds. Because international dealers are under pressure not to buy from the DRC, however, they circumvent this prohibition by having Congolese coltan re-exported as Rwanda’s.

“The consequences of illegal exploitation have been twofold: (a) a massive availability of financial resources for the Rwandan Patriotic Army, and the individual enrichment of top Ugandan military commanders and civilians; (b) the emergence of illegal networks headed by either top military officers or businessmen,” noted a UN report on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources.

The DRC has half of Africa’s forests and water resources. However, because of uncontrolled mining, the land in the DRC is being eroded and there is significant pollution of lakes and rivers.

To make matters even more troublesome, this war-ravaged country has a new emerging rebel group, known as March 23 or M23 Movement. While the government forces are being backed by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, rebel forces are backed by Uganda and Rwanda. All sides take advantage of the chaos reigning in the country to plunder its considerable natural resources. The conflict has resulted not only in the loss of millions of lives, but also on increased levels of disease and malnutrition, creating one of the worst health emergencies to unfold in Africa in recent times.

The M23 forces answer to Gen. Bosco “the Terminator” Ntaganda, who is a fugitive wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. He has been accused of rape, murder and child-soldier recruitment. Although his forces are trying to show that they can administer territory better than the central government in Kinshasa, many are skeptical of those claims. More significantly, there is widespread fear that the M23 forces will reignite a wider regional conflict.

Rwanda, which has been a key player in these events, has been charged by the UN and by Human Rights Watch of backing M23, and provoking an increase in tension between Rwanda and the DR Congo. Rwandan President Paul Kagame did not attend a recent regional meeting aimed at finding a solution to the continuous unrest in eastern Congo.

Without a concerted international effort aimed at curbing Rwanda’s support for rebel forces operating in eastern Congo, notably the M23 movement, there won’t be a solution to the DR Congo’s problems. It is time to stop the bloodletting of a country made poor by its own riches.

César Chelala

 César Chelala, MD, PhD, is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award. He is also the foreign correspondent for Middle East Times International (Australia).

Reposted with permission from: Common Dreams

 

American Mythology by Scott Esposito and Michael Smith

In aesthetics, film, history, North America, philosophy, photography, visual arts on September 16, 2012 at 06:25

From: American Mythology: A Conversation About Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff by Scott Esposito and Michael Smith, The Quarterly Conversation, http://quarterlyconversation.com

Michael Smith: Kelly Reichardt initially came to my attention with her film Wendy and Lucy (2008)—I immediately noticed a sensitivity to social issues and also a relatively spartan aesthetic. She relied on long takes and came across as a patient filmmaker and storyteller. Meek’s Cutoff is a more complete realization of that aesthetic. The opening shots alone are extraordinary in that they don’t constitute a narrative exposition so much as establish the physical nature of a journey being taken by several pioneer families. Using static, relatively long takes, Reichardt shows them performing tasks: crossing a river, drying their clothes, fetching water from a stream, cleaning dishes. These all seem mundane, which is exactly the point. Part of the experience of this film is becoming familiar with the sheer punishment of the Oregon Trail, how the movement westward was full of not only considerable challenges but also what might be called elongation. After the initial sequences, Reichardt employs a beautiful, very slow dissolve in which a wagon train gradually appears on the horizon, and then she cuts to a night shot as clouds slowly move in real time. The journey already seems endless, even though, as viewers, it’s just started for us.

Read the conversation

Reposted with permission from: The Quarterly Conversation

The Architecture of Evil by Roger Forsgren

In architecture, ethics, Europe, government, history, society, war on September 13, 2012 at 18:43

From: The Architecture of Evil by Roger Forsgren, The New Atlantis, http://www.thenewatlantis.com

For the commission to do a great building, I would have sold my soul like Faust. Now I had found my Mephistopheles. He seemed no less engaging than Goethe’s.

—Albert Speer

Someone designed the furnaces of the Nazi death camps. Someone measured the size and weight of a human corpse to determine how many could be stacked and efficiently incinerated within a crematorium. Someone sketched out on a drafting table the decontamination showers, complete with the fake hot-water spigots used to lull and deceive doomed prisoners. Someone, very well educated, designed the rooftop openings and considered their optimum placement for the cyanide pellets to be dropped among the naked, helpless men, women, and children below. This person was an engineer, an architect, or a technician. This person went home at night, perhaps laughed and played with his children, went to church on Sunday, and kissed his wife goodbye each morning.

The technical professions occupy a unique place in modern society. Engineers and architects possess skills most others lack — skills that allow them to transform dreams of design into reality. Engineers can convert a dry, infertile valley into farmland by constructing a dam to provide irrigation; they have made man fly; and architects have constructed buildings that reach thousands of feet into the sky. But these same technical gifts alone, in the absence of a sense of morality and a capacity for critical thought and judgment, can also make reality of nightmares. Ferdinand Porsche, the engineer who designed the Volkswagen — an automobile that revolutionized personal travel for the common man — also designed a terrifying battle tank that helped kill millions of Russians on the Eastern Front. Wernher von Braun, who would later design the Saturn V rocket that brought American astronauts to the Moon, designed the V-2 rockets with which the Nazis terrorized Antwerp and London in the waning months of the Second World War.

Few men better exemplify this danger than Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s chief architect. From bold, looming edifices, to giant swastika banners, to the intimidating searchlights of the “cathedral of light” piercing the night sky around one of the Nazi Party rallies at Nuremberg, Speer’s designs became icons of Nazi megalomania. He shared with the dictator a vision of a redesigned Berlin that, when the Third Reich conquered the world, would be a lasting monument to its power for ages to come. “Your husband is going to erect buildings for me such as have not been created for four thousand years,” Hitler told Speer’s wife, reflecting both the scale of their shared ambition and the shared admiration and peculiar friendship that developed between the two men over the course of the war.

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Reposted with permission from: The New Atlantis

Whitescapes by David Batchelor

In aesthetics, art, literature, philosophy, poetry, society, space on September 8, 2012 at 19:19

 

From: Whitescapes by David Batchelor, Cabinet Magazine, http://cabinetmagazine.org

To mistake the colorful for the colorless or white is nothing new. However, it is one thing not to have known that Greek statues were once brilliantly painted, it is another thing not to see the color when it is still there. This seems to speak of a different psychological state, of a different level of denial. Not perceiving what is visibly there: psychoanalysts call it negative hallucination. But we have to tread carefully here, and we should be especially careful not to get drawn into seeing color and white as opposites. White was sometimes used in Minimalism, but it was mostly used as a color and amongst many other colors. Sometimes it was used in combination with other colors and sometimes it was used alone, but even when used alone it remained a color; it did not result, except perhaps in LeWitt’s structures, in a generalized whiteness. In these works, white remained a material quality, a specific color on a specific surface, just as it always has done in the paintings of Robert Ryman. Ryman’s whites are always just that: whites. His whites are colors; his paintings do not involve or imply the suppression of color. His whites are empirical whites. Above all, his whites are plural. And, in being plural, they are, therefore, not “pure.” Here is the problem: not white; not whites; but generalized white, because generalized white, whiteness, is abstract, detached, and open to contamination by terms like “pure.”

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Reposted with permission from: Cabinet Magazine

Featured Essay: The Sea by John Zerzan

In civilisation, ecology, Featured, literature, nature, philosophy, poetry, society, writers on September 8, 2012 at 01:01

I have a special post for you today. Throughout the ongoing process of communicating with websites in the hope of receiving permission to repost their content, I had a few wonderful exchanges with writers and researchers. One of them was John Zerzan, author and philosopher, who sent me his latest essay for publication on this website. Enjoy the essay and feel free to comment.

HG

Featured Essay: The Sea by John Zerzan

Last remaining lair of unparalleled wildness. Too big to fail?

The whole world is being objectified, but Melville reminds us of all that remains. “There you stand, lost in the infinite series of the sea.”i What could be more tangible, more of a contrast with being lost in the digital world, where we feel we can never properly come to grips with anything.

Oceans are about time more than space, “as if there were a correlation between going deep and going back.”ii The Deep is solemn; linking, in some way, all that has come before. Last things and first things. “Heaven,” by comparison, is thin and faintly unserious.

“Over All the Face of Earth Main Ocean Flowed,” announced the poem by John Milton.iii Given its 71 percent predominance on this planet, why is our world called Earth instead of Sea? Much of the land, in fact, could be defined as littoral areas where land and sea meet.iv The sea is a textured place, infinite in its moods, forms, energies—and not so easily de-textured. But we see what happens when culture is privileged over place. The sea, where all life began just this side of four billion years ago, must still sustain us. Not only are its waters the original source of life, it also shapes the climate, weather, and temperature of the planet, and therefore the status of terrestrial species.

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St. Francis of Fukushima by Andrea Bennett

In Asia, biology, nature, politics, society on September 5, 2012 at 14:33

 

From: St. Francis of Fukushima by Andrea Bennett, Adbusters Magazine, http://www.adbusters.org

Naoto Matsumura’s body is completely contaminated with radioactive cesium. A year after the Tohoku earthquake, and the subsequent nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima, the 52-year-old farmer is the final holdout in Japan’s government-mandated 20-kilometre nuclear exclusion zone.

He says he’s full of rage. He says he refuses to let go of hunger and grief. He says he wants to die in his hometown. Matsumura, and the surviving animals he tends to, have very little access to water, and no electricity. He scavenges leftover coal and rations gas for energy; he survives off tinned food sourced from outside the evacuation zone.

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Reposted with permission from: Adbusters Magazine

A Great Silence Is Spreading Over the Natural World by John Vidal

In biology, civilisation, ecology, music, nature on September 5, 2012 at 14:23

 

From: A Great Silence Is Spreading Over the Natural World by John Vidal, Common Dreams, https://www.commondreams.org

“The birds are silent in the woods.
Just wait: Soon enough
You will be quiet too”

– Robert Hass

When musician and naturalist Bernie Krause drops his microphones into the pristine coral reef waters of Fiji, he picks up a raucous mix of sighs, beats, glissandos, cries, groans, tones, grunts, beats and clicks.Musician and naturalist Bernie Krause has spent 40 years recording over 15,000 species in many of the world’s pristine habitats. exti

The water pulsates with the sound of creatures vying for acoustic bandwidth. He hears crustaceans, parrot fish, anemones, wrasses, sharks, shrimps, puffers and surgeonfish. Some gnash their teeth, others use their bladders or tails to make sound. Sea anemones grunt and belch. Every creature on the reef makes its own sound.

But half a mile away, where the same reef is badly damaged, he can only pick up the sound of waves and a few snapping shrimp. It is, he says, the desolate sound of extinction.

Krause, whose electronic music with Paul Beaver was used on classic films like Rosemary’s Baby and Apocalypse Now, and who worked regularly with Bob Dylan, George Harrison and The Byrds, has spent 40 years recording over 15,000 species, collecting 4,500 hours of sound from many of the world’s pristine habitats.

But such is the rate of species extinction and the deterioration of pristine habitat that he estimates half these recordings are now archives, impossible to repeat because the habitats no longer exist or because they have been so compromised by human noise. His tapes are possibly the only record of the original diversity of life in these places.

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Reposted with permission from: Common Dreams

Hegel and Islam by Muhammed Khair

In Asia, civilisation, culture, Europe, history, philosophy, politics, religion on September 3, 2012 at 21:40

 

From: Hegel and ISLAM  by Muhammed Khair, The Philosopher, http://www.the-philosopher.co.uk

So when it comes to Islam as seen by Hegel, Anglo-Saxons have a blind spot. Standard works on Hegel, like that of the Canadian Hegelian Charles Taylor (Fellow of All Souls, Oxford), ignored Hegel’s observations on Islam in his Philosophy of History, based on a series of lectures in 1822 and published posthumously by his son. (And compare this with his most famous work on the Phenomenology of the Spirit published in 1807!) But Hegel has an interesting and illuminating short chapter on Islam, somewhat incongruously located in the final section on the German world and not, as one might expect, in the earlier section on the Oriental world. This in itself begs the question as to Islam’s place in world history.

For a recent work which hints at the true locus of Islam one must turn to the Bosnian academic Muslim – and its first president – an intellectual who can be compared to Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic. Aliya Ali Izetbegovic it is, who entitled his work Islam between East and West and located Islam in the spatial and temporal congruence between the sacred and the secular, a phenomenon that appears as it does in the 7th century of the Christian Era, seen now in the full light of history.

Scholars in the past have found Islam to be a product of late Classicism, like Christianity arising out of the Levant and heavily indebted to neo-Platonism, and only gradually Orientalised as its centre of gravity moved from Syria (in the 7th century CE) to Mesopotamia (Iraq), and as its rulers changed from Arabs (who had heavily invested in the translation project of the Greek philosophic corpus into Arabic) to neophyte newcomers from Turkish Central Asia (see the Tunisian writer Hichem Djait’s Hegelian Study of Europe and Islam, University of California of Press translation, 1985).

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Reposted with permission from: The Philosopher

Goran Bregovic: Balkans is everything but cool! by Senka Korac

In art, culture, Europe, music, politics, society on September 3, 2012 at 19:38

 

From: Goran Bregovic: Balkans is everything but cool! by Senka Korac, cafebabel.com

If you would have to put a face to the Balkan music, an average European will most likely think of Goran Bregovic. The producer, composer and the leader of Wedding And Funeral Band has been featured as one the headliners of the Sziget festival several times until now. Talking to cafebabel.com reporters before his performance he commended the festival for not only featuring the mainstream music, but other stuff, as well.

When it comes to music, people tend to think that everything is on MTV. Of course, that’s not the case. Different people listen to different music. The world is curious and smart. That’s why people travel from all over Europe to come to Sziget and hear unordinary things. Only naive people think that TV features all of the music. For instance, I sell millions of records and I’m never on TV.

The key to Bregovic’s international success was probably the fact that he was the pioneer of modernizing the ethno beats of Balkan and making them acceptable to other Europeans. Of course, it sure has helped that he has collaborated with Emir Kusturica by writing the music for some of his most prominent movies (’Time Of The Gypsies’, ’Arizona Dream’, ’Underground’). That kind of sound, based on brass band music and folk singing, opened the stage to many other bands with a similar performance. In fact, most of the acts on this year’s World Music Stage, whether they come from the Balkans, Eastern or even Western Europe, have played the simillar kind of music.

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Reposted with permission from: CafeBabel

Why Emotional Excess is Essential to Writing and Creativity by Maria Popova

In art, books, society, writers on September 3, 2012 at 19:31

 

From: Why Emotional Excess is Essential to Writing and Creativity by Maria Popova, Brain Pickings, http://www.brainpickings.org

The Diary of Anais Nin, Vol. 4: 1944-1947:

…The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them. If it seems to you that I move in a world of certitudes, you, par contre, must benefit from the great privilege of youth, which is that you move in a world of mysteries. But both must be ruled by faith.

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Reposted with permission from: Maria Popova

The Heretic by Tim Doody

In Africa, anthropology, culture, government, history, medicine, North America, politics, research, society on September 2, 2012 at 18:16

 

From: The Heretic by Tim Doody, The Morning News, http://www.themorningnews.org

In surveys administered shortly after their LSD-enhanced creativity sessions, the study volunteers, some of the best and brightest in their fields, sounded like tripped-out neopagans at a backwoods gathering. Their minds, they said, had blossomed and contracted with the universe. They’d beheld irregular but clean geometrical patterns glistening into infinity, felt a rightness before solutions manifested, and even shapeshifted into relevant formulas, concepts, and raw materials.

The !Kung (tongue-click then “kung”) is one of the psychedelically-augmented, anarchistic societies that had survived these purges well into contemporary times. A nomadic people, they’d harmonized with the austere rhythms of the Kalahari Desert for thousands of years. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, who lived with them during the 1950s, writes that the !Kung recognized an illness called “Star Sickness,” which could overcome members of the community with a force not unlike gravity and cause profound disorientation. Unable to situate themselves in the cosmos in a meaningful way, the afflicted displayed jealousy, hostility, and a marked incapacity for gift-giving—the very symptoms that plague many Westerners, according to Fadiman (and, certainly, quite a few others).

Albert Einstein, who navigated the twilight turf between consciousness and matter for much of his life, argued that “Man” suffers from an “optical delusion of consciousness” as he “experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest.” His cure? Get some n/um. “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious,” he said. “It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: His eyes are closed.”

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Reprinted with permission from: The Morning News

The Departed by Mehboob Jeelani

In Asia, history, politics, society, war on September 2, 2012 at 18:00

 

From: The Departed by Mehboob Jeelani, The Caravan, http://www.caravanmagazine.in

Two decades ago, after protests exploded across the state in the wake of the elections held in 1987, which were widely regarded as rigged, the idea of revolution smoldered in these men. Like millions of Kashmiris, they rallied around the slogan “No election, no selection, we want freedom!” Convinced that armed insurgency could eject India from Kashmir, tens of thousands of young men joined militant outfits, took pseudonyms, and smuggled themselves across the Line of Control (LoC) into Pakistan-administered Kashmir; some were killed before they even crossed the line. In Pakistan, they were taken, often blindfolded, to secret training camps, and taught to make bombs, fire anti-aircraft guns and wage guerrilla war. Many were brought to Afghanistan, where they were expected to acquire additional expertise and support the mujahideen fighting the Soviet-backed Afghan government.

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Reposted with permission from: The Caravan

Wilde Christianity by Simon Critchley

In books, ethics, humanities, philosophy, politics, religion, society, writers on September 1, 2012 at 17:38

 

From: Wilde Christianity by Simon Critchley, The Montréal Review, http://www.themontrealreview.com

I think this idea of a faith of the faithless is helpful in addressing the dilemma of politics and belief. On the one hand, unbelievers still seem to require an experience of belief; on the other hand, this cannot-for reasons I will explore below-be the idea that belief has to be underpinned by a traditional conception of religion defined by an experience or maybe just a postulate of transcendent fullness, namely the God of metaphysics or what Heidegger calls “onto-theo-logy.” The political question-which will be my constant concern in the experiments that follow-is how such a faith of the faithless might be able to bind together a confraternity, a consorority or, to use Rousseau’s key term, an association. If political life is to arrest a slide into demotivated cynicism, then it would seem to require a motivating and authorizing faith which, while not reducible to a specific context, might be capable of forming solidarity in a locality, a site, a region-in Wilde’s case a prison cell.

This faith of the faithless cannot have for its object anything external to the self or subject, any external, divine command, any transcendent reality. As Wilde says: “But whether it be faith or agnosticism, it must be nothing external to me. Its symbols must be of my own creating.”

We appear to be facing a paradox. On the one hand, to be true everything must become a religion, otherwise belief lacks (literally) credibility or authority. Yet, on the other hand, we are and have to be the authors of that authority. The faith of the faithless must be a work of collective self-creation where I am the smithy of my own soul and where we must all become soul-smiths, as it were.

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Reposted with permission from: The Montréal Review

Free Will and the Anders Breivik Trial by Sarah Lucas

In culture, ethics, Europe, government, philosophy, politics on September 1, 2012 at 17:31

 

From: Free Will and the Anders Breivik Trial by Sarah Lucas, The Humanist, http://thehumanist.org

Obtaining revenge for heinous crimes appeals to our moral intuitions; if someone intentionally harms others, he or she should suffer the consequences. Revenge has been an understandably present theme in Norway in the aftermath of Breivik’s killing spree. On the opening day of the trial, the daily newspaper Dagsavisen carried the headline, “The Hour of Reckoning,” surrounded by the name of every person killed on Utoya. VG, Norway’s most-read paper, quoted a survivor who said, “I’m looking forward to him receiving his punishment.”

Our conviction that punishment is just in the face of crimes like Breivik’s is so strong that it obscures a built-in assumption. We take for granted that humans possess free will, and that each individual is therefore at liberty to act as he or she chooses. Our assumption is rooted in the powerful feeling of free will we experience: if I want to raise my hand right now, I will. Free will does not, however, flow from a materialistic (non-supernatural) understanding of the world. Without resorting to the supernatural, it is difficult to make a case for the existence of free will, at least for the type that would imply moral responsibility.

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Reposted with permission from: The Humanist

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