Monday 31 December 2018

Happy New Year! Cheers!

I wish you a most wonderful, exciting-relaxing, peaceful, sunny 2019, a year with less populism, less ageism, less sexism, less ableism, less homophobia, less islamophobia, less hate, ..., more love, more awareness, more tolerance, more empathy, more courage, more vision, more wisdom. Thank you so much for having dropped by in 2018. Happy New Year! Cheers!

photograph via

Sunday 30 December 2018

Desmond Tutu's Letter to Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1991) and State Counsellor became a "democracy icon who fell from grace". Not only did she not speak out against the genocide taking place in Myanmar. She described the generals in her cabinet as "rather sweet" (via), denied the ethnic cleansing taking place, said the military would operate according to the rule of law (via) and that she had no idea why Muslims were fleeing the country (via).

"I don't think there is ethnic cleansing going on. I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening. I think there is a lot of hostility there - it is Muslims killing Muslims as well, if they think they are co-operating with the authorities." Aung San Suu Kyi
Meanwhile, about 400 villages have been wiped off the map (80% of them in the first three weeks of the military campaign), women are tied to trees and gang-raped, children are assaulted and forced back inside burning houses, people tortured (via), over 725.000 people have been forced to flee to Bangladesh since 25 August 2017 (via and via). In the month after the violence broke out, at least 6.700 Rohingya were killed, at least 730 of them were children under the age of five (via).

There was a discussion whether Aung San Suu Kyi would be stripped of the Nobel Peace Prize and it was decided that she could keep it as the rules did not allow for it to be withdrawn (via). However, Canadian MPs voted to strip her of her honourary citizenship (via), she was stripped of her Freedom of Edinburgh reward, Oxford, Glasgow and Newcastle revoked all honourary awards, Sir Bob Geldof called Aung San Suu Kyi a murderer (via), she lost the Freedom of Paris award, Amnesty International's "Ambassador of Conscience Award" (via), Unison's honourary membership, Sheffield's award, Dublin's award, the honourary presidency of the London School of Economics student union, her name was deleted from an exhibition at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the City of London and the University of Bristol expressed their concerns (via)

My dear Aung San Su Kyi

I am now elderly, decrepit and formally retired, but breaking my vow to remain silent on public affairs out of profound sadness about the plight of the Muslim minority in your country, the Rohingya.

In my heart you are a dearly beloved younger sister. For years I had a photograph of you on my desk to remind me of the injustice and sacrifice you endured out of your love and commitment for Myanmar's people. You symbolised righteousness. In 2010 we rejoiced at your freedom from house arrest, and in 2012 we celebrated your election as leader of the opposition.

Your emergence into public life allayed our concerns about violence being perpetrated against members of the Rohingya. But what some have called 'ethnic cleansing' and others 'a slow genocide' has persisted – and recently accelerated. The images we are seeing of the suffering of the Rohingya fill us with pain and dread.

We know that you know that human beings may look and worship differently – and some may have greater firepower than others – but none are superior and none inferior; that when you scratch the surface we are all the same, members of one family, the human family; that there are no natural differences between Buddhists and Muslims; and that whether we are Jews or Hindus, Christians or atheists, we are born to love, without prejudice. Discrimination doesn't come naturally; it is taught.

My dear sister: If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep. A country that is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country.

It is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country; it is adding to our pain.

As we witness the unfolding horror we pray for you to be courageous and resilient again. We pray for you to speak out for justice, human rights and the unity of your people. We pray for you to intervene in the escalating crisis and guide your people back towards the path of righteousness again.

God bless you.


Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Hermanus, South Africa
September 2017

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photograph by Sumaya Hisham via

Friday 28 December 2018


“Ian” is a short, animated film inspired by the real-life Ian, a boy with a disability determined to get to the playground despite his playmates bullying him. This film sets out to show that children with disabilities can and should be included.


“Ian” started as a mother’s mission to educate her son’s bullies on the playground—one to one. When she realized that the need for inclusion was bigger than one playground, she wrote a book and founded Fundación ian to change thousands of minds and attitudes about people with disabilities. She approached MundoLoco, a top digital animation studio in Latin America, about creating “Ian,” an animated film to deliver the message of inclusion to audiences all over the world. The real Ian is a fourth grader who, like most fourth graders, wants to play with his friends. But because some kids are not used to someone like Ian—someone who has cerebral palsy, uses a wheelchair, and a computer that works with his eye movements to communicate—they bully him and don’t include him when they play. “The film is an opportunity for all society…to break down barriers, walls, and free us from prejudices,” Graschinsky said. The film was crafted to “guide [all children] to acquire concrete tools to be people of solidarity.”
respect ability

image via

Monday 24 December 2018

Just Another Day

Buone feste ... I sincerely wished that those who celebrate Christmas today were not alone, particularly the aged.

"Nearly half of the older people surveyed for Age UK – equating to almost 5.7 million people aged-65 and over – feel their days can be repetitive, almost a quarter of whom (around 1.4 million older people) admitted that Christmas isn't a special day for them and just passes them by.

Based on the survey, the charity estimates that getting on towards a million (873,000) people aged 65 and over don't see or hear from someone for days on end over the festive period. And at Christmas time, on days when older people do not see or hear from anyone, over half (55%) rely on the TV for companionship."
Age UK

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photograph by Bruce Gilden via

Thursday 20 December 2018

Sergio Leone, Italian Western, and Women

"Even in the greatest Westerns, the woman is imposed on the action, as a star, and is generally destined to be “had” by the male lead. But she does not exist as a woman. If you cut her out of the film, in a version which you can imagine, the film becomes much better. In the desert, the essential problem was to survive. Women were an obstacle to survival! Usually, the woman not only holds up the story, but she has no real character, no reality. She is a symbol. She is there without having any reason to be there, simply because one must have a woman, and because the hero must prove, in some way or another, that he has "sex-appeal.""
Sergio Leone (1929-1989)

"My films are often characterized by the lack of women present in them, except for this last one [Once Upon a Time in America]. Would you like to know why I create the women as I do? Well, because I think women have always been considered objects, especially in the genre of westerns. And especially in gangster films, with the gangster’s moll—she would always be more or less of an object. And I’m not convinced of this theory. Because I think even gangsters’ women have brains. They think and even, as we say, have balls.
Virginia Woolf was one example. She was called the “Lover of 100 Gangsters.” Which is why, in the context of westerns, when I used a woman in my films or wrote a woman into my film, I wanted her to be a central point and a motivating point or a catalyst to function in the film. I didn’t want her just to be a woman standing at the window, waving hello and goodbye to men as they came and went in the world that they were struggling through. I wanted her to have a true function.

When I used Claudia [Cardinale] for example, in Once Upon a Time in the West, she represented the birth of American matriarchy. Because women had enormous weight in America. And they still have. Because they are truly the padrone [owners, masters] of America. Therefore, when they are put into a film, I think they have to be put in for a distinct purpose and have a reason to exist. Not as some superficial or gratuitous presence. You see in Once Upon a Time in the West the whole film moves around her [Cardinale]. If you take her out, there’s no more film. She’s the central motor of the entire happening. It’s the same for Deborah [Elizabeth McGovern] and for Carol [Tuesday Weld] [in Once Upon a Time in America]."
Sergio Leone

photographs via and via and via and via and via and via and via

Tuesday 18 December 2018

International Migrants Day

"Migration is a powerful driver of economic growth, dynamism and understanding. It allows millions of people to seek new opportunities, benefiting communities of origin and destination alike.

But when poorly regulated, migration can intensify divisions within and between societies, expose people to exploitation and abuse, and undermine faith in government.
This month, the world took a landmark step forward with the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
Backed with overwhelming support by the membership of the United Nations, the Compact will help us to address the real challenges of migration while reaping its many benefits.
The Compact is people-centered and rooted in human rights.
It points the way toward more legal opportunities for migration and stronger action to crack down on human trafficking.
On International Migrants Day, let us take the path provided by the Global Compact: to make migration work for all."
António Guterres

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photograph by Dorothea Lange via

Saturday 15 December 2018

International Tea Day

"If you think this holiday was about drinking tea, well think again! International Tea Day is all about the tea workers and bringing civil rights into action." (via)

Many of the people employed by the tea industry are women. In Malawi, for instance, 75% of the 15.000 smallholder tea farmers are women (via). In Assam, which accounts for more than 51% of India's tea production, it is primarily women who pick tea leaves (via). The same is true for China and Taiwan (via). The feminisation of tea plantations started in the early twentieth century through "the large-scale deployment of cheap female and child labour in the labour-intensive task of plucking leaves". This was the only Indian industry that employed more women than men (Sen, 2002).
Picking the tea leaves is backbreaking work, involving long hours, and it is done primarily by women. Children, adolescent girls and women in these communities are at risk of poor overall growth and development, especially due to high levels of anaemia and malnutrition. They suffer a high disease burden and high mortality; their levels of education are low; and children are likely to marry early. Their total dependence on the tea industry makes them vulnerable to exploitation and limits their participation in mainstream development.

In Japan, tea culture is said to have encouraged social stratification as it had been mainly practiced by elite classes. However, it has also been extended to middle-class non-working women who learn "feminine gracefulnesss" and etiquette. This goes back to the times Japan "opened its doors to westernization, when Japanese girls' education became one of the systems through which the government attempted to preserve its sense of nationalism" (Nakagawa, 2015)
Featuring different sado etiquettes in public school textbooks, the Japanese government specifically focused on girls because Minister Kabayama Sukenori believed that as future house makers, women were responsible for building the foundations of the nation, and therefore it was their duty to “nourish a warm and chaste character and the most beautiful and elevated temperament” (Surak 2013:74). On the other hand, the tea ceremony only appeared briefly in boys’ textbooks as a recreational hobby. This was because with the rise of industrial society, all men were expected to work. They no longer had time for aesthetic pursuits. Thus began the nationalization of sado as a feminine culture and its rise as an integrated part of Japanese identity. Nakagawa, 2015
In the eighteenth century, tea became part of British culture by transforming it "from an exotic luxury consumed primarily by men in public coffeehouses to a necessity of everyday life enjoyed by both men and women in the private, domestic space of the home" (Fromer, 2008). Not unlike Japan, tea drinking was marked by social categories, a middle-class position with a certain income level, the social knowledge and manners to set the table and (female) hands to perform the necessary labour. "The tea table thus mediated between men and women in Victorian culture and reaffirmed the ideological division of labor within the middle-classe household." (via)
From the time the British discovered tea, they have had a somewhat unnatural affiliation with the drink. They started wars over it, pause during battles to enjoy it... Lo, 2008
Tea is often cultivated by ethnic minorities as it is grown in mountainous parts of countries that are mainly inhabited by ethnic groups (Eto, 2015)
Particularly in Assam the process of ethnicity and identity has been becoming a burning problem with political development and raising aspiration of the communities after independence.
Large section of these elites believes that the people of this social group must develop or form a single common identity for themselves. In their consideration „Tea Tribe‟ is the most suitable identity which can prestigiously cover every section of this social group. Over the years different organizations and people belonging to this group have been increasingly advocating this identity by various means. They are promoting a common Tea labor feeling, developing a common language namely Sadri, seeking political safe-guards and also by preserving common culture that is tea culture within Assamese society. Eto, 2015
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- Eto, H. (2015). Comprehensive Study of Tea Culture and Its Possible Contribution to Creativity Education in Locals. International Journal of Research in Sociology and Anthropology, 1(1), 53-63.
- Fromer, J. E. (2008). "Deeply Indebted to the Tea-Plant": Representations of English National Identity in Victorian Histories of Tea. Victorian Literature and Culture, 36, 531-547.
- Nakagawa, E. (2015). Exporting a National Identity: Green Tea's Entrance into the Global Food Network. Senior Capstone Project, Paper 457, link
- Sen, S. (2002). Questions of Consent: Women's Recruitment for Assam Tea Gardens, 1859-1900. Studies in History, 18(2), 231-260.
- photographs by Martin Parr via and via

Tuesday 11 December 2018

Harper Valley PTA (Jeannie C. Riley, 1968)

I want to tell you all a story 'bout a Harper Valley widowed wife Who had a teenage daughter who attended Harper Valley Junior High Well her daughter came home one afternoon and didn't even stop to play She said, "Mom, I got a note here from the Harper Valley P.T.A."

::: Harper Valley PTA (Parent Teacher Association): LISTEN/WATCH

The note said, "Mrs. Johnson, you're wearing your dresses way too high It's reported you've been drinking and a-runnin' 'round with men and going wild And we don't believe you ought to be bringing up your little girl this way" It was signed by the secretary, Harper Valley P.T.A.

Well, it happened that the P.T.A. was gonna meet that very afternoon They were sure surprised when Mrs. Johnson wore her mini-skirt into the room And as she walked up to the blackboard, I still recall the words she had to say She said, "I'd like to address this meeting of the Harper Valley P.T.A."

Well, there's Bobby Taylor sittin' there and seven times he's asked me for a date Mrs. Taylor sure seems to use a lot of ice whenever he's away And Mr. Baker, can you tell us why your secretary had to leave this town? And shouldn't widow Jones be told to keep her window shades all pulled completely down?

Well, Mr. Harper couldn't be here 'cause he stayed too long at Kelly's Bar again And if you smell Shirley Thompson's breath, you'll find she's had a little nip of gin Then you have the nerve to tell me you think that as a mother I'm not fit Well, this is just a little Peyton Place and you're all Harper Valley hypocrites

No I wouldn't put you on because it really did, it happened just this way The day my Mama socked it to the Harper Valley P.T.A. The day my Mama socked it to the Harper Valley P.T.A.

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photograph of Jeannie C. Riley via, lyrics via

Friday 7 December 2018

"... to be courageously different." Liza Minnelli's Love Letter to the LGBT community

Where would I be without the LGBTQ community of dazzling souls who have always supported and understood me on a level that is unique and extraordinary? From my earliest memories I understood that some people were different, especially when I met so many of the creative people who were working on films made by my mother and father. In the 'golden' age of Hollywood, many could not be themselves in the workplace and live their true nature, yet it was their creativity that fashioned the dreams of Hollywood and the world. And they were my friends. I learned that 'different' meant many things: freedom, oppression, celebration, sadness, responsibility, hiding, protesting, sharing, but most of all being true to one’s self no matter the price.

Today I celebrate all the special people, past and present, who made it possible for me to be here and to be courageously different. Their examples have shaped me, and without them, my life would be empty. Happy and joyous Pride!
Liza Minnelli (2017)

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photograph by Henry Grossman (1970) via

Wednesday 5 December 2018

Quoting Charles Bronson

"Maybe I'm too masculine. Casting directors cast in their own, or an idealized image. Maybe I don't look like anybody's ideal."
Charles Bronson

photograph of Charles Bronson (1921-2003) and Jill Ireland (1936-1990), taken in 1975 via

Monday 3 December 2018

Shop Mannequins, Weight, and Body Image

"We became interested in this topic after seeing some news report about members of the general public noticing that some mannequins in fashion stores were disturbingly thin. Around the same time we had also read news coverage that fashion retailers had responded to this concern and adopted more appropriate sized mannequins, so it felt like an interesting research question to examine. Our survey of these two high streets in the UK produced consistent results; the body size of female mannequins represented that of extremely underweight human women."
Eric Robinson

"Mannequins communicate more than we might think about attitudes to body image in any given era." Lucy Wallis
In the early 20th century, there was a more diverse range of body types which was also reflected by shop mannequins; larger ones were a "hangover from the Victorian era". Pierre Iman's mannequins were flat-chested with a pear shape and wide hips, three were size 46 (UK 18) and looked middle-aged. In the 1930s, mannequins became more uniform in size and embodying the then beauty ideals. In the 1950s, their waistlines were small, hips rounded, busts were high and shoulder were sloping. And in the noughties, a decade defined by cosmetic surgery, slim mannequins got sort of breast implants, too (via). Mannequins have been used for a relatively long time. The notion that their size can impact women's (and growingly men's) attitude to their body image and have a negative effect on their satisfaction due to social comparison, however, is largely unexplored (Cohen, 2014).
"We of course are not saying that altering the size of high street fashion mannequins will on its own 'solve' body image problems. What we are instead saying is that presentation of ultra-thin female bodies is likely to reinforce inappropriate and unobtainable body ideals, so as a society we should be taking measures to stop this type of reinforcement. Given that the prevalence of body image problems and disordered eating in young people is worryingly high, positive action that challenges communication of ultra-thin ideal may be of particular benefit to children, adolescents and young adult females."
Eric Robinson
Findings of an online survey carried out among 325 women aged between 18 and 75 indicate that it is primarily women with a higher, "non-ideal" Body Mass Index who compare themselves with mannequins displayed in shop windows. And the greater the discrepancy between their and the mannequin's body, the more thin bodies are idealised and the more their body dissatisfaction grows (Cohen, 2014).

"One of the big – and I’ve been talking about this forever – is it all becomes invisible in a way because we're so used to it, and if its brought to people's attention, that sort of breaks through the clutter. I think it's pretty freakish for ribs to be showing."
Jean Kilbourne, former model and body image advocate

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- Cohen, A. (2014). Mannequin Size on Consumers' Perception of Self and Satisfaction with Fit. University of South Carolina, link
- Robinson, E. & Aveyard, P. (2017). Emaciated mannequins: a study of mannequin body size in high street fashion stores. Journal of Eating Disorders, 5(1), ScienceDaily
- More: What an unusual Swedish mannequin reveals about body image, Washington Post, read
- More: Life imitates art: How shop mannequins have influenced body image, read
- photograph by Ernst Haas via

Sunday 2 December 2018

I Am Woman (Helen Reddy, 1971)

"I couldn't find any songs that said what I thought being woman was about. I thought about all these strong women in my family who had gotten through the Depression and world wars and drunken, abusive husbands. But there was nothing in music that reflected that.
The only songs were 'I Feel Pretty' or that dreadful song 'Born A Woman'. (The 1966 hit by Sandy Posey had observed that if you're born a woman "you're born to be stepped on, lied to, cheated on and treated like dirt. I'm glad it happened that way".) These are not exactly empowering lyrics. I certainly never thought of myself as a songwriter, but it came down to having to do it."
Helen Reddy

"Women have always been objectified in showbiz. I'd be the opening act for a comic and as I was leaving the stage he'd say, 'Yeah, take your clothes off and wait for me in the dressing room, I'll be right there'. It was demeaning and humiliating for any woman to have that happen publicly."
Helen Reddy

"I remember lying in bed one night and the words, 'I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman', kept going over and over in my head. That part I consider to be divinely inspired. I had been chosen to get a message across."
Helen Reddy

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back and pretend
'Cause I've heard it all before
And I've been down there on the floor
No one's ever going to keep me down again

Whoa, yes, I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained

If I have to I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman

You can bend but never break me
'Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I'll come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
'Cause you've deepened the conviction in my soul

Whoa, yes, I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained

If I have to I can do anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman

I am woman, watch me grow
See me standing toe-to-toe
As I spread my loving arms across the land
But I'm still an embryo
With a long, long way to go
Until I make my brother understand

Whoa, yes, I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained

If I have to I can face anything
I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman

Oh, I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong
I am woman
I am invincible
I am strong
I am woman

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photograph of Helen Reddy via, lyrics via

Saturday 1 December 2018

Federico Fellini, Projections, and City of Women

"Man has always been unsure of women. A woman for a man is the part that he doesn’t know about himself, so he’s always afraid of her. He feels weak and vulnerable with her, because she may cause him to lose his identity. Just by projecting the part of himself that he doesn’t know on a woman, he loses a lot of himself. (...)

And then, for centuries, man took advantage of women to avenge himself for what he had suffered for thousands of years. Now women want to be considered as persons, not as mere projections, and their attempt to escape the image to which man has confined them frightens man. But finally he understands that he won’t be free until women are free as well. I tried to show all that in City of Women."
Federico Fellini, 1986

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photograph of Federico Fellini, Marcello Mastroianni and Jean Shrimpton taken for Vogue by David Bailey in 1963 via