Monday, April 30, 2012

The reasons/rewards for being in academia...

by Salman Hameed

I think if someone were to ask for the justification for being in academia, I can point to the last 10 days in the 5-college area. These days have been non-stop intellectually stimulating and phenomenally rewarding. Here are the highlights - starting from Thursday, April 19th.

Thursday - April 19th:
Screening of the new John Sayles film Amigo at Amherst Cinema and follow-up Q & A with the director. It was a pleasure watching his new film about the Philippine-American war at the turn of the 20th century.  It is one of the less talked about wars - and the movie brings up the questions of US imperialism at the time. The story - like all of Sayles films - looks at the issues from all sides: the rebels, those who reluctantly agree to cooperate with the US, American soldiers who thought they were doing the right thing, and commanders who knew what they had to win the war. It is a very well done film, but amazingly it didn't get a wide release!! No seriously. There is a problem when a director like Sayles cannot get a wide release for an excellent film. So if you get a chance, try to get it on-Demand or on a DVD/Blue-ray. Also, if you have never seen any of John Sayles films, give Lonestar - from 1996 - a try (and then proceed to Metwan and the Secret of Roan Inish.

Our film autopsy of Amigo will be coming soon. In the mean time, here is the trailer:

Wednesday-Friday: Worked on a paper with former Hampshire student, Don Everhart, who was here for three days. He is headed to UCSD this fall for graduate school in sociology (woo hoo!).

Saturday: Moderated sessions at student-organized 5-College Middle-Eastern and North African Studies Conference. Listened and learnt from some excellent talks about the history of North-African Jews in Israel, on Turkey's AKP, architecture of post-war Beirut, the record of the British state building in Iraq, and on fluid identities of Muslim medical professionals.

Monday: Attended a talk on the art and architecture of Dome of the Rock.

Tuesday: Attended a talk by Werner Herzog! Now this is amazing that we had John Sayles and Herzog here within a week. He was absolutely amazing. His main advice for student film-makers: "Read, read, read, read, and read!" He even gave a short reading list that he thinks is absolutely essential for everyone. Here are the three books I remember: Virgil's epic poem Georgics (it precedes The Aeneid), The Peregrine by Baker, and the third, I think was Bartolom√© de las Casas' 16th century book A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies. There is sooo much more to say about Herzog's  talk - but it will take just too much time. Needless to say - he is absolutely amazing. If you get a chance, see him speak in person. And if nothing else, check out his latest documentary, Into the Abyss. (Also see my earlier posts about Encounters at the End of the World and Cave of Forgotten Dreams)

Wednesday: Attended a talk on the development of Qur'anic writing and how the style of presentation evolved over the first few centuries. Also had a chance to watch the screening of a fantastic animated short film made by former Hampshire College students. It is called Caldera and here is the trailer:

Friday: Inauguration of our new President of Hampshire College, Jonathan Lash. There were some phenomenal music performances by students and faculty members, and then a rousing speech by Al Gore (and he was very funny as well! no really, he was very funny!). Well the video of the inauguration is not up, but here is a short bit from the local ABC affiliate:

And here is Laura Sizer (our Dean of the School of Cognitive Science and co-organizer of Science and Religion Lecture Series at Hampshire) and I with our new best friend, Al:

Phew! What a week. And now looking forward to the last week of classes. But the last 10 days highlight just why it is so amazing being in academia, and in a place with such high density of colleges. 


Aurangzeb said...

That is certainly one of the things that makes academia tempting.

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