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Archive for December, 2009

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Food traditions for New Year’s

collard greens

On his blog Frederick Douglass Opie, author of Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America, looks at the history of some culinary traditions observed among African Americans on New Year’s Day and also provides some recipes!

Opie explains the stories behind why such foods as cranberry sauce, hoppin’ john, pork and collard greens and black-eyes peas.

Here’s Opie on collard greens:

Frances Warren was born in Atlanta in 1928, but spent most of her childhood in Miami, Florida. She noted that, during her childhood, most families in the South ate hoppin’ John and collard greens especially at midnight on New Year’s. For an unknown reason, some southerners, and folks from the Caribbean I interviewed in research for my book Hog and Hominy, believed the peas represented coins and the greens dollars which if eaten would bring in economic prosperity for the New Year. In other parts of the world folks have traditionally eaten lentils on New Year’s with a similar rational as eating black-eyed peas. Also, I grew up with mother and maternal grandmother guarding the belief that a man must be the first to enter her house on New Year’s if the coming year was also to go well. God forbid if you were that sister trying to come in before a brother showed up at my grandmother’s house. You’d have a better chance of getting into the White House to see the president…. Below is my own collard green recipe for your New Year’s meal.

(more…)

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Siddarth Kara’s “Sex Slavery” chosen as most popular article of 2009

Sex SlaveryGlobal Policy Innovations, a publication of the Carnegie Council that explores issues of fairer globalization, recently listed its most popular articles of 2009.

Leading the list was Sex Slavery by Siddharth Kara, author of Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery.

The article is an interview with Devin Stewart of the Carnegie Council and includes video excerpts of Kara’s talk which applies an economic approach to understanding the persistence of the sex slavery industry as well as the human costs involved. Here is an excerpt from his talk:

So ask yourself: How many male consumers will trade in one-and-a-half or two hours of work for one hour of commercial sex? The answer is more than enough to create powerful forces of consumer demand, which in turn motivate slave-owner demand for more slaves. This aggregate demand among slave owners and consumers is the most deadly driver of the contemporary sex-trafficking industry. This is why I believe the most effective efforts to eradicate sex trafficking must aim to reduce aggregate demand through an attack on the industry’s immense profitability. An attack on profitability will reduce demand because slave owners will be forced to accept a lower profit and then, hence, less desirable business. Or they will pass on the increased cost to the consumer by elevating retail price, which will in turn reduce consumer demand. This reduction in consumer demand, or the price elasticity of demand, is explored in more detail in my book, but suffice it to say that commercial sex is a highly elastic product, which means that as price increases, consumer demand decreases considerably.

(more…)

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Robin Wood

Robin WoodWe were very saddened to hear of the recent death of Robin Wood one of the most influential critics and scholars of Hitchcock and other directors such as Howard Hawks and Arthur Penn.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity to publish three of Wood’s books: Hitchcock’s Films Revisited, Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan…and Beyond, and Sexual Politics and Narrative Film: Hollywood and Beyond.

Wood became known for his path-breaking critiques of Hitchcock, one of which was published in Cahiers du Cinema and helped to launch his career. The obituary in the New York Times, quotes Wood on the importance of that article and how and why he became a film critic:

I began to realize that all of these films that I had loved in the past could be taken seriously, that some real artistic claims could be made for them,” he told Your Flesh magazine in 2006. “That was a revelation, and really all I needed to understand. So it was purely from that article in Cahiers that I became a film critic. I think if they had turned it down, I probably wouldn’t have written about film anymore, and I would probably still be an English teacher today.

(more…)

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Interview with Geoffrey Kabat, author of Hyping Health Risks

Geoffrey KabatThe following are excerpts from a recent interview with Geoffrey Kabat, author of Hyping Health Risks: Environmental Hazards in Daily Life and the Science of Epidemiology that appeared in the Epidemiology Monitor. The November issue was devoted to Kabat’s work and the issues raised in his book.

EpiMonitor: Can you say more about your personal and professional motivations for writing this book? Clearly, hazards are being manufactured all around us. You are presumably like all other epidemiologists in sharing a set of scientific values and standards, but others have not written such books.

Kabat: In the early 1990s I noticed that certain issues in epidemiology seemed to be distorted or exaggerated and that the public was being given the wrong idea. So, I tuned in to a number of these issues, some of which I was doing primary research on. I began to view these topics that got a lot of attention and stirred up a lot of concern from a dual perspective – that of a practicing epidemiologist and that of an outside observer – almost as if I were an anthropologist. I would contend that one can’t really understand what is going on with the hyping of health risks without considering the social context in which messages about health get disseminated. In addition, as a scientist, I tried to assess what the evidence actually indicated and where certain agency reports or partisan interpretations seemed to be overstating the evidence. I guess there were two emotions that motivated me to pursue what was a pretty demanding task – evaluating the evidence on my four topics and trying to sort out how it got refracted by different parties. One was fascination with some of the flagrant contradictions and incongruities; the other was frustration at some of the one-sided and unsupported claims. But above all, I felt that this was a very rich topic that had received little sustained attention.

(more…)

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Sharing intelligence with Pakistan — A post by James I. Walsh

James WalshEvery so often, we like to feature blogs maintained by Columbia University Press authors. Today, we look at Back Channels, a blog by James I. Walsh, author of The International Politics of Intelligence Sharing.

As Walsh describes it, he uses the blog to “write about how social scientists analyze bad things such as terrorism, political violence, and human rights abuses.” In his most recent post Intelligence Sharing with Pakistan: What It Might Look Like, Walsh examines how the interests of the United States and Pakistan both complement and contradict each other when it comes to stamping out Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Drawing on his book, Walsh suggests that finding an arrangement that would allow the U.S. and Pakistan to work together, something Obama and his administration surely hope can be achieved, might prove difficult because of U.S. concerns. Walsh writes:

Neither country [Pakistan or the United States] can trust the other to take actions that protect the long-run objectives of the other. But neither country can achieve its objectives without cooperation from the other. Is there a solution to this dilemma? In The International Politics of Intelligence Sharing, I suggest that countries can successfully cooperate in such situations. They do so by creating a hierarchical intelligence sharing agreement, in which the more powerful state quietly directs and supervises many of the intelligence activities of the subordinate. This allows more powerful state to ensure that the subordinate is acting in a way consistent with its interests. In return, the more powerful country offers the subordinate much closer intelligence, economic, military, cooperation. The United States used such hierarchies with some success in cases as diverse West Germany during the Cold War, South Vietnam in the early 1970s, and some countries in the Middle East since 9/11.

(more…)

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Christopher Davidson on recent events in Dubai and the UAE

Dubai“It’s not the end of the Arab dream, it just means the Arab dream will be taking a different course now and Dubai will not be the poster boy for it.”—Christopher Davidson

Christopher Davidson, author of Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success and Abu Dhabi: Oil and Beyond is perhaps uniquely qualified to talk about recent events in the region.

In a recent interview on The Boardroom Talk Podcast, Davidson talked about Abu Dhabi’s rescue of Dubai and what it might mean for the future of the region. The move, which Davidson says was welcomed by investors, strengthens the United Arab Emirate “brand” and hopefully should lead to a more transparency in Dubai’s governance and finances. Dubai’s prestige as a, if not the, crucial emirate in the region is probably now lost and replaced by the UAE as a whole with Dubai being less prominent.

The interviewer Alec Hogg concludes with some questions regarding the possible future of Dubai:

ALEC HOGG: So if we look ahead, it isn’t the end of the Arab dream…

CHRISTOPHER DAVIDSON:
It’s not the end of the Arab dream, it just means the Arab dream will be taking a different course now and Dubai will not be the poster boy for it.

ALEC HOGG: And Sheikh Mohamed, his prestige in the region?

CHRISTOPHER DAVIDSON: Well his prestige is certainly taking a battering not least in the British press where he was hauled over the coals for the last few weeks when there was a worry that the British banks were going to lose out and taxpayers too. I don’t think too many people are too happy with them this is rather a sad end to a story of trying to build a post-oil economy but unfortunately, it’s building on sand.

ALEC HOGG:
And if you look at Dubai as we said in our last interview, perhaps ten years hence… still be around but perhaps not as vibrant as it is today.

CHRISTOPHER DAVIDSON:
Yes and I think Dubai will always be a very important port city and a very important thoroughfare with airport and trade and shipping, commercial sector because of its geography. It has a natural water inlet and all of the infrastructure, but I think it will end up becoming the uae’s main port city rather than this Hong Kong or Singapore like city/state…

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

The World selects Sōseki as an international read for the holidays

Soseki
One of the more interesting year-end lists comes from Bill Marx at PRI’s The World. Marx, a champion of books in translation and works published by university and independent presses, chooses a list of titles that raise the thorny issue of the relationship between literature new and the old.

Among his choices and the one he refers to as “the nerdiest pick on my list” is Theory of Literature and Other Critical Writings by Natsume Sōseki (see picture).

Here’s what Marx has to say about the book:

The nerdiest pick on my list, but for fans of one of Japan’s greatest novelists (“Kokoro,” “Kusamakura”) this volume of his literary criticism offers insights into his fiction as well as some prescient ideas about realism and multiculturalism. Much of the volume is made up of excerpts from Sōseki’s science-minded “Theory of Literature” – some of which are dated and dense. I suggest reading the informative introduction and skipping around until you hit pay dirt. For example, this interesting passage on the value of individuality from Sōseki’s essay “Philosophical Foundations of the Literary Arts”:

It is only when one has an ideal that is new, profound, or broad, only when one tries to realize that ideal in the world but finds the world foolishly prevents this – only then does technique become truly useful to the person in question. When the world prevents us from developing our ideal in real life, then the only avenue remaining is to use technique to realize that ideal in the form of a literary work.

Check out Bill Marx’s full list here and for more on The Theory of Literature and Other Critical Writings, you can browse and preview the book.

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Morality is not necessarily good — An interview with Hans-Georg Moeller

Hans-Georg MoellerQ: Are you hoping to just inform readers? Give them pleasure? Piss them off?

A: All of the above.

Admittedly, the following quote from a recent interview in Religion Dispatches with Hans-Georg Moeller, author of The Moral Fool: A Case for Amorality is not your typical exchange when discussing a philosopher’s work. However, it does reflects Moeller’s willingness to go against the grain about the ways in which morality and notions of ethics are applied in contemporary society.

In the interview, Moeller states, “It seems to me that ethical communication has almost reached a pathological level in our society…. [The Moral Fool] is aimed at making such pathologies visible—for instance in the mass media, in politics, in warfare, and in legal procedures, but also on a personal level, when people are urged to practice and experience a ‘morality of anger.’”

In the following question, Moeller suggests that the important take home message for readers is, “Morality (moral communication and moral thought) is not in itself ‘good.’ And: Dare to take ethics not so seriously.”

The solution Moeller argues is:

The remedy I suggest is: “ironization” of moral language and moral communication. In the end, a book such as The Moral Fool intends to ironically deconstruct rigid moral language as it has been created, for instance, by mainstream Western moral philosophy. I think similar deconstructions can be performed in the mass media (late night Shows might help) or perhaps even at the fringes of politics (through ironic speech or ads, etc.).

On a very general level, I’d say that Eastern philosophies can demonstrate the contingency of certain foundational notions of Western thought that hardly go questioned. I have tried to challenge the widespread “prejudice” about the goodness of morality with the help of Daoism. Other possible challenges could tackle the value of “truth” (as opposed to “efficacy”) or the one-sided focus on “life” as the antagonistic alternative to the non-living (as manifested in various “Wars on Death” or often uncompromising “Pro-Life” attitudes in contemporary society).

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

How the books saved Christmas

“Books may be going high-tech this holiday season, but that doesn’t mean, as some fear, that we’ve abandoned the cultural and economic habits they’ve helped to foster. Our Kindles and Nooks may appear to be pointing toward the digital future, yet if anything they channel the deep structures of our analog past.”—Ted Striphas

Amazon has its Kindle and now Barnes & Noble has its Nook and both retailers are heavily promoting their e-readers this holiday season. This leads Ted Striphas, author of The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control, to wonder in a post on his blog, “where are printed books in all this?” He continues, “Is all this holiday focus on digital reading yet another sign of the impending death of print — by which I mean not only of the technology itself, but also of the broader culture that surrounds it?”

Citing Stephen Nissenbaum’s The Battle for Christmas, Striphas reveals in his post and in his book that Christmas used to be “a raucous affair in which members of the lower castes of society were given temporary license to make unusual demands on social and economic elites.” However, this changed in the nineteenth-century, “Among the first and most popular commercial goods to be given as Christmas presents were, according to Nissenbaum, printed books. Books played a starring role in helping to make Christmas over into the commercial holiday that people know and practice today.”

(Of course, if you want to continue this tradition visit our special offer on holiday gift books—sorry we couldn’t resist….)

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Sibyl Schwarzenbach on Huffington Post and Rorotoko

Sibyl Schwarzenbach, author of the just-published On Civic Friendship: Including Women in the State, has recently contributed pieces to both Rorotoko and The Huffington Post.

In “A Failure of Civic Friendship,” Schwarzenbach argues that the United States and its political culture lacks a sense of “civic friendship.” This failure is reflected by the fact that “our awareness — let alone positive concern — for our fellow citizens and the rest of the world is shockingly low.”

Civic friendship, Schwarzenbach explains extends to those who might be our personal or ideological enemies but necessitates that individuals “grant them the respect and rights due any American.” She continuse, “clearly, the state plays a critical role in regulating our awareness of the facts of other citizens’ lives (through education and other institutions) as well as in stipulating the minimal duties we have towards them.”

In articulating the importance of civic friendship, Schwarzenbach writes:

“A state in which there is no civic friendship can never be a just one. If there is no institutionalized background of good will in a society, citizens can and inevitably will perceive themselves to be unfairly treated. Again, in a generalized context of enmity and ill will, or in one of pure competition and indifference, given our natural and often unreasonable propensities to favor ourselves, citizens will be unable to accept in practice the “burdens of justice”; the poor will have little motive to follow the laws and the well to do will refuse to yield their unfair advantages. Only a sham justice of the powerful can reign.”

The role of women is also central to Schwarzenbach’s idea of civic friendship and imaging a transformed modern political state. She writes in Rorotoko:

Central to my argument is that women, throughout history and across the globe, have continued to perform the vast majority of reproductive labor and praxis in society—that form of ethical activity that reproduces not merely biological beings but educated, reasoning, and mature persons.

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Save on holiday books from Columbia University Press

Holiday Sale

From food history and the science of the oven to birds and baseball, click HERE for some holiday gift suggestions from Columbia University Press. All books are available online or at your local bookstore. Happy Holidays!

SAVE 30% on these titles. IMPORTANT: Be sure to enter the special promotion code HOL30 in the space provided in the shopping cart order form. (Discounted amount will appear after you click “redeem coupon.”)

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Experimenting with Herve This

Below is a video of a lecture Herve This recently gave at Imperial College entitled “Molecular Cooking is Cooking: Molecular Gastronomy is a Scientific Activity.” However, don’t let the word “lecture” scare you off, This’s talks, which include several experiments to illuminate his points, are always entertaining and full of surprises. Here is the description of the talk from Imperial College: “If you have ever been surprised and impressed by an unusual serving of emulsion, a helping of frothy foam, or a plate of frozen gases as your meal, the chances are that Herve This and his gastronomic research will be behind them.”

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Steven Cohen on weatherizing New York City

“In the end, all the forward-looking policies articulated in Washington and in Copenhagen will have meaning only when a landlord in New York City decides to sign up a contractor this summer to weatherize his pre-World War II apartment building.”— Steven Cohen, writing on State of the Planet

In light of the Copenhagen Climate Conference, Steven Cohen, author of Understanding Environmental Policy, questions Mayor Bloomberg’s decision to drop an initiative that would reduce the greenhouse emissions from the city’s buildings.

In a post on State of the Planet, Cohen cites the mayor’s press release which argued that the plan would have reduced the city’s emissions by 30% by asking building owners to better weatherize their buildings and conduct energy audits every ten years. However, as Cohen suggests, “it seems that New York’s real estate industry is too poor these days to be energy efficient.”

Cohen continues,

The problem is that the City’s financial wizards cannot figure out any way for owners to recoup their investments, since owners would pay the costs of improved efficiency, but under some leases they would not be able to recoup their costs, and only tenants would receive the benefits. And, even if some owners are willing to invest and can recoup, private capital has become increasingly scarce and the resources are simply not available. It’s more than a little scary to think that there cannot be some arrangement under which the owners of New York’s largest buildings can invest in energy efficiency measures that pay for themselves in five years

With all the clever financial minds wandering the streets lower Manhattan, I’m surprised that no one seems to be able to figure out a way to deal with this.

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

On the anniversary of Pearl Harbor — A post by Greg Robinson

Greg Robinson, A Tragedy of DemocracyThe following post is by Greg Robinson, author of A Tragedy of Democracy: Japanese Confinement in North America.

December 7 remains, as Franklin Roosevelt predicted, a date that lives in infamy. It merits this title, though, not just as the anniversary of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, but also as the onset of military dictatorship in the United States. Martial law in wartime Hawaii, then a U.S. territory, represents the only case in modern American history where a civilian government was overthrown by Army commanders. Despite repeated promises to restore democratic rule, military governors held arbitrary power for three years, long after any threat from Japan had passed, and justified its actions by racism against Japanese Americans.

While martial law in Hawaii came about in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Army’s actions were not simply a response to it. Rather, during fall 1941 the Hawaii Defense Act was passed into law, with the support of the Army and Navy, precisely in order to avoid martial law. The law granted the governor broad powers in case of war, but protected constitutional rights. On December 7, once news came of the Japanese bombing, Governor John Poindexter invoked the Act. Soon after, Commanding General Walter Short visited Poindexter and presented him with a proclamation that the governor had never seen. It granted the military all powers exercised by all “employees of the territory” for a period covering “the emergency and until danger of invasion is removed”. Short insisted that he only needed such authority for “a relatively short time,” and then threatened to take power unilaterally. Poindexter reluctantly signed, and Short immediately declared himself “military governor” and suspended Hawaii’s constitution.

Military rule was marked by arbitrary decrees that regulated all aspects of civilian life, establishing curfews, setting wages and prices, and rationing gasoline and other commodities. Newspapers and mail were censored, and all speech or action critical of the military government forbidden. Most egregiously, the Army closed down the courts and created a network of military commissions and provost courts, which tried all criminal cases. These military tribunals, presided by armed officers without legal training, were classic examples of drumhead justice, unfettered by rules of evidence, presumption of innocence, or other constitutional safeguards. Juries were forbidden, and lawyers discouraged or even barred. The courts were effectively rigged against defendants, and no machinery was established for appeals. Of the 22,480 trials conducted in provost court in Honolulu in 1942-1943, 99 percent ended in convictions—one official who heard 819 cases issued convictions in all 819! The tribunals frequently issued severe sentences, including imprisonment and hard labor, for trivial offenses.

(more…)

Monday, December 7th, 2009

James Igoe Walsh takes the page 99 test

The International Politics of Intelligence SharingTaking Ford Maddox Ford’s suggestion to heart (“Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you”), The Page 99 Test asks authors to focus in on this particular page.

Recently Kelly Oliver took the test and now James Igoe Walsh, author of The International Politics of Intelligence Sharing explains what page 99 of his book reveals about the larger arguments he is making regarding the complexities of governments working together to obtain more reliable intelligence.

Here is an excerpt from Walsh’s piece on The Page 99 Test:

“My” page 99 starts out with a detailed summary of the complaints that political leaders in the European Union have made about their counterparts’ willingness to share intelligence…. It is an example, though, of the key barrier to effective intelligence sharing, which is that one state cannot reliably insure that another is living up to promises to share fully and honestly.

It begins to suggest [the] solution is closer European integration of intelligence activities. That is, these countries would be better off if they applied some of the institutions they have developed to govern trade or money to intelligence sharing. A key benefit these institutions provide is the ability to monitor partners to determine if they are complying with their promises to share. You will have to keep reading, though, if you want to find out why this is unlikely to happen.

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Best films of the decade

Apichatpong WeerasethakulSince it is 2009 we are seeing both best-of-the-year and best-of-the-decade lists. While many of these lists seemingly serve to reinforce critical consensus, the same cannot be said of the Toronto International Film Festival’s list of the best movies from the 2000s. Voted on by representatives from some of the most prestigious film institutions from the world, the list reflects the diverse, and international character of contemporary cinema.

Leading the list is Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Syndromes and a Century. For more on this critically acclaimed Thai director, you can read the aptly titled Apichatpong Weerasethakul, edited by James Quandt.

Other directors whose films made the list of the top 30 include (we’ve linked to directors whose works are the subject of books available from Columbia University Press and Wallflower Press): Terence Malick, The Dardenne brothers, Agnes Varda, David Cronenberg, David Lynch, Gus Van Sant, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Pedro Almodóvar, Abbas Kiarostami, Guy Maddin, Todd Haynes, and Ingmar Bergman.

Here is a list of the top ten films of the 2000′s by the Toronto International Film Festival:

1. Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand)
2. Platform (Jia Zhang-ke, Hong Kong, China/China/Japan/France)
3. Still Life (Jia Zhang-ke, China)
4. Beau travail (Claire Denis, France)
5. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, Hong Kong, China)
6. Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, France/Thailand/Germany/Italy)
7. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, Romania)
Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr, Hungary)
8. Éloge de l’amour (Jean-Luc Godard, Switzerland/ France)
9. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, Romania)
10. Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France/Netherlands)

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Kelly Oliver takes The Page 99 Test

Kelly Oliver, Animal LessonsTaking Ford Maddox Ford’s suggestion to heart (“Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you”), The Page 99 Test asks authors to focus in on this particular page.

Recently, Kelly Oliver took the test with her new book Animal Lessons: How They Teach Us to Be Human. After excerpting from page 99 of the book, Oliver summarizes the book’s argument and focus on how philosophers have thought about humanity in relation to animals and what we eat:

From Rousseau and Herder to Freud and Kristeva, philosophers suggest that humanity is determined by what we eat: whether they think that we are what we eat (like Rousseau and Herder) or that we are not what we eat (like Freud and Kristeva), man becomes human by eating animals. I begin by looking back at 18th Century notions of humanity and animality that define man in terms of what he eats in order to set the stage for an investigation into how philosophies of otherness from Freud through Kristeva repeat romantic gestures that exclude and abject animals. Examining texts as varied of those of Rousseau, Herder, Freud, Heidegger, Lacan, Merleau-Ponty, de Beauvoir, Derrida, Agamben, and Kristeva, I argue that concepts of subjectivity, humanity, politics and ethics continue to be defined by the double-movement of assimilating and then disavowing the animal, animality, and animals…. I argue that within the history of philosophy, animals remain the invisible support for whatever we take to be human subjectivity, as fractured and obscure as it becomes in the late Twentieth Century.

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

Views on Afghanistan and the Taliban

My Life with the TalibanLast night, President Obama articulated his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, which is now in its eighth year.

Needless to say, the complicated nature of Afghan politics, which is characterized by both change and chaos as well as and continuing violence, the persistence of the Taliban, in various forms, and the presence of warlordism necessitate the need for new, in-depth, and ground-level perspectives on Afghanistan. Here are some recent and forthcoming books that reveal a great deal about the challenges that the Obama administration and the U.S. military will surely confront in the coming months.

My Life with Taliban (forthcoming in March 2010) is the eagerly anticipated and much-discussed autobiography of Abdul Salam Zaeef, a former senior member of Afghanistan’s Taliban and a principal actor in its domestic and foreign affairs.

In the book Zaeef describes his experiences as a poor youth in rural Kandahar and joining the Jihad to defeat the Soviet Union. He then recounts his time with the Taliban, first as a civil servant and then as a minister who negotiated with foreign oil companies and Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Afghani resistance. Zaeef served as ambassador to Pakistan at the time of 9/11, and his testimony sheds light on the “phoney war” that preceded the U.S.-led intervention. In 2002, Zaeef was delivered to the American forces operating in Pakistan and spent four and a half years in prison, including several years in Guantanamo, before being released without trial or charge. His reflections offer a privileged look at the communities that form the bedrock of the Taliban and the forces that motivate men like Zaeef to fight.

We will have more on the book in the coming weeks but there is a Web site for the book and a Facebook page. Also, here are some early reviews for the book.

Over the past few years Antonio Giustozzi has emerged as a leading expert on Afghanistan. He has spent more than a decade visiting, researching, and writing on the country and the Taliban. Based at the Crisis States Research Centre at the London School of Economics, he is the author or editor of three recent books on the country.

Decoding the New Taliban: Insights from the Afghan Field, edited by Giustozzi and recently featured by Steve Coll in the New Yorker examines how the Taliban’s organizational structure and tactics have changed over the past eight years and the ways in which it has remained steadfast in its approach to reclaiming power in Afghanistan. The contributors also review current theories for defeating the strategies and propaganda of the Taliban.

(more…)

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Bertolucci called us a kind of wild cinema university — Toby Talbot in Rorotoko

The New Yorker Theater* There will be a discussion and reception with Toby Talbot for her new book on Thursday, December 3rd at 7:00 pm at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas at 1886 Broadway (at 62nd Street)

Peter Bogdanovich says the New Yorker Theater is where he got his education. Bertolucci called it a “kind of wild cinema university.” Other regular New Yorker attendees from 1960 to 1973, included Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, Jonas Mekas, Susan Sontag, Diane Arbus, Phillip Lopate, and Woody Allen. Manny Farber built the book shelves for the theater’s bookstore.

The story of the legendary Upper West Side theater is recounted by Toby Talbot in her new book The New Yorker Theater and Other Scenes from a Life at the Movies. Talbot recently discussed the book and the theater she started with her husband, Dan Talbot in an essay for Rorotoko.

In it, she discusses the theater’s importance in bringing new works from foreign directors (Fassbinder, Ray, Herzog, Ozu, Godard, Sembene, etc.) to American audiences as well as showcasing forgotten classics. She describes the theater’s unique programming strategy and articulates its important cultural role in New York City life amidst great cultural and political change.

Here’s an excerpt from her essay on Rorotoko:

The New Yorker Theater was what Bertolucci called a kind of wild cinema university, like Henri Langlois’s cinematheque in Paris. It came at a ripe moment—when audiences came to view film as an art form and not just popular entertainment. Moviegoers flocked to the New Yorker not only from the neighborhood and nearby Columbia University but from the five boroughs. They could see Murnau, Eisenstein, Griffith, von Sternberg, Lubitsch, Rossellini and Renoir—what Jean-Paul Sartre called “the frenzy on the screen.” …

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