Artificial Trees To Save The Planet

I don’t usually write about the environment, but an idea that professor Klaus Lackner of Columbia University advocating building billions of artificial trees to capture the build up of carbon in the atmosphere is difficult to ignore.

Biopact (a pact between Africa and Europe to develop green energy) writes that “carbon capture, in the form of “artificial trees”, is one idea explored in the BBC Two documentary Five Ways To Save The World. But could these extraordinary biomimetic machines help to mitigate our excessive burning of fossil fuels and its potentially catastrophic consequence, global warming? Or would we be better off using real trees in a carbon negative energy system? Let us compare the two ideas.

In 2006, more than 29 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide were pumped into the atmosphere. And 80% of the world’s energy supply still relies on fossil fuels. German geo-physicist professor Klaus Lackner of Columbia University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, thinks he may have found a way of tackling our current excessive use of fossil fuels.

Click here to read the full article

 

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Pablo Neruda – A Love Poem

The love poetry of the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda continues to stir emotions and is complex and moving. His ‘Twenty Love Poems’ brought him to prominence and became a touchstone for many. Considered on par to Shakespeare, his work is known only by small percentage of the population in the English speaking world. Working as a diplomat, his postings in Spain, France and Indonesia gave his writing much scope, propelling his work to the world stage:

Sonnet XLIV

You must know that I do not love and that I love you,
because everything alive has its two sides;
a word is one wing of silence,
fire has its cold half.
I love you in order to begin to love you,
to start infinity again
and never to stop loving you:
that’s why I do not love you yet.
I love you, and I do not love you, as if I held
keys in my hand: to a future of joy-
a wretched, muddled fate-
My love has two lives, in order to love you:
that’s why I love you when I do not love you,
and also why I love you when I do.

 

For God’s Sake

Khuda Ke Liye (For God’s Sake) directed by Shoaib Mansoor, the film has caused enormous controversy in Pakistan with right wing elements and the clergy. The film is set in Pakistan, India and the United States and tells the story of a young Pakistani going to the United States for further studies leading up to 9/11.

In All Things Pakistani, Yasser Latif Hamdani’s review of Khuda Ke Liye sheds light on the status of this iconic contemporary film:

“Since President Gen. Pervez Musharraf came to power, music alongside the media and creative arts in general have flourished; this film carries forward this commercial and cultural trend. The film was released on July 20th, 2007.

It is important to note that this is one of very few, if not only, independent motion pictures to be released to a cinema-going Pakistani market. The general trend in local cinema revolves around formulaic song and dance numbers, reminiscent of Bollywood musicals. Independent film, or films that break this formula, are rare if not entirely absent.

The film was produced in conjunction with the film division of the Karachi based network, Geo TV.

Audiences and art critics across Pakistan have met the film with praise and acclaim by film and art critics, but the film has been reviled by the conservative religious clergy.

We had a preview of the movie Khuda Ke Liye at ATP where we had posed a question whether Shoaib Mansoor will be able to revive Pakistan cinema? A probable answer comes from myself who recently got chance to see this movie. The record breaking Pakistani film Khuda Ke Liye has become my favourite film overnight- Hollywood inclusive. Or more accurately I should say, that there hasn’t been a film in the past that has moved and affected me in this way.

Given the standing ovation the film is getting in theatres all over Pakistan from rich and poor alike, one can safely say that I am not the only one. For one thing it is a uniquely Pakistani story, which could have only come out of Pakistan. To sum it up, it is about us – the people of Pakistan warts and all- take it or leave it.

The genius of Shoaib Mansoor was never in doubt for those who have seen his videos or for that matter the famous Alpha Bravo Charlie – the TV Drama on Pakistan Army. What I was unprepared for was the depth in his thought and the way he has managed to capture the Pakistani dilemma on screen. Ours is a complex and rich predicament which needs to be captured in all its nuances and appreciated in all its paradoxical colours. KKL did just that.

I went to the theatre expecting to see the same old liberal v. fundo arguments. There were those, but unlike how these arguments play out in “The Friday Times” and the “Nawai Waqt“, this remarkable film is fully conscious of its Pakistani identity and the strong Islamic component that forms part thereof.

At the risk of spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, this is the story of two brothers, Mansoor (played by Shaan) and Sarmad (played by theatre actor/musician Fawad of EP fame) both musicians, brought in a well to do Pakistani family. Mansoor and Sarmad are torn apart by the latter’s increased involvement with a certain Maulana Taheri (based most probably on Maulana Sami ul Haq of JUI-S component of the MMA), who turns the soft spoken Sarmad into full fledge Jehadi.

Things are complicated when the brothers’ cousin Mary arrives from London to spend a few days with them, only to discover that she has been tricked by her father into coming to Pakistan to avoid her marrying her Non-Muslim boyfriend Dave. Meanwhile Mansoor leaves for Chicago to enrol at the “School of Music” there. In an epic that switches from London to Lahore to Waziristan to Nangahar Afghanistan to Chicago, these ordinary Pakistanis are increasingly faced with both internal and external conflict. And then there is September 11”.

For the full article.

The Cinema of Santiago Alvarez

Santiago Alvarez was a Cuban filmmaker who began making films in his forties, so there is hope for all of us!

Born in Cuba, Havana 1919, Alvarez studied at the University of Havana and at the Columbia University, New York. After the Cuban revolution in 1959, Alvarez served as vice president of newly formed Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematograficas (ICAIC) and later as the director of the Latin American ICAIC newsreel, from 1960. He died in 1998 in Havana of Parkinson’s disease.

Since so much emphasis is being given to feature length documentaries recently, it would be interesting to see the work by Alvarez released just as Battle of Algiers, serving as an example of filmmakers creating a political film language for future documentary filmmakers. ‘Now’ made in 1965 is a profound document of political film making at the time.

“Not intended as a work of great subtlety, Alvarez wields other people’s images with perhaps more artistry than those who created them, and builds a remarkable piece of rhetorical cinema in the process… ‘Now!’ is strident, yes; but breathtaking” Tom Sutpen

Alvarez also produced a large number of short films which illustrated his enormous talent as a filmmaker.

I came across this excellent write up on him on from Cinema Texas Film Festival 2002, presented by Travis Wilkerson. The festival was co-sponsored by the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies. The Cinema Texas presented a retrospective of Alvarez’s short film, seldom seen outside of Cuba.

SANTIAGO ALVAREZ RETROSPECTIVEHE WHO HITS FIRST, HITS TWICE: THE URGENT CINEMA OF SANTIAGO ALVAREZ

The films of Cuban director Santiago Alvarez are inextricably linked to the United States, and nearly all of his key works concern some matter of American history: the civil rights movement, the wars in South-East Asia, U.S. interventions in the Americas. They exist as a kind of fractured mirror to the last 40 years of American history-a subversive, alternate history. Alvarez’s first exposure to radical politics came while he worked briefly as an immigrant coal miner in Pennsylvania in the 1940s (with the outbreak of war, he returned to Cuba). He didn’t produce his first film until he was in his forties, but the indefatigable Cuban director more than compensated for lost time. In a film career which began with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and continued until his death in 1998 at the age of 79, he directed nearly 700 films. Lacking formal training, Alvarez was tapped to direct the Cuban Film Institute’s (ICAIC) newsreel division Noticiero ICAIC. The choice was one of political utility and little artistic ability was expected from the novice director. Yet over the next 30 years, Alvarez supervised the production of nearly 1500 weekly newsreels and in the process transformed a banal and wholly utilitarian genre into a veritable laboratory of radical innovation.

Although he produced works of nearly every conceivable length, it is surely in the short film that his audacious talent is most impressively manifest. His mastery of this form is a product of the unique circumstances of his film education at ICAIC. Working under extremely tight temporal and material constraints, Alvarez became a master of improvisation. He combined the use of limited found materials-archival footage and photographs-with a dynamic graphic sensibility, bold and unexpected music-image pairings, and a highly contemporary use of rapidly paced editing. Fusing the avant-garde with popular culture, he sought to synthesize a filmic style as revolutionary as the changes then sweeping his society. As Alvarez moved from the highly condensed newsreel into longer documentaries, he would only deepen his exploration of radically motivated experimentation. The resulting films were always political, often didactic. They could be playful or deadly serious. They were borne of rage, bitter irony and an almost limitless solidarity. They could be raucous or silent, brief or monumental, laconic or verbose. They were prone to tangents, but could be as eloquent as poetry. They never sought perfection. They were never made with posterity in mind. They were made for the here and the now. They showed the world to be forever changing and changeable.

What is striking, even today, is the manner with which they successfully balance goals we tend to regard as irreconcilable. They are at once highly experimental, yet completely accessible. They were produced by a state-financed collective, yet register an unmistakably personal vision. They were produced without regard to posterity, yet they reverberate with a timeless vitality. And Alvarez used every means at his disposal, which meant that frequently the films were made with next to nothing at all. “Give me two photos, music and a moviola…” he said, “and I’ll give you a movie.” And what a movie it would be.

Read full article

Death Penalty

This month the UN General Assembly are due to meet to discuss the moratorium on capital punishment. I have been trying to get news of this, but so far have failed to do so. If any of you have come across anything please let me know. In the meantime here is an excellent piece from HANDS OFF CAINE published on 30th August 2007.

“It is only a few weeks from the presentation of a resolution on the Universal Moratorium on Capital Punishment at the UN General Assembly by the European Union, an initiative that was inspired by Italy, Hands Off Cain has released its 2007 Report on Capital Punishment in the world, and the picture it paints is chilling.

Notwithstanding protests and humanitarian initiatives, many countries of the world still execute children. And in 2006 the number of countries that employ capital punishment increased from 24 in 2005 to 27. In 2006, there were at least 5,628 executions as compared with 5,494 in 2005. Capital punishment still exists in many Islamic regimes, in some democracies, and even in a European country (Belarus).

Among the 51 countries that still employ capital punishment, China, Iran and Pakistan take the record for executions: at least 5000, 215 and 82 respectively. In 2006 in Iran, seven minors were executed. The United States have put to death 53 people, slightly less than the year before. Between June 30th, 2005, and June 30th, 2006, five executions took place in Belarus. However the surprise comes from Africa, the continent of tribal struggles and uncontrollable genocides. While it is true that there were 80 documented executions in 2006, a sharp increase on the 19 of 2005, it is also true that numerous countries are in favour of the resolution on capital punishment, as Prime Minister Romano Prodi revealed in the introduction of the Hands Off Cain Report.

The Prime Minister describes the commitment in Africa as extraordinary, citing that South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Senegal, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda (whose people have recently witnessed the most serious violations of international human rights) have joined our global campaign. Confirming this is the recognition given to Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, with the prize of ‘Abolitionist of the Year 2007’. It was awarded by Hands Off Cain as an acknowledgement to the person who, more than anyone else, committed themselves to the moratorium on capital punishment and the abolition of the death penalty. Kagame is also the author of the Report’s preface, in which he notes that ‘Rwandans have defeated the leadership responsible for the genocide (the Hutu), the State and the culture of impunity’.

According to Hands Off Cain, ‘the abolition of the death penalty and the support of the campaign for the Universal Moratorium on capital punishment are acts of extraordinary symbolic value. Rwanda has symbolically demonstrated to the world that it is possible to break the absurd cycle of revenge, and that justice and legality aren’t achieved with capital punishment.
 

War, killings, death and beheadings

The internet is very powerful – outdoing the ‘soft’ news that we see on television on the escalation of war in Iraq and the impending civil war, images are kept from us.

It’s very very disturbing to see bodies paraded after a killing; beheading; executions; massacres; bomb blasts……

Pointless, mindless killing continues. The US, Britain and Allies continue their efforts of destruction and daily murder ensuring the suffering of Iraqi’s remains intact. The response to this by insurgents has been swift and brutal and escalating. I wrote a while ago of Yousif Naser’s nephew being shot by a British army sniper – there has been no explanation so far.

Insurgents have taken to kidnapping US soldiers as well British and the allies. Recently in the “Information Clearing House” website – the editors have posted gruesome pictures of allegedly captured US soldiers who have been beheaded – their bodies exhibited for the world to see.

Mindless, senseless killings – a greater need for us to increase pressure for US, British and Allies to exist fast from Iraq.

The Bohemian Aesthetic

My article on Zarina Bhimji and her nomination for the Turner Prize has been published in this month’s eZine; The Bohemian Aesthetic. I will be writing for them in the section ‘London Letters’ on a regular basis. The Bohemian Aesthetic is published each month on the 15th. 

“With an extraordinary body of work and a humble, dedicated approach to her art, Zarina Bhimji encapsulates the Indian notion of tapasya, wherein a person is devoted, without distraction or pomposity, to explore, understand, and present to the world, truly open to its judgment”  To read more of my article click here.

Created by Pasty Moore, The Bohemian Aesthetic is a remarkable eZine focusing on diverse subject matters in line with exploring works by artists unafraid to act against the status quo.

Patsy Moore is a critically-acclaimed singer/songwriter, poet and essayist, film and television score composer, and humanities lecturer, who lives in Los Angeles, California.
 
The Bohemian Aesthetic eZine was launched based on an arts newsletter that Patsy published between 1994 and 1995. Along with publishing and editing this project, Patsy shoulders the primary responsibility of producing The World Watch Papers and The Bohemian Aesthetics video supplement, BohoTV. 

Extract reproduced by the kind permission of The Bohemian Aesthetic©2007