The undead are stalking Pakistan – and it’s all to feed eastern moviegoers’ huge appetite for horror. Sarfraz Manzoor reports on the genre where the killer wears a burka.
From The Guardian:
A group of teenagers, en route to attend a rock concert, lose their way when their car runs out of fuel in the dead of night. They find themselves in an unfamiliar rural backwater where they are confronted by flesh-eating zombies and a psychotic cannibalistic killer dressed in a sheet. It could be the plot to a thousand Hollywood horror films but while these teenagers may dress, talk and smoke dope like young Americans they are in fact young Pakistanis, and the film – Zibahkhana or Hell’s Ground – is the first modern horror film to be filmed in Pakistan.
Filmed in and around Islamabad, Zibahkhana manages to include Pakistani rock music, hijras – transvestite eunuchs common in the subcontinent – as well as some pointed social criticism of contemporary Pakistani society. And a serial killer dressed in a burqua. The film’s director, Omar Ali Khan, was born in London and spent his childhood watching Hitchcock and Hammer horror films. It pays homage to 1970s slasher classics such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, and Friday the 13th while remaining a defiantly Pakistani picture.
More here. [Thanks to Asad Raza.]
A poem by Jim Culleny of NoUtopia.com:
–A friend emailed a question. She asked in earnest,
“Jim how are you, really?”
Not a trick by the asker
but trick by
my inner magician,
my personal convoluter,
my lithe prevaricator
who first teased Eve
under a tree
with the acid, orange
kumquat of knowledge
which he bounced
upon his forked tongue
and upon which Eve
and her shifty lover
How are you, really?
is impossible for a fake
To answer would be
to mock God
who sees through spin
no matter how sincere.
Continue reading the poem here.
Roger Scruton in Prospect:
Enlightenment thinkers, having shown the claims of faith to be without rational foundation, did not then dismiss religion, as one might dismiss a refuted theory. Many went on to conclude that religion must have some other origin than the pursuit of scientific knowledge, and some other psychic function than consolation. The ease with which the common doctrines of religion could be refuted alerted men like Jacobi, Schiller and Schelling to the idea that religion is not, in essence, a matter of doctrine, but of something else. And they set out to discover what that might be.
Thus was born the anthropology of religion. For thinkers in the immediate aftermath of the Enlightenment, it was not faith, but faiths in the plural, that composed the primary subject matter of theology. Hence the appearance of books like CF Dupuis’s Origine de tous les cultes, ou Religion universelle (1795), and the busy decipherment of oriental religions by the Bengal Asiatic Society, whose proceedings began to appear in Calcutta in 1788. For post-Enlightenment thinkers, the monotheistic belief systems were not related to ancient myths and rituals as science to superstition, or logic to magic. Rather, they were crystallisations of the emotional need which found expression both in the myths and rituals of antiquity and in the Vedas and Upanishads of the Hindus. This thought led Georg Creuzer, whose Symbolik und Mythologie der alten Völker appeared between 1810 and 1812, to represent myth as a distinctive operation of the human psyche. A myth does not describe what happened in some obscure period before human reckoning, but what happens always and repeatedly. It does not explain the causal origins of our world, but rehearses its permanent spiritual significance.
Re-visiting Bharati Mukherjee’s 1997 review of Snakes and Ladders:
At the time of the Raj, it was fashionable for British and American writers as diverse as Maud Diver, Rudyard Kipling, E. M. Forster, George Orwell, Beverly Nichols, John Masters and Katherine Mayo to present the Eastern and the Western thought-processes as opposed. These writers’ pronouncements, such as “never the twain shall meet” and “not yet”, may have come as a relief to their readers. The enlightenment highway has been designed for a one-way traffic in ideas: from the rational West to the child-like, intuitive East. Even in the 1960s and 70s, when the West’s affluent young discovered Hermann Hesse, Carl Jung, Buddhism, Hinduism and the I Ching, the traffic remained one way, only this time speeding from the East to the West. The Nirvana-poachers’ invasion of industrializing India and the resultant “mythological osmosis” was the subject of Gita Mehta’s first work of non-fiction, Karma Cola. Now after eighteen years, the novel Raj and a collection of short stories, A River Sutra, Mehta has returned, in Snakes and Ladders, to monitor the progress of the traffic in enlightenment.
Although the game of snakes and ladders may have been invented centuries ago “as a meditation on humanity’s progress towards liberation”, Mehta remembers that in her childhood “the actual board was suggestive of danger”. By using the game as a way of summing up India’s fifty-year experiment in sovereignty, Mehta suggests that although the political leaders after Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi are spending too much time in serpents’ bellies, ladders prop themselves against walls for the use of future idealists.
Neil Savage at MIT’s Technology Review:
The biofuel of the future could well be gasoline. That’s the hope of one biotech startup that on Monday described for the first time how it is coaxing bacteria into producing hydrocarbons that could be processed into fuels like those made from petroleum.
LS9, a company based in San Carlos, CA, and founded by geneticist George Church, of Harvard Medical School, and plant biologist Chris Somerville, of Stanford University, had previously said that it was working on what it calls “renewable petroleum.” But at a Society for Industrial Microbiology conference on Monday, the company began speaking more openly about what it has accomplished: it has genetically engineered various bacteria, including E. coli, to custom-produce hydrocarbon chains.
To do this, the company is employing tools from the field of synthetic biology to modify the genetic pathways that bacteria, plants, and animals use to make fatty acids, one of the main ways that organisms store energy. Fatty acids are chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms strung together in a particular arrangement, with a carboxylic acid group made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen attached at one end. Take away the acid, and you’re left with a hydrocarbon that can be made into fuel.
“I am very impressed with what they’re doing,” says James Collins, codirector of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology at Boston University. He calls the company’s use of synthetic biology and systems biology to engineer hydrocarbon-producing bacteria “cutting edge.”
Ida Wahlstrom at OneWorld:
In the years following the ratification of the extremely controversial USA PATRIOT Act, other countries across the world have introduced equally contentious counter-terrorism statutes that have had serious implications on civil rights, say advocates.
Violent religious extremist groups have killed or injured over 1,700 people since 2000 in the Philippines alone, and the government of this island nation has failed to respond appropriately, a global human rights watchdog said this week.
The state has not taken adequate legal or punitive measures against those responsible, said Human Rights Watch, adding that a new anti-terror law “contains dangerous overbroad provisions that violate human rights standards and broaden the scope of government power to hold terrorism suspects indefinitely.” Before the passage of the Human Security Act, which went into effect just over a week ago, the Philippines was the only country in the region that did not have any counter-terrorism legislation. An opposition political party — and some Filipino bloggers — have expressed concerns that the new law may be used to silence valid voices of dissent as the current government, in addition to the police and military, have poor human rights records.
Recent developments in El Salvador, where the Special Law Against Acts of Terrorism was instituted in November 2006, hint at what may lay in store for Filipino citizens.
A little knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but dangerous things are very often exciting, and only the truly saintly would deny that there is a pleasure in forming opinions of writers whom one has never read a word of. Without experience to cloud one’s judgment or information to slow one’s thinking, the passage from ignorance of a writer’s work to a vague acquaintance with its main elements — courtesy, say, of an essay or a review executed by someone better versed — can be a stimulating imaginative exercise. On the basis of brief descriptions and short quotations the reader is free to conjure up a figure who may not much resemble the artist in question but is rich in associations anyway and who will do — will have to do — for now (which sometimes, sadly, is all the time one has).
I’m thinking here of W. G. Sebald, the late German writer whom I’ve never read but am told I should by people who impress me — most recently by J. M. Coetzee, the Nobel Prize-winning South African novelist whose new collection of literary essays, “Inner Workings,” includes compressed studies of several authors who fall, at least for me, in Sebald’s category of highly ranked European worthies (Robert Musil and Bruno Schulz are others) whose pages are easy to postpone turning, but hard, in some circles, to avoid discussing.
more from the NY Times Book Review here.
In 1917 the Headmistress of Bournemouth High School for Girls made a chilling announcement to her sixth form: ‘I have come to tell you a terrible fact. Only one out of ten of you girls can ever marry … Nearly all the men who might have married you have been killed. You will have to make your way in the world as best you can.’ She was right: 700,000 British soldiers died in the First World War, and over a million and a half were wounded. Ghastly and unthinkable though their fate was, it has been endlessly commemorated with Remembrance days, with war memorials and a literature which still continues to grow. The women who were left behind are forgotten. The Census of 1921 revealed a surplus of one and three-quarter million women over men. These Surplus Women form the subject of Virginia Nicholson’s book. She succeeds triumphantly in telling the human story behind the demographic statistic.
more from Literary Review here.
In April of last year, David Holmes, a professor of psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University in England, developed a formula for the perfect posterior. Using the equation (s + c) x (b + f) / t – v, Holmes claimed, you could account for the appeal of any female bottom, factoring in its shape (s), circularity (c), bounce (b), firmness (f), texture (t), and pertness (v). He also came up with a formula for the male derrière, but the media took little note, sticking to the Kylie Minogue angle on the story.
Holmes’s formula is actually quite intriguing. By applying a scientific equation to something as varied and unscientific as a tush, Holmes was attempting to systematize taste, creating an ideal through a sum of heretofore private parts. Of course, securing the formula for perfection isn’t Holmes’s quest alone. Most industries have their own methods for defining what is paragon, though not all are lucky enough to have them distilled into math.
more from The Walrus here.
From Scientific American:
A man who gets angry at work may well be admired for it but a woman who shows anger in the workplace is liable to be seen as “out of control” and incompetent, according to a new study presented on Friday. What’s more, the finding may have implications for Hillary Clinton as she attempts to become the first female U.S. president, according to its author Victoria Brescoll, a post-doctoral scholar at Yale University.
Her research paper “When Can Angry Women Get Ahead?” noted that Clinton was described last year by a leading Republican as “too angry to be elected president.”
William Easterly in the New York Review of Books:
One of the classic works of journalism of the last couple of decades was Randy Shilts’s And the Band Played On about the sluggish response to AIDS in the 1980s in the United States, which indicted both the Reagan administration and the leaders of the gay community. I still remember the sense of outrage I felt when reading Shilts’s book; it struck just the right note, leaving one both horrified about the tragic incompetence of so many and yet also hopeful that someone, somewhere could do things better next time.
Yet after reading Helen Epstein’s masterful new book, the response to AIDS in America now looks in retrospect like a model of courage, speed, and efficiency by comparison with the response in Africa. In the US, the government publicized the threat and funded research, the gay community reduced its infection rates by encouraging less risky sexual behavior, the dreaded breakout into the heterosexual population never happened, and AIDS receded to become a disease that, while still tragic, could in most cases be kept under control with expensive new antiretroviral drugs (ARVs).
The opposite is true in every respect of AIDS in Africa, which was anticipated as a looming crisis already in the 1980s, yet governments, foreign aid agencies, and even activists reacted with denials and evasion.
Hugh Gusterson in The Bulletin:
A recent New York Times opinion piece asked what we will do on the day after a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States. The June 12 op-ed, “After the Bomb,” was written by William Perry, Ashton Carter, and Michael May–a former defense secretary, assistant defense secretary, and director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory respectively.
They argue that, for a Hiroshima-sized bomb, “little could be done” for those within two miles of ground zero. Survivors downwind, however, as long as they were getting good information from government broadcasts, would be in a position to decide how many days to shelter in their basements from radiation or to decide whether “to return to pick up a beloved pet” from their home in exchange for increasing their lifelong chance of getting cancer to 21 or 22 percent. As for first responders: “Few would choose to have their risk of death from cancer go up to 30 percent. But in cases of smaller probabilities . . . a first responder might be willing to go into a radiation zone.”
Since there might be a second bomb, the article goes on, “people in other cities might want to evacuate on the day after, or at least move their children to the countryside, as happened in England during World War II.” Meanwhile they advise that the U.S. government should refrain from attacking a country, such as Russia or Pakistan, whose fissile material was in a terrorist bomb because “their cooperation would be needed to find out who got the bombs and how many there were.”
John Morgan reviews The Poincaré Conjecture by Donald O’Shea, in American Scientist:
A mathematical conjecture is a precise mathematical statement that the formulator believes to be true and important to establish, but for which he or she has no proof. It is posed as a challenge to other mathematicians, and if it is important and difficult, it stimulates much mathematical development before being resolved. One of the most important conjectures in mathematics was formulated in 1904 by the leading mathematician of his day, Henri Poincaré. It was the central, defining problem in the field that he fathered—topology.
For the next 98 years, wave after wave of leading topologists attempted to solve the problem of finding a proof for the Poincaré conjecture. None of them succeeded, but their enormous efforts in this direction were not for naught, because the ideas they developed produced tremendous advances in topology. But through all of it, the Poincaré conjecture remained unapproachable, like the end of the rainbow.
Then in 2002 and 2003, Grigory Perelman, a reclusive Russian mathematician who had disappeared from view in the mid-1990s, posted on the Internet three preprints that claimed to prove the Poincaré conjecture and a great deal more. All the more exciting for mathematicians was the fact that his approach used deep ideas from outside topology. This was no frontal attack, but rather an approach that brought to bear the power of geometry and partial differential equations.
John Foot in the London Review of Books:
On 17 February 2003, a 39-year-old Egyptian man was walking down a quiet street in suburban Milan on his way to daily prayers. His real name was Osama Nasr, but he was known as Abu Omar. He was a cleric and political militant, an opponent of the Mubarak regime, and had refugee status in Italy (which is very hard to get). A man in police uniform came up to him and asked in Italian to see his documents. As he reached for his passport, Omar was bundled into a white van and driven away at high speed. He was threatened, blindfolded, bound hand and foot, punched, forced onto the floor of the van, and taken to the US air base at Aviano near Brescia – about five hours’ drive away. The next day, he was put on a plane to Ramstein in Germany, where he boarded another plane, this time for Egypt. Journalists and Milanese magistrates investigating the case later discovered that Omar had been transferred to Cairo on a Gulfstream jet used for CIA operations.
Omar was taken to the Torah prison compound in Cairo, where he was tortured. He was stripped and placed in a room ‘so cold it felt that my bones would snap’, then moved to a boiling hot cell. Electric shocks were applied to his whole body – afterwards he found it difficult to walk. This went on for more than a year. In April 2004 he was released, with the proviso that he keep quiet about what had happened to him. Omar, however, phoned his wife and friends in Milan. They had had no idea whether or not he was still alive. Omar was worried and cagey, but confirmed that he had been kidnapped. This was too much for the Egyptians, who were probably tapping his phone. They immediately arrested him and sent him back to prison in Cairo.
Saifedean Ammous in Rootless Cosmopolitan:
While in Paris a few weeks ago, whenever I would discuss Middle East politics with anyone, I would be overwhelmed with the traditional refrains of classical anti-Americanism: “they have no culture and deal with the world as if it had no culture”, “they have no morality in their foreign policy”, “they go to war for oil and money” and so on with inane over-simplified stereotypes. Soon after would come the cackle of self-righteous pride: “we Europeans are different”, “we want our foreign policy based on a concept of morality”, “we attempt to promote justice in the world and fix up the mess left behind by the Americans”. I would then usually be told something about all the aid that Europeans give to Palestinians as proof of the decency of Europeans as opposed to the rabidly Zionist Americans who give billions to fund Israel’s murderous army.
Would that this were true.