April 27, 2017

IMPROVISATION AND CULTURE

Jesse Appell

The Hot Cat Club is a small bar/club hidden deep within a series of old “hutong(胡同)” alleyways not far from the Buddhist Lama Temple in Beijing. I went there to spend an hour or two at an improv workshop being held by Improv Beijing, and arrived 10 minutes before the start time to find the place deserted. I asked a tired-looking man nearby if there was a workshop tonight. “I don’t know, man,” he said. “I just came here to drink.” This inauspicious beginning to the evening proved to be a false indicator of the night to come, as Beijing time dictates that people come whenever they want to and never early. By the time eight o’clock rolled around, the tiny club was packed to the gills with improvers, mostly Chinese, and comedians of all sorts. Forty people packed into a tight circle for warmups and soon sounds were flying and bodies moving.
The energy of the improv scene in Beijing seems to me like a tsunami wave, growing stronger and broader, largely unseen, beneath seemingly still waters. When I left China last year, I knew of two troupes, an English language troupe and a bilingual one. Now, at one night’s meeting, I counted representatives from seven groups, which included all-Chinese language performance troupes, and an all female troupe. To me, the fact that new troupes are emerging, each exploring its own style of comedy, shows a real maturing of the comedy scene here. People are doing the type of improv they want to do, no longer bottlenecked by inability to access new styles or forms. The increasing diversity of the scene was summed up by a new friend I met named Zeng Cheng, who goes by the English name Caesar. “There are so many people here who want to do improv,” he said. “So there are new troupes being created all the time. We’re not all good, but we want to perform, and starting a troupe is free. This way, we all get to practice more, and we slowly get better.” [Read More…]

JAI BHIM COMRADE

Film Screening – Jai Bhim Comrade
Q&A with Indian filmmaker Anand Patwardhan

4 October, 2012, 7pm, Shapiro Campus Center Theater

India’s Dalit (oppressed) castes were abhorred as “untouchables” denied education and treated as bonded labor. In 1997, a statue of Dalit leader, B.R. Ambedkar, was desecrated with footwear in Ramabhai colony in Mumbai. As angry residents gathered, police opened fire killing 10 people. Vilas Ghogre, a leftist poet hung himself in protest.

Compelled by this tragedy, Jai Bhim Comrade, shot over 14 years, follows the resistance poetry and music of Maharastra’s Dalits. In an age of increasing bigotry and superstition, it is both a record of recent history as well as eloquent testimony to a rationalist tradition that has survived amongst the subaltern for thousands of years.

About the Filmmaker

Anand Patwardhan is a renown, award-winning Indian filmamker and Brandeis Alum ’72 (BA in Sociology). Patwardhan has been making investigative documentaries in India for over four decades on controversial issues such as corruption, caste, slum dwellers, communalism and activism. His films have often faced state censorship and the wrath of religious fundamentalists.

Co-sponsored by: IGS, PAX, COEX, Brandeis India Initiative, Sociology, SJSP, South Asian Studies, Anthropology and Sarita Bhalotra

Monumentality and the Individual

Ariana Hajmiragha

The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca can be seen for miles in each direction when not blocked by buildings. Built on the coast, jutting into the ocean with views of the beach from each side, the clean lines and intricate designs of the tower starkly contrast with the surrounding dingy buildings of the industrial city. I visited on a gorgeous spring day, warm enough to take off my jacket, with droves of people visiting on their Sunday off from work. Entering from the street, two flanking buildings and fountains block the sheer scope of the mosque, but after passing into the courtyard the area feels like it belongs to a time and city apart.

Finished in 1993, the mosque does not belong to the distant past, but is designed to link the past with the present in aesthetics and function. The architecture is indelibly Islamic, but reminiscent of artistic visions of the future, with sweeping lines, slight curves, and the impeccable juxtaposition of intimate spaces in the covered walkways along the perimeter with the sweeping open space of the courtyard and the monumentality of the main mosque.

Couples, families, friends, and individuals roamed the grounds, and sat along the edges with a view of the rocky coast and beach. The mosque is not only unique due to its incredible architecture, but also is one of the few mosques open in Morocco to non-Muslims, at certain appointed tour times. I was unable to take one of such tours, because I arrived just prior to the noon prayers and so the mosque was open only to practitioners. At about 12:30pm, the call to prayer rang out from the tower. Immediately people began moving from the sidelines to the enormous main gate to pray. Not all went to pray, and many remained outside in the sun, sitting, walking, and talking. [Read more…]

The Business of Media in India

Siddharth Joshi

As an ex IGS UDR who helped launch this blog, it is with great warmth and pride that I return to this evolved platform to give you my story. After graduating in May 2011, I completed my GMAT, did the whole ‘Europe on a shoestring budget’ and went through the arduous process of finding a job. I must say that Brandeis prepared me well for all three situations by refining my academic skills, teaching me how to survive with very little money and providing me with the personal as well as professional skills and qualifications to get a real job.

Life lesson: no matter how skilled or qualified you may be, it is not easy to get a job in a place you enjoy. I was fortunately helped by The Lady (Luck for those not familiar with Pratchett’s Discworld!) and my resume landed in the hands of Rajesh Kamath; a man who single handed, launched, and took a TV channel from anonymity to number one in its genre in India in two years time. He had just been hired as the Indian CEO of an international venture, and only had a CFO working with him at that point. I was the third to join this team, due to opportune circumstances and relevant internships that I had done. I joined, and currently work in the India office of C.A. Media. [Read more…]

London Calling, Yes I was There Too

Bryan Flatt

I spent the semester of Spring 2010 working for Taylor Hampton Solicitors, a small law firm in London, England. We received a lot of phone calls and emails from concerned people at our office. Most of them were pulling at strings – people looking for attention, crazies with conspiracy theories, tipsters with no backing – but we followed up on every claim we could in case there was a bite on the other end of the line. During my four months, I got to experience some of the big bites but it was just after I left did the whole world realize that my last bite would end up snapping the line.

Taylor Hampton Solicitors specializes in media law and is located in the heart of London’s legal center. The lawyer I worked for at the firm was named Mark Lewis. Since mid-June he has been quoted in hundreds of publications all over the world. Why? He is one of the first, and one of the largest solicitors (a type of lawyer in the UK) working on the News of the World Phone Hacking case. His paramount case is that of the family of Milly Dowler – the 13-year-old girl whose phone was hacked while she was kidnapped and eventually found murdered. It was the case that brought down Rupert Murdoch’s historical tabloid ‘The News of the World’ and set into motion a chain of events that experts allege may eventually bring down Murdoch himself. [Read more…]

Snapshots from Abroad

Ben Rifkin, Madagascar 

A Malagasy man naps on top of a Taxi-Brousse in the capital, Antananarivo, before he embarks on a long journey across the country. I was about to embark on my own 24 hour non-stop cross-country journey in a similar Taxi-Brousse.

 

Jesse Appell, China

Da Shu Hua: A traditional festival I went to in Hebei Province, where a man hurls molten iron against a wall and it explodes as it falls back towards the ground. The festival is called “Da Shu Hua,” or, “To beat down the flowers from the trees.”

 

Madeline Stix, Bolivia

This photograph is taken during my village stay in the town of Tocoli (population 200), on the edge of Lake Titicaca, the lake with the second highest altitude in the world (at 14,000 feet). Two women from the village scuttling down the hill to prepare for our welcome “almuerzo” (lunch), which took place by the sacred waters of the lake.

 

Melissa Donze, India

“Smiles”: Sharing smiles at the community meeting on the Right to Food Campaign in Ullaluapanagar, Bangalore, India.

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