Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Thin Man series

 Never watched any of the Thin Man series when they were often available on tv.  Some of the clever dialogue would probably have passed over my head.  Each of us have missed hidden treasures and for me this one of them.
 
The story revolved around a reluctant detective who had dazzled Myrna who married him and he lived off her money shamelessly smoking, drinking, gambling and watching sports events.

The resolution of the mystery is with a group of interested people sometimes at a dinner table.  Nick doesn't necessarily know who committed the murder, but does know someone at the gathering did it and others will confirm details.  Of course there are many red herrings and dead ends, but it all makes satisfying sense in the end.   Along the way is much clever dialogue and amusing situations, but of course there is always a murder to spice things up.

The Thin Man turned into a series of movies and later for a television series.  My research revealed a lot of interesting people who contributed to its success.  

Clever dialogue. flows from the writers.  Nowadays dialogue is loaded with four letter words and is laughed at, but even before the Code more effort is put into getting a laugh.  Double entendre jokes are little more difficult and really more satisfying when done well.

Dashiell Hammett wrote the book that inspired the series. Near as I can tell he provided the character and some strands of plot especially for the first one, but to some extent for the rest of the series.  His credentials are impressive as he had worked for the Pinkerton Detective Agency at different times from Baltimore, Seattle and San Francisco.  He wrote "The Maltese Falcon," made into two movies.  He also wrote "Watch on The Rhine," which in movie format won an Oscar.  He lived off an on with another famous writer, Lillian Hellman.

Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, a married couple were told to use a Dashiell Hammett book only as a guideline and to include lots of snappy dialogue.  The initial release came out just before the Code was enacted allowing a lot more freedom that was subsequently squelched.  Although supposedly sophisticated the later films showed them in twin beds.  The thin man of the title was actually referring to someone being searched for, but so many people thought the protagonist played by William Powell was the Thin Man, so that misunderstanding was adopted.

Albert had been a child actor, including in 1919, Anne of Green Gables.  His last acting was in 1940 in "Mr & Mrs. North" on Broadway.  He had been involved in writing in Broadway and hooked up with Frances a Broadway writer, marrying and moving to Hollywood.  Their first film was "Up Pops the Devil."  As a team they were nominated for four Oscars, "The Thin Man," "After The Thin Man," "Father of the Bride" and "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."  Also won award for "the Diary of Anne Frank."  Wrote the perennial Christmas favorite, "It's a Wonderful Life."

Irving Brecher wrote the screenplay for "Shadow of the Thin Man."  An early start was with radio that gave him the opportunity to write for Milton Berle and Groucho Marx.  He got an Oscar nomination for "Meet me in St Louis."  As a baby boomer I remember "The Life of Riley," and "Bye Bye Birdie."  He also was a producer for tv.

A co-writer for "Shadow of the Thin Man" was Harvey Kurnitz who at one time had been a reporter.  He wrote a book, "Fast Company" and was given the opportunity to write the screenplay which led to many other scripts.  Some of his other film writing included, "Witness for the Prosecution," "Hatari" and "A Shot in the Dark."  He also contributed to "The Thin Man Goes Home."

"For "The Thin Man Goes Home" had two writers of interest.  Robert Riskin had an original story used for the script and worked on the screenplay.  He won an Oscar for "It Happened One Night."  He worked a lot with Frank Capra on such films at "Mr Deeds Goes to Town."  Altogether films he wrote won 2 Oscars and had three other nominations.  Perhaps his best known film was "Top Hat."  He also wrote three episodes of the tv. version of "The Thin Man."

 For "Song of the Thin Man," used at least three writers.  Steve Fisher is perhaps best known today for "Destination Tokyo" and several tv series including "Fantasy Island," "McMillan & Wife" and "Ripcord."  Nat Perrin was a lawyer who never practiced, but instead worked for Warner Brothers in their publicity department and from there he got some support from Groucho Marx and was hired as a gag writer.  Later he too wrote for tv. shows and also became a director and a producer.  Harry Crane was a stand up comic at age 19 and wrote for Laurel and Hardy and later wrote for tv series including Dean Martin and Joey Bishop.

W.S (Woodbridge Strong) Van Dyke directed the first "The Thin Man in 1934 and went onto direct another three sequels.  In 1916 he had been hired as one of many assistants to D. W. Griffith making "Intolerance."  By 1917 he was directing his own films.  In 1920 he earned the nickname "One Take Woody" while filming Jack Dempsey who tended to knock opponents out with one punch making it difficult to repeat.  He developed the reputation of filming quickly and cheaply.  He worked with Myrna Loy and William Powell in their first film together, "Manhattan Melodrama" in 1934, a movie made famous because it was watched by John Dillinger just before he was shot to death.  The same year Dyke filmed "The Thin Man" in 16 days.   He did a variety of interesting movies, including , "San Francisco" "Tarzan the Ape Man" and 'Rose-Marie."   He worked closely with Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy.  At the time of Nelson Eddy's marriage he stopped Jeanette's attempted suicide.  In 1961 he suffered from a heart condition and cancer and decided to commit suicide.

Richard Thorpe directed "The Thin Man Goes Home" and was also noted for efficient shootings.  He had come up from vaudeville and then silent films as both writer and actor.  He was one of five uncredited directors for "The Wizard of Oz."  Directed Johnny Weismueller in Tarzan movies and Elvis Presley in "Fun in Acapulco."

Edward Buzzell directed the last of the Thin Man movies, "Song of the Thin Man."  He had been a musical comedy star on Broadway and came to Hollywood for the film version of "Little Johnny Jones."  He did a number of shorts and got into directing through that format.  He directed a number of Marx Brothers films.

William Powell for me is a big reason for the success of The Thin Man.  He started on the New York stage in 1912 and moved to Hollywood for the silent film era, but encountered marginal success, but unlike many other sound boosted his career.  He had great comedic timing and his stage training gave him an edge.  He never gets too excited and usually has a sarcastic remark after surprises. In 1934 he switched to MGM studios and his first film was "Manhattan Melodrama" with Myrna Loy (the first of 14 films they appeared in together).  His next film was "The Thin Man" and over the next 13 years added 5 more sequels.  He had 3 Oscar nominations including "The Thin Man."  In 1936 he was the star of "The Great Ziegfield" when it won the Oscar for Best Picture.  He had a two year relationship with Jean Harlow, but after they became engaged she died.  Later he married Carole Lombard who he had appeared with in "My Man Godfrey," but they divorced after two years.  His third marriage was after knowing Diana Lewis for only three weeks, but this one lasted 44 years until his death in 1984.

Myrna Loy in 1934, had been declared "Queen of Hollywood" while Clark Gable (they had been paired in 7 movies) was declared the "King of Hollywood."  In my experience Myrna Loy seemed to always play an understanding wife, but in fact in the silent era was type cast in vamp roles.  An early break came when she was spotted by Mrs. Rudolph Valentino on stage and she was able to get a role in a motion picture.  Myrna was in the first feature film with synchronized sound,  "Don Juan" in 1926 soon followed by an appearance in the first movie with audible sound, "The Jazz Singer" in 1927.  It was a smooth transition to sound films for her and she was noted for good comic timing.  She was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1985.  She once appeared in black face in a movie and proclaimed her shame for that role.  She was Co-Chairman of the Advisory Council of the National Committee against Discrimination in Housing which exposed segregation in federal funded projects.

There is a wonderful world of black and white films where the story is more of a king that is the case today.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

SHOPPING FOR VOTES

"Shopping for Votes" was published in 2013, but tracked towards our recent Canadian election.  It recounts a refining of marketing methods to win elections. 

There has always been an effort to encourage favorable voters out to the polls and to persuade as many to support a party candidate as practical.  Over the years the process has become more refined. Susan Delacourt focuses on Canadian development realizing it tends to follow American developments.

Like most western nations Canada has been moving to a consumer society.  This is reflected in political parties striving to get elected.  The end of World War II launched released Canadians from the Depression and war austerity.  1945 saw the Family Bonus helping young families and became a major factor for Newfoundland to join Confederation.  A few decades later and Sunday shopping became an election issue as the public wanted more freedom to spend their money at their convenience.

One of the early characters encountered in the book is Dalton Camp who brought his advertising expertise to support John Diefenbaker in 1954.  I enjoyed listening to him with Peter Gzowski, Eric Kierens and Stephen Lewis talk on the radio.  During the course of the radio programs Dalton got a heart transplant enabling him to live a few more productive years.  He was credited with helping Diefenbaker win elections in 1957 and 1958.  Lots of ideas, but advertising was improved under Dalton's care.

Allan Gregg with a statistical background and a hippy lifestyle took a more scientific approach.  He understood polling and the type of questions that would help analyze.   He broke polls down to ridings.  Later promoted The Tragically Hip.

Polls can be analyzed and conclusions drawn, but have their limitations.  Focus groups attempt to delve deeper.  

Both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were conservative, but realized they had to determine what the voters actually wanted.  Value research  emotional response to speeches used in analyzing Ronald Reagan

Fund raising was a very critical activity for any political party, particularly as marketing and advertising became essential to get elected.  Americans developed direct mail as a key tool and were constantly refining targeting and selecting most effective message.  These methods spread to Canada.

By the 1988 election Gregg  was using his poll results to plan Mulroney's travel.  Gregg counseled against an idea Mulroney had, namely the GST.  Polling indicated that voters would resent any new taxes.  At about this time I was a salesman phoning a supplier to get pricing on some furniture and learned about a manufacturer's tax.  This was a hidden tax and for some reason Mulroney felt people should be aware of taxes.  He also realized that there was a shift in spending from goods to service where taxing was absent.  He used up most of political capital in implementing the GST   The Liberals ran against this tax, but after they achieved power realized there was no easy way to replace the needed revenue.  Other parties minimized some of the pain by blending the federal tax with a provincial tax into HST.  Stephen Harper decided it would be good politics to reduce the tax, even though it would hurt revenue, especially including other tax breaks.  Taxes have always been hated by voters who mostly

Stephen Harper had strong views, but realized to get power, marketing and advertising were critical.  Focused on those who voted, but did not follow issues.  Realized half of Canadians did not follow the news in print or tv.  He remembered Ron Reagan cut money  to such groups as disabled and nursing home tenants, but a photo with these groups was remembered better.  Staging was important and staff was hired to optimize opportunities to make a strong impression.  One of his advisors, Dimitri Pantazopoulos believed in sales techniques learned from "Customer Centerd Sellng by Robert Jolles adapting concept to politics.

An American conservative advisor, Frank Luntz suggested to Harper tying his campaign to the national obsession with hockey.  Harper not only had himself photographed attending son's hockey practice, but wrote a book on hockey.  Some noticed that the hockey logo for the Vancouver Olympics resembled the Conservative logo, including colour.  Furthermore he made visits to local Tim Horton outlets often making hockey references.

Attack ads became common outside election campaigns.  Prominent victims included Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. 

Data bases are now recognized as the key part of election strategy.  A breakthrough for Canada was the use of postal codes that could break down locations that could be targeted.  Harper's set a strategy to develop data base for each riding.  Garth Turner (who at one time I regularly read) became a Conservative Member of Parliament, but became disillusioned that he was expected to contribute confidential information to a data base.  Targeting neighborhoods allowed the Conservatives to develop voter suppression robocalls, but were fined after an election.

A personal complaint has been Harper discarding a law set up by Jean Chretien that awarded $2.50 for a party for each vote it obtained.  Running a successful campaign requires a lot of money and the Conservatives had the best access to corporate money.  Public money for elections is one step to give a voice to many that are currently drowned out.

Marketing developments are not restricted to any one party.  To survive all the parties that are actually getting members elected are adopting as much expertise as they can. 

An idea of what I think of Stephen Harper and more of his marketing skills can be found at:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/04/kill-messengers.html 

As a salesman I came to realize that selling and marketing are different, but are complementary. My experiences helped develop my understanding of the importance of marketing.  You can follow my thinking regarding commercial selling, marketing all the way to data bases starting at:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2011/09/are-selling, -and-marketing-same-thing.html

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Best of Enemies

About two years ago it was lamented that no black actors had been nominated for an Oscar, then from my point of view appeared many notable films with black themes (and of course actors).  This past year I have viewed four black themed movies

"Green Book" was sort of a birthday present watched on the big screen and after winning the Oscar it seemed a worthy choice.  Based on true events it let me as an outsider appreciate it was a very nervy endeavor to tour the southern states.  Hypocrisy was obvious from those who enjoyed piano mastery, but denied basic decency.  As I married into an Italian family I enjoyed the black character encountering their culture in a very social way.  Also afterwards I learned that after the film events the pianist also appeared in Hamilton.

"The Hate U Give" was another movie, this time set in Jackson, Mississippi.  Caught between the white and black worlds the lead felt pressured in a murder case.  We got good insight into black struggle for dignity and being practical.  Amanda Stenberg was fantastic. 

"BlacKkKlansman" directed by Spike Lee made one feel good at how a black man fooled some bigots.  Current history hit home a few times.

If "Beale Street Could Talk"  was set up as a love story that was ruined by a racist cop.  There were a lot of complaints about the length.  Originally written by James Baldwin who set up the slow pace.  Full of stereotypical people with a lot of racism.

"The Best of Enemies" showed a different side of the issue--white alienation.  Glad I was able to see special features which included the real characters as well as cast and crew members.

"The Best of Enemies" set in Durham,North Carolina in 1971 was another battle between whites and blacks.  One difference was we were given a glimpse of white alienation.  The white leader, C.P. Ellis came from a poor background, owned a gas station and talked of his joy of being accepted by the Klu Klux Klan and later of becoming their leader.   As the events progressed and he was forced to deal with blacks to solve the problems after a black school suffered a fire he came to understand their viewpoint.  Trying to persuade a white veteran to support the segregationists he learned that a local black had  served honorably in Vietnam.  As he was concerned about his own children he came to appreciate that black parents were very concerned about their children's suffering inferior education.  He eventually voted for de-segregation and gave up his Klu Klux Klan membership.  He lost friends, suffered some sabotage at his business, but now that he was willing to serve blacks they saved his business by gassing up.

The principle black advocate was Ann Atwater.  She was a single mother and very active against civil rights abuses.  She hated whites, assuming the worst.  Chosen as a co-chairman along with C.P. Ellis she eventually appreciated all whites were not blind and that she could work with them.

The key facilitator in the events was a black man, Bill Riddick brought in from Raleigh to organize what was called a charrette a process intended as a mediation spread over 10 days.  He was very diplomatic, accepting that whites wanted to protect their interests, but by choosing the two co-chairmen and then a random selection of representative voters and then letting an open discussion of concerns.  There certainly was a risk and coercion was used on the wavering white voters  some of which was effective.  In the end the big surprise with the last decisive vote was C.P. Ellis who had completely changed his attitude.

What made the movie more real to me were special features with the real people who actually became friends and campaigned together on civil rights manner.  I was very impressed by Ann Atwater who use her physical bulk to block doors when confronted by white segregatinists.

Robin Bissell was the director, writer and producer.  The idea came from Osha Gray Davidson who had written an article about the actual events.  Robin had been an executive producer of "Free State of Jones," a movie about a small section of the south that managed to be independent of the Civil War rebels.  see more http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/09/free-state-of-jones.html

Marcelo Zaros a Brazilian wrote the music.  He had earlier done "Wonder," "Fences" and "Enough Said."

David Lanzenberg" handled the cinematography.  Earlier he had done "The Age of Adaline."

Harry Yoon was the editor.  An earlier film for him was "Detroit.
"
Sam Rockwell played the Klu Klux Klan leader.  Movie fans have a tendency to project personal attributes of a role.  Sam has played a lot of what might be called country bumpkins and in this film played at the beginning a prejudiced man who regularly used the n word.  To me it is acting at his finest when one can subvert their own views to project a repulsive image.  Sam also did a good job as George W. Bush in "Vice."  He won best supporting actor for "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri." 

Taraji P Henson played Ann Atwater.  Earlier in the same year she had been in "What Men Want," with a very different physical appearance and personna.  She has also appeared in "Hidden Figures." She was nominated for the Oscar best supporting actress in "The Case of Benjamin Button."  She paid for her education at Howard University as a secretary at the Pentagon during the day and as a singing/dancing waitress on a dining cruise.  An ex boyfriend and father of her child had been murdered.

Babou Ceesay, a British actor played Bill Riddick, the one who kept calm and facilitated aggressive antagonists to negotiate.  He appeared in "Eye in the Sky,"  After The Best of Enemies he appeared in what looks to be an interesting British tv series, "Dark Money."

Hate cannot exist without ignorance.   The process in this film would be difficult to form when circumstances are full of hate and little willingness to compromise, however an ideal to strive for.  Student exchanges are popular, but are mostly among relatively open minded people.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Dorothy Fields

Up until a few decades ago most music was written by men, but a few women blazed a trail that benefited all music lovers.  Dorothy Fields wrote the words of hundreds of tunes, many of which are still heard by many.

Dorothy Fields, born on July 15, 1905, in New Jersey daughter of performers. Her father was Lew Fields, part of vaudeville duo, Weber & Fields.  He discouraged his daughter for show business and when he learned she was involved with acting he reportedly told her that it was unladylike.  She supposedly replied "I am no lady I am your daughter" paraphrasing a famous Weber & Fields joke, "That was no lady, that was my wife."

For awhile she was a teacher and a laboratory assistant, but finding time to be involved with writing for theatre and magazines.   A breakthrough occurred in 1928 when she wrote the lyrics for "Blackbirds of 1928."  This led her to meeting Jimmy McHugh a song plugger.  They worked together for a few years on Broadway, for the Cotton Club (for Duke Ellington) and in Hollywood.  Some of the songs Dorothy wrote the lyrics for included, "On the Sunny Side of the Street," "Exactly Like You," "I'm In the Mood for Love," "Big Spender," and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love."

In the middle 1930's she wrote lyrics with Jerome Kern including for the classic film, "Swing Time."  The song, "The Way You Look Tonight," which won the pair an Oscar.  Another was "Pick Yourself Up" (see below).  A tricky song was for a romance that was not going anywhere and had to be staged carefully.  She came up with "A Fine Romance" song by Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire to depict the awkwardness of their relation (which did warm up).  She also wrote for "Roberta" with Jerome Kern.

Barrack Obama paraphrased a line from "Pick Yourself Up" at his 2009 inaugural address, "Starting today we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin the work of remaking America."

She transitioned from writing song lyrics to being a librettist, the one who writes the book of the play.

She had the original idea for a musical based on Annie Oakley.  Originally Jerome Kern was to write the music, but he died and was replaced with Irving Berlin.  Dorothy was listed with her brother, Herbert Fields for writing the musical book.  "Annie Get Your Gun" was released in 1950.

She wrote with Cy Coleman including:  "Lets's Face It," "Something for the Boys," "Mexican Hayride" and "Sweet Charity."

In 1959 she shared a Tony award with three collaborators for the musical "Redhead."   Her collaborators were Herbert Fields, Sidney Sheldon and David Shaw

In 1971 she was inducted into the Song Writers Hall of Fame.  Altogether she wrote 400 songs many of which were included in 15 stage musicals and 26 movies.

She was introduced to her second husband, David Eli Lahm by Herbert Sondheim, father of Stephen Sondheim who called her Aunt Dorothy.  Dorothy and David had two children.

She was known to spend several weeks researching for a song.  "I'm writing a song to fit a spot in the show." She died in New York on March 28, 1974

Friday, October 25, 2019

Four Filipino movies

Netflix is a savvy marketer.  They have noticed that many immigrants to America love to watch movies from their homeland and at the same time are able to use their expertise to spread culture around the world.  What this means is that by targeting different ethnics with movies in their native language they also offer them for the rest of the population.  Out of curiosity or a desire to learn more many Americans (and Canadians) take advantage of the opportunity to see how the rest of the world likes to tell its stories.

The world is opening up to anyone willing to explore.  Always looking for something different stumbled on one Filipino movie  In a short period of time watched four Filipino movies.  The first was "You're my Boss" which I enjoyed, but admit not quite up to American standards.  But it inspired me to watch "Starting Over Again."  And in turn watched "Everything About Her" and finally "Barcelona"  Really just a glimpse of a different culture (with many Western overtones), but some interesting stories told well.

All movies are stories enhanced by technology and creativity.  It has to be believable at least to the point you can identify with what's happening.  Not that you feel they are telling your story, but that it is about something you can feel.   It helps if the actors look and behave naturally.  Of course some are set up in weird costumes, but there still must be something .  The camera is often taken for granted, but it can.   Music ads to your enjoyment, more so if it fits the story.

"You're My Boss" (2015) was a comedy where deception was a key factor.  One woman was substituting for her out of town boss, but soon as a Japanese company couldn't at first accept a woman boss, her male assistant pretended to be the boss.  Naturally the couple seemed misfitted.  The male had a rural family and a different way of looking at things.  The woman was status conscious.  Of course they sorted out their differences.  Basically the two main characters were likeable, the plot was comical in parts.  Some very interesting scenery, both in Manila and a rural coastal town.  Directed and co-written by Antonette Javana.  Emerzon Texon wrote the music.  Carmi Raymundo is listed as creative producer.  Hermann Caravail took the cinematography.  Starred Toni Gonzaga as the substitute executive (more on her later) and Coco Martin as her personal assistant.  Coco won an acting award for this film, but at one time was a janitor in Alberta, Canada.


Toni Gonzaga was listed for "Starting Over Again" (2014--pictured at the top).  I thought I could predict the outcome from the title.  The reviews were very favorable.  The story line had to do with the aftermath of a breakup and then evolved into a love triangle.  Humiliation and misunderstandings were untangled.  It did not end the way I thought it would, but poetic.  The acting was really good and the way the plot was laid out kept viewers engaged.  I learned Toni (who deservedly won an acting award for this role)was a singer and I ended buying one of her tunes.  Piolo Pascual also won acting awards for this film and sang a song, having won 2 song awards.  Iza Calzado played the newcomer to the love triangle and looked very sophisticated. One scene I remember with the two women discussing the difference between cooking and baking was informative and metaphorical. 

Again the cinematography was handled by Hermann Claravall.  Cesar Francois Concio composed the music.  Carmi Raymundo is listed as creative producer.

"Everything About Her" (2016) also had good reviews  The two female leads were very good with the male lead ok.  The story was about families that were dysfunctional.  It takes a problem to bring people together.  In this case it was cancer.  The mother was highly successful, but very bossy who had driven her husband and son off to America was brought down to earth by a diagnosis.  The young woman who was hired to be a personal nurse also was strong willed, but was resentful of her mother having left the family.  The nurse meets the son; there is of course a little distrust, but ironically they each help the other to forgive.

Directed by Joyce Bernal who also did some editing.  Writing was shared by Mia Concio I enjoyed the background music by Carmen Cuya.  Cinematography by Shayne Sarte.  Carmi Raymundo was the creative producer.  Vilma Santos played the cantankerous matriarch and is the most prolific award winner starting back in 1964 as best child actress.  She has also been elected mayor of Lipa City and Governor of Batangas.  Angel Locsin played very capably the personal nurse.  Xian Lim who is part Chinese and sometimes has Chinese speaking roles played the son.  He had been born and raised in San Francisco before going back to the Philippines at age 18 with his family

"Barcelona" had a moderately high rating on imdb, but three very negative reviews.  A common criticism was about the acting and casting.  Maybe somebody else could have done a better job, but the two leads more than interpreted the story to my enjoyment; they were a delight to watch.  The cinematography was beautiful, possibly noticed more because Barcelona is a gorgeous city.   Over laying the end credits were bloopers that showed the actors had some relief from the heavy emotions.  The film won several awards.

Olivia M Lamasson was the director and had been a script consultant for both "You're My Boss" and "Everything About Her."  Carmi Raymundo wrote the screenplay.  Hermann Claraval did the cinematography.  Danial Padilla played the male lead and won an award for it.  Paired with Kathryn Bernardo they won movie love tam of the year (for the second time). 

The last three were melodramatic with high emotional content.  In all three movies one is aware that Manila is modern looking city and many of its citizens are sophisticated.  It reminds me of Bollywood that ignores the poor and backward in most of its films.  What we identify with is the middle class and what we envy is the upper class.  Even more than in Bollywood much of the dialogue is in English--partly because it is seen as a mark of an educated person, but possiblyj also because they want to hit a wider audience.

As of 2018 "Manila in the Claws of Light" (1975) was only the second Filipino movie I have seen.  Filmed in 1974 under the direction of Lino Brocka during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.  It was introduced by Martin Scorsese who borrowed the ending for his movie, "Taxi."  There is a love story, but it also carries a political message.  Corruption is very evident.  Not comedic nor melodramatic, but let me know there is a long history of film in the Philippines.

Thanks to Netflix for expanding the world.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Character and policy; a confession

Listening to political pitches and trying to evaluate past history we all need to consider many factors to make a reasonable choice.  For those who think about policy a few character flaws might be acceptable if their policies are moved forward.  I confess getting what I really want helps me to overlook or forgive minor transgressions and believe most people are not much different.  On the other hand policy is difficult and is almost always in a context with other policies that requires prioritizing and bargaining.  So character can be a decisive factor in a vote decision.  Yet both these factors have to fit into whatever system is operating.

Successful politicians must somehow convince a wide range of people to get elected.  They will offer policies and promote their integrity.  Any policy they do offer is likely to offend some voters so they are careful to minimize.  A good blend of policies supported by a good image may gather enough voters to gain power even if a majority are displeased.

Policies I support include dealing with climate change, with injustice, with the danger of nuclear war, with the displacement of refugees and the quality of life.  There are a lot of powerful vested interests that oppose policies that effectively deal with these concerns.

The Republicans have a set of policies that represent the wants and needs of the wealthy.  In all cultures the rules are made by the powerful, but to some extent it is necessary to placate the masses.  This has been done by such things as offering "bread and circuses," and catering to prejudice.  Humans seek pleasure and avoid pain.

The conservatives feel they deserve to enjoy their wealth to the maximum and resent others who want to be treated fairly at their expense.  This is natural and if you don't believe me take a closer look.  This doesn't mean there are no benevolent wealthy and powerful people, but to get to the very top it is easier to discard or minimize weaknesses.

In order to win the co-operation, especially in a nominal democracy something must be offered to the masses.  There are many prejudices that can be sparked by pointing out how one group gets some "advantage"  Outsiders are always easy prey.

Some issues lay dormant until someone points them out.  We go about our daily pursuit of the good life with little thought to bigger issues.  Climate change, nuclear proliferation, pandemics, injustice, displacement of refugees and the international economic order do not dominate most of our daily thinking, but can upend everything.  Government policies affect not only our daily battles, but also these overarching concerns.  Nobody has exactly the same views on these issues, nor can anyone understand all the complexities so in one sense integrity over rides policy.

All this to say Donald Trump is a big mistake for character and policy.  Rich powerful people like some of his policies (and he has determined which ones attract their attention) and smart people have determined how to attract the attention of enough voters to force a package of policies onto the citizenry.

Two examples of what concerns the wealthy are taxes and regulations.  Taxes mean they have to share their wealth with others and regulations restrict their profits.  Both these concerns often work against those less powerful.

Examples of catering to prejudice include laws surrounding minority rights and immigrants.  Sex is a big area of righteousness.  Promiscuity is sinful.  Abortions and contraception (any promotion of sex) are evil as is homosexuality.   Guns make people feel safer against violence and others feel powerful against outsiders.  It is amazing that even here in my opinion people are voting against their own interests.  The rich and powerful can to some extent ignore laws.

Evangelicals who form an integral part of Trump's base are convinced Israel is a key to the resurrection of Christ and insist on supporting Israel regardless of the Palestinian occupation.  This feeling is so strong they are able to overlook major character flaws that are normally considered unforgivable.

If a politician is willing to cater to one issue voters they can enact their agenda no matter how it impacts the rest of the population (including those one issue voters).

Being a politician is an impossible job.  If you aren't elected there is nothing much you can do except protest and somehow hope that reason wins the future.  Perhaps the most practical thing is to develop and support particular policies and use both logic and marketing skills to make the policy improvement.   Working with others with compatible policy ideas strengthens both, but inevitably at some point compromises have to be made.  My bottom line is people need to be educated.

For voters it really is complex deciding who to support.  In many systems there are basically two choices that can get power.  There is a package of policies and characters to  decide.  In multi party systems  with a first past the post setup a voter can decide which package makes the most sense, but often it is complicated with the practical desire to prevent an undesirable outcome.  As usual I favor the proportional system where you can decide the best package (policies and character) and your voice will have a greater impact, although maybe not as strong as you wished.

The photo is of immigrants at a location near where I live.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The NON-INDICTABLE SINS OF TRUMP

He got in and there is very little that can be done before 2020.  There certainly were enablers, some of whom you can read about   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/07/trump-enablers.html

Any president should be allowed some mismanagement and to some degree all of them are guilty.  Too bad life threatening mistakes are legal, but at least some mismanagement can be amended with a new election.

Trump is admired by a significant portion of the population while others prefer to look elsewhere declaring that politics either bores them or is too much.  Unfortunately his mismanagement (much of which is deliberate) affects everyone and not just Americans.  Many people would add to my list, but in my mind he is guilty of GROSS mismanagement that needs to be punished.  Here are a few.

Pulling out the Paris Climate Agreement.  This is a global problem with global obstacles in the form of vested interests and ignorance.  United States despite a relatively small population contributes a major share of the problem.  They fancy themselves as global leaders and in this case I believe they should be.  While blaming China and others it is the U.S. that would make the most progress by setting an example.  Most other nations would follow their lead.  Obviously some of his supporters have a vested interest, but everyone, especially in the future will suffer.

Pulling out of the Iran agreement is inflammatory.  Not perfect, but the imperfections are more than tolerated when found elsewhere.  To build on what has already been agreed to not only by American negotiators, but also from Russia, Britain, Germany, France and Germany means other entities with their vested interests are  being ignored.  The purpose was to cut the proliferation of nuclear weapons that threaten us all.  Trump is catering to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Spreading hatred against minorities especially immigrants.  Many Americans think their country should be white, but in truth diversity is strength.

Supposedly some people believe Trump is hurt that anyone would question his legitimacy and feels threatened by the suggestion that Russian helped him.  Maybe so, but nonetheless Russians seem to influence decisions.   They are the ones who want to break up international co-operation.

 Vested interests are put in positions of power over finance, consumer protection and the environment.

The judicial system is being changed as something they are most proud of.  Many voters assume this will make abortion illegal and further assume it is the best way to minimize abortion.  At the same time they are tightening what Planned Parenthood can do.  I maintain the best way to reduce abortion is to increase sex education, accessibility to contraception, parental leave, financial assistance for young parents, health care for all, all things resisted by conservatives.

Obviously Trump wanted to please the anti abortion group that tends to be a one issue voter.  But the Supreme Court deals with many other issues and a conservative dominated court tends to favor big business and executive power.  It is galling that Mitch McConnell was able to stymie an Obama nomination.  Also that the Republicans rushed in Kavanagh despite some concerns that were not adequately addressed.