Wednesday, August 14, 2019

WHEN YOUR GUY GETS IN, IS IT OK?

The title is based on a comment by a critic of proportional representation.  While many of us complain about first past the post elections our critic pointed out we were only upset because "your guy didn't get in."  Admittedly there is some truth to that. "it" refers to the first past the post system.

On the other hand there is a tendency for parties to alternate winning and often each wins with less than 50% of the vote, although they can still gain majority control.  They each know that they just have to get a little edge and don't have to win over 50% of the voters.  Of course this is only true when there are more than 2 political parties.

In Canada two conservative parties split votes until they decided to merge.  This improved their election prospects, but Canadians lost a choice.  There was a difference as one of the two parties was more socially progressive so those who liked fiscal conservatism, but were open to progressive social policies and for that matter those who preferred opposite policies found they had to deal with compromise.  Compromising is not a bad thing, but when it limits the voters choices not such a good thing.  And of course different people inspire different levels of trust.

With a diverse population there are many different individual priorities and voters would emphasize different factors.  We of course need to come up with a reasonable consensus, but it would be better if it was an honest consensus hence the desirability of more than two choices.

Often because of fear we do often face only two choices.  We dread a party with what we consider dangerous notions.  We fear splitting the opposition to that  dangerous party and choose usually the most likely.  In effect we have forfeited our true preference.

From personal experience in Canadian elections I became conscious that in Canada for many the Liberal party is the default party whether you wish to avoid the Conservatives or the NDP.  Perhaps that is why Justin Trudeau preferred a ranking system and vetoed the proportional system where his party's chances would be at greater risk.  He is not alone as most politicians seem to prefer the status quo as that what allowed them to win. 

We should also bear in mind that vested interests try to attach themselves to something with more popularity than themselves.  What are vested interests? Some examples include financial interests, oil interests, pharmaceuticals..  There are few choices that do not involve corporate wanting to effect legislation.

Lists can publicized in advance ranking candidates as to which would be given priority dependent on how many seats a party is allowed.  Assuming my idea of lists before the election each party has a problem of how to delegate their candidates.   They need to boost confidence that they have good decision makers so those who have that reputation need to be high on the list.  Geography ie. local concerns is a key factor to spread support over as wide an area as practical.  Different, but essentially agreeable viewpoints need to be available to make sure voter nuance concerns are encouraged.  Gender has been a focal point for advocates that more women gain political power.  The list is critical for a party's platform assuring as many voters as feasible that their interests will be taken care of.  Decisions made after the election are subject to political manipulation which

Below is an example of how proportional voting could help a party in power.

Stephen Harper's party in 2006 won the majority of seats, but were lacking members from Vancouver and Montreal that traditionally would be represented with a cabinet minister.  Harper likes to present himself as a man of principle, but broke two of his principles.  He didn't approve of enticing opposition members (it had been done to him) to switch sides, but decided in one case that was his best option.  He enticed David Emerson the Liberal member for Vancouver Kingsway with a cabinet post--Minster of International Trade.  He also didn't like how the Canadian Senate was filled with appointees, but again bent his principle to take a Senator for a Cabinet position.  Actually he took a Conservative campaign organizer, Michael Fortier from the Montreal area and after appointing him to the Senate made him the Minister of Public Works and Government Services. This could have been avoided with a proportional system by listing Cabinet potential candidates to a higher ranking.  Some voters claim they vote for the "man" and not the party, but they still can vote for a slate of specific people under proportional voting.

Credibility is important to have a true mandate.  Winning 39% of the votes, but also 50%+ of the seats gives power under the first past the post system, but is the country really behind you?  More can get done when true legitimacy is confirmed by the electorate.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

DON'T LABEL ME IS FOR EVERYONE

Irshad Mangi appeared on my television fairly regularly a few decades ago and was admired for her cutting logic and her views.  She has evolved as have I, partly after reading this book.  "Everyone" includes those idiots who don't agree with you (or me).  We live in a polarized world that could end in disaster, but we could go in a more positive direction if we would heed Irshad's advice.

Irshad Manji has a long history of arguing.  She has opted to present her latest thinking in the form of a dialogue with a dog.  That hit a nerve as the Muslims I know think dogs as pets are unholy.  However as a salesmen for pet products I did learn from a Muslim pet store retailer that dogs are acceptable as work animals, most commonly as guard dogs, but they are not kept in the house as other pets would be.  A Muslim niece loves cats and once interpreted or me at a Quebec cat show.

Irshad explains that dogs are not proscribed in the Qur'an, but have been part of Muslim culture and also that good Muslims can question.  I had read years ago that in some war zones Muslims had come to realize that dogs were life savers for among other things detecting bombs.

Irshad's dog, Lily is a pet that she has come to love and respect although both blind and old.  Maybe this is projection, but most pet owners do in fact talk to their dogs and cats and they in reality provide a useful sounding board.  I believe that in sorting out the difficulties in this philosophy she probably did sound off to her dog Lily.   It is also possible to use a familiar sounding board no matter what.

Labels can provide necessary information, but are not reality.  Everyone is unique and have many identities.  Labels are not only used for physical descriptions, but also for viewpoints.    Irshad's goal is to develop honest diversity where each individual can be independent, i.e. not tied to any one label.  The American motto, "e pluribus unum"--from many one.

Some of her focus is on Donald Trump, but is careful to realize that Trump supporters are not at all the same.  Some may have deplorable characteristics, but there is something behind their motivations that we all should try to understand and even respect. The man who introduced her to the woman who became her spouse and encouraged her to love dogs was an adamant Trump supporter but definitely not a homophobe.

Living in Ontario I was surprised to learn she includes Rob and Doug Ford, but notes some significant differences that reinforce her message.  Rob Ford appealed to the suburbs against downtown.  More on Doug Ford http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/07/move-over-donald-trump.html

It seems to me that conservatives are dogmatic and uncaring, but I felt a comeuppance after watching Jonathan Haidt on tv and reading his book. It prepared me to realize those jerks are not thinking that way just to annoy me.  More at:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/02/the-righteous-mind.html

Instead of attacking someone with what seems like illogical beliefs, do not.   Irshad suggests you might ask "Could you help me understand what I am missing about your perspective?"  It won't work unless you are sincere and follow up.  Not every one will respond but some would welcome an opportunity to explain themselves.  This is not a time to attack their logic, but to delve further.  When people feel degraded it lights a fuse that can lead to a lot of harm.

Another personal jolt came when Irshad explained part of her Canadian history--a part that I had accepted and she twisted it (and shifted my thinking).  As a university student I had adopted Trudeaumania and went onto to help Pierre Trudeau (actually I helped elect Ed Broadbent--you can read about that  at http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2014/04/my-short-but-educational-political.html    

I attended a high school in Oshawa with a lot of ethnic diversity and came to admire it.  I had an understanding of the French Canadian concerns similar to Irshad's and thought it a good thing to adopt bilingual policies for the whole nation and further to adopt multiculturalism as government policy.  I did from time to time question that not everything brought over from other cultures was good, but it seemed part of the package.  Later with one job I was shocked to realize western Canadians were very resentful of bilingualism when I sold a promotional product and was told not to bother with the legally required French labeling.  Multiculturalism helped encourage white supremacy.

Obama had urged African Americans to emphasize with white Americans and not label them just as misguided as that would boomerang.  I remember  reading that his white grandmother cringed when confronted with a black person in an unfamiliar setting.  White males are recognizing that their culture and their power is diminishing.  Naturally there is some resentment.

White privilege can be a blessing if it puts one in a position to do good.  Dr Martin Luther King is recalled having admitted that he grew up in a loving and educated family with helpful neighbors. 

Cultural appropriation is given some coverage.  Irshad suggests that many cultural items have a mixed history.  One example given was that modern jazz required European instruments and African polyrhythms.  The Statue of Liberty was originally designed with an Arab theme intended to herald the Suez Canal.

A quote from Benjamin Franklin:  "I do not entirely approve of this Constitution at present, but Sir I am not sure I shall ever approve it.  For having lived long I have experienced man instances of being oblig'd by better Information or fuller consideration, to change Opinions even on important Subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise."

This relatively short review is only meant to encourage you to rad the book, "Don't Label Me" and get a deeper understanding of the thinking and some practical advice on how to change your life and help change the world.  She is well worth learning more about.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Werner Herzog

My first awareness of Werner Herzog was through documentaries, but that is only part of what he has offered the world.  Man of eclectic and eccentric interests.  Some very deep thinking once one is willing to deviate from the mainstream.  He made an impression with movie critic Roger Ebert who felt film criticism should be more than celebrity news.

"Cave of Forgotten Dreams" (2010) was the first film that I consciously became aware of Werner Herzog.  A very difficult location to show caveman art from 30,000 years ago.  Hard to imagine what would drive men to live in such an inaccessible hiding shelter.  Also what sparked one of our ancestors to express themselves in early art. A real challenge for cinematography by Peter Zeitlinger.  Although Werner did not like 3-D he filmed this one in 3-D as he felt it added to the perception of the art on curved cave rock.

Peter Zeitlinger got Werner's attention by his skill with a hand held camera.  He had been born in Prague, but raised in Austria.  Once hired by Werner, the two worked on many films, including dramas and documentaries.  Zeitlinger once commented that "Werner is a director who thinks in terms of inner vision."

Werner, born in Germany formed his own film company in 1963, but always found financing films precarious. He gained experience with short films.  His first feature was "Signs of Life" in 1968.  It won an award at the Berlin Film Festival.and another German award.  Some accounts of notable movies, some of which I saw.

"The Enigma of Kaspar Hausar" (1974) was about a mysterious appearance in 1828 in Nuremberg who seemed almost mute and in poor condition, but suspected might have royal connections.

"Fitzcarraldo" (1982)  demonstrates Herzog's striving for realism.    Based on a true story where a man intent on bringing opera to the Amazon jungle switched a boat over a hill by dismantling and then reassembling, only Herzog insisted on moving the boat intact.   He could have taken an easy location near a city, but opted to go deep into the jungle.  Werner believed location was essential not only for visual effect, but to put actors and crew voodoo of location.

A separate movie directed by Les Bank,  "Burden of Dreams" recorded much of the extraordinary obstacles Herzog dealt with boiling down to time and money.  The movie was originally scheduled during the rainy season to avoid a boat being grounded in shallow water.  The lead actor Jason Robards became ill and left and soon after Mick Jagger also had to leave for an album commitment.  Claudia Cardinale had been hired.  These delays led to other delays and some boredom and tension among crew and native extras and helpers.  At one point at the urging of a Catholic priest he hired some prostitute to avoid trouble with rival tribes.  All this in turn led to financial stress.  Watching this Werner spoke German, English and Spanish.  Won best director award at the Cannes Film Festival. 

Joe Bini teamed up as editor for "Little Dieter Needs to Fly in 1997 .  He went onto work on several movies, both documentaries and dramas with Werner. Werner did not want editor on set as he felt they had to be independent.    An interesting short seen as a special feature was about the music selections for "The Grizzly Man."  As editor Joe appeared as edits had to be matched up to music.  Werner, was not musical, but had definite ideas and for this film had brought in musician/composer Richard Thompson and some other musicians to develop a score from the ground.   He feels that cinema lines up with music better than any other art.  Bini was noted for "We Need To Talk About Kevin," "You Were Never Really Here," and "Manhunt:  The Inside Story of the Hunt for Bin Ladin."

"My Best Fiend" (1999) related Werner's experience with Klaus Kinski who was a very difficult actor to work with.  Physical threats were part of their relationships, but at the same time Werner felt Kinski gave a unique feel to the 5 movies he appeared in.  Kinski had died beforehand and Werner wanted to remember him and their relationship.

"The White Diamond" (2004) was a documentary on exploring the rain forest using a unique airship that provided some drama of its own.  Won a New York Film Critics Circle Award (tied with "Grizzly Man").

 "Grizzly Man" (2005) was filmed from videos by Timothy Treadwell after his death and supplemented with interviews with friends and relatives.  Timothy comes off maniacal, but did make friends with wild grizzlies and try to communicate their role in nature.  Unfortunately Timothy and a girl friend were killed and eaten by an unfamiliar bear, part of which was recorded. 

"Encounters at the end of the world" (2007) no penguins (actually a brief reference with a penguin expert)--focuses on humans that came to McMurdo--quite a wide range of eccentric people--one thought that scared me a bit was a linguist who commented that it was likely that 90% of languages would disappear in his lifetime--comparing to species extinction-- a great loss.  Nominated for an Oscar.



"Bad Lieutenant:  Port of Call New Orleans" (2009)  was about depravity and madness with Nicolas Cage portraying (to really good reviews) a corrupt and addicted cop.  His girl friend was played by Eva Mendes.

"Into the Abyss" (2011) about really about the death penalty.  In this film Werner is exploring what makes killers kill and others want to kill the killer.  He had one interview with a condemned inmate just a few days before his scheduled execution.  Some details of the original crime were discussed, but the focus was on why the killing for both the individual and the state.  My understanding was that Werner was against the death penalty not so much because the accused may deserve it, but that someone had to do it. 

"Red Army"(2014) used Werner as executive producer.  An interesting movie for both hockey and non-hockey fans.  Filmed in North America and Russia.  One of my more popular blogs:   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/09/the-red-army.html


"Queen of the Desert" (2015)  was about part of the life of Gertrude Bell and her her efforts in the Mid East.  Nicole Kidman played the title lead role.   Although she did influence events, much of her advice was ignored.


Werner Herzog narrates most of his documentaries and often appears as an interviewer or presenter with a gentle accented voice that compels listening.

A Werner Herzog quote picked up from Facebook:  "Dear America:  You are waking up as Germany once did to the awareness that 1/3 of your people would kill another 1/3 while 1/3 watches."

Another quote that hit me was by Roger Ebert during a review of a Herzog film, "...feel I am lucky to be old because there may not be another lifetime's length of happiness left for most people on earth." After he died I wrote a blog that if you don't know him will give some insights:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/04/a-few-thoughts-on-roger-ebert.html   The fact that he admired Werner Herzog enough to write a book of reviews and interviews "Herzog by Ebert" is enough to warrant more explorations.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Guilty Pleasure: Lisa Salander and Mikael Blomkvist

On principle I didn't want to tackle this book--I thoroughly enjoyed the three Stieg Larsson's books and felt his common law wife, Eva Gabrielsson deserved a chance to carry on his legacy (which she was already a part of).  When Larsson died at age 50 his triology had not been published, but has since gone on to sell over 80 million copies worldwide.  Unfortunately despite a 32 year relationship there was no will and all rights were claimed by his father and brother.  There must have been some hard feelings in the family, but rather than recognizing her rights (having contributed to the three books and having custody of notes for future books) they ended up hiring another writer.

David Lagercrantz was an established crime reporter, but his main claim to fame was as the ghost writer for soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovic.  There was some sniping about his qualifications and the sequel, "The Girl in the Spider's Web" was written under a great deal of secrecy with concern that hacker's might get a preview.

"The Girl in the Spider's Web" kept showing up on displays at the library and I recalled the enjoyment of reading about Lisa Salander and Mikael Blomkvist.  The books were complex and also covered into motivations of multiple characters.  Mostly I have been reading non fiction, but approaching my retirement I resolved to read more fiction books, but now that I am retired have made little headway

A year or so ago  "The Hypnotist" showed up in a pickup bin at work and got my attention as I had been intrigued by a movie trailer of the book.   The movie got a bad review, but the topic seemed interesting and the book turned out to be a page turner.  Scandinavian mystery writers have been prominent in my fiction reading lists including Henning Markell and Jo Nesbo.

All that is my rationale.  It was like being tempted by ice cream, a weakness of mine. If Eva Gabrielson does come up with either a novel or non fiction account I will be eager to read it.

Like the earlier editions, this book is at first difficult to get into as a lot of snippets start off innocently, but interest picks up as they start to link and/or suggest there will be more links  Conspiracies involve most of the world, but mostly Scandinavian countries, Russia and United States.

There is an interesting discussion on autism.  We tend to focus on the genius side and the quirky side without dealing with the social mismatch.  But the book is more interesting because the autistic character is also a unique savant which plays a key role in the plot. 

Another topic that is central is artificial intelligence.  Extreme research is the key secret that various factions are manoeuvring to uncover or protect.  The author with scant reference to Isaac Asimov's, "I, Robot" contends a great danger is that the machine will inevitably be able to out think humans.

The main characters are extended in a consistent pattern with what we already know.  We do learn more family history of Lisa Salander.  Most lovers of the series will find themselves adjusting fairly easily.

I have relieved myself of a small portion of guilt.  Ideas are fragile and it is slippery to retain ownership over a period of time although there are legal efforts to do so.  Eva Gabrielsson deserved better and I still feel like I have let her down.  I hope she gets something out so I can relieve more of my guilt feelings.