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Dhaka hustle and bustle

Saturday, 11 March, 2017 0 Comments

Between air pollution, poverty, corruption and rising sea levels, Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, is one of the least liveable cities in the world. This is tough for its 17 million residents as Dhaka has the potential to be one of Eurasia’s great urban centres. Location, location, location: Dhaka is located near several rivers, including the vast Ganges-Brahmaputra delta, which benefits Bangladesh’s agricultural economy, while the country’s mountains are rich with minerals, biodiversity and forests. In other words, Dhaka has access to all the resources it needs to prosper.

Farhan Hussain, Sajeed Sarwar and Safat Chowdhory are Bengali Film Makers and their Dhaka is full of life: “The smiling Rickshawala, the hustle and bustle of the street, the entrepreneurship spirit, the smell of freshly cooked Biriyani, the Falgun colours!”


Barbarians And The Civilized

Friday, 10 March, 2017 0 Comments

That’s the title of a stimulating essay by the French writer Pascal Bruckner in the Winter 2017 issue of City Journal. It’s a continuation of the ideas he developed in his 2006 book La Tyrannie de la Pénitence: Essai sur le Masochisme Occidental (The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism), which was memorable for statements such as, “Europe relieves itself of the crime of the Shoah by blaming Israel, it relieves itself of the sin of colonialism by blaming the United States.”

In “Barbarians and the Civilized”, Pascal Bruckner argues that “The civilized man must constantly look barbarism in the face, to remember where he comes from, what he has escaped — and what he could become again.” Snippet:

“Today, being civilized means knowing that we are potentially barbarian. Woe to the brutes who think they’re civilized and close themselves in the infernal tourniquet of their certitudes. It would be good to inject in others the poison that has long gnawed away at us: shame. A little guilty conscience in Teheran, Riyadh, Karachi, Moscow, Beijing, Havana, Caracas, Algiers, Harare, and Islamabad would do these governments and their peoples considerable good. The finest gift that Europe could give the world would be the spirit of critical examination that it discovered and that has saved it from many perils. It is the best remedy against arbitrary violence and the violation of human rights.”

Since Le Sanglot de l’Homme blanc (The White Man’s Tears), Pascal Bruckner has fought valiantly against the anti-Western and pro-Third-World sentimentalism of the Left in the West. His Resistance continues.


Assange, Snowden and Putin walk into a bar

Thursday, 9 March, 2017 3 Comments

First thing: Assange and Snowden and working with Putin. Second thing: Don’t believe what you read in the papers, especially regarding the WikiLeaks claims that the CIA can intercept encrypted WhatsApp and Signal messages. It can’t. If you have a secure device, then WhatsApp and Signal are secure. If your device is insecure, nothing is secure. As Robert Graham of Errata Security puts it:

The CIA didn’t remotely hack a TV. The docs are clear that they can update the software running on the TV using a USB drive. There’s no evidence of them doing so remotely over the Internet. If you aren’t afraid of the CIA breaking in an installing a listening device, then you should’t be afraid of the CIA installing listening software.

The CIA didn’t defeat Signal/WhatsApp encryption. The CIA has some exploits for Android/iPhone. If they can get on your phone, then of course they can record audio and screenshots. Technically, this bypasses/defeats encryption — but such phrases used by Wikileaks are highly misleading, since nothing related to Signal/WhatsApp is happening. What’s happening is the CIA is bypassing/defeating the phone. Sometimes. If they’ve got an exploit for it, or can trick you into installing their software.

Bottom line: Assange and Snowden are Russian agents. Bonus joke: Snowden and Putin and a dog walk into a bar in Moscow:

“Ow!”
“Ow!”
“Woof!”


Camille Paglia talks Trump

Wednesday, 8 March, 2017 1 Comment

Camile Paglia’s new book is called Free Women, Free Men and it’s a compilation of her writings about sex, gender and feminism. In advance of publication next week, Paglia spoke to Molly Fischer of New York Magazine. The sisterhood will not be pleased with her take on Trump, Clinton and the US election results. Snippet:

“I felt the Trump victory coming for a long time,” she told me. Writing last spring, she’d called Trump “raw, crude and uninformed” but also “smart, intuitive and a quick study”; she praised his “bumptious exuberance and slashing humor” (and took some pleasure in watching him fluster the GOP). Speaking two weeks into his administration, she sounded altogether less troubled by the president than any other self-declared feminist I’d encountered since Inauguration Day: “He is supported by half the country, hello! And also, this ethically indefensible excuse that all Trump voters are racist, sexist, misogynistic, and all that — American democracy cannot proceed like this, with this reviling half the country.”

Paglia In fact, she has had to restrain herself from agreeing with the president, at least on certain matters. “I have been on an anti–Meryl Streep campaign for about 30 years,” she said. When Trump called the actress “overrated” in a January tweet, “I wanted to leap into print and take that line but I couldn’t, because Trump said it.”

It’s true that there is not infrequently something Trumpian in Paglia’s cadence (lots of ingenuous exclamation points — “This tyrannical infantilizing of young Americans must stop!”), as well as her irresistible compulsion to revisit enemies, slights, and idées fixes (substitute “Gloria Steinem” and “Lacan” for “the failing New York Times”). And then, perhaps most important: She, like Trump, gives her audience the vicarious thrill of watching someone who appears to be saying whatever the hell they want. Reading Paglia is a bit like how it must have felt to be an enthusiastic attendee at a Trump campaign rally: She can’t possibly REALLY mean that, you think, and laugh, bewildered — but can you imagine how annoyed it must make people?

Camille Paglia Predicted 2017 makes for refreshing reading in this time of faux media outrage.


Ataraxia: The perfect word for dealing with our times

Tuesday, 7 March, 2017 0 Comments

The Greek philosophers Pyrrho and Epicurus used the word “ataraxia” (ἀταραξία) to describe a state of mind characterized by freedom from fear. Ataraxia, say the Epicurians, is the only possible state of happiness. The robust tranquility it brings empowers a person to live without worrying about the afterlife. Furthermore, it helps you to avoid politics and vexatious people; it enables you to surround yourself with affectionate friends; it opens your eyes to the fact that the things we needs to be happy are few and that pain seldom lasts long, and, most importantly, it makes you an affectionate, virtuous person. Truly, ataraxia is the word we’ve been looking for.

The cousins Nicolas and Oliver Jutzi founded vandy films in Lausanne last year. They share “the same passion for the exhilaration of large open spaces” and that’s reflected in their beautiful ATARAXIA short, which is about a runner friend who achieves an “incredible state of freedom… during long alpine outings.”


Snap post

Monday, 6 March, 2017 0 Comments

Snap (formerly Snapchat) went public last week and raised a huge $3.4 billion that valued the company at over $24 billion. On its minimalist homepage, the business describes itself for a quick-read generation thus: “Snap Inc. is a camera company.”

What we’re witnessing in early 2017 is the transformation of photography into visual computing via the things we still call phones. And next? “We believe that reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate,” says Snap. There’s nothing that fuels ambition like a $24 billion-dollar valuation, but to “improve the way people live” will require more than self-destructing images. Or will it? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads is the attitude of the young Snap founders and that’s why adults should read the Economist explainer on “How to make sense of Snapchat.” It’s never too late to be young.

Update: “The optimism for Snap’s stock seems to be fading nearly as quickly as the average message on Snapchat.” Quartz


The carnival of Nazaré

Sunday, 5 March, 2017 0 Comments

It is said that that the Portuguese town of Nazaré got its name from a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary brought to Spain from Nazareth by Christians in the 4th century. The statue arrived in Nazaré in 711, carried by a monk named Romano, accompanied by Roderic, the last Visigoth king of what is now Portugal.

Barcelona-born filmmaker Kylian Castells is more interested in surfing than statues. Here, he captures the black-and-white power of the Nazaré Canyon, which creates the “epics” that have made the town a hotspot for big-wave surfers like Garrett McNamara, Carlos Burle and Maya Gabeira. The music is by the Dark Jazz Trio.


The Silence of the Scorsese

Saturday, 4 March, 2017 0 Comments

In the 17th century, two Portuguese Jesuits travel to Japan to find their mentor, who has disappeared and supposedly renounced his faith. The Japanese authorities, fearful of colonial influence, have outlawed Christianity, which makes the priests’ mission mortally dangerous. In his 1966 novel, Silence, Shusaku Endo explored the many intricate, terrible torments feudal Japan devised to kill priests. Snippet:

“Two trees, made into the form of a cross, were set at the water’s edge. Ichizo and Mokichi were fastened to them. When it was night and the tide came in, their bodies would be immersed in the sea up to the chin. They would not die at once, but after two or even three days of utter physical and mental exhaustion they would cease to breathe.”

The plight of those “hidden Christians” (隠れキリシタン Kakure Kirishitan) portrayed by Endo was one of the reasons Martin Scorsese decided to turn the book into his latest film. The severity of his Silence is complete. The priests who survive capture and torture are forced to live as Japanese subjects, with Japanese wives, and are finally buried as Buddhists. Their notions of religious community and cultural identity are consumed by the flames of the pyre. But there is a ray of hope as Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) secretly gives absolution one last time to a hidden Christian.

Silence has not done well at the box office and the Oscar for Cinematography category in which it was nominated, went to La La Land. Still, it is a powerful statement about faith and despair and the performances of Issey Ogata as the Inquisitor and Tadanobu Asano as the Interpreter are stellar. In time, people will come to treasure Silence.


Portraits and Profiles of warriors and senators

Friday, 3 March, 2017 0 Comments

After leaving the White House in 2009, George W. Bush found inspiration in painting. This has now resulted in a book of 66 portraits of post-9/11 US veterans called Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors. The proceeds from the book will be donated to the George W. Bush Presidential Center, “a non-profit organization whose Military Service Initiative works to ensure that post-9/11 veterans and their families make successful transitions to civilian life with a focus on gaining meaningful employment and overcoming the invisible wounds of war.”

Portraits of Courage

Note: Portraits of Courage echoes Profiles in Courage, a 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Senator John F. Kennedy. Profiles consisted of short biographies describing acts of courage and integrity by eight United States Senators throughout the Senate’s history. The book became a best seller, but in his 2008 autobiography, Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History, Kennedy’s speechwriter Ted Sorensen claimed that, while the senator had provided the theme, the speechwriter wrote most of the book.


Handle with care

Thursday, 2 March, 2017 0 Comments

Watch out Segway tour guides, ballet dancers and parkour runners, Handle is coming for your job. Handle is the latest research robot from Boston Dynamics and the focus is on simplicity and efficiency: “Handle uses many of the same dynamics, balance and mobile manipulation principles found in the quadruped and biped robots we build, but with only about 10 actuated joints, it is significantly less complex. Wheels are efficient on flat surfaces while legs can go almost anywhere: by combining wheels and legs Handle can have the best of both worlds,” say the makers, who add that Handle has a range of 15 miles on one battery charge. Impressive. Cautionary.


Ash Wednesday

Wednesday, 1 March, 2017 0 Comments

“In Young Mother, the ash is used to portray anonymous woman, her humble and demur demeanour is reminiscent of depictions of the Madonna.” — Zhang Huan

A founding member of Beijing’s conceptual artists movement in the 1990s, Zhang Huan moved to New York in 1998 and developed a unique style that mixed East and West. Upon returning to China a decade later, he had an epiphany, which he described as the “magic” of prayer and the power of the incense ashes. For him, ash has a metaphoric connection to memory, the soul and the spiritual. “Everything we are, everything we believe and want are within these ashes,” says Zhang Huan.

Your mother