Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Most of you might recognise his face. Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, political activist, author and lecturer. However, he is just not only that. He also is the much necessary critical voice in the country of supposedly endless freedoms.

The below documentary is a lecture by Chomsky on the war on terror delivered at Harvard University in 2002. The script of which you can find here.

If you are in for me Chomsky (he can become repetitive at times), the below documentary (Power And Terror) focuses in greater detail on the 9/11 events.

Plot: Whether Noam Chomsky, the MIT linguist and political philosopher, is the most important intellectual alive, as the New York Times once famously called him, is open for debate. But without a doubt, Chomsky, now 73, is one of the most straight-talking and committed dissidents of our time. A steadfast critic of United States foreign policy for decades, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, his profile took a quantum leap as he provided much-needed analysis and historical perspective to concerned citizens throughout the world. In the months that followed, he gave dozens of talks on four continents, conducted scores of interviews, and wrote a book 9-11 that was published in 22 countries and became a surprise bestseller in many of them, including Japan. Chomsky's voice may be unpopular, but his incisive arguments, based on decades of research and analysis, are heard and considered in this chronicle comprised of interview footage, and various talks he's given. Chomsky places the terrorist attacks in the context of American foreign intervention throughout the postwar decades--in Vietnam, Central America, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Beginning with the fundamental principle that the exercise of violence against civilian populations is terror, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a well-organized band of Muslim extremists, or the most powerful state in the world. Chomsky, in stark and uncompromising terms, challenges the United States to apply to its own actions the moral standards it demands of others (IMDB).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sartre - The Road to Freedom

Some time ago I published a post on Martin Heidegger. This time I want to introduce another figure of contemporary European philosophy, Jean Paul Sartre.

In this excellent BBC documentary, Sartre's life is discussed by one of the grounding members of the "Nouvelle Philosophie" (for those interested in this stream of thought, click here for a great introductory essay) Bernard-Henry Levy. Jean-Paul Sartre's abstract ideas, grounded in everyday life, crystallized the mood of the times and became both a rallying point for youth and a touchstone for reaction to world events. This documentary covers accounts by Olivier Todd, Jean Pouillon, and Michelle Vian and includes interviews with Jonathan Ree, Baroness Mary Warnock, Patrick Vaudey, Bernard Levy, and others to analyze Sartre's life and existential outlook from the vantage point of World War II and its aftermath. Dramatized excerpts of "Nausea" and "No Exit" underscore Sartre's themes of alienation and commitment and offer a glimpse of his vision of hell.


Another movie today. This one is from the directors of Memento (the retrospective movie): Following.

Plot: An older man listens to Bill's story about being a callow writer who likes to follow strangers around around London, observing them. One day, a glib and self-confident man whom Bill has been following confronts him. He's Cobb, a burglar who takes Bill under his wing and shows him how to break and enter. They burgle a woman's flat; Bill gets intrigued with her (photographs are everywhere in her flat). He follows her and chats her up at a bar owned by her ex-boyfriend, a nasty piece of work who killed someone in her living room with a hammer. Soon Bill is volunteering to do her a favor, which involves a break-in. What does the older man know that Bill doesn't (IMDB)?

The Candidate

I have been lazy since the completion of my "First Year Review" which is why I will use the following posts to update this blog a bit.

First, a movie. The Candidate (1972). A Robert Redord flick about the pointlesness of American Politics (how appropriate for a Politics PhD student!).

Plot: Californian lawyer Bill McKay fights for the little man. His charisma and integrity get him noticed by the Democratic Party machine and he is persuaded to run for the Senate against an apparently unassailable incumbent. It's agreed he can handle it his own way, on his own terms. But once he's in the race and his prospects begin to improve, the deal starts to change (IMDB).

In other words, a movie that fits the current situation in the Democratic Party.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Martin Heidegger

Martin Heidegger was probably one of the most controversial thinkers of the twentieth century. His intense affiliation with Hitler's regime has largely been debated in a range of both academic and public debates. In fact, Heidegger was one of the first to be in line to assist in Hitler's urge for power and his dreams for a 'pure' Aryn society or as he himself told his students:

"The Führer himself and he alone is German reality and its law, today and for the future" (source)

After the war, Heidegger told a de-Nazification committee that his entrance into the party "was only a matter of form" and that, in any case, after only ten months in office he angrily resigned from the rectorate in protest over a "conspiracy" that the Nazi minister of education was organizing against him (source). Unfortunately, he was never known to be the most trustful of persons. His lifetime love, Hannah Arendt (Jewish herself), described him to be "notorious for lying about everything" (Arendt in Young-Bruehl). Despite all these controversies, his international reputation had already been earlier assured with the publication of 'Being and Time', a book that was characterised by the young Jurgen Habermas as “the most significant philosophical event since Hegel's Phänomenologie ...”(source).

Some time ago, I watched the below documentary and thought about the question if we should dismiss and delegitimise the person Heidegger and reduce the contributions that he made in the works of more contemporary thinkers or whether we should set our ethics and emotions aside and rely on the pure theoretical/ academic heritage that he left for us with. The mind versus the person. Naturally, these processes are interwoven and further problematise the question...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Humor in cartoon form

Finally... Today I had the first year review for my PhD, tough experience! (Hence that I was unebale to post a lot the last couple of week.) The results will come out Monday afternoon. Keep your fingers crossed! Time now for some a-political cartoons!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Quake hits China

I woke up this morning at around 0730 and was struck with the news below:

China Is Hit by 7.5 Magnitude Earthquake Near Chengdu

May 12 (Bloomberg) -- China was hit by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake near the central city of Chengdu, the U.S. Geological Survey said, causing buildings to shake in Beijing more than 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) away.

The quake struck 90 kilometers west-northwest of Chengdu at 2:28 p.m. local time at a depth of 10 kilometers, the USGS said on its Web site. Chengdu is the provincial capital of Sichuan and has a population of about 11 million people.

Phone calls from Beijing couldn't be connected to Chengdu and mobile phone networks were down in Beijing and Shanghai.

The quake shook buildings in Beijing for more than three minutes and traffic stopped. Office workers were seen scrambling to get out of China World Tower, Beijing's tallest building. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

The earthquake struck about 350 kilometers west-northwest of Chongqing, a city of about 30 million in central China.

It was the world's strongest quake since a 7.8 magnitude temblor struck south of Fiji in the Pacific Ocean in December last year, according to the USGS Web site.

Since I worked as an urban planner in China, I am well aware of the poor quality of the houses in China. Buildings are not made to last much longer than 30 years. The earthquake could potentially have a devastating effect on China's urban zones... Lets hope that there will be no aftershocks.