Monthly Archives: October 2014

Fresh Sheet and Classics on F&O

Photo by Valerie, Ucumari Photography via Flickr, Creative Commons

A United States appeals court is currently hearing the case of a chimpanzee named Tommy and is to decide if he has the right to bodily integrity and liberty, just like a person. The case, brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project, which is concerned about Tommy’s living conditions, is hugely significant, writes Alasdair Cochrane. Photo (of another chimp) by Valerie, Ucumari Photography via Flickr, Creative Commons

 No monkeying around: animal’s rights. By Alasdair Cochrane

A United States appeals court is currently hearing the case of a chimpanzee named Tommy and is to decide if he has the right to bodily integrity and liberty, just like a person. The case, brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project, which is concerned about Tommy’s living conditions, is hugely significant. The questions debated in this New York court have implications beyond the question of whether former circus animal Tommy should be moved from the shed in which he is held captive to a chimp sanctuary with conditions more conducive to his well-being. What is really being considered is whether human rights can transcend the species divide.

Verbatim: Canada court blocks Zahra Kazemi suit against Iran. By Deborah Jones

A law suit against Iran by the son of journalist Zahra Kazemi, who died after an alleged beating, rape and torture in an Iranian prison, hit a wall Friday in Canada’s top court. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Kazemi’s son Stephan Hachemi could not sue Iran’s government and key officials for $17 million Canadian for his mother’s suffering and death, because they are protected under Canada’s State Immunity Act.

Lightning-strike diplomacy opens crack between the Koreas. By Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

In a remarkable demonstration that may presage the end of one of the world’s most deeply embedded conflicts, three of North Korea’s most senior leaders have made a surprise visit to the South. The excuse for the unprecedented trip across the heavily-armed border that has divided the peninsular since the Second World War was to attend the closing ceremony of the Asian Games, held at the city of Incheon west of the South’s capital Seoul. But the three also met senior South Korean officials and agreed that talks should be held to improve relations between the two sides of the divided nation.

News: Nobel winner Patrick Modiano, Memory, identity and time

French author Patrick Modiano won the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature, the Nobel organization announced, “for the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.” 

Patrick Modiano. (Facebook profile photo)

Patrick Modiano. (Facebook profile photo)

Who is Patrick Modiano, and why don’t most of us know him? by Alan Morris

To the English-speaking world, the awarding of the 2014 Nobel Prize for literature to Patrick Modiano will probably have come as a surprise.  He is renowned in his native France for keeping a very low profile, only venturing into the public spotlight momentarily with the appearance of each new novel. But few of his novels have been translated into English – probably because the incredibly distinctive ingredients of his universe do not travel particularly well.

Deadly Force in Black and White America. By Ryan Gabrielson, Ryann Grochowski Jones and Eric Sagara, ProPublica

An analysis of statistics supports what has been an article of faith in the United States’ African American community for decades: Blacks are being killed at disturbing rates when set against the rest of the American population. Young American black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater, according to a ProPublica analysis of federally collected data on fatal police shootings. 

Demonstrators march in Washington, D.C. on October 4 to protest the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Photo by Susan Melkisethian via Flickr, Creative Commons

An analysis of statistics supports allegations that American blacks are killed at disturbing rates when set against the rest of the United States population, reports ProPublica. Demonstrators march in Washington, D.C. on October 4 to protest the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Photo by Susan Melkisethian via Flickr, Creative Commons

Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll: Chuck Berry Time capsule journalism by Brian Brennan (paywall)

Chuck Berry was cranky. He hadn’t seen a contract for his scheduled nightclub appearance, and he wasn’t about to step out of the airport limo that had brought him to the club. The club had sold tickets for two dinner shows, but Berry wasn’t going to do even one show until he saw that contract. The club manager was in a panic. He had two sold-out shows on his hands and the possibility of refunds loomed.

Verbatim: Desert depredations By F&O 

A joint report by two United Nations organizations focus on recent Islamic State (also known as IS, ISIS, and ISIL) ethnic-cleansing atrocities in Iraq. The report, by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, covers the period from July 6 to September 10. It lists what a UN release describes as “a litany of serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross abuses of human rights that have been perpetrated by ISIL and associated armed groups,with an apparent systematic and widespread character.” 

Stealth campaigns in the net neutrality battleground. By Robert Faturechi, ProPublica

Telecom companies have been the fiercest opponents of a proposal under which the American government would treat broadband like a utility, making it easier for regulators to keep internet providers from blocking certain sites or saddling some content providers with slower speeds or higher fees.

Nobel Peace Prize: hope for children’s rights. By Zaki Wahhaj and M Niaz Asadullah

In a celebration of the rights of children, the 2014 Nobel Prize for Peace has been awarded to Malala Yousafzai, shot by the Taliban for going to school in Pakistan, and Kailash Satyarthi, who has been campaigning against child labour in India for more than 20 years. Announcing the award, committee chairman Thorbjørn Jagland described it as a recognition of “their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education”.

Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi won the Nobel Peace Prize on October 10. Above,  Malala Yousafzai  speaks to UN youth delegates about education on "Malala Day" at the United Nations. Photo by Susan Markisz, UNICEF © 2013

Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. Above, Malala Yousafzai speaks to UN youth delegates about education on “Malala Day” at the United Nations in 2013. Photo by Susan Markisz, UNICEF © 2013

In case you missed them earlier:

Kool-Aid Economics, by Chris Wood (paywall)

Canadians have been aware for some time that their Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, subscribes to an arcane fundamentalist strain of Christianity. Being the polite and generally go-along types we are, we have quite properly left his faith between the man and his God. However, it is now evident that Canada’s P.M. is a credulous disciple of another not-so-fringe and much more dangerous faith, about which we have every right to be deeply concerned. That cultic faith is Old Testament economics.

Stephen Harper. Photo by Greg Locke, Copyright 2014

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a credulous disciple of “Old Testament economics,” writes Chris Wood in his Natural Security column. Photo by Greg Locke, Copyright 2014

The Hitchbot’s Guide to a Continent. By  Frauke Zeller and David Harris Smith

 How do you rate your chances of completing a transcontinental road trip? What if you can’t drive and don’t have car? What if you can’t even move unaided? In fact, what about if you’re not even human? Tweeting, GPS-equipped robot Hitchbot managed it, hitchhiking across Canada this summer from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia. The cylindrical robot, sporting a digital LCD smile and a fetching line in matching yellow rubber gloves and boots, completed the 6,000km journey in around 20 days.

Beijing will outwait Hong Kong’s Protesters. By Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

Tens of thousands of Hongkongers took advantage of today’s Chinese national holiday to join students who have clogged the city’s streets for four days demanding Beijing deliver on its promise to give the territory democratic autonomy. But the numbers do not look large enough to prompt Beijing to rethink its decision to keep control of the process by which the head of Hong Kong’s government, the Chief Executive, is chosen. The likelihood now is that the authorities will stand back, watch the protests run out of steam and wither of their own accord.

The Musical Travails of Duddy Kravitz: Mordecai Richler, by Brian Brennan (paywall)

In 1974, Mordecai Richler’s great comic novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, about a young Jewish hustler from Montreal who connives, cheats and pushes his way to the top, had been turned into a movie that was a hit in Canada and the United States. And 10 years after that, it was being turned into a stage musical that the backers hoped would be a hit on Broadway. Montreal impresario Sam Gesser had so much faith in the musical, titled simply Duddy, that he was putting up $500,000 of his own money to finance the $1.4 million production. With a libretto adapted by Richler from his novel, and songs by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller of 1950s’ rock ’n’ roll fame (Hound Dog, Kansas City, Jailhouse Rock), how could it miss?

U.S. Financial Reform: Secret Recordings and a Culture Clash. By Jake Bernstein

One day Carmen Segarra purchased a tiny recorder at the Spy Store and began capturing what took place at Goldman Sachs. In the tale of what happened next lie revelations about the challenges of reforming the American financial system, in the wake of  the 2008 crisis that crippled global finances and continues to reverberate through the world economy.

Who is a journalist? What is journalism? By Stephen Ward

The ‘democratization’ of media – technology that allows citizens to engage in journalism and publication of many kinds – blurs the identity of journalists and the idea of what constitutes journalism. It is not always clear whether the term “journalist” begins or ends. If someone does what appears to be journalism, but refuses the label ‘journalist’ is he or she a journalist? If comedian Jon Stewart refuses to call himself a journalist, but magazines refer to him as an influential journalist (or refers to him as someone who does engage in journalism) is Stewart a journalist?

 

 You’ll find lots of great free stories inside our site, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising, and reader payments are essential for us to continue our work. Journalism has value. We need and appreciate your support (a day pass is $1 and a monthly subscription is less than a cup of coffee).  If you’d like to give us a try before throwing pennies our way, drop me a note at Editor@factsandopinions.com, and I will email you a complimentary day pass. — Deborah Jones

 

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope

Time Capsule: Brian Brennan meets Chuck Berry

In 1979 Chuck Berry was sentenced to four months for income tax evasion. Part of his sentence was 1,000 hours of community service. While serving his sentence at the Federal Prison Camp in Lompoc, California, he performed a concert at the Federal Correctional Institution at Lompoc.  Photo by Kevin Schraer via Flickr, Creative Commons

In 1979 Chuck Berry was sentenced to four months for income tax evasion. Part of his sentence was 1,000 hours of community service. While serving his sentence at the Federal Prison Camp in Lompoc, California, he performed a concert at the Federal Correctional Institution at Lompoc. Photo by Kevin Schraer via Flickr, Creative Commons

Chuck Berry stopped talking to reporters after they wrote about him being jailed in America during the 1960s for transporting an under-age girl across U.S. state lines for “immoral purposes.” But he made an exception for  Arts columnist Brian Brennan. An excerpt of Brennan’s new Brief Encounters column, Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll: Chuck Berry (paywall):

Chuck Berry was cranky. He hadn’t seen a contract for his scheduled nightclub appearance, and he wasn’t about to step out of the airport limo that had brought him to the club. The club had sold tickets for two dinner shows, but Berry wasn’t going to do even one show until he saw that contract. The club manager was in a panic. He had two sold-out shows on his hands and the possibility of refunds loomed.

The crisis was averted when the manager phoned the agent’s office in Los Angeles, found to his great relief that the agent was burning the midnight oil, and had the contract faxed to him pronto. There it was in black-and-white: Two one-hour shows starting at 10:00 p.m., with a 45-minute break between them. Berry had one more condition. He would have to be paid in cash, American cash. He didn’t trust that Canadian play money.

I don’t know if the manager was able to round up the needed American cash. Likely not, given the hour of the night and the fact that banking machines had yet to be rolled out nationally in Canada. But Berry was ready to rock and that was all that mattered. … log in to read Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll: Chuck Berry (day pass or subscription required*)

*You’ll find lots of great free stories inside our site, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising. We do need and appreciate your support — a day pass is a buck and monthly subscription costs less than a cup of coffee.

Here is Brian Brennan’s columnist page;  here is F&O’s page to purchase a subscription or $1 site day pass

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? We appreciate your interest and support:  for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1. A subscription is required for most F&O original work. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in theform on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , |

Has a crack opened between North and South Korea?

A view of the DMZ from South Korea.  Photo by JD Conner via Flickr, Creative Commons

A view of the DMZ from South Korea. Photo by JD Conner via Flickr, Creative Commons

After more than six decades of hostility – including the devastating 1950-53 civil war – is North Korea now serious about trying to improve relations with South Korea?  International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe examines the possibilities. An excerpt of his new column, Lightning-strike diplomacy opens crack between the Koreas (paywall*):  

In a remarkable demonstration that may presage the end of one of the world’s most deeply embedded conflicts, three of North Korea’s most senior leaders have made a surprise visit to the South.

The excuse for the unprecedented trip across the heavily-armed border that has divided the peninsular since the Second World War was to attend the closing ceremony of the Asian Games, held at the city of Incheon west of the South’s capital Seoul. But the three also met senior South Korean officials and agreed that talks should be held to improve relations between the two sides of the divided nation.

The lightning-strike diplomacy by the three has started a brush fire of confusion and speculation in Asia because it raises questions about North Korea’s leader, the young and erratic Kim Jong-un, and whether he is still in charge.

Kim has not been seen in public since September 3, and he has missed several important public occasions where his presence would be expected … log in to read Lightening-strike diplomacy opens crack between the Koreas. (Day pass or subscription required*).

Click here for Jonathan Manthorpe’s columnist page or here to purchase a $1 day pass or subscription.

*You’ll find lots of great free stories inside our site, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising, and reader payments are essential for us to continue our work. Journalism to has value, and we need and appreciate your support (a day pass is $1 and a monthly subscription is less than a cup of coffee).  If you’d like to give us a try before throwing pennies our way, drop us a note at Editor@factsandopinions.com, and we will email you a complimentary day pass.

 

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , |

Good Reads: From “Volcano Season” to Cookies

The Musical Travails of Duddy Kravitz: Mordecai Richler, by Brian Brennan (paywall)

In 1974, Mordecai Richler’s great comic novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, about a young Jewish hustler from Montreal who connives, cheats and pushes his way to the top, had been turned into a movie that was a hit in Canada and the United States. And 10 years after that, it was being turned into a stage musical that the backers hoped would be a hit on Broadway. Montreal impresario Sam Gesser had so much faith in the musical, titled simply Duddy, that he was putting up $500,000 of his own money to finance the $1.4 million production. With a libretto adapted by Richler from his novel, and songs by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller of 1950s’ rock ’n’ roll fame (Hound Dog, Kansas City, Jailhouse Rock), how could it miss?

“Volcano Season” — is it real? By Robin Wylie

The Earth seems to have been smoking a lot recently. Volcanoes are currently erupting in Iceland, Hawaii, Indonesia and Mexico. Others, in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, erupted recently but seem to have calmed down. Many of these have threatened homes and forced evacuations. But among their less-endangered spectators, these eruptions may have raised a question: Is there such a thing as a season for volcanic eruptions? Surprisingly, this may be a possibility.

Beijing will outwait Hong Kong’s Protesters, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

Tens of thousands of Hongkongers took advantage of today’s Chinese national holiday to join students who have clogged the city’s streets for four days demanding Beijing deliver on its promise to give the territory democratic autonomy. But the numbers do not look large enough to prompt Beijing to rethink its decision to keep control of the process by which the head of Hong Kong’s government, the Chief Executive, is chosen. The likelihood now is that the authorities will stand back, watch the protests run out of steam and wither of their own accord.

Naomi Klein. Official photo by Ed Kashi.

Naomi Klein. Official photo by Ed Kashi.

 Review: Naomi Klein‘s This Changes Everything. By Mike Berners-Lee

Naomi Klein’s third attack on capitalism, This Changes Everything, has put the urgency of climate change front and centre. As ever for Klein, unrestrained capitalism is the root problem and has to be dealt with, however difficult that might be – and however much money and power is propping it up. Our response so far has been hopeless, but she is able to point to recent signs that we might yet achieve the radical change we need: push hard now is the message.

Hong Kong’s storms threaten China’s Economy. By Damian Tobin

The pro-democracy protesters in the streets of Hong Kong, once again confront Beijing with the age-old conundrum of how to balance authoritarian control and the demands of a complex modern society. For Beijing, this conundrum is particularly acute as the Communist Party has long lacked the ability to mobilise popular opinion after the discrediting of the mass, populist campaigns of the Maoist era. For Hong Kong, the conundrum offers another insight into the failure of its legislative council to adequately respond to pressing social issues and emerging threats to Hong Kong’s role as a gateway to China.

Swapping privacy for (real) cookies. By Lois Beckett

In a highly unscientific but delicious experiment, 380 New Yorkers gave up sensitive personal information — from fingerprints to partial Social Security numbers — for a cookie. “It is crazy what people were willing to give me,” said artist Risa Puno, who conducted the experiment, which she called “Please Enable Cookies,” at a Brooklyn arts festival. The cookies — actual cookies — came in flavors such as “Chocolate Chili Fleur de Sel” and “Pink Pistachio Peppercorn.” To get a cookie, people had to turn over personal data that could include their address, driver’s license number, phone number and mother’s maiden name.

Interactive installation/sculpture artist Risa Puno swapped cookies -- a Pink Peppercorn Pistachio cookie, anyone?  -- for people's private data and even fingerprints, at the Dumbo Arts Festival in New York. The cookie escapade was part of Heather Hart's Barter Town project in New York.

Interactive installation/sculpture artist Risa Puno swapped cookies — a Pink Peppercorn Pistachio cookie, anyone? — for people’s private data and even fingerprints, at the Dumbo Arts Festival in New York. The cookie escapade was part of Heather Hart’s Barter Town project in New York.

 

On the blog:

Finding: Kenojuak Ashevak, by Deborah Jones

Occasionally the Internet, sometimes as as wonderful as it is weird, stops you in your tracks. Google’s Doodle for October 3 transported me back to my teens in the Northwest Territories, where Dorset Prints like Kenojuak Ashevak’s Enchanted Owl were glued onto people’s beer fridges, shed doors and even, rarely, placed with respect on walls in picture frames.

If you missed these:

Kool-Aid Economics, by Chris Wood (paywall)

Canadians have been aware for some time that their Prime Minister subscribes to an arcane fundamentalist strain of Christianity. Being the polite and generally go-along types we are, we have quite properly left his faith between the man and his God. However, it is now evident that Canada’s P.M. is a credulous disciple of another not-so-fringe and much more dangerous faith, about which we have every right to be deeply concerned. That cultic faith is Old Testament economics.

Islamic State threat a media creation, by Jim McNiven (paywall)

The popular media, always looking for the next big thing, has fastened upon the swift victories and social media brutalities of the group calling itself Islamic State. The various media have portrayed the organization as a worldwide threat and a number of governments have organized themselves to deal with it, led by the United States. You have to read between the lines on this one. First, this terrible threatening force is actually weaker than the Taliban force that was over-running Afghanistan in 2002.

U.S. Financial Reform: Secret Recordings and a Culture Clash. By Jake Bernstein

One day Carmen Segarra purchased a tiny recorder at the Spy Store and began capturing what took place at Goldman Sachs. In the tale of what happened next lie revelations about the challenges of reforming the American financial system, in the wake of  the 2008 crisis that crippled global finances and continues to reverberate through the world economy.

The Drowning of the ‘Amazon of North America.’ By Bob Marshall, The Lens, and Brian Jacobs and Al Shaw, ProPublica

Scientists say one of the greatest environmental and economic disasters in the history of the United States — the rapid land loss occurring in the Mississippi Delta — is rushing toward a catastrophic conclusion. Southeast Louisiana is one of America’s — and the world’s — economic linchpins. It’s home to half of the oil refineries in the United States, a matrix of pipelines that serve 90 percent of the nation’s offshore energy production and 30 percent of its total oil and gas supply, a port vital to 31 states, and 2 million people. And, at a rate of a football field every hour, Southeast Louisiana is drowning. 

Biodefence Drives Ebola Drug Development. By  Christopher Degeling

Ebola virus disease typically only occurs in rural and remote areas among resource-poor populations. Until the large, recent outbreak in West Africa, cases of the illness were a rarity. So the fact that we even have experimental drugs for the disease tells a story about how responses to global health crises are shaped by the social and political interests of the developed world.

America’s Dark Money: Who Controls the Kochs’ Political Network? by Kim Barker and Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica(Public access)

Libertarian American billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch were among the first to grasp the political potential of social welfare groups and trade associations — nonprofits that can spend money to influence elections but under United States regulations don’t have to name their donors. The Kochs and their allies have built up a complex network of such organizations, which spent more than $383 million in the run-up to the U.S. 2012 election alone. Documents released in recent months show the Kochs have added wrinkles to their network that even experts well versed in tax law and campaign finance say they’ve never seen before — wrinkles that could make it harder to discern who controls each nonprofit in the web and how it disperses its money.

Have a great weekend.

— Deborah Jones

 

Posted in Current Affairs

Finding: Kenojuak Ashevak

Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak. Photo  via Wikipedia, provided by artist. Creative Commons

Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak . Photo via Wikipedia, provided by artist. Creative Commons

Occasionally the Internet, sometimes as as wonderful as it is weird, stops you in your tracks. Google’s Doodle for October 3 transported me back to my teens in the Northwest Territories, where Dorset Prints like Kenojuak Ashevak’s Enchanted Owl were glued onto people’s beer fridges, shed doors and even, rarely, placed with respect on walls in picture frames.

Google, through some mysterious algorithm in someone’s head, decided to plaster Ashevak on the Internet, and remind us that Inuit art has come a long way. It is now celebrated due to not only the talent of artists like Ashevak, but  the dedication of the late James Houston. Houston, an artist in his own right and a one-time federal civil servant in the high Arctic did more, with his wife Alma and their sons, to promote the art of the Arctic than most anyone. Previous generations – and myself as a teenager — failed utterly to recognize the beauty in much Inuit work. Today nobody aware of its import — numerous awards, honours, books and documentaries, and Ashevak’s famed owl being honoured with a Canadian  stamp — would feature an Ashevak on a beer fridge. 

The context Google provided for its Friday Doodle honouring Ashevak is slim: she would have celebrated her 87th birthday today, had she not died early last year: 

Our doodle in Canada pays tribute to Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak, who would have been 87 today. Ashevak’s work brought national attention to indigenous art and thrusted the ever-humble artist into the spotlight. For her contribution to art and Canadian culture, Ashevak was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.

kenojuak-ashevaks-87th-birthday-5180500104708096-hp

The Ashevak print  Google chose for its doodle on October 3, 2014

The art of the Inuit (not the “Eskimo,” a word that means raw-meat-eater and was inflicted on the Arctic people by Europeans) has been described as surreal or sublime.

Ashevak's Enchanted Owl

Ashevak’s Enchanted Owl

I see it first as joyful, a robust celebration of the precarious life in one of the world’s most harsh environments.

Ashevak — ᑭᓇᐊᓯᐃ in the Inuktitut language — was born in 1927 in an igloo on Baffin Island. Her life was hard by any standards: when she was six her father, a shaman, was reportedly killed for his beliefs by Inuit converts to Christianity. She was hospitalized in the south with tuberculosis for years. She bore witness to the deaths of seven of her 16 birth and adopted children, and two husbands. And yet through it all she created works that can only be seen as a celebration of life.

Happy Birthday, Kenojuak Ashevak.

And thanks, Google. 

Deborah Jones 

 

 

Eskimo Artist: Kenojuak by John Feeney, National Film Board of Canada

 

Further reading
Eskimo Artist: Kenojuak, a documentary by John Feeney, National Film Board of Canada
Wikipedia page for Kenojuak Ashevak  

 

You’ll find lots of great free stories inside our site, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising, and reader payments are essential for us to continue our work. Journalism has value. We need and appreciate your support (a day pass is $1 and a monthly subscription is less than a cup of coffee).  If you’d like to give us a try before throwing pennies our way, drop me a note at Editor@factsandopinions.com, and I will email you a complimentary day pass. — Deborah Jones

Posted in Gyroscope Tagged , , , |

Time capsule: Duddy, Mordecai Richler’s theatrical dud

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

Mordecai Richler had never written for the stage before but really wanted to see his adaptation of his beloved novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz make it to Broadway as a musical.  Arts columnist Brian Brennan reports in his new time capsule piece that the musical had a very rough ride. An excerpt of Brennan’s Brief Encounters column: The Musical Travails of Duddy Kravitz: Mordecai Richler (paywall):

In 1974, Mordecai Richler’s great comic novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, about a young Jewish hustler from Montreal who connives, cheats and pushes his way to the top, had been turned into a movie that was a hit in Canada and the United States. And 10 years after that, it was being turned into a stage musical that the backers hoped would be a hit on Broadway. Montreal impresario Sam Gesser had so much faith in the musical, titled simply Duddy, that he was putting up $500,000 of his own money to finance the $1.4 million production. With a libretto adapted by Richler from his novel, and songs by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller of 1950s’ rock ’n’ roll fame (Hound Dog, Kansas City, Jailhouse Rock), how could it miss?

The schedule called for the musical to premiere at Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre in April 1984, run for four weeks, and then play nine other Canadian cities before heading to New York. Richler, who had been criticized by Jewish groups for his unflattering portrayals of Montreal’s Jewish community in his novels, told me jokingly that he always wanted to open Duddy in Alberta because “it’s the most anti-Semitic province in Canada.” But he was quick to add, before anyone could get the wrong impression, that he didn’t consider Duddy an anti-Semitic work.

“I find these charges of anti-Semitism highly objectionable,” said the 53-year-old novelist. “For the most part, they come from people who never read the novel. Duddy Kravitz is not a metaphor for the Jewish people. It’s the story of a working-class boy with his eye on the main chance. The kind of Jewish people who accuse me of anti-Semitism are rather ashamed of their own background. They call their children Byron, Nelson and so on. They contemplate the world through a wrong-ended telescope.”

Richler had written the screenplay adaptation for Duddy Kravitz and earned an Oscar nomination for it … log in* to read The Musical Travails of Duddy Kravitz: Mordecai Richler (subscription*).

*You’ll find lots of great free stories inside our site, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising. We do need and appreciate your support (a day pass is a buck and monthly subscription costs less than a cup of coffee), but if you’d like to give us a try before throwing pennies our way, email Editor@factsandopinions.com, and I will send you a complimentary day pass. 

Here is Brian Brennan’s columnist page;  here is F&O’s page to purchase a subscription or $1 site day pass

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? We appreciate your interest and support:  for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1. A subscription is required for most F&O original work. Subscribe for free to Frontlines by entering your address in theform on the right (we won’t share your address), or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , , , |

Focus on China and Hong Kong

Photo by Pasu Au Yeung, Creative Commons

Hong Kong came to a halt this week as hundreds of thousands of protesters jammed the streets to protest China’s move to control democratic elections. Social unrest threatens China’s economic plans, writes Damian Tobin — but the protest is unlikely to deter Beijing’s crackdown on democratic freedoms, predicts Jonathan Manthorpe. Photo by Pasu Au Yeung, Creative Commons

Here are some of the stories on F&O that provide some clarity on the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong:

 

Beijing will outwait Hong Kong’s Protesters, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

 

Tens of thousands of Hongkongers took advantage of today’s Chinese national holiday to join students who have clogged the city’s streets for four days demanding Beijing deliver on its promise to give the territory democratic autonomy. But the numbers do not look large enough to prompt Beijing to rethink its decision to keep control of the process by which the head of Hong Kong’s government, the Chief Executive, is chosen. The likelihood now is that the authorities will stand back, watch the protests run out of steam and wither of their own accord.

Hong Kong’s storms threaten China’s Economy, By Damian Tobin

The pro-democracy protesters in the streets of Hong Kong, once again confront Beijing with the age-old conundrum of how to balance authoritarian control and the demands of a complex modern society. For Beijing, this conundrum is particularly acute as the Communist Party has long lacked the ability to mobilise popular opinion after the discrediting of the mass, populist campaigns of the Maoist era. For Hong Kong, the conundrum offers another insight into the failure of its legislative council to adequately respond to pressing social issues and emerging threats to Hong Kong’s role as a gateway to China — and  how to maintain its reputation for business and financial probity and deal with the consequential domestic wealth inequality.

 

Beijing reneges on Hong Kong freedom guarantee, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

The Chinese government has confirmed what everyone has known for a long time: it was lying when it signed a treaty guaranteeing Hong Kong substantial autonomy, speedy progress to democracy and protection of the rule of law. Protesters took to the streets in Hong Kong today and burned copies of a “white paper” Beijing issued on Tuesday reminding the territory’s seven million people that their institutions will only be on a loose leash so long as they are “patriotic.”  There are profound implications in Chinese government’s publication of its position that “the high degree of autonomy of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is not an inherent power.”

 

Photo by Leung Ching Yau Alex, Creative Commons

Photo by Leung Ching Yau Alex, Creative Commons

 Can Disneyfication save a Chinese City’s Poetic Soul? By Michael Silk and Andrew Manley

Chinese cities are often contradictory bricolages of old and new. They wrestle with extraordinarily rapid rates of economic growth, concentrated urbanisation, the growth of a burgeoning middle class as well as extreme social, political and economic disparities. Award-winning Suzhou has not escaped the extraordinary rates of urban growth of other Chinese cities, and the traffic congestion and internationalisation that comes along with it. Yet, unlike other Chinese cities, administrators are seeking to preserve its poetic soul. 

China manufactures islands to back its sovereignty claims, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

Not content with stealing other people’s territory, the Beijing government is now manufacturing islands to boost its insubstantial claim to ownership of the South China Sea. The Philippines government has released aerial photographs of Chinese dredgers and construction teams pulling up millions of tonnes of sand and rock from the ocean floor to create islands on Johnson South Reef, which is claimed by the Manila government.

China accepts tribute from its vassal, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

The air in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People was heavy with the pungent smell of irony this week as China’s President Xi Jinping greeted his visiting Zimbabwean counterpart, Robert Mugabe, as an old comrade in the struggle against “imperialism, colonialism and hegemony.” For Mugabe had come to Beijing to give his south-east African country of 13 million people to China, if not as a colonial possession, at least as a vassal state.

China’s Xi launches his own Cultural Revolution, by Jonathan Manthorpe (paywall)

Xi Jinping is not content with being the most powerful leader of China since Mao Zedong. He also wants to play God. Xi’s ruling Communist Party announced last week it will write its own version of “Chinese Christian theology” to ensure adherents abide by the country’s party-imposed political culture. The attempt to take control of religion in China is part of a broad campaign by Xi to establish “cultural security.” The aim is to outlaw and control all foreign influences that might undermine the communists’ one-party rule.

BRICS Bank a Game Changer. By Ali Burak Güven, The Conversation

The top news from this year’s BRICS summit was the announcement of a New Development Bank. Headquartered in Shanghai, the bank will become operational in 2016 with an initial capital of US$50 billion. Its core mandate is to finance infrastructure projects in the developing world.

Weibo IPO Reveals a Company Struggling With Censorship. By ProPublica staff.

Weibo, “China’s Twitter,” has begun offering shares on one of America’s free market stock exchanges. But unlike in the United States, where freedom of expression is protected, in China social media companies rely on censorship for their business model. Weibo’s regulatory disclosures reveal a company’s balancing act between censoring too much and too little.

 

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Clouds over Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution. Photo by Pasu Au Yeung, Creative Commons

Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution. Photo by Pasu Au Yeung, Creative Commons

Beijing has balked at loosing the virus of democracy that could sweep, ebola-like, from Hong Kong across the country and herald the end of the one-party state, writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe. He argues there is little hope that protests in Hong Kong will force Beijing to compromise, after the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress announced in late August that Hongkongers in 2017 can freely elect their Chief Executive — but only after Beijing has selected candidates of unimpeachable loyalty. An excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column, Beijing will outwait Hong Kong’s Protesters (paywall*):

 Photo by Chet Wong

Photo by Chet Wong

Tens of thousands of Hongkongers took advantage of today’s Chinese national holiday to join students who have clogged the city’s streets for four days demanding Beijing deliver on its promise to give the territory democratic autonomy.

But the numbers do not look large enough to prompt Beijing to rethink its decision to keep control of the process by which the head of Hong Kong’s government, the Chief Executive, is chosen. The likelihood now is that the authorities will stand back, watch the protests run out of steam and wither of their own accord. If the protesters do get re-energized, the authorities may well feel the bulk of Hong Kong’s citizens will accept police action to clear the streets, so long as it does not involve riot squads, tear gas and pepper spray used against the protesters last weekend.

For Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, a serious review of its objectives, strategy and tactics is clearly necessary if it has any hope of achieving its objectives. There has already been fracturing of the movement and more rifts are likely. This carries the danger of militant factions emerging. Until now the demonstrations in favour of political reform in Hong Kong have been almost universally peaceful and even astonishingly courteous, with demonstrators clearing up their own litter before going home.

But frustration with Beijing’s obdurate refusal to acknowledge the aspirations of its citizens may lead some to turn to violence … log in first to read Beijing will outwait Hong Kong’s Protesters (paywall*).

Click here for Jonathan Manthorpe’s columnist page or here to subscribe or purchase a $1 site day pass.

*You’ll find lots of great free stories inside our site, but much of our original work is behind a paywall — we do not sell advertising, and reader payments are essential for us to continue our work. Journalism to has value, and we need and appreciate your support (a day pass is $1 and a monthly subscription is less than a cup of coffee).  If you’d like to give us a try before throwing pennies our way, drop me a note at Editor@factsandopinions.com, and I will email you a complimentary day pass. — Deborah Jones

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , , |