Far Eastern Film Festival daily diary

April 24th, 2017


A still from Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow PHOTO/FEFF

Listening to …

Japanese director Yoshitaka Mori and star Kenichi Matsuyama impress first with their Italian and then with their collaboration on Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow. The film recounts the tragic life of Japanese shogi player Satoshi Murayama, crippled by health issues and dead at the age of 29 before he could fully realize his dream of becoming a Meijin (or master) of the board game, often compared to chess but more complex.

Matsuyama is a heartthrob back home thanks to role in the likes of the Death Note franchise and the film adaptation of the Haruki Murakami novel Norwegian Wood. He revealed he’d put on around 25kg for the part, the sort of dedication to the craft that made Robert De Niro the actor he is – most famously when he packed on the pounds when playing the boxer Jake La Motta in director Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, and picked up and Oscar for his efforts. Mori revealed he had taken some inspiration from that film, too, and boxing has deep historic links in the Fruili region where FEFF’s host city of Udine in northern Italy can be found. It was just up the road from here that the giant Primo Carnera began life as a carnival strongman before “The Ambling Alp” went on to become Italy’s one and only world heavyweight champion back in the 1930s, and ending his career as a bit part player in Hollywood.

Thinking about …

How great it was to see Hong Kong veteran Michael Hui back on the big screen in Taiwanese director Chung Mong-hong’s moody and languid black comedy-cum-thriller Godspeed. The actor-comedian and one-time staple of Hong Kong box office smashes such as The Private Eyes (1976) and Security Unlimited (1981) doesn’t appear much these days and found the role – as a aging taxi driver seemingly on the road to nowhere – a perfect fit.

Asia Times Online for more

Tarun Vijay, note Gandhi was listed as black student last year

April 24th, 2017


Last year, an exhibition on Black History Month at University College London included Mahatma Gandhi in its list of illustrious black students

“If we were racist, why would we have all the entire south – which is complete, you know Tamil, you know Kerala, you know Karnataka and Andhra – why do we live with them? We have blacks, black people around us.”

- Tarun Vijay

Tarun Vijay has been rebuked for suggesting that racism does not now and never has existed in India. One of the interesting assumptions of Mr. Vijay’s remarks, for which he has since apologized, is that some Indians are black and others are not. He evidently places himself in the non-black category. Mr. Vijay has doubtless been brushing up on the history of race relations in India since the fracas erupted and he will have come to appreciate the irony of his comments, since there was a time not long ago when many Europeans regarded all Indians as black. They used other racial terms as well, but from the early modern period and into the twentieth century, Europeans frequently referred to Indians as blacks, regardless of complexion. Of course, European writers referred to neither Africans nor Indians exclusively as black and also called numerous other peoples black (in the Americas, for example, or the South Pacific). The very fluidity of the term was what enhanced its appeal to the European observer: the opportunity to generalize about the exotic Orient increased if one was prepared to think of the Ottoman, the Arab, and the Indian as different markers on a continuum of darkness.

The legacy of this history continues into the present, often in benign ways. Last year, an exhibition on Black History Month at University College London, which likes to claim Gandhi as an alumnus, included the Mahatma in its list of illustrious black students. Nothing sinister was intended: Gandhi was being celebrated as a distinguished black former student. One wonders what Gandhi himself would have made of the honour. His views on race seemed to evolve over time and to move beyond the thoughts he expressed in South Africa, but I would not wheel him out, as Vijay also does, as a spokesperson for enlightened attitudes to race. Perhaps someone ought to have reminded the organizers of the unfortunate remarks about Africans that he uttered in the early phase of his political career

NDTV for more

WSWS arts editor David Walsh speaks at San Diego State University on art and identity politics

April 24th, 2017


David Walsh speaking at San Diego State University

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality at San Diego State University held a successful meeting April 18 entitled, “Should art be judged on the basis of race and gender?” The guest lecturer was David Walsh, arts editor for the World Socialist Web Site. He spoke to an audience of some 70 students and workers and presented a Marxist analysis of recent controversies in arts and culture. The lecture was followed by a lively question-and-answer period.

The WSWS will post a version of the talk in the next few days.

The presentation centered on the role of identity politics and the social layers obsessed with race and gender in contemporary American life, and the cultural implications of those issues. The speaker referred to the new constituency for imperialist war, often in the name of “human rights” or “women’s rights.” He discussed several recent episodes—the attack on Free State of Jones and the protests against Dana Schutz’ painting of Emmett Till, Open Casket —that indicated the degree to which certain upper middle class layers are saturated with a pernicious racialist outlook. The opponents of Schutz’s work demanded that it be removed from the Whitney Museum in New York and destroyed.

Walsh argued that there was a material basis for the pursuit of racial and gender politics. He took note of various statistics revealing the sharp polarization within the African American population, and among women. “These newly affluent elements want more,” he said.

The WSWS arts editor then posed several questions, “Is it possible … for one gender or ethnicity or nationality to successfully create artistic works about another? Is such a thing even permissible? … And what are the implications if these efforts are not possible or permissible?”

World Socialist Web Site for more

Weekend Edition

April 21st, 2017

Modismriti or Laws of Modi

April 21st, 2017


Maharaja Chhappan Singh lost in a deep thought planning a strategy to gain absolute authority PHOTO/Uncyclopedia

Times have changed. About eighteen hundred years ago, Manu (who, according to Hindu mythology, is considered to be the first man) gave a legal text called Manu Smriti or The Laws of Manu. Manu’s co-author is believed to be his disciple Maharishi Bhrigu. The book is in verse form and most verses are attributed to Bhrigu. Manu’s aim was to provide the society with rules favorable to upper castes with the goal of keeping the shudras (the lowest caste) in their place, that is, at the bottom, with lots of horrible punishments for breaking the caste-based rules. (Many sections of Manusmriti are also nasty and repugnant to women.)

(On December 25, 1927, social reformer Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, independent India’s first Law and Justice Minister and chairman of the constitution drafting committee, burnt a copy of Manusmriti as a mark of protest because it justified the caste system. Ambedkar once wrote:

“Even though I was born in the Hindu religion, I will not die in the Hindu religion

Years later, in a public ce

Is matter conscious?

April 21st, 2017


The nature of consciousness seems to be unique among scientific puzzles. Not only do neuroscientists have no fundamental explanation for how it arises from physical states of the brain, we are not even sure whether we ever will. Astronomers wonder what dark matter is, geologists seek the origins of life, and biologists try to understand cancer—all difficult problems, of course, yet at least we have some idea of how to go about investigating them and rough conceptions of what their solutions could look like. Our first-person experience, on the other hand, lies beyond the traditional methods of science. Following the philosopher David Chalmers, we call it the hard problem of consciousness.

But perhaps consciousness is not uniquely troublesome. Going back to Gottfried Leibniz and Immanuel Kant, philosophers of science have struggled with a lesser known, but equally hard, problem of matter. What is physical matter in and of itself, behind the mathematical structure described by physics? This problem, too, seems to lie beyond the traditional methods of science, because all we can observe is what matter does, not what it is in itself—the “software” of the universe but not its ultimate “hardware.” On the surface, these problems seem entirely separate. But a closer look reveals that they might be deeply connected.

Consciousness is a multifaceted phenomenon, but subjective experience is its most puzzling aspect. Our brains do not merely seem to gather and process information. They do not merely undergo biochemical processes. Rather, they create a vivid series of feelings and experiences, such as seeing red, feeling hungry, or being baffled about philosophy. There is something that it’s like to be you, and no one else can ever know that as directly as you do.

Our own consciousness involves a complex array of sensations, emotions, desires, and thoughts. But, in principle, conscious experiences may be very simple. An animal that feels an immediate pain or an instinctive urge or desire, even without reflecting on it, would also be conscious. Our own consciousness is also usually consciousness of something—it involves awareness or contemplation of things in the world, abstract ideas, or the self. But someone who is dreaming an incoherent dream or hallucinating wildly would still be conscious in the sense of having some kind of subjective experience, even though they are not conscious of anything in particular.

Nautilus for more

Rise of gau rakshaks:? Don’t hide behind euphemisms, this is murder

April 21st, 2017


As the list of people murdered by ‘gau rakshaks’ continues to rise, it is time to call murder by its name, instead of cloaking it in euphemisms such as manhandling and vigilantism. PHOTO/Nitin Kanotra

End the euphemisms. Call it by its name- Murder. Not manhandling. Not vigilantism. And stop saying, ‘gau- rakshaks,’ please.

The men who dragged Pehlu Khan out of his vehicle on the Alwar highway in Rajasthan, flung him on the roadside and lynched him so brutally that he died four days later, are not ‘protectors’, self- appointed or otherwise; they are not even ordinary criminals. They are thugs, who driven by blind religious prejudice, and emboldened by an environment that will justify the perpetrator instead of standing with the victim, brazenly killed an innocent man.

It didn’t matter that Pehlu Khan, a trader from Haryana, pleaded with his assaulters that the cattle he was transporting was with legal documentation and had been purchased at a fair in Jaipur. Quite frankly, even if he were a cow-smuggler it was no one’s business but that of the state police to enforce the law. That the Rajasthan home minister- the man who is meant to be a custodian of the law- sees “two sides” to a singular horrific truth is what is frightening.

Hindustan Times for more

Intersex rights

April 20th, 2017



Children born with in-between sex development are subject to surgeries that many believe violate their human rights

People tend to assume that everyone is born simply male or female. But nature shows us otherwise. About one in 2,000 babies is born with genitals roughly halfway between male and female types. Their genitals might include what looks rather like a penis along with what appears to be a vaginal opening. More subtle forms of in-between sex development are much more common than that. In fact, with modern science, we find that as many as one in 100 of us might have some sex-development type other than the standard male or female, although some will never have occasion to find out.

Nevertheless, cultural attachment to the idea of a clear, simple division between (only) two sexes runs deep. Many physicians believe that there’s nothing we can do about that cultural anchor – You can’t change society, they say. So they think that, for the children’s sake, it’s sometimes necessary to do ‘corrective’ surgeries to make children who are born intersex look more typically female or male. Although statistics can be hard to pin down, it appears that in the United States today, at least one in 300 children is born with a difference of sex development (DSD) evident enough to the naked eye that a paediatrician might recommend an expert consultation.

AEON for more

Dear Google, please solve death

April 20th, 2017


Meet the transhumanists who believe that the brain can outlive the body

Dead of the world, unite!” Appearing in a manifesto published in Petrograd in 1920, this arresting slogan encapsulated the philosophy of cosmism, which promoted interplanetary exploration as a path to immortality. Mixing scientific futurism with ideas derived from the 19th-century Russian Orthodox mystic Nikolai Fedorov, cosmism was summed up by the rocket engineer Konstantin ­Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) as “the perfection of man and the liquidation of all imperfect forms of life”. Liberated from the Earth, human beings would become pure ether, bodiless and undying. The belief that death could be conquered by science was embraced by a renegade section of the Bolshevik intelligentsia, including Maxim Gorky, and informed the decision to immortalise Lenin’s cadaver – first by refrigeration, in an early experiment in what would later be called “cryonic suspension”, and then by embalming when freezing failed. Cosmist thinking went on to find a home in the Soviet space programme and continues to influence Russian science to this day.

New Statesman for more

Jinnah did not want partition: Ayesha Jalal

April 20th, 2017


Historian Ayesha Jalal delivering a lecture at the AKU auditorium PHOTO/Fahim Siddique, White Star

Since the publication of her first book, The Sole Spokesman, in 1985, Ayesha Jalal has been Pakistan’s leading historian. Educated at Wellesley College in the United States, and Trinity College at the University of Cambridge, she received the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 1998 for showing “extraordinary originality and dedication in [her] creative pursuits…”

Jalal has taught in the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Harvard University and Columbia University, and is now working as Mary Richardson Professor of History at Tufts University. She also delivered the Lawrence Stones Lecture Series at Princeton University in 2011. These lectures gave shape to her book The Pity of Partition – an intellectual history of the life and works of Saadat Hassan Manto, who is also closely related to her.

The Sole Spokesman is the single most influential academic work on the dynamics of the Pakistan Movement and the role played by Muhammad Ali Jinnah in it. In a follow-up book, Self and Sovereignty, Jalal meticulously worked through colonial archives and multiple other sources to trace the origins and shaping of the Muslim community and its identity in British India.

Herald for more