Mushi-Shi and Mental Health

Tomas Vergara | December 5, 2017

Netflix’s Mushi-Shi (2005) is a japanese anime series with a vast repertoire of philosophical and spiritual themes. The general plot of the series focuses on the travels of Ginko, an expert in creatures known as “Mushi”, from one place to another in the rural country. In each episode, Ginko encounters people who have been unconsciously hosted or influenced by these enigmatic creatures. What the series reveals about Mushi is that they differ in kind from other life forms, and that their existence is unknown to most people. Only a few people are aware of them: Ginko is one of these, a “Mushi-shi” aiming to discover more about Mushi in order to elucidate some of the enigmas concerning their existence and effects on other life forms.

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What Holds Us Together: The Parallel Crafts of Darning, Medicine and Literary Criticism

Sarah Stewart | December 4, 2017
Scrolling through Instagram a few months ago, I came across a video about Celia Pym, a textile artist and finalist in this year’s Women’s Hour Crafting Prize who has been spending time at the V&A darning people’s clothes. In the last 10 years, Pym has been interested in invisible but mostly visible mending – that is, rebuilding damaged fabric in a garment, restoring the warp and weft to exactly match the surrounding fabric for invisible mending, or, in the case of visible mending, choosing different colours, materials and weaves to fill the hole, making visible where the damage occurred. A kind of kintsugi for clothes. Pym notes that repair is not actually the aim, but more of a byproduct: ‘my interest is really in the opportunity, through mending, to talk to that person. I find if I ask someone if they have holes in their clothes and could we talk about them, something real gets said that really interests me about grief, or maybe about loss, or maybe just about love’ (Victoria and Albert Museum).

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Leave Us Our Precious

Laurie Beckoff | December 4, 2017
The announcement of Amazon purchasing the rights to The Lord of the Rings was met with a resounding groan from many Tolkien fans. While some are certainly excited for more Middle-earth on their screens, a large contingent is more than a little concerned about how their precious story could be ruined.

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Big Mouth’s Big Splash

Julian Menjivar | November 30, 2017
While Netflix has a few interesting original productions, there is one that pushes the boundary, tests our comfort zones and heads in a different direction. Netflix’s Big Mouth is an animated series about puberty and sexuality as experienced by young tweens, teens and adults. It is a show that is awkward, fun, disturbing and confusing, yet gives a narrative that advocates for sex positivity, and views puberty as a natural and, frankly, much needed topic for open discussion.

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The Canadian Boat Song and Scottish spirit in exile

Emanuela Militello| November 27, 2017
Fair these broad meads – these hoary woods are grand;

But we are exiles from our fathers’ land.

While flicking through some traditional Scottish songs, I came across one that got my attention. The lines quoted above are part of the “Canadian Boat Song”, a poem that first appeared in Blackwood’s Magazine (Edinburgh) in 1829. Being an enthusiast of Scottish culture, I am always interested in every expression of “Scottishness” – be it in literature, film or folklore. Learning about Scots in exile and the ways in which they coped with the loss of their motherland, and tried to keep their culture alive, is a subject that really fascinates me. So naturally, this song instantly grabbed my attention.

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Please Leave the ‘Me’ Out of Your ‘Apology’

Mary A. Pura | November 22, 2017
In a speech given in 2004 at The University of Massachusetts Boston, the late Dr. Andrew Lazare, a leading authority on the psychology of shame, humiliation and apology, had this to say about the nature of apology:

“Apology is more than an acknowledgment of an offense together with an expression of remorse. It is an ongoing commitment by the offending party to change his or her behavior. It is a particular way of resolving conflicts other than by arguing over who is bigger and better.”

Unfortunately there has been a failure in our society to adopt this important formula, especially in the context of sexual harassment.

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Trading One War Zone for Another: Daredevil’s Punisher and Violence in the City

Patricia Ng | November 22, 2017
The Punisher couldn’t have returned to Netflix at a better time. With a series of incidents involving gun violence in the past few months and the debate over gun control roaming the air, the famous Marvel anti-hero becomes an even more controversial figure. Yet, it is precisely because of the situation in America now that Frank Castle’s reappearance needs special attention.

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Netflix’s Alias Grace and Female Testimony

Maria Elena Torres-Quevedo | November 20, 2017
Netflix’s Alias Grace (2017) is the second series to be released this year based on one of Margaret Atwood’s novels. The six-part series is, like Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale (2017) before it, an unflinching depiction of women’s precarious position in society, through a defamiliarised, yet uncomfortably familiar, setting.

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Gaga: Five Foot Two – Documenting Fame and Fibromyalgia

Anna Kemball | November 20, 2017
Microphone in hand, her bejewelled boots dangling, Lady Gaga rises into the heights of the NGR Stadium to rehearse an aerial performance in her Super Bowl halftime show. Rising higher, out of the camera’s focus, the singer disappears from view as a choir is heard singing Kaval Sviri (better known as the fight theme of Xena: Warrior Princess). So begins Gaga: Five Foot Two, a feature-length Netflix documentary. Although the documentary covers the release of Joanne, Gaga’s latest album, and her Super Bowl performance, reviews have focused on the coverage of her fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), a long term condition characterised by widespread pain, fatigue and other symptoms. The name alone – referring to the singer’s height – suggests our focus should be on Gaga’s physicality as we watch Gaga: Five Foot Two. On the face of it, documentary coverage of FMS is a much-needed representation of an “invisible disability” that affects around 1 in 20. Making the condition “visible” must surely be a good thing, right?

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Development Work as Another Form of Imperial Intervention?

Jule Lenzen | November 20, 2017
The Western World seems to be notorious in the way it constantly tries to ‘help’ so-called ‘under-developed countries’. Often, I can’t help thinking that this way of behaving is simply an echo of colonial motifs and imperialist ideas, still at work in our world today.
Therefore I ask: Is it right to send so-called development work to these countries in question? Is it not a way of internalizing the idea of a superior West? But on the other hand, is the West, exactly through its colonial intervention in those very countries it now sends development aid to, not responsible for the state these countries are in? Should it therefore not be held accountable for its actions in the past?

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