Rambling ...

I'm an Irish Girl, A Dubliner, with the 'Gift of the Gab' ... I like to talk & to tell you things. In Celtic times news, views and comment were carried from place to place by wandering Seanachaí ~ Storytellers ~ who relied on their host's hospitality and appreciation. I will need that from you too, as I venture to share Politics, Poetry, Laughter, Love, Life & everything in-between ... from Bog to Blog!!


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Black Swan!!


 Monday Movie Review ..... except it is late & it is now Tuesday.  My real flesh life keeps getting in the way.   I'm sorry .... maybe this new movie I've just seen will make up for that. Black Swan is an intense psycho-sexual drama which touches on a number of themes ranging from parental oppression and body dysmorphic disorder to sexual repression and the search for perfection.  It is the latest film from the challenging director Darren Aronofsky, the man behind films such as Requiem For a Dream & The Fountain (and The Wrestler which I haven't yet seen). 

 If you've seen the spectacular trailer (below),  you may worry you've seen too much,  but Black Swan is pretty difficult to spoil.  The story is what you already know ~  Natalie Portman's Nina is a ballerina at a New York City Ballet company who's struggled for years to get recognition, egged on by her pushy Mom (Barbara Hershey) whose own ballet dreams never made it far, and consistently diminished by the company's director Tomas (Vincent Cassel), who sneers at Nina as often as he praises her. She's cast as the lead dancer in a Swan Lake revision,  Black Swan,   which is a double role ~ the virginal, doomed White Swan, and the vicious and manipulative Black Swan.  Nina's got the White Swan nailed, but her shy demeanor and obsession with perfection keep the Black Swan's sexual and violent edginess just out of reach.  Born for the former, Nina needs to reach deep into herself to conjure the latter, and in the process unleashes…

Well, the question of what exactly she unleashes becomes part of the movie’s overall mystery. Aronofsky quickly places us inside his heroine’s head, to such an extent that we don’t know what’s real or what’s an illusion. Is she going mad? Is she being stalked by a supernatural monster? Is her best friend/enemy Lily (Mila Kunis) in the company plotting to destroy her? She can’t be sure and neither can we, as Black Swan ratchets the Hitchcockian tension up until it's almost unbearable to take.   You're invited to laugh sometimes, as Nina hallucinates a blood-soaked knife in her hands, or discovers her ever-present mom in the room in an, errrr ... intimate moment. But for all the moments of fantasy and shocking horror, Nina's descent into madness and struggle to break free from her stifling childhood feels quite real.  Portman
sells every inch of the character, and makes a convincing ballerina to boot!

  
In Aronofsky's hands, the world of professional ballet never seemed more brutal. Little girls the world over dream of donning a tutu and becoming a ballerina princess, but the reality is much more demanding ... backbiting understudies who would see you broken to get your part, endless hours of grueling routines, and feet which bleed from being en pointe for hours on end are par for the course for these perfectionists, so it's no wonder they start to go a little crazy.   Into this mix comes the free-spirited and sexually adventurous Lily (Mila Kunis), a transfer from the San Francisco ballet.   Before long, Nina and Lily embark on a dangerous relationship which is part-friendship,  part-rivalry, & which threatens to shatter Nina's already tenuous grasp on her sanity.   

There are  unfiltered scenes of psychotic breakdowns, self-mutilation and lesbian sex, and maybe monstrously,  Aronofsky also dares to mess with a classic ....  in this case Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake classic 1876 ballet score , via his composer Clint Mansell.  In several key scenes Mansell plays with the music, twisting and manipulating the familiar strains of Tchaikovsky's strings with electronic groans and pulses that illustrate Nina's tortured psyche,  intentionally obscuring Tchaikovsky's beauty.

 
 The physical demands of ballet reach a skin-crawling extreme, as the need for perfection  ~   Black Swan colours those natural grotesqueries with changes of a more monstrous variety, as Nina finds herself sprouting feathers and developing inhumanly bloodshot eyes (which may or may not be real). Yet rather than resisting it, she dives straight in, searching desperately for her dark side to bring both halves of the role to life and show the world just how good she can be  ~  leads to torn nails, ritualistic cuts and repeated purging in the toilet.

Determined to make it work,  Nina tries all kinds of things to get in touch with her inner Black Swan, from allowing Tomas to seduce her to spending a wild night with new ballerina Lily   (Mila Kunis), who is as free-spirited as Nina is repressed.   All the while Nina experiences some weird stuff, from seeing her own face in that of strangers to a persistent rash on her shoulder blades that looks all the world like a sprouting wing. Things get weirder as the Swan Lake debut grows nearer, and it's less a question of how Nina will be able to embody the Black Swan than how much a toll it will take on a sheltered, fragile girl who has lived her life in New York City but knows no world outside of ballet.


Mila Kunis’s character will never scale as high as Nina does, but her talent comes naturally ~ with an effortlessness that speaks to a more rounded life ~ and the perceived threat goads Nina to work even harder for fear of conceding her place. She has the company’s former prima ballerina (the wonderful Winona Ryder) ~ now washed up and cast aside ~ as a cautionary example, grimly reminding us that the glory she seeks is only temporary.   The results are astonishing ..... a portrait of beauty and monstrosity inextricably intertwined and presented in irresistible terms. Aronofsky trusts his material enough to leave some questions unanswered, which of course only heightens our fascination and will doubtless trigger countless arguments about the specifics of Nina’s state.   The emotional cost of achieving her dream & creating perfection mirrors her descent into madness.

 Portman navigates the arc of her character beautifully, cooing "pretty, pink" at her breakfast grapefruit in an early scene and sharing a passionate kiss with Kunis later on (or does she?  ~ Scriptwriters Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin don't say!).   Kunis makes a wonderful temptress while Hershey really puts the 'mother' in smother. Cassel brilliantly plays yet another complete bastard, and Winona Ryder makes the most of her minor role as a prima ballerina in decline.


Audaciously weird and scary and even go-nuts psychotic,  Black Swan is,  by any measure, a' tour de force'.   It grabs you in from the first moment, a dream sequence ballet filmed with spinning camera and visceral sound effects and blaring classical music, establishing with force a world in which frailty and strength must exist within the same dancer, and where the only thing between grace and breaking point are a pair of thin silk shoes.   Aaronofsky  has also made a damn effective horror movie, (or at the very least a supernatural thriller),  and wrung a career-best performance from Natalie Portman.  He couldn’t have done it without Portman,  an actress who has flirted with greatness only intermittently, but who may now have the role which defines her career.     Her acting is as flawless as her ballet performance,  as her acting performance in the movie is as perfect as Hamlet itself!

Only the very best directors can incite such passion, and only films this amazing can fully justify it.  Believe the hype ....  Black Swan is that good!!!!!!   In fact I doubt it will see an equal this year, and if there’s any justice in the world, it will reap the rewards it so richly deserves well past this awards season.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Pope's Message !!


During this last week the Irish Newspaper 'The Belfast Telegraph' ran a small piece (I'm going to refrain from calling it an 'article',  which carries associations of a large body of writing) on the speech that the present pope Benedict XVI,   made in his traditional Christmas address to cardinals and officials working in Rome.  He said .... wait for it! ....   "In the 1970s,  paedophilia was theorised as something fully in conformity with man and even with children,"  ...   and further  "It was maintained ~ even within the realm of Catholic theology ~ that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a 'better than' and a 'worse than'.  Nothing is good or bad in itself."

The Pope said abuse revelations in 2010 reached "an unimaginable dimension" which brought "humiliation" on the Church.   Asking how abuse exploded within the Church,  the Pontiff called on senior clerics "to repair as much as possible the injustices that occurred" and to help victims heal through a better presentation of the Christian message.  IS THAT WHAT HE IS DOING HERE?????   .......... Minimising the trauma caused by the enforced buggery of little boys in it's charge,  of the rape & sexual assault of  trusting children by it's clergy???   And definitely minimising the role of the catholic church in any 'wrong doing'.   It is not too far a stretch to the philosophical argument here that it only becomes 'wrong' when you consider it a 'wrong' ...?!?!?!?!?

 He then went on to further cement his thoughts & give them a sense of social cohesion even ... "We cannot remain silent about the context of these times in which these events have come to light," he said, citing the growth of child pornography "that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society".    Aaaah! ... the light dawns!!   If it is considered normal by society then what is all the big fuss about ????  Let's stop talking about catholic clerical involvement because it is NORMAL in societal terms.  It seems to silly old me that someone is intending to sweep this issue under the biggest carpet he can find.  Am I 'wrong' to think this ??????

Evil Santa beware!!!
 Victims of clerical sex abuse have very understandably  reacted furiously to Pope Benedict's claim that paedophilia wasn't considered an "absolute evil" as recently as the 1970s.   Outraged Dublin victim Andrew Madden last night insisted that child abuse was not considered normal in the company he kept.   Mr Madden accused the Pope of not knowing that child pornography was the viewing of images of children being sexually abused, and should be named as such.  He said  "That is not normal. I don't know what company the Pope has been keeping for the past 50 years."  

I actually think that it is much more insidious on the pope's part than not knowing .... I think he is deliberately trying to minimise the abuse of children, endemic throughout the catholic church, and absolve that institution from it's present perverted image,  to restore it to it's pre WWII days of glory.  Perhaps it is his Nazi training or his sixteen years as head of the 'Office of the Inquisition' in the Vatican that allows him to think he can impose such heinous distortions on an awake world in the 21st century.

Angry abuse victims in America last Thursday said that while some Church officials have blamed the liberalism of the 1960s for the Church's sex abuse scandals and cover-up catastrophes, Pope Benedict had come up with a new theory of blaming the 1970s.  "Catholics should be embarrassed to hear their Pope talk again and again about abuse while doing little or nothing to stop it and to mischaracterise this heinous crisis,"  said Barbara Blaine, the head of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests,   "It is fundamentally disturbing to watch a brilliant man so conveniently misdiagnose a horrific scandal," she added.

"The Pope insists on talking about a vague 'broader context' he can't control, while ignoring the clear 'broader context' he can influence ~ the long-standing and unhealthy culture of a rigid, secretive, all-male church hierarchy fixated on self-preservation at all costsThis is the 'context' that matters."  Yes it is!!!

And the attempt to shift that context to a "sinful" society,  whilst absolving the church from serious criminal activity is nothing short of a psychopathic manoevre by a paedophile supporting pope.  Perhaps this is not even a deviation from the historical path of the Catholic Church?  Sadly many of its  members will continue to support it in spite of its now overt symptoms of psychopathology.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Muslim World & the Mufti!!


"Dear Comrades, The friendship between Muslims and Germans has become much stronger, because National Socialism is in many respects parallel to Islamic philosophy. Points of similarity are monotheism and unity of leadership, Islam as an organizing force, struggle, community, family and progeny, the relationship with the Jews, glorification of work and production."    ~  The Mufti of Jerusalem addressing his Muslim Nazi troops.

One widespread myth about the Mideast conflict is that the Arabs are paying the price for Germany's sins. The notion that the palestinians are the "second victims" of the Holocaust contains two falsehoods.  It suggests that without Auschwitz, there would be no justification for Israel, ignoring 3,000 years of Jewish history in the land.  It also suggests Arab innocence in German crimes, ignoring especially the fascist past of Arab leader Haj Amin al Husseini, who was not only Grand Mufti of Jerusalem but also  Waffen SS recruiter and Nazi propagandist in Berlin, & one of the worst fanatical fascists and anti-Semites ever on this planet.


The mufti orchestrated the 1920/1921 anti-Jewish riots in Palestine (the geographical designation) and the 1929 Arab pogroms that destroyed the ancient Jewish community of Hebron.  An early admirer of Hitler, Husseini received Nazi funding ~ as did Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood ~ for his 1936-1939 Palestinian revolt, during which his thugs killed hundreds of British soldiers, Jews and also Arabs who rejected his Islamofacist-Nazi agenda.   After participating in a failed fascist coup in Iraq, he fled to Berlin in 1941 as Hitler's personal guest. In the service of the Third Reich, the mufti recruited thousands of Muslims to the Waffen SS. He intervened with the Nazis to prevent the escape to Palestine of thousands of European Jews, who were sent instead to the death camps. He also conspired with the Nazis to bring the Holocaust to Palestine, employing the Nazi method of genocidal slaughter of 350,000 Jews.  Rommel's defeat in El Alamein spoiled these plans.


German & Revisionist historians, Arabists and Islam scholars deny or downplay Arab-Nazi collaboration. This applies,  too, to most of the Western world, where it is often claimed that the mufti's Hitler alliance later discredited him in the region. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the Mideast, Nazis were not only popular during but also after the war ~ scores of them found refuge in the Arab world,  including Eichman's deputy,  Alois Brunner, who escaped to Damascus.  The German war criminals became trusted military and security advisers in the region, particularly of Nazi sympathizer Gamal Nasser, then Egypt's president. The mufti himself escaped to Egypt in 1946. Far from being shunned for his Nazi past, he was elected president of the 'National Palestinian Council'.  The mufti was at the forefront of pushing the Arabs to reject the 1948 United Nations partition plan and to wage a "war of destruction"  against the fledgling Jewish state.  His great admirer & nephew,  Yasser Arafat, would later succeed him as Palestinian leader.  Arafat wanted to realize his Uncle's dream to be the supreme ruler of Israel,  a "Judenrein" Arab Israel, and he passed that sick dream to Abbas and to Hamas and Hezbullah and all the other sucker arabs who call themselves "Palestinians."   They think if they control Israel, they can destroy Judiasm spread Islam to every corner of the world.

The other line of defence is that Arab collaboration with the Nazis supposedly wasn't ideological but pragmatic, following the old dictum that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."  This "excuse" not only fails to consider what would have happened to the Jews and British in the Mideast had the Arabs' German friends won. It also overlooks the mufti's and his followers' virulent anti-Semitism, which continues to poison the minds of many Muslims even today.


The mufti  "invented a new form of Jew-hatred by recasting it in an Islamic mould, "   according to German scholar Matthias Küntzel.   The mufti's fusion of European anti-Semtism ~ particularly the genocidal variety ~ with Qu'ranic views of Jewish wickedness has become the hallmark of Islamists world-wide, from al Qaeda to Hamas and Hezbollah. During his time in Berlin, the mufti ran the Nazis' Arab-language propaganda radio programme, which incited Muslims in the Mideast to "kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history and religion."   Among the many listeners was also the man later known as Ayatollah Khomeini, who used to tune in to Radio Berlin every evening, according to Amir Taheri's biography of the Iranian leader. Khomeini's disciple Mahmoud Ahmadinejad still spews the same venom pioneered by the mufti as do Islamic hate preachers around the world. 

Muslim Judeophobia is not, as is commonly claimed, a reaction to the recent Mideast conflict but one of its main "root causes."  It has been fueling Arab rejection of a Jewish state long before Israel's creation, and continues to do so today.  We need to understand this & ensure that everyone we come into contact with understands it too!

More on the Mufti to come .... 


The Youtube video below explains the massacre of Jews by Muslims in Hebron in 1929.  One of many jihads in Hebron.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Hebrew Hammer!!


Friday Film ... late again!  Apologies.   An Appetizer for the season,  this movie is comedic, romantic, completely unorthodox and somewhat perverted .... kinda like me!  

It is filled with brilliant & bawdy humour & if you liked any of the Airplane/Hot Shots/Naked Gun/Scary Movie  films you will just adore it.  Intentionally reminiscent of the Blaxploitation films of the seventies,  the 'Hebrew Hammer'  is full of modern references as well as classic Jewish humour. The script is fast-paced and clever, and has some brilliant one-liners.  Although certainly not a film for the easily-offended, those capable of looking at Jewish stereotypes and laughing at them will enjoy this movie hugely ~ most of the lines become pretty memorable and if you are Jewish and find the content too risque for your liking,  you still have no choice but to giggle at the guys Star of David hood ornament & many other things,  like the Star of David spurs on his boots.   The Hebrew Hammer is a wickedly funny parody of the Blaxploitation  films, only substituting a Jewish hero for an African-American one. In much the same way that Undercover Brother parodied black stereotypes, the Hebrew Hammer mocks Jewish stereotypes by embracing them and laughing at them. It is funny ~ simply  Jewsploitation at it's best !!!!


'The Hebrew Hammer'   is the story of Mordechai Jefferson Carver (Adam Goldberg), a Jew who by the time the opening credits are done has grown from a tubby, victimized young schoolboy into an avenging, street-smart superhero, with a wardrobe and a theme song ripped off from 'Shaft.'  

When Hanukkah is in Jeopardy ....  A Jewish Superman Gets the Call!

 Mordechai Jefferson Carver is a tough talking, hard hitting, religiously observant Jewish private eye in the mould of Richard Roundtree’s  'Shaft'.   As the film’s Shaft-like opening theme song states, “He’s a complicated Jew and no one understands him but his mother.”   When Santa’s son Damien (Andy Dick) stages an extremely hostile take over of his father’s business,  he sets into motion a plan to destroy Hanukkah. Guilted into helping the Jewish Justice League (headed by an outrageous and almost unrecognizable Peter Coyote by his mother (Nora Dunn),  Mordechai teams with the attractive JJL agent Esther (Judy Greer) and Mohammed (Mario Van Peebles) of the Kwanzaa Liberation Front to stop Damien’s various evil schemes. 



Self-deprecating humour like this is a tricky line to walk, with the risk of becoming the stereotype you’re mocking high.   Fortunately first time writer/director Jonathan Kesselman (maybe necesarily Jewish!) guides the film with a steady hand and avoids that pitfall.  Kesselman seems to have studied the anything goes style of comedy of films like Airplane and The Naked Gun, and learned his lessons well.   By keeping his cast from playing their parts too broadly, he is able to accentuate the humour level of the film.  Adam Goldberg   plays his role as the tough talking Mordechai especially straight, never making his character a caricature. The jokes fly fast and thick and when they occasionally don’t hit their mark, there’s another already on its way.

Kesselman has also studied his blaxploitation movies well. Several scenes, including the one where Mordechai discovers his Jewish neighbourhood being overrun by bootleg videos of 'It’s A Wonderful Life'  supplied by the evil Damien, echo sequences to be found in virtually any example from the genre. Kesselman also acknowledges his blaxploitation influence with a cameo from Melvin Van Peebles, whose 1971 film 'Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song', is considered the genre’s birth. 

My favourite scene ~ Shabbat Shalom, Motherfuckers!!

While watching I was so surprised at how little I saw coming. The fresh feel of this film is intoxicating & it on all levels worked. It left me wanting more, oh so much more.  You can only credit the director for so much,  it takes the talent from in front of the camera to really pull a film together.   And,  Goldberg was having a blast playing this zany, yet kind,  character that cares more about his faith than anyone in the entire world. His eyes told the story, and allowed me to really follow this "leader" blindly into uncharted territory.   The other staple of this movie is Andy Dick ....  An Evil Santa who also brings to the screen his style of comedy. He is notorious for being who he is, and while others may find him annoying, I only see him as comic genius a la Robin Williams.


Peter Coyote is also a scream as a 'Moshe Dayan'  type of Jewish general with a pitch perfect Yiddish accent, who is constantly eating bagels. Greer, the 'Love interest' is great & the rest of the cast is hilarious too,  including a supporting black cast who are there to defend Kwanza.  There's stuff here aplenty to offend everyone,  and don't watch it if political correctness floats your boat,  but for those who don't take themselves so seriously,  it is majorly funny.   If you appreciate South Park & it's send ups,  this movie will send you into ecstasy.  It's tasteless humour, inane jokes & dumb plot illustrate the silliness and the stupidity of racial stereotypes.  Pythonesque!! 

Perfectly paced, over the top, just like the season it portrays,  the Hebrew Hammer does for Xmas faire viewing what Spinal Tap did to the Rocumentary and what Austin Powers did to the Spy Satire.  'The Hebrew Hammer'   is not going to change the world or revolutionize the film industry, but it may assume the mantle of the perfect parody.  As it's poster introduction roared .... Part Man Part Street ~ 100% Kosher.    Watch out for the bagels!!

SSMF!!!!!!   


Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Feminist Deception!


I wasn't intending to blog today .... not at all, since I want people to read yesterday's blog re the 'Mufti of Jerusalem'  which I'm going to expose & study (I suppose that's a good word) further for the next week.  BUT,  this morning Iranian media announced that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani  (on whom I've blogged before here ...)  has been freed.   

I cannot confirm this, I don't know it's truth,  but equally I cannot not repost this .... Caroline Glick   is perfect!!!   She'd like that, ha ha ..... she is the deputy editior of the Jerusalem Post & we see eye to eye on (almost) everything.     Another reason is that in my stupidity in my first undergraduate year I took philosophy as a minor.  My, my .... what an error!   Nevertheless,  I did read in my 'spare' time Simone de Beauvoir's seminal tome "The Second Sex".... Said to be 'revolutionary' for women!   I'm not commenting on that hot potato,  but I am suggesting that Caroline Glick's analysis of feminism in the 21st century is a similar landmark text.  What I reproduce is hers, not mine.  I'm not perfect!!

Making the rounds on YouTube these days is a   ' FILM ~ Utube'    of a group of manly looking women preparing for and conducting a "flash dance" in a Philadelphia food store. The crew of ladies, dressed in tight black clothes and sequined accessories, arrives at The Fresh Grocer supermarket, breaks into a pre-planned chant ordering shoppers not to buy Sabra and Tribe hummus and telling them to oppose Israeli "apartheid" and support "Palestine.

From their attire and attitude, it is fairly clear that the participants in the video would congratulate themselves on their commitment to the downtrodden, the wretched of the earth suffering under the jackboot of the powerful. They would likely all also describe themselves as feminists. 

But if being a human rights activist means attacking the only country in the Middle East that defends human rights, then that means that at the very basic level, the term "human rights activist" is at best an empty term. And if being a feminist means attacking the only country in the Middle East where women enjoy freedom and  equal rights, then feminism too, has become at best, a meaningless term. Indeed, if these anti-Israel female protesters are feminists, then feminism is dead!!!!

IN 1995, then first lady Hillary Clinton spoke at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. There Clinton seemed to embrace the role of championing the rights of women and human rights worldwide when she proclaimed  , "It is no longer acceptable to discuss women's rights as separate from human rights...If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, once and for all."

Yet as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton ~ like her fellow self-described feminists ~ has chosen to single Israel out for opprobrium while keeping nearly mum on the institutionalized, structural oppression of women and girls throughout the Muslim world. In so acting,  Clinton is of course, loyally representing the views of the Obama administration she serves. She is also representing the views of the ideological Left in which Clinton, US President Barack Obama, the human rights and feminist movements are all deeply rooted.

Since the height of the feminist movement in the late 1960s, non-leftist women in the West and Israel have been hard-pressed to answer the question of whether or not we are feminists. Non-leftist women are opposed to the oppression of women. Certainly, we are no less opposed to the oppression of women than leftist women are.

But at its most basic level, the feminist label has never been solely or even predominantly about preventing and ending oppression or discrimination of women. It has been about advancing the Left's social and political agenda against Western societies.  It has been about castigating societies where women enjoy legal rights and protections as "structurally" discriminatory against women in order to weaken the legal, moral and social foundations of those societies. 

That is, rather than being about advancing the cause of women, to a large extent, the feminist movement has used the language of women's rights to advance a social and political agenda that has nothing to do with women. So to a large degree, the feminist movement itself is a deception!!!

The deception at the heart of the feminist movement is nowhere more apparent than in the silence with which self-professed feminists and feminist movements ignore the inhumane treatment of women who live under Islamic law. If feminism weren't a hollow term, then prominent feminists would be the leaders of the anti-jihad movement. Gloria Steinem and her 'sisters' would be leading the call for the overthrow of the anti-female mullocracy in Iran and the end of gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia. 

Instead, in 2008 Ms. Magazine, which Steinem founded and which has served as the mouthpiece of the American feminist movement, refused to run an ad featuring then foreign minister Tzipi Livni,   Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and then speaker of the Knesset Dalia Itzik that ran under the headline, "This is Israel."    It was too partisan, the magazine claimed. 

Leading feminist voices in the US and Europe remain unforgivably silent on the unspeakable oppression of women and girls in Islamic societies. And this cannot simply be attributed to a lack of interest in international affairs. Islamic subjugation and oppression of women happens in Western countries as well. Genital mutilation, forced marriage and other forms of abuse are widespread. 

For instance, every year hundreds of Muslim women and girls in Western countries are brutally murdered by their male relatives in so-called "honour killings." Pamela Geller, the intrepid blogger at Atlas Shrugs website has steadfastly documented every case she has found. This year she ran an ad campaign on public buses and taxis in major US cities to raise public awareness of their plight. And for her singular efforts in championing the right to life of Muslim women and girls, she has been reviled by the Left as an anti-Islamic bigot.  I Love this woman too!!

Former Dutch parliamentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali was forced to flee Holland and live surrounded by bodyguards for the past six years because she has made an issue of Islamic oppression of women and girls. The Left - including the feminist movement ~ has treated this remarkable former Muslim and champion of women's rights as a leper. 

IF ALL the feminist community's policy of ignoring Islamic oppression of women did was keep it out of the headlines it would still be unforgivable. But the fact is that by not speaking of the central challenge to women's rights in our times, the organized feminist movement, and the Left it is a part of, are abetting Islam's unspeakable crimes against women and girls. It does so in two ways.

Tyranny unchallenged is tyranny abetted. And the first way that the organized feminist movement and the Left abet the oppression of women by Islamic authorities is by signaling to those authorities that they can get away with it. This truth is laid bare by the responses of Islamic authorities in the rare cases where their oppression of women has received Western attention.

For instance, in 2006, an Iranian Islamic court found Mohammadi-Ashtiani guilty of adultery and sentenced the ethnic Azeri kindergarten teacher and mother of two to death by stoning. She was later also found guilty of murdering her husband. Ashtiani's confessions in both cases were extracted under torture. She has already received 99 lashes for her reputed initial crime. Not a Farsi or Arabic speaker, when her adultery trial ended, Ashtiani didn't even know she was convicted or what her sentence was. 

In recent years,  Ashtiani's children assisted by Iranian émigré and non-leftist human rights groups launched a courageous campaign to save her life. Over the past year, the campaign was covered in the Western media and garnered the support of notables such as the French and Canadian prime ministers' wives as well as international film stars like Lindsay Lohan, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Robert Redford and Juliette Binoche. 

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International got on board this past summer and decried her treatment. Clinton herself gave a half sentence condemnation of Ashtiani's persecution in August. Indeed, the international attention focused on Ashtiani may have been the reason the Obama administration belatedly voiced opposition to Iran's election to the new UN women's rights council. Iran was elected by acclamation in April, but later defeated by India when a roll call vote was called. 

Reeling from this criticism, Iranian authorities began backtracking.  First they claimed Ashtiani's death sentence would be cancelled. Then they said she would be hanged rather than stoned. Today a statement has been issued that she as been freed, but her fate remains unclear and her life is still in grave danger. But if pressure on Iranian authorities keeps up, there is a reasonable chance that Ashtiani's long ordeal will end in life, rather than death.

Ashtiani's case is proof that when the West makes the barbaric abuse of women an issue, the Islamic world attenuates its abuse of women. Pressure works. In contrast, an absence of pressure empowers the oppressors.

THE SECOND way that the feminists and the Left they are a part of abet Islamic oppression of women is through their animosity towards Israel. When the Shariah ~  besotted leaders of the Muslim world see the Western Left devote its energies to attacking Israel  ~  the only human rights and women's rights protecting country in the Middle East  ~ they see there is no reason for them to reconsider their willingness to tyrannize their women and girls.

Take Indonesia for example. In 2003, then Indonesian president Megawati Sukarnoputri agreed that as part of a ceasefire agreement, the separatist Aceh province was allowed to institute Shariah law as the law of the province. In 2009, the Aceh parliament passed a law making adultery punishable by stoning. On the central squares of the province that is home to 4 million, people are routinely publicly whipped for offenses against Islam. 

For example, just last Friday Anis Saputra, aged 24, and Kiki Hanafilia, aged 17 each received eight lashes in a public ceremony outside a local mosque for being caught kissing in October. The two are reportedly married to other people and they apparently were given lashes rather than stoned to death because they had yet to consummate their alleged romance.

Last year the province also forbade women and girls from wearing pants. A France 24 investigation of Shariah in Aceh showed a traumatized 14 year old girl who was beset by Islamic police on her way home from school. They cut her jeans off in the middle of the street.

Yet rather than criticize Indonesia for these appalling developments, last month Obama visited Jakarta and waxed poetic about Islamic tolerance of differences and applauded Indonesia for its commitment to democracy. And while ignoring Indonesia's repressive Shariah-ruled province where Islamic oppression is the rule not the exception, Obama devoted his criticism to attacking Israel for allowing Jews to build homes in Jerusalem.

THERE IS NO doubt that attitudes that discriminate against women exist today in Western countries as well as in Israel. Women in the free world have unique challenges to overcome because of our gender. But a sense of proportion is required here. These challenges are not overwhelming, systemic or in most cases life-threatening.

On the other hand, hundreds of millions of women and girls throughout the Islamic world are daily terrorized by everyone from their families to their judges. They have no reason to believe that if challenged their rights ~ even their right to life ~ will be protected. 

The fact that the ladies in Philadelphia decided to take their stand against Israel and that that Clinton and Obama attack Israel for building homes for Jews in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria while they all ignore the suffering of the women of Islam speaks volumes about the degradation of the West under the Left's social and political leadership. It also tells non-leftist women in the West that being pro-women's rights and being a feminist are increasingly mutually exclusive.   

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

America & the Mufti ...

The Nazi Mufti!
The New York Times reported last Saturday that in the immediate wake of World War II, American intelligence officers adapted very quickly to the new reality that Communism was the enemy ~  a little too quickly as it turns out, because it led to turning a blind eye to the war crimes of Germans and Collaborators who promised to help the America resist Stalin's attempt to take over postwar Europe.   After World War II, American counter-intelligence recruited former Gestapo officers, SS veterans and Nazi collaborators to an even greater extent than had been previously disclosed (Remember Klaus Barbie ???),  and helped many of them avoid prosecution or looked the other way when they escaped, according to thousands of newly declassified documents.  With the Soviet Union muscling in on Eastern Europe, “settling scores with Germans or German collaborators seemed less pressing; in some cases, it even appeared counterproductive,” said a government report published last Friday by the National Archives.

Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, U.S. Intelligence and the Cold War,”  .... This is a pdf link so you too can download & read this report!!

In chilling detail, the report also elaborates on the close working relationship between Nazi leaders and the grand mufti of JerusalemHaj Amin al-Husseini, who later claimed that he sought refuge in wartime Germany only to avoid arrest by the British.  In fact, the report says, the Muslim leader was paid “an absolute fortune” of 50,000 marks a month (when a German field marshal was making 25,000 marks a year).  It also said he energetically recruited Muslims for the SS, the Nazi Party’s elite military command, and was promised that he would be installed as the leader of Palestine (Geographical area here, NOT made up entity which is referred to as palestine now!)  after German troops drove out the British and exterminated more than 350,000 Jews there.

Hitler meets the Mufti!
On Nov 28th, 1941, the authors say, Hitler told Mr. Husseini that the Afrika Corps and German troops deployed from the Caucasus region would liberate Arabs in the Middle East and that “Germany’s only objective there would be the destruction of the Jews.”  

The report details how Mr. Husseini himself was allowed to flee after the war to Syria ~ he was in the custody of the French, who did not want to alienate Middle East regimes ~ and how high-ranking Nazis escaped from Germany to become advisers to anti-Israeli Arab leaders and “were able to carry on and transmit to others Nazi racial-ideological anti-Semitism.” 

“You have an actual contract between officials of the Nazi Foreign Ministry with Arab leaders, including Husseini, extending after the war because they saw a cause they believed in,” Dr. Breitman said. “And after the war, you have real Nazi war criminals ~ Wilhelm Beisner, Franz Rademacher and Alois Brunner ~ who were quite influential in Arab countries.”

In October 1945, the report says, the British head of Palestine’s Criminal Investigation Division told the assistant American military attaché in Cairo that the mufti might be the only force able to unite the Palestine Arabs and “cool off the Zionists. Of course, we can’t do it, but it might not be such a damn bad idea at that.”   

“We have more detailed scholarly accounts today of Husseini’s wartime activities, but Husseini’s C.I.A. file indicates that wartime Allied intelligence organizations gathered a healthy portion of this incriminating evidence,” the report says. “This evidence is significant in light of Husseini’s lenient postwar treatment.” He died in Beirut in 1974.

The report,  “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, U.S. Intelligence and the Cold War,”  grew out of an inter-agency group created by Congress to identify,  declassify and release federal records on Nazi war crimes and on Allied efforts to hold war criminals accountable.  It is drawn from a sampling of 1,100 C.I.A files and 1.2 million Army counterintelligence files that were not declassified until after the group issued its final report in 2007.

The Mufti Poses with the Bosnian SS!
"Hitler’s Shadow” adds a further dimension to a separate Justice Department history of American Nazi-hunting operations, which the government has refused to release since 2006 and which concluded that American intelligence officials created a “safe haven” in the United States for certain other former Nazis.  Like earlier reports generated by the group, this one paints a grim portrait of bureaucracy, turf wars and communication gaps among intelligence agencies. It also details blatantly cynical self-interested tactical decisions by Allied governments and a general predisposition that some war crimes by former Nazis and their collaborators should be overlooked because the suspects could be transformed into valuable assets in the more urgent undercover campaigns against Soviet aggression.

The American intelligence effort to infiltrate the East German Communist Party was dubbed “Project Happiness.”

“Tracking and punishing war criminals were not high among the Army’s priorities in late 1946,” the report says. Instead, it concludes that the Army’s Counterintelligence Corps spied on suspect groups ranging from German Communists to politically active Jewish refugees in camps for displaced people and also “went to some lengths to protect certain persons from justice.”

Among them was Rudolf Mildner, who was “responsible for the execution of hundreds, if not thousands, of suspected Polish resisters” and as a German police commander was in Denmark when Hitler ordered the country’s 8,000 Jews deported to Auschwitz.  Mr. Mildner escaped from an internment camp in 1946, and the report raises questions about whether American intelligence agents’ “lenient treatment of Mildner contributed in some way to his ability to escape” and even suggests that he may have remained in American custody helping identify Communists and other subversives before settling in Argentina in 1949.

And the report cites LOTS of other cases!     America acted as Ally of the Arabs & No friend of Eretz Yisrael ..... Then as Now!!!

Himmler & the Mufti!
  The Holocaust has never really ended.  It just shifted, geographically, with only the thinnest expressions of remorse from the Europeans.  The Mufti was in at the start and never left. He was a supreme war criminal, at least as culpable as Eichmann or Himmler. But it was inconvenient to go after him.   The mufti is a key figure in history and for understanding the true nature of the challenge faced by Eretz Yisrael today.  He exemplifies the ongoing World War or Islamic Jihad,  and tracing his life provides great insights and a basis for comprehending current events. From the Armenian genocide to the early palestinian riots and massacres,  from WWII alliance with the SS,  to a 1941 coup in Iraq with Sadamn's uncle, from wars of annihilation against Israel, to the rise of Yasser Arafat, and all the way to Hamas in Gaza today!

I want to spend some time looking in detail at the Mufti of Jerusalem over the next week or so,  interspersed of course with the usual Music & Movie Interludes for your enjoyment!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hailing the Heroes ~ Rabbi Uriel Malka!!


Prison Rabbi Uriel Malka, father of five from Karnei Shomron, was one of the 36 prison cadets to be consumed by the Carmel fire.   Rabbi Malka, 32,  is survived by his wife Ortal and five children, aged 9 and younger. He was an officer and rabbi in the IDF, served in the Paratroopers Commando Unit, taught in Canada and the U.S. for two years, and was studying to be an Israel Prison Service (IPS) rabbi. During the Second Lebanon War, he told of how he engaged in hand-to-hand combat with Hizbullah terrorists.

His last SMS message, sent to Rabbi Yehuda Vizner, Chief Rabbi of the IPS, from the ill-fated bus that overturned in the fire, stated simply, “I am on my way to rescue Jews. We’ll be in touch.” At the funeral, Rabbi Vizner said, “We’ll have to be in touch in this world via activities that he would have done, and that will now be done in his memory.”

Rabbi Malka
grew up in the city of Yavneh, studied in the Karnei Shomron hesder yeshiva, and became an IDF rabbi. He spent two years teaching in Winnipeg and Denver, building ties to many dozens of students who contributed photos, videos and memories to the special Uriel Malka memorial website in both Hebrew and English.

“He was always concerned about others,” his brother Dudi said at the funeral. “He was a fighter in the Paratroopers, and he met near-death several times… He always gave me strength, and flooded the family with energies of Torah and mitzvot.”


A former principal at the Ohr Hatorah Day School in Winnipeg, Canada,  Malka recalled in an extensive interview in October 2008 that he narrowly escaped death fighting Hizbullah two years earlier.   “It is a miracle that I am alive, as there were times in the war when I was shot at directly by Hizbullah terrorist fighters,” he said. “I met them face to face. I could see their eyes.”

Twelve of Malka’s colleagues from his paratroop unit were killed in a Katyusha rocket attack on Kfar Giladi, as they were standing outside, in a parking lot, en route to deployment in the Lebanon War on August 6, 2006.

“I was not in Kfar Giladi with them because I was already in Lebanon,” he recalled in the interview.  “We did not find out that those in our unit had died right away. Our commander had us take out the batteries to our equipment so we could not hear the names of those who died so we wouldn’t realize they were from our unit. Four days later our commander called us together in the [deserted] home of a Hizbullah terrorist and told us what had happened. He told us we had to be strong. It was very difficult.”

Malka, who is survived by his wife, Ortal, and five children, recalled in the 2008 interview that on his very first day in the Second Lebanon War he got a taste of how difficult things were going to be.  While fighting in the village of Rabat Talatin, he said, “Hizbullah terrorists were shooting at us in one direction, and as we pursued them from that direction, another group of Hizbullah came from the other direction.

There were 60 of us from my unit in a Hizbullah home.  Hizbullah had the opportunity to shoot three missiles at us in the house.   Had they hit the house, all of us would have died.   The first two missiles just missed the house. The third one hit the roof. We were all lucky to get out alive.”

At the time Malka got called up to fight with his unit, he was scheduled to go on shlichut (emissary service) with his family to teach in Denver.

“My ticket was booked and our suitcases were already packed. The Jewish Agency later told me that if I had explained the situation to the army, I would not have had to serve in the war. But I knew I couldn’t go to Denver and leave my friends. We are like brothers in my unit. I couldn’t have left them to fight alone. So I cancelled my ticket and we got to Denver later than planned. I left for Denver two days after the war ended.”

Malka reflected on his experience in the 2006 war, saying “We had lots of problems with not getting enough supplies sent to us. We would take over a Hizbullah home and we wouldn’t have enough to eat. So we were eating rice and potatoes and items from the homes of Hizbullah...."

“We underestimated how well Hizbullah was prepared for us,” he said. “They had better electronic and communications equipment than we realized, they knew the terrain and they had built extensive escape routes, which made it hard to find them.”

He added: “In Lebanon, my unit fought at night, because we had special equipment that gave us good night vision, which gave us an advantage over Hizbullah. But then it turned out we did not have enough of this special equipment, and this advantage was eliminated. We then fought also in the day. A lot of things went wrong. I don’t like to talk about it.”
 
Rabbi Levi Brachman remembers "If there is one thing I learned from Rabbi Uriel Malka it is his unwavering and unfaltering dedication and self-sacrifice to the Jewish people. Whether it was as a warrior, as a teacher, as a rabbi or as a chaplain, Uriel’s unrelenting dedication and self-sacrifice to his people will remain his legacy and a powerful example to us all."

Damon Prison ~ in the way of the Carmel Fires

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Willow World!!


~  It is not for Geisha to want.  It is not for Geisha to feel. ... She dances.  She sings. ... whatever you want.  The rest is shadows.  The rest is secret. ~

 The World of the Willow.   A world as Forbidden as it is Fragile.   The world of Geisha.   Swathed in Silk, Sliding doors and Seduction  .....  the Sensual icons of Japanese Dreams.  Since about birth I've wanted to be a Geisha Girl! 

 So,  today,  Four Books & a Film.  Truncated Thoughts & a Film Review is a more accurate description, actually!!   (Thought I would make up a little for this posting being late).  


Geisha of Gion by Mineko Iwasaki

The autobiography of this most famous Geisha in the second half of the twentieth century, Mineko Iwasaki was a veritable celebrity in her native Japan and Arthur Golden relied heavily on interviews with her to write Memoirs of a Geisha.  Because of that, this is an important read for a more truthful account of Geisha life.  Mineko Iwasaki broke the Geisha code of secrecy by writing this book, but she felt duty-bound to do so after the success of Memoirs of a Geisha, which perpetuated false information both about Geisha and herself. This non-fictional account of her life gives deeper insight into what it was like to be a famous Geisha Girl during the last few years that being a Geisha entailed a similar job description to that of  the past. The changing demands of the twentieth century leave Mineko Iwasaki unsure of whether Geisha will be able to survive into the future. 



Autobiography of a Geisha by Sayo Masuda

This first-person account of Sayo Masuda's life as a hot springs resort Geisha is the most difficult book of the four to read. While Geisha, a Life deals with the comparatively privileged and even enviable life of a woman devoted to art and beauty,  this Autobiography of a Geisha tells a darker tale of a woman sold as a child to a Geisha house and raised to be more like a prostitute than an artist. Her childhood as a slave to her house is dreadful, her young adult life as a full Geisha and then mistress is little better.  Masuda's account of her struggles, especially through the years of World War II are truly heartbreaking.  Still, there is some romance, some happiness,  and always a lot of spirit & soul from Sayo. Many elements from Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha are noticeable here. So much so, in fact, I think that he combined the gritty reality here with the elegance of Mineko Iwasaki's life to pen his novel.


 Geisha by Liza Dalby

Liza Dalby holds a special place in the history of Geisha ~ she is the only foreigner to ever become one. This book is partly her story, partly history, partly modern status of Geisha. In many ways it reads like a text book, but is a bit more engaging ... she uses anecdotes and has an easy writing style. If you are looking for an accurate history of Geisha, want to find out what it is like to be a Geisha today, how that profession and those that surround it have changed over time, then this book is to be recommended. It is thoroughly researched and, although it does use many anecdotes to help move it along, relies more on graphs and historical information than stories. The book can also be read in any order so it is an ideal reference tool. It is truly a wealth of information on the most idealized, misrepresented and misunderstood group of women ever to capture our fascination and our imaginations.  The Women of the Willow World!

 
 Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

This powerful novel was a huge factor in spurring the Geisha craze of the late 1990's. The writing is enchanting and deeply honest,  and believable,  so much that I did not even realize it was fiction until someone pointed it out to me.  Arthur Golden interviewed famous Geisha and  researched their culture to spin this story of a young girl named Sayuri,  of growing up in a Geisha house, of becoming a Geisha, of falling in love,  of surviving World War II,  and retiring amid societal change.   Water propels the tale forward.  Tightly written, the novel moves quickly like a brook flowing over a stony bed, ever seeking its path forward. And with many twists and turns remeniscent of a mountain spring, the writing is briskly refreshing.  Difficult to set aside, the tale entangles the reader into a web of intrigue and stratagems of the leading players who move like chessmen against each other.  With great skill, Arthur Golden easily takes his place amongst the master craftsmen of fiction, the great tale-spinners Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo and Mark Twain in his ability to create a cinematic historical stage, realistic dialogue and internal subterfuge that keeps the reader enthralled unto the end.  However, readers are advised to keep in mind that this is fiction and not a strictly accurate portrayal of Geisha life.  Arthur Golden gives us more insight into their world than perhaps any other novelist, however, he still perpetuates certain misconceptions and stereotypes.


“The Camera Eye is the possibility of making visible the invisible, of bringing light into darkness, of revealing what is hidden.”  
~ Dziga Vertov, 1972
  
And the Cinematic interpretation is a sumptuous Cinderella story .... all silk and sensuality, as discreet as an unopened waterlily.  It is beautifully shot, and has a carefully constructed musical score that blends the romantic west with the mystical east. Yet the film never manages to get beyond a pastiche of the Orient.  Rather than subtly pulling apart the layers of this complex female world to reveal the longing and desire buried beneath the kimono, Director Rob Marshall errs on the side of cliché and leaves you in no doubt about who’s naughty and who’s nice. The romance that lies at the heart of this sublime story is never fully given the focus it deserves.   Ken Watanabe and Michelle Yeoh shine in a cast who otherwise look good but are often underused.  About halfway through I realised that the film had become a kind of Geisha itself ~  gorgeously drenched in silk,  stylishly beautiful to look at,  but with little prospect of emotional attachment and definitely no sex. It’s lush, stylish and a feast for the eyes and ears rather than the heart and soul.


In this cloistered world, men come and go as do history and warplanes, amid spectacularly unfortunate metaphors about male 'eels' and female 'caves' and one brief catfight in a kimono as our geisha girls are swept up in jealous rivalries during the 1930's and 40's.   Then again, there isn't all that much for a geisha to do other than serve and conspire.  Rigorously trained from childhood, geishas dedicate themselves wholly to the paid amusement of male customers.   Once upon a time in Japan, some women were in the service of procreation, others were employed for recreational sex, while the geisha operated in that gray area in between.  (Curiously, the first geishas were men?????)   Geishas aren't typical sex workers though ~ they're superclassy sex workers who sell their virginity to the highest bidder (the pretext in both the book and film for that unhappy bit about eels and caves) and rely on steady male patronage. But while serving a new customer every six months certainly sounds less untowards than, say, turning six tricks a night in a day-rate motel, who's kidding whom?

The book and the film do attempt to attenuate the more distasteful aspects of geisha life, mostly by avoiding the contradiction between its degradations and its glamorous trappings. The story, after all, opens in the 1920's with Sayuri, then age 9 and called Chiyo (Suzuka Ohgo), and her older sister being sold by their impoverished fisherman father and spirited away into the dark, rainy night. The girls are soon separated, with the older sister sold to a low-end brothel and the future geisha sold to her okiya, a beehive of female activity run by a pair of crones cum pimps (pun unintended!) and supported by the labours of its clipped-wing queen, Hatsumomo. Legally bound to the crones, to whom she must hand over most of her wages, Hatsumomo hopes to secure her future by one day running the okiya.


 But when she becomes unstuck in both love & ambition her hair tumbles down and she sashays about the okiya, stirring the air with her tremulous rage. Having seen a very different future for herself in the blue eyes of the new girl, Hatsumomo directs all that fury toward her eradication.  In time, this enmity will assume soap-operatic proportions and involve the rival geisha Mameha (Michelle Yeoh), who takes Sayuri on as a trainee, and the two businessmen whose attentions consume so much of the women's and the story's time .... the Chairman (Ken Watanabe, the majestic hunk from "The Last Samurai") and his partner and friend, Nobu (the renowned Japanese actor Koji Yakusho).

 There are some disturbing aspects to the movie ~ two scenes which I find quite disturbing.  The first is early in the movie where an adult man (called the Chairman (Ken Watanabe of “The Last Samurai”)  buys a flavoured ice treat for a pretty little girl.  The girl falls in love with the man and devotes her life to pursuing a romance with him. It sounds like a pedophile's fantasy.   The movie opens on another disturbing scene,  two poor young rural girls being sold to Tokyo geisha houses by their impoverished parents. The two girls soon lose track of each other ~ one is sold directly into prostitution, although barely pubescent,  and the only family the younger girl has left are the people in the geisha house, where she is a virtual slave.  Then the young girl meets the nice man ~ the Chairman (Ken Watanabe of “The Last Samurai”), who buys her the ice treat. She now has a goal in her life, the Chairman.  This doesn't sit well.

Neither does the second disturbing factor for me & that is that although the movie takes pains to argue that a geisha is not a prostitute, but rather an artistic entertainer, who rarely sells sexual favours for money, the geisha sells her virginity to the highest bidder, even though prostitution is supposed to be beneath the dignity of a geisha (and this particular sale of virginity was reportedly denied by the geisha on whom the story is loosely based). Regardless of the pomp, pageantry and elegant entertainment of the geisha houses, it is, after all, the unstated promise of sexual availability that provides the money to support this elaborate illusion of sexless entertainment, is it not???


Much has been made of the fact that several of the lead actresses in this movie are not Japanese. Both Li Gong and Ziyi Zhang are Chinese, while Michele Yeoh of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” fame is Malaysian.  Yeoh plays Mameha, Sayuri's mentor.  All three women are great actresses, and they give great performances, but the argument has been made that the subject of this movie is so uniquely Japanese that only Japanese actors can correctly interpret the material.  Then again, the author of the book isn't Japanese,  so maybe the whole argument is baseless.  And maybe that is where my Nit picky aversions come from .... leaving the last word to Sayuri (from the Novel) ...

"Since moving to New York I've learned what the word "geisha" really means to most Westerners. From time to time at elegant parties, I've been introduced to some young woman or other in a splendid dress and jewellery. When she learns I was once a geisha in Kyoto, she forms her mouth into a sort of smile, although the corners don't turn up quite right as they should. She has no idea what to say! And then the burden of the conversation falls to the man or woman who has introduced us ~  "because I've never learned much English, even all these years. Of course, there is little point even in trying, because this woman is thinking, "My goodness... I'm talking with a prostitute..."    A moment later she is rescued by her escort, a wealthy man a good thirty or forty years older than she is."

The very word "geisha" means artist, and to be a geisha is to be judged as a moving work of art.   If nothing else this move is exactly that!