Friday, February 28, 2020

56 Up

"56 Up" (2012) is part of a  long term project that many would do well to watch.   It started with the idea expressed by a  Jesuit intellect: "Give me the child until seven and I will give you the man."  The execution is unique

Started with children born in 1956 with 14 seven year olds first interviewed in 1963.   We are presented with a variety in terms of class, race, rural and urban and both sexes,

Every seven years the film crew interviewed 14 people they had started with at age 7.  The follow-ups were increasingly interesting so we could follow up their original intentions.  This film takes the viewer to the age of 56.  One participant backed out when he was surprised at how people reacted to some of his youthful political remarks (basically he was unimpressed with Margaret Thatcher), but a few years later he joined back in.   Core personalities seem set at age 7 that carries through to 56--but not totally predicable.

Some were successful including a nuclear physicist, a barrister, school teachers,   One 7 year old who wanted to go to Africa actually volunteered in Bangladesh and became a teacher.  Most married and had children, but many were divorced and a few of them had remarried.  Others pointed out the hard times they had to endure.  The physicist had emigrated to America because there were too few opportunities in England.  One migrated to Australia.  Others unhappy with the economy under Tony Blair.  Some were disappointed, but acknowledged they had made poor choices.  You can trace a progression in maturity. 

The participants go through puberty, marriage, children and grandchildren.  Not everything was smooth, some had divorced, many had parents die and had some concerns with their children.  Economic hard times played a big role for some of them.

Technology progress can be seen as the first shots were in black and white from 1963 and with this version digital cameras gave greater scope.

The original director was Paul Almond, a Canadian, later honored as an officer of the Order of Canada and given a life time Achievement Award by the Canadian Directors Guild.  He directed, produced and wrote for many films winning awards.  He also was a novelist.  Was married three times including with Genevieve Bujold with whom he had a child that carried on film work.  Paul died in 2015.

The co director Michael Apted was credited with two BAFTA awards.  Roger Ebert interviewed Michael and provided some interesting information.   He started with this project as a 22 year old.  One of his most difficult tasks was contacting the interviewees very year as they often had doubts and restrictions which Michael had to talk through respecting their concerns.  Both Roger and Michael agreed that as the project progressed most of the participants seemed to have matured, gotten wiser and overcome lots of obstacles to be happier.  Roger felt that what would add to the value of the project would be to get interviewees just before dying to see what they felt

Michael Apted studied law and history at Cambridge University.  He did do many other documentaries, but also worked on several features.  "Gorillas in the Mist," ""Gorky Park," "Coal Miner's Daughter," "Enigma," and "The World is Not Enough" (1999), a James Bond film.

"63 up" has already been on British television and will likely be released in American theatres. Check out the trailer  https://www.imdb.com/video/vi42516249?playlistId=tt8929142&ref_=tt_ov_vi

Monday, February 24, 2020

GOOD NEWWZ

"Good Newwz" is a funny movie, hard not to laugh through most of it.   Second highest Bollywood gross in the U.S. for 2019.  But it has deeper repercussions.

The premise is two families named Batra are motivated to try invitro fertilization, but the sperm of the two men are injected into the other man's wife.  One couple (Akshay and Kareena) are quite upset and frown upon the other couple (Diljit and Kiara) as being offensively uncouth.  After accepting their situation they (Akshay and Kareena) are reluctant to have any type of contact with the others but it breaks down and at the end they are all involved with each other.

Reminds me of three other films that dealt with similar themes:

"Born in Absurdistan" (1999) an Austrian film where the sons of  Austrian and Turkish couples get mixed up and is not discovered until after the Turkish family has been deported.  The Austrian couple track down the Turkish family.  At first there is distrust with the Austrians looking down on the Turks,  but the Turks are very suspicious.  Plans are made to check blood back in Austria which would require smuggling deportees back.  As I recall several years later in the end the couples reconcile and decide to join together and raise both sons. 

"Like Father like Son," (2013) directed and written by Hirokazu Koreeda presents a similar dilemma (of switched babies), except all participants are Japanese and the two boys are 6 years old.  One father is a successful workaholic and the other father is relatively poor with other children.  At one stage the two boys play together while the successful father is upset that the son he has been raising is not of his blood.   The poorer one offers to raise both boys.  His wife is very attached to the son she has raised, but the husband is obsessed with blood lines.  Eventually although feeling very superior the one father realizes he is not as good a father.  The end is emotional as the one father realize his life has not been as meaningful as he had assumed.

"Dombey and Son" (1983) recently seen, but had read the Charles Dickens novel many years ago.  The story line is of a successful man whose wife dies after a son is born.  He finds his earlier born daughter of little interest, although she is very devoted to him.  He tries grooming his very young son, but he dies.  There is a lot of intrigue around him and eventually his business crashes.  Eventually he realizes his daughter is the one that stands by him.  Over a century ago, but in some ways we still have a long way to go.

This story takes the plot to an even more intimate level, but more than the others uses humour to make its point.   With the first couple (Kareena and Akshay) we are shown efforts to get pregnant with the wife being more determined.  Ovulation is monitored and the husband is required to drop what he is doing.  The most humorous incident might be on an airplane when they realize the most practical timing and end up in the airline toilet.  When the two couples meet there is a lot of antagonism, but it is demonstrated with a lot of misunderstandings.

Akshay is upset that his wife's baby is not his, but has no concern about the baby he impregnated.  The other couple looks at both babies as being connected to them.  Akshay thinks an abortion is the solution even though his wife may not be able to get pregnant again.  Kareena is reluctantly convinced to have an abortion, but when she is shown a ultra sound screen changes her mind. 

There is much resistance, but it breaks down.  Akshay's sister and brother in law are both lawyers and although they are the ones who suggested the fertility doctor they advise on a contract.  The other couple, Diljit and Kaira have another contract that is opposite in some regards. Kareena and Akshay want no contact after birth while Diljit and Kiara want to set healthy standards of raising the other's child.  Kareena is concerned about the medical history of the sperm inside her and is told the information is confidential, but she should get to know the other couple.  Eventually they become emotionally involved with each other and when an unexpected crisis occurs all four are deeply engaged and this leads to a happy ending.

The common theme of the four movies covered is that although blood is important so is humanity.  We bring many cultural hangups that too often get in the way.  Children need loving parents and parents need to look at each child as special.

The cast and crew below have been involved with some of my all time favorites. 

Karan Johar, the King of Romance is the key producer. Some of his notable films as director and/or producer include "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai," (1998), "Kal ho naa ho." (2003) "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham," --with Kareena Kapoor, (2001) "The Lunchbox" (2013) and "My Name is Khan" (2010).

Raj Mehta, the director with his first feature after years of second unit, associate directing, acting, writing and directing/producing shorts.  Also contributed dialogue.

Jyoti Kapoor, writer with his first feature screenplay, but has contributed story ideas, including for a big hit , "Badhaii Ho" (2018) with an interesting theme involving parental sex.

The actors are listed left to right as in the photo cover above.

Kareena Kapoor Khan--has been in several memorable movies, but has also played a lot of vapid women.  I would say she is one of the better dancers and does show a little bit in this film.   Comes from a well known family in Bollywood.  Married Saif Ali Khan and has had one child.
Favorite movies of hers include "Jab we Met," (2007)  "3 Idiots," (2009) and "Talaash" (2012).

Akshay Kumar was a waiter, in Bangkok took up martial arts, asked to model and jumped into movies where he is a top box office star.   Has Canadian citizenship (actually campaigned with Stephen Harper.)   Akshay is a non smoker and participant in anti smoking campaigns, but is seen heavily smoking--to illustrate the harmful effects regarding fertility.  For the last decade he has been one of the most bookable Bollywood stars.  My attitude towards him has become much more respectful with such movies as "Special 26" (2013), "Airlift" (2016), "Rustom," (2016). "Toilet, A Love Story" (2017), "Pad Man" (2018), and "Gold" (2018).

Diljit Dosanjh started in Punjabi cinema, popular in comic roles, but has been in some serious Bollywood films such as "Soorma" (2018),  "Phillauri" (2017)  and "Uta Punjab" (2016--with Kareena Kapoor).

Kiara Advani starred in the big hit "Kabir Singh" (2019) and "M.S. Shoni:  The Untold Story" (2016).  Check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/09/arjun-reddy-and-kabir-singh.html  

Adil Hussain, played the fertility doctor.  "English Vinglish (2012), Life of Pi (2012) and "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" (2012) "Tigers"   "What will people say" (Norway 2017), and "Kabir Singh" (2019)

Tisca Chopra "Rayhasa" (2015) "Qissa:  Tale of a Lonely Ghost" (2013) "Like Stars on Earth" (2007).

My earlier views on Bollywood comedies are here:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/04/chalo-dilli-deals-with-snobbery.html

Friday, February 21, 2020

CRASH LANDING ON YOU--VERY ADDICTING

A confession to start.  I like movies with a little romance and by chance stumbled on "Crash Landing on You.'  It has a lot of romance and is very manipulative.  The secret to many romances is that there is some sort of barrier between would be lovers and this one must win the prize.

On one side is a South Korean daughter of a very wealthy man who has developed her own successful company and is very independent.  On the other side is the son of a politically important man in North Korea in the military.  In between is a border that is perhaps the most guarded in the world.  Very flukey circumstances bring them together.  No matter what they do someone is bound to suffer and that is made abundantly clear as the plot develops.  Most of the politics is like bureaucratic office style with different individuals and groups vying for power.  Family squabbles and corporate struggles on both sides of the border.  Although the North Koreans seem human there are lots of details that shows South Korea to be superior in terms of technology and openness.  North Koreans are resourceful.

The Korean tv series has more going for it than romance such as intrigue,action, humour and cultural insights.  It is likely non Koreans will not get all the nuances, but nonetheless you will discover many unique cultural features, but at the same time also appreciate that human nature is universal.  This film is the second highest rated Korean drama in cable television history.  It is definitely one of my favorites for the year.

The plot is very implausible, but you can't help getting drawn in.  The beginning reminds me of "The Wizard of Oz" where Dorothy is lifted out of Kansas by a tornado.  In this film the heroine decides to paraglide as a promotional stunt for her company and a wind takes her over the border.  There are a number of coincidences that play a role including that three main characters unknowingly interact in Switzerland.  The connections across borders is also a bit suspect.  But to me all the writer is doing is setting a hypothetical set of circumstances and suggesting how actual people might react-- like many other enjoyable stories.

Some people might be annoyed by the frequent use of flashbacks.  It is done well, revealing bit by bit so you understand what brought you to a particular point.  Like many good films it can be confusing and simple at the same time, but as it progresses the plot becomes more complex as in real life we are all connected in ways we don't recognize.

Researching cast and crew is not as rewarding as for American, European or even Bollywood films, but I know I will be watching more Korean productions and want to record the names and some of their achievements.

 Jung Hye Lee directed all episodes.  Ji Eun Park wrote the script having got her start writing for tv talk and variety shows and sitcoms.  The producer is a German actress, Claudia Magira and it is obvious a lot of money was well spent on this production

Music handled by Yong Kim who got his education at the Berklee College of Music and the University of Toronto.  Music includes some classical and pop tunes, some in English.

Roger Neuburger handled production issues in Switzerland.  He had worked on "Phantom Thread" (2017).

Will discuss the four main leads from their photos at the top from left to right.

Ye-jin Son plays the heroine and it is hard not to like her and appreciate the range of emotions she undergoes.  She has a long history of serials and winning awards.  Ye-jin, prefers a natural look and especially does not want to look made up when waking up in a scene.  She is not the most glamorous actress in the film, but definitely the most likable.  She is also a certified pilates instructor.

Hyun Bin plays the stoical hero who is a very skilled fighter, but also a pianist.  He is considered very good looking and attracts a lot of attention.  Also been in many series and won lots of awards.

Ji-hye Seo plays the rejected fiancee that later falls for a bad guy and convert him a little.  She is probably the best looking of the women in the movie.

Jung-hyun Seo played a good looking con man who in the end did the right thing.

There is a big cast as the story required to provide humor and intrigue.

There are a few similarities to Bollywood.  There are songs and background music that play an important role in setting the mood.  A few decades ago Bollywood had movies set in Switzerland. to make their characters more exotic or sophisticated.  Koreans like to travel and it turns out scenic Switzerland is only one destination used in movies.

A few years ago I had seen enough Korean films to write a blog.   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2014/04/a-slice-of-korean-cinema.html

Since then I have watched a number of enjoyable Korean films some of which are remembered in my year end movie reviews.  Some were outstanding enough to warrant their own post.  Now I am expanding my interest to Korean television series and am currently watching another romance, but quite different with leading lady Ye-jin Son.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Driving with Miss Jane

You are surrounded by interesting people.  We all are, but it is only a few that we really get to know.  This is a fictionalized account of my conversations with a real woman twenty years my senior.  The incidents are real, but to protect some privacy the names have been changed. Let's call her Jane.

It happened by surprise.  I was not being given more assignments at work and what was my main source of revenue was being squeezed.  One of the partner's mother was in need of a regular ride.  She had recently had her license taken away by the family after an accident and wanted to visit her ill husband in a retirement home.  It worked out to my advantage as not only did it give me something to do I was also able to keep in touch with my remaining contacts and the office by using WiFi at a nearby library. If you know me you know I like to spend time at libraries.  In fact this is how I came to renew my library card for my work city so that I now had two library cards.

She usually stayed upstairs napping and used a stair lift to meet me.  As she was hard of hearing I watched to see if the stair lift was up or down. 

The partner joked that it could be an adventure like "Driving Miss Daisy."  Although I had seen a stage version as well as the film version I was a little hazy on the details.  Although our conversations were mostly limited to about two ten minute drives each trip they became fairly candid.

Over time I came to know Jane quite a bit and in fact some things her own family didn't know.  I will relate a variety of things I learned.

She told me about an experience where she and her husband drove to a friend's house to return a scarf.  It was obvious they were home, but nobody would answer the door and eventually they gave up.  She and her husband agreed the couple were probably having a fight and then told me about one fight she had with her husband.  One was over a toothpaste tube and while they were at it some neighbors attempted to visit, but were ignored at the front door.  Eventually the neighbors tried the back door and got their attention.  Jane said her husband during a fight usually tried to make a joke, but that just made her madder.

Her husband had been engaged before when they both lived in England and his fiancee had tried to marry him before he left for the European mainland as World War II broke out.  His mother sent him a marriage notice and awhile after sent a birth notice.  Jane met him after the war and said she was careful to not let him get away.  Eventually after marriage he left for Canada and the two built up a family in a mid sized Ontario town.  Later he formed his own company and moved to her present city.

Once I told Jane about an experience I had booking a hotel room for a celebrity visiting town.  I was stunned to be asked if they wanted a double bed or twins and even more surprised to learn twin beds were preferred.  Jane had a different experience.  A co-worker in England had been asked to book hotel rooms for her boss and a girl friend and was instructed to always order a double bed.

Deciphering vanity car license plates had become a favored activity which I joined in, even to the point of asking the driver.  It was fun and in some cases I learned some things of interest.  In one case I met a man who had his car license attached to a walker and it detailed airplanes he had piloted.   One man bragged on his plate that he had done an 8 ender in curling and a hole in one in golfing.   One identification showed me she remembered a tv show (Hawaii Five-0) that we had both watched way back in the 60's and 70's.  We were mystified by one plate but I suspected a sticker was a clue and it turned out a fan of an Australian football team in Adelaide.  Having married into an Italian family I was able to identify a fellow outsider labeled a cake eater (an Italian reference to non Italians is mangia cake).  Another plate from a co-worker led to a personal revelation.   One I recalled and told her was "2hot4U"

Learned the sister of her husband died several years ago but everyone was afraid to tell him.  He kept asking when visited and she made up an excuse.

Sometimes I picked her up from a hairdresser.  She had a favorite, but one time someone on the phone told her her favorite had left and made an appointment.  On another visit she learned her favorite hairdresser was still there and had been and she booked her appointments more carefully.

She had a sister from England (from the original city Jane was born in) who liked to visit, let's call her Mary.  I took the two of them back and forth.  Mary was younger by about ten years and very protective.  I watched a number of British tv shows and we had mutual favorites.  She recommended one I had not heard of "In line of Duty,"  It became one of my favorites.  Jane's two sons, and a niece took her out dining and somehow the two sisters developed a liking for quesadilla.  The English sister was disappointed she couldn't find any in England.

I learned a bit about a significant city in England.  Never been to England and have a warped view centered on London and a few cities I've watched on tv.  Until you actually travel to a place you have only a vague idea.

Jane trusted me enough to leave the front door unlocked when I was expected.  Part of her concern was that she had trouble hearing and didn't want me to freeze during the winter.  One time I found her in pain and undecided about to go or not.  I persuaded her to go to a walk in clinic.  She was given an x-ray that I had arranged to be sent to her family doctor who she was visiting the next day.  She was in obvious pain, but it turned out not to be a break.  The doctor did notice that she had had previous breaks that had healed.  It was awhile before the pain subsided and made an extra effort to avoid bumps.

Apparently her husband at one time suggested to the oldest son he should get a vasectomy, but was brushed off.  Not too long afterwards his second wife (who also already had a family of children) got pregnant.  Several years later I met their new son.  My wife had met him earlier through a medical visit and was impressed at how polite he was.

She was concerned about her children and grandchildren  Both her sons divorced.  She had become so upset that she burst out crying at her doctor's who prescribed a tranquilizer.  She was very grateful to maintain a relationship and talked to one grandson who had been worried.  She was concerned that one grand-daughter had broken up with her boyfriend.  My experience with her family had been very positive

I never met her husband, but learned he was suffering dementia.  She confessed to me that he sometimes swore very offensively to her.  She mentioned that he also had poor fitting teeth and I suggested that perhaps that added to his irritation.

All good things come to an end.  I took a vacation (to New Zealand to see my son.  When I came back I learned that her husband had died.  I learned at my office, but she also phoned and thanked me for giving her rides.  When I started out with an 88 year old visiting her 94 year old husband I realized the odds weren't on the side of longevity.

She had kept me informed of her medical problems which included cancer.  She was told that she a slow developing variety and the doctors had decided against surgery.  I was informed by my old work place after I retired that she had died in her sleep.

PHOTO from her driveway I heard a woodpecker and this time I had my camera handy--I had missed a chance at some more colorful birds.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

THE EDUCATION OF AN IDEALIST

It is illuminating to understand how some admirable people got pointed in a direction we have come to admire.  Samantha Power reached my attention as a worker with Barrack Obama which automatically makes her a person to be admired.  But she didn't reach that status without a lot of twist and turns.

She is candid about relationships with Obama and other politicians that often involved not getting her way.  She also writes about the problems of a mother of young children trying to have influence with the government including breast feeding while overseas with and without her daughter.

Born in Ireland, she was more interested in sports than studying, but did enjoy reading.  Her mother overcame many obstacles to be a medical doctor.  Her father was a dentist, but spent too much time at a local pub where he also took his kids.  Her mother was distraught over her husband's alcoholism and developed a relationship with a doctor and moved to America.  She was able to gain custody of her two children.  Samantha felt very guilty when her father died, but had developed a good relationship with her mother's husband.

She lived in Pittsburgh and Atlanta and was very active in sports.  While attending university she had gone home to Atlanta to intern with a tv station.  For one game she had been asked to note about an Atlanta Braves game off a tv. screen.  At a studio surrounded by many other tv screens she got distracted by events at Tiananmen Square and was stunned.  It changed her focus to politics and world events,

She went on a trip to Europe with a boyfriend and further opened her eyes to international tensions.  After graduation she taught English in Berlin and became aware of Bosnian refugees  Working with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace she managed to get herself a journalist pass and went to Bosnia.  She spent a lot of time in combat zones and made friends that she kept in contact with.

While Barrack Obama was Senator, Samantha developed a relationship with him as he seemed to enjoy batting ideas around with her.  She had been concerned with the Balkans, Rwanda, Sudan but the conversation veered in many different directions.  When he made the decision to run for president she eagerly joined the battle.  Unfortunately in the midst of it an eager reporter picked up something she said about Hilary Clinton that forced her resignation.  Later, after an apology to Hilary they worked effectively together.  Before and during this crisis she had met another Obama supporter, Cass Elliott and while away from the campaign they got married.

I thought I had seen that name somewhere and it turned out he co-authored a book I had stumbled on and was impressed enough to write a blog:   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/08/misbehaving-makg-of-behavioural.html 

She got involved with many important issues and left her mark.  She campaigned to make public announcement acknowledging the Armenian genocide with limited success.  Involved with the Russian negotiations regarding Syria's use of chemical weapons.  Formed relations with other ambassadors, especially women, but also notably Vitaly Churkon of Russia.  One issue she was successful  was getting support for LGBT issues despite Russian opposition.  During the Ebola crisis she traveled to Africa to the most affected areas.  Another issue (of many) she was involved with was Libya.

One of her goals was to influence Obama's announcements working with Ben Rhodes who helped her understand the constraints trying to deal with many different international concerns.   Sometimes the input was very slight and only arrived after much wrangling.  See more on Ben;  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/06/the-world-as-it-is.html

Near the end of her book and of her term as UN ambassador she recounts her experience with the 2016 election.  She had invited several women ambassadors to watch the election results thinking it would be an  historical moment.  Some of the women lived in dictatorships and had not really seen a democratic election before.  Unfortunately Donald Trump who promised to undo many of Obama's accomplishments won and spoiled the moment.  He is still a blot on American democracy.

Many ups and downs and some disappointments.  It is well worth reading to appreciate the persistence necessary to influence policies starting from an idealist base.

I would like to end with her ending "People who care, act, and refuse to give up may not change the world, but they can change many individual worlds."

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Vice President Question

Why write about Vice Presidential nominee right now?  First, it is quite often a critical factor in the final ballot in November.  Some examples I would suggest include Sarah Palin, Joe Biden, Al Gore, and Mike Pence, each who had a crucial role for significant niches of voters.  Second, although it is premature to make a public announcement it is always timely to look out for logical possibilities and
work towards them while at the same time maneuvering for one's own benefit.

Sarah Palin is a lesson by herself.  Loved by many, but she turned off enough people who were concerned that John McCain could die and leave the presidency to her scatterbrain that it affected the election.  The other three all added something positive to the package, but I would like to draw attention to Mike Pence.  Paul Manafort saw a weakness in Trump that he rightly thought could be rectified with a strong evangelical.  Trump has done a lot to suck up to evangelicals, but many feel more assured that one of their own would help pursue their agenda.

The field is narrowing, but it seems likely it will be several weeks before the Democrats nominate a presidential candidate and many will hang on due to hope or a feeling of obligation or pride.   They  have unfortunately also been narrowing the diversity of their candidates.  The Democrats have built much of their strength on diversity and need to get a turnout. to seize power.  Black women are supposedly their most reliable voters.  Of course policies are critical, but getting the vote out is decisive.

The question is probably being negotiated right now.  Candidates are trying to figure out if they can make a deal to eliminate a competitor or give up the battle and try to get the vice presidential nod.  And naturally each is assessing possible running mates to maximize their chances of winning the presidency.  They have to be careful not to offend someone they might later pair up with.  It is a delicate balance because they also have to attack rivals.

There are a limited number of possibilities for the top of the ticket and each one has their own needs.  White man, older, younger, gay, white women, Asian, billionaires, moderates, democratic socialist.

Comparing policies is useful and many seem ideal.  Realistically they will run into resistance from voters (in the form of polls, protests, etc), the Republicans, their own party plus businesses (with logical arguments or corruption).  And it depends on how much power the voters give them on November 3rd, 2020.

My favorite candidate is still Kamala Harris, not so much for diversity or even policies, but her style.  She demonstrated very well on congressional hearings that she is prepared and is good at sequencing questions.  Understands root causes.  I do like the way she handles questions.  She has appeal to blacks, Asians and women.  She would do well in debates and give a practical balance to a ticket with almost any presidential candidate.

Another favorite candidate is Cory Booker.  Well liked, but likely the assumption another black man would not likely beat Trump.  He is well liked and even regarded.  However he would boost any non black nominee with a prime audience for the Democrats. 

Still on the minority client Julian Castro has positioned himself well by endorsing Elizabeth Warren and pulling over his Hispanic endorsers.  He would be a good match for others.  He may have squandered chances with other candidates, but depending on circumstances he could be what gives the Democrats enough credit with Hispanics to win the election.

Jay Inslee would prove the seriousness of climate crisis soldier.  He might work best with a woman or minority presidential nominee.  Governors carry executive experience.

Andrew Yang is not likely to get the top position, but has one of the best ideas which I see is inevitable.  Future jobs are threatened by automation and artificial intelligence  I am not sure that he would attract enough minority voters, but he would attract the youth vote and intellectuals.  He is the most future oriented of the candidates.

Overlooked another significant candidate, Deval Patrick who since dropped out.  He certainly is worthy as a former governor with a good record.   From where I view the contest he is too far behind, however that could change fairly quickly.  As the last African American in the race it would take only a few good breaks and he could win it all.  Or he could make himself a logical Vice President nominee.  His Governor experience would give executive credibility.

I am reluctant to favor the two billionaires, although they both have merits.  They will be seen as protectors of Wall Street.  Inevitably Wall Street money will be part of the equation, but the Democrats should project concern for the masses, not the wealthy.

Are there are others besides rejected candidates.  Stacey Adams  is well regarded and working successfully on voter registration, an obstacle that she has identified.  
Alexncria Ocasio-Cortez is young, articulate and atrracting attention.  She would be risky for Sanders for the socialism angle, but age counter balances
Sharod Brown  projects experience and is a very good talker.  Beto O'Rourke has appeal for Texas which would be a big win for the Democrats plus he also has appeal for Hispanics.

Among the remaining candidates:  Elizabeth Warren fits the bill as a progressive (consumer protection) woman, but would not be suitable should Bernie Sanders win as it will put too much emphasis on socialism which we know will be ignorantly used against them.  On the other hand she might well be good for a male moderate as a reassuring balance. 

Pete Buttigieg has a realistic shot at the top job and has earned a lot of respect and name recognition. As a moderate, gay, veteran, and very articulate, young liked by intellectuals he could balance any of the older candidates or a woman.

Amy Klubochar, after New Hampshire seems more viable for the top as she is moderate, articulate, mid westerner female with a never losing record.  She has also improved her leverage for Vice President.  A moderate woman she might be a good pairing for a progressive male (Sanders) or a newcomer (Pete Buttigieg.  Two women would be risky.

Joe Biden could improve in more favorable states, but it is an uphill battle.   He might not be ideal, as already been Vice President.  It would be weird if asked Barrack Obama, but I think Barrack should be offered Supreme Court position

Is there an advantage to publicly announcing a VP choice in advance?  Risky?   Yes, but  the candidate needs to assure primary voters that they recognize the need to represent everyone.  Possibly near the end of the process.  Vetting process takes time.  A handicap Democrats will endure is that while the Republicans are settled on Trump who has already long been on the campaign trail, they have to wait until the presidential candidate is decided.  The Vice Presidential candidate also has potential to create attention.   The presidential candidate has to be comfortable with the running mate.

Geography should only be a minor consideration, but a candidate has to represent everyone.

After the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries trends will develop and decisions will have to be made.  Some are dropping out and with the bandwagon effect it seems like a three person race with possibly two outsiders and perhaps Mike Bloomberg.  Bloomberg seems less likely as a Vice President although with his money if he wanted it it might happen.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

BLACK BERRY, SWEET JUICE

This is my fourth book by Lawrence Hill and the first non fiction.  I had read  "The Book of Negroes" before I actually met him.  It was in a library setting giving me a chance to ask questions and have him catch me out on a prejudice of mine (regarding a specific subset of blacks).   I remember learning some of what he had planned for the near future and some of his writing background.

I had read many books about the black experience and was aware of mixed races, but not thought about it.  As Hill explains each person has an identity concern.  I grew up white, not conscious even of white privilege as there were no blacks to compare myself to.  As I grew up I encountered more blacks and other races including mixed.  It was easy to be self righteous about prejudiced people, especially when they were distant and not real.

Lawrence grew up with a white mother and a black father who had moved to Toronto and lived in a white neighborhood .  His father's family, even though mostly in the States had kept up relations, but his mother's family had mostly disowned her and after awhile there were visits, but they lived further away.  Because he lived in a white neighbouhood and attended white schools he naturally developed "white" interests  One of them was squash which upset a cousin who described  it as a "white sport" but Lawrence really enjoyed it.

An element that escapes most people is that it is difficult for a mixed race person to be fully accepted by either race.  Barrack Obama labored under the fact that many whites would never accept a black president and that many blacks felt he was not black enough.  Part of his problem was that his father was born in Africa and had no history of slavery.  Interviewing dozens of mixed race people  Lawrence found that in many situations (following a one drop rule) they were discriminated against by some whites while seeming like outsiders among blacks.

Lawrence's father was a prominent human rights government officer and was able to provide lots of opportunities.  Lawrence has lived in many Canadian cities, partly to learn French.  From Quebec he got involved with a student group in Niger where he met Africans some of whom were surprised he considered himself black. 

Hair was an issue almost as serious as skin colour.   Long straight hair was considered a mark of beauty and many blacks tried to adapt with often frustrating results.  When I made it to university one of my  proctors (residential room supervisor) often talked of black pride and I believe hair was part of the movement.  Don't try to be something you are not, but take pride in who you are.  White mothers of black daughters are sometimes criticized for lack of mothering skill regarding hair care.  After reading the chapter on hair I was able to pick up "Embracing Da Kink" DVD from the library to get a better idea of how important hair was to personal identity. 

Black men dating and marrying white women cause resentment and at one time fear.   Black men  have been taught to think white women were more beautiful.   Realizing this fact some black mothers encouraged their sons to ask black girls to dance reminding me of mothers of tall boys have been known to advise their sons to date taller women as they lose out to male prejudices against taller women.  In some circles mulatto women were favored as mistresses of prominent white men.

Many black women are better educated and have better career paths than black men meaning that such  women are competing for the more desirable men.  At the same time they often find the men are pursuing white women.  The author really didn't know any suitable black women to date when in high school, but when reached university still date almost exclusively whit women.

 The N word  When I was in high school my Latin teacher took a popular verse and rendered it in Latin.  Like many I was familiar with the "eeni meeni maini mo"  little ditty often used to decide between two options.   The n word used, "nigrum"wasn't as offensive as the more common version, but it helped perpetuate the slurring.  I think my teacher who otherwise seemed a fair minded person was just trying to get our attention for what was a declining academic choice.  "Huckleberry Finn" was a book that impressed me and in some ways didn't notice the n word as any more than a old, quaint way of talking that indicated lesser educated people.  Mark Twain portrayed blacks as humans. 

There were virtually no blacks in my world in my first two decades, but I was very conscious of derogatory words, many of which I learned from the subjects of these terms.  They are all meant to downgrade the "other."  The n word  has probably more impact than any other term.  Another term  "wop' had an impact on my life.  I once used it sitting between my half Italian wife and an Italian co-worker against another Italian who in my opinion put down somebody who didn't deserve it.  I ended up apologizing for it but my wife and co worker thought it was merited.  I realize that it offended my boss and a man I greatly admire.

Lawrence was aware of racial discrimination and brought up Indians.  Until recently if an Indian women married a non Indian she lost her Indian status, but if a non Indian women married an Indian she gained Indian status.   Indians were not allowed to vote either federally or provincially until recently.

One chapter was devoted to an event in Oakville, Ontario in the 1930's regarding a marriage between a black man and a white woman.  Eventually they were able to get married, but not until after a Ku Klux Klan contingent from Hamilton intervened.  My embarrassment is that I once worked for the main Oakville paper, known as the Journal Record and although not identified as such undoubtedly was involved in supporting the efforts against the marriage.  We have all been guilty of associating with questionable entities.

Race is a nebulous term.  Blood types are found globally as are most body parts.  Of those born mixed race, many find themselves identifying with the minority race.  Lawrence found some examples of people who self-identified as black, even though they had a white parent as well.  A famous example is Barrack Obama.  Lawrence also self identifies as a black, but clearly his mother was an important part of his life.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

THE IOWA CAUCUS

These are the views of an outsider, not even American.  Definitely not an expert on caucus, but find it interesting and this particular one important.

The mess reflects poorly on Democrat organization.  Republicans are jumping on it (deflecting from the impeachment "trial."  As I try to wrap up this post Thursday, Feb 6, 2020 at 1:10 pm there is 97% of district reports in. 

The Iowa caucus is critical, but maybe not crucial on the path to the presidency.  Mike Bloomberg skipped it, but has spent massive amounts on advertising that is starting to have an impact.  Tension between progressive and moderate with each wing having more than one candidate.  At some point voters will have to gang their votes together for their wing and at the end some people will have to accept someone from the other wing.  There are two women left who have a realistic shot, one from each wing and it is possible either one could be a vice president, if not go to the top.

First the idea of a caucus appeals to me.  In the final process it is necessary to reach 50% +1 to be declared the winning candidate and obviously before that it is necessary to sort through a variety of preferences.  I bet a lot of 3rd party voters in 2016 wish they had a chance to vote again.  Small states do give lesser known candidates a chance to be better known.  I prefer the opinion of voters who have a chance for one on one conversations than media giants.  Jimmy Carter, Barrack Obama and Pete Buttigieg proved to people on a one on one basis they deserve a bigger audience. Voters are pulled in different directions,  but can work towards consensus that gains more acceptance.

Public voting can be intimidating with your neighbors, friends, etc maybe differing in opinion.  Transparency is at a premium as at one level those participating know how many voted and for whom.  A problem is the time required which has to affect workers and parents.   This year satellite locations including Paris, France, Arizona and Florida allowed those who travel in the winter, mostly retired people to vote.  This means the voting is slanted towards older people. 

Jimmy Carter was relatively unknown on a national scale when he announced his presidential candidacy in late 1974 there were over 10 others with some waiting to announce.  With the low number of delegates to be won, none of them took Iowa as seriously as Carter.  He knocked on doors, left notes, followed up, but his goal was to get national media coverage.  Tim Kraft was hired to organize small committees across the state and encouraged small donations.  His campaign had a policy of carefully budgeting.  With his wife he was able to lure media to many of his events and made efforts to attract national media that yielded positive results.  He won the caucus and with the media attention he gained momentum that carried him all the way.

Since then any serious candidate has made Iowa a priority.  It has been critical for such as Barrack Obama and John Kerry and perhaps Pete Buttigieg.

As the first state will help create  momentum ideally it should be representative of America as a whole.  Problems with Iowa are that it is mostly white which probably hurts the Democrats more who need to attract a strong black turnout.  Another concern is that it is very rural.  In order to attract Iowa voters politicians make promises of state interest.

It is very tight at the top with 0.1% separating Pete Buttigeig and Bernie Sanders.  A very subtle difference, but could be magnified.  Below them are Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.  They have all been boasting how they were going to win, but now reality starts to set in.  Fifth and still in the running is Amy Klobachur who I think actually could win it all as she has the best combination of age, experience and practicality.  Like Kamala Harris she performed very well at the Brett Kavanagh hearing.  Joe Biden's strength was supposedly that he was the one who could best beat Trump.  He has been hit by Trump with an alleged scandal in Ukraine which I recognize is way overblown, but the nepotism is real.  On a CNN town hall for the first time he talked about his stuttering and was very impressive, making him more human, but also more open and intelligent.

They all (including almost all of the non winners) would be very acceptable to me.  I especially liked Kamala Harris, but also like Andrew Yang and Pete Buttigieg. Both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have proved themselves smart and hard working warriors for workers and have been denigrated for socialism which somehow most Americans misunderstand.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

WHAT NOW?

Democracy has taken a big blow with the impeachment "trial."

In some ways the Republicans know they did wrong, but felt helpless to do anything about it.  Many admitted that indeed the charges had been proved.  In some cases they felt what Trump did was bad, it just wasn't bad enough to upset the status quo.  Others were aware that they could protest (at some harm to themselves) and in the end the result of acquittal would prevail.

These are intelligent men and women who did something disagreeable to themselves.  To me, it is because of mob rule and corruption.  The Republicans feared the consequences of offending Trump who has proved to be very vindictive.  The arrogance of Trump is supported by a stubborn base, the electoral system, media support and corruption.

The stubborn base feels they have been treated unfairly.  Why are they poor and powerless while obviously selfish people hurt them?  Many of them are essentially one issue voters who feel very strongly about their concern and overlook how Trump (and the Republicans) have packaged their concern together with economic concerns of the rich.  (http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/01/one-issue-voters.html)   Trump is a vocal liar who has achieved celebrity status.  He uncovers prejudice that many are reluctant to admit.
 
The electoral system was set up by slave owners who feared the industrial north would outvote them and curtail their economic system.  Slavery has been abolished, but there has been a long legacy of pride and prejudice that is still part of human nature. In Canada to lure Prince Edward Island into Confederation they were offered and accepted a guarantee of 4 members of Parliament that was disproportionate to their population.  In America small states are able to fight above their weight class and to some extent it can be justified.  They have a different legitimate viewpoint that should be heeded.  But sharp politicians realize they don't need to cultivate a majority vote, but with a winner take all in most states can squeeze a winning combination.  Opinions are so set that presidential candidates do not waste precious resources in states that are consistently on one side or another.

The media often is quite strong in their condemnation of Trump and his policies, but it seems tempered.  He is so controversial that he draws attention and thereby gains a relatively cheap platform and it seems to reinforce his celebrity status.  Wealthy interests are increasingly in control of media outlets and in some cases are very slanted and in others soften their criticism.  They are increasingly sophisticated how to manipulate using massive amounts of data.

One of the problems of unregulated capitalism is that it tends to concentrate wealth.  The wealthy have power that they naturally tend to use in order to maintain their wealth.  They are the ones who pay for lobbyists to persuade those with legislative power to pass laws that favor the rich.  Taxes are one area that can be modified so the rich can grab a larger share of profits.  Regulations are a restraint on their ability to squeeze more profit.  Unions and minimum wage laws impact their ability to boost profits.  Discrimination laws impact working conditions and in many cases affect their feelings of self righteous superiority.  Health regulations affect what we eat, drugs we use and how safe we are.  Trump is especially vain and selfish and favors his personal and family interests above all others.  Campaign laws have loosened so that the very wealthy can get their message out and to some extent without attribution.  Corruption has now reached the stage where a dishonest politician can gain help from foreign entities who have their own agenda.

He may not be acquitted in the next few days as predicted, but it certainly seems likely.  The Democrats are in the midst of selecting a candidate to oppose Trump and have to be concerned how this impeachment effort affects their choice.  One of the biggest single factors is the ability to defeat Trump.  Joe Biden may be tainted, but others feel he is the one most likely to defeat Trump.  It is certain whoever wins the nomination will be slandered viciously by the Trump team.  Other Democrats feel that Trump can be defeated by any candidate, so why not go for a more progressive candidate.

To me where Trump is more vulnerable is his base.  They have been lied to and in many cases hurt badly.  All the talk about stock market records and job reports hides many economic realities.  Wealth is being more concentrated, Americans are not protected as much as before and important problems  such as the climate crisis are being ignored.

Bolton's book, at this point seems like it could make a difference.  An unlikely Democrat tool he has his own motivations and policy preferences.   Although it supposedly contains some explosive information with the credibility of a true insider.  There have been other incriminating books that have probably dampened Trump's approval, but have had almost no effect on his base.  He has proved most of the time that he can use his base to gain his preferences.

Part of me is outraged at the many insults he has delivered and the harmful policies he has helped arrange.  To others they are amusing or helpful or ignorable.  Not enough impact.  It is sometimes difficult to convince someone they have been lied to or worse, manipulated, but that may be the most effective.   If they are really upset about abortions they can easily forgive infidelity or a tax break for the rich.  They accept that Trump exaggerates, embellishes, distorts and outright lies.  Some rationalize that he does something really important to them or is entertaining.

The hope is he will lie about something that is important to them and they become aware of it.  What is important aside from the one issue?  One possibility is betrayal of the nation, not just accepting help.  There have been lots of examples---ignoring his own intelligence agencies and accepting the word of Putin--abandoning the Kurds who were essential to U.S. policy, delaying much needed aid for the Ukrainians to resist the Russians, poor treatment of immigrants who have helped America.  It won't affect some, but if really hammered home which maybe Bolton's book may help with it will affect some.

Everyone has friends, acquaintances, fellow workers who have been betrayed by Trump who proclaims otherwise.  Parents, children, siblings have been hurt through de-regulations, or abusive powers.  It is easier to ignore the abuse of immigrants even if that issue is not your core issue.  Some will come to realize they have been bought so that others (including some they care about) can suffer.

Sincerity is a key component to acceptance.   Trump does many things to undercut his sincerity.  His infidelities should shock more people.  His coverups are also an indication of his deception.

What he really thinks of his base which is not as amusing as his usual insults.   He loves the poorly educated.  He knows better than the Generals.  He is undermining health care.  He is doing away with protections to favor big business. 

It is true that the Democrat policies (pretty much any of the candidates) are superior in my opinion than what Trump is actually doing.  They also are tainted with wealthy money trying to influence the country, but their policies are directed at actually helping the majority.  They should argue for their policies and offer contrasts.  That may not do it.  Much as I admire Michelle Obama, especially when she said "when they go low we go high" it is time to draw the contrasts in more than just style.