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The Hunter: Reconsidering Shintaro Ishihara Part 2

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 22/05/2022 - 3:38pm in

Tags 

culture, Politics

Published in Japan Forward 20/5/2022

In September 1973, Ishihara and his wife travelled to Scotland where he led an all-Japanese team in search of the Loch Ness monster. Candidates had been recruited through an advertisement in a sports newspaper. Altogether, three thousand people applied, with the numbers being whittled down to eleven, two women and nine men.

It was a considerable operation, using the latest technology of the time. The Nessie hunters spent two months exploring the mysterious Loch, clocking a total of 70 hours underwater at temperatures close to freezing point. According to one team-member, the precipitate-rich water was as murky as coffee.

Nessie, Yoshio Kou and Ishihara Nessie, Yoshio Kou and Ishihara: Tokyo press conference

The future Governor of Tokyo was strongly encouraged in his efforts by a future prime minister, Takeo Fukuda, who was likely instrumental in raising the necessary funds from friendly companies.  Reportedly, the total cost of the expedition was Yen 150 million in 1973 money, which is equivalent to Yen 390 million or $3 million today.

THE KAKU-FUKU WAR

As a young bureaucrat, Fukuda had been seconded to the Japanese embassy in London in the 1930s. He had fond memories of the worldwide excitement when some blurry photos of the monster were published in the British press.

More to the point, he had strong current-day political motivation for backing the project. An establishment man to his fingertips, he was locked in a battle for control of the governing Liberal Democratic Party with Kakuei Tanaka, a brilliant, but more than usually corrupt populist.

If  Fukuda wanted to win the “Kaku-Fuku war”, he would need to match Tanaka’s undoubted charisma with some star power on his side. Ishihara had that in spades.

Manga depiction of the "Kakufuku war; Tanaka on the left, Fukuda on the right Manga depiction of the “Kakufuku war”; Tanaka on the left, Fukuda on the right

Ishihara had been an elected parliamentarian since 1968, but in the much less powerful Upper House, home to several celebrities who contributed little to political debate. His ambitions were much bigger than that. He was already committed to resigning and standing for election in the Lower House, where all the political heavyweights sat.

He had somewhat modified his political views, or at least the way he expressed them. In his late twenties, he had opposed the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. Indeed, he was a founding member of the “Young Japan Society”, an anti-Treaty organisation which included such radical luminaries as composer Toru Takemitsu, novelist Kenzaburo Oe and Shuji Terayama, the Pied Piper of the Japanese underground. Now that he was a serious politician, Ishihara accepted the presence of the American military as a necessary evil.

From Fukuda’s point of view, the key point was that Ishihara detested Kakuei Tanaka and the crude “money politics” that he represented. And indeed when the prosecutors finally nailed Tanaka in 1977, Fukuda became Prime Minister and Ishihara was given the cabinet post of Minister of the Environment.

Ishihara's best-seller about Tanaka Ishihara’s best-seller about Tanaka

In 2016, he was to change his assessment of Tanaka, Although suffering from the aftereffects of a stroke that prevented him from writing by hand, Ishihara published a novelized version of Tanaka’s life called “Genius”. The book, which sold over 900,000 copies, lauded Tanaka’s achievements and ascribed his downfall to American scheming.

THE AMAZING MR. KOU

Why did Ishihara take on the Loch Ness project? The short answer is because of the persuasive skills of impresario and Ishihara friend, Yoshio Kou.

A half-Chinese, half-Japanese graduate of the University of Tokyo’s philosophy department, Kou has a bottomless barrel of chutzpah and is still very much active today. In the nineteen seventies, he was in his prime, coming up with a series of ever more outrageous stunts.

The best known is the 1977 match-up between boxing legend Muhammed Ali and Antonio Inoki, Japan’s number one professional wrestler at the time. Honours were shared as Inoki spent most of the time crawling on the ground while Ali kicked him in the shins.

More controversial was the saga of “Oliver-kun” (“young Oliver”), supposedly a “humanzee” with chromosomes that made him a missing link between chimps and humans. Kou flew Oliver to Japan on a chartered plane in 1976 and lodged him in a V.I.P. suite at an expensive hotel. Sensationally, Kou had advertised for young ladies to further the cause of science by attempting to reproduce with Oliver. The promised success fee was Yen 10 million (Yen 26 million, or $200,000 in today’s money).

Dozens of applications were received but the authorities swiftly moved to halt the experiment, as Kou very well knew they would. As far as he was concerned, it was already mission accomplished. He had set off a media firestorm and cashed in hugely.

Manga depiction of Oliver with Yoshio Kou Manga depiction of Oliver with Yoshio Kou

His next project was a fight between a karate champion and a tiger, to be held in Haiti, the only place willing to stage the event. The way Kou tells the story, he was in Port-au-Prince with the karate-ka and the tiger when a last minute intervention by animal-lover Brigitte Bardot caused the contest to be cancelled.

Likewise, his other brainwave, a fight between Antonio Inoki and Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, was derailed by a coup d’état.

Oliver, believed to have been born in the Congo in 1960, passed away in 2012. It comes as no surprise to learn that he was just a regular chimpanzee.

TALES OF MYSTERY AND ADVENTURE

Kou would have had little difficulty in persuading Ishihara to hunt the Loch Ness monster because at the time adventure was in the air. Popular heroes were people like Naomi Uemura, the first man to reach the North Pole solo, the first to raft the Amazon solo and the first to climb Mount McKinley (now called Denari) solo.

Then there was Kenichi Horie who became the first man to make a solo non-stop Pacific crossing by sail. He did it at the age of 21, docking in San Francisco with no passport and no money.

Ishihara himself had been head of operations for daredevil skier Yuichiro Miura’s astonishing descent of Mount Everest’s Southern Col, memorialized in the Oscar-winning documentary “The Man who Skied Down Everest.”

Back in 1960, Ishihara had created his own adventure, leading a 10,000 kilometre coast-to-coast rally across the South American continent, using Subaru “Rabbit” scooters.

Ishihara loved unlikely adventures, but there was more to it than that. In keeping with the spirit of the age, like many of his contemporaries, he was fascinated by supernatural and inexplicable phenomena as well. He was a member of the JFSA (Japan Flying Saucer Research Association), as was his senpai (senior) Yukio Mishima, whose novel Beautiful Star is about a family of aliens living in Saitama.

Publicity-savvy Kou marketed the Loch Ness project as “the democratization of adventuring,” given that most of the team were ordinary citizens – including a student and a night-club singer. Not everyone was convinced. “What an idiotic way to spend money,” sniffed the Voice of the People, Voice of Heaven column in the Asahi Shimbun, as self-righteous as ever.

The reaction of the British media was worse. Channelling the jovial racism of the day, one publication introduced the story with “Nips Nab Nessie.” Likewise, there was a frosty reception from British monster-hunters, a set of eccentrics who guarded the object of their obsession with jealousy.

In the end, no monster was found, just a large eel. Ishihara described the experience in a long and entertaining article for Bungei Shunju which touched on many themes dear to his heart.

Europeans disrespected all non-whites, he declared. There would have been no brouhaha about the expedition if the monster-hunters had been German. Referencing the controversy over Emperor Hirohito’s UK visit of 1971, he doubted that Queen Elizabeth would apologize for the Opium Wars if she visited China.

Yes, the supersonic Concorde was impressive, but what about Morgan sportscars, much loved by snobby Japanese Anglophiles? Ishihara had bought one and it kept breaking down.

On the monster itself, Ishihara starts as a sceptic: almost certainly the creature does not exist, but as long as there remains a tiny possibility, it is worth searching. After all, it was only a few decades ago that the coelacanth, previously assumed long extinct, was found alive in the depths of the Indian Ocean.

 Ishihara and his wife at centre On Loch Ness: Ishihara and his wife at centre

As time passes, he moves to a more philosophical position. The monster has become part of the culture of the area and the local people take it seriously – just as the Japanese find nothing odd or amusing about the twenty-year cycle of rebuilding Ise Shrine to rehouse the deity.

The unvarnished authenticity of the local lads who help the Japanese team with their equipment impressed him deeply. Hence the last line of his essay – “Yes, there is a monster alive in the waters of Loch Ness.”

That was the last Japan would see of Ishihara the Hemingway-esque adventurer. His life was about to change dramatically as he plunged into the world of high politics.

Regarding Japan’s amazing solo adventurers, Kenichi Hori, is just completing another Pacific crossing at the age of 83.

Yuichiro Miura climbed Everest at the age of 80 in 2013, setting a record that will be tough to beat. In April 2022, he retired from his position as headmaster of the Clark Memorial High School in Hokkaido.

Naomi Uemura died in 1984 on McKinley, attempting a second conquest of the mountain in mid-winter. After reaching the summit, he disappeared on the descent. His body has never been found.

Uemura on the way to the North Pole Uemura on the way to the North Pole

To be continued

Laugh at Tucker Carlson’s Tanning Testicles Doc All You Want, But the Bulging Muscles and Potent Sperm Imagery is a Fascist Dream

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/05/2022 - 6:40am in

Sculpted, sweating, bare torsos doing push-ups, bulging muscles, two scantily-clad men locked in a fight—they,...

The Provocateur: Reconsidering Shintaro Ishihara

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 14/05/2022 - 12:17am in

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culture, Politics

Published in Japan Forward 8/5/2022

Shintaro Ishihara, four times elected governor of Tokyo, prize-winning literary novelist and outspoken nationalist, passed away in February this year.

Most of the English language obituaries were perfunctory at best, concentrating on his later political career and the various verbal outrages that, it seems, he needed to commit from time to time.

In fact, Ishihara was a much bigger and more complicated man than that.

A man who won Japan’s pre-eminent literary prize at the age of 23; who was involved in over forty Japanese films; who directed the Japanese segment of an international omnibus film that featured directors of the calibre of François Truffaut and Andrzej Wajda.

In the early seventies, he spent two months hunting for the Loch Ness monster, specimens of which were to be presented to Queen Elizabeth and Emperor Hirohito, on the assumption that more than one would be found lurking in the lake.

Ishihara, producer Yoshio Kou and team at Loch Ness Ishihara, producer Yoshio Kou and team at Loch Ness

Ishihara professed to dislike foreigners but was pro-immigration and set up a consultative committee of foreign residents while Governor of Tokyo. A Francophile who used a quotation from Mallarmé as the epigraph of one of his earliest stories, he mocked the French for their unusual system of counting numbers above sixty.

He was a high-profile celebrity for most of his life, a serious yachtsman, a believer in flying saucers and like many of us, a mass of contradictions. Most of all, he was a natural provocateur, of the kind that thrived in 1960s Japan, but is much less welcome in today’s world.

Whatever you think of him, he deserves a much fuller account of his life and times.

THE SUN TRIBE

In accordance with his wishes, Ishihara’s charred bones were cast into the water off the Shonan coast in Kanagawa Prefecture a few weeks ago.

It was an apt choice. That area was the setting of the novel, “Taiyo no Kisetsu” (“Season of the Sun”), that won him the prestigious Akutagawa Prize in 1956 and propelled him to nationwide fame. He and his film star brother, Yujiro, the James Dean of Japan, came to personify the sun, sex and boating lifestyle of the hedonistic youngsters of the era.

Japanese subcultures often carry the suffix “zoku”, meaning “tribe”, and the Shonan party people became known as “Taiyo-zoku” (“Sun Tribe”), in honour of Shintaro Ishihara’s sensational literary debut. The two Ishihara brothers essentially created the “Taiyo-zoku” boom as a media and actual phenomenon.

The Ishihara brothers, elder brother Shintaro on the left The Ishihara brothers, elder brother Shintaro on the left

I was invited to a private dinner with Shintaro Ishihara in the mid-1990s. An ordinary parliamentarian at the time, he wanted to hear about the bad loan crisis then engulfing the Japanese banking system. In person, he was charming and physically impressive, tall for a Japanese and still in possession of his youthful good looks.

Our conversation ranged far and wide, with Ishihara displaying a great breadth of knowledge, but also enjoying the opportunity to let loose a few outrageous comments. One, comparing the facial features of the Japanese prime minister of the time to an item of male genitalia, had me wondering whether I had heard correctly. The only other person in the room, an Ishihara friend, provided some American street slang as confirmation.

The conversation moved on to “The Japan That Can Say No,” the potboiler that Ishihara had authored with Akio Morita, the formidable founder of Sony, at the zenith of Japan’s bubble economy.

The CIA had gone to the length of illicitly translating the book into English. Ishihara had pranked them beautifully with his suggestion that Japan should sell its most advanced semiconductors to the Soviet Union unless the U.S. ceased complaining about Japanese trading practices.

“Forget about that thing,” he said, dismissing it with a wave of the hand. “You should read my early novels.”

PIERCING THE PAPER SCREEN

I did. His first was written in the same year as the James Dean movie “Rebel Without a Cause” was released. The Taiyo-zoku are also thrill-seeking rebels who brawl, drink and have promiscuous sex, much to the consternation of their weak, disrespected parents.

The father of Tatsuya, the hero of “Season of the Sun”, invites his son to thump him in the stomach, then doubles up in pain, whining that he hadn’t expected the blow to be so hard.

The mother of one of Tatsuya’s friends takes a lover to spite her philandering husband. When the son finds out, he kicks her in the face, much to the approval of his Taiyo-zoku pals, who consider it a manly deed.

Ishihara writes “the adult world feared them as a dangerous force, second only to communism…in the young people’s eyes, the reward of virtue was dullness and vanity…the young looked for something broad and fresh to build on.”

Tatsuya and Eiko in a scene from "Season of the Sun Tatsuya and Eiko in a scene from “Season of the Sun”

They don’t find it.  Unlike the hero of “Rebel Without a Cause”, Tatsuya and his friends come from privileged backgrounds and are pack animals, not loners. Their nihilism, destructive of themselves and others, is more reminiscent of the morally numb Meursault, the hero of Albert Camus’ “The Stranger”, than the mixed-up but sensitive character played by James Dean.

“Season of the Sun” contains plenty of shadow. Eiko, the main female character, was traumatized by the loss of two favourite cousins who died in the war when she was a little girl. After a lover died in an accident, she became “determined to take from men and give nothing in return….all  men were just trophies for her bedroom.”

She meets her match in the callous Tatsuya, who sells his relationship with her to his older brother for five thousand yen.

In the follow-up novel, “Crazed Fruit” a similarly beguiling young beauty sleeps with two brothers while being married to a middle-aged American sugar-daddy. Both stories end in disaster and death.

Yujiro Ishihara (in back) ready to take over his brother's girlfriend Yujiro Ishihara (in back) ready to take over his brother’s girlfriend

One startling image symbolizes the collapse of values after the lost war and the American Occupation. While his mother cooks dinner, the naked Tatsuya returns from the shower and thrusts his erection through the thin white paper of the shoji lattice door, behind which Eiko awaits him.

Raw desire has ripped the delicate filigree of traditional social life to shreds.

ULTRA VIOLENCE

The film versions of the two stories were smash hits, with “Crazed Fruit” featuring Yujiro Ishihara in his first starring role and Shintaro in a bit part. It is by far the more accomplished film. According to critic Mark Mohan, it has the style and theme of the French nouvelle vague, despite being released several years before Truffaut and Godard had made their first films.

The most problematic of the Taiyo-zoku films is “The Punishment Room”, adapted from an early Ishihara short story by noted director Kon Ichikawa and his script-writer wife Natto Wada. The original story depicts an ordinary student called Katsumi who takes the Taiyo-zoku philosophy to an extreme by engaging in date-rape and unmotivated attacks on American soldiers.

“I do exactly what I feel like doing” he declares. “That’s all I know  – that’s all I’m able to do.” The retribution of his fellow students is sickeningly violent and prefigures the murderous internecine battles of Japan’s student radicals in the late sixties and early seventies. The film version is only slightly less brutal.

Altogether, Ishihara was involved in over forty films between 1956 and 1972, mostly as writer of the source material and / or script, but occasionally as actor, director, or composer and sometimes singer of the theme song.

For my money, by far best of them is “Pale Flower”, an existential gangster film much esteemed by Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese, who has apparently watched it over thirty times.

From the opening monologue of the world-weary protagonist to the deadly climax, reinforced by the soaring voices of Henry Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” opera, the viewer is swept along by the characters and the inevitability of their tragic fate.

Muraki, in his immaculately tailored suit, must be the best dressed yakuza in the world. The mysterious, thrill-seeking woman who he meets at the gambling table looks as if she has just arrived from another planet. The cinematography is extraordinary, as is Toru Takemitsu’s dissonant soundtrack.

LEFT MEETS RIGHT WITHOUT GOING THROUGH THE MIDDLE

Director Masahiro Shinoda is a celebrated auteur who was in his prime in the 1960s and early 1970s.  In an interview about the film, he commented that there were only two novelists capable of encapsulating the frustration that young Japanese felt about their country’s loss of agency during the Cold War. Those two were Kenzaburo Oe and Shintaro Ishihara.

From today’s perspective, it seems an unlikely pairing. Oe, awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1994, is a prominent leftist intellectual who at the time greatly admired Mao Tse Tung. He even severed all relations with his friend and fellow novelist Kobo Abe, who was not as enthused by the Cultural Revolution.

Ishihara, of course, was a man of the right. But such categories were not so clear cut in that era, when the most important thing of all was not to be boring. There were communalities between the anti-establishment right and the anti-establishment left – in matters of politics, art and lifestyle.

Ishihara with Mishima Ishihara with Mishima

For example, Yukio Mishima dialogued with Shuji Terayama, leader of an underground theatre troupe, and created Noh plays with contemporary settings. In the world of film, the first director to challenge the restrictions on nudity was the right wing avant gardiste Tetsuji Takeji, known for the anti-American “Black Snow” and “Daydream”, an erotic Junichiro Tanizaki story which he filmed three times, the last version featuring non-simulated sexual activity.

An admirer of French surrealist Jean Cocteau, Ishihara was often to be seen at avant garde events in Shinjuku and elsewhere.  As he wrote in a contemporaneous article for Bungei Shunju, he and Mishima were both users of Haiminaru (ハイミナール) the Japanese slang for methaqualone, known familiarly in the West as “ludes”, “mandies” or “disco biscuits”.

Though widely used as a recreational drug, it was legal almost everywhere at the time. In Japan, where it was manufactured under licence by Eisai Pharmaceutical, you didn’t even need a prescription.

In short, there would have been nothing strange about a young lion of Japanese new wave cinema praising Ishihara’s artistic vision. Indeed, he was to be involved –  as scriptwriter and writer of the source material – in two more Shinoda films.

Ishihara helped to mould the era, and the era helped to mould him.

To be continued

Water-Guzzling Yards Are Getting a Celebrity Makeover

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 13/05/2022 - 6:00pm in

They bought the house of their dreams in Winter Park, Florida. There was just one problem.

“Our yard is lifeless,” says homeowner Brian Lewis, nudging a toe across the stony landscape. “So much gravel.”

Lewis and his family are standing in their yard while a landscaping crew looks on with shovels poised. The crew is about to give the place a complete overhaul, replacing the gravel and the dry, depleted soil beneath with nutritious black compost into which they’ll plant a variety of attractive greenery that will provide a haven for bees and butterflies.

There is also a film crew present. The Lewis’ lawn makeover is being documented on Flip My Florida Yard, a reality TV series that features households having their yards “flipped” by professional landscapers, transforming bare, haggard lawns into environmentally friendly oases. The show visits homes across Florida, from small urban developments and coastal, waterfront residences, to multi-acre rural properties.

The Lewis family's yard, mid-transformationThe Lewis family’s yard, mid-transformation. Credit: Crawford Entertainment.
The same yard once the renovation is completeThe same yard once the renovation is complete. Credit: Crawford Entertainment.

The series has many of the elements typical of an HGTV-style home makeover show: A charismatic makeover team led by presenter and Emmy Award-winning director Chad Crawford, the time pressure of just eight hours to transform the locations, and a big reveal at the end of the day when homeowners return to see their renovated yards.

Flip My Florida Yard is the brainchild of Crawford, who says it was when he was doing an episode on lawn makeovers for another of his TV series, How To Do Florida, that he realized how popular the topic was — and the scope that interest provides to encourage positive environmental action. 

“Everybody has something about their yard they want to fix,” he says. “Everybody has this desire to have someone else come in and show them what to do … We see these major environmental issues going on around us that a lot of us have no control over, but we as Floridians can control our yards. We can be environmentalists right outside our front door. That’s really what the show’s about.”

A central aim of the series is to show Florida homeowners how to conserve water, an issue that’s becoming increasingly important as the state’s population swells. Over the next four years, Florida is expected to gain an average of almost 310,000 people annually, “analogous to adding a city about the size of Orlando every year,” say demographers. Between 2010 and 2070, it is estimated Florida will gain 15 million residents.

That growth is straining the state’s water supply, with water demands anticipated to rise at least 100 percent by 2070. Sprawling development patterns and traditional landscaping, which is often dominated by water-guzzling varieties of turfgrass, contribute to much of that demand. 

That’s where Flip My Florida Yard comes in.

The landscaping methods used on the show were developed by the University of Florida’s Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program, in partnership with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. They emphasize planting mostly native shrubs and grasses, which tend to require less water and less fertilizer, replacing portions of turfgrass with shrubbery beds, and installing water-efficient irrigation systems. 

Chad Crawford at workChad Crawford on location at a Flip My Florida Yard shoot. Credit: Crawford Entertainment. 

A recent study from the University of Florida found that “Florida-friendly” landscapes conserve 70 percent more water than traditional landscapes in their first year, and more than 80 percent over three subsequent years. That can mean substantial savings for homeowners on their water bills.

And they don’t have to devote extra time to caring for their yards, according to Tom Wichman, assistant director of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program, who says the study also found that mowing traditional landscapes and hand-weeding Florida-friendly ones took about the same time. Over the longer-term, he added, the latter should actually take less time given that more mature plants will shade out the area beneath, reducing the volume of weeds.

Ultimately, the point of Flip My Florida Yard is to show homeowners how simple it can be to create and maintain a Florida-friendly lawn. 

“People are a little scared because they just don’t know where to begin,” says Wichman. “But it doesn’t have to be a huge project and it doesn’t have to be all at once.”

Every episode brings in an agent from the local Extension office, which offers free resources and advice to homeowners on caring for Florida-friendly lawns. The statewide Extension program, run by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, is “the best-kept secret out there,” according to Wichman, who says too few people know that it exists.

The show is helping to change that. While it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much impact Flip My Florida Yard is having relative to simultaneous awareness-raising efforts taking place, the Extension program has seen a significant uptick in traffic to its websites and other online resources since it began airing, and increased engagement with Extension agents around the state. 

Flip My Florida Yard will gain a wider audience in its next season, which will premiere on PBS. The idea, says Crawford, is to return to some of the flipped yards to see how they’ve developed. He hopes allowing viewers to see how Florida-friendly lawns look over time will start to change entrenched ideas of what “good landscaping” means.

Florida-friendly landscape signFlorida-friendly landscapes have been found to conserve 70 percent more water than traditional landscapes in their first year alone. Credit: Crawford Entertainment.

“We have a standard in our mind that I call the pig-and-parsley standard,” he says. “You have the house, which is the pig, and then you have the parsley, which is the hedge that goes around the house. Everything else is green grass. In our mind, that’s good landscaping.” 

A Florida-friendly yard, on the other hand, features much more plant variety, which looks more aesthetically pleasing and has the added benefit of cooling and filtering pollutants from the air, improving soil quality and attracting pollinators.

“The goal here is to recapture and reestablish some of the biodiversity we’ve lost in our yards,” says Crawford. “When you have all that grass and just that shrubbery against the house, what you’ve lost is a lot of what was there before that house.”

Whether they’re actively thinking about biodiversity or not, Florida homeowners tend to be very enthusiastic about plants that attract butterflies, birds and bees to their yards, according to Dr. Laura Warner, a behavioral scientist at the University of Florida who studies sustainable landscape practices.

They are also very willing to purchase low-water-consuming plants, one study showed. The same study also found that, when it comes to water conservation, Florida residents are most interested in learning about the issue as it relates to their own gardens and lawns — and least interested in larger-scale conservation efforts like watershed restoration and management. That’s because people tend to feel less motivated about issues that seem more abstract to them, says Warner. 

“You really have a personal relationship with what happens in your yard,” she says. “You may enjoy the wildlife that comes there, you may enjoy the flowers, the different amenities that the landscape can offer you. As ideas get more removed from us, we feel less of a connection.”

But Flip My Florida Yard is not about forcing that connection. The series is about showing people how to be responsible stewards of the piece of land that’s right in front of them, whether it’s five acres or five square feet, says Crawford.

“When you connect with your yard, you connect with nature,” he says. “There’s something that happens there from a quality of life [perspective], from a mental perspective, that’s hard to quantify. And that’s the big change we’re seeing. We’re seeing the environmental impact of that yard, less water, fewer chemicals, but there’s also a life impact that it’s having on a family. To me, that’s really, really cool.”

The post Water-Guzzling Yards Are Getting a Celebrity Makeover appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

And Now, a Little Inspiration

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 02/05/2022 - 6:00pm in

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culture

What unites us? How do we overcome our divisions and differences? Can we discover ways to bridge the chasms that separate us? What tools can we turn to?

Amid the turmoil of 2020’s U.S. elections, we launched a project devoted to exploring these questions. We called it We Are Not Divided — a cheeky name, but cheeky with a purpose. We wanted to encourage readers to rethink and reexamine their assumptions about how divided we really need to be.

We recently decided now is an opportune time to revisit those stories.

Over these next few months, we’re republishing stories from We Are Not Divided. You can find the previous editions here, here and here. Each month, we’ll select three articles that feel relevant to the moment, and each month’s roundup has a loose theme. This month’s theme is inspiration. So prepare yourself for a heady dose of optimism — and a bike ride through a Trump-voting neighborhood with our founder, David Byrne.

We’re Closer Than We Realize

The notion that our common bonds are wearing away obscures a simple truth: difference and division are not the same thing. In this essay, bridging expert john a. powell and advocate Rachel Heydemann argue, “We can transcend the notion that difference divides us, and instead see that it makes us stronger.”

The Idea That Still Unites Us

A rowdy, opinionated nation of 330 million requires a special kind of bond. Theodore R. Johnson, a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, believes America still has that.

The Complicated World of Staten Island

RTBC founder David Byrne takes a bike ride through the only New York City borough that voted for Donald Trump and finds a place both familiar and foreign.

The post And Now, a Little Inspiration appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

What Most Critics Missed About Dustin Lance Black’s ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/04/2022 - 5:00am in

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Archive, culture

At the Salt Lake City premiere of Under the Banner of Heaven, writer, director, and...

Cartoon: Highly selective health nuts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/04/2022 - 9:50pm in

It's easy to laugh at this stuff, but I actually find it more disturbing and sinister than anything. The "alpha male" bro culture of the alt-right ties directly into authoritarian "strongman" rhetoric and the strategically-contrived moral panic about gender that is reflected in the anti-LGBTQ laws sweeping the nation. Put simply, it's fascist, and many in news media don't seem to fully connect the dots or grasp the symbolic power at work here.

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Follow me on Twitter at @JenSorensen

FX’s ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ Adaptation Rejects Reductive Elements of Krakauer’s Book, But Confirms That ‘Mormonism Breeds Dangerous Men’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/04/2022 - 4:33am in

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This is a spoilers-free overview of the new series Under the Banner of Heaven, which...

Campus Controversies and “Inclusion… in the Activity of Knowledge Seeking”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/04/2022 - 8:30pm in

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culture, Diversity

Last September, when the Department of Philosophy at Rhodes College invited Peter Singer (Princeton) to participate in a webinar on pandemic ethics, faculty in other units on campus objected and urged that the event be canceled.

Despite considerable pressure from colleagues and a condemnation by the college administration of a vague caricature of Singer’s views about disability, the Department of Philosophy went on with the event (you can read all about this story here.)


[Paul Klee, “Before the Lightning”]

Recently, two of the Rhodes philosophers involved in that controversy, Daniel Cullen and Rebecca Tuvel, had the opportunity to discuss what it was like being on the receiving end of the campaign to cancel the event, what they were thinking and doing at the time, and their broader reflections on disputes of this kind, on the “Banished” podcast.

Despite polemical promptings from host Amna Khalid (Carleton), the philosophers are quite thoughtful in their discussion. Professor Cullen was particularly good, I thought, at making clear some of the concerns of would-be cancelers, though he disagrees with them in several important ways.

Here are two excerpts from his remarks during the podcast:

It’s a good thing that colleges and universities have become more diverse, and it’s true that in order to create a sense of community one needs to work at sending the message that everybody is accepted and welcome… And yet I think strangely what’s happened is that in our focus on this, we’ve lost sight of the point: “what is the community assembled for, ultimately?” That’s why I keep asking the question, “inclusion in what?” [32:47]

It’s my perspective… that the way to practice, in an intellectual community, inclusion, is to remain focused all the time on inclusion of everyone in the activity of knowledge-seeking, and that can’t proceed without controversy, and it can’t proceed without generating feelings of offense. But the idea that those feelings would be a conversation stopper is the conclusion I think that is manifestly indefensible, if we intend to remain an institution devoted primarily to seeking knowledge. [17:29]

I’m interested in us fleshing out what “inclusion of everyone in the activity of knowledge-seeking” involves, brainstorming strategies for grappling with potentially controversial inquiries that fit with the message that “everybody is accepted and welcome,” and how, if need be, to offend responsibly, so that feelings of offense are less likely to function as “conversation stoppers.”

Inclusion of the sort Professor Cullen mentions, it seems, isn’t achieved through mere invitation (consider, for example, an invitation to seriously entertain the idea of one’s own inherent inferiority), nor by merely telling the potentially offended to toughen up. Inclusion requires preparation, understanding, and care. Inclusion may only be achievable by structuring discussions or events in certain ways. It may require the cultivation of trust, or a supportive background culture, or supportive background institutions. Efforts at inclusion may be more successful as proactive rather than rearguard measures. And what else?

This is all very vague and speculative, I know, but I’m hoping to avoid the dynamic in which I make a specific suggestion in regard to a problem and then nearly all of the comments are about criticizing that suggestion. That’s not because I can’t take the criticism (if you think that, I only have one thing to say to you: “Welcome, brand new reader of Daily Nous!”). Rather, it’s because it would be useful to hear others’ ideas on this. So please share more specific and concrete suggestions for, or good examples of, “inclusion of everyone in the activity of knowledge-seeking.” More general discussion of the issue is also welcome, of course.

Philosophy & Activism (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/04/2022 - 9:57pm in

While some people have argued that political activism is in tension with academic inquiry (here, for example), there have been plenty of well-regarded scholars who have engaged in such activism, including in philosophy.

In the following guest post*, Jill Delston, a philosopher at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, discusses the relationship between philosophy and activism, and provides information about some events on this subject.


[Jacob Lawrence, “The Migration Series”, Panel 1]

Philosophy & Activism
by Jill Delston

What is the relationship between philosophy and activism?

Philosophers often consider the question of what the good life is. If the good life includes activities of civic engagement aimed at using public values to improve our communities and broader world, activism may be central to the answer to that question. On the role of civic engagement in the good life, Amartya Sen argues that it is constitutive, writing that, “exercising civil and political rights is a crucial part of good lives of individuals as social beings.”

There is a long tradition of philosopher-activists. Socrates and Diogenes were activists of a certain stripe. Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill used their moral theory of utilitarianism to advocate for political reforms. Bertrand Russell was a pacifist who used his platform to oppose war, and Martin Luther King, Jr. used non-violent direct action to oppose segregation as well as pacifism globally. Today, Martha Nussbaum, Cornel West, Peter Singer, and Angela Davis are among the many academic philosophers who use their writings in tandem with their activism to advance their philosophical approaches.

The role of activism in philosophy may also point the way forward for the future of our discipline itself and can be one way to show our value and influence. For example, Robin Fretwell Wilson writes that, “Universities, especially public universities, have an obligation to make sure the work of their scholars reverberates where it matters, in policy that impacts real people’s lives. Through public engagement that fosters conversation on the most important issues facing the state and the nation today, we can put scholars in conversation with lawmakers to connect the experts with our state’s needs and to support policymakers pursuing objective, research-driven solutions.” This obligation presents an opportunity not just to translate our work to improve others’ lives, but also to demonstrate the value of philosophy. Philosophy can identify moral dilemmas where other fields don’t, and it can solve those moral dilemmas when others can’t. On this view, our mission is clear, our purpose is valuable, and many of us are doing the civic engagement work of translating these academic pursuits into the public sphere through philosophy and activism.

If activism (broadly construed) is constitutive of the good life or if activism is central to philosophy, then not only is the connection between activism and philosophy a strong one but also it is worthy of our time and attention. Of course, questions remain. And the field of Philosophy of Activism includes a rich literature not just of philosopher-activists or activists doing philosophy, but also of theorizing about activism, including those opposed to the connection.

In an effort to highlight scholars working in Philosophy and Activism as well as give them the opportunity and means to pursue it, I’m organizing the First Annual UMSL Workshop on Philosophy and Activism on May 25 & 26 in Saint Louis, with Hallie Liberto and Helen De Cruz as keynote speakers. The deadline to submit abstracts was April 15, but for the occasion of this post, I am extending it a week until April 22nd. The conference will also include opportunities to discuss structural injustices in our profession and in academia: there will be a roundtable discussion on this issue and you can also submit abstracts or papers just for this portion of the conference.

Consider also participating in the online seminar series on Philosophy & Activism. Today’s (April 15) session will be at 6pm EST with a talk by Will Tuckwell on virtue signaling.

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