要怎樣讓美國不再特別:基礎篇

Translated from Unexceptionalism: A Primer, By E. L. Doctorow. Thanks to the anonymous translator.

要怎樣讓美國不再特別呢。就是說,在政治理念上,要怎麼讓美國跟世界上其他貧窮、歷史上不民主、殘暴、野蠻的國家沒有兩樣。只要照以下方法就可以:

第一步

如果你是最高法院的法官,那就跳過民主國家最神聖的事情,暫停總統大選的〔重新〕計票。宣布你屬意的人馬當選總統。

如果你是新當選的總統,那就在恐怖攻擊發生後,去侵略一個非恐怖主義國家。就算要損傷無數民眾的性命,還是繼續打下去,讓戰爭綿綿無期。

然後利用國家處於戰爭狀態為理由,對美國人民進行秘密情蒐,監聽人民電話、截收電子郵件,命令商業活動、醫療以及公立圖書館的來往紀錄都要提供給政府機關,不需法院搜索令就可以進入私宅和辦公室搜查。

至於恐怖份子的嫌疑犯,不管在國內或國外,一律施以刑求,來違反《憲法》第八修正案,該修正案禁止對人施處殘酷、不尋常的懲罰。單方面撕毀《禁止刑求公約》以及《日內瓦公約》裡面對於戰犯的處置規定。對你認定是敵方的人,則無限期拘禁下去,不給予法院審理的機會。這樣下去,相信不用多久,國會那些支持者就會將這個政策也一樣施行於美國公民身上。

停掉累進稅率,這樣最富有的一群人所需負擔的稅率,相對於他們的財富,要比中產階級還要少。用這樣來確保美國的財富,都跑到一小群人身上,好讓貧富差距爆炸性擴大。

一邊減稅,一邊增加戰爭支出,這樣耗損國庫,讓國會、州政府、市政府必須削減內政支出,這樣可以確保年輕人的教育、政府的健保計畫、退撫支出、道路橋樑修繕、公立圖書館等項目需要的經費,都必須減少。

鬆綁對銀行業的規範,這樣就可以促成嚴重衰退,好讓大批民眾丟掉工作、丟掉自家房產。

然後在你卸任總統前,再任命幾個跟當初賜予你總統職位的人一樣的最高法院大法官。

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《請別打我,長官!》即將在臺灣播映

Upcoming PDBMS Screenings in Taiwan

如果你居住在臺灣,但尚未看過我們的電影,不用擔心,未來幾個月內會有多場的影片播放;也都會有華文字幕。

If you live in Taiwan and haven’t seen our film yet, don’t worry: there are plenty of screenings coming up in the next few months. All these screenings will feature Chinese & English subtitles.

  • *4/06(週五)18:30 in Guangfu 光復糖廠的餐廳-啄木鳥
  • 4/07 (週六) 17:40 in Taipei 板橋多功能文教館B1演藝廳 [Purchase tickets 買票.]
  • 4/10 (週二) 17:30 in Taichung 國立台灣美術館(台中) 影音藝術廳放映
  • *4/14 (週二) 17:10 in Taichung 國立台灣美術館(台中) 影音藝術廳放映
  • 4/15 (週日) 17:10 in Taipei 板橋多功能文教館B1演藝廳 [Purchase tickets 買票.]
  • 4/18 (週二) 17:30 in Taichung 國立台灣美術館(台中) 影音藝術廳放映
  • *4/24(週二)19:00 Taipei 台北政治大學藝文中心
  • 5/3 (週四)10:00 Nantou 暨南大學圖書館舉行
  • *5/06 (週日)13:30 Hualien 花蓮慈濟大學B201演藝廳
  • *5/20(週日)13:30 Taitung 台東大學台東校區的演藝廳
  • *6/02 (週六)13:30 Taichung 台中國立自然科學博物館
  • 6/10(週日)19:00 Kaohsiung 高雄市電影館

標記「*」的場次,現場開放與導演Q&A時間。

* Starred screenings will feature a live Q&A with the director(s).

Vimukta.org Redesign

Henry Schwarz, Alan Sussman, Shashwati and I created Vimukta to help support Budhan Theatre’s community development activities. For the past few years we’ve been supporting a community library and informal school in the community, but now that the film is coming out we are getting ready to support more ambitious projects. To prepare for that we needed to launch a social media campaign centered around a website redesign. For the past month I’ve been working with Kellen Parker of Spectacle Creative Media who has been very generous with his time helping me achieve what I think is a look that reflects something of the community we work with. A site that is neither generic nor corporate nor stereotypical of the numerous clichés of Indian non-profits. I hope we have achieved what we set out to do.

Before we make the site “live” however, we need to be sure that it works on a variety of computers and web browsers. For that reason we are asking people to take a look at a demo site. When you visit the demo site, please note that much of the text, the video and some of the images are just temporary. They will be updated when we launch the campaign later this month. It is also on a slow server, so be patient if things don’t open immediately. Also, because it is a demo site, please don’t link to it. That said, please click around, let us know what works, what you think could be improved, and what is completely broken. You can leave your feedback in the comments, or by email (there is a link at the top of the page). Please be as specific as possible with your criticism, and provide screen shots wherever possible.

Here is the link to the demo site. A screen shot of the front page is below the fold.

Thank you!

UPDATE: It seems the site is still not working well on Firefox or I.E. I will update this when we’ve addressed those problems. (The picture below shows how it should look.) [Firefox problems should be fixed now. Still working on I.E.]

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Syndromes and a Century

Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and a Century แสงศตวรรษ is really two films—with overlapping (but different) characters and dialog—set in two different locations. Below are pictures of the scene of a dentist and his patient (a Buddhist monk) from each of the two films.

outdoors

indoors

In many ways these two pictures sum up what makes this such a powerful film. It is a reflection on space and light and location. In the first film the dentist sings a song to his patient while cleaning his teeth. In the second film the patient struggles to remove the head covering which he finds uncomfortable. It is not a film that is naive about rural life, which is shown to have its own problems—people worry about money and relationships. But it is a reflection on how space and light and location affect the nature of human relationships. The film doesn’t have any single plot or story line tying everything together, but the individual scenes are so richly observed that the film is deeply enjoyable.

Moral Hazard

Writing in the WSJ about a program to provide food security to India’s poor, Rupa Subramanya reveals her ideological bias in towards the end of the article:

After all, if someone is offering to give you free food, why would you bother to get a job and earn income so that you can feed yourself? Economists recognize this problem as “moral hazard” in which a welfare program leads to perverse incentives which perpetuate its existence.

I would really like someone to apply this logic to CEO pay. After all, many CEOs are now paid more in a single year than most people need in a lifetime, even taking into account differences in “lifestyle.” Shouldn’t they just be given the bare minimum to live from year to year in order to keep them motivated to work the next year as well? Or does moral hazard only apply to poor people?

A challenge directed to what is

Foulcault on reform vs. critique

Under no circumstances should one pay attention to those who tell one: ‘Don’t criticize, since you’re not capable of carrying out a reform.’ That’s ministerial cabinet talk. Critique doesn’t have to be the premise of a deduction which concludes: this then is what needs to be done. It should be an instrument for those who fight, those who resist and refuse what is. Its use should be in processes of conflict and confrontation, essays in refusal. It doesn’t have to lay down the law for the law. It isn’t a stage in a programming. It is a challenge directed to what is.

Conservative Rhetoric: Caught between Scylla and Charibdes

With regard to the economy, conservatives always preach restraint in the face of forces beyond our control, warning of unintended consequences if we overreach.

E.g. David Brooks:

But you don’t have the power to transform the whole situation. Your discrete goods might contribute to an overall turnaround, but that turnaround will be beyond your comprehension and control.

With regard to war, however, conservatives always insist on the need to act, no matter what. If you don’t support their morally, legally, politically, and strategically questionable course of action they insist that inaction is not a possibility—daring you to offer up a slightly-less-horrible course of action instead.

E.g. Christopher Hitchens:

As we engage with the horrible idea that our government claims the right to add its own citizens to a death list that is compiled by methods and standards unknown, we must concede that no government on earth faces such a temptation to invoke what I suppose we could call a doctrine of pre-emptive self-defense. Those who share my alarm at the prospect of this, and of the ways in which it could be abused, are under a heavy obligation to say what they would do instead.

Jean Rouch Award and our Kickstarter Campaign

We have some very exciting announcements to make regarding our documentary film, Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir! But before I get to that, I wanted to thank everyone who contributed to our Summer fundraising campaign. We raised just over $5,000 through the generous donations of over fifty people. Thank you all so much! And thanks to the many other people who helped out in other ways: translating subtitles, organizing fundraising parties, and otherwise helping get the word out about our film.

Thanks to your help we were able to get a beautiful new master tape out for the Busan International Film Festival in Korea, where we are having our “World Premiere” next week. For anyone whose seen the film before, the new sound mix and coloring, done by some of the same studios responsible for Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s films, will knock you out of your seats. It is like looking at an entirely new film.

Kickstarter-logo

Unfortunately, even with your generous donations and Shashwati’s tough barganing skills, we still ended up having to borrow money to pay for this work. That’s why we’ve launched a new Kickstarter Campaign to raise an additional $5000 to make ends meet. We’ve already received $940 in pledges, but because of how Kickstarter works, if we don’t reach our goal by October 15th, we won’t get a dime. If you pledge just $15 or $20 you would be making a huge contribution to the film, and you could earn one of our many prizes at the same time – including the opportunity to download your own digital copy of the film.

Jean Rouch Award For Collaborative Filmmaking

Jean Rouch

Shashwati and I were very proud to learn that the Society of Visual Anthropology will be awarding us this year’s Jean Rouch Award for Collaborative Filmmaking – the SVA festival’s highest honor. In making Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir! the films of Jean Rouch were a great source of inspiration for us. In particular, we admired the way Rouch collaborated closely with his subjects, employing a variety of devices which we ended up using in our own film. We can’t think of an award we’d be more proud to receive.

Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival

We are also very excited to announce that our film was selected to be part of this year’s Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival (TIEFF). TIEFF is organized by the Taiwan Association of Visual Ethnography and, under the leadership of esteemed Taiwanese ethnographic filmmaker Hu Tai-Li, has grown to be one of the most important ethnographic film festivals in the world. It is truly an honor to be one of the handful of films selected for this year’s festival.

A Note on Donor Prizes

Whether you donated to our previous campaign, or to our new Kickstarter campaign, we have been giving out prizes for each level of donation. These include a poster, access to an online version of the film, the DVD, etc. We have been working hard to make sure that each of these prizes is worthy of your support. We promise to get these to you as soon as they are ready, but we need a little more time. Please be patient.

Those who have access to the online version of the film will be getting an updated version of the film for free. We’ll be putting this up soon after the Kickstarter campaign ends. This new version will include the new sound mix and color correction which were paid for with your generous support.

Institutional Sales

There has been a lot of interest in using the film for teaching. We hope to be ready to start institutional sales soon. If you are interested please send us an email and we will let you know as soon as we’ve finished the DVD. And let us know if you’d be interested in a campus visit or online discussion via Skype.

World Premiere

We are very happy to announce that our film, Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir!, has been officially selected to have its world premiere at the 2011 Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) in October! The Independent listed BIFF (“Asia’s largest film festival”) as one of the top twelve film festivals of 2011.

In order to make the most of this exciting opportunity, we need your help to make an exhibition-ready copy of the film to show at Busan. In return, we are offering our supporters the opportunity to watch a special “Sneak Preview” version of the film, either online or as a DVD. Read on to learn how you can be one of the first people to watch the film by making a donation.

Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir!

Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir! is about a troupe of young Chhara actors using theater to fight police brutality and the stigma of criminality. The Chhara are one of 198 communities in India, over sixty million people, whose grandparents were labeled “born criminals” by the British. Although the British are long gone, the stigma still remains.

To learn more about the film and make a donation visit our webpage.

Crowd-sourced Filmmaking

A significant portion of the film’s budget came from individual donations collected over the internet. Donations received during our initial round of online fundraising ranged from $15 to $5000. The film wouldn’t have been possible without every one of these donations. People have also helped out in other ways: translating subtitles, recording music, designing the poster, etc. We also received grants and assistance from The Bhasha Trust, The New York State Council on the Arts, and the Asian Cinema Fund.

Now, after five years, and thanks to your support, we are ready to show the film to the world. Our goal is to have as many people see the film as possible. For a documentary film that means trying to get on TV. Film festivals like Busan are a great way to meet producers and purchcasing agents, but we’ll be competing with hundreds of other films showing at the same festivals. That means having the best-quality exhbition master we can afford, attending the film festivals in person to meet with potential buyers, and even hiring a professional publicist and graphic designer to help promote the film. We can’t do any of this without your help.

See the Film Now!

We’ve been overwhelmed by all the support and encouragement we’ve received, and we’re happy that we finally have something to give people in return for their generosity. Starting today you can watch a special “Sneak Preview” of the film online (this includes a download link) or, for a little bit more, we’ll send you the DVD.

For every level of donation we also have some special rewards, including a signed poster, your name in the credits, your name on our IMDB page, and even (for the most generous donors) a private screening with the directors.

Donate now.

This Sneak Preview is intended for personal use only, and is not intended for institutional sales. If you would like to use the film for teaching, or for public screenings, please contact us directly.

Goalposts

We’ve created a series of goalposts for this final round of fundraising. Each goalpost we reach will exponentially increase the film’s chances of success. The first twenty-two thousand dollars are essential—they will pay for an exhibition quality mix and color correction—after that we will spend as much on travel and publicity as we can raise. Everything we raise will go towards the film. All donations are tax-deductible (for U.S. taxpayers).

Donate now.


1st Goalpost: $24,000 for an Exhibition-Ready Copy.

This involves color correction and an “online” edit at a professional studio. [Watch a short video about the difference color correction can make.] Even the HD tapes required by some festivals are expensive. We urgently need to reach this goal in time for the Busan International Film Festival in October.

2nd Goalpost: Travel and Accommodation for Three to Four Festivals or Markets @ $3,000 each (max $12,000).

Since we live in Taiwan this is more expensive for us, and high oil prices mean tickets are more expensive now. But it is essential that at least one of us attend in person if we are going to close a deal.

3rd Goalpost: $10,000 to Hire a Publicist and a Graphic Designer

If we can raise a total of $44,000, the last $10,000 will pay to hire a publicist and a designer. To really do things properly we need to spend money publicizing the film. Making posters and post cards is cheap enough, but if we could higher professional graphic designers and a publicist we feel we could have an even bigger impact.

Donate now.

Other Ways To Help

The easiest way you can help is by spreading the word. Share our page on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. Share our trailer. Like our Facebook page. Or just tell your friends about the film. Independent documentaries like ours live or die by word-of-mouth. You are our buzz-machine and we depend on you to help get the word out.

If you have a blog or newspaper or journal and you’d like to review the film, just let us know and we’ll send you a review copy of the DVD. If you are a graphic designer or publicist who can donate your services, you could help us meet our third goalpost before we’ve even started fundraising. And if you have another way you’d like to help just let us know! Thank you.

Circles

In his review of Google+ Farhad Manjoo compares their “Circles” feature to arranging wedding seating charts. Having to sort people into lists before you can interact with them online is annoying. But the problem isn’t lists. I like lists. I use lists. I might not be a typical user (Manjoo says that only 5% of Facebook users use this feature), but I think the problem is that there are two usage scenarios for lists and Facebook/Google emphasize the wrong one – and not very well at that.

The first scenario, the one that Facebook and Google think people want, is focused on privacy. You have baby pictures and only want to share them with relatives? Set up a “relatives” list and share your pictures with them while keeping them private from your professional contacts. The problem with this is that social networks are context specific. My sister’s boyfriend might be considered a “relative” for purposes of family dinners and sharing of photos, but not for talking about family finances and medical problems. Lists are simply too rigid and static to handle how we actually decide what information to share with whom and when.

Another problem with this scenario is the illusory nature of privacy. Like DRM on DVDs, online privacy is all about wishful thinking. Once you’ve posted something online anyone can share it with whomever they like. If you are a Congressmen who sets up a Circle of online girlfriends with which you share photos of your private parts, it is just a matter of time before someone reposts these to someone outside that Circle. It is better to treat everything online as if it was meant for public consumption. That way you are never caught by surprise.

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