Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the category “entertainment”

Rugby, race, and privilege

For the last few days I’ve been seeing a lot of comments about something that happened recently in the rugby world.

There have been posts on Facebook and tweets on Twitter and people are apparently taking sides and arguing about what happened and the rights and wrongs of the affair.

I haven’t had anything to say about it because I don’t know what happened, other than that someone walked out of a TV studio (“Don’t touch me on my studio!”), but from what I’ve seen everyone is expected to have an opinion about it, whether they know what happened or not.

Perhaps the people who think that everyone should have an opinion about it should reflect on the fact that they are the privileged few, and the debate is taking place among the privileged few.

Rugby is a sport that you can only watch on TV if you are rich enough to afford dsTV Premium, and most South Africans cant afford it, so rugby is likely remain in its privileged niche for the foreseeable future. The hoi polloi aren’t going to get a look in.

Some one once said that rugby is a ruffians’ game played by gentlemen, while soccer is a gentlemen’s game played by ruffians.

And if dsTV (or is it DStv?) have their way, it’s going to stay like that.

So this particular storm in a teacup is strictly a gentlemen’s affair — the privileged talking to the privileged.

Don’t expect the rest of us to have an opinion.

 

 

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Cultural pitfalls

About 20 years ago, when online discussion forums were relatively new, a forum for discussing Christian mission puiblished guidelines for participants, which included the following tip:

Write with an international audience in mind. Don’t assume the reader is necessarily familiar with your culture,  especially popular culture (eg food products, TV shows & personalities), current events, and politics. This doesn’t mean you can’t refer to these or discuss them as appropriate, but you may need to explain them as you go.

Perhaps even now such tips could be useful.

Recently an Orthodox Christian poster on Facebook posted the following picture:

DuckDyn

In view of who the poster was, I took it for a picture of a group of Orthodox monks, dressed for gardening.

The one second from the left looks most like a monk, and the next one, in the baseball cap, looks least like one, but could be a novice or a visitor.

I later discovered that they were characters in a TV show that is popular in the US, called Duck Dynasty, about which there has recently been some controversy.

Fortunately, unlike in 1993, we have the web, and search engines, which makes it possible to look up such things and find enough of the backstory to discover what is going on, but in spite of the globalisation of culture, there are still cultural pitfalls, and we still haven’t arrived in the global village that Mashall McLuhan foresaw.

But it still raises questions for me.

Why would a TV show in the US have characters dressed to resemble Orthodox monks?

And what cultural images come to the minds of people in the US when they see real monks, particularly when they have been influenced by TV shows like Duck dynasty?

 

 

 

 

Merry Old Year’s Eve

Merry Old Year's Eve -- but don't make it too merry, if you're planning to celebrate New Year's Eve as well

Merry Old Year’s Eve — but don’t make it too merry, if you’re planning to celebrate New Year’s Eve as well

Today is (presumably) Old Year’s Eve, so let me wish everyone a merry one.

I don’t hear people talking about Old Year’s Eve much, but some people, somewhere, must do so, as I have often seen posters stuck to street poles advertising dances and parties on Old Year’s Eve.

Why and how people celebate it is uncertain, though — as one web question and answer site put it: “Bushbaby, old years eve is the night before new years eve. A lot of people do celebrate this also.”

As James Joyce saif (in Finnegan’s wake): Stay us wherefore in our search for tighteousness, O Sustainer!

Just as long as you’re not too babbelas to get to your New Year’s Eve party tomorrow night as well!

Pussy Riot: crossed wires

I’ve been reading many differing opinions about Pussy Riot, the punk rock group whose members are on trial in Moscow after inturrupting a church service in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral with a political song.

Reading different opinions is one thing, but reading different facts is another. For example the US branch of Amnesty International is claiming that it was a case of mistaken identity, and that the three facing trial are not the same people as the ones who sang the song in church. Take Action Now – Amnesty International USA:

Three young women are being detained by Russian authorities for allegedly performing a protest song in a cathedral as part of a feminist punk group “Pussy Riot”.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Ekaterina Samutsevich were arrested in March 2012 and charged with “hooliganism”. If found guilty, they could be jailed for up to 7 years.

The three women deny any involvement in the protest although even if they took part, the severity of the response of the Russian authorities would not be a justifiable response to the peaceful – if, to many, offensive – expression of their political beliefs.

Tell the Russian authorities to drop all charges and release them!

Where did Amensty International get their information from, or are they deliberately trying to mislead people?

Forty years ago I got thousands of Christmas cards from people all over the world, thanks to Amnesty International. It must have kept the Security Police quite busy back then. But in this case they seem to have come up with “facts” that are known only to them, and that don’t seem to be known even to the defendants in the case.

For instance, according to a report of the trial in Rapsi News:

Defendant in the Pussy Riot case Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has called the “punk prayer” performed in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior an “ethical mistake,” stressing that she had no intention of offending anybody, the Khamovnichesky District Court told the Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI/rapsinews.com).

Tolokonnikova’s defense attorney Violetta Volkova read out her response to the indictment. The defendant noted in her address that her conduct had only political and artistic motives.

How could they have had “no intention of offending anyone” by their conduct, if, as Amnesty International maintains, they weren’t even there in the first place?

There have been wildly conflicting accounts of what they are charged with. According to one news report they are charged with “disorderly conduct”, for which, we are told, they could face up to seven years in prison.

According to another report

On February 21, five girls wearing brightly colored balaclavas stormed the altar of downtown Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral to perform an anti-Putin protest song entitled, “Holy Sh*t.”

Prosecutors have maintained that the Pussy Riot members “inflicted substantial damage to the sacred values of the Christian ministry…infringed upon the sacramental mystery of the Church… [and] humiliated in a blasphemous way the age-old foundations of the Russian Orthodox Church.”

Other reports hav said that they sang “Mother Mary, save us from Putin”.

Since the incident has been widely publicised on YouTube, surely there must be some place, somewhere on the web, where what they actually sang is accurately reported?

I asked if anyone knew what they were actually sining, and my daughter found a link that provided a translation:

Punk-Prayer “Virgin Mary, Put Putin Away

(choir)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away
Рut Putin away, put Putin away

(end chorus)


Black robe, golden epaulettes
All parishioners crawl to bow
The phantom of liberty is in heaven
Gay-pride sent to Siberia in chains

The head of the KGB, their chief saint,
Leads protesters to prison under escort
In order not to offend His Holiness
Women must give birth and love

Shit, shit, the Lord’s shit!
Shit, shit, the Lord’s shit!

(Chorus)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist
Become a feminist, become a feminist

(end chorus)

The Church’s praise of rotten dictators
The cross-bearer procession of black limousines
A teacher-preacher will meet you at school
Go to class – bring him money!

Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin
Bitch, better believe in God instead
The belt of the Virgin can’t replace mass-meetings
Mary, Mother of God, is with us in protest!

(Chorus)

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away
Рut Putin away, put Putin away

(end chorus)

Memories, or not, as the case may be

Thanks to Quaker Pagan Reflections: Memories and Not for this meme…

If you read this, if your eyes are passing over this right now (even if we don’t speak often or have never met), please post a comment with a completely made up, fictional memory of you and me.

It can be anything you want – good or bad – but it has to be fake.

When you’re finished, post this little paragraph in your blog and see what your friends come up with…

The gospel of consumption

Information Clearing House – ICH:

Today “work and more work” is the accepted way of doing things. If anything, improvements to the labor-saving machinery since the 1920s have intensified the trend. Machines can save labor, but only if they go idle when we possess enough of what they can produce. In other words, the machinery offers us an opportunity to work less, an opportunity that as a society we have chosen not to take. Instead, we have allowed the owners of those machines to define their purpose: not reduction of labor, but “higher productivity”—and with it the imperative to consume virtually everything that the machinery can possibly produce.

In the sidebar of this blog there is a widget that shows what books I’m reading. I put it there because it might interest someone else who is reading or has read some of the same books. But I was always a bit worried about the name and the philosophy behind it: All Consuming. It actually doesn’t show which books I’m reading, but which I am “consuming”. But such is the world today that an act like reading is transformed into an act of consumption, which has, as the article quoted above suggests, become an ideology.

The immediately preceding article in this blog, about the New York Times’s views on Vladimir Putin’s views on religion illustrates this — the author of the NYT article clearly proceeds from an assumption that the consumer ideology is good, and evaluates everything else, including religion, in those terms.

One of the books I have been consuming (or rather “reading”) is Henry Thoreau’s Walden, which starts from an almost diametrically opposed point of view, as the following extract shows. Thoreau, while fishing, is caught in the rain, and takes shelter in a hut that he thought was unoccupied, but finds it inhabited by John Field, an Irishman, and his family, who worked “bogging” for a neighboring farmer.

I tried to help him with my experience, telling him that he was one of my nearest neighbors, and that I too, who came a-fishing here, and looked like a loafer, was getting my living like himself; that I lived in a tight, light and clean house, which hardly cost more than the annual rent of such a ruin as his commonly amounts to; and how, if he chose, he might in a month or two build himself a palace of his own; that I did not use tea, nor coffee, nor butter nor milk, nor flesh meat, and so did not have to work to get them; again, as I did not work hard, I did not have to eat hard, and it cost me but a trifle for my food; but as he began with tea, and coffee, and butter, and milk, and beef, he had to work hard to pay for them, and when he had worked hard he had to eat again to repair the waste of his system, — and so it was as broad as it was long, indeed it was broader than it was long, for he was discontented and wasted his life into the bargain; and yet he had rated it as a gain in coming to America, that here you could get tea, and coffee, and meat every day. But the only true America is that country where you are at liberty to pursue such a mode of life as may enable you to do without these, and where the state does not endeavor to compel you to sustain the slavery and war and other superfluous things which directly or indirectly result from the use of such things.

When I’ve finished reading Walden I think I shall rate it as “worth consuming”.

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