Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some timely  catching up with friends (old and new)!

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you how you did during week 6 of the WuFlu Lockdown. Of course, we’d be having coffee and talking over the phone or on Zoom.

Last Monday I had two conference calls and a Zoom board meeting to attend. Then on Tuesday I had another two conference calls and could have joined a Zoom event through my church. They’re doing the wonderful Alpha program and now it was transferred on to Zoom. While it’s lovely that Zoom enables people to connect during a lockdown, I was just tired of this format. I watched the Alpha program on my own, but couldn’t bring myself to watch another Zoom event.

My team at work has coalesced and unified, which is great because there’s little support as we’re remote and our office is 95% closed.

I’m missing the library. I’ve finished most of the books and DVDs I’ve checked out. Yes, we have access to ebooks, but my password doesn’t work with Hoopla and Libby’s offerings don’t compare. Also, I still prefer real books.

I enjoy both Dave Rubin and Ben Shapiro and here’s a video I’ve started watching with both of them talking about Free Speech. I also recommend Eric Metaxas’ interview of Candace Owens.

I finished reading The Starlet and the Spy, set in Korea just after the Korean War. In a nutshell, it was okay, but I’ve read better. More on that tomorrow.

Last night was another terrific pair of episodes of The Last Dance, the documentary about the Chicago Bulls 1997-98 season. I learned a lot about Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson.

On Liberty

Here’s a short video I made introducing the ideas of John Stuart Mill culled from his work “On Liberty.” Mill was a big champion of free speech.

I think more people should read this book. You can get it for free here.

What about Free Speech?

I’ve just returned from China where a colleague in Hefei had his final exam censored. The school contended that the readings on the exam were “too dark” and they objected a reading where a character exclaims “Oh, my God!” since there should be no religion in a class.

Now in the Land of the Free, I’ve read in the Chicago Tribune (link to the article) that several theaters in Chicago have jumped on Steppenwolf Theater’s to stop giving Sun Times critic Hedi Weiss free tickets since they disagree with her review of one of their plays. The play in question, Pass Over, evidently ends with dialog calling policemen murderers. Weiss’ review takes issue with this ideology. You can read her review here. Weiss is a perceptive, rational critic and in no way does the review sound like the work of a “deep-seated bigot.” I’m saddened by how easily some in the theater world here have furthered the name calling and called her racist and sexist.

Should the newspapers hire additional critics from a variety of backgrounds? Sounds like a good idea.

Should public debate descend into vicious name calling? I hope we can agree it shouldn’t.

I applaud The Goodman Theater and The Chicago Reader, who have both stepped up to defend the principle of free speech. It’s sad that theaters, which benefit from our Freedom of Speech condemn a critic who disagrees with a playwright. I plan to write to Steppenwolf about how disappointing their response to a review, which pointed out both the strengths and weaknesses of one of their productions. I can’t see continuing to attend Steppenwolf after the horrid production I fled last summer and now this unfair criticism of a critic.

This response by the theaters reminds me of the college students who whine when they have to read or discuss ideas that they don’t support.

A friend believes we’re facing an American version of the Chinese Cultural Revolution where thoughts were policed. What do you think?

No Regrets for Our Youth

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Directed by Kurosawa, No Regrets for Our Youth surprised me as it’s the story of a young woman by a director whose prolific body of work otherwise emphasised male characters. The heroine Yukie is carefree and playful at the start of the film. She has no use for anything serious. The film opens with Yukie strolling through the mountains with her father’s university students. When they come to a shallow creek, she halts and waits for someone to rescue her.

Noge, a very political, man of action carries her across the water that seems about three inches deep. On the sidelines looking awkward is his friend Itokawa who has feelings for Yukie, but is too shy and unsure of himself to do anything. Yukie likes teasing men more than anything and  plays Noge and Itokawa off each other.

As political tensions rise in Japan leading up to WWII, Yukie’s father is fired by the government because he’s spoken out against military aggression. Made after the war No Regrets for Our Youth, contains several scenes with characters discussing the importance of academic freedom, free speech and the importance of self sacrifice when working towards a greater good. Both Yukie’s father and Noge, who is arrested and imprisoned pay for their ideals.

After seven years, Yukie leaves her hometown Kyoto, to work in Tokyo. Here she bumps into Itokawa who’s continued to play it safe. He’s a lawyer and is married. He’s kept in touch with Noge, who’s just been released. Now Yukie’s matured somewhat and when she sees Noge again she’s willing to give up a conventional life to risk life with a rebel.

Soon Noge is arrested and she’s imprisoned, questioned and eventually released. We’re not entirely sure of what Noge did with his underground work but he says that in 10 years the Japanese will thank him and Yukie. From then on Yukie’s life is full of hardship, hardship she voluntarily takes on despite protests from her parents and Noge’s parents. It’s amazing to see someone who was such a flibbertigibbet turn into an honest to goodness heroine.

While the film was made early in Kurosawa’s career and lacks the mastery of later films, No Regrets of Our Youth tells a compelling story and enlightened me on anti-war protests in Japan prior to and during WWII. Also, I wish this Criterion Collection DVD featured more commentary or background information.

Bughouse Square Debates

Don Washington, Mayoral Tutorial

Shakespeare Project – Julius Caesar

Saturday was the annual Bughouse Square Debates, a celebration of free speech held every July in Chicago’s Washington Park. It’s free and great fun. The even opened with an actor from the Shakespeare Project reading from Julius Caesar followed by an introduction by The Chicago Tribune’s Rick Kogan. Kogan welcomed the crowd, explained the event’s history and shared Illinois governor John Altgeld‘s releasing the remaining Haymaker Square  protesters.

Then two Chicago Reader columnists received the 2014 Altgeld Free Speech award.Next Don Washington, the main speaker, took the stage. Washington gave an interactive “Mayoral Tutorial” which clued the audience in to how the current mayor is simply repackaging and using new terms to continue former Mayor Daly’s failed privatization schemes. For example, the “Concept Schools” are under investigation by the FBI because they allegedly use funds inappropriately to get visas for teachers from Turkey and Central Asia. Quite an unexpected way to keep teachers’ wages low. Another form of privatization Rahm’s Red Light ticketing scam, which anyone who watches local news knows are erratic and have been giving drivers who’ve done nothing wrong $100 tickets and the driver’s obligated to prove they’re innocent.

Washington was a powerful speaker and added playful interaction in his talk. He got the crowd to reach out to each other with a bingo game, which made me nervous as the man behind us was clearly a loud drunk. Luckily by the time I’d chatted with the people in front of us, someone had won. The reason for the interaction was that Washington thinks that people don’t know their neighbors and therefore can’t advocate for change since they’re isolated.

Don Washington

Don Washington

When Washington finished, the debates expanded as speakers took to the four soap box areas. I heard speakers on religion, Syria, healthcare and labor. This year wasn’t as good as in the past when speakers were paired with someone who disagreed with them. This year people just gave speeches. Only the Evangelical preacher was dynamic and got and handled hecklers with aplomb. The other speakers needed to practice more. Only the speaker on Syria and religion offered facts I hadn’t heard.

I was surprised that so much of the audience was over 60 — at least 50%. Aren’t the young interested in free speech? There were food trucks with empanadas, organic sausages and gelato.

I brought a former Chinese student with me and I tried to summarize and answer her questions. I do wonder what she thought of the event, which takes on tough issues with intelligence and frivolity.

Bughouse Square Debates

This is a must-see event in Chicago. This coming Saturday the Newberry Library celebrates free speech with the Bughouse Square Debates. They’ll open with an award for outstanding work for free speech and then offer an afternoon of reasoned, passionate debate on a wide range of topics: religion, politics, arts, education, you name it. Heckling is encouraged and honored. The Dil Pickle Award will go to the best debater.

There is an open soap box so anyone could win this year’s Dil.