In an attempt to avoid being held liable for any mistreatment of detainees the Guantánamo Bay medical staff have adopted Shakespearean names. Until recently, some of the doctors there used their real names, which made it easy to report them for misconduct. Now the military wants the medical staff to ignore the Tokyo Declaration of 1975, which forbids the force-feeding of mentally competent hunger strikers, and refuse to inform prisoners of the results of their own medical tests.
Here is the Guantánamo medical team’s dramatis personae:
Senior Medical Officer … . . Leonato (Much Ado about Nothing)
Force-Feeding Doctor … . . Varro (Julius Caesar)
Behavioural Health Doctor … . . Cordelia (King Lear)
Behavioural Health Doctor … . . Cressida (Troilus and Cressida)
Psychiatrist … . . Helena (All’s Well That Ends Well / A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
Medical Corpsman … . . Silius (Antony and Cleopatra)
Nurse … . . Valeria (Coriolanus)
Nurse … . . Lucentio (The Taming of the Shrew)
Nurse … . . Lucio (Measure for Measure)
From Tevis Thompson’s provocative review of Bioshock Infinite - so this, this repeats itself in videogameland over and over again. This lazy, frankly cowardly backing away perspective and context into an imagined and fundamentally absurd “objectivity” that you are never allowed to maintain, because you must pick up the gun.
This is the problem with Dragon Age II, crystallised in the third act where suddenly all the people you talked to and possibly tried to save or oppress suddenly become targets. There’s no talking down, there’s no negotiating, there’s no standing-back-and-observing. Your hands are as bloody as anyone’s, and you stand there at the end with the game telling you that the oppressed and the oppressors “were as bad as each other” after spending two acts showing you the nuance and particularity and weight of history. (And instead of Bioshock Infinite’s alternate universe, Bioware uses the Tevinter Imperium - the topsy-turvey empire where mages control the Circle, and enslave common men.)
Shakti Chattopadhyay in Caravan Magazine
“The Preacher” centers on Yusef, an ambitious sheikh whose television preaching has brought him wealth, fame, and a tastefully decorated villa that he shares with his extended family. But mutinies are brewing amid the muted lighting and sectional sofas. In the series première, his brother-in-law Hassan, who is also a preacher, begins to question Yusef’s strict interpretation of the Koran; at a family dinner, Yusef lashes out at his younger sister Marwa for bringing home a birthday cake (Muslims should celebrate only religious holidays, he tells her). In episode three, Yusef rejects the young man Marwa wants to marry because he’s an actor (haram); in episode five, he discovers that another younger sister is secretly playing the violin (haram, again), and smashes the instrument to pieces.
Television preachers started appearing in Egypt a decade ago, helped by a rising conservatism and the proliferation of private satellite channels. Clerics have traditionally gained followers through their knowledge of the Koran, but the new televangelists attracted people with their accessibility, charisma, or religious fervor. One Salafi sheikh has called for the destruction of Egyptian antiquities; several have accused famous actresses of promoting immorality. The clash between art and extremism culminated in the spring with a sit-in against the appointment of an Islamist culture minister. People accused the Muslim Brotherhood of hijacking the country—and destroying their vision of a cosmopolitan, tolerant Egypt.
“I started feeling that this was a very important time for our country: we will either advance, or we will go backward five hundred years,” Medhat el-Adl, who wrote the script for “The Preacher,” told me. “We felt this was the right time to speak.””
In India, ambitious intellectuals have likewise wished to learn a foreign tongue to advance their scholarship and their career. This has almost always been English—once the language of the colonial rulers, now the language of the global marketplace. The spread of English among the intelligentsia has been extremely rapid, so much so that many Indian writers and professors are now more comfortable in that language than in their own mother tongue. Even so, bilingualism and multilingualism are ubiquitous in India—particularly in towns and cities. Telugu and Tamil speakers are a large presence in Bangalore, in theory the capital of a Kannada-speaking state. Gujarati and Hindi speakers each number in their millions in Mumbai. Most Indians are entirely adjusted to, and comfortable with, their fellow citizens speaking, reading, or writing Indian languages other than their own.
For all the homogenising impulses generated by globalisation, this still seems to be a genuine point of difference between China and India. In theory and more so in practice, we remain a linguistically plural society and state.”
A Nehruvian in China by Ramachandra Guha
Completely fascinating article about diversity and pluralism - diversity is a social condition, pluralism is a political programme. China and India are both diverse, but China is not a plural society. A sociological perspective on confluences and contrasts between these two vast Asian states - and a good reminder that pluralism is not something that just happens, but the result of constant efforts by individuals and organisations that must be maintained and tended.
Santander’s narrow downtown streets are dotted with electronic signs that direct drivers to the nearest available parking spaces, reducing traffic congestion. Sensors are being installed on dumpsters to signal when they need emptying and are being buried in parks to measure soil dampness, preventing sprinkler overuse. Coming soon: wireless-enabled meters that monitor water consumption at homes and businesses, phasing out door-to-door meter readers. Mayor Iñigo de la Serna says the effort, known as SmartSantander, will cut city waste-management bills 20 percent this year, and he projects a 25 percent drop in energy bills as sensors conserve use in public building systems. “Smart innovation is improving our economic fabric and the quality of life,” the mayor says. “It has changed the way we work.”
The 20-person SmartSantander development team, which is led by University of Cantabria engineering professor Luis Muñoz, has also pushed residents to help collect and make use of data. Anyone in the city can download a mobile app to complain about potholes or other nuisances and receive updates from officials. A separate app tracks the availability of buses and taxis in real time. Still another city-provided app lets people wave their smartphones over barcode decals in shop windows to get price information or place orders. “This is the future, and we are already there,” says local shoe store owner Angel Benito, who has received orders from customers using the app.”
Spain’s Santander, The City that Runs on Sensors in Bloomberg BusinessWeek
Incredible stuff; later on the article talks about the potential for companies to test products in this connected environment. It’s so easy to imagine a future in which all our usage behaviours and dwell times and choices will be analysed & used to iterate design, physical objects as service, everything is an always-on game. The smart city is the new focus group. Use is testing, nothing is perfect, everything is constantly watching and altering and smoothing itself to fit more perfectly into our commutes, our streets, our routines and our other products. The connected world is an ecosystem, data analytics is how it will mutate.
While this email is obviously absurd, it’s the same general logic that we will be confronted with over and over again: choose your team. Which would you prefer? Bombs or exploits. Terrorism or security. Us or them. As transparent as this logic might be, sometimes it doesn’t take much when confirming to oneself that the profitable choice is also the right choice.
If I absolutely have to frame my choices as an either-or, I’ll choose power vs. people.”