Charlotte Brontë: A Life


Today’s needull is a book review of “Charlotte Brontë: A Life”. The year 2016 was her bicentenary year. She lived all of 38 years but her works are considered classics in English literature.

In the end, I’m not sure who Harman’s Brontë really is. She’s not Gaskell’s sad, sweet martyr, she’s not the caustic, love-hungry heroine of Lyndall Gordon’s 1994 biography and she’s not the neurotic, hypocritical woman who stalks the pages of Juliet Barker’s group biography, The Brontës (published in 1994 and updated in 2010). Harman unforgettably conjures up Lucy Snowe, the protagonist of Villette, as ‘a disturbing, hyper-sensitive alter-ego, a ticking bomb of emotions’, but she never uses such language when describing Brontë directly. So, although this book is clear and shrewd, plainly and crisply written, it makes me wish for more of the expression of the powerful feelings Claire Harman admires in Brontë’s writing.

The complete article

Samantha Ellis — Literary Review

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Today’s needull has been written by Sir Roger Scruton, one of the renowned philosophers in the field of aesthetics. He discusses recent developments that are going to impact the music that we will hear in future.

ALL THOSE FOUR DEVELOPMENTS are of the greatest musicological interest, and I do not deny that they can be used effectively, to produce works of real musical power. But it is also clear to my way of thinking that they are responsible for a growing gap between serious music and the audience on which it depends, not necessarily financially (since after all there is a massive machinery of subsidy that keeps the avant-garde in business), but at least spiritually. If avant-garde music is ever to step down from the world of concepts into the world of tones, then it will be because the audience exists in whose ears this transition can occur. Take away the audience and you take away the concrete reality of music as an art. You turn music into an arcane exercise in the acoustical laboratory, in which groups of patient instrumentalists pump out sounds according to formulae which mean nothing, since meaning lies in the ears that have fled from the scene. Of course, not here in Donaueschingen, where the distinctive physiognomy of the avant-garde ear is very apparent all around us.

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Sir Roger Scruton — Future Symphony Institute

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Obama’s Post-Presidential Life


What do you do after being the President of the US for 2 terms? A quiet serene life? Obama is 55, which is a relatively young age to retire. Today’s needull discusses his most likely plans post presidency.

Obama can take risks in confronting Trump that more conventional politicians, with their futures ahead of them, might not. He has the capacity to seize the country’s attention on the issues that matter. Here, the accustomed behavior of ex-presidents could work in Obama’s favor. His fellow citizens would see him as speaking out reluctantly and despite his desire to move on to a new phase in his life.

He would have to calibrate his interventions. He doesn’t want to become a daily commentator on all things political. But his popularity as he departs and the record he leaves behind on job creation and growth give him added credibility with a broad swath of Americans.

My hunch is that Obama would prefer to hang back from politics. My expectation is that Trump will not give him that option.

The complete article

E. J. Dionne Jr. –Commonweal

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Surname Changes?


Chinese diaspora in Indonesia has been very old. Since ancient times, they had travelled, traded and gradually lived in all parts of Indonesia. Approximately Indonesian Chinese population has already reached 3% of Indonesian population and the largest overseas Chinese population outside Mainland and Taiwan (mostly peranakan or Indonesian born for generations).  They have passed through golden times and hardest times during their existence, including during New Order (Orde Baru) era (1967-1998). On Soeharto’s heyday after replacing Soekarno based on 127/U/Kep/12/1966, Indonesian Chinese were required to change their real names and they had to adopt Indonesian names or sounding names. Even many Indonesian Chinese still have two names, Indonesian names and Chinese names (though for official needs they use Indonesian names).

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Why Millennials Aren’t Afraid of Socialism


The erasure of socialist ideas from serious political discourse throughout most of my life wasn’t a historical fluke. The West’s victory in the Cold War—liberal democracy for everyone!—came at the price of iconoclasm, much of it celebratory. In Prague, there used to be a giant socialist-realist statue of Stalin and other communist leaders standing in a line on a hill overlooking the city from the north. Czechs called it the “meat line,” a joke about the long lines they had to wait in to get groceries. Now kids skateboard on the platform where the dictator once kept watch. To visit Prague now—or Budapest, or Sofia, or Bucharest, or Berlin—you might think that communism never happened. All that’s left are a few tacky museums and somber monuments.

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Julia Mead — The Nation

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Who was John Titor, the ‘time traveller’ who came from 2036 to warn us of a nuclear war?


Time travel has always been a source of great fascination. Today’s needull is about a self-professed time traveller from 2036 – John Titor.

And then there was his reason for travelling. Titor claimed he had been sent back to 1975 to retrieve an IBM 5100 computer, which was needed to debug ageing machines still used in 2036. That in itself isn’t too wacky: in 2002, NASA had to buy outdated medical equipment on eBay just so it could scavenge their obsolete Intel 8086 chips for their booster testing machines, and even the Orion spacecraft, whose first manned flight is scheduled for the 2020s, uses computers from 2002.

But here’s the kicker. Titor claimed the 5100 was needed in the future due to a special feature which IBM did not publicly announce. Sure enough, Bob Dubke, an engineer who helped design it, confirmed that such a feature existed. The 5100 had the rare ability to emulate programs in older languages used by IBM mainframes, but the company was worried about how its competition might use it, and told nobody. So Titor was at least a very well-informed hoaxer – a computer scientist or enthusiast who used his knowledge well.

The complete article

Laurence Dodds – The Telegraph

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Remembering Fearless Nadia


If you have not seen the recent trailer of Vishal Bhardwaj’s upcoming period magnum opus ‘Rangoon’, well, trust me you’ve not missed anything. With some terrible VFX, loud music and predictable storyline, this might turn out to be Vishal’s worst film ever.

But what interested me the most was Kangana Ranaut playing a swashbuckling 1940s movie star named Julia ,who travels to the Indo-Burma border to cheer up the troops. It would not be far-fetched to assume that the character of Julia is modelled on Fearless Nadia, the Australia -born stunt star in the 1930s and ’40s who headlined such adventures as Hunterwali, Miss Frontier Mail, Diamond Queen,Hurricane Hansa, Toofani Tirandaz and Punjab Mail. With Saif playing a Parsi filmmaker (modelled on the original Homi Wadia but with a grey tone), comparisons are but obvious.

Today’s Needull, a short article by The Quint, stems from my curiosity about this blonde woman, who would turn conventions on their head to capture the imagination of people, wielding whips and doing acrobatic stunts, all by herself, while secretly romancing her director. Around a century before the YouTube reactors all around the world fell in love with Bollywood beauties and decades before the first ever Wonder Woman movie was made in Hollywood, Fearless Nadia was already representing Bollywood super-heroines on the global stage.

Bloody Hell!!

Full article here

Ranjib Mazumder – The Quint

‘Rangoon’ – Official Movie Trailer

Bonus Read: Meet the ‘first’ ladies of Bollywood