Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Haints’ Sunday Best: March 18, 2012

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As a new feature of my blog, I’ve decided to have a weekly summary of my top events.  I have emphasized “my” as I’m sure my weekly highlights might not always match yours. I was thinking I’d have it as Friday feature, but I really want to suck the lifeblood out of the week, so Sunday surely is best.

So here goes (not necessarily in chronological order):

Being Rick-rolled is not as fun as it used to be:

Republican candidate for the presidential nomination Rick Santorum continues to take the campaign to extraordinary heights: of craziness. He started the week in Puerto Rico by saying in order to become the 51st state, Puerto Ricans should speak English – in Puerto Rico. He’s since tried to soften his statement on Puerto Rico, but seriously, it’s like trying to bottle a lightening bolt. He didn’t stop there. Santorum ended the week by declaring a war on hardcore porn because gosh, you know, without porn, people would get straight back to work and those pesky gas prices might come down. And this already from a man who is against both choice AND contraception (because, of course, using contraception has no affect whatsoever on the number of abortions). But Santorum has really found his mojo on this latest issue. No porn + no sex = a prosperous America. I guess Walmart will start selling hair shirts soon.

I’m every woman:

Hillary Clinton had a few choice words for those who have declared a war on women’s rights (that means you, Rick Santorum).

 

Obama learns a new language:

David Cameron had his first official visit to the United States, though, to be honest, most Americans don’t even know who David Cameron is. And boy, did he and his wife, Samantha, get the five-star treatment – a far cry from what he gets back in the U.K. Dave got to eat hotdogs and ride on a big plane that has its own operating theatre. I loved all the references to the War of 1812 and Obama even learned British. I hate to admit it, but that Dave sure is a charmer. On excursions like these, you can see why poor Mr. Brown didn’t stand a chance.

 

So is Apple not laced with poison?

NPR’s This American Life retracted the story of Mike Daisey’s visit to the Apple factory in China. Turns out, Daisey’s interpreter claims much of the story was fabricated. When the story first came out, you could hear the sharp intake of breath amongst privileged, foot-conversed hipsters everywhere wondering what they should do about all that expensive Apple kit they either owned or coveted. Would they have to dress like Mitt Romney’s sons, wear drawn-down hats and shades when they entered an Apple store? The ensuing furore caused Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook to issue a statement that Apple took human rights seriously and claims of workers’ abuse would be vigorously investigated.  So is the story not true? Well, Daisey has already scrubbed Apple references from his theatre act, so who knows. In the meantime, is it now OK to buy the new iPad 3 with a clean conscience? Judging by the queues outside Apple stores this week, I think people left their consciences on the Oregon Trail years ago.

Trouble in Kony Island:

I must be one of the few people on the planet who has NOT watched the Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 video. When I was copying the link from youtube, I saw that it had over 82million views. There are less people in the United Kingdom. I’ve kind of zoned out on the surrounding controversy about the video, but I caught snatches of “misappropriation of charitable funds,” “misguided focus on a criminal who no longer terrorizes Uganda,” “shady filmmakers,” “right-wing Christian agenda”, etc. So it goes. But what REALLY caught my attention is this video of Invisible Children’s founder, Jason Russell. Talk about breaking down under pressure. It’s never a pleasant experience to watch someone lose it – especially like this. I’m afraid we should always keep in mind the medical association with “going viral”. Whatever good Jason Russell wanted from his film has gone epidemic, but unfortunately, so has the crazy.

What I love about George Clooney:

That he went from this to this in the space of a day. I love him.

So has Tyler Clementi been vindicated?

Dharun Ravi was found guilty on a number of charges relating to Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers college student who committed suicide days after Ravi uploaded a live feed of Clementi having a sexual encounter with another man on his Twitter account. The jury found Ravi guilty of intimidation, tampering of evidence and invasion of privacy. While I’m pleased that Ravi was rightfully found guilty of the charges, I agree with Emily Bazelon in Slate who wonders if punishing a 20 year-old with a long jail sentence is actually the right course of action. There’s no question that what Ravi did was wrong, but I think it would be helpful to find out exactly why he did what he did. We never got to hear Ravi in his own words. Until we address the root causes for homophobia, racism, sexism etc, we can’t expect to really make that much progress, as people will just focus on not getting caught, rather than the fact these “isms” are just morally and fundamentally wrong.

So! That was my week. There was so much more, but either I forgot, I downgraded, or I just haven’t fully-digested yet.

To end, here are a few quick things that have also made my week:

What I’m reading: The Blitz by Juliet Gardiner.

What I’m listening to (new): Visions by Grimes

What I’m listening to (old): Ill Communication by Beastie Boys

Film I’m most looking forward to (this week, but not out in the UK until May): Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Favorite images of the week (courtesy of Flavorpill): People jumping rope from the perspective of a jump rope. Genius.

Hope you enjoyed my first Sunday Best. I’ll tweak it as I go along, but comments are always welcomed. Or you can just enjoy (or despair) in silence.

All best, Haints. Follow me on twitter.

Moneygall’s Finest

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My problem with videos like the one President Obama’s people released this week is that they’re most likely appreciated only by those who are already drinking out of the same punch bowl. Supposedly, it’s targeted to the independents, but I don’t know. People are so cynical these days I’m not sure if a campaign video narrated by Tom Hanks will do the trick. Actually, it’s probably more for those people who aren’t independents but just feel disappointed by the last four years. I don’t know what planet those people live on (obviously one where it’s both your birthday and Christmas everyday), but to that group, I say patience is a virtue. If you have any doubt about that, read Andrew Sullivan’s piece in Newsweek. We need more foresight, less short term gratification. It’s like my dad’s attitude towards the stock market: don’t get blustered by short term losses, just ride it out and ultimately the ship will right itself. I know that’s hard for a lot of folks (including me), but it is about the long game – one not too many of us play these days.

But hey, we can always try. So I give you The Road We’ve Traveled. It inspired me, but let’s face it, I’m already in the choir.

Since it’s St. Patrick’s Day I’m also posting a link to President Obama’s speech in Dublin last year. O’Bama!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

It’s International Women’s Day!

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A 1932 Soviet poster for International Women's...

I have the same issues with International Women’s Day as I do with Black History month, but I am marking it today.

So in honor of IWD, I’ve decided to feature a clip from one of my favorite authors of all time – Toni Morrison. Here, she talks about the challenges of being a female writer. I really admire her pride in being both a black and female writer. She makes a critical point about how people often assume they’re giving a compliment by saying one’s art is too good to be rooted in one or the other. But more often than not, the opposite is true. As Morrison says so passionately, being black and female is actually a “a very broad, deep, wide pool to draw from. It’s [actually] richer than some other label.”

At the end of the day, you’re who you are for a reason, so use it.

Simpaticos

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Once a month, I give tours at a war museum in London. Right at the start, I always tell my groups that my tours won’t be focusing on the nuts and bolts of the tanks, bombers or anti-aircraft guns. I can’t even change a tire, let alone remember what sort of fuel a Sherman tank used (petrol, actually, but I had to look that up just now). To be honest, I don’t find those details very interesting, though I know many people do. What I do find interesting are the stories behind the objects – both the human sacrifice and the reasons why we got ourselves in such a mess to begin with. But above all, I like to remind people that although what they see in the museum may seem to be relics of an increasingly distant past, armed conflicts are an on-going part of our modern world.

Before I kick off the tour, I like to ask where people are from. Usually they are from the U.K., but I get people from as far away as Japan, Australia and New Zealand. I also get lots of people from the United States, Canada and Europe. Sometimes the Americans seem bemused by the fact that they’ve travelled all this way only to be given a tour by a fellow American, but they quickly get used to it. I love mixed groups. However, there are two groups which really intimidate me: veterans of the armed forces and Germans. The veterans because I want to make sure I give them proper respect by not questioning the causes for war too much; and the Germans because I want to make sure my tour doesn’t provide a one-sided history or demonize them in any way (e.g. don’t use “Germans” and “Nazis” interchangeably).

A couple of weeks ago, a man from Leipzig and his daughter joined my tour. They were both very engaged – especially the father. He wasn’t afraid to ask or answer questions, which is sometimes the case with non-UK participants. With or without Germans on the tour, I make a point to mention the bombing of Dresden. Over three days in February 1945, Allied bombers killed more than 20,000 people. To appreciate that scale, consider that 43,000 people died over a six-month period during the Blitz (September 1940 – May 1941). This is an incredibly sobering statistic which a lot of people don’t realize and are appalled to find out.

The German dad was quite helpful when I got to the V-1 and V-2 rockets, as he was able to say the German word for the “V” part – Vergeltungswaffen (literally, “revenge flying weapon” or “payback weapon”). I usually end my tours with these objects as they lead directly into what we’re dealing with today in terms of missiles and nuclear weapons. I also like to point out here that as destructive as the V-2 rocket was, it paled in comparison to the over 25,000 people who lost their lives in their construction (inmates from a concentration camp, laboring in inhumane conditions in an underground factory).

After the tour, the Germans hung around, as the father was quite keen to share some thoughts. Although I was running late for another engagement, I couldn’t tear myself away from the conversation. He was glad that I included the atrocity of Dresden in my tour and related some harrowing accounts told to him by his grandfather of people literally burning alive in the streets and dying from smoke inhalation. As it transpired, the father was a World War II enthusiast who spent a lot of his time examining the SS, and in particular Heinrich Himmler. Not as a believer in their cause, but to understand how madness was able to gain so much power. He pointed out that Himmler’s motivation for the murder of millions of people was that it would lead to the ultimate good and purity of the German people and that everything was subordinate to that. The father was interesting here as you could see him struggling to find the exact words to express his thoughts. He often said something to his daughter in rushed German for her to translate, but he would just as often veto her interpretation with an impatient “nein, nein”. But I understood him completely.

I raised the point that, unfortunately, countries don’t usually enter conflicts to stop genocide but to protect its interests. And this led us to Rwanda, to Bosnia and finally to Syria. How often have we said never again only to see history repeating itself over and over? And if I’m honest with myself, my alarm buttons haven’t been pushed as quickly as they should have. For months now, the Assad government has been butchering its own people, but I would argue only recently have people really started to pay attention. Perhaps it was the deaths of a western journalist and a photographer that finally highlighted how real this is, but never again doesn’t seem to be such a forceful statement. “Ja, ja. This is true,” said the German father. In the end, the father, his daughter and I all tried to imagine how brave we would be in standing up to the madness which perpetuates tyranny and genocide. Sadly, we realized we couldn’t say for sure what we’d do. The ideal of doing good is always there, but in reality who knows? And then I thought about an email I recently deleted from Amnesty International.

Before we parted, the father tried to find a word to describe our connection. Out of the back and forth in German between him and his daughter, I picked out the word simpatico. “Ja, you have that word in English?” “Yes, we do, and it’s a good word.” On that, we shook hands.

And when I got home, I made a point of going through my deleted items and pulling out that email from Amnesty International about the Syrian atrocities. It’s a start, but far from never again.

Friday viewing: The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T

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Cover of "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T"

For a long time I thought I made this film up because every time I mentioned The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, I’d get blank stares or questions about my sanity. I’d say, “You know that movie about a kid who didn’t want to practice the piano? Ends up in this strange place with an evil Dr. T who wants him to play the piano all the time. Written by Dr. Seuss? No?” Well, the films exists! And fortunately, I’m far from being the only one who’s seen it. The only film Dr. Seuss ever wrote is a work of mad, understated genius.

This was no box-office bonanza when it opened in 1953, but many great films aren’t. Must be one of the strangest kid films ever and I love it.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

Sinead’s Back!

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Scinhead O'Connor at Malta Festival 2007, Pola...

As if the good woman ever left us. Unfortunately, Sinead O’Connor‘s been in the news over the last few years for some not so musical reasons. At times, you even wondered and feared for her sanity and well-being. She’s always put her emotions and opinions on the table in an unsettling yet brave way.

But above all that, there’s always been her VOICE. I’ve been a fan of Sinead’s since what feels like the dawn of time. She is definitely amongst my all time greats. And her latest record is proof her voice is just as great and powerful as it ever was. How About I Be Me (and You Be You)? has already received great reviews. The lead single “The Wolf is Getting Married” sounds like it could have come from one of her earliest records. I’m so pleased she’s back with a vengeance – in a way I always hoped for Whitney Houston.

I was going to post the official video for “Wolf”, but her performance on The Graham Norton Show was absolutely brilliant, so here it is.