Tuesday, March 31, 2020


We live in an economy that works on a"just in time" supply system that cuts down on storage and finance costs.   Compound that when government budgets influenced by the need to cut taxes encounters the unexpected we have a problem.

The "unexpected" most recently demonstrated on a global scale is the Covid-19 pandemic.  Actually it is only the details that were unexpected.  Intelligent planners always realize the unexpected should be expected.  Many budgets provide for emergency funds that could be used for a wide range of (unexpected) problems.  Some organizations even have roles for "experts" to determine future problems.

We live in a world that is increasingly poisoning itself.  We all love the benefits of immediate gratification and seldom dwell on the costs.  One example might be the pleasure of driving a car partly for the joy itself and partly to reach a destination much quicker than our distant ancestors could conceive.  For that to happen many resources of the world had to be extracted such as metals, rubber, and oil while they were reconfigured to perform as a car.  These resources are finite, although some can be recycled.  In the various processes waste and even poisons are generated.  Almost every aspect of what we consider civilization has a connection to using the earth's resources.  Even the joys inside one's minds are a luxury provided by a surplus of resources to survive.

The earth that literally took billions of years to form must have seemed to the first humans to be infinite and we realize they actually had a narrow view of it.  The number one driver of the poisoning is population.  Growing populations generate complexities that in many ways enhance human enjoyment, but also use up finite resources faster.  Taking the earth for granted has been the default attitude of most of us, but like the backyard garden it needs careful minding to optimize results.

The benefits of globalization are also taken for granted.  We love learning about new ways to enjoy life and many of those ways come from previously unknown or inaccessible parts of the world.  We are inter connected in obvious and hidden ways and much of that strengthens us, but much is not understood.

Years ago I heard of concerns of spreading diseases among rubber plants that were concentrated in two distant locations--Brazil and Malaysia.  For awhile it wasn't too much of a concern as they were so far apart and there were few if any quick connections.  But with jet flight the danger increased that disease in one location could rapidly decimate plants at the other location and lessen the world's supply of rubber.  I am not really sure if this has been satisfactorily resolved, but realize such dangers are more possible than ever.

What seems to be common knowledge is that the current Covid-19 pandemic started in Hubei province of China.   It is very possible that it had something to do with animal to human contact.  Viruses are everywhere and usually survive under our radar, perhaps striking down individuals and small groups of individuals.  But we have known for centuries that viruses and their cousins, bacteria under the right circumstances can spread to larger and larger groups.  To-day we have intricate global communications that are quicker than ever.

There are scientists and medical authorities that have been given authority and resources to anticipate possible "problems."  It is always prudent to anticipate the unexpected because it really is not unexpected.  Governments have been formed to better organize our human affairs to optimize our resources better than competing individuals.  Even competitors have common interests that are at best only partially recognized by most of them; transportation, communication, conflict resolution systems, environmental factors, etc.

Governments are sources of power which means they are easily corrupted and misdirected.  In order to achieve power promises are made, but often one sided such as we will lower your taxes (and maintain your services).  Efficiencies should always be strived for, but everything has a cost that must be paid or there will be consequences.

Many governments find themselves in a trap.  They are expected to provide services, but not to burden the workers (and others) too much.  All too often wealthy individuals resent paying for services for those less fortunate and those seeking power need to balance between satisfying enough people and obtaining the necessary revenues from both the masses and the wealthy.  This also applies to dictatorships who can be overturned if enough people organize against them.

Hindsight allows us ordinary mortals (who sometimes vote) to appreciate that the world was not as prepared  as we needed it to be and it is likely the future will not be what virtually any of us anticipated even a few weeks ago.  Work, retailing, entertainment are only a few endeavors that will require major adjustments.

In the very near future (already happening) life and death choices will have to be made.  Medical resources (trained personnel, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, facilities) cannot be instantly expanded to cope with the stress caused by the pandemics.  Uncertainty is frightening.

While we have this new stress we still have to cope with established stresses including many medical conditions, paying off debts that have been building and countless problems demanding attention.

Who gets access to limited medical resources?  The general wisdom of the day says the young and the healthy are most likely to survive and contribute to the benefit of (wo)mankind.  Those who have money or power or even just the support of loved ones are going to have an edge.  Individual medical personnel and a few others will be caught in the middle of the dilemma, unable to satisfy everyone.  Even deciding what to load on a truck and in which direction to send it will mean life or death for someone.

My position is that when resources are limited and decisions have to be made immediately the future of mankind should be the main criteria.  This doesn't mean that the old and the unhealthy should be discarded after all we all want to reach old age and any of us could find ourselves with compromised health.  Triage can be brutal, but also can be the most optimal.  Human value is very difficult to measure.

There is no easy solution, but my point is not just to forgive and understand those forced to make these immediate life and death decisions, but to take our long term responsibilities more seriously.  Taking care of ourselves means we will be able to contribute to the well being of others.  Voting for the right candidate or party requires more than just a reflexive decision, but requires serious thinking.  Everything we want costs something and deciding what is fair and desirable has to be integrated with how it will be paid for.  I believe every individual can contribute, but many are not given a reasonable opportunity.  Some are shoved aside or forgotten so those in better positions can boost themselves (and that is not just the very wealthy).

Irresponsible decisions have helped us to arrive at this point, not just by the wealthy and powerful, but those who enabled the short sighted to gain power.  Meaning those who could vote, but didn't and those who voted with little real effort or thought.  If we make the right long term decisions we will not be forced to make as many brutal life and death decisions.

An interesting link about how global crises can be used to  invade our privacy.  https://www.facebook.com/aljazeera/videos/892779157842277/UzpfSTEwMDAwMjk4Mjc2OTIzMzoyNjczNDE2OTYyNzY3NzAz/

Monday, March 23, 2020

They Know Everything About You

The internet allows people to be better connected, informed, expressive, but it also allows others to exploit us. But part of that is because we let them.   The book was published in 2015 so in this world that has advanced technologically it is out of date.  However as I prepare to write this there are reports that the current  coronavirus pandemic is providing an excuse to suspend some constitutional rights.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. constitution protects privacy as expressed against unreasonable searches whether in the home or wiretapping. Most nations provide protection against invasions against privacy requiring special permission to investigate criminal behavior.  In short an individual's freedom can be measured against the intrusion of society into our most inner reality.

Power is an addicting thing.  Some enjoy the benefits (money, sex, deference).  Others crave it to accomplish goals.  I was distressed to learn that Barrack Obama was among those who wanted to prolong the government's ability to check on personal information with the idea that it was necessary to protect national security.  I can only speculate that he weighed the pros and cons and felt national security needed support.

As we were all a bit knowledgeable about how the inter net put power into corporations back in 2015,
the awareness of today is we know a lot of the gathered information is used to steer us to buy some products and services and even to manipulate our votes. Because of the convenience of the inter-net which was incomprehensible to me only a few decades ago we too, after casually weighing the pros and cons opt to keeping our Facebook and Twitter accounts, to use credit and debit cards to make purchases, to use Google to gain information of interest, etc. etc. In short we have sold some of our privacy for convenience.

I remember seeing a movie about Edward Snowden and one point I remember is that our keystrokes can be known.  Some powerful people, including Obama denied Snowden the claim of being a whistle blower and have made him  a fugitive.   He did us all a favor by at least making us aware of somethings going on that affect us all.

The author explains that because we have accepted the bargain with the inter--net they are now able to gather more information and analyze it for the benefit of corporations that use it to increase their profits.  There is concern about our rights to privacy, but efforts have been made to protect personal information and there is a constant.  The governments have gained access to a lot of personal information, but are supposed to have special judicial permission to pursue.  When there is an emergency the government is able to gain easier access to information.

There have been immense changes in society since the Constitution was written, but the basic principles are still a concern.  Chief Justice John Roberts argued that mobile devices contained privacies of life and needed to be protected from warrantless searches without probable cause.

Apparently not too long ago Canadians could be denied entry to the United States if anti-American sentiments could be found on their Facebook accounts.

The government reserves the right to classify information in the interests of national security, however selective leaks are too often made while information of public interest can be blocked as was illustrated with the Mueller Report that hid a lot of embarrassing information.

Personally I am normally open about my knowledge and opinions, but am more conscious that no matter your opinion there is somebody in the world who can use it against you and in some cases would wish you harm.

The author contends that we need to more careful of what allow the government to learn about us.  Privacy is something that benefits everyone with peace of mind.  Yes there are abuses, but there are legal remedies.   The author suggests that they rely to much on personal information and  not necessarily on information conducive to understanding.  An example is ISIS which grew as extension of the Iraq invasion and a failure to understand religious beliefs in the Middle East.

The battle will be ongoing.  I would like to end with a quote from the author;  "We know...that unchallenged authority will not only violate human rights, but also will unfortunately sow the seeds of its own ruin, increasingly blind to its own limitations and flaws."

Monday, March 16, 2020

Coronavirus lessons: how one makes money

The Coronavirus pandemic is already disrupting our lives and seems likely to hurt in more unforeseen ways.  Will we learn anything?  There will be many things to learn such as how much we contribute to global warming or other ways to amuse ourselves besides the established entertainment platforms.

Many years ago I used to train newspaper carriers.  Many of them wanted to make a little extra money either for some immediate desire or for a long term savings project.  To me the core value they needed to learn was how one actually makes money.  We are now at a point where this will be of greater concern to more people as many jobs are going to disappear or be stressed as more people stay home.

A question is the best way to start a lesson.  A good one might be "How do you think you make money?"  The most common answer is to work hard.  Another is to work smart.  Another is to develop a skill or talent.  And of course another way might be luck.  Although they all can be helpful, none are the real answer.

My answer is that you have to find someone or someones who have money and want or need what you offer more than keeping the money or spending it somewhere else.  Of course society has organized our desires into patterns that we in some cases take for granted and sometimes make an effort to discover.

One of my favorite examples is a famous well paid athlete, at the time Wayne Gretzsky was a good one.  You could argue athletes work hard and smart, develop a skill, maybe have a little luck.  Individuals are always looking for ways to amuse themselves and often spend spare cash for entertainment.  Sports have an attraction and when focused on winning give motivation to those who crave being on top.  If they have money someone could organize a team to compete against other teams and to promote an audience to watch.  To attract money they need to identify players that can help the team.  How many and how much depends on resources that an individual might have or more likely today can stream from many sources such as television or inter-net audience.  If the numbers are right large numbers of athletes can make a living, some of them spectacularly.  From this, other supporting jobs can be generated.  It takes more than a wealthy individual as a paying audience is required provides the necessary leverage.  This all assumes there is money left over after the bare necessities are taken care of.

A curve thrown at me by a carrier's mother was to pay to help a severely physically disabled person.  The truth is still that someone has to convince some one else that it is worth while to help this person.  Unfortunately not everyone is successful in that effort.  But others have appealed to our conscience or fear that we might need help in the future.  Too often politicians heeding wants of taxpayers resist efforts to help those who cannot contribute to their well-being, but on the other hand they are anxious to cater to what voters are most concerned about.

What about "regular" jobs?  All jobs result from somebody willing to buy whatever product or service is available.  If for any reason less money is available there is less ability to buy anything.  This could happen as people are taken off work and also if people are not able to get out to buy.

We live in a consumer society that depends on economic growth to  provide jobs.  With the Covid 19 pandemic (panic) people are not spending money the way they used to which means they will not be providing money making opportunities the way they used to.  There probably will be new opportunities related to health and for the many adjustments of ordinary people.  Delivering food is one example that may have long range effects to avoid large crowds.  If money does not circulate with most people using money to meet their wants and needs then jobs will likely diminish.

The economy really spins around what masses of people do.  If they do not spend money, all jobs are precarious.  If they decide their (economic) priorities change, job opportunities will shift.  As a collective entity it is more important to encourage the people very much including those with limited resources to spend.  For that to happen they have to feel secure.  Unless large companies are willing to spend money to employ people there will not be economic activity that benefits us all.  Yes, this is a time when what the government decides to do can save the day or end up creating a jungle.

If you aren't willing to spend money then no one will benefit and no jobs will be created.  Jobs require many people spending a little or some spending a lot.  One night class instructor pointed out that everything starts with sales.


Thursday, March 12, 2020


Peranbu was declared the top rated 2019 movie from India by IMDB, a Tamil movie beating out some very good Bollywood movies.  I was expecting some sort of action oriented movie or maybe a romance, but "Peranbu" is quite different.  The focus is on a spastic young girl and her father whose wife had left him.  To those used to watching glamorous actors there is an adjustment required.

The story is framed as a memoir written by the father and is split into 12 chapters.  Each chapter is titled as an aspect of nature for example ruthless, lawless, compassionate.  The father, Amudhavan  and his daughter, Paappa go through a series of mostly negative experiences, some of which seem to promise a breakthrough, but almost always ending in disappointment that the audience will feel.  The daughter Paappa is severely misshapen with her mouth open to one side and her tongue hanging out.  Her hands and her feet are bent at awkward angles.  She walks painfully and clumsily.

The father admitted that he had abandoned his daughter and taken a job in Dubai for 10 years.  His wife and daughter lived with his mother, brother and sister-in law all of whom rejected Paappa in one way or another.  We learn his wife left with another man and felt it was Amudhavan's turn to take care of the daughter.  We first encounter Paappa screaming and disrupting the household.  The first move is to a rural area and the most encouraging aspect is that Paappa perks up with a horse and with a wild bird.   Later they move back to Chennai, a very big city in southern India so she can relate more with other people.

Paappa at 14 is old enough for puberty and sexual awakening is developing .  Applying sanitary pads, masturbation and fingering are mentioned, but not shown.  Amudhavan is steered towards counseling, but finds himself restricted by the need for a job.  His daughter spends some time in an institution with other spastics and he sleeps in his car nearby.  A father of one of the spastic residents was aware of his son being beaten, but felt it was better than the abuse he attracted at home in the neighborhood.

One night he hears a woman being attacked and helps beat off the offender.  It turns out to be a prostitute, Meera who is also a transgender.  He becomes a protector and they develop a sort of relationship with ups and downs.

The viewer is always hopeful, but very often disappointed with other people who reject Paappa or try to take advantage of her.  We know even at the end that her physical problems will never end.  Without spoiling too much, at the end one is left with a good feeling with the main characters happier.

Ram, known by his mononym directed and wrote the script.  He has written and directed three other films, "Kattradhu Thamizh" (2007) ) and "Taramani" (2017) that both included Anjali in important roles and "Thanga Meengal" (2013) that had him playing the lead role with Sadhana as his daughter

Amundhavan Karuppia was a co-director who played a small role as well.  Anjana Krishnakumar was also listed as a co-director and had been a second unit director for "Taramani" and "Thana Meengal"  as well as writing some Malayalam dialogue.

The acting, not only of the four following, but of all the supporters is above average and adds to the reality.

Mammootty played Amudhavan as a loving, mature father.  He is best known for Malayalam films and 3 times won a national award for best actor and has over 400 acting credits.  He had trained and practiced as a lawyer and his demeanor is reflected in his acting.
Sandhana lives in Dubai where her mother operates a dance school.  She played Paappa and went to extraordinary contortions that make one cringe a bit, but before long everyone roots for her.  In reality dance is one of her favorite activities and ambitions.  She had played in "Thanga Meena" and won an award as best child actor.

Anjali (still another mononym not to be confused with Anjali Ameer below) played a supporting role as duplicitous housekeeper that made you at first like her, then hate her and then perhaps feel sorry for her.  She has mostly played in Tamil and Telegu roles with a few in Kannada.  She has been a prolific award winner.

Anjali Ameer plays a transgender prostitute.  She is a Malayal.  She is in reality transgender and will soon be appearing in a film about her life in which she will play both the male and female roles which will also include Mammootty. 

Music was provided by Yuvan Shankar Raja who has 150 credits for film composing and has also been a playback singer.  There are about 4 unobtrusive songs and some very unique and enjoyable background music.  I had bought one of his songs from "Taramani" and it is one of my favorites.

The cinematography is handled by Theni Eswar. who had also done "Taramani."  My favorite sections were in the rural scenes which were beautifully shot. 

The movie was very moving and I fear I have not done it justice.  Do not watch expecting something light and frothy, but expect to be emotionally involved.  Available on Prime.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Politics in the age of Coronavirus

Trump dominates everyTHING.  More people are disillusioned by Trump on a daily basis, but there is a stubborn rump supported by misleading media that projects a possible Trump repeat in 2020.

A big part of Trump's triumphant self proclamations is the stock market and job reports.  Both can be misleading.  The stock market reflects wealthy people who became more wealthy as a result of disproportionate tax cuts.  It has limited impact on most workers.  The job reports reflect the ongoing projection from the Obama administration--Trump has not had to deal with a major crisis on the scale that confronted Obama.  The tax cuts are already increasing the deficit that will affect everyone.  Most likely they will result in service cuts that will hurt almost everyone.

Trump has offended large parts of America and increasingly many are waking up to his poor decisions that range around the globe.  Women are victims of this extreme anti-Trump attitude in part because the desire to rid the country of Trump is so intense that fear forces many voters to retreat to what they feel is the most risk free strategy.  In short female presidential candidates are considered too risky.   It could be argued (such as myself) that the women candidates were more competent than their male counterparts.  I am thinking of Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar.

Coronavirus changes some details.  First the response to the crisis is a test which so far Trump's team is not performing very well.  Secondly the stock market is behaving normally in response to fear.   Fear generates emotions stronger than greed.  It was said that American workers were fearful of job security, but now feel a pandemic is not only more threatening to life, but also compounding problems already established.

Trump himself has been very transparent in his concern for political consequences as being a higher priority than dealing with the medical threat.  He had already trimmed budgets that were critical to dealing with pandemics.  He has been told to let medical people make the big decisions and to let politicians be in the supportive background, but he has great trouble in keeping his mouth shut.

We were already anticipating dirty tricks, but now that attacks have begun with a new target. It now appears Joe Biden may be Trump's opponent and Republicans are bringing back bogus facts regarding Biden and his son Hunter Biden.  Unfortunately on the surface it can look bad, but based on what we know Trump's involvement is definitely misleading and unethical.   Joe Biden is castigated for bragging about firing a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor that most people thought deserved it.  His son's hiring by a Ukrainian company is painted as nepotism, which it may well have been, but no illegal actions have been uncovered.  One can be sure rather than presenting their case for re-election the Republicans will dish out negative information (much of it false) about Biden, whoever the Vice President candidate is.

Bernie Sanders, should he overcome Biden's apparent advantage would also be sure of unfair criticism.  Labeling himself a Democratic Socialist assures he will be compared to Venezuela.  He has said some positive things about Cuba that will also be highlighted.  He is more favorable to the Palestinian cause and that will be used against him (although I think he is the only sane candidate on this issue).

It is hopeful that more legal issues are becoming public that should help Trump supporters to turn against him.  The Mueller Report had been dismissed, but a judge is demanding a full version become accessible.  Many court cases are still in progress from the Mueller Report and people will realize that it was the opposite of a Witch Hunt and needs much more coverage.

To me Trump is a huge disaster that must be cut off from further damage, but realize there is a lot of real power supporting him.  Thank you for letting me vent.

Thursday, March 5, 2020


Struck by a comment that Alan J. Pakula was not a self promoter like many other Hollywood film people and preferred to concentrate on actually making high quality films.  A producer who directs and writes.

Born in 1928 to immigrant Jewish parents he had been expected to take over his father's printing business, but after graduating from Yale as drama major, Alan was more interested in theatre and persuaded his father to underwrite a movie.   He became an assistant in the cartoon department for Warner Brothers.

"Fear Strikes Out" (1957) was his first producer role and  formed a professional relationship with Robert Mulligan as director.  This movie was about Jimmy Piersall's battle with mental illness on his way to baseball stardom.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" (1962) again directed by Robert Mulligan who is listed as uncredited producer (with two others in addition to Pakula as the listed producer.  This film won 3 Oscars and both Mulligan as director and Pakula as producer were nominated.

The next two films "Love and the Proper Stranger" (1963) and"Baby The Rain Must Fall" 1965) both directed by Robert Mulligan and starred Steve McQueen who wanted to get into more serious acting roles.  "Inside Daisy Clover" (1965), "Up the Down Staircase," (1967 "Stalking Moon"1968) with Robert Mulligan directing.

"The Sterile Cuckoo" (1969) marked Alan's 1st director role.  It also marked the film debut of Liza Minelli who also received an Oscar nomination.  He also produced it.

With "Klute," (1971) as producer and director he helped Jane Fonda (who was reluctant to take the role) to win an Oscar.  This is the film that inspired me to do this blog.  "The Parallax View (1974), produced and directed a political thriller starring Warren Beatty. "All the President's Men" (1976) starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.  Alan was as director only, but received an Oscar nomination.

With "Sophie's Choice" (1982) as producer and director, but expanded to writing good enough to receive another Oscar nomination.   Starred Meryl Steep in one of her most memorable roles for which she won an Oscar. With "Presumed Innocent" (1990) was director/writer only based on a Scott Turlow novel of a courtroom drama.  A few years later wrote, produced and directed "The Pelican Brief" (1993) another political thriller from a John Grisham novel.  It showed an early Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington.  Excellent use of building suspense.  His last film as director only was "The Devil's Own" (1998) with Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford.

He married twice, first to Hope Lange who divorced and two years later married Hannah Cohn.  He had no children, but helped raise step children.

He died in a flukey accident in 1998.   Driving on expressway a pipe went through his car window after another car caused pipe to move.

For a fuller blog on what producers contribute to films check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/08/movie-producers-what-do-they-do.html

As usual I have bolded movies I have actually seen and which helped me gain a better appreciation.