26 June 2021

My vertigo eventually went away by itself, without the need for special maneuvers.


Keeping a blog that nobody reads seems sometimes like an exercise in futility; but this feeling must be familiar to many writers of even less meaningful writing projects: imagine someone writing their first science fiction novel, or first murder mystery. The book itself may be meaningless, less than useless. Perhaps the writer hopes that one day the book will establish their reputation as a writer, and that this could be a smart career move, or lead to monetary gain. (Who knows what is going through their mind?) But in any case, there is a nagging doubt that the whole project is for naught.

But in writing a blog, at least there is the advantage of processing one's thoughts, reflection, and sometimes it even stimulates propitious mental activity.


When reading the writing of G.R.R. Martin or Gene Wolfe, I'm dazzled, again and again, by their specialized mastery of the terminology and vocabulary dealing with the subject of their writing. Of course, it is expected; of course one expects builders to know the trade and writers to know their craft, but still. Sometimes it is as if they themselves served as a stable hand or squire to a knight, in some earlier incarnation. Often I find myself looking up words as I go along; words I know that I will forget in another moment. This necessity to learn vocabulary must be daunting to any budding writer who needs to write a novel on subjects that are not common knowledge. One of my reference books attempts to fill in holes in such knowledge; it's called "Word Menu" and attempts to be kind of a reverse dictionary, providing vocabulary associated with a given subject, such as "ships and boats" and "fox hunting". But what this book provides would be totally inadequate for novel writers. Today, for example, I learned the use of the word trace, with regard to horses and carts. The dictionary says that the traces attach to a whippletree. Aha. Of course, nowadays one can consult websites that deal with this stuff here's one, but in writing a historical or fantasy novel dealing with a thousand aspects of life that have passed out of our 21st century awareness, this could quickly grow tiresome. In addition, this itself is almost the least part of the writing; the equivalent of finding the right stage props for one's play.


movie poster

We watched an Indian film on Netflix yesterday, "Taare Zameen Par, "Stars on Earth", about a boy with dyslexia, and a teacher who comes to his rescue. If we could get over our astonishment that the problem of dyslexia could be unknown in India (the film is from 2007), it was a good movie. Long (2 hours and 40 minutes), but well acted and produced. Even D's 89 year old mother managed to sit through it, and enjoyed it. She said that it is "a special movie".


The Palestinian Environment Under Israeli Colonization Deceleration

China issues furious response after Canada condemns human rights record The Guardian

This ‘what-about-ism’ is an authoritarian reflex,” she said. “And it’s not new. Canada faced criticism over its treatment over Indigenous people from the Soviet Union during the cold war. But it’s also important to recognize it for what it is- a strategy to deflect from meaningful criticism, which, in this case, is the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.”

Sushila Ravindranath reviews Redesign the World: A Global Call to Action, by Sam Pitroda The Hindu

Brexit: Five years after the vote, the United Kingdom is more divided than ever CNN

Khashoggi killers received paramilitary training in US Al Jazeera

French Spyware Bosses Indicted For Their Role In the Torture of Dissidents - Slashdot
I like that approach.

Canada: hundreds more unmarked graves found at former Indigenous school - The Guardian

‘Painful farewell’: Hongkongers queue for hours to buy final Apple Daily edition - The Guardian

Fossilised bones found in Israel could belong to mystery extinct humans - The Guardian

10 April, 2021


(Byzantine-era mosaic nearby in the forest)

Watched "The Father". Good acting, irritating plot. Failed to get under my skin in the way that I think the film makers intended. I'm not sure how realistic it's supposed to be, because Hopkins' condition seems to combine separate psychiatric conditions. In addition, he is occasionally more quick-witted than few of us ever were.

I already feel a bit left behind by impatient young people, but then I've always been naturally slow in speech and mannerisms. Probably as I grow older, others will increasingly attribute these traits to age. Fine with me.

Lately, we've seen various expressions of ageism in our community. Older people command a higher salary, whereas they may be slower and less efficient. It is often cheaper to employ a younger person, and, depending for the results one is aiming for, sometimes the choice can be preferable for an organization with limited resources. But apparent speed and efficiency aren't always the real thing. Often a more experienced person will be less likely to take wrong turns or commit errors. Probably any staff or organization needs both young and old people, if it wants to be effective.

I guess Biden's the best current ambassador for age and experience; he seems to be giving the young 'uns a lesson in getting things done. So much for "sleepy Joe."

28 March, 2021


Website platforms

An intern we had once made a WordPress website for one of our friends associations, and we host it on the same server as our main site. A new person who volunteers for the association is saying he doesn't want to use WordPress to update the website, but would prefer to re-do the site under a proprietary Mac app called Sparkle. He says he finds WP to be cumbersome and that he already runs several websites under Sparkle. My response was:

From the point of view of maintaining the site, the advantages of WordPress are as follows:
1. It's easy to change the appearance of the site (by adjusting or changing the theme)
WordPress is a free open source program that anyone can work with from any computer anywhere.
2. It's easy to move a WordPress site to a new server, and many other platforms are able to convert from WordPress, both CMS systems and static site generators.
3. Many people know WordPress as about 40% of all websites run on it and 64% of all sites that use a CMS.
4. By contrast, Sparkle is a paid, proprietary, Apple Mac program. Someone who does not have a Mac, or who hasn't purchased Sparkle would not be able to use it. For example, I'm on Linux, and would not be able to do anything with it. Neither would a future web designer or maintainer who uses Microsoft Windows. That means that if you ever decide to stop, the website will need to be re-made from scratch.

He, or the association will need to decide what to do. They may just decide to continue sending me the materials and let me do the work, which is fine.

I can't argue with him on the nastiness of the WordPress interface. It's cumbersome indeed. It's not surprising that so many competitors have sprung up. In a way, I prefer that they are at least suggesting this Sparkle, and not something like Wix or Weebly, which I would really dislike.

Wix is a successful Israeli company (now foreign-owned, I think). Lots of Israeli young people come up with ingenious new ideas, find funding, create a startup, with the main aim of eventually selling at a high price to some American company. Fine; except that some of the applications they create are a bit sleazy, as in not being respectful of privacy, etc. NSO Group is the most extreme example. But there are many others. Such software seems to be a product of a culture based on wrong values.


Others on the fediverse were looking at the freedom house site and comparing countries. Israel appears there as a "free" country (though it's on the lower end of "free"), and the Palestinian territories that are occupied by Israel are, unsurprisingly, listed as non-free. India, I remember, recently had its ranking downgraded to "partially free" and this rankled the Indian government immeasurably. (Indian Kashmir is listed as non-free.).

Looking at the criteria the site uses, it seems pretty fair to me. Of course, the degree of freedom in a country is not the only criteria to look at. I might not want to live in a country that is free, but violent, xenophobic, dangerous, freezing cold, or starving.

In Israel, a place that absorbs many newcomers, I have often asked people why they chose to move to and live in a country with so many difficulties, dangers and injustices. They do not always have a clear response; often it's an emotional decision. Sometimes it is ideological. I asked Prof. David Shulman, an indologist from the Hebrew University and speaker of Sanskrit, Telugu, Hindi, Malayalam and Tamil, what he is doing here, when he would be eagerly accepted at so many universities overseas. He said that he sees himself as "a man of the Middle East", that this is his home. A little later, he wrote "Dark Hope", a personal journal of his activism and volunteering with Ta'ayush, which involved going to assist Palestinian villagers facing violence from settlers. I asked Deb Reich, an American writer and translator, who authored "No More Enemies". She said she lives here as a "dissident," a person who opposes the regime. She sees a value in that. When an American volunteer for the International Solidarity Movement was buried under an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza, and her parents sued the government, Deb translated the extensive testimony and court proceedings . In the village, we once had a Christian Spanish volunteer who was certain, without any evidence, that her ancestors were Marranos - Jewish converts to Christianity following the inquisition, who often kept practicing their religion in secret. She decided to convert to Judaism and stay here permanently.

As for me, I'm often asked by Israel's airport security what I am doing here. Once I told them, "Well, we all make mistakes."

Voyage to Cythera

(Theo Angelopoulos)

"I often discover with horror and relief that I believe in nothing. Then I return to my body. It's the only thing that reminds me I'm alive."

Links blog

Joe Biden is giving left parties the world over a masterclass in how to use power
“He ran as a moderate but is governing as a transforming radical. That’s not a paradox – it’s a winning method”

More than 100 killed as Myanmar junta unleashes worst day of terror | Myanmar | The Guardian
"In the locked-down capital, Naypyidaw, senior generals gathered for a military parade, with representatives from their few staunch allies, including China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, Reuters reported."

The Anti-Capitalist Software License

To check out: "badreads" on FDroid.

2 February, 2021


When my kids were teenagers, I used to hate their House music, and now, weirdly I've started to like it myself. I've hardly seen a dance floor, but like to put it on while working. Listening a lot lately to Cafe de Anatolia, and Nora En Pure right now, in a piece recorded in Gstaad. My discovery engine is YouTube, but I think it's wasteful to stream, so I download it instead with Youtube-dl. I was till now downloading also the video and then extracting it, but now I've discovered how to download just the audio.


I bought my earphones about five years ago in an airport in Delhi or Mumbai. They're the simple in-ear kind with a black plastic wire, but they've been really good. It's easy to lose earphones, but I tend to look after my stuff. I also find that once something has been with me a while it tends to stick to me, and gets harder to lose. So the other day I had the earphones in my pocket on my afternoon walk. It was a particularly wild walk, as I didn't keep to the paths but scrambled down the face of the hillside, jumping over rocks and wading through thick grass. When I got home, I found the earphones were no longer in my pocket. I don't give up so easily, and the same evening I went out with my phone light and retraced at least the more civilized part of the way I had taken. No luck. The following afternoon I went out again and tried to approximate the route I'd taken down the hillside; which was impossible, but some of it I got right. After about 20 minutes, I saw them; my earphones were lying there on a rock.

I wasn't so surprised really. It's at least the second time I've found those earphones somewhere outside. The other time was on a park bench. I happened to re-visit the same bench without actually looking for them, a day or two later.

The Expanse

The Expanse is one of the few TV series I have stuck through. I didn't read the James Cory books - unlike one of my sons, who listened to all of them on audio - but I like the cast and the storyline. Unfortunately, I can never remember all the ins and outs of the plot, so I get a bit lost some times. Now it's at Season 5, and probably remains one of the best Sci-Fi series.

Muhammad Bakri interview

Last week I helped with setting up and then publishing the interview we did with the filmmaker Muhammad Bakri. As mentioned elsewhere in this blog, he just lost a suit that was brought against him by a soldier when he was making the film "Jenin, Jenin", back in 2002, just after the massacre/battle. He has been ordered to pay something like $80,000. Two earlier court cases had failed. In this one the plaintiff won because for a period of 4 seconds, he had been caught on film while in the refugee camp, so could claim that the charges of massacre brought by the interviewees damaged his personal reputation. Rubbish, of course. Bakri has been hounded, persecuted and denied work in Israel since making the film - almost 20 years ago. He views himself more as an actor than as a film maker. But he does not regret making the film. As he says, if it managed to get so many people riled up, and they are still going after him all this time, maybe the film "has something". Some of the viewers of the Zoom interview asked him if he would accept donations to help cover his losses; but he refused outright. He says he will take full responsibility. If people want to donate money, let them give it to those who were maimed or disabled after what happened there in Jenin, for example. Great guy. I see there's:

Jenin Jenin: Livechat with Mohammad Bakri and Adam Bakri
by bildamilda on YouTube
with him in English, recorded a couple of weeks ago.

Downfall of a psychologist

My partner was shocked to hear in the evening news that a psychologist she knows has been accused of multiple instances of sexual exploitation and rape. He's now in jail. He was also a yoga teacher, and is very popular in the alternative scene. I don't know him at all. But I know that creepy feeling of being disappointed with someone who you thought you knew.

Links blog

I saw that Cory Doctorow has written about how Google surveils us when we embed YouTube videos in websites, so have started to look into alternative ways.

✭Youtube videos without cookies
Many companies, media outlets and bloggers enjoy sharing YouTube videos on their sites. The problem is that YouTube sets a tracking cookie (for marketing purposes) by default.
2021.02.02 21:22:40 edit delete
✭Lite YouTube Embeds - A Better Method for Embedding YouTube Videos on your Website - Digital Inspiration
Learn how to embed YouTube videos on your website in a fast, lightweight manner that loads the embedded video on demand thus reducing the size of your web pages and improving your core web vitals score.

✭Twitter suspends hundreds of Indian accounts after government demand | India | The Guardian
A Twitter statement on “country-withheld content” said suspensions of accounts or content was routine, arguing “many countries have laws that may apply to tweets and Twitter account content”.
#india #social-media

✭Chinese millennials aren't getting married, and the government is worried - CNN
With a looming population crisis on the horizon, the Chinese government has introduced a flurry of policies and propaganda campaigns exhorting couples to have children. State media lectured couples that the birth of a child is "not only a family matter, but also a state affair." In cities and villages, propaganda slogans advocating for a second child went up, replacing old ones threatening strict punishment in violation of the one-child policy.

✭WHO's Covid warnings were not heeded. Now the world has a new chance to beat the virus
Rich nations have made bilateral deals with manufacturers to vaccinate entire populations, sometimes several times over. This has left countries under huge domestic pressure to start immunising their populations little choice but to make their own arrangements.

This has resulted in manufacturers prioritising more profitable deals with rich countries, rather than support equitable rollout of vaccines to all countries.

✭Important stories hidden in Google's 'experiment' blocking Australian news sites | Technology | The Guardian
"The search giant’s experiments see sources of questionable quality being promoted over mainstream websites in some cases"
Smart people use other search engines.

✭Lunar cycle has distinct effect on sleep, study suggests | Sleep | The Guardian
"Scientists have long understood that human activity is facilitated by light, be it sunlight, moonlight or artificial light. But a study suggests our ability to sleep is distinctly affected by the lunar cycle, even when taking into account artificial sources of light."

Blame it on the moon.

15 January 2021

Learning, relearning

I was going to write the title "what I learned today", but I realized that much of what we think we learn anew, we have actually learned before; maybe just not as well. Boing Boing brings us the link to a film that shows how, with a stroke of a pen, China undermined the entire single-use plastic recycling cycle, back in 2017. The whole practice was based on a lie, and the parts of it that continue, are based on the same lie.

I also learned, thanks to Cory Doctorow, more about the mess at the heart of First Look Media and The Intercept. I don't read the Intercept very often. I know I should, but, for some reason, what I find there does not keep me coming back for more. Anyway, somehow I had completely missed the whole story about Reality Winner., so learning about it now filled in a large gap. I did know that Greenwald left, over the Hunter Biden story. Now we know that Laura Poitras was quietly fired, late in 2020. Today I also learned that the work of archiving the documents collected by Snowden did not continue.

Currently in the Intercept there is a lot about the decisions by the big tech companies to censor Trump and rightwing fanatics, and about their exodus to other platforms like Telegram.

Dave Winer mentions Jack Dorsey's idea for a federated social network infrastructure called "bluesky". The Verge had a lot to say about that at the time he first talked of it, or documented what the founders of the existing federated networks had to say about it. This reminds me of Berners-Lee and his Solid (which is now to be incorporated into some new project that I didn't understand.) I think we should not hold out hope that people who have done great things will magically repeat their successes.

Links blog

✭ The Intercept Promised to Reveal Everything. Then Its Own Scandal Hit.
The Intercept Promised to Reveal Everything. Then Its Own Scandal Hit (NYT)
#journalism from notes

✭ Praxis Films
Open letter from Laura Poitras concerning her firing from First Look Media, which publishes The Intercept.

✭ How China ended the lie of recyclable plastic | Boing Boing
"The plastics industry did a great job of convincing everyone that their product was easily recyclable, but China finally put an end to that pleasant fiction in 2017."

Fascinating. Inconveniently, the solution seems to be to shutdown the entire disposable plastics industry. For the consumer, the best thing is just not to buy things packaged in plastic. What I learned also is that buying good quality plastic is better than buying cheap disposable plastic, not just due to the factor that it lasts a long time, but also because, at end of life, it can eventually be recycled. Assuming, I suppose, that it can be easily separated from other components.

✭ Facebook is showing ads for military gear to far-right users, watchdog group says

"Despite last week’s insurrection, Facebook is continuing to show ads for weapon accessories, body armor, and other military gear on its site, according to the Tech Transparency Project (TTP), a nonprofit watchdog. "

11 January, 2021

Amazing weather; we haven't had rain for ages. I'm sitting outside on my patio. I still have a bad cold, but it's beginning to get better.

At lunchtime, since there was a birthday, we ordered for delivery an Italian meal and beer from a local brewery. Now here, there is a complication. Restaurants are not permitted under the Covid regulations to do take-away. And yet this one did not deliver to our area. The solution was to order from the website, go to the restaurant; they could deliver to our car. (They told us three times not to come into the restaurant.) Same with the brewery. There are regulations, and there are loopholes.

We ate our meal in a park on the way home, at Mishmar Ayalon. We were the only ones there. The park is dedicated to Lehi fighters from the War of Independence. The Lehi were the Jeiwish equivalent of the Indian RSS, a violent, rightwing militia. The memorial there honors those who fought to expel the foreign power (the British). The park area is surrounded by sabres and there are ruins of houses scarcely covered by the growth of weeds. The Palestinian village of al-Qubab graced this fair hilltop, till some 70 years ago. It would no doubt have been a priority to wipe out all villages in the area, since the now quiet road that passes through was once the main artery between Jaffa and Jerusalem.

✭ Court bans screening of documentary 'Jenin Jenin' in Israel
"The Central District Court banned the screening of the 2002 documentary film "Jenin Jenin" in Israel, and ordered the confiscation of all copies of the film in the country."

The director, Mohammad Bakri, was ordered to pay 175,000 shekels + 50,000 shekels in court fees. Altogether $70,000.
This is just the latest in a series of court battles over the film. The film was banned, the ban was lifted; he was sued by former Israeli soldiers, but acquitted. Perhaps it's a sign of the times that he has finally lost this latest case.

The film, made after an event during the second intifada, includes interviews with Jenin residents who claim there was a massacre. (This is obviously not the official Israeli version of the events.) It's almost 20 years now since I saw it, but remember it as a good film, despite the controversy. It is still freely available on YouTube with English subtitles, at #^

Jenin Jenin 0
by jamaltata on YouTube
. Trying to confiscate all versions of the film will be an interesting exercise in futility.

An even more heart-wrenching documentary, "Arna's Children", by Juliano Mer Khamis (RIP), also about Jenin in the 2nd intifada, is available on YouTube, at #^

by Arnulba Palestina Libre on YouTube
Mer-Khamis was assassinated a few years later. In Jenin. The murderer was never caught, and the motivation behind the murder remains unknown.

✭ Israel to okay over 800 new settlement homes days before Biden sworn in | The Times of Israel
A Defense Ministry panel will approve plans for over 800 new settler homes days before Joe Biden is sworn as the new US president, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday, confirming an earlier report.

✭ Everything pundits are getting wrong about this current moment in content moderation: An ongoing list – Jillian C. York
Since Twitter and Facebook banned Donald Trump and began “purging” QAnon conspiracists, a segment of the chattering class has been making all sorts of wild proclamations about this “precedent-setting” event. As such, I thought I’d set the record straight.
#social-media #freedom-of-speech

David Godman "How I discovered Ramana Maharshi "

David Godman "How I discovered Ramana Maharshi "
by henri jolicoeur on YouTube

I love this short video by David Godman; his life could so easily have been mine; we both dropped out of a British university at about the same time. In the mid-70s, he traveled to Israel on the way to India. I traveled to India on the way to Israel, to join the staff of a yoga center. He was intending to spend just a few weeks in India; I was intending to spend just a few months in Israel. And we both ended up staying on.

I have visited Tiruvannamalai, where Godman lives, a few times since. He has remained a disciple of Ramana and of the adwaita vedanta path. My own thinking about these matters has developed over the years, so, in retrospect, I'm pleased that I didn't remain caught in a single philosophical framework, even one with so lofty a vision and so solid a basis, as Vedantic non-dualism. However, I have no doubt that Ramana was one of the brightest and purest beings of the early twentieth century, and that the method he advocated deals with the basic human difficulty of not being able to see the underlying unity behind all material phenomena.
It's so terribly hard to attain, that it takes a lifetime of dedicated practice. That being the case, it isn't so bad if, as I now believe, this nondualistic vision is still only part of the truth. The problem is that, due to our separative, egoistic vision, we are fast destroying our biosphere. A change is in order, and is so very necessary, that we can't afford to spend a lifetime simply inquiring into the nature of the self. There is a different path, one of realizing through action for change.

✭ Éric Rohmer - Wikipedia
"Rohmer was a devout Catholic and "ecological zealot". For years Rohmer had no telephone and refused to even get into cars, which he called "immoral pollutors." For many years he was known to jog two miles to his office every morning. He was well known for his need for personal privacy and sometimes wore disguises, such as wearing a false moustache at the New York premiere of one of his films. Rohmer's mother died without ever knowing that her son Maurice was in fact a famous film director named Éric Rohmer."
I generally found his films mildly irritating, but he was truly an interesting character.

✭ Dutch officials seize ham sandwiches from British drivers | Brexit | The Guardian
"To a bemused driver with several sandwiches wrapped in tin foil who asked if he could maybe surrender the meat and keep just the bread, one customs officer replied: “No, everything will be confiscated. Welcome to Brexit, sir, I’m sorry.”

✭ Foreigners face ban from Amsterdam's cannabis cafes | Netherlands | The Guardian
"Similar bans, backed by a 2012 law, already exist in cities such as Maastricht and Den Bosch, which have long complained of excessive numbers of pot-smoking visitors crossing the borders from Belgium, Germany and France."
These things, they are silly.

✭ Bird flu spreads across India, culls under way in several states | Health News | Al Jazeera
"an outbreak of avian influenza or bird flu is rapidly spreading across India, with at least nine states confirming cases and others awaiting test results as they put containment measures in place, officials and media reports said."

✭ India’s top court asks Modi gov’t to put farm laws ‘on hold’ | Agriculture News | Al Jazeera
“Tell us whether you will put the laws on hold or else we will do it … What’s the prestige issue here?” the court asked, as it criticised the government for failing to break the deadlock."

“We are extremely disappointed at the way government is handling all this,” Bobde said. “We don’t know what consultative process you followed before the laws. Many states are up in rebellion.”

✭ Ginger root and meteorite dust: the Steiner ‘Covid cures’ offered in Germany | Germany | The Guardian
“Throughout history, we can detect a pattern”, he said. “Whenever academic medicine is poking around in the dark, alternative therapies rise to the top”.

Steiner (Waldorf) schools are popular in Israel. There is an anthroposophic community in the Galilee. I found his books unreadable and never had any interest in metaphysical writings about angelic hierarchies. Steiner, like Jiddu Krishnamurti, grew from the Theosophical movement (from which "anthroposophy" is derived. Krishnamurti was the more interesting fruit of that movement, philosophically. But the application of Steinerism in so many practical areas, but particularly on education and organic agriculture, is impressive.

#anthroposophy #COVID-19

28 December, 2020

Planet Ocean


Saw this film yesterday; although it is from 2012, it is still both beautiful and shocking. Amazing photography and filmmaking of Yann Arthus-Bertrand Michael Pitiot, with a gorgeous soundtrack by Armand Amar. The full-length movie is on YouTube #^

Planet Ocean [UK]- the film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand & Michael Pitiot
by Planet Ocean on YouTube

The day after the COVID-19 jab, I felt completely normal. The roaring wind we've had the last few days has died down. Temperatures around 12-19 C around here and fair weather. A family of raucous birds - not sure what they are, maybe minahs - have made their home in our yucca tree. They are at their voluble peak just after sunset, when I come home from my afternoon walk.

Links blog

✭ Is nuclear fusion the answer to the climate crisis? | Environment | The Guardian
 developing a nuclear fusion reactor that can generate more energy than it consumes have shown in a series of recent papers that their design should work, restoring optimism that this clean, limitless power source will help mitigate the climate crisis.
#environment #energy

✭ Indian police charge army officer with killing three Kashmir civilians | World news | The Guardian
Indian police have indicted an Indian army officer, accusing him of killing three civilians in Kashmir in July and staging their deaths as a fake gunfight.
#india #Kashmir

✭ China orders Alibaba founder Jack Ma to break up fintech empire | Business | The Guardian
An editorial in the People’s Daily Chinese state mouthpiece said efforts to prevent monopoly and anti-competitive practices were “requirements for improving the socialist market economy system and promoting high-quality development.
#china #capitalism

✭ Saudi rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul sentenced to almost six years in jail | World news | The Guardian
Although human rights campaigners will say she should never have been detained for so long without charge, the prospect of serving only a further three months in jail will help defuse a potentially damaging early confrontation with the Biden administration that would have occurred if she had been locked up for a further 20 years, as seemed possible at one point

✭ If you want to travel next year, you may need a vaccine passport - CNN
 companies and technology groups have begun developing smartphone apps or systems for individuals to upload details of their Covid-19 tests and vaccinations, creating digital credentials that could be shown in order to enter concert venues, stadiums, movie theaters, offices, or even countries.
#technology #COVID-19

✭ Wuhan citizen journalist jailed for four years in China's Christmas crackdown | World news | The Guardian
“The slew of detentions of those who speak out will only further impede the flow of information about the situation in China,” Human Rights Watch researcher Yaqiu Wang said. “Governments around the world should press Beijing to release wrongfully detained journalists and activists immediately.”

9 December, 2020

Inhale, Exhale

Saw this 2019 Georgian film by director Dito Tsintadze in the framework of Tel Aviv cinematheque's online film festival on the subject of solidarity. It's about a 37 year old woman returning home to a small mining town after spending several years in jail. In the meantime, her young son and teenage daughter have learned to despise her and manage by themselves, with the help of her whining ex-addict husband, mother and sister-in-law. There's nothing much for her anymore there. The welfare services offer her nothing but motivation talks,, free "yoga lessons" by a foreign charlatan and other crap. She befriends a young gay person trying to discover himself in this hostile and hateful provincial environment. The story doesn't offer much hope, but it's a powerful film that keeps you in your seat and thinking about it for a long time afterwards.



Links blog

✭ Nationwide farmers' strike shuts down large parts of India | India | The Guardian
Hundreds of thousands of farmers blocked all roads into the capital Delhi for most of the day, and across the country demonstrated on railway lines and highways and called for a shutdown of shops, in a effort to pressurise the government into repealing new agriculture laws they say will leave them poverty stricken and at the mercy of corporations.

✭ 'I'm often faster': Milan's bicycling bookseller takes on the online giants | Italy | The Guardian
"His is is also among around 2,000 other booksellers across Italy who recently united in their goal to challenge Amazon by setting up their own online platform, called Bookdealer.

The venture is the first of its kind in Italy and allows people to search for books and to locate the nearest bookshop to them, as well as take virtual tours of shops, before purchasing online for home delivery. The initiative is particularly useful for people in towns where bookshops have closed, as they can discover stores that are further away. Customers can also seek the kind of advice they would ordinarily get from an independent bookseller."

✭ iHuman review – doom-laden documentary about the future of AI | Documentary films | The Guardian
Think about the way we treat animals. We’re fond of them but we don’t ask their permission to build a road; it’ll be like that. His analogy is an extraordinary moment in this doom-laden documentary about the future of AI from Norwegian film-maker Tonje Hessen Schei – an eye-opening film if your anxiety levels are up to it.

✭ Barefoot in thorns: Gaza through the eyes of a Palestinian photographer |
“You’re caught between the two sides of the conflict: the rulers of Gaza limit what you can photograph and write about, imprisoning and torturing those who disobey. At the same time, the Israeli army sees you as a potential threat that must be eliminated, as has been the fate of many Palestinian journalists.”
#palestine #photography

Lunana, a Yak in the Classroom

As part of this year's festival of spiritual films, we just watched a great film called "Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom" whose simple story touches the heart. It's the story of a young guy in his last year of training, who reluctantly accepts the assignment of becoming a teacher in a remote village in Bhutan.

Beautiful landscape, beautiful people - the villagers themselves are the actors.

20 October, 2020

Somebody said on the internet...

"I said it before and I'll say it again: cyberpunk romanticizes oppression."
I think one of the problems of science fiction in general is that we usually conceive the future in terms of what we know. Orwell's 1984 was his 1948, a dark vision based on what he saw in the present, and he said later it might not have turned out quite as miserable if he hadn't been so sick and miserable himself at the time that he wrote it. Science Fiction, like worry, is a prayer for what we don't want. If our vision of the future is dystopian, then we are likely to reap a dystopian reality. If we can imagine a future based on freedom and abundance, where we find creative solutions to the problems that threaten us, we have a better chance of surviving as a species. Martin Luther King understood the power of such positive vision when, in a few simple words, he conjured up a reality that both black and white people instantly wanted. However alluring dystopian fiction might be, it is not where we should spend our time. Yuval Noah Harari says that science fiction is the literary genre for our time. But I don't think he meant visions of doom and gloom. Solarpunk is better than Cyberpunk. The images at the end of David Attenborough's new film are pure solarpunk.

Life on our Planet

We watched, before going to bed, David Attenborough's latest film on Netflix. At age 93, he's still amazing, and this is the sort of film you instantly hope that everybody will watch. I wonder what people in the future will make of these plaintive appeals for a change in direction, pitted against hard, intractable interests? Giants like Attenborough are after all quite small and trivial compared to what they are up against, and, in a way, perhaps they are participants in the same game. I have the image of a bunch of people being swept along in a great flood of debris, each of us clinging to a raft of beams from a ruined house, or sticks of furniture; the wealthy land owner and the landless peasant caught up in the same flood, unable to do more than hurl insults at each other as they float on towards the open sea.

Bichlal, I think the best strategy in our times might be that of the Tao Te Ching, the best protection to be vulnerable but useless, a gnarled and knotted tree for which the carpenter has no use, whose only value is to provide shade for the weary traveler.

The more we get caught up in the struggles that aggrandize victors, the more we ourselves become vectors of the pathogens they disseminate. In such an epoch, we need to have the smallest possible footprint in the herd that is ravaging the earth, treading nimbly around the insects so easily crushed by our clobbering feet. In practical terms, we need to consume as little as possible, remain anonymous. Our cloak of invisibility is simply that we are indistinguishable from everyman.

Yesterday I went to the dentist and she was convinced that my magnetic health fund card must have expired. It bore no signs of activity; no visits to clinics or hospitals, no prescribed medicine, no charted medical conditions. It seems that this is an anomaly at the age of 64, but really, I want as little to do with physicians as possible. If I die now, it might be a little young, but I have no unfulfilled ambitions. Better to live out my allotted number of years, but I wouldn't put up a struggle. I've no wish to live to David Attenborough's immense age, certainly. But it's true that I should do more to maintain my body and keep it hale. I try to eat right and live a healthy lifestyle, but don't get enough exercise.

Social blogging

A Hubzilla channel is a networked blog; somewhere between traditional blogging and traditional social media. I'm not a big fan of social media. I like to follow a few people who have interesting things to say, as long as they do not grow too wordy. I've stopped following people in the fediverse who are over-active for my taste. As for my own posts, I have learned recently to limit them by making a single post for the day and then editing it to include sub-posts. The edits don't usually reach beyond Hubzilla itself, if at all. So there's a daily reminder that I continue to exist, and the link to follow if someone is more interested. But since I'm writing mainly for my own pleasure, the presence or absence of viewers is unimportant. I might even stop using this space, or making posts public, if posts begin to create more engagement.


✭ 'Military Disneyland’: a cathedral to Russia's new national identity | Russia | The Guardian
“We are not talking about the geopolitical background at any particular time, we are talking about the fact that our armed forces have sacred help from above, from God and from the heavenly saints. That’s what the cathedral is about.”

✭ Russian cyber-attack spree shows what unrestrained internet warfare looks like | Cyberwar | The Guardian
"They did not just cause confusion and inconvenience. Quite apart from their alleged role in the rise of Donald Trump, they are accused of depriving hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians of light and heat in the middle of winter, and closing down the computer systems of a major Pennsylvania hospital. Their exploits are a foretaste of unconstrained cyber warfare might look like in the real world."