ICC’s first cultural destruction trial to open in The Hague

4 days ago

War crimes trial of jihadi leader accused of destroying mausoleums in Timbuktu will begin on Tuesday

The international criminal tribunals first war crimes trial for destruction of cultural monuments opens the coming week with the hearing of a jihadi leader accused of demolishing ancient mausoleums in Timbuktu.

Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi is accused of levelling medieval shrines, mausoleums of Sufi saints and a mosque dating back to the 15 th century that formed part of the Unesco world heritage site in the northern Malian city.

The decision by the chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to induce obliteration of heritage a priority in dealing with the aftermath of Malis conflict may demonstrate controversial in Africa but is likely to boost the ICCs international profile.

Since Balkan warlords were charged by the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia with shelling Dubrovnik, wrecking the ancient bridge at Mostar and damaging the national library in Sarajevo in the early 1990 s, those responsible for eradicating historical sites have largely escaped punishment.

No Taliban or al-Qaida leader was charged with the destruction of Afghanistans sixth-century Bamiyan Buddhas which were dynamited in 2001. Khmer Rouge genocide trials did not enter into negotiations with the looting of Cambodias Hindu temples. Nor have Islamic State leaders been indicted for destroying Assyrian statues from Nineveh or razing Roman ruinings in Palmyra.

The damage inflicted on Timbuktu, known as the city of 333 saints, followed the rebellion of al-Qaida-inspired Tuareg militias, armed with weapons from Libya, in the central African country in 2012.

Faqi, a local ethnic Tuareg, is said to have been a member of Ansar Dine and the head of Hesbah, known as the Manners Brigade, which considered the mausoleums built to pay homage to deceased saints to be blasphemous.

He is accused of directing assaults on 10 ancient mud-brick buildings in June 2012 and July 2012 which reduced them to rubble. One of the desecrated sites was the Sidi Yahya mosque, built in 1440 when Timbuktu was a regional centre for learning. It contained Prof Sidi Yahyas mausoleum.

Around 4,000 ancient manuscripts were also lost, stolen or burned during the course of its Islamists reign of terror. Ansar Dine was pushed out of Timbuktu in 2013 when French forces intervened. Faqi was arrested in neighbouring Niger and sent to the Netherlands last September.

At his first remand appearance, Faqi, dressed in a suit and affiliation, said: I am from the Tuareg tribe. I was born about 40 years ago. I am a graduate of the teachers institute in Timbuktu and I was a civil servant in the education department … beginning in 2011.

He told judges he wished to be addressed in Arabic and referred to by his full name. The confirmation-of-charges hearing, opening the trial, on Tuesday 1 March will be held in the ICCs new tribunal in The Hague.

There is growing resentment among African states that the UN-backed ICC has concentrated its prosecutions on the continent a development that is partially a consequence of the United States, Russia and most of the Middle East failing to join the court. The ruling ANC party in South Africa has voted to leave the ICC.

Faqi is the first person the ICC has put on trial for the Mali conflict. There has been criticism that no major figure in the Tuareg uprising has been charged.

Mark Ellis, chief executive of the International Bar Association who specialises in war crimes instances, said: Politically, there will be those who will question why Bensouda is focusing on ancient sites rather than running after rape, torturing and slaying convictions, but demolition of cultural heritage is not a second-rate crime. Its part of an inhumanity to erase a people. I hope it will act as a discouraging to similar is acting in other countries.

He described the trial as a courageous step.

The Open Society Justice Initiative in New York said there had been a previous example brought by the ICC for destroying houses following the conflict in the Congo. Bosco Ntaganda, the former Congolese militia leader, was charged, along with more serious crimes, with destroying a church and a hospital.

But this is the first time this has been the main charge against a suspect, or when the property destroyed has had global cultural significance, Jonathan Birchall, of the initiative, said. Al-Faqi is also the first is part of an Islamist armed group to appear before the court.

Legal authority for monument demolition prosecutions derives from a 1954 convention written in the aftermath of the second world war.

Although the 1938 Nazi-organised vandalism of Kristallnacht targeting synagogues and Jewish property across Germany did feature in the Nuremberg war crimes trials , none of the defendants were specifically charged with cultural destruction.

The convention cover-ups architectural monuments, archaeological sites, works of art, manuscripts, books, other culture objects and scientific collections. It has been ratified by more than 125 states.

Welcoming Faqis transfer to The Hague last September, the ICCs chief prosecutor said the people of Mali deserve justice for the two attacks against their cities, their beliefs and their communities.

The charges we have brought against Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi involve most serious crimes, he said. They are about the extermination of irreplaceable historic monuments, and they are about a callous assault on the dignity and identity of entire populations, and their religious and historical roots.

More than 350,00 people were displaced by the conflict. Unesco has already rebuilt many of the mausoleums that were destroyed in Timbuktu.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Rush aren’t dead! Neil Peart hasn’t retired!

One week ago

Fans of intricate hard rock were despairing when it seemed Rushs drummer had hurled in the towel. But the bands Geddy Lee says people got it wrong

On 7 December, when the tale ran viral across various music websites, the headlines were unequivocal. Rush drummer Neil Peart has retired, said Metal Injection, complete with tongue-in-cheek Bummer Alert :. For fans of the multi-million selling Canadian band described by Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett as the high priests of conceptual metal this was indeed a bummer of epic proportions.

Neil Peart is no ordinary drummer. In the areas of heavy stone, Peart is, by popular consensus, second only to the late John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. And just as Bonhams death in 1980 was the end of Led Zeppelin, so the virtuoso Peart is irreplaceable to the band he has served as drummer and lyricist since 1974. If the narrative were true, that was it for Rush.

The source was an article that the 63 -year-old Peart wrote for Drumhead magazine, in which he referred to comments make use of his young daughter. Lately, Olivia has been introducing me to new friends at school as My dad hes a retired drummer. True to say, funny to hear. Peart went on to quote a line he wrote for a 1982 Rushing ballad. It does not pain me be recognised that, like all athletes, there comes a time to take yourself out of video games. I would rather set it aside then face the quandary described in our anthem Losing It( Sadder still to watch it die, than never to have known it ).

The response from Rush fans on social media was an outpouring of hopelessnes, mixed with a degree of uber-fan one-upmanship: I ensure them back in 78 at Newcastle City Hall. Ive find 102 Rush gigs. The kind of stuff that geeks revel in and fans of Rush are notoriously geeky.

But was Peart truly saying what they thought he was saying? In the absence of an official clarification from Peart, it was Rush bassist/ vocalist Geddy Lee who defined the record straight, when he spoke to Prog magazine on 8 December. According to Lee, what Peart said was simply a verification of what he has said repeatedly in the past years that he is no longer willing to tour for months on end, as Rush have done throughout their 40 -year career. Simply, that Peart is retired from touring, but not from the band. I think Neil is just explaining his reasons for not wanting to tour with the toll that its taking on his body, Lee said, alluding to the tendonitis the drummer now suffers from.

There is, however, another factor in all of this Pearts dedication to his family. As Peart said in 2012: Frankly, people dont realise the sacrifice you make as a touring musician. Being away when children are growing up and when your partner requires you around, its wrenching.

The truth of the matter is that Peart did retire from Rush in the late 90 s, in accordance with the death of his daughter Selena in a auto crash, and the loss of his first spouse Jacqueline to cancer. It was merely after he remarried in 2000 that he was persuaded by his new wife, photographer Carrie Nuttall to return to the band.

Since then, Rush have enjoyed a later-career renaissance. For a band that has sold more than 40 m albums, they have remained a cult phenomenon under the radar, as guitarist Alex Lifeson puts it. But the bands 2012 album Clockwork Angels was a huge hit: No 1 in Canada, No 2 in the US. And in 2013, Rush were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, joined on stage at the ceremony by the Foo Fighters, who performed a classic Hurry-up anthem, The Overture, from the 1976 album 2112, while wearing wigs and the kind of flowing white satin robes that Rush wore back in the 70 s.

Foo Fighters leader Dave Grohl whose work with Nirvana sealed his reputation as the finest boulder drummer of his generation said he screamed after fulfilling Neil Peart for the first time. Another famous drummer, Stewart Copeland, formerly of the Police, described Peart as the most air-drummed-to drummer of all time.

Geddy Lee tells the Guardian what it is that attains Peart so good: Neil blends a few things that you dont usually find in one drummer. He combines powerful stone histrionics with an incredible compositional sense more suited to a classical musician. He has the chops and they are able to switching into a jazz-like improvisational mode at any time. The other thing is the pure physicality of what he does. When you see him play live for three hours, there are very few people on Earth than can play at that level for that length of hour. Like he says, My job is like operating marathons while solving equations.

Lee feels that Pearts remarks about retirement have been misconstrued and sensationalised. Thats how it goes in the media, he says. Talking about something when theres nothing to talk about. He is adamant that Peart, and Rush, will carry on. But for how long, he cannot say. The wear and tear of age is also telling on Lifeson, who has arthritis. What Lee said in May 2015, in an interview with Classic Rock magazine, still holds true. Can we go on forever? Clearly not. And if it is the end, its going to happen in bits and pieces. If we cant used to go and do a massive tour in the future because everyone cant agree on that, theres nothing to say we cant do another record or one-off shows here and there.

Neil Peart has not retired. Not yet. But Geddy Lee knows it wont be long. All we can do, he says now, is enjoy what time we have left.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

One for the money: the great actors who slummed it in dumb movies

One week ago

Helen Mirrens appearance in the Fast and Furious franchise is a bit of a astound. But virtually every notable actor from Welles to Brando to Blanchett has cashed in an easy paycheque for a mindless franchise or a duffer

Helen Mirrens appearance in Fast and Furious 8 or Fate of the Furious, or whatever you want to call it is notable for a couple of reasons. First, it proves that not even dames of the British empire are impervious to the breathlessly dumb sight of a big-budget, boneheaded franchise. Second, it elevates her to the highest possible rank of actor: Thespians Who Should Be Above This But Arent.

Almost without exception, every great actor has spent at the least some time slumming it in movies that dont accommodate their talent. In fact, you could probably make a highly enjoyable movie marathon out of these appearances. Heres my suggested operating order 😛 TAGEND

Orson Welles in Transformers.

Orson Welles Unicron
Transformers: The Movie( 1986 )

Well start with perhaps the most infamous. By this phase, Welless career had spiralled down to the extent that he was primarily famous for his angry, drunk, advert outtakes. His final indignity was playing a planet-eating robot called Unicron in a feature-length toy commercial. However, this raises an important point about slumming actors: although the work is beneath them, the films are often loads of fun to watch. Compare this with any of Michael Bays movies, and Welless Transformers looks like a flat-out masterpiece.

Judi Dench Aereon
The Chronicles of Riddick( 2004 )

Dench managed to win an Oscar after is available on a cinema for only eight minutes. That movie was not The Chronicles of Riddick, in which she played Dame Judi Dench Who Can Nearly Fly But Not Quite and Also Has a Drapery Over Her Head. Its long, tedious and far too self-regarding for its own good. But, as Fifty Shades Darker ably demonstrated, at least Christian Grey was a fan of the movie. He has a poster of it hanging on his wall.

Dustin Hoffman Mr Magorium
Mr Magoriums Wonder Emporium( 2007 )

A film so bad it became the punchline to Breaking Bads best gag, Mr Magoriums Wonder Emporium is a prime example of all the bad things that can happen if you hire a renowned actor to star in your stupid movie. Hoffman endows his character with countless infuriating tics and oddities that would have almost definitely been beaten out of him if he wasnt Dustin Hoffman. Future Oscar-winner Natalie Portman didnt do herself any prefers, either. Unbearable.

Marlon Brando as Dr Moreau

Marlon Brando Dr Moreau
The Island of Dr Moreau( 1996 )

The narratives about Marlon Brandos antics on the decide of this doomed HG Wells adaptation are much better than the actual cinema. It is said that, rather than learn the lines, Brando simply recurred whatever was dictated to him via an earpiece; a trick that ran awry when the signal was highjacked by a nearby police scanner. He also insisted that his character should intermittently wear a bucket on his head and, although this was vetoed, that he should ultimately reveal himself to be a dolphin. The film is unwatchable.

Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe Lt Parker Barnes and SID 6.7
Virtuosity( 1995 )

Now its day for a twofer. This is the plot description from Virtuositys IMDb page: When a virtual reality simulation created using the personalities of multiple serial killers manages to escape into the real world, an ex-cop is tasked with stopping its reign of terror. The cinema, if you can believe it, doesnt even live up to this.( NB: the movies two results have three Oscars between them .)

Michael Caine in Jaws: The Revenge

Michael Caine Hoagie
Jaws: The Revenge( 1987 )

Caines one for me, one for them attitude towards filmmaking has resulted in a wildly spotty filmography. But his lowest point was the fourth Jaws movie. Roy Scheiders character has died and his( perhaps psychic) widow keeps getting chased about the place by an angry shark with a personal vendetta. Plus, said animal may or may not be controlled by a witch doctor. The movie is partly redeemed by Caines devil-may-care attitude towards its horrible reception. I have never seen the film, but by all accounts it was terrible, he once memorably remarked. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.

Peter OToole Zaltar
Supergirl( 1984 )

Supergirl is filled with weirdly mournful performances by performers who all seem fairly close to demise Peter Cooks role is especially sad. And yet it is OToole who takes the biggest hitting. Playing a Kryptonian trapped in the Phantom Zone( who however seems to have access to Bill Beaumonts A Question of Sport sweater collection ), he exudes the air of a trapped circus monkey who wont get any dinner unless he turns up and goes through the motions. Heartbreaking.

John Hurt Dr Turner
Tender Loving Care( 1998 )

Technically, Tender Loving Care might not count as a movie, as it never had a theatrical release, but it does stand out as a bizarre outlier on Hurts filmography. The movie is an interactive Hand That Rocks the Cradle-style thriller with the thinnest possible erotic undercurrent. You watch a couple of scenes, then answer an on-screen questionnaire about how it constructed “youre feeling”. Your answers dictate where the movie goes next. Hurts role was to guide spectators through these questionnaires, and then pull an interested face as they entered their answers. The role could easily have been taken by a monkey in a hat.

Faye Dunaway Elena Dubrow
Dunston Checks In( 1996 )

On the subject of monkeys, heres a film about a crazy orangutan pearl robber and his kooky adventures in a negligently run hotel. You might remember Dunston Checks In as the cinema where an ape dedicates an erotic massage to a middle-aged lady. Or perhaps youll remember it as the film where the same monkey climbs on to a chandelier and flings himself at Faye Dunaway superstar of Bonnie and Clyde, The Arrangement, Chinatown, The Thomas Crown Affair and Network who then topples into a great big cake. This was likely less slummy for Dunaway than Supergirl( in which she also seemed) but, because she looks like she is having fun in this, its still worth throwing on the bonfire.

Cate Blanchett as Irina Spalko

Cate Blanchett Irina Spalko
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull( 2008 )

No matter how prestigious their stage and screen careers, all actors want to work for Steven Spielberg. Even if they end up working with him on a movie where people get attacked by giant ants. Even if that film has a sequence where the hero is catapulted to safety during a nuclear explosion by hiding in a fridge. Even if, at one point, Shia LaBeouf escapes demise by literally swinging away through the trees like a monkey. This is why Cate Blanchett appeared in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Philip Seymour Hoffman Owen Davian
Mission: Impossible III( 2006 )

At this point in his career, Hoffman was a true cinematic heavyweight. He had acted for Todd Solondz, Spike Lee and the Coen friends. He was a favourite of Paul Thomas Anderson and Anthony Minghella. He had just won an Oscar for Capote. He could pick any role he liked, and he chose to be an anonymous baddie in the second-worst Mission: Impossible cinema. It made a small amount of sense, allowing him to chew scenery at full volume for his largest audience yet. But what a weird selection to play second fiddle to Tom Cruises frenzied operating technique.

Robert Downey Jr Dr Kozak
The Shaggy Dog( 2006 )

You could argue that Robert Downey Jr wasnt slumming it by taking a reduced role in a fifth-rate Tim Allen movie. You could argue that, at this point in their own lives, he had scuppered his career so comprehensively that his appearance in this film counted as a kindness on Allens part. Even so, its jarring to see an actor so widely feted hopping around the interior of a courtroom on all fours with his tongue waggling around. Two years later, he would rehabilitate himself as Iron Man, becoming the worlds highest-paid actor in the process. But this performance remains a advising from history about all the bad things that can happen if you take too many drugs.

The entire casting
Tiptoes( 2003 )

Let us finish our marathon with an undiluted cavalcade of slumming actors. Tiptoes should have benefited from its murderers row of talent. It stars two-time Emmy-winning Peter Dinklage. It stars two-time London Critics Circle award-winner Kate Beckinsale. It stars two-time Bafta-winner Gary Oldman. It stars Oscar, Bafta and Golden Globe-winning Patricia Arquette. It stars Matthew McConaughey, who won 18 awardings in a single year for Dallas Buyers Club. Tiptoes “shouldve been” unstoppable. But it wasnt because it was a weird hybrid of romcom and abortion drama in which Oldman played a dwarf. The whole thing was so offensive that it was never released theatrically in the US.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

The best films of 2016 … that “youre supposed to” didn’t watch

8 days ago

Guardian faculty compile a list of overlooked cinemas of the past year, including Isabelle Hupperts overshadowed make, the scariest horror film and a farting corpse

How to Be Single

The post-Sex and the City surge in cinemas and TV displays based around the dating habits of singletons was largely a conveyor belt of deceptively packaged romantic comedies still based around the idea that marriage should remain a womans ultimate aspiration. Attempting to cover up a repetition conservative agenda with cocktails and frank sexuality chat was a temporary solution to actual progress. But even, as noted in How to Be Single, the freedom of Carrie Bradshaw and her cronies was something of a fallacy as they spent the majority of their period talking about humen.

That casual aside hints at a refreshing agenda for a film that, yes, still falls into formula mode at times( prime real estate for characters on average salaries tick !), but makes a somewhat groundbreaking statement for a cinema of its ilk: its OK, and often preferable, to be single. Dakota Johnsons unbelievably nuanced performance anchors an often rambling ensemble piece that offers up a glossy yet surprisingly sharp view of relationships. Like a more multiplex-friendly take over 2014 s underrated drama Wild, we have a cinema that praises the importance of being alone and not falling into a vortex of co-dependency. Its also a warm and funny comedy with a pitched-just-right comic performance from Rebel Wilson and a damn fine genre-defying objective that comes as a breath of fresh air after years of stuffy rom-coms. BL

Kubo and the Two Strings

For sheer movie theater spectacle you only cant beat Kubo and the Two Strings, an unspeakably beautiful stop-motion animated yarn about a one-eyed boy named Kubo( Art Parkinson) who must find his fathers armor with the assistance of a silent knight made out of origami paper, a samurai-beetle with amnesia( Matthew McConaughey ), and an irascible monkey( Charlize Theron ).

The movie vanished without a tracing after its opening but it is well worth remembering. Its various set pieces stand alongside the most inventive in contemporary filmmaking: Theres a battle with a huge red skeleton ogre the skeleton itself being the largest stop-motion marionette ever assembled and theres the duel with Kubos evil aunts on a ship made out of leaves, as well as a stunning climactic sequence in which the evil Moon King is destroyed in the most unexpected, touching way.

Kubo and the Two Strings stuffs its 102 minutes with action and humor, but the movies deep well of sadness induces it memorable beyond the sheer adrenaline of its flamboyant visuals. As Kubo strays through the movies notionally medieval-Japanese put, director Travis Knight and the Laika staff offer up image upon image of ruining, the little boy stark against empty houses and abandoned temples.

The screenplays beats remain refreshingly unpredictable all the way to the movies end, and its open-hearted hero has more to offer the children of the movies intended audience than the unbearable believe in yourself or growing up is hard of its kid-movie challengers. The film-makers carefully build a desolated world with the care of the best stop-motion craftspeople, and within it, they are continuing induce hope plausible.

Swiss Army Man

Seeing a cinema that most people referred to as the farting corpse movie on the final day of a festival after watching more than 30 films at altitude wasnt ever that appealing of future prospects. Ten minutes into Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinerts gay necrophilia movie, there was an nearly irresistible recommend to walk out just after the scene where Daniel Radcliffes corpse had ridden over the waves, propelled by that most eco-friendly of gasolines: flatulence.

You cant really get around the fact that this is a feature about a farting corpse, but the directors know that and reveled in it: What if we took that really stupid idea and poured our hearts into it? was the issues to they asked themselves when stimulating it. Swiss Army Man is the result of that questionable approach. After the initial 10 minutes of head shaking, eye rolling and prudish laughters the plot have started to emerge and what Kwan and Scheinert manage, unbelievably, is to create a movie that is strangely uplifting as it is ridiculous.

Paul Danos hopeless, deluded loner is brilliantly wrought and perhaps a comment on the kind of characters he usually get cast as. While Radcliffe does as well as anyone could expect of an actor whose main motive is post-death bowel movement. It might have been the altitude, it might have been the farts, but by the end the film had gone from perhaps the worst thing Id ever experienced to something that I couldnt stop telling people about.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Zanele Muholi’s best photo: out and proud in South Africa

11 days ago

She wanted to be a model, but not many South African bureaux accept LGBTI people as clients

This photograph is part of a series called Faces and Phases, which Ive been working on for a decade. Its about creating positive images of black lesbians and transgender people in South African society, and its dedicated to a close friend of mine who died in 2007 at persons under the age of 25. She was a so-called curative rape survivor. I felt I needed to remember the people that were growing up in front of me, and to find myself as one of us rather than one of them. The project is about us being counted in South African visual history. I think thats true photography to say that you were present.

Most of my subjects are friends or friends of friends, and often activists like me. I photograph people who are already out and fully understand who they are. I dont shoot people that are underage because I dont want them to danger their lives, especially if theyre still dependent on their parents. Its too dangerous.

I took this shooting of Sinenhlanhla Lunga at a friends place in the Katlehong township. I dont use a studio we just threw a blanket over the fencing as background. I think what defines this image is the gaze. Its beautiful; theres nothing superfluous. Sinenhlanhla wanted to be a professional model, but it never happened. You can have a dream of being a visible queer or trans model, but the mainstream hasnt reached that level of acceptance. When we last spoke, she was about to have a child.

Im so happy that were alive, living in a country that is so infested by hate crime. About three months ago, we had droughts in my hometown of Durban and a church leader said they had been caused by homosexuality and same-sex wedding. It was reported in the media, too. Its painful to me because the church should be preaching love. At the end of July, on the weekend of Durban Pride, there were blizzards, inundations and snow it was very strange. I said to a friend: I wonder what the church leaders are saying now?

In the same year this photograph was taken, lots of my photographic equipment and my computer was stolen from my apartment in Cape Town. It was a backlash against my work, and it was a double blow because I lost a lot of unpublished material.

One of the most challenging things about being a faggot visual activist in South Africa is not having access to spaces to exhibit my work here where it would be most important even as I gain recognition abroad. The position of politicians towards LGBTI people fluctuates a lot. When one of us has been killed or there are elections you find a lot of support, and then when its over they come up with a different agenda. Thats why its so important to have our own people in politics, in medicine and in the media.

Faces and Stage will carry on as long as I live we are growing up together. I also give workshops to young women and provide them with cameras to let them document their own lives. Some have even become photographers. That truly arouses me because I know Im not opposing alone.

Photograph: pr/ no credit

Zanele Muholis CV

Born: Umlazi township in Durban, South Africa, 1972.

Education: Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg, and Ryerson University, Toronto.

Influences: The LGBTI someones I photograph.

High phase: Working on a project that has reached 10 years. Also, Faces and Stages being shown at Venice Biennale in 2013 one of the few queer projects that has built it to that stage.

Low phase: Being misunderstood.

Top tip: Collaborate, support one another projects, and devote credit where its due. Feed the passion of people who want to become the next generation of photographers.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

What’s the greatest Tv depict of all time? Easy. The Simpsons

13 days ago

TV critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz, who have written a volume ranking the best US depicts ever, explain why TV is as good as its ever been

Its a dirty chore, but “someones got” do it: TV critics Alan Sepinwall( HitFix) and Matt Zoller Seitz( New York) have ranked the 100 greatest comedies and drama broadcast in the US. The volume theyve co-authored TV( The Book ), which is out the coming week is sure to inspire debate, especially their number one pick: The Simpsons. The Guardian spoke to them about the project, the power of the Simpsons and why they included such outliers and oblivions as Franks Place in their rundown.

Hey guys. Where did the idea for the book come from ?

Matt Zoller Seitz : It was a couple of years ago. I dont remember the exact situations but Alan and I were talking and there are a lot of volumes along the lines of Maltins film guide and David Thomsons Biographical Dictionary of Film, but there wasnt really an equivalent for television. I thought that the time was right for a volume like that because Alan and I have been in the business long enough to say not just What do you think is great now? but What do you think are the greatest indicates in TV history?

Alan Sepinwall: Tv is in this extraordinary day right now. Some people are calling it Peak TV, some people are calling it the Golden age. Whatever you want to call it, TV is as good as its ever been if not better, and has finally achieved a level of respect that the medium has been striving for basically since the 1950 s and yet theres been very little done in terms of canonization, to its implementation of trying to legitimize it through other forms.

Why did you pick The Simpsons as your number one ? MZS : Well, The Simpsons is not just a television show. In a lot of ways, it is television. Theres virtually no political or cultural development in the last 30 years that The Simpsons hasnt addressed and in many cases had the last word on.
AS : Its done everything you can possibly do, and its done it for a ridiculously long time, and its so funny, and its so quotable and so versatile and covered so many topics. And its stayed good! Thats the dirty little secret that people dont want to acknowledge. Its not as good as it is in season four , nothing could be. One of your biggest disagreements was over the fourth season of Arrested Development, wasnt it ? AS : Matt has already said that if theres a second edition, hes going to write an essay just about Arrested Development season four because he thinks Im a gentile and a lowbrow over it.

The trailer for the controversial fourth season of Arrested Development.

MZS : Its a milestone in television storytelling. Its the first season of a series that is devised and constructed with streaming in mind. The way people watch things on Netflix is very different from they style they watch things on a regular broadcast or cable channel. Mitchell Hurwitz understood this, and it was also an attempt to solve a practical problem, which is that the cast were all in much more demand in 2014 than they were when the prove went on the air. I suppose the solution he came up with was ingenious, which is basically that the entire season is one long episode of Arrested Development: the scenes are 20 to 30 minutes long instead of three.
Why did you choose only American Tv ? AS : Our impression was Doctor Who would certainly be on here, Prime Suspect would certainly be on here, Fawlty Towers would certainly be on here, but while we is considered that we know what the best British proves are, we likely dont. We have some blind spots here, while there are probably some shows that are not anywhere in the book and likely should be. If were not going to know what those are, were just half-assing it in terms of foreign TV and were just going with whatever PBS aired, which is not really fair. What were the other areas of discrepancy ? MZS : There are things in there that I suppose Alan thinks are really what-the-hell like I did an entry on the HBO series K Street by Steven Soderbergh, which only operated 10 episodes and I think was watched by nine people, but I thought it was an amazing depict and that television had never seen anything like it and likely never will again. AS : I dont know that we need to have every single show that Michael Mann ever made for television included in the book, but Matt loves Michael Mann. Its less the main section than the A Certain Regard section where we deal with sentimental favourites, Matt threw in a lot of shows that attained me go, Actually? Hell tell you this: hes really not happy that Boardwalk Empire is in the top 100. There are some actually obscure choices in the book. Whats your most underrated depict ? MZS : One of our pantheon presents is Franks Place, which operated on CBS for one season in 1988. It was by Hugh Wilson who created WKRP in Cincinnati, and Tim Reid[ of WKRP] was also the starring, and its one of the greatest shows in the history of American television, and almost nobody watched it when it was on except me. Its never gotten a proper DVD release because of what I think are rights issues. I genuinely hope some attention will be paid to Franks Place and that it will be given the reception it deserves.

Theres perhaps two full episodes and fragments on YouTube. Its a shame, because that indicate was shot on 35 mm cinema without a laugh track in the style of a motion picture. The fact that the casting was predominately African American throw people a little bit because I think at that point in time, viewers were conditioned to expect that every time you ensure a non-white face on TV there was a laugh way on it, and this was not like that.

How much rewatching and ranking did you have to do ? AS : The rewatching, when it happened happened during the writing and not the ranking. To do what we do as well as we aspire to do it, you really have to be able to absorb the displays into yourself. I can recite whole Cheers scenes, or diagram Deadwood story arcs without looking at them. These are the proves we know, were going to score them accordingly. As it was all written and we were getting ready to turn the manuscript in, we went to a bar in Brooklyn and rescored everything somewhat. There were not a lot of major changes. MZS : We originally had five categories, which were innovation, influence, storytelling/ film-making, performance/ characterization and consistency. We realized we needed one more category that accounts for the extraordinary explode of ingenuity that they are able make a present great even if its not perfect, which we called peak. Wed originally held casting a much wider net sports displays, live reveals, sketch comedy displays, variety shows and childrens entertainment but as we proceeded down that road we realized the book would be 2,000 pages long.

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Marisa Tomei:’ I only got to be old very recently’

14 days ago

A quarter of a century after winning an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny, the actor is causing a stir as Spider-Mans Aunt May. She talks about being allowed to get old and her reputation as a great on-screen kisser

T oo hot, too young, too sexy: these were the sobs of outraged comic-book fans on social media when Marisa Tomei was cast as Spider-Mans Aunt May in July 2015. And the then 50 -year-old Oscar winner agreed with the backlash. I know, right? laughs Tomei down the phone from New York, where shes preparing for the blockbusters premiere this week. Its luck I didnt know much about Aunt May, because I might have been frightened if Id ensure the original image of a grey-haired pensioner. Dont toy with my heart, Marvel. Is that really how you view me?

She disagrees, though, that her casting was an example of Hollywoods negative attitude towards age. She points out that it attains sense in the context of the franchises latest reboot, Spider-Man: Homecoming , starring 21 -year-old Londoner Tom Holland as the wall-crawling web-slinger in his high school days: They aged Peter Parker down too. Hes 15 in this movie. I aimed up picking the brains of my brother Adam, whos been an encyclopaedia of Marvel since we were little, and he has pointed out that Mays not related to Peter by blood shes his aunt by marriage to his uncle Ben. So she could be elderly or pretty young, depending what age she fulfilled her husband. I thought maybe I should lean into it and made a case in order to be allowed to age me up. A lot of young girls are wearing that silver hair now, so it was something we toyed with.

Indeed, Tomei has her own pet theory about Ben and Mays back-story. I decided that maybe he was her prof. I devoted it that sexy, naughty little twist in my intellect. Thats not in the movie, by the way. A young, hot Aunt May isnt actually a character description, so I fleshed out my own mental picture of who she is. Closer in age to the arachnid adolescent, her Aunt May is more of a taunting big sister figure than an apron-clad, cookie-baking granny type. Peters been a super-nerd with his analyses, which is laudable, but my version of Aunt May tries to coax him out of that and broaden his interests, maybe even start dating, says Tomei.

To her intellect, the 2017 Aunt May is also something of a second-wave feminist. I had numerous conversations with the director, Jon Watts, about Peter Parker being a local hero, which seems especially apt for these times. He get those values from Aunt May, who basically raised him. So we are talking about how she might be involved in the community and know everyone in the neighbourhood. We deemed constructing her a pro bono lawyer, but didnt want her to wear suits. Instead we built her a book lover who has her own small publishing firm, like a female collective. Shes got a feminist and humanist edge at least in my head.

Marisa Tomei: Every performer is frustrated, always fretted they wont get the next chore. Photo: Matthew Frost/ trunkarchive.com

For Tomei, Hollywoods sexism is more of an issue than its ageism. Well, I only got to be old very recently, she laughter. The industry has decided Im an aunt-type now. Im like, is this the way it gets violated to me? But in any profession, theres a lot of sexism. That isnt precisely headline news. In our business, the numbers surely dont lie when you see how few speaking roles there are for women[ analyses show that 33% of speaking roles and 22% of protagonists are female ]. Its a numbers game and if you start adding in other factors, including age, the odds diminish of get a great part.

Is that a source of frustration? For sure, but frustration is the name of the game in acting. Every actor is frustrated, always fretted they wont get the next chore. Thats true of any actor, of any gender, at any success level. And Ive heard it from very, very successful actors. Sexism is an example of the culture, thats only a fact, but we can try to change that culture. I like to think things have improved in the century since we got the right to vote. But simply because its 75% better, doesnt mean you should stop caring about the remaining 25%. We need parity, both in accessibility of run and our compensation for that work.

Two years ago, Jennifer Lawrence criticised Hollywoods gender pay gap after the Sony email hackrevealed that she earned considerably less than her male co-stars in American Hustle and Tomei has Lawrences back. Why should we get paid 75 pennies on the dollar and be told were lucky to have that? she says. Its wonderful that someone like Jennifer speaks out. Why should she be pilloried? I dont understand why its even controversial. We should get paid on parity. And by the way, Jennifer was the strongest part in that whole package. She should have got paid more, if anything.

Tomei is speaking from her apartment in Greenwich Village( Not to be confused with Greenwich, London or Greenwich, Connecticut, she helpfully points out ), nine miles from where she grew up in Brooklyn. Shes insured her home patch transform from a sprawling, diverse borough to the hipster haven of today. Brooklyns changed a lot, for sure. You used to say you were from Brooklyn with chagrin. I always wanted to live in the Village but it seemed a million miles way. It was like in Saturday Night Fever , where their whole dream of escape was to get over that bridge. Her parents, both of Italian descent, were a teacher and a lawyer. Crucially, they were also theater devotees who took young Marisa and Adam to Broadway depicts, which so captivated the children, both went into acting.

This year marks the 25 th anniversary of Tomeis breakthrough role: as Joe Pescis brash, drawling fiancee Mona Lisa in wiseguy courtroom comedy My Cousin Vinny , for which Tomei won an Academy Award for best supporting actress. Wow, is it truly 25 years? she says. No wonder you were asking about ageism. I did get old! Its such a funny movie and it really holds up. I was fresh to the business and didnt know how movies run but Joe preferred me for the part, then took me by the hand and guided me vastly, so I get so lucky. I keep my Oscar in my little library here. Perhaps I should throw a Vinny reunion party and bring it out to show everyone? Just kidding.

As Aunt May opposite Tom Hollands teenage web-slinger in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Photo: Columbia Pictures

Tomei has since been twice nominated for a best supporting actress Oscar. Im a resulting actress caught in a supporting actress vortex, she giggles. But what can you do? First came director Todd Fields 2001 family crime drama In the Bedroom , opposite Britains own Tom Wilkinson. Hes a genius, one of my favourite performers, and it was thrilling to watch Tom work, recollects Tomei. I pestered him many times to ask how he did it, and he eventually told me he just reads the script a lot. I was like, Thats it? Thats your big secret?

Her next Oscar nod was for Darren Aronofskys The Wrestler ( 2008 ), in which she played an ageing stripper and single mom who strikes up a romance with Micky Rourkes past-it pro wrestler. I went to high school with Darren, so it was a little dreaming come true for us to work together, says Tomei. The role involved pole-dancing, lap-dancing and nudity and shes glad she awaited until her 40 s to do nude scenes. Early on, I desperately wanted to be a legitimate actress and was concerned I wouldnt be taken seriously. Plus Im not sure I could have handled it, emotionally and psychologically. Im pleased it happened subsequently not only because it forced me to exert a lot but theres also a definite freedom and confidence Ive gained in my body as I got older.

After her Oscar win, Tomei appeared in a string of middling 90 s comedy-dramas the likes of Chaplin , Untamed Heart , Only You , The Paper , Slums of Beverly Hills and What Women Want often with a romantic bent and often opposite her then boyfriend, Robert Downey Jr. The relationship didnt last, but their close friendship did. Indeed, Downey( aka Iron Man) was instrumental in Tomei being cast as Aunt May: He recommended me for the various roles and we had a flirtatious little scene together in Captain America: Civil War [ which introduced Tomei and Hollands characters last year ]. Having a familiar face around certainly attained me more comfortable.

Downey Jr has been taunting fans about a potential romance between their characters, referring to her as Auntie May I? and telling talkshow host Jimmy Kimmel: Spider-Mans got a hot aunt now. My God, imagine the possibilities. Tomei is renowned as a fine on-screen kisser: she snogged her route around Italy with Downey Jr in Only You and won an MTV award for best kiss with Christian Slater in Untamed Heart . Its nice that Im considered a great kisser, she cackles. Its all about the partner, isnt it? And its only on screen. In real life, Im shit.

She has also popped up in two of the biggest Tv comedies of all time. Tomei played herself in two-part Seinfeld tale The Cadillac as love interest for Lord Of The Idiots George Costanza, played by Jason Alexander. My name was the only reason I got cast, remembers Tomei. They just liked the way my name voiced.[ Writer] Larry David told me: When you say your name over and over, it has a really strong rhythm: Marisa Tomei Marisa Tomei But hey, Ill take it. Id love to do a TV prove with Jason Alexander. We run into each other all the time and always talking here it.

Watch a trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming.

She then romanced another unlikely sitcom sex god: The Simpsonss nicey-nicey neighbour Ned Flanders. Tomei guested in a Notting Hill -spoofing storyline about a movie star falling for a storekeeper. You should ask Ned Flanders what various kinds of kisser I am, she chuckles. Although hed probably just say I was okily-dokily. Tomei currently alternates between film and stage roles. In the past year, shes starred in a production of Tennessee Williamss The Rose Tattoo ( One of my castmates was a goat. A total diva but it had a better union than I did) and Sarah Ruhls off-Broadway play about polyamory, How to Transcend a Happy Matrimony . Marriage is being redefined in all kinds of ways right now, so that was interesting, she says. Plus I got to kiss many different people and have a great big orgy scene every evening. It was a real pick-me-up.

Projects in the pipeline include the lead role in Ms , a HBO biopic series about feminist writer and activist Gloria Steinem. The scripts still being written but its definitely happening, says Tomei. Im a huge fan of Gloria and her lifes work. Were all indebted to her. Shes a fascinating figure, as were the women around her. That whole period is under-represented on screen. There are lots of great stories still to tell about the womens revolution.

At the moment, though, Tomei is relishing being part of the Marvel machine. Its so old-fashioned in a way: proper sight, gloriously larger than life. Spider-Man comes with fervent fans and intense scrutiny. They keep the script so secret, you have to give back your pages at the end of the day. But the system runs and they put out really good movies.

Will she be back for the inevitable sequels? Well see. Hopefully the fans will love this new iteration and well do more. Anyway, I think Aunt May should get her own spin-off. Something should go on with Tony Stark, and those two should get into their own capers.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is released on 5 July

Read more: www.theguardian.com

The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness review- a narrative of disloyalty by the church

15 days ago

Graham Caveneys defiant, important memoir details how the Catholic establishment fails abuse victims

Pope Francis has taken great strides in challenging all sorts of entrenched attitudes and prejudices in the Vatican that have given the Catholic church such a bad name of late. Progression has been disappointingly slow, however, on the commission he appointed in 2014 to tackle the appalling scandal of clerical sexual abuse. In March of this year Marie Collins, the last remaining is part of the panel who was a survivor of abuse, resigned after a Vatican department failed to comply with the commissions recommendation that it respond to every correspondent who writes in with allegations that they have been a victim. If the curia is resisting such simple steps, how to have faith that they will tackle the bigger underlying issues?

Reluctance to face up to the consequences of clerical abuse remains hard-wired into the structures of the church: an instinct to protect the institution at the cost of the individual who has suffered, and a brick-wall resistance to addressing the profound questions about the nature of vocation posed by such abhorrent behaviour. And so church leaders not all, awarded; surely not Pope Francis tend to speak of historical allegations whenever victims find the gallantry to speak up 20, 30 or even 40 years after events that are not for them in any way historical, but are a psychological and emotional trauma they will live with until their succumbing day.

Individuals like Graham Caveney. The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness recounts with great courage and candour how, in the 1970 s, as the clever, awkward, nerdy, merely child of devoutly Catholic working-class parents in Accrington, Lancashire, he was groomed by a priest at his local grammar school in Blackburn, and then sexually abused by him.

A casual glance might indicate he has managed to set it behind him he has a successful career as a novelist on music( the voices of the 70 s are one thread of this well-structured, rounded memoir) and biographer of William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. But as he describes, without self-pity, Caveney fell out of university, struggled to kind adult relationships, turned to beverage and drugs to blot out the trauma, and on occasion attempted suicide.

The abuse leads you to fuck up their own lives, he reflects bleakly but unsparingly, and a fucked-up life means that youre a less believable witness to the abuse that fucked you up in the first place. Its an ironic trick of memory and survival: abuse induces you want to forget the abuse.

John and Kath, his mum and father, had no idea what was wrong. They watched their beloved boy, in whom they had expended so much hope that he would have more life opportunities than them, change first into a sulky, angry adolescent who refused to go to mass, and then into a messed-up wreck, beset by panic attacks.

They died in 1998 and 2002, still none the wiser. They continued to direct their flailing son back towards his old headteacher for wise advise, never suspecting that Father Kevin ONeill had sexually abused him as a 15 -year-old and set off the downward spiral.

The Caveneys had believed that the youthful, relaxed Rev Kev the Catholic equivalent of a trendy vicar was doing their boy a favor by taking him to theaters, cinemas and restaurants, broadening his intellect. What they couldnt know was that on the way home, the priest they looked up to would turn his vehicle into quiet side-road and force himself on their son. Afterwards, where reference is invited young Graham to go on holiday to Greece with him and a group of others, John and Kath enlisted the help of relatives to scrape together the cost, but it was just a pretext for more abuse.

Its them that I cant forgive you for, Caveney writes, addressing his abuser in the pages of a book that must have cost him dear to complete, the route in which you stimulated their hopes and aspirations the tools of your own needs. Its them who expended their lives worrying if it was something they had done wrong to make their son turn out the way he did.

Given how much Catholic grammar schools from the 1950 s through to the 1970 s were the road by which generations of working-class Catholic boys and girls got to get in life the Irish Christian Friend in my own home township of Liverpool boasted that they took the sons of dockers and built them into physicians it is impossible to believe that the disloyalty of Graham Caveney and his mothers is an isolated incident. How widespread it is, however, remains impossible to know because every bit of information has to be dragged out of a compulsively secretive church that recoils from guessing in terms of deep-rooted, complex patterns of abuse.

And what happened when Caveney identified his abuser in the early 1990 s to Father ONeills religious order, the Marists? Id merely slashed up my limbs, he adds, by way of context. The clergyman was challenged, apparently confessed his crimes, but was referred to a US therapy centre rather than the police. In 1993, he retired with full honors as headteacher. Kath even sent her son a cutting about the celebrations from the local paper. You were always one of his favourites, she reminded him. The report told of ex-pupils lining up to sing the clergymen praises, little suspecting how they too had been betrayed.

ONeill died in 2011, the serious charges against him encompassed up to the grave. He still doesnt seem to appear on any register I can find of abusive clergy. What distresses Caveney almost as much as the churchs failure to involve the police and courts is that he now can never confront his abuser, save in this raw, defiant but important memoir. A part of him, he confesses, still thinks in his darkest moments that what happened was somehow his own fault.

What was it about me? he asks. You watch, theres a bit of me that still believes Im unique, that I genuinely was your prime number, indivisible merely by myself. I dont want to think of myself as part of a pattern, merely another victim.

ONeills old school, St Marys, Blackburn, today has a drama block named after him, an honour accorded despite the Marist order having been told about Caveneys accusations virtually 20 years earlier. Is it plausible that there is no one who knew of them who could have spoken up? Or did they consider that whatever good he had done at the school cancelled out sexually abusing a 15 -year-old in his care? It is part of the same impossible-to-fathom and offensive attitude that now apparently stops Vatican officials answering letters from those reporting abuse, in defiance of the pope.

Quite how long it will take for that prejudice to be defeated, I dont know. But after they have read The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness , the school governors might at least like to revisit the naming of their drama block, which scratch salt into open wounds.

Peter Stanford is a former editor of the Catholic Herald

The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness by Graham Caveney is published by Picador on 7 September( 14.99 ). To order a transcript for 12.74 go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p& p over 10, online orders only. Telephone orders min p& p of 1.99

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Fifty tints of Xi: scores of volumes praising chairman published in China

17 days ago

Blitz on bookshelves comes ahead of next weeks political summit and includes tomes including Xi Jinping: Know More, Love More

” This is the first volume I’ve read on Xi ,” acknowledges software engineer Wu Huifeng as he leafs through one of the most recent tomes of China’s prolific president.

It need not be his last.

A Communist party publishing blitz ahead of next week’s political summit entails the shelves of Chinese bookshops are now packed with Xi Jinping-themed works designed to strengthen both his reputation and his rule.

Immediately inside the entrance to the state-run Beijing Book Building, one of the capital’s largest stores, a lately inaugurated showing features at least 50 runs by or about China’s scribbler-in-chief.

” The speech is simple and sincere – quite down-to-earth, I think ,” said Wu, 43, who was perusing one of the most recent publishings, a 452 -page paperback about Xi’s seven years of rural exile during the Culture Revolution that sells for 76 yuan( PS8. 75 ).

Nearby, Fan Yubiao, a 22 -year-old salesman, was examining another recent volume, Xi Jinping’s Discourse on Youth and the Work of the Chinese Communist Youth League.

” Xi’s quite a good person. He’s strict ,” Fan said, praising his leader’s populist anti-corruption campaign which has toppled some of China’s most powerful politicians since he took power in 2012.

The works of Xi- who some now suspect will seek to remain in power beyond the customary decade- boasting titles both stirring and sterile.

At the Beijing Book Building you can buy catchily named volumes including Xi Jinping: Wit and Vision, Xi Jinping: Know More, Love More and Xi Jinping Tells Stories as well as the president’s best-known opus, Xi Jinping: The Governance of China.

Other titles are less enticing: Xi Jinping: Statements on the Construction of a Clean Government and the Anti-Corruption Campaign, Excerpts from Xi Jinping: Comprehensively Managing the Party in Strict Manner, and, for environmentalists, Xi Jinping’s Discourse on Ecological Improvement.

Wu Huifeng, 43, studies a new book about Xi Jinping’s youth at a bookshop in Beijing, China. Photo: Tom Phillips for the Guardian

China’s party-run press asserts Xi’s writings have proved a hitting both at home and abroad. If you believe Xinhua, the official news agency, a recent book of Xi anecdotes sold nearly 1.5 m copies in under four months. The Governance of China has supposedly shifted 6.42 m transcripts in 21 different languages.

” These vivid tales … have opened a window to the essence of Xi’s statements ,” the president of party mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, gushed in a recent interview.

Beyond the constraints of China’s heavily-censored publishing industry, rather more unconventional runs about Xi are also starting to emerge, including a 23-page work of erotic fiction called Xi’s The One.

The synopsis of the book, which sells on Amazon for PS2. 44, suggests it is unlikely to find a publisher in authoritarian China.

” She’s a lonely, overworked waitress in a downbeat Chicago pizza joint and he’s the President of the People’s Republic of China on a tour of the United States ,” it says.” Their stressful, bearing lives are about to heat up like a pizza …”

Here are some choice an extract from China’s Storyteller-in-Chief:

Xi Jinping: The Governance of China, 2014

” When I fulfill foreign leaders, one question they often ask in amazement is this:’ How can one govern such a large country as China ?’ Indeed, it is not easy to govern a country with 1.3 billion people … In such a big, populous and complicated country as ours, we the leaders must have an in-depth knowledge of the national conditions and learn what the people believe and what they want … We must cultivate an attitude of’ governing a big country is as delicate as frying a small fish ‘.”

Xi Jinping: Know More, Love More, 2015

” To love one’s hometown, one first of all needs to know about it. A profound love must be built upon a profound understanding. One can only know more about one’s hometown, by loving it more.

” Communists must hold clear stances as to what they subsistence and what they resist. Their flags must be clear and their postures forthright, especially when faced with major issues of right and wrong .”

Xi Jinping: Wit and Vision( Selected Excerpts and Commentary ), 2015

” Language has a magical power. In his speeches, President Xi Jinping often employs analogies and storytelling to express profound truths. His colloquial, straightforward speech clarifies ideas that many find puzzling, and his excerpts from China’s traditional culture well summarize his topics and thoroughly expound his propositions. His speeches express wisdom in simple speech that packs a powerful, penetrating punch .”

Xi Jinping’s Seven Years As An Educated Youth, 2017

” Xi Jinping’s Seven Years As An Educated Youth is a series of interviews planned and organised by the party school of the Communist party’s central committee[ with those who knew him in the early 1970 s ].

” Even though the events[ described] took place more than 40 years ago,[ the interviewees ‘] precious memories have by no means faded. Everywhere general secretary Xi Jinping left footprints, we have listened attentively to tales of how he went through thick and thin, along with the people[ and] of how he analyse assiduously …[ These narratives] penetrate people’s souls over and over again .”

Additional reporting by Wang Zhen

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Nap pods and rooftop parks: how Silicon Valley is reinventing the office

18 days ago

Tech giants Google, Samsung and Facebook are in a race to create the most elaborated workplace environments

From the fifth-floor putting green of Samsungs Silicon Valley headquarters, appearing out at a rolling horizon of sun-scorched mountains, its quite easy to forget youre at work. An executive is practising tai chi by the cactus garden, while another jiggles in a robotic massage chair nearby. A volleyball match is in full swing in the lush-planted courtyard below, while raucous screamings of table football emerge from the Chill Zone, next to a row of space-age nap pods. Meet by the ping-pong tables, reads a sign stuck on the window. Todays spinning class will be on the terrace! 🙂

With its new $300 m office block, which stands like a stack of gleaming white hard drives at an intersection north of San Jose, the South Korean electronics giant is plunging headlong into the holiday camp workplace culture of the Bay Area tech scene.

We wanted to introduce more of a startup vibe to the company, says Jim Elliott, Samsungs vice-president of memory marketing, a undertaking title as otherworldly as the building he works in. We were all separated in our different departmental islands before, but this building is about bringing people together and encouraging chance encounters. We want to get people out of the boardroom.

Samsung has had a base here for 30 years, housed in a cluster of nondescript sheds, but this 10 -storey beacon is designed to change its brand image in North America from purveyor of fridges and washing machines to powerhouse of cutting-edge semiconductor innovation.

Designed by NBBJ, an architecture firm that is conjuring futuristic jungle-filled biospheres for Amazon in Seattle and a handful of vast tech offices across China, the building is the product of research into behavioural psychology and the neuroscience of work.

Sleeping on the job a nap pod at Samsung HQ. Photo: Tim Griffith

Its all about mobility, says architect Scott Wyatt, who heads NBBJs corporate workplace division. If you sit down for more than 20 minutes, you get dumber. Strolling outdoors, he says, is when your brain attains optimum cognitive function, so the Samsung office is configured to get people out of their chairs as much as possible. With pairs of floors separated by an outdoor terrace, employees are never more than a floor away from stepping outside. The cafeteria, meanwhile, is housed in a separate star-shaped building, so they have to walk out to lunch where 10 various kinds of global cuisine are on offer in a food court worthy of an upscale mall.

Samsungs fun-filled office-cum-wellness-centre is just the most recent in a wave of new flagship headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area that mark a revolutionary deviation for the tech industry, which has never much cared for its surroundings before now. Norman Foster is busy erecting a doughnut-shaped flying saucer for Apple, set in a 150 -acre park in Cupertino, where 3.7 miles of curved glass will shortly encase a continuous tube of offices, built to the precision of an iPhone. Not to be surpas, Google has hired two of the most fashionable designers of the moment, Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick, to concoct a retro-futuristic fantasyland of plug-in run pods beneath swooping glass tents. Such dreamy visions mark a recent and radical change from the tech worlds default setting of the generic suburban business park.

Microsoft always said the buildings dont matter, says Wyatt, who has worked on countless projects for the Bill Gates empire. The tech position was: Just give me a garage. All that has changed. With increasing competition to attract the best young intellects, the silicon giants are now racing to outdo each other with ever more elaborate facilities( filled with ever more bountiful snacks ).

Techie jungle liana-like cables and stuffed leopards at Facebooks HQ, the biggest continuous office floor in the world. Photograph: Oliver Wainwright for the Guardian

The mother of all pimped-up garages now rambles along the road in Menlo Park, 15 miles west of Samsungs HQ, standing like a line of conjoined aircraft hangars piled up in a car accident. With walls protruding out at odd angles and zig-zagging staircases casually bolted on as if at random, it bears the unmistakable hand of Frank Gehry. Stretching across 40,000 square metres, his Facebook headquarters is a hymn to the beloved startup foundation myth of the loose-fit inventors shed.

Housing the biggest continuous office floor in the world, seating around 3,000 workers in an open-plan jumble, it is a appropriately gargantuan home for a social network that now counts one fifth of the worlds population in the membership of the committee. Strolling the office floor feels like exploring a techie jungle, where lianas of cables dangle from the seven-metre-high ceiling, servicing pods of programmers, while novelty helium balloons sway above their adjustable stand desks.

We encourage people to hack their space, says my young tour guide, as we navigate this rough and ready world of raw steel beams and exposed ductwork, passing a piata modelled on Donald Trump, a leopard in a pink cape and a life-size stuffed polar bear. Were merely 1% finished connecting the world, so we wanted the building to looking unfinished too.

Freestanding plywood meeting rooms are daubed with colourful murals from resident artists, while other walls are plastered with motivational posters, made by the companys publish studio, the Analogue Research Lab, featuring ominous mottos such as: Eventually everything connects.

When Zuck[ CEO Mark Zuckerberg] says something in the morning, one Facebooker tells me, it can become a poster slogan by the afternoon.

At the top of a dog-leg staircase, in a moment of Alice in Wonderland revelation, we come to a nine-acre rooftop park, a bucolic idyll of sloping lawns and wireless-enabled wildflower grasslands that look out across the marshy rust-coloured flats of the bay. Cranes are busy constructing housing next door( which, although partly funded by Facebook, the company insists is not the rumoured Zeetown for its workers ), while volunteers set up pavilions on the roof for global causes day, an annual charity initiative.

No one pays attention to how much youre at your desk, says my guide. As long as you get your work done, you can be lying on the lawn or sitting at the grilled cheese bar.

Samsung HQ. Photograph: Tim Griffith

Free food on tap is a fundamental part of the tech workplace, and Bay Area companies have long competed over the breadth of their snack offering. But the stakes are now shifting towards health-conscious options: the ubiquitous jars of jelly beans and M& Ms are increasingly supplanted by dehydrated broccoli florets and kale crisps, washed down with a gulp of Soylent. Google has rearranged its snack counters so you have to pass fresh fruit before you reach the candy, while in the cornucopic cafeteria of LinkedIns new San Francisco HQ, a wall lists all the local suppliers, beneath the slogan: Know your farms, know your food.

I like to start my day with a kimchi rice bowl, or maybe some sushi, says one LinkedIn employee, as we stroll around the never-ending buffet. We have an in-house pastry chef whose cakes are to die for and eight flavors of homemade ice cream.

Sheathed in a sinister cape of faceted black glass, somehow befitting the professional networking site, LinkedIns new 26 -storey tower is a vertical promenade of tech office cliches. We pass the wireless headphone rack of a silent disco zone and a Nerf missile play area, then a pillow fighting meeting room and a post your own haiku wall, each space exuding the forlorn air of a besuited tycoon trying to be wacky. Leaving the offices, we pass through a passageway where a distorted trompe-loeil mural makes a slogan appear to float in thin air, filling your field of vision with bold capital letter: FOCUS ON WHAT MATTERS.

Airbnbs bedouin tent meeting rooms. Photograph: Mark Mahaney/ Mark Maheny

A few blocks away, one of the regions fastest growing companies is rapidly filling the floors of a former newspaper mill, where it has converted the industrial spaces into a theatrical playground of themed work zones. At Airbnb, you can have your sessions in a log cabin or a Milanese loft apartment, a bedouin tent or a replica ramen cafe each space meticulously recreated from the websites holiday rental listings.

According to the companys in-house Environments team, its about how we can create spaces that are home-like, but highly effective, functional spaces that allow people to do great work, but hopefully in ways that amaze us.

Some people nestle in bean containers, hunched over their laptops on a stepped seat terrace, others gratify in an Airstream caravan, while studious kinds can squirrel themselves away in leather armchairs in a dimly illuminated analyse. At the centre of it all, in a defining moment of startup nostalgia, is a meeting room modelled on the apartment down the road where the company first began.

If the office is trying to be a physical manifestation of the companys motto Belong anywhere it all feels a bit like a budget version of the Crystal Maze, each define decorated with props sourced from eBay or Etsy, and built with the longevity of a shop-window display.

Time to noodle ramen cafe-themed meeting room at Airbnbs HQ. Photograph: Oliver Wainwright for the Guardian

Out on the street, leaving the living wall-lined lobby, youre confronted with a stark symbol of one of the symptoms of the success of this room-letting behemoth, in the form of a type of enclosure that doesnt make it into the themed office scenery: the tents of a homeless encampment, huddled beneath the flyover.

It is a reminder of the side-effects that the booming tech industry is having on the immediate context outside its hermetically sealed, candy-coated walls. The recent influx of companies from the valley to the city, lured here by considerable taxation incentives, is not just increasing rents but bringing other unexpected consequences.

Tech offices can have a kind of deadening effect on the city, says Allison Arieff of SPUR, a non-profit urban research centre. Since they are now offer their employees with everything on site for free from coffee to dry-cleaning to haircuts local business are often forced to close down when they move in.

For all their talk of community and the commons, the dotcoms are proving to be some of the least civic-minded industries around. As a gesture of public goodwill, LinkedIns tower gives a vast chunk of its ground floor over to an airy public room, where you may sit and have your lunch and use the Wi-Fi, but San Franciscans wont be so easily persuaded.

Nobody cares about your tech job, reads a poster on a nearby lamppost. Be courteous to others when in public and keep the feral careerism of your collegial banter on mute. Or get mugged. We can hear you.

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