Friday, August 30, 2019

CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE AMERICAN ELECTION

Although there is increasing acceptance of climate change, both major political parties seem reluctant to prioritize it.   Of course the Republicans are loaded with climate change deniers, but Democrats are reluctant to be too boisterous about the issue.

One candidate Jay Inslee, the Governor of Washington state made it his priority and he was one of the first to drop out.   He did make a point and campaigned for a debate exclusively on climate change, but would not have qualified for it.  His efforts have encouraged other candidates to offer plans for combating climate change.  Perhaps if the Democrats win there will be a national role for him.

A suggestion to have a a debate devoted entirely to climate change was voted down by the Democrats who were forced to accept a sequential town hall discussions with one candidate at a time.  Part of the reason might be not to offend potential donors.  Another part might be to not offend some voters.

The Republicans are indebted to the fossil fuel industry.  Trump at least once admitted that the economic consequences were on his mind and warned voters of the danger.  Of course the economic consequences of not dealing with the challenge are even greater.  Innovative energy solutions are disruptive to the fossil fuel industries, see:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/03/the-innovators-dilemma.html

The role of money, not only regarding climate change, but of many issues (gun control, healthcare, education, prisons) is overwhelming the concept of democracy.  Al Gore pointed out that America has to fix democracy before they can fix the climate crisis.    See:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/11/an-inconvenient-sequel-truth-to-power.html

The Republicans are trying to make immigration the key issue as well as touting economic growth.  Racial innuendo is prevalent and has worked in previous elections. 

Fear works.  Voters are reluctant to take risks.  Fear mongering is dangerous.  Educated voters are aware of climate change and find scientists more credible than politicians with vested interests.   On the other hand many voters feel a vested interest themselves or fear life style changes or are wrapped up with other issues (abortion, immigration, gun rights, gay rights) or don't yet take it seriously.

This election cycle is already ahead of previous elections in covering climate change.  It seems not only to be the most serious issue confronting mankind, but also a key to a Democratic victory.  The Republicans are ridiculing aspects of it mostly centering on costs and inconveniences.  Short term thinking appeals to all of us to some extent, but mankind reached our present status with long range thinking.

In a previous election the Democrats had given out tire gauges to remind people they could improve gas mileage by inflating tires to optimal level and were ridiculed.   With plastic straws attracting negative attention from environmentalists, the Trump team sold them as the idea of not allowing "liberals" to change their life style.  Another remembered example was protesting new more efficient light bulbs.  The Democrats need to turn the Republican strategies on their head.  Ridicule can work both ways.

When fear is activated people are willing to change their life style.  The solutions to climate change are pictured as job threatening not only to the fossil fuel corporations, but also to auto industry, airlines, mining, agriculture, etc.  The truth is renewal energy will require lots of jobs.  More important in the long term is a healthier, safer environment.

There are other issues that voters should factor in.  Andrew Yang has pointed out that immigrants are not the threat to jobs that robots are, see:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/08/rise-of-robots.html  Education, health, nuclear proliferation, inequality and even immigration.

Naomi Klein has some points about how different groups can co-ordinate better for mutual aims.  She also feels like Al Gore that democracy needs to be addressed, but feels it can and should be tackled simultaneously.  It will take a unified effort.
http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/05/naomi-klein-writes-another-insightful.html

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

UYARE, AN UNEXPECTED GEM

If it wasn't for Netflix I would never have been aware of the existence of "Uyare"  I revisited the original  trailer to see if I recalled it correctly.  There definitely was an element that motivated me to see it--a high rating, but the subject of a woman in India piloting an airplane seemed unusual enough to want to know more.  I anticipated there would be obstacles and the trailer hinted at an unhappy romance.  If you looked very closely (less than 1 second screen time) you might have been prepared for the mid film surprise that formed the main dramatic tension.  So I will try to respect the intention of the marketing people so you can be jolted like I was and perhaps appreciate the movie better.

The rating --at the time 8.2 is an indication of a superior movie, but the trailer underplayed the drama.  There is not much romance, but there is tension.  The professional quality raises it above what an outsider might anticipate in a regional Indian language, Malayalam.

Palavi, as a young girl is fascinated with flying and tells her father she wants to be a pilot and after awhile he takes her seriously and supports her.  As a young adult she earns her pilot license.

The only real romance in the film is a dud almost from the beginning as the heroine has loyalty to a chauvinistic man with problems.  Eventually she gets tired of his demands and verbally breaks off the relationship, but he is bitter and takes revenge in a violent way.  For the rest of the movie he occasionally re appears, not to ask for forgiveness, but to make her life more aggravating.

How she deals with a disfigurement is the crux of the story.  At first she is discouraged and her license is revoked.  Her friends are supportive, but only through some flukey circumstances she gets a breakthrough chance to be a airline hostess and you might guess later she gets to rescue a airplane headed for disaster.  The story is more than that.  There seems to be a chance at a romance, but she squashes it.  What keeps her going is the support of friends and especially one man, who strongly criticized defies his father and others.

What sustains your attention is the lead actress, Parvathy Thiruvothu.   Before getting into films she had been popular as a tv anchor for a phone in program. Appeared mostly in films in the Malayalam language, but has appeared opposite Dhanush in a Tamil film and opposite, Irrtan Khan in a Hindi film,  "Qarib Qarib Singile"  She has been a big winner in regional awards.  In an IMDB feature asking what her favorite films she listed two of mine-- "A Separation" and "The Secret in their Eyes" specifically the Argentine version.  But she especially likes any film with Jake Gyllenhaal.

Her key supporter is played by Tuvino Thomas educated as a software engineer.  He was born a Syrian Catholic.  Also a regional award winner who is popular and busy, but mostly in Malayalam films.  He plays a sort of irresponsible son of a wealthy man who wants to prove himself and does take a dicey risk.

Asif Ali plays the boyfriend who you quickly come to dislike.  Generally he plays more likeable characters, but does well in this role.  He has produced two movies.

Siddique plays her father.  His career started in 1985 and he has appeared in at least two noteworthy films.  The original version of "Drishyam" (I blogged the Bollywood copy: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/11/driishyam-bollywood-remake-masterpiece.html    ) and was the lead in "Naa Bansaare Talli" a film about sex trafficking with a twist highlighted in my year end movie review for 2018.  He also has produced two movies.

Manu Ashokan, the director with his first feature.  He had been an associate director for the Bollywood version of "Traffic"

Bobby and Sanjay were a writing team as part of team involving the director and editor they brought everything together.   The climax of the movie is started in the opening scenes, but without the necessary context that comes in dribs and drabs over the course of the film.  Soon you are introduced to the heroine as a young girl and quickly she grows up to a college student and some of her conflict with her boyfriend.

Editing keeps the story flowing under the guidance of Manesh Narayan.  Manesh started with Malayalam films, winning an award with his first.  He has done significant films in Tamil, Telegu and Hindi languages.  In 2017 he directed and co-wrote, "Take-off" that won awards for himself and the film.

Music by Gopi Sundar.  Music in the background is enjoyable.  Shakthisree Gopalan was a factor in my decision to watch this movie and she sings one song.

Cinematography was handled by Mukesh Muraleedharan.  This was his third film in charge after years of various tasks in the camera department.

It was released in India in April of this year and was listed on Netflix in August.  I am sure it will e nominated for awards.

If you fear watching a movie in a language you might not have heard of please be assured with subtitles you will soon be gripped.  It is very professional. A post on regional films from India:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/01/regional-films-from-india.html

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Jared Diamond examines national crises--worth reading

Personal crises offer a key to understanding national crises.  There are important similarities and critical differences.  I found "Upheavel" to be the most rewarding read so far this year.

Jared identifies six countries that he has spent time in and that offered an historical crisis that allowed for useful analysis. 

"Findlandization" has been something derogatory but the author feels that it has been taken out of context.  Although they made many concessions to the Russians, they were able to maintain a liberal democracy and industrialize themselves effectively. 

Chile suffered a bloody coup in 1979 with some support from the United States.   I remember a very interesting movie "No" that explained the advertising campaign.  The initial problem was that 17 groups all wanted access to limited tv airtime.  An advertising executive (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) was able to present a unified message that worked to avoid a constitutional amendment that would have extended Pinochet's dictatorship.  One victim of the coup made his way to a newspaper I worked for, the Oakville Journal Record.  In Chile Alan Lathrop had been a reporter who once interviewed Charles De Gaulle.  He became the advertising manager and a friend of my boss. 

Indonesia  was the newest nation in the study and as a group of widespread islands with many languages did not initially have a national feeling, but has developed one since.  Jared recounts an early dictatorship and some mass killings.  I am reminded of another movie  "The Look of Silence" (2014) was a multi national effort regarding the genocide in the 1960's. This film would not be possible without careful political manoeuvring, luck and courage.  Originally  the director Joshua Oppenheimer, set out to talk with victims of the genocide, but circumstances encouraged them to talk to perpetrators.  Surprisingly they boasted of their deeds in front of their own relatives.  Adi Rukan a brother of one of the victims actually confronted many of the perpetrators.  Horrifying tales of killing "Communists" mutilating and drinking of blood.  Told very matter of factly.  The protagonist was an optometrist and actually tested some of the perpetrators and provided glasses.  Many of the perpetrators and their families either justified what was done or avoided responsibility with some boasting on camera.

Australia was originally colonized by convicts, then British citizens were allowed in and an effort to keep it for British only.  Next they allowed in northern Europeans.  World War II helped them to start realizing they could not depend on mother Britain to prosper.  When the United Kingdom joined Europe in the formation of the European Common Market they were forced to give up Commonwealth trade arrangements.  At this point they began to realize their future was going to be tied more to Asia and the United States.  The author had visited when restaurants were bland with a few exceptions, but years later after immigration opened up a wider variety of cuisine.  Immigration from Asia and trade has increased to raise the standard of living for all Australians.

Jared analyzes Japan in two parts.  The first was after western traders forced themselves on Japan and it was realized they were powerless to stop the cultural invasion.  They decided to strengthen themselves by learning more of modern western technology by visiting Europe and America and accepting visitors.  Eventually they acquired enough power to defeat European powers in the early twentieth century.

They then became arrogant and thought they could take on the American military.  This ended in an humiliating catastrophe.  They were industrious and within a few decades were the second strongest economy in the world.  They are at a crossroads now.  The government carries an enormous debt, although most of it is to their own citizens and corporations.  They still are resented by China and South Korea due mainly to war time atrocities.  Jared contrast the Japanese response to their wartime defeat with Germany.  Germany has been more open and accepting responsibility to their own citizens.  Furthermore Jared cites a sincere apology from Willy Brandt who fell on his knees in contrition at what Germany had done in the war.  Japan has not done anything comparable.

Another contrast between Germany and Japan deals with their attitudes towards immigration.  Germany has accepted immigrants over the years, partly to maintain a vibrant work force.  During the recent Syrian crisis they accepted more refugees than any other country.  They are sure to have problems, but on the whole it will be good for Germany both economically and culturally.  Japan has always tried to maintain their racial purity and even today are reluctant to open up the gates.  It has been pointed out to me that Japan has opted for more reliance on robots to replace retired workers--a key factor behind my investment in Honda  contrast with Germany

United States has benefited from many advantages.  It has an inland water network that allows for cheap transportation and two coasts (actually 3 like Canada) that had protected them from invasion.
Immigration has enriched them economically and culturally.  Democracy has worked well for them, although decisions are slower, they tend to make better ones over time.

The Americans are also at a crisis point and many factors that could undermine them.  Number one is a diminishing willingness to compromise.  Politically many developments have led to polarization.  The expense of campaigns have forced politicians to spend more time fund raising than discussing issues with opponents while modern air travel has meant that many of their families stay back home with less social interchange with other congressional families.   Polarization extends to the general population that can now watch tv channels that reinforce their views.  Residential pattern and even martial choices are heavily influence by political affiliations.

Another factor is low voter turnover.  United States unlike other countries requires voters to be registered and opened opportunities to suppress undesired voters.  A large turnout gives greater credibility to the government.
 
The American government has less investment in education and infrastructure than other industrialized countries where teachers have higher standards, but also more pay and prestige.   Immigration has been a key strength of U.S. and is needed more than ever to maintain population and economic growth.  Immigration is a positive for such things as childcare and scientific innovation.

America has become arrogant disdaining the idea that they could learn from other nations.   The author surprised me by stating that America could learn lots from Canada and then Europe and then the rest of the world.  Under Donald Trump America has been disengaging from multi lateral organizations that in truth need to be strengthened for current and future crises.

In short, "...fundamental problems are polarization, voter turnout and obstacles to voter registration, inequality and declining social mobility and declining government investment and public goods."
 
Crises for the whole world.  One that the author worries most about is the danger of a nuclear conflict.  Jared itemizes four ways it could happen and that even with the Cold War over the danger is greater than ever.  With Trump backing out of existing agreements the dangers have increased further since this book's 2019 publication.  

Climate change is real.  Jared points out that all energy sources have disadvantages, but that global powers need to start moving away from fossil fuels.  He does make a case for nuclear power by accepting risks.  The real force needed is conservation pointing to Europe's attitude towards gas guzzling vehicles.  Cars and gas are taxed to discourage wasted fuels.

Another global crisis is the inevitable depletion of natural resources.  Some are finite while others such as forestry and fish are renewable, but poorly managed.  Although overpopulation is a factor, a bigger factor is that the well off countries consume about 32 times as much resources as the poor nations.  To compound the situation third world people are increasingly aware of the inequities.  Westerners sometimes picture the poor as a big "problem" instead of admitting the rich are the ones who created the problem. 

Government is disparaged by many who think they are corrupt or incompetent and should not be able to dictate our lives.  Jared points out that governments have been in existence for over 5,000 and were formed for two purposes:  1). to monopolize force to maintain peace and 2) to redistribute wealth for greater aims which could be to enrich the rich or for the greater good o society.  We need to keep those purposes in mind on a global framework.

Jared took 6 years for this book, but realizes the case studies are selective and not random.  He would like to see his studies expanded as we all need to better understand how crises can be better handled.  The book contains lots of easy to understand analysis with interesting personal observations.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Flight Shaming is a Modern Guilt Trip

As a private consumer the climate crisis makes me feel almost helpless.  Us Canadians are a privileged part of humanity that can preach to others to curb their desires to help fight the biggest battle of history.  I am not so pure--I drive an older car, eat meat, go through packaged goods and have an appetite for traveling. 

Many political entities are making efforts, but still the biggest one, the U.S. Government is dragging and even pointing out that too many of their competitors are taking advantage of them.  Corporate interests, particularly those associated with fossil fuels are fighting effectively against the tide.

Will greed do us in?  As individuals we are part of the problem and part of the solution, but relatively powerless against vested interests.  We drive gas driven cars because we have limited resources and advertising has convinced us they will fit in with our needs.  We eat meat, because it tastes good and we understand it is the best source of protein.  Packaged goods are practical and necessary.  There is a corporate structure that we fit into which hates disruptive change.

Innovations have always threatened and been resisted by the establishment.   In the past it has often resulted in one set of jobs being replaced by another set of jobs and the economy makes some adjustments.  Most of the suggested solutions for fight the climate crisis involve conflict with vested interests including our own.  Read more about innovative disruption:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/03/the-innovators-dilemma.html

The environmental movement, necessary as it is has taken on elements of religion.  One critical element is the idea of sinning by not changing your life in enough details for future mankind to survive.  We have saintly leaders--one I recall is Al Gore, often criticized as a hypocrite, but a newer one has emerged to capture our admiration.  Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old from Sweden has thrust herself into the battle and has spoken eloquently to shame much of the older establishment.  I wish her luck and hope that indeed more of us are shamed into being more active.  When asked if she would like to meet Donald Trump she replied it would be a "waste of time."

Her latest effort has shifted the focus a little to the perils of air travel.  Instead of flying to New York for an United Nations environmental conference she will be sailing relying on solar energy.  She realizes that she is privileged to have this option and that in fact it is not totally zero emissions free.  Its main purpose is to set an example and perhaps to shame the rest of us (who can afford it) to reduce unnecessary carbon emissions.

The problem is really two fold.  We as individuals need to do our part by setting an example and spreading the word.  But the bigger task falls to governments and corporations that have immense control over our lives.  Auto emission standards have been a political issue and efforts have been made to encourage electric vehicles.  There have been powerful resistance to these simple incremental improvements.  Technology has developed a lot of innovations that could dramatically help reduce carbon emissions as well as other global warming agents, but in many cases they are up against entrenched interests.

As individuals we have two tasks.  The first might be to temper our greed.  The second set in motion by our collective examples would be to prod the governments and big corporations to join the battle more seriously.  The governments make decisions based on anticipated votes, but also on donations often by those who want to influence policies.  A vote can be powerful, but is limited in many ways (expense of elections, first past the post, gerrymandering, etc) and needs to be strengthened--Al Gore pointed out that we need to fix democracy first .  read more:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/11/an-inconvenient-sequel-truth-to-power.html

Greta pointed out that it is not just climate change but a "climate crisis," that is gradually becoming part of everyday conversation.  It needs to be more as not only do corporations fear innovative disruption so do most citizens around the globe.

An earlier blog from 2011 gives a little different perspective.  The author, Paul Gilding of "The Great Disruption" had been discouraged by the lack of response for more involvement.  He uses the example of World War II, but also suggests the more work done beforehand the greater chance of success.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2011/07/great-disruption-is-it-really-on.html

Still another strategy coming from "The Wisest One in The Room" focuses on incremental steps and suggests that mitigating efforts are not wasteful, but after getting one's foot in the door can lead to more serious results.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/10/the-wisest-one-in-room.html

Lots of ideas and strategies for us to push buttons individually and collectively.  The basic concern of this blog started out with flight shaming and I am still wrestling with it.  Over my 71 years my flights probably averaged less than one a year, but that average has crept up over the last two decades. Two things:  I will have to be selective and somehow push for more environmentally transportation choices.

This follows a radio discussion on CBC led by Matt Galloway.

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.