Boots Riley and the Music of Dissent and Rebellion

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Over Easter weekend, more than 1100 people attended the Marxism2014 in Melbourne.  One of the highlights of the conference was the Saturday evening performance by activist and radical musician, Boots Riley, who also spoke on race and racism in the USA earlier in the day.  Riley hopes to be touring Australia later in the year with his band, The Coup and you can check out some of their tracks below, as well as an interview with Boots on building the radical movements for change in the USA.

As the Marxism 2014 website notes, Boots Riley is one of the most influential radical American musicians of the past two decades. The critical acclaim that has greeted his musical endeavours, in particular his role as front-man of legendary US hip-hop outfit The Coup, has only been matched by the vitriol with which his work has been greeted by conservatives.

Since forming in 1990, The Coup have released a total of 6 albums, with their unique combination of funky rhythms and lyrics that move from cheeky wit to the hardest of hard-hitting political critique providing inspiration (and enjoyment) for a generation of radicals around the world. Their music has been widely acclaimed, with their 1998 release ‘Steal this Album’ labeled a masterpiece by Rolling Stone magazine, and other albums regularly appearing in ‘top 10 albums of the year’ lists in Rolling Stone and other major music publications.

Boots Riley has rapped with Tupac, produced a score for an episode of The Simpsons, had a novel written based on the lyrics of one of his songs, and, perhaps most impressively of all, had his work dismissed by Fox News as “a stomach-turning example of anti-Americanism disguised as highbrow intellectual expression.”

Riley has never been shy of controversy. Following the 9-11 attacks in New York, The Coup famously put out a press release stating that “last week’s events were symptomatic of a larger backlash against U.S. corporate imperialism.” Statements such as this, as well as the lyrics of songs such as ‘5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO’, have made him a favourite target of the conservatives. His influence on radical culture and politics in the US cannot be denied. In 2003 he was even named, by Vibe Magazine, as one of the 10 most influential people of the year. Nevertheless, the fame he has achieved through his music hasn’t led him away from direct involvement with political struggles and movements on the ground.

Riley was born into a family of radicals and has never wavered from his commitment to revolutionary politics and practice. He has been involved in many campaigns for social justice in his local community in Oakland, California, recently playing a leading role in the Occupy movement in the city.

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Abby Martin interviews ‘Boots’ Riley, about his musical roots, the state of dissent in the US and the corporatisation of America.

 

Boots Riley and The Coup:

The Guillotine

My Favourite Mutiny

The Magic Clap

 

 

#100HappyDays: Days 6 – 10

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As mentioned in previous blogs, I am doing  #100HappyDays despite being critical of the concept and ideology of “positive thinking” due to it being simply a modern day manifestation and expression of philosophical idealism (to read my full explanation/thoughts on this, please see my previous blog entry:  The Politics of #100HappyDays and “positive thinking”.

My main objection to the ideology of “positive thinking” is that it tells us that if we just think this way or that way, then we can change the material conditions we live under. Positive thinking exhorts us to have a positive outlook on life, irrespective of the material (ie. economic, social, political) conditions we face. It tells us we can achieve happiness, not by challenging the system that is oppressing us, but by burying ourselves in it and learning to accept the status quo. We are told if we just think positively we can improve our financial status, our emotional status and much much more, if we just think happy thoughts.

However, being opposed to the ideology of “positive thinking” and recognising that objective reality exists outside our personal experiences and that the only way we can bring about a better word is by engaging in political struggle to change the material conditions under which we live, does NOT mean you have to be against being happy, having a nice day, smiling at strangers, finding joy in our everyday lives and relationships or having a good time.

So for me #100HappyDays is about just that enjoying and acknowledging and celebrating aspects of our everyday lives, experiences and relationships.  I am posting up photos at 5 day intervals rather than daily.  This is my entry for Day 6 to 10.  For Day 1 to 5, click here).

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Day 6: Sunshine after almost a week of rain!

day 6

Day 7: Finally making it to the pool for a swim!

day 7 pool

Day 8: Organisation! Finally got a whiteboard and pin board, so hopefully now no more study notes stuck willy nilly over the computer or desk! (which inevitably get misplaced or lost!)

day 8

Day 9: Finding so many awesome historical photos for my talk on the 1936 Palestinian General Strike and Revolt @ Marxism2014!! Now the difficult task of deciding which ones to use!!

day 9

Day 10: Marxism 2014 about to start!

day 10

Kdrama Review: Emergency Couple

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  • Englisht title: Emergency Couple
  • Revised romanization: Eunggeubnamnyeo
  • Hangul: 응급남녀
  • Director: Kim Cheol-Kyu
  • Writer: Choi Yoon-Jung
  • Network: tvN
  • Episodes: 21
Emergency Man and Woman-Song Ji-Hyo.jpg Emergency Man and Woman-Choi Jin-Hyuk.jpg Emergency Man and Woman-Lee Pil-Mo.jpg Emergency Man and Woman-Choi Yeo-Jin.jpg Clara
Song Ji-Hyo Choi Jin-Hyuk Lee Pil-Mo Choi Yeo-Jin Clara
Oh Jin-Hee Oh Chang-Min Kook Cheon-Soo Sim Ji-Hye Han A-Reum

Emergency Couple tells the story of Oh Chang-min (played by Choi Jin-hyuk) and Oh Jin-hee (played by Song Ji-hyo), who meet in their early twenties, fall in love and get married against the wishes of his wealthy doctor family, who cut him off without a cent. As a result Chang-min is forced to quit his studies as a doctor and begin work as a pharmaceutical salesman. Miserable in his job, soon his relationship with Jin-hee begins to break down. The martial breakdown is also fuelled by Jin-hee’s inferiority complex, who finds it difficult to handle the way her husband’s family treats her. Within a year, their marriage is over and they are divorced, filled with animosity towards each other. Six years later they unexpectedly meet once again as they both begin medical intern-ships at the same hospital, with Chang-min having return to medical school and Jin-hee deciding to also pursue medicine. As new interns, they are forced to work together for three months in the Emergency ward of the hospital.

I primary watched the series because, as a Running Man fan, I am a big fan of Song Ji-hyo. While I had seen Song Ji-hyo in a number of movies, I had not seen any of her television dramas, so was keen to see her performing in a lead role. I also loved Choi Jin-hyuk’s performance in Gu Family Book, so was excited to see him take on a lead role in a drama. Both actors did a terrific job in making their characters believable, fun and entertaining, however,  it was Song Ji-hyo’s exploration of her characters emotional journey which gave gravitas to the series.

Emergency Couple does a good job, especially in the first few episodes, of setting up the comedic base for the series. I laugh out loud quite a few times in the first few episodes (as well as later ones). However, while Emergency Couple is in many ways your stereotypical Korean Rom Com, under its light-hearted humour and comedy, it also has a very strong social commentary running through it.

Throughout the series, a number of significant social issues and taboos are discussed. The most prominent being, of course, is the issue of divorce and how it is seen within Korean society. Also explored were the issues of: single motherhood, sex outside of marriage, sexist double standards when it comes to sex outside of marriage, the right of women to chose a career over pregnancy and motherhood and teenage/youth pregnancy. What was fantastic about the series was it dealt with all of these issues without necessarily pushing them down your throat. Instead, they were cleverly woven into both the drama and comedy of the series, while challenging the dominant existing narratives about these issues. I especially loved Song Ji-hyo’s scene when Jin-hee and the other interns discuss sex outside of marriage.  In this scene, the writers do a wonderful job of having Jin-hee turning on its head the conservative analogy of a lock and key to describe the sexual activity of women and men.

The series also did a great job in giving us secondary characters which were not your stereotypical nasty, devious or jealous characters, which are present in far to many kdramas. In particular, it was really wonderful to have to secondary female characters who were not shackled with the stereotypical sexism that many kdramas give them. In the world of kdrama, there are far to many secondary female characters who are shackled with nastiness and jealousy, who are manipulative, crazy or just plain evil.  However, Emergency Couple showed us that it is possible to have interesting secondary female characters without them being bound down with psychotic jealousy, manipulative cruelness or portraying them as just plain nasty, delusional or evil. Instead, Shim Ji-hye, played by Choi Yeo-jin and Han Ah-reum played by Clara were presented as strong independent women, both who knew what they wanted and who were willing to pursue what what they wanted without being manipulative or deluded. They are presented as real human beings with both strengths and weakness, who had compassion and could be vulnerable and likeable.

Similarly the secondary male lead of Gook Cheon-soo, played by Lee Pil-mo, was not your stereotypical second male lead. While at times I found him frustrating (which was more to do with some big holes in the plot, often added to by some confusing script writing, than his acting) it was good to see a secondary male lead who had more depth to his character than just being a shoulder for the female lead to cry on. Cheon-soo was clearly a character suffering his own demons and had his own issues to deal with, which was great to see.

Emergency Couple was definitely enjoyable. However, it also had its flaws, quite a few of them. The most notable was that many of the lesser secondary characters (for example Chang-min and Jin-hee’s fellow interns) were cardboard cut outs and had very little depth. At times, it seemed the show writers didn’t quite know what to do with the characters, so they floundered and flip flopped around. At times the writing for the series also seem confused and not sure where it wanted to go. And towards the end of the series, some characters story lines either abruptly disappeared or change, making the execution of their story line somewhat unbelievable or confusing.

While not wanting to give away the finale, I felt they could have done much more with it than they did. While it was enjoyable, there was no ommpf to it (and I found the constant soft music in the back ground extremely annoying and overly saccharine). The best way, perhaps, to describe the finale is “pleasant”. And again, a number of the secondary characters suffered the fate of the writers not knowing quite what to do with them and their storyline disappointingly became a caricature of what it could have been.

baby gookie Special final mention has to go out to Baby Gukie. I am usually not one to coo over babies (at all!),  but I fell totally and utterly in love with Baby Guk (or as he is known in real life: Kwon Joon young). I loved every single one of his screen appearances and wished there had been more. The show did a great job of using his natural reactions to the adult actors, often using them comically to highlight the emotional interactions between the adults. As a result, I was sorely disappointed that he did not make an appearance in the finale.

Despite there being a number of flaws which one can criticise about Emergency Couple, I still enjoyed the series. I particularly like that the story explored issues not explored very often in other kdramas. I also liked that it was a story of an older couple struggling to figure out what they wanted to do with their lives. It was also great that amongst the comedy and fun candy coating, there was in fact some serious social issues discussed and highlighted without people being beaten over the head. So while not being perfect, it was still a fun and enjoyable drama, one worth watching.

 

#100HappyDays: Days 1-5

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As mentioned in my previous blog, I am doing  #100HappyDays.  As noted in my previous blog, I am critical of the concept and ideology of “positive thinking” because it is simply a modern day manifestation and expression of philosophical idealism.  (to read the full blog, please click here).

My main objection to the ideology of “positive thinking” is that it tells us that if we just think this way or that way, then we can change the material conditions we live under. Positive thinking exhorts us to have a positive outlook on life, irrespective of the material (ie. economic, social, political) conditions we face. It tells us we can achieve happiness, not by challenging the system that is oppressing us, but by burying ourselves in it and learning to accept the status quo. We are told if we just think positively we can improve our financial status, our emotional status and much much more, if we just think happy thoughts.

However, being opposed to the ideology of “positive thinking” and recognising that objective reality exists outside our personal experiences and that the only way we can bring about a better word is by engaging in political struggle to change the material conditions under which we live, does NOT mean you have to be against being happy, having a nice day, smiling at strangers, finding joy in our everyday lives and relationships or having a good time.

So for me #100HappyDays is about just that enjoying and acknowledging and celebrating aspects of our everyday lives, experiences and relationships.  So here are my first 5 days!  I will continue to post up photos at 5 day intervals rather than daily.

 

 DAY 1:Studying in the backyard in the rain :)

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DAY 2: Going through old family photos from when I was a kid!

family photos

DAY 3: Making Arabic “study” coffee (despite not being able to locate my Arabic coffee pot maker! )

day 3

DAY 4: Woohoo! Finally figured out how to get DVD player working in the TV lent to me 6 weeks ago.

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DAY 5: Checking out the final program for #Marxism2014, happening in less than a week!

day 5

The politics of #100HappyDays and “positive thinking”

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100HappyDays

 

In general, I am a pretty happy person. I have a quirky sense of humour – although many of my friends would probably describe it more as absurdist and “weird” but I am okay with that.  I lead a busy life, but have fortunately been able to make life decisions (not without some sacrifice. of course) that allow me to do what makes me happy most of the time – on a personal level, an academic level, work level and on a political level.

Usually, I am not for following silly fads but recently a friend of mine, who is also a political activist, started doing #100HappyDays. It was great to see her photos which celebrated her life and experiences. As a result, I decided to give it a go myself. In doing so, I was aware that many people taking up the 100 Day challenge may have been coming at it from a different perspective from my friend and myself.

Within a day or so of starting it, another friend and political activist asked me what the deal was and had I “gone all hippy”? My response – of course – was no, mainly because I am the least “hippy” like person I know. The primary reason that my friend asked me this was because #100HappyDays very much falls within the cultural idealist phenomenon of “positive thinking”.

According to Dmitry Golubnichy, who started the #100HappyDays challenge: “being happy is a choice and everyone can be happy just by appreciating little things in life one has”. Writing in the Huffington Post about the challenge, Bev James, who is a Business mentor and CEO of The Coaching Academy, argued that by really committing to the challenge you can “train yourself to find happiness, develop resilience and overcome any obstacle to live the life you want”.

As a Marxist, I disagree with both Dmitry Golubnichy and Bev James. To say that happiness is choice is an abstraction which ignores the material conditions (ie the economic, social and political) under which most people on the planet live. In addition, thinking positively and training yourself to find happiness will not necessarily help you or others to overcome structural obstacles which exist under capitalism, such as poverty, racism, sexism or homophobia and other oppressions.

As a Marxist and a political activist, I am not an idealist – by this I mean, I do not believe that reality or reality as we know it, is determined or fundamentally mentally constructed. For a philosophical idealist, the process of thinking (ie. ideas) is viewed as being independent of the material world. For philosophical idealists, ideas work to construct and fashion reality and social consciousness.

However, as Karl Marx noted, when critiquing the Hegelian idealism, philosophical idealism results in people forming “wrong ideas about themselves, about what they are and what they ought to be. They have arranged their relations according to their ideas of God, of normal man, etc. The products of their brains have got out of their hands. They, the creators, have bowed down before their creations.”

Like Marx, I have a materialist conception of the world and believe that objective reality exists outside of our individual experiences. In other words, I believe objective reality exist independently outside of ones own personal, individual consciousness and personal sensations. As such objective reality is not constructed mentally but instead it is reflection of the material conditions (the economic, social and political conditions) under which we live.

Within capitalist society, the dominate ideas which exist and are shared in our society are a reflection of these material conditions, social relations and class relationships which exist under capitalism. As Marx noted: “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.”

So what has this got to do with the cultural idealism and ideology of “positive thinking”?

The answer is that the cultural ideology of “positive thinking” is an expression of ruling class ideas in 21st century capitalist society. It can be described as being a 21st century version of “snake oil”, sold to us to sooth all our ailments and woes. But like the snake oil of the old West, it does no such thing and it prevents us from taking real action to address the ills we might be suffering.

The dominant cultural ideology of “positive thinking” is a simply a modern day manifestation and expression of philosophical idealism. It tells us that if we just think this way or that way, then we can change the material conditions we live under. That we can shape the reality as we know it, independent of any material conditions that might exist.

Positive thinking exhorts us to have a positive outlook on life, irrespective of the material conditions we face. It tells us we can achieve happiness, not by challenging the system that is oppressing us, but by burying ourselves in it and learning to accept the status quo. We are told if we just think positively we can improve our financial status, our emotional status and much much more, if we just think happy thoughts.

Positive thinking is often billed as an empowering activity. However, far from empowering people, it works to disempower them from taking real action to change the world and the capitalist system, which is the source of our alienation – whether it be economic, social or political alienation. Capitalism is a system which creates the social inequality and oppression, whether it be racism, sexism, homophobia or other types of oppression, none of which can be overcome simply through the delusion of “positive thinking”.

Positive thinking is used to mask social, economic and political inequality and is used to down play and/or negate the necessity to engage in the struggle to change the material conditions under which we live. As writer and political activist, Barbara Ehrenreich has noted in the past, the ideology of positive thinking tells you “don’t worry about social inequality if you’re a positive thinker, because you, too, can become rich just by modifying your thoughts. So why be concerned that some people are off in the stratosphere in their personal jets while you’re waiting for the bus?” The ideology of positive thinking therefore trains us to accept the status quo and to not challenge the inherent inequalities that exist under capitalism.

In addition to masking inequality, “positive thinking” also tells us that if you can not over come emotional problems or social inequality – its because it is our own fault. You just did not think positively enough or did not work hard enough etc to overcome whatever problem or inequality you face.

So why then do the #100HappyDay challenge? Am I not engaging in philosophical idealism and promoting the delusional and de-empowering ideology of positive thinking? My answer to this would be that like with most things we encounter under capitalism, we need to recognise that there is a dialectical dynamic.

Being critical of the ideological role of “positive thinking” does not mean that you have to be against being happy, having a nice day, smiling at strangers, finding joy in our everyday lives and relationships or having a good time. Being opposed to the ideology of positive thinking simply means we refuse to train ourselves to accept the status quo and recognise that demanding people be cheerful, upbeat and optimistic at all times will not change the material conditions of the world or eliminate the alienation, oppression and inequality they may experience under capitalism.

Instead, by recognising that objective reality exists independently of our own personal consciousness and independently of our sensations, we can acknowledge and even celebrate aspects of our everyday lives and experiences through such things as #100HappyDays, while at the same time recognising that the only way we can bring about a better world is by engaging in active political struggle to change the material conditions under which we live.

Join the Rebellion this Easter: Marxism 2014 – Ideas to Challenge the System! 17-20 April 2014

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If you are in Melbourne over Easter, don’t miss out on this fabulous conference!  4 Days of political debate, discussion and activism! Marxism 2014 is Australia’s biggest left wing conference. This year’s conference features speakers from the USA, Lebanon, Greece, Mauritius, West Papua, the Philippines and Australia.  I will be speaking at the conference as part of the “Against Empire” stream – my presentation is on the 1936 Palestinian General Strike and Revolt.  There will also be sessions on Aboriginal and Indigenous struggle in Australia; Gender and Sexuality; Labour History and Worker’s Rights; Philosophy; Forgotten Revolutionaries and the Environment.

The Marxism conference is Socialist Alternative’s annual conference dedicated to left wing debate and discussion. Marxism 2014 will take place over the Easter Weekend of 2014, from Thursday 17th April to Sunday 20th April at Melbourne University. The 2013 conference gathered over a thousand activists, writers, unionists, artists and socialists from across Australia and the world to discuss and debate ideas to change the world. With over 70 sessions on topics as diverse as the theory of imperialism to Australian labour history the 2014 conference is bound to be an unmissable event.

Check out the Marxism 2014 website here, along with the full program and list of speakers.

This year’s conferences features:

US hip-hop artist and activist Boots Riley, one of the most influential radical American musicians of the past two decades. He has been involved in many campaigns for social justice in his local community in Oakland, California, recently playing a leading role in the Occupy movement in the city.

Gary Foley, a legendary Aboriginal activist, writer, actor, teacher, story teller and historian. He is a prominent figure in the history of Aboriginal resistance in Australia.

Gilbert Achcar, Professor of Development Studies and International Relations at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London. A committed socialist, antiwar activist and author, He authored many books among which The Clash of Barbarisms: The Making of the New World Disorder (2002, 2nd ed. 2006), translated into thirteen languages; Perilous Power: The Middle East and US Foreign Policy, coauthored with Noam Chomsky (2007, 2nd ed. 2008); the critically acclaimed The Arabs and the Holocaust:The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (2010); and most recently The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprisingand Marxism, Orientalism, Cosmopolitanism, both published in 2013.

 

Also happening at the conference is Radical Reels and the School of Rebellion:

Radical Reels: a film festival taking place during the conference, featuring inspiring documentaries of struggle and resistance around the world. All screenings will include a Q&A session with people involved in the film.  Check out the full film program here

School of Rebellion: The second School of Rebellion will take place over the weekend of Marxism 2014. School of Rebellion ’13 saw over 30 children and young people participate in a variety of classes designed to challenge the dominant mode of education. The School of Rebellion isn’t framed by competition but by solidarity – its aim is to encourage constructive, collective and organised rebellion. The School of Rebellion isn’t about testing and ‘achievement’ but about learning and agency. It’s not a school, like every other, where education is bound to commerce and productivity but rather one where knowledge and learning are connected to justice and authentic democracy.

marxism conf

K-Drama Review: Master’s Sun

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  • English title: Master’s Sun
  • Revised romanization: Joogoonui Taeyang
  • Hangul: 주군의 태양
  • Director: Jin Hyeok
  • Writer: Hong Jung-Eun, Hong Mi-Ran
  • Network: SBS
  • Episodes: 17
  • Release Date: August 7 – October 3, 2013

The Master's Sun-So Ji-Sub.jpg The Master's Sun-Kong Hyo-Jin.jpg The Master's Sun-Seo In-Guk.jpg Kim Yoo-Ri
So Ji-Sub Kong Hyo-Jin Seo In-Guk Kim Yoo-Ri
Joo Joong-Won (Master) Tae Kong-Sil (Sun) Kang-Woo Tae Yi-Ryung

Master’s Sun is by far one of my favourite dramas of 2013. A horror/fantasy romantic comedy from the acclaimed Hong Sisters, Master’s Sun manages to blend, with just the right amount of each, horror with irony, along with a good dash of quirky fantasy and comedy.

So Ji-sub plays Joo Joong-won (his name being a play on the word, “Master”), the good looking but arrogant and stingy CEO of Kingdom, a major conglomerate which includes hotels and shopping centres. On a rainy night, on the way back from completing a business deal, he encounters the gloomy Tae Gong-shil (her name being a play on the word “Sun”). Played by Gong Hyo-jin. Gong-shil is a lonely recluse who can see ghosts and is terrified by their presence. When Gong-shil accidentally touches Joong-won, the ghosts around her unexpectedly disappear. Wanting relief from the never ending stream of ghosts haunting her, Gong-shil attempted to convince to Joong-won to be her “safe haven”, much to his debelief and initial disdain.

Also joining the cast of Master’s Sun, in the second male lead role, is Seo In-gok who plays a former soldier hired by Joo Joong-won as his head of security. He soon become the Joong-won’s rival for the affections of Gong-shil.

To be honest, I had not expected to love this drama soooo much. While the Hong Sisters are much acclaimed, I have found their dramas (at least the ones I have watched so far) to be a bit hit and miss. I loved My Girlfriend is a Gumiho with Lee Seung-gi and Shin Min-ah, although it initially took a few episodes for it grow on me. However, as much as I love Gong Yoo as an actor, I found the Hong Sister’s drama, Big, very ordinary. So while Master’s Sun looked promising, I was also sceptical. I am glad to say that any scepticism I had was quickly done away.

There is much to love about this drama – the storyline, script and acting are all superb. I particularly loved the fact that the two lead characters were, for a change, older (in their 30s). I think it added weight to their performances and the storyline in general. As much as I enjoy dramas with younger actors, including many idols, the drama can often end up being a bit to bubblegum at time.

My favourite thing about the drama, however, was the Hong’s Sister ironic and quirky humour instilled into the script and its delivery by their actors. Master’s Sun is by far the funniest of all the Korean Rom/Com dramas I have watch over the last few years. It made me laugh – a lot. In particular, So Ji-sub is hilarious as the petty CEO Joo Joong-won. I never once got bored with his character and his deadpan comedic timing was just wonderful. This is the first drama and/or movie that I watched him in and I now want to check out his other dramas and movies.

Master’s Sun marks the second time for Gong Hyo-jin has worked with the Hong Sisters, her first turn being with the rom/com, Greatest Love. While Greatest Love is still on my drama list to watch, I did enjoy her acting in Pasta, despite the fact I really hated the terrible sexual politics of both the drama and the character she played. Unfortunately, despite having Gong and Lee Sun-kyun who is I like a lot, Pasta, is one of my least favourite dramas – primarily because of the buckets of sexism, both in the script and character development. While there is certainly some level of sexism in Master’s Sun, it is nowhere near the levels of Pasta and ultimately, Gong-shil proves herself to be capable and independent woman, who realises the need to stand on her own two feet.

This time around the Hong Sisters have done a terrific job of serving up a funny, sweet and quirky drama, with just the right amount of horror and fantasy. I enjoyed the drama so much that I want to rewatch it again straight away, as I did not want to say goodbye to either Gong-shil or Joong-won. So if you enjoy fantasy with quirky humour, then Master’s Sun should be right up your alley as it does both extremely well.

Cultural Jamming @ March in March – national protest against the Australian Abbott government

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Yesterday, I joined over 100,000 people around Australia to March in March and oppose the policies of the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott and the Liberal (conservative) Australian government.  All around Australia – over the weekend of March 15-17,  in the capital cities and in regional areas, Australian voters and their families took to the streets to say they had “no confidence” in the Abbott government.

In Melbourne, 50,000 people joined the demonstration; in Sydney 20,ooo; in Adelaide 5,ooo,  in Perth 2,000 and in Brisbane 15,000.  Thousands of people also took to the streets over the weekend in regional centres such as Gosford, Wollongong, Townsville, Cairns, Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Katoomba, as well as countless other towns around the country.

As the March in March Melbourne event listing noted: “This signifies the people’s vote of no confidence in policies of the government that go against common principles of humanity, decency, fairness social justice and equity, democratic governance, responsible global citizenship and conserving our natural heritage”.

At the Melbourne March in March, as with the other March in March demonstrations in other towns in cities, people carried placards on a range of issues. Protestors opposed Abbott’s policies on refugees, the environment, climate change, worker’s rights, Indigenous issues, women’s rights and much much more.

While I find most, if not all of Abbott’s policies aborhent, I am most appalled by his draconian policies on asylum seekers and refugees which has seen some of the most vulnerable people in the world, who are escaping trauma, persecution, poverty, war and starvation being locked up in hell holes as a part of Abbott’s off shore processing policy (which was initially started by the Rudd Labor government). This policy recently resulted in the murder of a young Iranian refugee, Reza Barati, on Manus Island.

Shamefully, the Australian Labor Party distanced itself from yesterday’s rally – no doubt because many of the issues people were protesting are also policies pursued by the ALP.  According to the ABC: “The Labor Party has distanced itself from the rally, with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten telling reporters, ”But I do get that people want to express their views. It’s a free country,” he said”.

Tony Abbott showed his contempt for the Australian pubic and voters by flippantly dismissing the protests. According to the ABC: “Prime Minister Tony Abbott was asked about the protests taking place in Australia’s capital cities today, but replied that, “My understanding is that the only big rally in Sydney is the St Patrick’s Day parade. That is the big event in Sydney today. I wish all of them well. If their parade is rained on, there is always some Guinness available around the city.”

I have included some images of some of the placards below. In particular, I have included some of my favourite cultural jamming ones, with pop culture references.  I have also include along with some of my photos from the Melbourne rally and other placards referencing the issues people were protesting about.  Also below is a video of  the 50,000 strong Melbourne rally.

The very last photo I have included is of the fabulous Year 9 students from Newtown Performing Arts High School in Sydney. Earlier in the week they became a viral hit when a video of their encounter with Prime Minister Tony Abbott was uploaded onto youtube.  In the video “Tony Abbott avoids and waffles himself through questions regarding gay marriage, asylum seekers and feminine [feminist] leadership asked by year 9 students from Newtown High School of the Performing Arts Students”.  I have included their video as well.

 

Culture Jamming Abbott’s policies at March in March
Photos: Sherlock (Newcastle); Joffrey (Melbourne); Wrecking Ball (unknown); Tinman/Wizard of Oz (Brisbane); Superman (Melbourne); Simpsons (Melbourne)

   sherlock - march in march newcastle   joff wrecking ball - abbott  tinman superman was a refugee - march in march Simpons - melb

Not happy Tony!
Photos: 1. Katoomba, 2 Melbourne, 3 Cairns, 4 to 9 Melbourne, 10  unknown, 11 Brisbane, 12 Hobart, 13 Brisbane, 14 Sydney
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Artists for Refugees: Sydney Biennale boycott victory shows that divestment works

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boycott transfield

Sydney arts festival boycott successful

Van Thanh Rudd | 09-Mar-2014 : RedFlag

A public and determined boycott campaign has notched an important win for opponents of mandatory detention.  The Sydney Biennale arts festival announced on 7 March that it is cutting ties with Transfield.

The event, promoted as “Australia’s largest and most exciting contemporary visual arts festival”, might seem a world away from the horrors of Australia’s gulags. But it has long been funded by Transfield, a mandatory detention contractor.

In 2012, on the bank of the Yarra River in Melbourne’s CBD, I set fire to an artwork of mine called No Nauru. It was a response to the Australian Labor Party reopening offshore detention facilities and granting $24.5 million to the multinational corporation Transfield to provide services and infrastructure on Nauru.

Last month, Transfield again received a contract, this time worth $1.2 billion, from the Abbott government, to provide “garrison and welfare services” for Nauru and Manus Island refugee detention centres.

The relationship between Transfield and the Biennale prompted arts educator Matthew Kiem to call for a boycott of the event. His open letter, posted on social media in early February, argues that Transfield is profiting from the misery of refugees. “Profits from mandatory detention fund the Biennale”, he wrote.

A Facebook page called Boycott the 19th Biennale of Sydney quickly gained well over a thousand likes. A website of the same name bears the slogan “Boycott Sydney Biennale – Don’t Add Value to Detention – Boycott, Divest, Disrupt”.

One of the aims of the boycott was to convince the 90 artists presenting exhibits to pull out. There was a decent response – more than 30 Biennale artists formed a working group to pressure the directors to sever ties with Transfield.

A protest action in support of the boycott was planned for 24 February. It was to be held at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art – next to the Victorian College of the Arts, where a Biennale promotional event was to occur. However, in the boycott’s first small victory, the promotional event was cancelled. The protesters instead had a meeting to plan further boycott strategies.

At this stage, Biennale directors, however, remain unmoved: “We unanimously believe that our loyalty to the Belgiorno-Nettis family [owners of Transfield] and the hundreds of thousands of people who benefit from the Biennale must override claims over which there is ambiguity”, said the directors in response.

But pressure continued to build. An initial group of five artists withdrew their work, then another four. An installer, Peter Nelson, also resigned. “The relationship between the Biennale and the punitive practice of mandatory detention is a context that I feel I am unable to work within”, he said.

Eventually, the boycott proved effective. “We have listened to the artists who are the heart of the Biennale and have decided to end our partnership with Transfield effective immediately”, read the Biennale organisers statement.

[A public forum, “Artists, Boycotts and Movements”, supported by the Victorian College of the Arts Student Association, is scheduled for 18 March, 1-2pm, Cinema 2, VCA, St Kilda Rd, Melbourne.]

***

Sydney Biennale boycott victory shows that divestment works

Super funds, city councils and universities also have links with providers of detention infrastructure – one by one we will insist that they sever the connections

and : theguardian.com, Tuesday 11 March 2014

manus island camp
Transfield Services won a $1.2bn contract to provide welfare and infrastructural services at detention camps on Manus Island, above, and Nauru. Photograph: Getty

Last Friday, the seemingly impossible happened. Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, director of Transfield Holdings, resigned from his position as chair of the board of the Biennale of Sydney. He tweeted “I hope that blue sky may now open over this 19th @biennalesydney”, as the Biennale simultaneously dropped Transfield’s funding.

Despite this being a proof of the power of the boycott, and a precedent for new ways of taking action against the policy of mandatory detention, the commentariat rushed to condemn the announcement as soon as it was made. Many contributions, such as this Sydney Morning Herald piece and this one in The Conversation, put forward two theses: 1) that this was a blow for arts sponsorship and 2) that encouraging divestment from Transfield is pointless because mandatory detention is the government’s policy. Artists were dismissed as hypocrites for accepting government funding, despite the evident difference between tax-collected funding and profits from incarceration. These arguments also purposefully misunderstand the point of the boycott and deny the power of this crucial step towards disrupting the private supply chain on which Australia’s cruel “deterrent” policy depends. There is no way of separating government policy from industry infrastructure; the detention regime in Australia is a public-private partnership.

This is not about corporate arts sponsorship. The artists who jeopardised their careers, the activists who worked with them and those directly affected who called for the action all had one aim in mind. Theirs was a boycott against a system that indefinitely detains asylum seekers who arrive by boat, through a policy steeped in secrecy and violence which has already seen the killing of asylum seeker Reza Berati. Australia, the first country to introduce mandatory detention of asylum seekers, has long been a global laboratory of deterrence strategies that foment popular racism.

Transfield Services won a $1.2bn contract to provide welfare and core infrastructural services to the detention camps at Nauru and Manus Island. The attempts to distance Transfield Holdings, the private family company of Luca and Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, from these profits are obfuscations. Transfield Holdings is the second largest shareholder in Transfield Services, and while Luca and his brother no longer sit on the board of Transfield Services, that does not mean his interests are not represented. The Transfield Foundation, through which the Biennale was funded, is backed jointly by Transfield Holdings and Services. And Luca, it bears reminding, is on record as saying that Transfield is doing “nothing wrong” in profiting from mandatory detention.

Most importantly, as was emphasised by the boycotting artists, the entire Transfield brand, and not just its subsidiaries, derives value from its philanthropic activities. And while the investment in the Biennale may have been small (about 6% of its overall budget, not including in-kind), the benefits reaped were huge: it was an exercise in culture washing on a city-wide scale.

The call to boycott the 19th Sydney Biennale was made in an open letter by a Sydney arts educator, Matt Kiem. However, this was a step along a path that leads back to the Woomera protests of 2002. Renewing the commitment to dismantle the camps, in December 2013 a meeting organised by the Beyond Borders Collective in Melbourne triggered discussions of boycott, divestment and sanctions. This momentum also led to a working paper, a research and information website, a video detailing the connections between Transfield and the Biennale, and social media debates. Boycott strategies were publicly supported by Australia’s only organisation of refugees and ex-detainees, RISE, and have been called for by those in the camps at Nauru and Manus Island, the hunger strikers at Christmas island and those at Villawood whose lead we follow, and whose resistance within the camps themselves has had a massively understated role in accounts of events around the Biennale.

Those who bemoaned the end of the Transfield-Biennale relationship are wrong in believing that things end here. The Biennale’s decision to sever its 41-year ties with Transfield is proof that divestment is a reality. We believe that many people, not only a few principled artists, can see that it is hypocritical to profit from the degradation of one group – asylum seekers – to support another.

Superannuation funds, city councils and universities around Australia also have links with Transfield and other providers of detention infrastructure. One by one we will insist that these institutions divest their connections to the mandatory detention infrastructure. The artists – including those on Manus Island whose art forced them to flee in search of a better future – have shown them the way.

Sydney arts festival boycott successful

A public and determined boycott campaign has notched an important win for opponents of mandatory detention.  The Sydney Biennale arts festival announced on 7 March that it is cutting ties with Transfield.

The event, promoted as “Australia’s largest and most exciting contemporary visual arts festival”, might seem a world away from the horrors of Australia’s gulags. But it has long been funded by Transfield, a mandatory detention contractor.

In 2012, on the bank of the Yarra River in Melbourne’s CBD, I set fire to an artwork of mine called No Nauru. It was a response to the Australian Labor Party reopening offshore detention facilities and granting $24.5 million to the multinational corporation Transfield to provide services and infrastructure on Nauru.

Last month, Transfield again received a contract, this time worth $1.2 billion, from the Abbott government, to provide “garrison and welfare services” for Nauru and Manus Island refugee detention centres.

The relationship between Transfield and the Biennale prompted arts educator Matthew Kiem to call for a boycott of the event. His open letter, posted on social media in early February, argues that Transfield is profiting from the misery of refugees. “Profits from mandatory detention fund the Biennale”, he wrote.

A Facebook page called Boycott the 19th Biennale of Sydney quickly gained well over a thousand likes. A website of the same name bears the slogan “Boycott Sydney Biennale – Don’t Add Value to Detention – Boycott, Divest, Disrupt”.

One of the aims of the boycott was to convince the 90 artists presenting exhibits to pull out. There was a decent response – more than 30 Biennale artists formed a working group to pressure the directors to sever ties with Transfield.

A protest action in support of the boycott was planned for 24 February. It was to be held at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art – next to the Victorian College of the Arts, where a Biennale promotional event was to occur. However, in the boycott’s first small victory, the promotional event was cancelled. The protesters instead had a meeting to plan further boycott strategies.

At this stage, Biennale directors, however, remain unmoved: “We unanimously believe that our loyalty to the Belgiorno-Nettis family [owners of Transfield] and the hundreds of thousands of people who benefit from the Biennale must override claims over which there is ambiguity”, said the directors in response.

But pressure continued to build. An initial group of five artists withdrew their work, then another four. An installer, Peter Nelson, also resigned. “The relationship between the Biennale and the punitive practice of mandatory detention is a context that I feel I am unable to work within”, he said.

Eventually, the boycott proved effective. “We have listened to the artists who are the heart of the Biennale and have decided to end our partnership with Transfield effective immediately”, read the Biennale organisers statement.

[A public forum, “Artists, Boycotts and Movements”, supported by the Victorian College of the Arts Student Association, is scheduled for 18 March, 1-2pm, Cinema 2, VCA, St Kilda Rd, Melbourne.]

- See more at: http://redflag.org.au/article/sydney-arts-festival-boycott-successful#sthash.oQvwPoL3.dpuf

Sydney arts festival boycott successful

A public and determined boycott campaign has notched an important win for opponents of mandatory detention.  The Sydney Biennale arts festival announced on 7 March that it is cutting ties with Transfield.

The event, promoted as “Australia’s largest and most exciting contemporary visual arts festival”, might seem a world away from the horrors of Australia’s gulags. But it has long been funded by Transfield, a mandatory detention contractor.

In 2012, on the bank of the Yarra River in Melbourne’s CBD, I set fire to an artwork of mine called No Nauru. It was a response to the Australian Labor Party reopening offshore detention facilities and granting $24.5 million to the multinational corporation Transfield to provide services and infrastructure on Nauru.

Last month, Transfield again received a contract, this time worth $1.2 billion, from the Abbott government, to provide “garrison and welfare services” for Nauru and Manus Island refugee detention centres.

The relationship between Transfield and the Biennale prompted arts educator Matthew Kiem to call for a boycott of the event. His open letter, posted on social media in early February, argues that Transfield is profiting from the misery of refugees. “Profits from mandatory detention fund the Biennale”, he wrote.

A Facebook page called Boycott the 19th Biennale of Sydney quickly gained well over a thousand likes. A website of the same name bears the slogan “Boycott Sydney Biennale – Don’t Add Value to Detention – Boycott, Divest, Disrupt”.

One of the aims of the boycott was to convince the 90 artists presenting exhibits to pull out. There was a decent response – more than 30 Biennale artists formed a working group to pressure the directors to sever ties with Transfield.

A protest action in support of the boycott was planned for 24 February. It was to be held at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art – next to the Victorian College of the Arts, where a Biennale promotional event was to occur. However, in the boycott’s first small victory, the promotional event was cancelled. The protesters instead had a meeting to plan further boycott strategies.

At this stage, Biennale directors, however, remain unmoved: “We unanimously believe that our loyalty to the Belgiorno-Nettis family [owners of Transfield] and the hundreds of thousands of people who benefit from the Biennale must override claims over which there is ambiguity”, said the directors in response.

But pressure continued to build. An initial group of five artists withdrew their work, then another four. An installer, Peter Nelson, also resigned. “The relationship between the Biennale and the punitive practice of mandatory detention is a context that I feel I am unable to work within”, he said.

Eventually, the boycott proved effective. “We have listened to the artists who are the heart of the Biennale and have decided to end our partnership with Transfield effective immediately”, read the Biennale organisers statement.

[A public forum, “Artists, Boycotts and Movements”, supported by the Victorian College of the Arts Student Association, is scheduled for 18 March, 1-2pm, Cinema 2, VCA, St Kilda Rd, Melbourne.]

- See more at: http://redflag.org.au/article/sydney-arts-festival-boycott-successful#sthash.oQvwPoL3.dpuf