Wednesday, 25 February 2009

CULTURE JAM - Hijacking Commercial Culture

Culturejam: Hijacking Commercial Culture delivers a fascinating rap on the 20th Century movement called Culture Jamming. Pranksters and subversive artists are causing a bit of brand damage to corporate mindshare. Jammers, cultural commentators, a billboard advertiser and a constitutional lawyer take us on a wild roller coaster ride through the back streets of our mental environment. Stopping over in San Francisco, New York's Times Square, and Toronto, we catch the jamming in action with Batman-inspired Jack Napier of the Billboard Liberation Front, Disney arch-enemy Reverend Billy from the Church of Stop Shopping and Media Tigress Carly Stasko. Culturejam asks: Is Culture Jamming civil disobedience? Senseless vandalism? The only form of self defense left?

Saturday, 7 February 2009

The Genius of Charles Darwin (Richard Dawkins)

Initially broadcast on Channel 4 in autumn 2008

Part 1: Life, Darwin & Everything

In the first episode Richard Dawkins explains the basic mechanisms of natural selection, and tells the story of how Charles Darwin developed his theory.

He teaches a year 11 science class about evolution, which many of the students are reluctant to accept. He then takes them to the Jurassic Coast in Dorset to search for fossils, hoping that the students can see some of the evidence for themselves.

Dawkins visits Nairobi, where he interviews a prostitute who seems to have a genetic immunity to HIV, and talks to microbiologist Larry Gelmon. He goes on to predict that genetic immunity to HIV is a trait that will become more prevalent in the community over time.

Part 2: The Fifth Ape

In the second episode Richard Dawkins deals with some of the philosophical and social ramifications of the theory of evolution.

Dawkins starts out in Kenya, speaking with palaeontologist Richard Leakey. He then visits Christ is the Answer Ministries, Kenya's largest Pentecostal church, to interview Bishop Bonifes Adoyo. Adoyo has led the movement to press Kenya's national museum to sideline its collection of hominid bones pointing to man's evolution from ape to human. The collection includes the Turkana Boy discovered by Kamoya Kimeu, a member of a team led by Richard Leakey in 1984.

Dawkins discusses social darwinism and eugenics, explaining how these are not versions of natural selection, and that "Darwin has been wrongly tainted".

He then meets with evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker to discuss how morals can be compatible with natural selection. He goes on to explaining sexual selection, with peafowls as an example. To find out whether sexual selection plays a role for altruism and kindness among humans, he visits women who are looking for sperm donors, as well as a sperm bank manager. Dawkins also explains kin selection and selfish genes.

Part 3: God Strikes Back

In the third and final episode, Dawkins explains why Darwin's theory is one of history's most controversial ideas.

Saving Africa's Witch Children - Channel 4 - Dispatches

In some of the poorest parts of Nigeria, where evangelical religious fervour is combined with a belief in sorcery and black magic, many thousands of children are being blamed for catastrophes, death and famine - and branded witches by powerful pastors. These children are then abandoned, tortured, starved and murdered - all in the name of Jesus Christ.

This Dispatches Special follows the work of one Englishman, 29-year-old Gary Foxcroft, who has devoted his life to helping these desperate and vulnerable children.
Gary's charity, Stepping Stones Nigeria, raises funds to help Sam Itauma, who five years ago, rescued four children accused of witchcraft. He now struggles to care for over 150 in a makeshift shelter and school in the Niger Delta region called CRARN (Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network).

Gary and Sam introduce Dispatches to some of the rescued children who have been through unimaginable horrors, such as Ekemeni, aged 13, who was tied up with chicken wire and starved and beaten for two weeks, and Mary, aged 14
, who was burnt with acid before her mother attempted to bury her alive. Other children display the hallmarks of witch-branding - acid burns and machete scars. Uma Eke, aged 17, has been left brain-damaged after having a three-inch nail driven into her skull.

Hospitals refuse to treat children associated with sorcery, so Sam's centre does its best to provide medical aid. As well as the physical scars, the children arrive at the shelter badly traumatised by their experiences, with many of them brain-washed into accepting they are possessed by the devil.

The parents or siblings of children torture them in an attempt to kill them or force confessions from them to admit that they are witches. As Gary remarks, the children at CRARN are the lucky ones - they're still alive.

Influential preachers from the more extreme churches brand the children witches or wizards and exploit their desperate parents by charging them exorbitant amounts of money in return for exorcising the spirits. The film features extraordinary access to some of the preachers who openly discuss their work. One preacher who calls himself 'The Bishop,' says he has made a fortune by carrying out 'deliverances' on children. He admits having killed 110 people in the past. Dispatches films him as he administers a mixture of pure alcohol, a substance known as 'African mercury' and his own blood to one child accused of witchcraft.

Exorcism is big business. Preachers can charge as much as a year's salary for an average Nigerian to treat children. They often hold the child captive until the parents can pay up. The Niger Delta area is oil rich - but very few have access to oil wealth; the average life expectancy is around 47.

Since this film was screened, the self-proclaimed Bishop at the centre of the Dispatches programme which revealed the extent of the abuse and torture of children branded as witches in Nigeria has been arrested and charged with murder. The film which has had widespread public support showed how people in some of the poorest parts of the country were killing children they claimed had caused death and famine.

Unseen Gaza - Channel 4 - Dispatches

Is what has been presented on our screens and in our papers a true reflection of events on the ground in
Gaza? And how do these reports differ to those aired in other countries?

With reporters unable to enter Gaza, attempted media manipulation from both sides and strict regulations governing what images that can be shown on British TV, Jon Snow asks a range of journalists from at home and abroad about the challenges of getting the full story.

Featuring images that haven't before been aired on mainstream television, Jon also examines the difference between the coverage at home and that in the US, Europe and the Middle East. He compares the coverage available on terrestrial channels with satellite TV and the internet and investigates the extent to which some British Muslims are by-passing the mainstream British media and looking elsewhere for their information.

To what extent does the choice of news outlet affect opinion of the conflict?



Friday, 6 February 2009

The Fourth World War

From the front-lines of conflicts in Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, Palestine, Korea, and the North; from Seattle to Genova, and the War on Terror in New York, Afghanistan, and Iraq, The Fourth World War is the story of men and women around the world who resist being annihilated in this war.

While our airwaves are crowded with talk of a new world war, narrated by generals and filmed from the noses of bombs, the human story of this global conflict remains untold. The Fourth World War brings together the images and voices of the war on the ground. It is a story of a war without end and of those who resist.

The product of over two years of filming on the inside of movements on five continents, The Fourth World War is a film that would have been unimaginable at any other moment in history. Directed by the makers of This Is What Democracy Looks Like and Zapatista, produced through a global network of independent media and activist groups, it is a truly global film from our global movement.

(Apologies – no subtitles)