Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

July 30 2013

Macedonia: Ohrid's Hidden Medieval Masks

A traveling blogger and communications specialist in the tourism industry, Tricia A. Mitchell, tells of her curious find in Macedonia's UNESCO registered Ohrid old town.


Top Ten Eateries In Dhaka Town

Diplomat Mikkela Thompson completed her goal of trying 100 eateries in Dhaka in 18 months. She compiles a list of top ten restaurants in the Bangladesh capital in her blog M's Adventures.

An English Written Chinese Classical Couplet

Chinese couplet is a kind of classical poetry written in two lines, which are corresponding to each other in length as well as syntactic and semantic properties. As the couplet can be pasted to the entrance of a house, sometimes a short extra line, horizontal line to be pasted in and between the two long lines, is added as a commentary to the couplet. A twitter @liguangyucn spotted an English written Chinese couplet online and retweeted it in his account:

Subway, railway, highway, way way to die [note: a comment on road safety: subway, railway and highway are leading to death]
Officer, announcer, professor, sir sir to lie [note: a comment of people's integrity: officer, announcer and professor are all liars]
Welcome to China

July 29 2013

In Egypt, Young Men “Die for Nothing”

Egyptian blogger Zeinobia shares photographs and a video of an 18-year-old revolutionary artist Eissa Essam. Essam was killed during clashes on July 26 with Muslim Brotherhood supporters camped in the Rabaa Al Adawiya neighbourhood in Nasr City. Zeinobia describes Essam as the liberal son of an MB member, who was visiting his family at the sit-in when the clashes happened.

She writes:

I do not know who killed Eissa Essam for real, I know that he was shot in his back. His anti-MB friends say that he was killed by the Muslim brotherhood while his MB family says that he is killed by the police and its thugs. All I know that he was killed and his rights will be lost forever like those young men who died for nothing in the past three years. He will be another graffiti, another name used in that fight

E-book Offers ‘Pearls’ From Women Around the World

“Pearls around the Neck” is an anthology comprising tales, poems, essays, interviews, and testimonials submitted by women from different races, languages, social background, education level, religion, and age. They contributed with their own words, and in turn these words “mirror in many delicate touches the various facets of the world of women”, as explains Catherine Beeckman, the e-book's curator.

An avid reader of Global Voices, Catherine says our work has inspired hers in many different ways. In the interview below, she explains how “our writings feed hers” and shares the background of Pearls around the Neck, inviting readers to discover the purpose of this anthology: “to create ecology of the heart and maintain the chain of connections between words and compassion”.

Sex in Tokyo... Sex

Tim Gallo's photo that illustrates the essay “Sex in Tokyo… Sex?” by Catherine Beeckman, Japan/U.S.A. Used with permission.

Global Voices (GV): Catherine, can you tell us a little bit about you?

Catherine Beeckman (CB): Born in Belgium and on the road at 24 months of age with my parents in Africa and South America, I finally graduated with a degree in Linguistics and Semiology at the University of Louvain in my home country.

I have five children. As a family, we maintained our globe-trotter life, moving to Africa, Europe, Asia, South America and the USA.

My interests have always been languages (philology), books (any type of literature, even Manga), travelling and people. My passion number one are my children: from 23 to five years old, I am constantly amazed by the three generations they embody. They update me daily in every area: music, media, films, vocabulary and new discoveries. The five live in distinct parts of the world and study different subjects. They are truly a source of knowledge. I respect the young generations and trust their approach towards the future.

My intention is to transmit what I have gathered on the paths I have walked and involve as many partners as possible: to give back is of paramount importance.

GV: You have lived in 17 different countries in 51 years – that's an average of three countries for each year of your life. How has this global, multicultural upbringing shaped who you are today, and ultimately, “Pearls around the Neck”?

CB: It is rather unusual, still many people are part of this “blueplanet-moving-diaspora”!

Sometimes, we only stayed four months in a country (Rwanda, Burundi); in some countries, we resided in a megalopolis (Tokyo) in others we lived in the jungle (Bendel State, Nigeria). We studied in different languages (Spanish in Chile and Argentina), we heard different prayers from the Muezzin call in Senegal to the Buddhist temples in Singapore; we acclimated to Rep of Central Africa, and revised our manners in Japan, conformed to the Swiss and reviewed it all in Southern USA! We live like “guests”.

That does not include all the countries we visited: Myanmar, Philippines, Indonesia, Haiti, Belize…
It is impossible to remain indifferent: one is soaked, invested by the others, by their rhythm of life, their colors, their accents, their traditions, their conflicts and their history but most importantly, by their stories…their words.

My early childhood (two till 12 years old) in Africa had a profound impact on my perception of the “palabre”=” the word”. Stories have a more organic aspect in the African continent. And women are exceptional story tellers. They tell different stories; women are chroniclers from anecdotes often ignored or left in silence.
“Pearls around the Neck” regroups women’s testimonies from around the planet. This anthology is a true affirmation, an evidence of a global life.

GV: Can you tells us more about “Pearls around the Neck”? When did it all start and how was it put together?

CB: The project started early 2011. I read online: blogs, papers and news websites. Global Voices is one of my sources: a website that crosses frontiers and boundaries. I could not “copy-cat” what was already available and creating yet another blog did not seem appealing. There are many tools of expression today. I started gathering texts and stories. Social networking was the key: I literally reactivated my electronic address book and begged for more connections. The stories started pouring: some were interesting, compelling, provocative, others were dull. This is precisely how it started…I did not know what was in store for me!

Tim Gallo's photo to illustrate Twelve Moons, a poem by Marie JJMG. Switzerland.

Tim Gallo's photo to illustrate “Twelve Moons”, a poem by Marie JJMG. Switzerland.

GV: The book sounds like a truly collaborative effort. In terms of writers alone, there were 56 women from 29 countries, plus translators, photographers, and editors. Who are these co-creators, and how did they come together? 

CB: Why don’t we let the reader discover the amplitude of “Pearls”? The real number of people engaged in this adventure is impressive yet we were never working together in the same room: the virtual world is powerful and can help us create any piece of anthology.

The main difficulty though: the translations. Some texts arrived to me in languages I do not speak; some were sent to me in poor English. It was critical to make the book accessible to a wide audience. I built up a team of translators and editors between Paris, Sevilla, New York and home. I had to remain faithful to the texts that were entrusted to me…

I also decided that every possible type of format should be represented: text messages, email, poetry, essay, interview, slam (my favorite!), traditional letter, journal entry…

The presentation of “Pearls around the Neck” was also decisive: I wanted an art piece. I had met Tim Gallo in Tokyo, we actually studied Japanese together! He is young, talented, audacious and authentic. Tim offered his pictures, adapting each photo to the words. Carrie Leigh Dickey had created a previous book of mine (a story book for children, also in three languages side-by-side): she offered to be responsible of the design.

Wake Forest University loved the project and published “Pearls” on their Digital Publishing web site. The true co-creators are: Brigitte de le Court, Carrie Leigh Dickey, Tim and I.

GV: Plus all people who inspired it! Could you please tell us how “Pearls around the Neck” was also inspired by Global Voices?

CB: Global Voices helped me to maintain a line, a choice in my subjects, to infuse me with a sense of urgency towards the themes I would chose to insert.

We pursue the same goal and I have been inspired by your articles and pieces. Reading Global Voices almost daily, it appeared to me that people I had met through the years and across the 17 countries I had resided in could help me write an anthology reporting their stories in different formats, in different languages (even Afrikaans or Wolof!).

Global Voices has inspired me in many different ways: the multi-linguistic availability of the readings and the multicultural background of the various writers; the broad amplitude of articles and the daring approach towards burning subjects with a marginal angle of view; the reality of the characters presented to the readers, people with stories, real women and men, not the front page magazine hero.

Precise stories reported by Global Voices inspired me and motivated me to seek writers around the world to be part of this anthology: Fallen Petal Roses from Myanmar; I great you Maria full of Grace from Congo, after the Global Voices reported on Doctor Denis MukwegeDearest Amalia was inspired by the GV article Mapa 76Perspectives – written by a 16 year old Indian girl – is her view about the power of mankind, feeding on the story of Pakistani teen activist Malala.

The pieces in the Pearl of Politics and the Pearl of Social Evolvement are very inspired the articles published by Global Voices. The Pearl of Social Engagement is totally linked to several posts. Let us consider us the entry about Japan on the 10 June 2013… a resonance of what was written last year in Pearls… a true and sincere exchange of emails revealing important questions. Journalism is everywhere!

We swim in an ocean of news, we are sometimes aggressively visually overwhelmed by the quantity of informations that scroll on our computer screens: perishable crumbles of data to consume. Why not sharing the true simple facts, the stories that move us to the core?

Fallen Rose Petals by Ohmar Win, Rangoon, Burma

Photo that illustrates “Fallen Rose Petals: A Love Story or A Story of Falling Sex Education”. Essay and photo by Ohmar Win, Rangoon, Myanmar/Burma. Used with permission.

GV: It is good to hear that this book is, by definition, “unfinished and open for other pearls to be threaded onto the necklace”. What are the future plans for the book? Can readers collaborate to this necklace?

CB: “Pearls around the Neck” is now being presented and divulged in different ways. The goal actually is to offer the Pearls as extensively as possible and to create global empathy: this anthology was written and composed with the intent to awaken a different type of compassion towards traditional “information”. Every subject can be linked to a cause: see chapter 15.

I wish that the readers of Global Voices could have access to another tool of expression, that they would be inspired by Pearls and extend their participation just as we did by being creative. The stories published by Global Voices call for more Pearls to be written…in this sensitive, personal and intimate way. The material diffused by GV suggested me to go a step further…I need more stories to dwell in, more Pearls to thread…

Photo by Tim Gallo

Tim Gallo's photo that illustrates “The Amorous Battle”, a poem by Marisa Estelrich, U.S.A. Used with permission.

Free Download 

Pearls Around the Neck cover

Pearls book cover

“Pearls around the Neck” is published by Books 2 Live 4 and is available for download free of charge in English, French, and Spanish. It is also possible to buy a Kindle version of the book on Amazon.

The anthology is illustrated with provocative photos by Tokyo based Russian film-maker and photographer Tim Gallo, whose work is “varying, sometimes disturbing, also cruel, intelligent, young and contemporary”.

You can connect with Catherine on Twitter @cathdBeeckman and on Pearl's fan page on Facebook.

July 27 2013

South Korea's Military Culture Under Scrutiny After Teen Boot Camp Deaths

Five high school students drowned to death at a private seaside boot camp in South Korea, igniting discussions over the prevalence of military-style booth camps as well as nostalgia for the military culture in Korean education.

In South Chungcheong Province, five students died during the three-day military-style boot camp in which instructors forced students to take off their life jackets and jump into the sea in late afternoon. Among 23 students caught by a strong current, five went missing and their bodies were discovered the next day.

Before the official funeral was held [ko] on July 24, 2013, the victims’ classmates posted a short video expressing their condolences on YouTube (English subtitles not available): 

Police later found out that some instructors were unqualified part-time hires just for the busy summer season. Furthermore, the boot camp has misleading used the marine corps's name, despite they have no link with the armed forces.

Although immediate reactions to the tragedy were focused on criticizing the lax safety and flawed operations of unauthorized boot camps, bloggers and Twitter users later expressed concerns about the prevalence of military culture in Korean education that stomps on students creativity and individuality and hinders the democratic decision-making process. 

Military-style boot camps is one of the most popular options for seasonal activities in many Korean schools and Gyoryeon‘ [ko], or practical military training for kids, had been one of the mandatory subjects for high school students for about three decades. The subject was downgraded to an optional subject in 1997 and officially disappeared [ko] from the school only last year.

Image of Boot Camp in Seoul. Unrelated to the one that is responsible for the accident. Image by Flickr user @fast800 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Image of Boot Camp in South Korea. Unrelated to the camp responsible for the accident. Image by Flickr user @fast8000 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

@blu_pn: 해병대캠프 사고로, 극기라는 이름의 병영훈련에 경악하는 분들이 많다. ● 허나 기억할랑가 모르겠다. 나 어릴적 학교에서는 교련이라는 군사훈련을 정규수업으로 받았고, 조회시간엔 군대식 사열과 교장선생님께 거수경례를 했었다[...]

@blu_pn: After the Marine boot camp accident happened, so many people expressed utter shock toward boot camps and their self-discipline by extreme training. But do you remember? When I was a kid, I had a military training named ‘Gyo-ryeon’ as a part of my formal education. And in the morning announcement hours, we [school kids] lined up into a military formation and made military salutes to our principal.

Prominent blogger Impeter traced backed the long history [ko] of military culture in Korean modern education:

[...] 1969년 안보의식과 전시상황에서의 대처능력을 높인다는 목적으로 고등학교 필수과목으로 ‘교련'을 지정했습니다. 당시 교련을 받은 대부분의 학생들은 그저 학교에서 하는 과목이라고 생각했지만, 지금 돌이켜보면 전쟁이 나면 고등학생까지 총을 들고 전장에 내보내겠다는 끔찍한 일이었습니다. 고등학생을 군인으로 만들려고 하니 군대와 똑같은 체벌과 군인정신을 학교에서 요구하기 시작했습니다. [...] 우리 교육의 가장 큰 문제는 잘못된 명령이라도 무조건 따라야 한다는 일제강점기 조선총독부가 조선의 아이들을 소년병으로 만들려는 군국주의 교육 습성이 군사독재 정권으로 이어지면서 아직도 학교에 남아 있기 때문입니다.

Image of Boot Camp in Seoul. Unrelated to the facility that is responsible for the accident. Image by Flickr user @fast800 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Image of Boot Camp in South Korea, Unrelated to the camp responsible for the accident. Image by Flickr user @fast8000 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In 1969 [Editor's note: that year, the military tension between North and South Korea was one of the highest, reaching almost to a pre-war situation] the government made ‘Gyoryeon’ into a mandatory subject in order to raise public awareness of national security and to be better prepared for wartime. Most students, without further thinking, just accepted it as one of those subjects learnt in schools, but if you really think about it, it is quite horrible situation. It reflects that the government had thought of dispatching even high school kids to a war zone when war broke out. Since they wanted to make soldiers out of high school kids, schools started enforcing those kids to have military spirit and adopted almost the same corporal punishment used in the army [...] The biggest problems in our education is [the belief that] ‘students need to obey even the wrong orders’ which was born during the Japanese colonial era– Japanese colonial government had turned Chosun dynasty's kids into boy soldiers [during the World War II era] by injecting militarism in education. And this tradition survived as Korean military authoritarian regimes took power [from 1960s - 80s], leaving traces of militarism in our schools.

Kim Yong-Taek, who spent his entire lifetime as an educator, wrote this analysis [ko] in his education blog:

‘군대 갔다 오면 사람 된다’는 말이 있다. ‘말썽 부리고 반발하고 부모 알기를 우습게 알던 아들이 군대 가더니 딴 사람이 되어 돌아왔다’고 좋아하는 부모들이 있다. 과연 그럴까? ‘군대’갔다 오면 사람‘된다’는 말은 고생을 모르고 자란 자녀가 부모와 헤어져 살아보니 철이 든 것이지 군에 갔기 때문에 달라진 게 아니다. 달라졌다면 순진한 젊은이가 ‘폭력에 순종하는 인간성으로 바뀌었다면 그게 달라졌을 뿐이다[...] 개성이니 창의성이니 소통과 비판과 같은 민주주의란 군사문화와는 거리가 멀다. 명령과 복종이 필요할 뿐이다. 그럴 수밖에 없는 것이 적과의 대치 속에서 살아남기 위해서는 강인한 체력과 인내심이 기본이요, ‘시키면 시키는 대로 해야 하는 복종만이 살 길이다[...] 민주시민으로 자라도록 가르치는 학교에서 배우는 학생들에게 군사문화를 주입시킨다는 것은 반민주주의요, 반교육이다.

Image of Boot Camp in Seoul. Unrelated to the facility that is responsible for the accident. Image by Flickr user @fast800 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Image of Boot Camp in South Korea. Unrelated to the camp responsible for the accident. Image by Flickr user @fast8000 (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

There is a saying that the army makes someone into a real man. Some parents even happily say ‘my son, an unruly brat who used be so disrespectful to his own parents, has became another human being once he served in the army’ [All able-bodied Korean men are obligated to two years of military service] HOWEVER, is that true? It is natural for a spoiled kid turning into a more mature human after they were separated from their parents. If there is any real change made by the army is that ‘a naive young man has turned into a obedient person who succumbs to violence’ [...] Democracy [promotes] creativity and individuality and [is open to] communication and criticism, and it is very different from the military culture. Under military culture, which takes place under extreme situations of confronting the enemies, strong physical strength and patience are a must and obedience to higher authorities is their only way for survival. How a school, an entity that should guide students to become democratic citizens, injects the military culture into these kids? This is an anti-democratic decision that disagrees with the spirit of real education.

July 25 2013

African Fabric Kimono Belt Supports Mothers in Earthquake Disaster Area

A group of Japanese mothers in Sendai city is producing special kimono belts with fairly-traded African fabrics.
Yumi Nakano, who organizes the fundraising [ja] by requesting a donation in exchange for the belts, hopes to encourage more people to enjoy the traditional Japanese kimono and help support the mothers of the area affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami to rebuild their lives at the same time supporting Africans [ja] who hand-loom the fabric.

africa kimono

A group of mothers made Japanese Kimono belt using African fabrics. Image used with permission by Yumi Nakano

July 22 2013

Visit to Israel Gets Filmmaker “Cleansed” from Iran's Cinema Museum

Iranian film maker, M. Makhmalbaf, at JFF, photo courtesy of JFF official website

Iranian film maker, M. Makhmalbaf, at Jerusalem Film Festival, photo courtesy of JFF official website

An internationally renowned Iranian filmmaker, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, outraged many Iranians by accepting an invitation to the Jerusalem Film Festival in Israel this month.

Makhmalbaf, who is also a Green Movement activist and a former revolutionary, has divided Iranians over whether his attendance is a step towards healing “rifts and distances” between the nations, as he stated, or is an absolute disregard for Palestinian human rights, as his critics say.

Makhmalbaf participated in the Jerusalem Film Festival with his new movie, The Gardner:

The conversation is still hot and fresh among Iranians in social media and has prompted petitions signed by activists, academicians and journalists within the diaspora. The virtual world became a battleground for discussions about Makhmalbaf's trip.

First, an open letter signed by a group of “Iranian scholars, artists, journalists and activists” was published [fa] lamenting the director's neglect of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel:

We cannot in good conscience stand by Mr. Makhmalbaf and his decision which will inevitably validate the Israeli occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing. We ask not only that Mr. Makhmalbaf stand with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, but that he be a messenger of liberation for everyone, including both Palestinians and Iranians.

Then, another group of activists and academics penned a letter [fa] in support of the director's visit to Israel lauding his “brave action” as a peaceful gesture towards “conveying the message of friendship”:

We condemn the politics of war whether it is advanced by officials of the Islamic Regime or some officials in Israel. Instead, we endorse, support and welcome, the position of Mohsen Makhmalbaf that instead of a military attack, Iran’s “democratic forces” should be supported. Just like Mohsen Makhmalbaf, we are unafraid to stretch out our hands in friendship with the citizens of Israel and believe that art can be a tool that brings people together regardless of people’s racial, linguistic and political differences.

The polarisation was not limited to academia. In social media the subject of the director's visit to Israel was hot among the netizens too.

Samareh, looks at the criticism with a pinch of salt and a bit of cynicism, commenting on Balatarin, an Iranian link sharing website:

Makhmalbaf took a great measure going to Israel and speaking of peace. He showed that the Iranian nation is different from the Iranian regime which is a big blow to the clerical government. One reason [for such harsh criticisms] is a by-law from the ministry of intelligence to all its footmen: “Tarnish Makhmalbaf's name immediately, only make sure that this is done from the position of the Islamic Republic's enemies to divide the opposition. If, in the meantime, you had to swear to the Islamic Republic there is absolutely no problem with that.

Iranian blogger, Adel, expresses his disdain, seeing a big distinction between what artists do from the realm of politics and, thus, dismissing what Mohsen Makhmalbaf did as futile from the very beginning:

If we are a bit realistic, we will see that the political discourse of artists oftentimes does not have any effect on politicians; Especially Israeli politicians who do not even listen to their American counterparts! Now which cause is Mr. Makhmalbaf is trying to serve? If he wishes to bring the two nations closer to peace, its actual outcome will not be anything other than bringing out a racist government from isolation.

Following this trip, the Islamic Republic's deputy minister of culture and Islamic guidance, Javad Shamaghdari, ordered all Makhmalbaf's memorabilia to be “cleansed” from the Iranian national museum of cinema and a cleric has renounced him as an apostate.

One thing is for sure in this heated conversation: that just like any other debate in the Iranian context, Mohsen Makhmalbaf has brought out the colourful sphere of Iranian society that is unlike what many may wish to think.

Reposted byiranelection iranelection

July 20 2013

South Korean Authorities Raid Ex-Dictator's Home, Seize Massive Art Collection

State prosecutors in South Korea ransacked ex-military dictator Chun Doo-hwan and his family's residence in Seoul and hauled away expensive art work and artifacts to pay for fines that the former leader owes to the state tied to a slush fund that he collected while in power.

Prosecutors, equipped with a metal detector, raided Chun and his family houses and confiscated about 350 works of art that amount to one billion Korean won (US 89 million dollars), which one local news article explained as “enough to set up a museum“ [ko]. The seizure was due to Chun's continued refusals and delays in paying fines.

Photo of ex-dictator Chun Doo-hwan

Photo of ex-dictator Chun Doo-hwan when he was in power. Public domain image via Wikipedia Commons

He owes the state 167.5 billion Korean won (150 million US dollars) charged for a huge slush fund amassed while he was in power. Chun, however, claims to be broke.

Chun seized power in a 1979 army coup and ruled until 1988. His leadership is remembered as the darkest moments for Korea's democracy, human rights and press freedom, which was epitomized by the Gwangju Massacre (or Gwangju Democratization Movement), a tragic event in which several hundred civilians were killed by armed soldiers, though some estimates put the dead much higher at several thousand.

For his crimes, Chun was tried and initially sentenced to death, but the penalty was gradually reduced over the years to life imprisonment, then later he was pardoned and freed.

Reactions online to the raid varied from sarcastic jokes and jeers, praise as a meaningful historical event, to suspicions about the timing of the seizure:

@ahnsarang: I really hope the prosecutor’s raid is little more than just a way of retrieving Chun’s unpaid fines. He stands on the wrong side of history: he rose to power through a military coup and amassed dirty money. It is a bitter irony that this guy is getting all the treatment reserved for an ex-president. By correcting this irony, we will be able to write the right history which will serve as a great lesson for future generations.

@bluejera: Chun, after self-exiling to the Baekdam temple, had regularly attended morning and afternoon prayers and services, and put on a show. [note: After he stepped down, Chun has rarely made public appearance and entered a Buddhist monastery] So I thought he made himself immersed into Buddhism, but it turns out that he even made Buddha statues another item for his hoarding. In a warehouse built by a construction company launched with his money, a national treasure-level Buddha statues were stuck inside along with other expensive art pieces.

@alreadyblues: If I were a museum director, I would consider opening a “Chun Doo-hwan President Special Exhibit” which would bring awareness to people by sharing Chun’s art taste. On the wall, I could display a clause “You haven't even suffered under me” [note: A reference to Chun’s notoriously tasteless joke, told to reporters back in 2008, that "I don't get why young people resent me. They haven't even suffered under me."]

This tweet [ko], which has been retweeted more than 260 times, even refused to use the Korean honorific term for ex-president and defended articles calling him Mr. Chun Doo-hwan.

@csj2007: There is the Former Presidents Act [that guarantees they get proper treatment and benefits]. However, since “mass murderer Chun Doo-hwan” was sentenced to a lifetime prison term for leading insurrection and rebellion, the Former President Act does not apply to him. Calling him “Mr. Chun Doo-hwan” [instead of calling him ex-president] is as generous as one can get.

However, many political bloggers and influential Twitter users explained this case is a scheme of those is power to divert public attention from the country's spy agency and the electioneering scandal it is currently embroiled in, calling Chun a decoy:

@sunnijang: Only because prosecutors already knew that expensive art pieces are stored at Chun Doo-hwan’s house, they were able to prepare anti-vibration function cars [which were used during the raid]. Previous administrations must have known about expensive properties hidden in Chun’s house, so my question is, why did this raid take place now, at this moment? Where were they?

A journalist at Newstapa, or Korea Center for Investigative Journalism, was careful to make any early judgements. Newstapa, an independent, non-profit news site, was the first one to unearth Chun's eldest son's paper company in tax havens built for tax evasion purpose, and that revelation eventually lead to full reports on the Chun family's hidden money.

Capture Image of Newstapa Chun tax haven report

Screen capture image of Newstapa's video report on the Chun familly slush fund hidden in a tax haven.
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 KR)


@kbsmuckraker: State prosecutors raided Chun Doo-hwan's households. Is this just another political show event or a first step toward erecting justice? We will keep a close watch out on this till the end. Link to extensive report on “Koreans in tax havens”.

July 16 2013

Artists Capture a Bloody Ramadan in Syria

Mubarak, (blessed) kareem (generous) or peaceful, are the usual words that come to mind during Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting when families and communities joyfully come together to pray and break their daily fasts.

But for artists depicting the holy month in Syria – blood, violence and helplessness are the only words that seem to fit. Since protests first began in March 2011 during the Arab Spring, Ramadan in Syria has not been mubarak, or kareem, and especially not peaceful.

What is really going on in Syria? Nobody can really tell. But what everyone can see are the countless people being killed, dozens kidnapped and hundreds forced to flee their homes everyday.

Ramadan in Syria according to Osama Hajjaj

Ramadan in Syria according to Osama Hajjaj

The UN recently said that the Syrian conflict is “drastically deteriorating” with up to 5,000 people dying every month. And it seems Ramadan this year will be no different than any other month. It might even be worse. Both camps seem to have turned a deaf ear to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon's plea to stop violence. To add insult to injury, food and medicine prices are soaring. According to The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA):

@Sana_English: #Syria‘s Health Minister: Decision to raise medicine prices intended to preserve medicine security

Homs is under siege, so is Aleppo and many other cities across the war-torn country.

Syrian Amal Hanano summarizes the situation in one of her tweets:

@AmalHanano: On the 1st day of Ramadan, #Aleppo is starving. Dollar is up to 300 Syrian Pounds. No food or medicine to be found. #Syria

Even religious buildings have not been spared.

@GotFreedomSYA Mosque I could once see from our balcony in Syria is now burning to ruins. One of many Mosques the Assad regime is destroying in Ramadan.

Syrian artists also to depict the situation through many works of art, available online.

Here's how Tammam Azzam draws the famous Ramadan Crescent or moon:

Ramadan Kareem from Tammam Azzam

Ramadan Kareem from Tammam Azzam

And here's sad Suhoor (the meal people have before they start their fast at dawn) by artist Hicham Chemali posted on “Syrian Revolution Caricature” Facebook Page:

There is no one left to wake up for the Suhoor in Syria

There is no one left to wake up for suhoor (meal at sunrise before the daily fast) in Syria


A Ramadan Crescent dripping blood along side a full moon made of the names of Syrian towns. Photo posted on Art and Freedom Facebook Page

Maher Abul Husn sees a Ramadan Hazeen (Sad) in Syria. A Ramadan Crescent dripping blood alongside a full moon made of the names of Syrian towns. Photo posted on Art and Freedom Facebook Page.

See how Bashar [Syria's president] is distributing Food for the Iftar.

During the month of Ramadan a Cannon is used to remind people it is time to break their fasting and have their iftar meal.

During the month of Ramadan cannons are fired to indicate to people the time to break their fast and have their meal. In this caricature, posted on Basma Souria Page (Syrian Fingerprint), Bashar is seen bombing Syrian towns and cities

From Jordan, caricaturist Osama Hajjaj also sympathizes with the plight of his Syrian neighbors and brothers.

But despite everything, Syrians still resort to humor, even if it is black, to carry on with their lives. This photo is going viral on Twitter and on Facebook.

We apologize this year from the Arabs for not broadcasting "Bab Al Hara" The Neighborhood's Gate" series (one of the post popular Series in the Arab World, usually aired during Ramadan) because Bachar hasn't left any Hara (Neighbourhood)

We apologize this year to Arabs for not broadcasting “Bab Al Hara” [The Neighborhood's Gate] series (one of the popular series in the Arab world, usually aired during Ramadan) because Bashar hasn't left any Hara (Neighbourhood)

All photographs in this post are used with the permission of the artists.

VIDEO: Historic Khalid ibn al-Walid Mosque Bombed in Syria

Protect Syrian Archaeology posted photographs on its Facebook page [en, ar] and videos on YouTube, recording the moment the historic Khalid ibn al-Walid mosque (7th century) was bombed in Homs, Syria.

Homs – Results of the bombing of Khalid ibn al-Walid mosque#حمص – أثار القصف الذي تعرض له مسجد الصحابي خالد بن الوليد”

This 5-minute video takes you inside the mosque as a fire rages in some parts of the building and this 8-minute video captures destruction from outside, with smoke rising from the building:

The video is dated July 9, 2013.

The Beautiful “Country” of Africa

In this week's edition of the Kenyan online magazine Brainstorm, Brenda Wambui rails against the ongoing narratives about Africa: “Africa is a country”, “Africa rising”, ‘”African fashion”. She looks at ways Kenyans can reclaim their story and define themselves on their own terms:

As Kenya, or any other country, we should define who we are, what we stand for, what we expect of other countries we interact with, and what we will and will not accept. We should forge this identity independent of others’ expectations and preconceptions. Then, we should stand by it. Saying who you are is not enough, you also have to show who you are by how you act.

July 15 2013

Puerto Rican Artist Shares Her Passion for Paper

*All links lead to Spanish texts, unless otherwise noted.

During her workshops, Puerto Rican artist Aydasara Ortega, a current resident of New York, offers a “time out,” or “toque de queda” [en], during which participants learn to create their own beautiful handmade paper. Ortega invites students to “reclaim their physical and mental space,” and to put the mystery back into whatever they create with their hands, with their time…and this is no small feat.

To accomplish this, Aydasara uses social networks to spread the word about her artistic campaign and to exchange ideas about related topics. She also writes two different blogs, lomismoquefuesiempreobjeto and aydasara, in which she displays the various collages she has created with the utmost sensitivity and precision on her personally hand-crafted paper.

She also shares these fascinating works of art on several cybergalleries, and new pieces come to light each month in the magazine Cruce.  Even her Facebook wall has been transformed into an exhibit space, thanks to the touch of beauty which Aydasara creates and shares here.  It was through Facebook, in fact, that we had the conversation with her that we're sharing with you today.

We hope you enjoy it!

Obra de su serie Desde luego.

A work from her series titled “Desde Luego.”

Global Voices (GV): How long have you been working on your blogs?

Aydasara Ortega (AO): Hago dos blogs: lomismoquefuesiempreobjeto y aydasara. Empecé con el segundo en el 2008. Como regalo de cumpleaños, alguien me dijo “Mira, Aydasara, es como un diario y puedes crearlo a tu manera muy libremente.” Imaginate, qué invitación. Comencé entonces a describir e ilustrar mi proceso creativo.  Luego, en el 2009 quise hacer uno enfocado en los talleres que estaba dando: jabones y velas artesanales así como papel hecho a mano.

I write two blogs: lomismoquefuesiempreobjeto and aydasara. I started the second one in 2008. As a sort of birthday present, someone said to me, “Look, Aydasara, it's just like writing a journal, and you can create it in your own way, as free-form as you want.”  Imagine turning down an invitation like that! So I started to describe and illustrate my own creative process. After that, in 2009, I wanted to focus one of the blogs on the workshops I was teaching: artistic soaps and candles as well as handmade paper.

"Quién mira fijamente al mar ya está navegando un poco."  Obra de Aydasara que aparece en el portal Café de la Pensée

“Anyone who gazes into the sea has already set sail.” A piece by Aydasara appearing on the home page of Café de la Pensée

GV: How do you organize your content?

AO: El blog aydasara es más personal pues resultó como un diario, donde documentaba acontecimientos en los que encuentro algo muy significativo, digno de recordar y compartir. lomismoquefuesiempreobjeto está más enfocado al arte de hacer papel, arte al que le doy completa dedicación desde el 2008.

AO: The blog aydasara is more personal, since it has turned out more like a journal where I documented events that held significance for me, things worth noting and sharing. lomismoquefuesiempreobjeto centers more on the art of making paper, which I've been completely dedicated to since 2008.

GV: In both blogs, you display your work along with a word or phrase  from a text. Tell us a bit about the process of relating these excerpts to your art.

AO: ¿
Cuál viene primero a mi mente, el texto o la imagen? Es una pregunta que siempre me resulta curiosa, pero ya no me desafía. Quiero decir que están ahí y toman forma simultáneamente.

Los textos y los pedazos que dan forma a cada imagen los encuentro en libros también encontrados, aunque siempre he sospechado son ellos los que me encuentran a mí. En los blogs, casi siempre incluyo una o unas de las letras del texto (y a veces en la imagen), letras que sombreo de un color distinto.  Estas letras sombreadas te llevan al enlace donde puedes encontrar el texto completo.


AO: Which comes to my mind first, the text or the image? This has always been a curious question for me, but it's not as much of a challenge now. I mean that both are there and they take shape simultaneously.

The texts and the pieces that give form to each image, well, I get them from “found” books, although I've always suspected that they are finding me. In the blogs, I almost always include one or more of the letters from the text (and sometimes from the image), letters that I shade in a distinct color. These shaded letters lead to an Internet link where you can find the complete text.

Obra del artista puertorriqueño Rubén Rivera hecha sobre una hoja creada por Aydasara.

A work by Puerto Rican artist Rubén Rivera on paper created by Aydasara.

GV: Why do you make paper by hand?

AO: Porque su devenir me resulta fascinante. La palabra devenir y su significado: “La realidad entendida como proceso o cambio, que a veces se opone a ser” (regalo de mi amigo Rubén Rivera) describe bien el arte de hacer papel a mano y lo que podría significar para el hacedor.

Hacerlo intriga, atiene, detiene, atrapa y, a la vez, da rienda suelta.

Ahora, ¿por qué a las personas les invita y se dedican a hacer papel a mano?

En general, las personas le dan atención al papel como le dan, digamos, al aire.  Así como una brisa despierta los sentidos, una hoja de papel hecha a mano hace lo mismo.  Es decir, hay algo especial acerca de un objeto hecho a mano.  Nos da la sensación de la persona detrás del producto en lugar de la máquina, y valoramos ese sentido cada vez más con cada avance tecnológico.  El papel es muy común, por lo que una hoja hecha a mano, inusual y diferente, es mucho más que excepcional, es única y lleva en sí un mensaje.

AO: Because the evolution, the process, is so fascinating for me. The word “evolution” and its meaning, “reality understood as process or change, which sometimes refuses to be” (courtesy of my friend Rubén Rivero), is a good description of the art of making paper by hand and what it means for the maker.

Making paper intrigues, delays, traps, and, once in a while, allows free rein.

So then, what inspires people to make paper by hand and dedicate themselves to it?

In general, people notice paper in the same way they notice, let's say, air. Just as a breeze can awaken the senses, a simple sheet of paper made by hand can do the same. In other words, there's something special about a hand-made object. It gives us the sense of the person behind the product rather than the machine, and we value that sense even more with every new technological advance. Paper is very common, so a sheet made by hand, unusual and distinct, is far more than exceptional, it is unique, and carries a message inside it.

GV: Tell us about the experience of sharing your work in places like California, Detroit, New York, and Puerto Rico.

Foto publicada en Facebook por Aydasara Ortega

Photo published on Facebook by Aydasara Ortega

AO: He tenido la maravillosa oportunidad de exhibir mi trabajo y dar talleres de papel hecho a mano, a los que llamo Toque de Queda a través de organizaciones, y en todos estos lugares el papel se ha quedado con el canto.  Es decir que el hacer un hermosa hoja de papel con nuestras propias manos, y hacer de ésta lo que la imaginación invite ha sido siempre una experiencia deslumbrante para aquellos con los que he tenido el honor de compartirlo.

AO: I've had the marvelous opportunity to exhibit my work and present paper-making workshops [en], which I call Toque de Queda, for different organizations, and in all these places, papermaking has been a hit. That is, making a beautiful sheet of paper with our own hands, and then making that into whatever our imagination dictates, has always been an enlightening experience for those I've had the honor to share it with.

GV:  What are your next steps?

AO: Estaré ofreciendo talleres gratuitos el 27 y 28 de julio como parte del tercer New York City Poetry Festival.  También daré un curso intensivo de fabricación de papel, junto a Ruben Rivera, del 5 al 9 de agosto en la Liga de Estudiantes de Arte de Nueva York.

Y seguiré compartiendo mis creaciones y enviando mi propuesta para un Toque de Queda a toda persona y lugar posible.  Uno nunca sabe quien se motive a maniobrar.

AO: I'll be offering free workshops on the 27th and 28th of July as part of the third New York City Poetry Festival [en]. I'll also be teaching an intensive course on paper-making, along with Rubén Rivera, from August 5th-9th at the Art Students League of New York [en].

I'll continue to share my creations and send my Toque de Queda proposal to as many individuals and organizations as possible. You never know who might be inspired to get involved.

Chinese Elderly Suggests to Punish the Unmarried

Starting from July 1, 2013 China put into effect a new filial piety law, requiring grown children to visit their parents “frequently”. In reaction to the law, an elderly suggested to punish the unmarried one:

My kids shouldn’t be treated as a violator of any law if they don’t’ visit me frequently. Instead, [if they are] 30 years old and still unmarried, now that should be treated as a violation of law. They should be sentenced.

Offbeat China has the story.

July 11 2013

Video:Beijing State of Mind

Mark Griffith from Blog of Niffguard has put together a music video about life in Beijing: Watch Beijing State of Mind on Youtube.

July 10 2013

Should Korean Culture Be Blamed for Asiana Plane Crash?

As more details are coming out about the Asiana Airlines plane crash which claimed two lives and injured 181 passengers, Malcolm Gladwell's bestseller ‘Outliers' has been widely quoted in articles and online venues. The book points Korea's hierarchical culture as the main contributing factor of the 1997 Korean Air Plane Crash at Guam airport. The Marmots Hole blog commented on such analysis.

Indian Blogger Forced To Delete Post

Prasant Naidu at Lighthouse Insights reports that film critic, journalist and blogger Soumyadipta Banerjee was apparently forced to delete a recent blogpost. He wrote a post at his BollywoodJournalist blog describing the life and death of Constable Ravindra Patil, the only eye witness in Bollywood actor Salman Khan’s famous 2002 Hit-and-Run-case. Soumyadipta also issued a public apology to Salman Khan.

July 09 2013

The “Fair” Factor in Bangladesh

Aziza Ahmed writes about the Bangladeshi social prejudice on dark-skinned girls in matrimonial affairs.

Club-Goers Rebel Against Japan's Dance Regulation

In Japan, dancing in the wrong place at the wrong time can get you in trouble.

Japanese law requires that public venues be licensed to permit dancing. Clubs and dance halls that are unlicensed can be – and are often – raided by the police. The Entertainment Business Act [ja] (“Fueiho” in Japanese) also requires venues to close no later that one o’clock in the morning. Venues that host all-night dance parties without a license are thus considered to be law breakers.

But on this island nation, home to a lively club scene, and the headquarters of world-renowned manufacturers of DJ turntables and loudspeakers, such as VestaxAKAI and Pioneer, the party-people are fighting back.

They have started a campaign called “Let's DANCE” [ja]. It is a grassroots-petition initiative based on the premise that the mere act of dancing should be exempt from legal restrictions. Campaign organizers collected more than 150,000 signatures on their petition imploring the Japanese Diet members to revise the Entertainment Law. The petition was presented to Diet lawmakers on May 20, 2013.

Photo from Let's Dance Campaign. Artists, citizens, attorneys and the Diet members advocate revision of the dance regulation

Photo from Let's DANCE Campaign Facebook Page. Artists, citizens, attorneys and the Diet members advocate revision of the dance regulation

Raids and Arrests

The Fueiho Law was put into effect in 1948 to crack down on prostitution in dance halls.

In the aftermath of World War II in 1945, Japan established a system of state-sanctioned prostitution to service allied troops occupying the country, recruiting women with newspaper advertisements [ja] that said, “Dancers wanted for cabarets, cafés and bars.” Less than a year later, the American forces issued orders prohibiting servicemen from visiting these establishments. This resulted in the sudden unemployment of thousands of women, many of whom resorted to selling their bodies elsewhere.

Tokyo Party Time by flickr user dat' (CC BY-ND 2.0) Photo taken on March 2011, Tokyo

Tokyo Party Time, March 2011, by flickr user dat’ (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Lawmakers at the time came to see the dance floor as a hotbed of clandestine prostitution and enacted strict regulations. Since then, a number of revisions to the law have been made.

Nightclubs have somehow circumvented the licensing rules for years, putting up with seasonal suspensions of businesses, arrests, and closures here and there. But in recent years in Japan’s second most populated region, Kansai, in the southern-central part of the main island Honshu, the police have started cracking down and tightening their control over the clubs.

Electronic music magazine Resident Advisor described the dying club scene in Kansai in January 2012:

2011 brought more closures, as club owners increasingly found themselves under pressure to conform to license requirements or face arrest. In March, big name nightclubs including Triangle and Joule were fined and forced to stop their all-night business.

Only a few months later in April 2012, police raided Club Noon in Kansai at 10 p.m. for allegedly “allowing people to dance in an unlicensed place” [ja]. The club was shut down, sparking outrage among club-goers and artists who were suddenly all too aware of the excessive power of authorities to shut down any unlicensed dance hall without a warrant at any time.

The popular outrage led to the creation of a four-day festival Save The Club Noon [ja] organized by 90 artists and DJs fighting for the right to party.

This movement is being documented by a film crew who plan to make a documentary that will confront the issue of dance regulation. The film is currently seeking financial support [ja] through a crowdfunding website so they can compensate artists and music copyright holders. The deadline to support the project is July 14.

Club-goers are Evil-doers?

One of the biggest nightclubs in Tokyo, Vanity Restaurant, was raided by police on May 26, and three people were arrested.

In the mind of rock musician and Japanese punk icon Akihiro Namba (@AKIHIRONAMBA), dance regulation statutes are an absurd oppression of youth. He commented [ja] on Twitter:


Look at dance regulation. They always oppress the youth and regard young people as evil-doers. The authorities are always afraid of the power of youth, young people’s power. . In other words, the youth can turn really subversive once their heart is in it.

For young sociologist and doctoral candidate Noritoshi Furuichi (@poe1985), it's an issue of government policies on culture:


I see a tendency of regulations enacted to repress cultural expression; such as, the bill to revise the Anti-Child Pornography Act, which will restrict freedom of expression through cartoon artworks, regulations on dance thanks to the Entertainment Business Act, the Fire Service Act restricting venues for live performances. And this country’s business people think they can market Japanese culture overseas as content-business. I don't get their point.

As advocates seek wider recognition of club culture, an underground hardcore band called Down for Realize (@down4realize) voiced their concern that an effort to improve recognition of clubs as a healthy cultural activity might turn such venues into insipid places that exclude certain kinds of people:


I understand it's important that we behave well and act ethically, moreover, I ask the general public to foster an understanding of club culture in order to keep the clubs from closing. However, do we really want all clubs to be healthy and nice? I don’t think so!

Does a club have allure when you yank out that part of it that has nefarious edge? Will there be a place for outlaws and those outsiders who live in the margins of society? Will the imagined healthy and wholesome “clubs” still be clubs?

July 08 2013

Hong Kong's Burnt Offerings

Burnt offerings is a religious practice of southern China to express caring of the dead. The design of the paper offerings has evolved over time and Tom Grundy shows some innovative paper designs in his blog.

Burnt offerings is a religious practice of southern China to express caring of the dead. The design of the paper offerings has evolved over time and Tom Grundy shows some innovative paper designs in his blog.

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!