Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Amusing Ourselves To Death

"Amusing Ourselves To Death" originally written in 1985 by Neil Postman was given a 20th anniversary reprinting with a forward in part to justify its continued relevance.  In 1985 the computer was established, but in the next twenty years dramatically increased its power and since then there seem to have been new innovations almost on a daily basis.  If anything this book is more relevant in 2018..  Television is very often portrayed as the doom of mankind, although now there are more electronic devices.

The author's basic premise is that enslavement will come not from coercion, but pleasure.  George Orwell  with "1984" vs. Aldous Huxley with "Brave New World."   Orwell portrayed a future of coercion, fear, secret police and the butchering of language as the means to produce compliant slaves.  Huxley suggests enhanced pleasures such as drugs and sex would be more effective.  We in Canada and the United States look at totalitarian states and fear that will be our fate if we are not vigilant.  We are not looking out for being lulled. into complacency.

For thousands of years communication was limited by the speed of humans traveling to and from one another.  Smoke signals, semaphore and pigeons under special circumstances may have been faster, but usually less comprehensive.  When the telegraph and Morse code came around it soon speeded up wire service which made newspapers more up to date with faraway events..  In 1844 Associated Press was founded prompting David Thoreau to comment that "telegraphy made relevance irrelevant."

Reading was a key factor.  Thomas Paine"s Common Sense" sold 100,000 copies in two months.

Neil feels that television in replacing print media has snuck up on us and is weakening our resistance to being controlled.  A lot of people would agree that television is harmful, but Neil goes a little further.  Anything presented on television has to be entertaining and that is its main sin.  Neil thinks entertainment can be useful, but it should not be considered educational.

He gets right into Sesame Street and points out it encourages youngsters to love tv.  He feels that education should be a building process whereas Sesame Street lessons are complete in themselves.  Sequencing continuity is important, but not how Sesame Street works.  It is understandable that by being entertaining television avoids perplexity and the sheer drudgery of boring details.  In defense of television it can bring innovative approaches to difficulties.   Often it inspires youngsters (and even oldsters) to explore some topics in greater depth.  However I do agree that by making education entertaining it makes us a bit lazy

Postman contrasts this with past literate societies.  When we went from an oral culture to a print culture readers were encouraged to study in more depth.  Newspapers covered more issues, while television tends to focus on horse races (ie.election polls) and gaffes.

Religion has become big business on television.  To do so it has understand the need to be entertaining. But Postman thinks something has been lost.

Commercials appeal to the emotions more than reason.  Determine the real emotional desires of consumers and show how your product contributes to that.  Not so much with argument, but with visual images.  Thinking (really dead space) doesn't televise well.

He mentions the famous Lincoln -Douglas debates  in te 1850's that could last several hours requiring a long attention span. With just two men they lasted up to seven hours and many people listened to the entire event while others read accounts.  This required in depth knowledge

Ronald Reagan once said "Politics is like show business."  Walter Lippman had a different slant on that idea when he said , "There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the means to detect lies."

Neil Postman was in many ways predicting today.  With news that is more entertainment than an open honest discussion someone like Donald Trump becomes possible.  I admit as a bit of political junkie  I find politics full of entertainment.  Of course it is also deadly serious, but often victory falls to the most entertaining.  For more:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/02/politics-as-entertainment.html

Recently watched a debate for the Ontario Provincial Elections.  There were three candidates representing the majority of previous voters.  A fourth candidate, for the Green Party, was rejected because  he didn't get enough support to be included.   Not surprised as they had only allotted 1 1/2 hours and even without commercials that was not enough time to get much more than reflexive responses to predictable questions.  Even debates are entertainment rather than a tool to help make important decisions.

Neil doesn't feel there are much in the way of solutions other than to be aware of what television really offers.  Computers with massive amounts of information serve corporate interests more than the common man.  Bottom line might be we should pay more attention to "Brave New World" than we have to "1984".

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Movies and Music Part 2

Like other aspects of movies, music is international and being its own language easily flows across borders.  Although many of the composers in part one were born outside the United States, they are best known for American cinema.  Below are others who made their mark overseas and some of whom have been asked to do American films.

Whereas Hollywood used to release soundtracks if they felt the movie had generated enough interest. In India a soundtrack is usually offered before the movie to help promote it.   I have bought a few Bollywood and Tamil tunes off iTunes before the movie was available.

My overall favorite is Shankar Ehsaan Loy who are very well known in Bollywood (which stretches around much of the world), but have not really been courted for western films.  A playback singer, a guitarist and a keyboardist got together for radio jingles and went onto to create an amazing range of movie music  The single song that led to my obsession was "Kal Ho naa Ho" in two versions.  Their versatility amazes me, but movies require a range of emotions and they have mastered them.  Some of their musical creations include "Kal Ho Naa Ho," "Dil Chatha Hai," "Don," "Rock On," Bunty aur Bibli" "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kahna" and "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara" for some of the most memorable music on this list.

A R Rahman, a bit better known in Hollywood from "Slumdog Millionaire" which attracted more Hollywood business.   "Million Dollar Arm," "127 Hours" and "The Hundred Foot Journey."  Did an American movie with a Brazilian theme, "PelĂ©" and captured the right beat.   In Bollywood he is famous for such masterpieces as "Jodhaa Akbar" "Guru," "Rang de Basanti" and "Lagaan"  He has also done many movies in Tamil and other southern languages including "Kadal" (which has the #1 song on my iTunes)

Pritam Chakraborty has the appearance of a rock band leader, but some of his music defies preconceptions. In "Jab we met" is one of the most romantic songs I"ve heard as well as some other interesting ones.  One other song from the same movie made it to "The Second Best Marigold Hotel"

First noted Joe Hsiashi with the score from "Departures," a Japanese movie about a cellist forced to change his job.  The movie won an Oscar and I feel the music contributed to the warm feeling the movie left.  Other than that I discovered Joe wrote music for a number of animated films by Hayao Miyazaki. that did well in America including "Spirited Away," "The Wind Rises" and "Ponyo"

Ennio Morricone was a school mate with spaghetti westerns producer Sergio Leone.  This helped form a partnership in such movies as   "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."  He has a range  that includes French, American and Italian.   I have admired his music for the longest.  Has won one Oscar  for "The Hateful Eight" plus an honorary Oscar for musical contributions plus another 5 nominations along the way.  Some of his other great Italian movies include "Cinema Paradiso" "Malena" and "Baaria," working with Giuseppte Tornatore.
http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/08/giuseppe-tornatore.html 

His French movies include "La Cage aux Folles" and "The Battle of Algiers."

Nino Rota worked with Federico Fellini.  He is perhaps most famous in North America for "The Godfather."  His Oscar nomination for that was rescinded when it was discovered he had re-worked his music from an earlier Italian film.  He did win an Oscar for "The Godfather Part II."   Among many others he was noted for "La Dolce Vita."

Gustavo Santalo from Argentina won Oscars for "Brokeback Mountain"and "Babel."   He also composed music for "Wild Tales," that won best Oscar for Foreign films.

Johan Soderqvist had done music forsome of  my favorite movies--I can only excuse myself as I too often multi-tasked while watching a DVD- my very favorite "After the Wedding ( did buy one track--interesting combination with Indian music), "Brothers,"  "In a Better World,"   Also colaborated with Gustavo Santaolalla with "Things We Did After the Fire."   One not seen was written for a video game, "Battlefield 1."

K-pop has made inroads in North America, but there are still movie music that really adds to enjoyment.  Yeong-wook Jo   wrote music for "The Handmaiden" (with my top rated movie music theme, other than Bollywood) and some other favorites, "The Glove" and "The Beauty Inside." 

Max Richter, German born has left a mark  more widely around the globe than anyone else on my list, except maybe Alexandre Desplat. German language films include "Lore" (actually produced by Australians) and "When We Leave" (about Turkish immigrants).  He composed for "The Lunchbox" for Bollywood.  In French he worked on "The Mark of Angels"  and "Sarah"s Key."  He also did the music for an Arabic movie, Wasjda". He also composed for a Croatian movie, "Penelope" and for a Polish film and also with Czech.  Oh yes, he also did English language movies.  "Miss Sloane" (http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/09/miss-sloan-under-rated-movie.html), "Shutter Island" "A Sense of an Ending" and "A Testament of Youth."

The Spanish Alberto Iglesias, "has 3 Oscar nominations for "The Kite Runner," "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy." and "Constant Gardener."  Some notable Spanish movies he composed include  "Volver" "Julieta" "Ma Ma" and "The Skin I Live In."  Has also did music for movies in Argentina such as "The Summit" starring Ricardo Darin.

France has produced a number of international prominent composers.

Michel Legrand was well established in France having written music for 7 films of Jean-Luc Godard and most famously "Les Parapluie de Cherbourg"  In 1966 he moved to California and won musical Oscars for "Summer of 42," "Thomas Crown Affair" and "Yentl."

Maurice Jarre, unlike most composers on this post was a latecomer to music.  As a university student he took courses in percussion.  In some of his movies he emphasized percussion and also ethnic instruments.  One of his early compositions was for "The Tin Drum."  Later in English language he worked a lot with producer David Lean and that partnership helped him get musical Oscars for "Lawrence of Arabia,""Passage to India" and "Doctor Zhivago" including the popular "Lara's Theme."

Alexandre Desplat is the most recent Oscar music winner for "The Shape of Water."  Previously he had won for "The Grand Budapest Hotel."  He seems to split his time on both sides of the Atlantic and with a few sidetrips.  In French he has composed music for "Renoir," "Un prophete," "The Valet" "Rust and Bone," "The Well Digger's Daughter."and "The Beat That My Heart Skipped,"  A Chinese film directed by Ang Lee, "Lust, caution."  Some other English speaking films are the "Harry Potter" series, "The Danish Girl" and "The King's Speech."

Creative composers are coming from all corners of the globe. Music truly is an international language.  As they say in restaurants, "Enjoy."

Part 1 is here:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/02/music-and-movies-part-one.html

Monday, May 21, 2018

Amitabh Bachchan--a living legend

My first awareness of Amitabh Bachchan was negative, but that is ok as his roles were very stern.   After two patriarchal roles the next one I viewed he played a bit of a goof. 

My first experience was viewing "Khabbi Khushi Kabhie Gham" (2001)  where Amitabh drove his son (Shah Rukh Khan) to leave the country with his disapproved bride (Kajol). In "Mohabbetein" (2000) he drove daughter to suicide played by his his future daughter in law Aishwarya Rai and co-starring Shah Rukh Khan.  My third experience was watching him in "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna" (2006) where he played to my eyes a goofy comic role in a serious soap opera film playing the father to his son Abischek.  These were all otherwise enjoyable movies.

Gradually his versatility and his role effectiveness created a more positive appreciation.

I had no consciousness of highly regarded he was.  He had been named in a BBC poll as Actor of the Millenium over Charlie Chaplin and Sir Laurence Olivier  At his peak he could attract movie ticket lineups of over 2 kilometres in length.  He was the first Asian to have a wax model at Madame Tussaud's in London.  His name was the answer to a quiz question in "Slum Dog Millionaire" (which I actually got).  Filmfare, the major Indian film academy gave him over 30 nominations for best actor and 9 for best supporting actors, one for playback singer and one for producer.

Born as the son of a poet,  Harivanh Rai Bachchan.  By university days he had befriended Rajiv Gandhi.  He was interested in films, but surprisingly in the beginning his looks were not considered good enough for leading roles, but his voice was noticed as authoritative.  He once got a reference from Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (Rajiv's mother) which led to his first big break "Zanjeer"  He starred with his future wife, Jaya Bhaduri.


He played in a variety of roles including a popular comedy "Chupke Chupke" in 1975.  That was also the year he co-starred with Dharmedra in "Sholay" that was the most popular movie to that date. 

For the next nine years he had many roles as the "Angry young man" written for him by Javed Akhtar and Salim Khan.    He was a self righteous man, fighting against a perceived evil, mostly the little guy fighting the giant    "Zameer" (1974), "Deewar" (1975) "Trishul" (1978); Don" (1978), Kaala Patthar (1979) and "Shakti" (1982) were all hits.  Javed Akhtar is father to Farhan Akhtar who is the subject of another post.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2011/11/farhan-akhtar-young-man-on-rise-in.html

During this time he also played in "Silsila" with Rekha who he was having a public affair with, and his wife Jaya Bhaduri.  Ironically the movie was revolving around adultery. 

At the end of this period with the encouragement of Rajiv Gandhi he got involved with politics, but got out.after 3 years  He did not do well for a few years, but was successful as a tv host and after a business setback he restructured his business and has gone forward ever since.


In "Black" with Rani Mukerji in 2005  Amitabh plays the teacher who breaks through with a young girl who is deaf, blind and mute.  The script was mostly in English  He later succumbs to a type of Alzheimer's.   A big award winner for many of the cast and crew.  This was the movie where I began to appreciate his versatility.

"In Cheeni Kum"  (2007) with Tabu and Paresh Rawal  he played an arrogant London restaurant owner who pursues a younger woman.  It was funny, romantic and at one point tragic.  In researching  I discovered the young girl played by Swini Khara had also appeared in my favorite movie, "After the Wedding"and also "Paa."



"Paa '(2009) was released with his son Abischek playing his father. Amitabh was born out of wedlock and had a degenerative disease requiring many hours of makeup preparation.  By flukey circumstances he unknowingly interacts with his father., by now a prominent liberal politician.  A very touching movie with the unusual marketing gimmick.


With "Laksyha" (2004) he played a tough but supportive military leader in a movie starring Hritithik Roshan and Preity Zinta.

"Aarakshan" (2011) he high-lighted a delicate problem in India's education with world wide implications.  Amitabh played a dedicated school owner who wanted to support a quota system for the lower castes against privatization efforts to exclude them.  Read more  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/10/aarakshan-study-on-education-inequality.html

In "Piku" (2015) he played a doddering old father to Deepika Padukone.

With "Pink" (2016) he felt the three women leads should get billing over him, even though he was a a bigger draw and his name starts with an A.  This is a movie that deals with sexual consent and is a masterpiece.  Amitabh wanted to emphasize how polluted Delhi is and insisted on wearing a mask for outdoor scenes.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/11/pink-sensitive-film-to-deal-with-consent.html

His only Hollywood movie was "The Great Gatsby," (2013)  in a minor supporting role as a Jewish gangster working with star Leonardo DiCaprio.

Returning to his voice   He did narrate "Lagaan" (2001) which was a breakthrough for my interest in Bollywood, but not really appreciated his role at the time.   He also narrated  "Parineeti" (2005), a breakthrough movie for Vidya Balan who later played his mother in "Paa."  A movie with my favorite twist, "Kahaani "  (2012)  was capped by his singing voice over the credits.  In 2015,  "Shabitabh" (2015) was written for him in which he portrayed an actor with a voice to back up a Dhanush character who was mute.  Their egos clashed in a way symbolizing the contest between voice and appearance.

To get to well over 200 movies a lot were duds,   Played 15 duo roles and one triple role film.  His appearance doesn't guarantee a great movie, but  he has been a key ingredient in some very top notch movies.  He doesn't appear to be very selective, but he has the advantage of being in such demand that scripts are written for him.  At his age he is more active than almost any actor and I am confident a lot of worthy films lie in the future.

The bolded movies are ones that I have actually seen.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

NAOMI KLEIN WRITES ANOTHER INSIGHTFUL BOOK

"No is not Enough" was written relatively quickly, but Naomi had a lot of material on hand to build it.  Unfortunately it became outdated probably before it was actually published.   As any regular reader of my blogs would know I detest Trump and think those who voted for him were pathetically ignorant and Naomi provides lots of ammunition.  Her book published in late 2017, but Trump continued to offend most clear thinking people.

But she does not focus on Trump so much as on the system that has made him possible.  De regulations, tax reductions, privatizing government functions, corporate media control--all designed to enrich the already rich by attacking the vulnerabilities of the poor.  Corporations now have legal standing as people and have used their monetary power to steer election campaigns using technical expertise.  Trump epitomizes the merging of business and government.  He used his wealth to get elected and is using his new found power to enrich himself further.

America (and to a lesser degree Canada as well) is based on stolen land and slave labour.  Both these factors indicate a racial bias that puts European whites above all others.  Although these attitudes have mellowed there is still an element in power.  Those who seek power know how to exploit the fears and prejudices

Workers who voted for him should start to realize his priorities are to cut regulations that protect them and funnel more of their money to his 1% friends, including himself.  One good example was that he stated his new tax package would hurt him, but in the end would increase his after tax income by millions and his estate theoretically by billions (if you believe his claims of how rich he is).

Naomi thinks a problem is that people forget.  She quotes a Czech novelist, Milan Kundera, "the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting."  The right wing is following a strategy from decades ago.  They have tied their economic policies to popular but bigoted social policies.

In a previous book she focused on shock therapy.  Many of the neoliberal ideas would not be voted for, but when fear has been created many measures can be enacted.  Iraq under Paul Bremmer  forced many non democratic policies on the people.  After Katrina, New Orleans found most of their schools converted to charter schools.  Today Puerto Rico currently is being restructured after two massive hurricanes that devastated their infrastructure.  

Naomi participated in the Standing Rock protests.  I didn't realize the original route of the pipeline was through Bismark, a mostly white town that rejected it.  The Sioux tribe saw themselves as water protectors.  Corporate entities are only focused on profit.

Climate change in her mind is tied to democracy.  Al Gore has said we need to deal with our problems with democracy first.  Naomi thinks we need to deal with both simultaneiously.  Read my blog on an earlier book:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/02/this-changes-everything-deserves-major.html

What is the solution?  She agrees that some political parties and some political policies are better than others, but she feels that they don't really get to the basic needs.  What is needed is for people involved in various progressive issues to co-ordinate together and realize where their interests overlap.  She feels it is not good enough to make progress sequentially which often means good people working at cross purposes.  Those concerned with the environment, minority rights, workers rights, gender equality could work together and force solutions that benefit everyone.

Check out her website.  She has many well articulated ideas:  http://www.naomiklein.org/main/

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Leonardo Da Vinci


Where to start with Leonardo da Vinci?  Perhaps his art, his drive to perfection, his curiosity and his powers of observation.  One thing just led to another, often leaving some projects unfinished so he could start on another.

From painting he developed an interest in anatomy.  What you see on the outside comes from what is inside.   He dissected countless bodies of all ages to better understand how muscles worked.  Asked to do an equestrian statue he felt it necessary to dissect horses and this triggered an interest in comparative anatomy.  His drawings were very detailed and accurate. and ahead of their time.

Also stemming from painting he developed an interest in optics   An Arab, Ibn al Haytham  had written on optics as early as 1021 and encouraged more development during the Renaissance.   Shadows, Leonardo discovered were useful in creating a three dimensional effect.  A century later, the Dutch painter Vermeer used an optical understanding for doing paintings that were more realistic  --read http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/10/johannes-vermeer-art-and-science.html   Da Vinci's hydrology studies are compared to his interest in blood flow and of course affected some of his painting.

Born 1452 illegitimately which had pluses and minuses.  He spent time with his mother's family and his father's.  If he had been legitimized he would likely have become a notary as his ancestors did and later his own half brothers..  His father helped steer painting commissions his way and supported him in many other ways..  His talents were recognized.

He considered himself an engineer contributing to hydro and military projects.  He was very interested in pageantry and got involved with presentations in Florence and Milan.  Isaacson thought one of the keys to understanding Leonardo was  his intense powers of observation.  One example was that he noted the differences of the upward pull of wings with the downward push and how it differed among different types of birds.  One observation was directed towards the tongue of a woodpecker.

Isaacson noted that Leonardo was not a lonely genius, that in fact he believed in collaboration and stimulating intellectual gatherings.  Like at least two other of his biographical subjects, Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs arranging for meeting other intellectuals was common.

Interesting details of many of his paintings and drawings including The Last Supper and Mona Lisa, but also many lesser works that reveal Leonardo's genius and working methods.  He didn't finish all his paintings and spent years refining others.

When working in Milan he socialized and worked with Nicolo Machiavelli..  Another historical figure Leonardo competed with was Michelangelo.  Leonardo  recognized a talent, but felt in painting at least he was not as sophisticated although a few decades younger.  At one point he was in a position to decide where the famous statue David was to be displayed and he chose a relatively inconspicuous location, however others chose a more prominent spot.

A couple of personal features discussed induce that he was homosexual and also a vegetarian.  He loved animals and preferred linen clothing and animal furs.  One detail, not much emphasized that apparently Leonardo was an accomplished lyre player.  He moved a few times in his life usually connected to military or political forces.  His last move was to France where he died in 1519.

It is a long read broken up with many illustrations of his paintings and drawings.  If you are not familiar with Leonardo da Vinci (which I had only a vague notion) there will be a series of amazing facts.  Some of what he could visualize would have effects many years later.  Well worth the effort.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

DONALD TRUMP AND THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE

Some have suggested that if North Korea gives up nuclear weapons and makes peace with the South, Donald Trump would be responsible for it and would deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.  Anything could happen and nuclear disarmament anywhere would be greatly appreciated by the world.   We should encourage the possibility however we can  But, maybe we should wait before awarding.  Some of the same people lauding Trump were quick to point out that Obama really hadn't done anything before winning his Prize.


A lot are suspicious not just of Donald Trump, but also of Kim Jung Un.  Lots of possibilities.  The whole world would be relieved if somehow North Korea accepts restrictions on its nuclear weapons and missiles.  If Trump's belligerent crude ways work we may have to change our established strategies.

Trump is ready to give himself full credit.  That is what I find most bothersome--not acknowledging other factors.

Some Americans say that Iran is the biggest supporter of terrorism in the world, but I think many would point to Saudi Arabia for that honour.  It is dispicable to support Bashar al-Assad as Iran is doing, but it was Saudi Arabia who supplied most of the 9/11 attackers. Right now Saudi Arabia is literally killing innocent children in Yemen with the support of the U.S.

We are on the verge, of another opportunity to break the Iran agreement.  It is true that Iran is engaged in a lot of behavior offensive to the U.S. and others (much of it including me), but for practical reasons the agreement was based on the critical issue of nuclear weapons.   It is possible to attack other bits of behavior and still maintain the agreement.  One of the claims made by Trump is that Iran was actually paid for the agreement.  Referring to some money that had been frozen)+interest) that was originally Iran's.  His idea of a good deal is to grab as much as you can--he doesn't believe in win-win.  Netanyahu keeps presenting information that has been discredited perhaps because he genuinely fears the Iranian rhetoric, but maybe it sells well domestically.

Should Trump break the Iran agreement some feel that North Korea would feel it would be pointless to trust any agreement to the Americans.  On the other hand Kim Jung Un might reason that Trump is motivated to destroy Obama's legacy, but would want to establish his own.

Rhetoric tends to get out of hand as tensions rise.  This is true of Iran as well as Israel, United States and Saudi Arabia.

A common criticism of Trump is that he is not much interested in facts and has no drive to understand complex situations.  That might explain his trade ideas.  He seems to feel if he punishes foreign steel makers it will benefit workers in the United States.  For some workers that is true but a great number will have their jobs jeopardized because they depend on foreign steel for their manufacturing.  It also overlooks that American consumers will be hit with higher prices.  In the case of Mexico it was once thought if they could establish their own manufacturing and economy it would mean fewer would feel the need to illegally migrate to America..  Like health insurance how can anyone have known that trade could be so complicated.  

Nobody likes to be bullied.  If the force is enough the bully will win for the moment, but generate resentment.  WWII started in part because of German resentment of how the Great War was settled.

China has been a protector of North Korea for their own reasons.  They have some fear that the more nuclear powers there are the greater risk of accidental wars; one of the reasons they helped negotiate the Iran agreement.  Japan has long been hated by the Koreans (North and South) and has been the only nation to actually have a bomb deliberately kill and make hundreds of thousands to suffer.  South Korea goes through cycles.  Their last election put into power Moon Jae-in, a man, a former human rights lawyer who wants to facilitate better relations with North Korea.  He is the one who encouraged North Korea to get involved with the Winter Olympics and has made announcements to the world about what the two negotiated.  China does not want reunification as it fears American troops would be closer to their border  They also would not like the connotations of a defeated Communist dictator. .

It is true that Obama won for the hope that he represented.  Unfortunately there seems to be just as much fighting as ever and as many refugees as ever.  Perhaps if he had talked tougher North Korea would have bent.    He did increase sanctions similar to the ones that worked in Iran and tried various diplomatic efforts.

Others would argue that the North Koreans had developed their nuclear weapons to be a serious deterrent from American interference.  They saw how Muamar Gaddafi ended up after conceding nuclear powers.  Perhaps they now feel more secure and are interested to see how much they can gain from the tension they created.

Mr Trump is being hailed for his tough talk to Kim Jung Un.  Everyone prior to him let Kim Jung Un get away with abusing power.  All that was really needed was someone to talk tough with him.. People do respond to power and when it is presented in a bullying manner it often forces a response. 

Should the North Korean tiger be tamed I will be among the billions of world citizens feeling relief.  To be honest I would admit that I am disgusted with so much of what Trump has done on the environment, on health care, on financial regulations, racial relations and his sexual infidelities.  But often the evilest person can accomplish some good.  I understand Hitler helped start Volkswagen.  Perhaps the solution might be should the negotiations succeed is to award more than one person as in truth it always takes more than one.