Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Daido Moriyama: On The Road" (in Osaka)

"Daido Moriyama: On The Road"
A Retrospective Solo Exhibition 
June 28 – September 19, 2011 
The National Museum of Art, Osaka 

A retrospective which reflects upon half a century of Moriyama‟s works since his debut in 1965, consisting of an overall of 400 photographs taken in accordance with the publication of over 10 major portfolios. Approximately 100 color photographs taken of Tokyo will also be presented as part of the exhibition.

Be sure to check this exhibition by one of Japan's most famous contemporary photographers if you are in Osaka during the summer.

For more information see, the National Museum if Art, Osaka web page (in Japanese): http://www.nmao.go.jp/exhibition/index.html

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Netflix, Time Warner sued by U.S. deaf groups"

From Reuters.com, 6/17/11:

An advocacy group for deaf Americans sued Netflix (NFLX.O) on Friday for failing to provide closed captioning on its streaming online television and movies.

The National Association of the Deaf, in a lawsuit filed in Massachusetts federal court, accused Netflix of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by not providing the deaf with equal access to its "watch instantly" digital video.

"While streaming (video) provides more access to entertainment to the general public, it threatens to be yet another barrier to people who are deaf and hard of hearing," the lawsuit said.

Another advocacy group and three individuals filed a separate suit on Wenesday against Time Warner (TWX.N). Both lawsuits seek injunctions requiring the companies to provide closed captions on all streaming video content.

The suit filed on Friday said Netflix provides captions on less than 5 percent of its streaming titles, despite repeated requests from the association dating back to 2009.

"We're aware of and sensitive to the concern," said Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey, adding that for several years the company has communicated its progress on the issue of closed captioning on its website.

In 2009, Netflix Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt reported on the company blog that technological difficulties were hindering its attempt to add captions to streaming video. The advocacy group argued that captioning is technically possible, pointing to titles already captioned.

"For people who are deaf and hard of hearing, captions are like ramps for people who use wheelchairs," the group's lawyer Arlene Mayerson in a statement.

U.S. law requires public buildings to provide ramps for wheelchair access. The suit noted that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that "places of entertainment" provide "full and equal enjoyment" for people with disabilities.

The suit says that by failing to provide captions, Netflix, the leading U.S. provider of on-demand video, increases the sense of isolation and stigma suffered by people with hearing impairments.

On Wednesday, the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness (GLAD) and three individuals sued Time Warner Inc in California state court for refusing to caption its online news videos at CNN.com. Although many of the videos on CNN.com are accompanied by text, the script seldom matches the content of the video and is not a substitute for captioning, the suit said.

Time Warner and CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/17/netflix-lawsuit-idUSN1711044420110617

Friday, June 17, 2011

"Yahoo ordered to pay damages over photo"

From today's Daily Yomiuri Online:

The Tokyo District Court has ordered Yahoo Japan Corp. and The Sankei Shimbun to pay a total of 660,000 yen in compensation over a photo of a handcuffed man carried on Yahoo Japan's Web site.

Yahoo Japan's public relations department said they believed this is the first time a Web site operator has been ordered to pay damages for news articles or photos originally distributed by media outlets.

The photo featured the late Kazuyoshi Miura, former president of an import company, who was acquitted in 2003 in Japan of charges he was involved in the fatal 1981 shooting of his wife Kazumi in Los Angeles. The controversial photo was taken when Miura was arrested over another case in September 1985. In the photo, Miura was handcuffed and accompanied by police officers.

In October 2008, Miura committed suicide in a Los Angeles jail. He had been detained over the 1981 murder for seven months in the U.S. territory of Saipan before being transferred to Los Angeles.

Miura's wife at the time of his suicide filed a lawsuit against Yahoo Japan and The Sankei Shimbun, demanding a total of 6.6 million yen for emotional distress due to the photo.

"The photo harmed the feelings of the bereaved family," presiding Judge Shigeo Matsunami said in the ruling Wednesday. Regarding Yahoo Japan's responsibility, he said, "The company neglected its duty in preventing the photo from being carried [on the Web site]."

In its report on Miura's suicide, The Sankei Shimbun distributed the 1985 photo along with other photos and articles. The photo was carried on the Yahoo site.

During the hearing, Yahoo Japan said, "We were not involved in writing the articles or taking the photos, so we have no responsibility."

However, the court decision said, "Based on the content of the accompanying articles, we don't see why it was necessary to carry the photo. Yahoo Japan shares the responsibility of making the photo public [with The Sankei Shimbun]."

"We'll consider our next move after we read the court ruling," a Yahoo Japan spokesperson said.

Masao Horibe, professor emeritus at Hitotsubashi University and expert in information law, said, "The ruling recognizes the responsibility of Web-based media and takes into account influence of the Internet."

"For Web site operators, it's a huge burden to check every single article, but they need to establish a system to do so considering the influence their sites have on users," he said.

Link: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T110616005618.htm

See related link on photo ethics in Japan: http://visualanthropologyofjapan.blogspot.com/2009/02/ethics-of-visual-anthropology-in-japan_12.html

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Posters convey victims' hopeful messages"

Image borrowed from "A Beacon of Rebirth Poster Project."

From The Daily Yomiuri Online, June 14, 2011:

Posters that feature devastated residents of Kamaishi and Otsuchicho in Iwate Prefecture and carry messages of hope, inspiration and determination to recover have attracted people's attention.

The posters, produced by a 32-year-old advertising company employee in Morioka and others, have drawn reaction from overseas after they were introduced via the Internet.

On a visit to Kamaishi at the end of March, the 32-year-old man was moved by his encounters with people who had not abandoned their hope for the future even after losing everything. He decided to start the "'A Beacon of Rebirth' Poster Project" to inform people in other parts of Iwate Prefecture of their positive attitudes.

He asked his cameraman friend to take photos of the devastated people in Kamaishi and Otsuchicho against a background of debris. Based on interviews with the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the man and his company colleague came up with slogans and included messages from victims to accompany the photos.

At first, the posters were displayed only at izakaya pubs and other locations in the prefecture. However, when the friend publicized the project on his Twitter account, messages from Internet users flooded in, including many from those who said they were moved by the project.

The man and his friend started a Web site at once and began to sell posters featuring the people of Kamaishi in sets of 13 at a price of 3,675 yen. They received more than 500 orders for the B-3 size posters by e-mail not only from within Japan, but also from overseas, including China and the United States.

The pair have also decided to translate the messages into English by August and sell the posters overseas. All of the profits will be donated to disaster relief funds.

Takeichi Kimigahora, 33, who works for a marine products company in Kamaishi and aims to revive scallop fishing in the coastal Sanriku district in the prefecture, appears in a poster with his message of hope: "Don't give up! My scallops call out to me."

Kimigahora said, "I want to promote scallops in Sanriku for people I knew in the fishing industry who were killed in the disaster."

The message carried with a photo of Ryoichi Sasaki, 44, who clears rubble for a building maintenance company in Kamaishi, says, "Making memories, even out of mud and dust."

"All I wanna do is play ball, please...god." This message comes from Yuta Furusaki, 14, a third-year student at Kamaishi Higashi Middle School. He lost his baseball glove in the tsunami, then later received one as a donation. "My school was destroyed, but I'm glad if my message conveyed to people overseas how much I enjoy playing baseball," he said.

The posters can be found on the Web at: http://fukkou-noroshi.jp/

Link: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T110613004853.htm

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The End of an Era - Sake Dojo Is No More...

The spring semester has finished for us in the Asian Studies Program - it was an especially challenging semester to say the least. The earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis caused us to lose many students. Our program Dean, who had served the university for over 40 years, retired in April and we are in a state of transition as others take on his responsibilities. Lots of big news this last semester.

But another shocking surprise was the demise of another institution of over 40 years in the area - Sake Dojo. Sake Dojo, a local watering hole and izakaya, was discovered and rediscovered by faculty, staff, students and others in the community alike. Sake Dojo was a landmark and certainly a part of the Kansai Gaidai experience. It seems most have some special Sake Dojo memories that helped them explore and understand Japanese culture a little better. Apparently with his health fading the master decided to call it quits. To say it will be missed is an understatement. But the place is survived by a Facebook page. Yes, Sake Dojo is on Facebook!

Link to Sake Dojo Facebook page: http://ja-jp.facebook.com/pages/%E7%89%A7%E9%87%8E%E9%85%92%E9%81%93%E5%A0%B4-Makino-Sake-Dojo-Hirakata/134738819922559

And here's a link to a slideshow of the food that was served at Sake Dojo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqavR7jDTEc

It is strange and eerie to walk by Sake Dojo now that it is closed - it is like a ghost town. At least that is how I felt when I was taking photos of the physical building after its closure: the same sense of its style remains after the doors have closed...

Culture is always changing. This was a lesson I learned from one of my earliest anthropology courses at Michigan State University. But that doesn't make it any easier when a favorite izakaya goes out of business. We will never forget...

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Japanese Government Tells Its Teachers to Stand Up and Sing!

For the last few semesters in the Visual Anthropology class we have watched the documentary film, Against Coercion: Refusing to Stand for Kimigayo (2006) produced by Japanese filmmakers Akira Matsubara and Yumi Sasaki, primarily to identify Japanese documentary techniques. However class discussion soon turns to the problematic symbolism of Japan's national anthem and its flag, and the punishment teachers have been receiving for refusing to stand for the flag/song during school ceremonies.

Image borrowed from Japan Film Database.

Summary/Information about the film from Japan Film Database:

Important issues in the film include whether it is appropriate for the government to force teachers to stand and honor symbols that they associate with Japanese militarism and imperialism from the war era, and whether patriotism should be a part of the educational curriculum. At the conclusion of the film, the teachers win an important court battle that would seek to overturn the seemingly harsh punishments. However this is not the end of the story as ultimately the teachers lose subsequent court cases. And now the Osaka Prefectural Government has passed a law obliging teachers to stand for the flag/song. Read the following articles for more details. What do you think about these issues?

From The Daily Yomiuri Online, 1 June 2011:

Long-fought battle over 'Kimigayo' at an end / Top court calls order 'indirect constraint' of rights, but recognizes importance of school ceremonies

The Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of ordering teachers and school staff to stand and sing "Kimigayo" before the national flag finally settled an argument that has long been a source of disruption at schools.

Yet, Monday's judgment did not touch on what punishments would be appropriate for violators, leaving at least part of the controversy unresolved.


Battle brewed for 12 years

Fierce confrontations between the school management and some teachers and staff have raged over whether ordering school employees to stand before the Hinomaru flag and sing the national anthem at enrollment and graduation ceremonies infringes on the "freedom of thought and conscience" guaranteed by the Constitution.

Instructions to sing the anthem hardened after a principal of a prefectural high school in Hiroshima Prefecture committed suicide in 1999 after a confrontation with teachers and staff over the singing of "Kimigayo" at a graduation ceremony.

In the wake of the principal's suicide, the Diet passed the National Flag and Anthem Law in August that year, stipulating the Hinomaru as the national flag and "Kimigayo" as the national anthem. 

Thereafter, standing and singing "Kimigayo" at enrollment and graduation ceremonies became widespread, sparking fierce protests from teachers and staff who did not agree with the practice.

The Tokyo metropolitan government became the next focus of the dispute. In October 2003 the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education issued a notification to schools that teachers and staff must stand and sing the national anthem. Since then, the school board has punished teachers and staff who disobeyed orders from superiors. Teachers and staff angered by the punishments eventually filed lawsuits against the order.

According to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, 1,239 teachers and school staff nationwide were disciplined or warned from fiscal 1999 to 2009 for disobeying orders to stand and sing the national anthem. The 706 people disciplined were given punishments such as suspensions and salary cuts.


Piano ruling paved way

A major turning point in the lawsuits over "Kimigayo" was the Supreme Court ruling in February 2007 that it is constitutional to order a music teacher to accompany the singing of the national anthem on the piano.

In its ruling, the top court presented two instances where a person's freedom of thought and conscience would be considered to have been infringed on: when a specific ideology is imposed on a person, and when a person is forced to declare a certain ideology. The court said the order to play "Kimigayo" to accompany the singing did not violate these standards and was thus constitutional.

This judgment, however, was only over the playing of the piano. In Monday's case, experts said that since standing and singing "Kimigayo" is closer to expressing one's feelings, there was room for the top court to make an additional decision.

Monday's ruling said standing and singing "Kimigayo" includes the "expression of respect" to the national flag and anthem. The ruling by the court's second petty bench recognized that for individuals who do not have respect for the national flag and anthem based on their view of history, the order to stand and sing is an "indirect constraint," even if it does not directly restrict freedom of thought and conscience by imposing an ideology.

The court gave weight to the importance of enrollment and graduation ceremonies at schools, as well as the roles of public school teachers, who as public servants must obey orders at their jobs. The ruling recognized the "necessity and rationality" of the order as exceeding any disadvantage experienced by teachers. The constraint imposed by the order was therefore permissible, the court judged.

Behind the decision is a recognition that the nation has become more global in the more than 60 years since World War II, and that people's way of thinking about the national flag and anthem has changed.
"In the international community, it is common sense that people should pay respect to other nations' national flags and anthems," presiding Justice Yukio Takeuchi said in his concurring opinion. "For [children] to acquire this sentiment, it is necessary [to learn] respect for their own country's national flag and anthem first."

As the Supreme Court's decision acknowledged the appropriateness of ordering teachers to stand and sing the national anthem, while recognizing the validity of some of the plaintiff's claims, it is safe to say that this constitutional debate has finally been settled.


'An appropriate judgment'

"Ordering [teachers and staff] to stand and sing 'Kimigayo' has legal basis in the National Flag and Anthem Law. The Supreme Court's ruling on the constitutionality of the order was appropriate," said Prof. Setsu Kobayashi of Keio University, a constitutional expert.

"The ruling should be praised for explaining in detail why it was constitutional by taking the feelings of people who don't agree into consideration," he said.

He particularly praised one of the four justices' concurring opinions that said it is important to make an environment that encourages people to voluntarily express respect for the national flag and anthem.

"The ruling will force other court battles on the issue to settle," Kobayashi added.

Education expert Yukihiko Hishimura agreed that the ruling was fitting.

"The main argument in Monday's decision is the same as in the 2007 piano ruling. I think it was an appropriate ruling," he said.

Hishimura, honorary member of the National Institute for Educational Policy Research, said the ruling clarified that playing "Kimigayo" on the piano to accompany singing and singing it are basically the same thing, despite arguments that they are different kinds of official duties.

"The ruling states emphatically that instructions concerning the national flag and anthem are part of [teachers'] public education duties. The ruling should put an end to needless confrontations," Hishimura added.

Link: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T110531004880.htm

From The Daily Yomiuri Online, 5 June 2011:

Osaka passes 'Kimigayo' rule

The Osaka Prefectural Assembly has passed the nation's first local ordinance to oblige teachers of public schools in the prefecture to stand up when "Kimigayo" is sung at school ceremonies.

The ordinance was submitted by Osaka Ishin no Kai, a regional political party that has a majority in the assembly and is led by Osaka Gov. Toru Hashimoto.

In Friday's vote, 56 members of Osaka Ishin no Kai, excluding the assembly speaker, voted for the ordinance, as did one Your Party member and two independents.

New Komeito, the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan and the Japanese Communist Party opposed the ordinance. A total of 48 assembly members, mainly from those parties, voted against it.

One LDP member left the assembly hall before the vote.

The ordinance obliges all teachers and workers in the prefecture's public schools, including municipal schools, to stand when "Kimigayo" is sung at school ceremonies.

It also obliges the prefecture's public facilities to fly the Hinomaru national flag at all times.
But the ordinance does not include any penalty clauses for violators.

Opponents argued that because the prefectural board of education has already instructed teachers to stand on such occasions, the ordinance was unnecessary.

The stated purpose of the ordinance is to make "working rules in schools stricter," and it stipulates that when the national anthem is sung at ceremonies of public primary, middle and high schools in the prefecture, "teachers and school officials must stand up and sing the anthem."

The ordinance also applies to teachers and school officials in municipal schools in Osaka and Sakai, though the prefectural board of education does not have authority to hire, dismiss or punish teachers and officials of the municipal schools, as the two cities have a special status as government ordinance-designated major cities.

The ordinance will likely go into effect by the end of this month.

Previously, school principals have ordered teachers and school officials who refuse to stand on such occasions to do so. Violators have been penalized under the Local Public Service Law.

But a large number of teachers have continued to refuse to stand up at school ceremonies. Hashimoto saw this as a serious problem, and the regional party proposed the local ordinance.

Hashimoto also plans to submit in September an additional local ordinance on the matter. It will establish new rules that teachers who refuse to stand up on repeated occasions will face heavier punishments, including dismissal.

Some schoolteachers and officials to be affected voiced opposition, saying that they cannot be convinced of an obligation to stand.

After the vote, Hashimoto said, "This is an epoch-making event for educational administration systems."

"We have to do what is a matter of course--teachers as members of an organization should obey the principal's job orders. It could mark the first step toward making schools ordinary entities where principals can exercise their leadership," Hashimoto said.

Link: http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T110604002911.htm

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Announcement: "Poster Power: Images from Mao's China, Then and Now"

Announcement from H-ASIA:

The Contemporary China Centre at the University of Westminster presents:

"Poster Power: Images from Mao's China, Then and Now"

Dates: 11 May 2011 - 14 July 2011
Location: The University of Westminster, 309 Regent Street, London

Posters from Mao's China exercise an enduring appeal to audiences across the globe, more than sixty years after the events that produced them. They are revisited in modern and contemporary Chinese art and commercial design, and curated in exhibitions in China, the US and Europe.

So why does imagery produced to support a revolutionary ideology half a century ago continue to resonate with current Chinese and Western audiences? What is the China we see between posters of the Mao years and their contemporary consumerist reinventions? How do we explain the diverse responses such imagery evokes? And what does the appeal of the posters of Mao's China tell us about the country's 'red legacy'?

Poster Power explores some of these questions through setting up a visual dialogue between posters produced between the 1950s and the 1970s and their echoes in recent years. With posters from the University of Westminster's Chinese Poster Collection, Chinese video art, documentary film, photographs, and contemporary items such as playing cards and nightclub advertising, the exhibition invites viewers to explore the posters' ambiguities of appeal to their audiences. As visual reminders of both autocratic rule and exuberant youthful idealism, they evoke diverse responses, challenging the idea that Cultural Revolution poster propaganda transmitted a single, transparent meaning. These posters' capacity to inspire ambiguous responses opens up new narratives of what remains a complex period of China's recent past, and sheds light on its changing significance in contemporary China.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Announcement: "7th Annual Southeast Asian Cinemas Conference"

Announcement from H-ASIA:

7th Annual Southeast Asian Cinemas Conference


SINGAPORE, 19 - 22 JUNE, 2012

Each year, the conference has included film practitioners in recognition of the crucial role they have played in increasing film education and discourse in the region. We have previously provided space for independent filmmakers and screenings of their works, focused on curriculum development, and highlighting alternative cultures of cinema. This year, the conference seeks to include workshops that bring together film archivists from within the region.

We invite panels that address this theme, particularly questions concerning:

Film Archival Materials as Intertexts
Comparative Studies of Archives or Case Studies of Specific Archives
Role of the Academic / Film Critic / Filmmaker in Relation to the Archive
Technology / New Media
Production of Temporalities and Spatialities
Politics of Taste
Preservation and Dissemination
Archival Research Methods
Intellectual Property
The Relationship between Southeast Asian Archives and the
International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF)
Scholarly Accessibility
Subtitling and the Archive
Film Policy and the Archive
The State and the Archive
Short Films and the Archive

We also welcome submissions for the open call. Please check ourwebsite archives and conference programs for past paper topics as we are less likely to accept topics that have been covered before:


Abstract Submission Deadline: Nov 30, 2011

Please send an abstract (max. 500 words) and short bio (max. 100 words) to: Sophia Siddique Harvey (soharvey@vassar.edu), Khoo Gaik Cheng (gaik.khoo@gmail.com) and Jasmine Nadua Trice (jntrice@gmail.com). We are currently attempting to get funding for travel subsidies and accommodations but cannot offer any as of yet.