Letter from a six year old e.e. cummings

From the Wikipedia entry on e.e. cummings:

The seeds of Cummings’ unconventional style appear well established even in his earliest work. At age six, he wrote to his father:


Associate Professor Fu

When I first came to Taiwan to teach, my colleague introduced me to a local purveyor of sweetened tofu 豆花 in the night market outside of school. This woman said to me: “Fu Jiaoshou 傅教授 [“Professor Fu” – my Chinese surname]? That mean’s you’ll always be Associate Professor 副教授 [Fu Jiaoshou]!”

The pun doesn’t translate well into English, and I hope it isn’t true (I’d like to be a Full Professor one day…), but when she said it I was only an Assistant Professor and I’m happy to say that, as of today, I’m truly “Fu Jiaoshou”!


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











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Upcoming PDBMS Screenings in Taiwan


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


* 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.



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.


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.

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