Thursday, October 17, 2019


He got in and there is very little that can be done before 2020.  There certainly were enablers, some of whom you can read about

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 10, 2019

China and the NBA

How would you believe a few words, "Stand for Hong Kong" could cause such a response?  There was the Chinese end of it and then there was the NBA response.  No question that money rules the world.

The Chinese public never knew of the brief Twitter as it was blocked.  Also they do not get an honest explanation for the Hong Kong riots.  When you are autocratic and with enough leverage you can force your will on anyone who wants to do business with you.

The morals of the story are obvious in that powerful bullies don't worry about morals.  Plenty of others have commented on the morals.  What can be done?

As long as we worship money (and it is pretty important to me) we are obligated to do things we would not otherwise do--including much of work or keeping your mouth shut.  Looking around the world many established companies (and those hoping to gain traction) see China with its huge population and growing middle class as the best available opportunity.

China has its own sensitivities.  They feel they are overcoming humiliation and resent any reminder vestiges.  Having colonials impose their will on the Chinese people who felt they had a glorious history can make you a bit touchy.  There are different languages, different cuisines, but they are united under an autocratic government. We hear of conflicts involving Tibet (the Dalai Lama is my hero), Taiwan and the Uighurs.  To "control" the population the authorities have imposed censorship not only within their nation but to outsiders hoping to make inroads.

On one side of the bargaining table are greedy entrepreneurs salivating over the huge numbers of potential customers.  On the other side is someone wanting to please their customers (their citizens wanting a higher standard of living).  It may seem uneven between our side and the Chinese, but we do have things they want--our markets, our technology and ideas, our resources and some of the razzle dazzle we take for granted.  On top of that there is a natural human craving for more freedom.

Can the tail wag the dog?  We do have leverage.  The Chinese like lots of western things including the NBA.  When Yao Ming  made it to the NBA that generated a lot of national pride as well as interest in basketball.  A few other Chinese have played lesser roles.  A few years back, Jeremy Lin (of Taiwanese heritage) created "Linsanity" where he won a number of games with the last shot.  Many Chinese people would be upset if they couldn't get their NBA "fix."  It is doubtful that Chinese would give up Olympic aspirations for basketball which ensures interest will continue.  Everyone wants to see the best and aspires to be a part of it.

Adam Silver did salvage a little dignity by declaring individuals have the right to express themselves.  On other issues he has been very commendable and one can hope he will get back to form.

Citizens of the world are better off when we share culture.  Westerners love cheap Asian goods and exotic culture.  It is a two way street which most of us enjoy when we are able to expand our interests.  The Chinese are no different.  They are just fascinated by different cultures as we are.  All efforts to boost cultural exchanges are to be encouraged.

What we have that Chinese people want as much as anyone is relative freedom.  We can pretty well say whatever we want, listen to whatever we want, seek pleasure in whatever direction.  They don't fully know this, but we can try to expand their awareness.  When they cut off coverage of the Houston Rockets (and NBA champion Toronto Raptors)and LeBron James there are bound to be disappointed people, including people with some measure of power.  While we are being seduced by potential riches they are being seduced by western culture.

Technology is being used to create another iron curtain or maybe one should say cyber curtain.  China can try to isolate itself, but that will create resentment among the people.   Hong Kong is unique, but they are perhaps on the front lines of freedom.  If they can hold out it will be harder and harder for authorities to keep the truth from the rest of China. 

Perhaps this issue got my attention as I love basketball and have been involved for over 60 years.

The Chinese are bringing more of the culture to the rest of the world with movies.

The photo is from a Chinese movie I thought was well worth watching with some insight into one child policy.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Douglas Sirk, a more appreiated director after his death

 When one explores older movies, history brings out things that are long forgotten or taken for granted.  The name Douglas Sirk repeated itself a few times and my first notion was he must be some sort of art movie favorite.  Lately my feeling is that he was a manipulator of making stories enjoyable, but to point out some of the foibles of American society.

After his retirement his reputation rested on a series of movies that are considered "melodramatic."  Some critics had a low opinion of such movies, but later, after he finished in Hollywood his style was more appreciated.  Jean-Luc Godard and Rainer Werner Fassbinder praised him from Europe and slowly he was recognized for his contributions.

Born in Germany in 1897 of Danish parents as Detlef Sierck, a name used for his early German films.  At age 14 he developed an interest in both theatre and cinema. He studied law University of Munich, but switched to University of Hamburg to study art and philosophy.  In 1922 he directed his first stage play.  His first  feature was shot in Dutch and then in German.  His films were admired b Dr Joseph Goebbels, but in 1937 left Germany.  His first wife was a Nazi sympathizer and denounced him for marrying Hilde Jary, a Jewish actress.

He left Germany as a well respected director and had learned much that carried forth to his American career.

In 1941 he and his wife reached Hollywood.   His first U.S. directed film in 1943 was "Hitler's Madman," an account of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by Czech resistance fighters.

"Summer Storm" was released in 1944 adapted from an Anton Chekhov novel.  Starring George Sanders who had a sarcastic wit, much used in this film.  In 1944 he did another film, "A Scandal in Paris" with Sanders.  George Sanders proved to be reliable and was later in at least two more films.

In 1947 Lucille Ball was the lead actress for "Lured," a serious movie, but a viewer can appreciate Lucille's timing. 

 Next come the films that Sirk is best remembered for.  In 1954  "Magnificent Obsession," with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman, a couple that he brought together a year later for "All that Heaven Allows."

In 1956 Sirk was involved with "Never Say Goodbye," but not credited as he was called in for a re-shoot at the request of George Sanders and the studio.  He also was responsible for bringing in the leading actress Cornell Borchers from Germany.

"Written on the Wind" was also in 1956 again with Rock Hudson, this time with Robert Stack, Lauren Bacall and Dorothy Malone (who won the Oscar best supporting actress).

A year later he reunited  Rock Hudson, Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone for "Tarnished Angels."  William Faulkner whose novel was the basis approved it has a good adaptation.  Noted for airplane sequences.  Rock Hudson endeared himself to Robert Stack by a surprise towing of a sign "IT'S A GIRL by stunt pilot to commemorate the birth of his first child.  Rock Hudson also insisted on including a young Troy Donahue in the cast.

In 1959 Sirk wrapped up his American career with "A Time to Live and a Time to Die" (from novel by Erich Maria Remarque) and "Imitation of Life."  Starring Lana Turner at a critical time in her personal life one critic called this the saddest movie--read more at:

Uncomfortable with the Hollywood lifestyle (such as nude swimming parties) he  left with his wife for Lugano Switzerland in 1959.  He was a supervising director for 3 German shorts before his death in 1987 in Lugano.

His most remembered films were considered "women's pictures" what today we might call chick flicks.  They contained all the elements; romance, tragedy, melodramatic music and crying.  Dig a little deeper and some critics appreciated his technical skills.  He was a subtle social critic.  His films depicted strong intelligent women.  Other themes included upper middle class snobbery, hypocrisy, racial tensions and faulty masculine ideals.

Rather than rely on monologues he hired actors based on personality with emphasis on getting on with the other actors.  He used lighting and mirrors to help create moods.

No person succeeds in life without  a supporting team.  Altogether he directed 5 actors to Oscar nominated performances with one, Dorothy Malone winning.

Rock Hudson has a reputation of a glamour boy, but Sirk saw somebody he could work with.  His looks and his voice helped make him one of the most popular stars from Hollywood.  Aside from the movies cited Rock appeared in several other Sirk directed movies.  He was nominated for an Oscar with "Giant."  He later starred in a successful tv series, "McMillan and Wife."  After he was diagnosed with AIDS he donated $250,000 to help launch the National Aids Research Foundation.  He had been quoted saying that Sirk was like a dad for him.

Music played a strong role and the key composer was Frank Skinner.  Frank had a very prolific and versatile list of  musical scores.  He was most famous for music for horror movies.  He wrote the scores for "Magnificent Obsession," "Written on the Wind," "All that Heaven Allows." "The Tarnished Angels," "Imitation of Life," and at least two others.

Sirk had at least three interesting cinematographers that supported his efforts.  Like Sirk, Eugen Schufmann had been born and trained in Germany.  He moved to France in 1933 and  in 1940 he moved to the U.S.  He had developed a process for optical special effects that was eventually replaced by newer techniques and materials.  He joined what amounted to the wrong union and found that due to regulations he was not credited for many of his movies.  For Sirk he handled "Hitler's Madman," "Summer Storm" and "Scandal in Paris."  He won an Oscar in 1962 for "The Hustler."

Russell Metty first got into the film business starting as a lab assistant and then became an assistant camera man and by 1935 RKO has hired him as lighting camera man.  He handled one of the highlight scenes from "Touch of Evil" and had gone onto get an Oscar nomination for "Flower Drum Song" and an Oscar win for "Spartacus."  For Sirk, he handled some of the more well known films, "Written in theWind," "All that Heaven Allows," and "Magnificent Obsession" plus 7 others.  He worked on many television series such "Columbo," ""the Waltons" and "Rich Man, Poor Man."

William H Daniels directed 4 films for him including "Lured."  His fame is established for the 21 films he directed with Greta Garbo and winning an Oscar for "The Naked City" in 1948.

When we watch movies it is very difficult to appreciate how the thinking and work that goes into creating a mood.   Douglas Sirk is now regarded as an excellent artist, but many fans already loved his films before the critics came on board.