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More than 200 Academics Sign Statement Supporting Anti-Junta Professor in Thailand

Somsak Jeamteerasakul. Photo from Prachatai website.

Somsak Jeamteerasakul. Photo from Prachatai website.

More than 200 academics from all over the world have signed a statement expressing support to historian and college professor Dr Somsak Jeamteerasakul who was recently fired by Thammasat University. The Thai scholar, who has been teaching for two decades, is critical of the junta government which grabbed power last May 2014.

The statement urged Thammasat University and other higher education institutions to uphold academic freedom and free speech:

To think differently is not a crime. If one cannot do so within the walls of the university, spaces of learning and the pursuit of truth, then the space to do so outside those walls will dwindle as well.

Documenting the Struggles of Papuans in Indonesia

Papuan Voices is a video advocacy initiative that highlights the struggles of the people of West Papua, a province of Indonesia. West Papua has been struggling to be an independent state although this conflict from Indonesia is not widely reported in the media.

papuan_voices

VIDEO: How Palm Oil is Causing Environmental Destruction in Indonesia

The team of Coconuts TV went to south Sumatra in Indonesia to document the impact of the burning of peatlands and forests to make way for the expanding palm oil plantations. The burning of forests in Sumatra is causing the displacement of endangered species in the island; and it also creates a deadly haze that affects Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

South Korea: Game Mocking the Airplane Nuts Fiasco

Korean Air Lines vice president has made numerous headlines, both locally and internationally, for her arrogant behavior on a recent flight out. She randomly accused a crew member of serving macadamia nuts ‘incorrectly’ and even she ordered a plane back to the gate to remove the crew member out of the plane. No wonder this sensational story has become one of the trending topics in social media. Among numerous internet jokes, parody photos and even a cartoon by Japanese users, one stood out most would be a game mocking the Airplane nuts fiasco. A Korean web developer, Tai-hwan Hah (@duecorda) made a simple game entitlted ‘Crew Members’ Tycoon’ [ko]. However you play, you get the same result of the crew member being yelled at and hearing the sentence ‘You! Get out of the plane!’ — the very word the vice president allegedly said to the crew.

Image the 'Crew Members' Tycoon', Image tweeted by the maker of the game

Image the ‘Crew Members’ Tycoon’, Image tweeted by the maker of the game

Adorably Ugly Cats Take Over Tokyo Train

"Ultimate Relaxation," the winner of

“Ultimate Relaxation,” the grand prize winner of Japan's recent busukawa neko “adorably ugly cat” contest. Image source: Canon Japan

The winners of a popular contest to find Japan's most “adorably ugly” cats (busukawa neko) have taken over select trains on Tokyo's Yamanote Line. 

The Yamanote Line is full of “adorably ugly” (busukawa) cats!

Many train lines in Japan are already plastered with print advertising. Now, for two weeks in November and early December, the Yamonote Line, the loop line that travels around central Tokyo, is decked out in photos of the winning cats. A YouTube video titled “Canon's Adorably Ugly Cat Campaign Hijacks Tokyo Trains to Promote New PIXUS Printer” offers a glimpse:

The campaign is sponsored by PIXUS, a line of Canon desktop printers, and offers a grand prize of 100,000 yen (US$10,000). Out of nearly 6,000 submissions, 288 finalists and prizewinners ended up displayed on the train.

One lucky cat won the top prize:

And here is the grand prize winner! The photo's title: “Ultimate Relaxation.”

 There were a variety of runners-up. This cat won second place in the contest:

And here is the second-place prize. The title: “No f-ing way, man.” The golden color of this cat's coat perfectly balances the fine silver fur of our grand prize winner.

As the purpose of the contest was to promote Canon's new printer, many of the cats were awarded prizes according to how well their ugly mugs might accessorize a variety of personal belongings.

And the winner for “would look best printed on a handbag” is “May I eat a sticky bun?”

Here is the winner of “would look best printed on a T-shirt”!!! This cat has tickled the fancy of T-shirt designers everywhere!

The cacophony of ugly cat images has become quite popular with Japanese commuters, who have posted photos of the decked-out trains on social media.

This is so cute!  #スマフォトレイン (smartphone photo train) #山手線 (Yamanote Line) #ブサかわ猫ちゃんグランプリ (Adorably Ugly Grand Prix)

The Yamonote Line is CRAZY! It's turned into a total advertisement for PIXUS. The carriage is absolutely plastered with adorably ugly cat pictures. Now I totally want to make a calendar! \(^o^)/

The full list of adorably ugly cat contest finalists can be seen here. To keep on top of Japan's adorably ugly cats, follow @busakawaleon

The Translation Detail Everyone Missed in the China Internet’s Incredibly Surreal Anthem

Below is an edited version of “The Translation Detail Everyone Missed in the China Internet's Incredibly Surreal Anthem“ by Jason Li, originally published on the blog 88 Bar and republished here as part of a content-sharing agreement.

In case you missed it, the New York Times, ProPublica, the Guardian and the Atlantic all wrote about this incredibly surreal but voted best of event anthem celebrating China’s glorious Internet. Thanks to ProPublica, we have a subtitled YouTube video above.

As James Fallows at the Atlantic pointed out, one of the most stirring phrases in the song that is repeated eight times during the chorus is 网络强国. The New York Times and ProPublica both translated this as “Internet power,” while Fallows points out that:

English speakers might think of “Internet power” as comparable to “soft power” or “girl power” or “people power.” But to my amateur eye there is a more explicit connotation of China’s becoming a national power in cyberspace. I’m sure Chinese speakers will tell me if I’m wrong to read 强国 as meaning a powerful country, as in “rise and fall of the great powers” etc. Thus the refrain would emphasize “a powerful Internet country.” The impression I got from this was of a strongly nationalistic message about a supposedly borderless medium.

I wanted to add to the translation and confirm Fallows’ viewpoint by examining one of the lines from the chorus:

网络强国 告诉世界中国梦在崛起大中华

Both the New York Times (Paul Mozur) and ProPublica (Sisi Wei and Yue Qiu) translate this to some variant of: “An Internet power: Tell the world that the Chinese Dream is uplifting China.” (Emphasis mine.)

Actually, the line in Chinese does not end with the phrase “China” (中国) but “the greater Chinese” (大中华). Not only does “the greater Chinese” sometimes mean Greater China, but it also hints at overseas Chinese people (华人 or 华侨) and, as Fallows put it, the “borderless” greater Chinese culture/civilization.

Malaysia Launches New Logo as Chair of ASEAN 2015

Malaysia is the new chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for the year 2015. This year is crucial for ASEAN as the region takes steps to achieve full integration as a united community. The new logo represents “harmony, close partnership and aspiration of the people from the ten ASEAN countries aimed at achieving the shared vision” of the community.

asean logo

What is Sinology?

Sinology is still unknown to many people, as Isma Ruiz writes after attending the I International Congress of Sinology in Spanish, last June at the University of Tamkang – Tamsui, Taiwan.

Although the focus was translation and interpretation of classic Chinese books, the necessity of learning a new language when studying a culture or being able to use the language in politics were also addressed. Two lecturers caught the interest of Ruiz, Alicia Relinque and Eduardo Daniel Oviedo. About their talks, Ruiz notes:

Relinque, nos explicó muy brevemente su experiencia personal como traductora y cómo a lo largo del tiempo ha ido cambiando su metodología en función de la obra a traducir e incluso a veces por los requisitos impuestos desde la editorial. Seguidamente expuso varios ejemplos de traducciones de otros autores

[…]

(Oviedo) trataba del papel que juega actualmente el chino como elemento integrador de la sociedad china, así como la lucha que tiene con otros idiomas para ser la lengua hegemónica a medida que crece el poder político y económico de la República Popular China, mientras expande su influencia a otras regiones del mundo de cara a la formación de una lengua global.

Relinque briefly explained us her personal experience as translator and how as time went by she has been changing her methodology according to the text to be translated and sometimes even according to the requirements by the publisher. She then talked about several translations by other authors

[…]

(Oviedo) addressed the role currently played by Chinese language as unifying element in Chinese society, as well as the struggle it has with other languages to be the hegemonic language as Popular Republic of China's political and economic power grows, as it expands its influence to other regions of the world in regards to the formation of a global language.

Now it's time to wait for the second edition on 2016 and the possibility for the Autonomous University of Barcelona to organize it. That hasn't been decided yet.

You can follow Isma Ruiz on Twitter and Facebook.

This post was part of the twenty-eighth #LunesDeBlogsGV (Monday of blogs on GV) on November 10, 2014.

Tokyo Marches in Solidarity With US Protesters #TOKYO4FERGUSON

Two recent court decisions in the US exonerating police officers who killed two black men — 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and 43-year-old Eric Garner in New York — has sparked demonstrations across the country. The African American Youth Travel Program (AAYTP) organised a protest against police brutality, racism and injustice on December 6 in solidarity with the protests in the US and around the world. 

One protest occurred in Tokyo.

Is the ‘Sky Cycle’ Japan's Weirdest Theme-Park Ride?

seto ohashi

The Great Seto Bridge, looking south towards Takamatsu on Shikoku. Image: Nevin Thompson.

If you're looking for a breathtaking view and aren't afraid of heights, the “Sky Cycle” in Okayama Prefecture's Brazilian Washuzan Highland park is definitely worth a ride.

Photos of the Sky Cycle have been appearing on Twitter recently, thanks likely to the striking image found below of a tandem bicycle overlooking the park from an elevated railway.

Washuzan is located at the northern end of the Great Seto Bridge, a massive structure that spans Japan's Inland Sea to connect the island of Honshu to the north with the island of Shikoku to the south. The bridge is a true marvel of engineering, stretching more than 13 kilometers (8 miles) over the ocean.

The bridge is also a beautiful site, which of course is why an amusement park was built at its base.

The soaring, slightly scary Sky Cycle ride, with its magnificent view, is perfect fodder for Japanese prime time television:

Caption: The fearsome Sky Cycle of Washuzan

While Brazil's connection to the area (and hence the name) remains unclear, it is worth nothing that many Brazilians of Japanese ancestry were recruited to work in nearby industrial areas.

Japan's countryside is dotted with large amusement parks, many bearing ethnic themes, that date back to the affluent years of the Bubble era. International travel was still a novelty for many Japanese people then, and ethnically named theme parks provided a glimpse of foreign cultures without the expense of traveling abroad.

The remote area of Niigata, for example, was once home to the Kashiwazaki Turkish Culture Village. Meanwhile, visitors to Nagasaki in Japan's far west could visit a theme park filled with life-size replicas of Dutch heritage buildings.

It's also customary in Japan to include an amusement part at prominent national landmarks like the Great Seto Bridge. Even Mount Fuji has its own park, Fuji-Q Highland. There, thrill-seekers can gaze upon Mount Fuji's slopes as they endure punishing g-forces aboard the park's famed roller coasters.

We made it to Fuji-Q!

@tamiho_29

Okayama Prefecture's Brazilian Washuzan Highland seems to take the cake, however. Japanese Internet users are dubbing it the world's weirdest theme park.

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