Saturday, June 20, 2020


You may think you are not prejudiced and that you do not discriminate, but you are deluded.  Of course you are and you do.  You needn't feel ashamed as everyone else is in the same boat.  While I will argue prejudice is a survival mechanism, it and discrimination are also severe handicaps on human survival.

All humans are not the same and it doesn't take us long to start noticing the differences.  Perhaps the first noted distinction is size.  Parents and other adults are big and we are dependent on them.  Gradually we learn which ones we can count on to help us.  Most of us are carefully protected, but gradually we are allowed some independence as we learn to eat on our own, walk and assert our desires.  Our pre historic ancestors could only survive if they could fight or flee in an instant.  The word discriminate should be qualified in some cases when it refers predominantly to racial, religious or some other narrow criteria.  We still need to discriminate regarding honesty, reliability, maturity, friend/enemy or we can easily get into a series of poor decisions that will limit our future options.

At the University of Guelph, one of my courses was titled "Prejudice and Discrimination" and was very well taught.  The professor made the point that we absorb a pride in whatever group we identify with, but that naturally also comes with the feeling that we are somehow better than other groups.  We were assigned a major essay on what we were prejudiced about.  Although I lived at various times with my two grandmothers I chose old people.  At the time a popular tv show, "Laugh In" had a regular sketch about a dirty old man while at the other extreme wealthy elderly men were always stealing attractive young women.  Women were tagged as old hags.  Now that I am in the category I directly know that there is age discrimination and also that I, like everyone else have a first impression of every new face that effects my decisions.  Race is only one category and other categories that we judge include age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, handicapped, dress, etc. etc. etc.  In today's society people decide to blend in or in at least some way stand out and either way someone will inwardly pre judge you.

In addition to fear or disgust with the "other" we all feel a pressure to conform.  Conforming is just a short cut decision to avoid examining any person or issue more closely and maintaining the comfortable status quo.

We learn to identify differences in appearance, then in behavior, then with beliefs.  Beliefs include not only religion and politics, but also sports teams and musical bands.  Do you still think you are without prejudice and don't discriminate?  Trust is very important and obviously those similar in appearance, behavior and beliefs are easier to trust. 

As an adult finding myself in a career where I needed to understand horse owners in order to sell ads I stumbled on a book about breeding horses for color.  Fascinating and attractive, the author pointed out that it was more important to breed for behavior and performance, but many owners gravitated to horses that were attractive.  Many of us respond to color and appearance with our pets.  One of my favorite cats is black and white and it was pointed out to us that many would consider him black and avoid him for all the witch connotations.

Some "whites" joke that all Chinese look alike.  One of my son's closest friends in the elementary grades showed up very unexpectedly in another city in an adult setting and perhaps because he had spent a lot of time at our house I recognized and talked to him, but I took sort of a perverse pride in my ability.  I am not so good at picking out some Asians I know from a crowd, depending on my familiarity.  Among Europeans we notice slight changes in skin tones, hair color, hair styles.  As we become more familiar with our non European friends and acquaintances we learn to appreciate their unique qualities.

Everyone holds some ideas as integral to who they are.  "The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt made me realize prejudice still steers my thinking.   A current prejudice I hold is that anyone who supports Donald Trump must be stupid and/or prejudiced.  Or maybe with some vested interest.  I am aware that some people feel "stupidity" is a charitable term used to avoid saying they are evil, a term that perhaps we hold in more contempt.

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

Abraham Lincoln once said "I don't like that man, I must get to know him better."  First impressions are not always accurate.

National unity or group unity has always been important, but it is time to wake up to the fact that diversity is critical to finding and accepting solutions to the civilization threatening global problems such as nuclear proliferation, climate change, pandemics, pollution and sex and drug trafficking,

Embrace the differences  We are all unique individuals with a blend of factors that include body type, style, age, sex, awareness and background, temperament and oh yes, race.  Humans regarding new things tend to fall into three categories, those of us who are attracted to new things, those of us who are repelled by new things and the majority who are open to new things, but wait until someone else expresses an interest.  Most of us have different dispensations depending on the issue.  You can't do much about your natural inclination, but you should make a conscious effort to be more open.  Read more:  Enrich your life.

photo by Marshall Davidson

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Memory Rescue--

One of my primary reasons for blogging is to remember.  Getting on in years my memory is not as reliable as it once was.  Dr Daniel Amen applies his psychiatric experience with his knowledge of brain scans to offer a comprehensive study of the many different factors that affect memory and what can be done to optimize it.  He had been involved with studies of concussion on NFL players.  Memory is what we are.  If you can't remember, you are lessened.

The brain is key and there are so many factors that effect it.  Dr. Amen maintains it is important to identify which elements are having an impact before a course of action can be determined.  He suggests many tests, but also you need to seek professional advice.

The book contains a lot of anatomy and physiology to help you understand better and trust the advice.  I was most interested in the advice.  Each identified factor has many different modes of attack.  Exercise is always recommended, but also food, medicines and therapies. 

There are more than one type of dementia, some of which are reversible.  Misdiagnosis can confuse the best way forward.  

Blood flow is one underlying theme. General fitness affects blood flow, but so do things are obesity, diabetes, head trauma and diseases. 

Harmful things include chemical added to livestock, sugar, alcohol, marijuana, etc.  He is careful to suggest you should avoid or at least limit harmful things.  On the other hand there are many tasty suggestions that not only help your brain health, but your enjoyment of life as well.

Your brain benefits from being used.  GPS can give you a false sense of memory security.  We live in a society that favors "user friendly" meaning a lot of thinking is done for you.  But exercising the brain is as important as exercising your body. Games, from board games to  online force your brain to exercise.  Learning languages, musical instruments and even dancing add to your brain's health.  One suggestion is to use your non dominant hand to do things.  Along the same line I have found that eating with chopsticks not only adds to my skill, but also slows me down.

Erectile dysfunction is not only a problem for sexual activity, but indicates a blood flow problem that is bad for your brain. and your heart.  This comes from references to the concept that what is good for your heart is good for your brain and vice versa.  He also added that was good for your heart or brain is also good for your sex life and vice versa.

Memory can be very fragile and for any that are concerned (that really should include everyone)  there is much of value in Memory Rescue.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The N.R.I. dilemma

For those not familiar with N.R.I. it refers to a  Non Resident Indian, a fairly common role in Bollywood and Indian movies.  In fact they are popular, partly because the film financers want to reach foreign audiences, but also because they represent reality.

There is such a thing as brain drain where much of the world benefits at the expense of India.  I have personally been enriched by the brain drain from India (and Pakistan) quite literally, but also figuratively --more on that at the bottom.

A Telegu film "Pressure Cooker" (2020) reminded me of changing attitudes on  the N.R.I.  The movie was just ok, but the theme and plot opened my mind.  In this film the parents of the hero thought the ultimate goal for their son was for him to settle in the U.S.  They had relatives and neighbors who had seen their sons succeed in America.  The hero after graduating from university tried several times to get a VISA unsuccessfully, but felt pressured to start his career in America.  Desperate he tried some illegal methods, but got caught.  He became attracted to a woman whose mother wanted her to marry an N.R.I. and go to the States, but she had always resisted.

As the plot develops our hero develops a relationship with an older neighbor who has two sons that have settled in the U.S. and feels great pride in them.  Later we see the two brothers with their wives visit their father and without meaning offense demonstrated a clash of parental cultures.  After they returned to their American homes,  the father became very ill and it became an awkward situation as the two sons felt work obligations and their wives feeling the effort was not worth it.  The father died and his wife grieved contacting her sons for support, but they were rationalizing they couldn't get there in time, but would try later on.  In Hindu culture the oldest son is obligated to light the fire for his father's cremation.  Instead the hero lit the flames.

Not able to get a job with any large technology companies in India he ended up with a startup and developed some significant technological advance with medical applications.  This gave him an easy shot at going to the States with minimal fuss.  His girl friend to whom he had recently professed his love would not go as she felt obligated to stay for her parents.  The hero was torn, but felt obligated to his father and was set to go.  At the last minute (of course) the widow of the dead neighbor brought a letter from her husband written on his death bed.  Our hero read the letter to his family in which the neighbor confessed he had changed his mind about sending his sons to the States and felt our hero should stay because  of his parents.  A happy ending and he reconciles with his girl friend.

A better movie in many ways was "Swades" (2004)  They had a much bigger star, my favorite Shah Rukh Khan who already was in America.  He was a well respected and successful space engineer, but felt he missed his child hood nanny.  He decided to go back to India with the idea of bringing her back to America.  Naturally there were lots of difficulties including a romance.  While there the hero was constantly being asked to help local people how to get their VISA and he offered encouragement.  As in the other film the romance became very significant in his thinking.  She admitted she loved him, but would not go to the States.  As a teacher she felt her purpose in life was to raise the education of her neighborhood youth and persisted through many obstacles which our hero helped a little.  A crunch came when the village suffered a series of blackouts.  Our hero was able to overcome this problem with his engineering skill.

He was in demand in the States and had felt he could serve India from that spot.  He had contributed to a satellite that would help water resources in India.  Now he could appreciate that his skills would be critical in India.  In the end he opted to stay in India with his nanny and his love.

Although considered an artistic success it was not a big financial hit.  More on Shah Rukh Khan:

Times are changing.  Asians were attracted to Europe and North America for education and many of them used to find jobs in the host country.  That is changing.  Not only are Asians finding quality education alternatives in Asia, but also the rest of the world is starting to enroll in Asian education institutions.  Another key trend is that Asian graduates are more inclined to go back home where they can make a difference.   As I was writing this post I was watching Fareed Zakaria who was interviewing the author Parag Khanna of "The Future is Asia" who added that partly because of Donald Trump -some Asians are switching from America to Australia and Canada.  Learn more about Parag's book:

Indians are contributing all around the globe and wherever they are will provide lots of stories for films.

For a few years of my work life I worked as a newspaper district circulation manager which meant I was required to sell.  In practice this meant recruiting carriers to knock on doors and persuade home owners to subscribe to a newspaper.  It wasn't initially a strong point for me, but eventually I caught on with the help of another district manager.  What made me look good and win a trip to Florida were a few young boys from the Indian subcontinent--especially brothers Farhan and Aamir, Fernando and David.  On a sadder note as part of my job I ran a program for Carrier of The Week.  One boy I brought for a photo when asked what he wanted to do when he grew up answered, "I want to go back to India."  A few years later I learned from his parents that he died in the Air India bombing.  More on my circulation experiences:

Sunday, June 7, 2020


Recommended by Chris, a library advisor; one detail that got my attention was the author had previously written "A Man Called Ove."  Not read the book, but saw the original Swedish movie and did a blog on it.  I also got into a conversation with someone at work who was recommending the book.

No matter how dramatic an incident may be, it always comes with a context.   "Beartown illustrates the value of context.   It is human nature to simplify an explanation, but often the complexity is what we need to understand.  Fiction can sometimes point out the impact of seldom noticed factors.  In university I wrestled for awhile with the difference between psychology and sociology.  I fell under the spell of some excellent sociology professors and appreciated that every individual is impacted by social pressures.  At a later time I now appreciate that it is the individual's psychology (which is similar for all humans) that determines how we react and contribute to that social pressure.

Sports books tend to fit a pattern.  Usually hard work leads to an underdog winning.  Teamwork is important, even in individual sports that require coaches and trainers.  Sports are encouraging for people striving for success in any activity.  Sports, in fact acts as a metaphor for success.

The first part of the story seems fairly typical about a sports team culminating in an important victory.  There is a gradual buildup of characterization that expands in the aftermath of the victory.  Struck by how the author seems to understand typical communication problems between parents and their children and between the children, and among the adults.  Hurt feelings, jealousy, hidden feelings are below the surface.

Teamwork is usually lauded as a commendable thing, but another aspect is featured in this narrative.  To one character, the general manager the concept means he has to do something he doesn't want to do.  He is expected to force the man that brought him back to the town after an NHL career, to resign and not be fired (as that would cost money).  Young promising boys are promoted to older age groups when they are not ready, but for the sake of the team.  On the other hand the team provides a feeling of belonging.

A small town with a high interest in hockey, even seeing it as a tool to attract more business.  They disdain "almost winning."  The general manager is surprised to learn that if the junior team loses a semi-final the club will look for different senior coach.  The current likely candidate will have to win the junior title to be considered.

There are many characters that the author wants to develop so we can better appreciate there are multiple dynamics at play.  It may seem there are two sides to a conflict, i.e. those against and those for.  There are some who harbor guilt feelings and others unsure of the truth.

The town is slowly revealed in a wide variety of aspect.  One group known as the Pack does not want modernization as they would not fit in.  Team sponsors hope to get a hockey school which could lead to a shopping mall.  For some it gives pride to a town with little else.

The author sees connections between politics and sport.  As some deny any connection one character (the wife of the hockey general manager and main character) says "What do you think gets rinks built if not politics?

The focal event of the book is a sexual assault by the most promising hockey player against the daughter of the general manager.  There are a lot of people who are bystanders and much larger group of people who feel the impact.  At these times as the author points out people naturally divide others into friends and enemies.  Hate is simpler than love and we tend to seek facts that confirm our belief.  It is natural to dehumanize the enemy.  It takes courage to stand up to it.

Violence in the course of a hockey game is accepted, but when it goes outside the rink is subject to legal address.  That is becoming a little fuzzier.

Part of the context is the future, but that is really a guess.  The author speculates a bit in a somewhat poetic manner.  This has been my most compelling read so far this year.

Monday, June 1, 2020

What Sub titles offer you.

I am over two score and ten in years, meaning my eyesight and attention span are not as good as they once were.  Subtitles are a challenge to your physical and mental capacities and besides the challenge, they do offer other benefits.

One of the best reasons to watch subtitled movies is that they can be entertaining.  It is a competitive world and to get your attention takes a lot of creative effort.  Hollywood recognizes talent wherever it is available and bought much of it globally.  Writers, directors, actors, cinematographers, composers, set designers, etc. etc.  Perhaps the bottom line might be sex appeal which is found on all habitable continents.

Genius and intelligence are spaced globally.  Much film innovation come from foreign countries and is adopted by Hollywood. Often foreign countries develop unique plots that Hollywood gobbles up.

The world is a big place.  You are urged to spread your retirement investments around to protect your limited resources.  The world in fact has intruded often very subtlety into your mind.  Almost everything you know came from somewhere else with much of it so long ago you are totally unconscious of it.  One Facebook post recalled was about some right wing parents upset that their children would be learning Arabic numbers not realizing that is what most of the world relies on.  Others love Mexican or Chinese food despite their antipathy to their foreign origins.

Mark Twain once said "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness."  Travel with personal contact is better, but it takes both time and money whereas you can travel the world much quicker and cheaper on film.

When you watch a subtitled film you will first notice differences.  Some of the differences may eventually (or even sooner) strike you as worthy of thought, although some will seem weird or even disgusting.  A second thing you will notice if you spend enough time is the similarities.  We think we are unique (and we are) and in fact are at the centre of the world (and we are in a sense), but in fact everyone faces the same problems--to survive, to maintain self worth and to find love.  There are obstacles everywhere, one of which is ignorance.

One of the early film pioneers, Herman G Weinberg got involved with foreign films brought to the United States by re arranging German symphony music for string quartets.  When  talking pictures became more common, many foreign films became inaccessible.  In a bit of a learning process Herman subtitled over 300 movies.  With a subtitled German film the non Germans were upset that they were not understanding a joke as the German speakers were all laughing.

Talking pictures minimized need for subtitles, except foreign films would be identified as foreign and the main way to overcome language differences was with dubbing which was very expensive and time consuming.  One advantage of dubbing is it requires less effort from the viewer, but you will experience a slight cognitive dissonance. The voice may not match the body you see.   Each language has a cadence that affects how we move our lips and put words together, so it doesn't sound quite right.

After World War II European nations became concerned about American culture overwhelming their own so they encouraged the film industry to tell their story.  So there has always been a bit of a culture war with English being dominant.  But we all are enriched and more understanding when we are aware of different cultural perspectives.

Below are some subtitled movies that opened my mind a little.  Enjoyable and satisfying

"A Separation" (2011) won best foreign film Oscar.with Roger Ebert declaring it was the best picture, period.  Asghar Farhadi, the director/writer recounted his reception when flown back home after receiving his Oscar.  The Iranian government attempted to restrict the crowd, but the population gathered in huge numbers along the route.

The central problem was understandable as the parents were split over their concerns for their daughter needing a better education (out of country) and of the husband's father with dementia.  Tension is boosted with some well executed twists.  The lead actor, Payman Maadi later appeared in an American film as an intelligent Arab terrorist prisoner.  Asghar is in demand and has been involved with films in European countries. and won another Oscar.

Censorship is a concern in countries like Iran and another film maker who has defied censorship efforts is Jafar Panihi has done films while under house arrest.

"Leviathan" (2014) showed a different part of Russia than we are used to.  It  was set in  the Arctic and involved a familiar theme, political corruption, but at the municipal level.  American composer Philip Glass wrote the background score.  The director/ writer, Andrey Zvyagintsev has done a number of provocative films involving social issues.  This film was nominated for Oscar best foreign film.

Read more on Russian films including their contribution to film editing

"After the Wedding" (2006) from Denmark and one of my top favorite films of all time.  It was nominated Oscar best foreign film.  An interesting twist makes this film memorable, but also deals with global social issues.  The director/writer, Susanne Bier has been involved with American films.  The lead actor, Mads Mikkelsen has gone onto films in other European countries and  America as well as lead for popular American television series.

Read more about Mads Mikkelsen:

Germany has a long film history with many actors, writers, directors migrating to the United States and Britain.  Of course in the 20th century they instigated World II and the Holocaust which have been major themes in films.  What does Germany have to say about their past crimes?  They have many films explaining  (not praising) their involvement in both the war and Holocaust.  They have actually gotten involved with supporting the Israeli film industry.

Director/writer/producer Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck has done a number of historical films including winning Oscar best foreign film with "The Lives of Others" (2006) on the East Germany subjugation.  More recently "Never Look Away" (2018) covering the Nazi era and the liberation of East Germany from the viewpoint of an artist.  It depicts the racist attitude of some people in power positions and afterwards artistic commemoration of the horrors.

One of the actors, Sebastian Koch has appealed in English speaking tv series like "Homeland" (2015-16) and "The Name of the Rose" (2019) and films like "Bridge of Spies" (2015).

"Glove" (2011),  shows a love of baseball shared with North Americans.  Koreans have been making inroads into Major League Baseball.  Asians also have adopted it and love it.  They also have prima donna players including professionals.   Based on a true story there is a twist on typical sports movies and is very well done. 

Korea is a global hotspot, an upcoming economic power and a successful cultural invader.  Recently "Parasite" (2019) won 4 Oscars including best picture.  For more on Korean films:    I have found many Korean films and even tv mini series worth blogging about.

Paraguay is a small land-locked country in South America and not a big splash anywhere.  Any films are likely to have small budgets and dependent on foreign experience.  "7 Boxes" (2012) is a very simple movie, but manages to use suspense and humour effectively.  A Spanish speaking country, also manages to convey awareness that Guarani is spoken by citizens.

Chile is a bigger Spanish speaking country with more film resources.  "A Fantastic Woman" (2017),  took on a controversial theme, namely that trans genders are humans deserving of dignity.  Originally director/writer Sebastian Lelio talked with transgender, Daniela Vega as a consultant, but decided she should play the lead, a role which turned out to be a very good choice.  This film went on to win an Oscar.  Sebastian directed Natalie Portman to an Oscar nomination in "Jackie'"(2016).  Another very interesting film from Chile was "No" (2012) about a constitutional referendum against dictator Pinochet. 

Spanish is the third most popular spoken language in the world and encompasses dozens of countries with their own unique stories.  Check out:

Americans might be familiar with the Richard Gere remake, "Shall We Dance" 2004) of the original Japanese film of 1996.   It used the same script by the Japanese writer Masayuki Suo.  Part of the strength was about the supposed shyness of Japanese people and how husbands sometimes hide their passions from their wives.  Shyness is not unique to Japan.  Competitive Ballroom dancing is the vehicle to tell the story.

Check out more on Japanese cinema including their contribution to filming copied globally

"Mothers of Mine " (2005) was a Finnish movie with a Swedish partner.  The theme really was the attachment of children to their mother.  A little bit of history unknown to many.  Finland was attacked by Russia during World War II and received German defenders.  Children were sent to neutral Sweden breaking up many families that were in most cases brought back together.  War distorts human relationships and none is more basic than that between mother and child.
I included this in a blog about sad movies.

Sexual consent has been an issue in North America for awhile, but still not quite settled.  India has a long history of male chauvinism, but this film would ring bells with North Americans.  It is one of the best I have seen on this subject anywhere.  The ending is very dramatic and appropriate.  Check

Most people feel a revulsion around severely handicapped people, but someone has to deal with them.  This film is about a man who had abandoned his child and later dragged back when his wife in her turn abandoned the child and their daughter was rejected by his family.  She was spastic and drooled, but the viewer will see her as human.  The movie also brings in a transgender who is able to put the family together.  This film in Tamil was the top rated film from India and not a Bollywood blockbuster.  This was my favorite movie of this year.

China is a major rising economy, but its films are perceived to be propaganda.  Actually the two main Chinese languages, Cantonese and Mandarin (as well as some others) are spread around many different countries with many different political systems.  China has produced a lot of unique martial art films that many westerners enjoy.  Also they have a number of creative film makers that sometimes are able to get around the censor.  On top of that they do deal with relationships in and out of political contexts that are worth studying.  "In Love We Trust" (2008) deals with the formerly one child rule.  This movie uses an unusual set of circumstances to illustrate some marital tensions.  It was my favorite movie a few years back.  To understand the tension check out:

It is true that Chinese censors can distort reality and you will have to be careful to avoid being sucked in.  Still it is important to understand what the Chinese people are watching and forming their opinions from.  They have an influence even on American films.  The film "Gravity" (2013) won 7 Oscar awards plus two nominations, but in the studio's desire to make money in the lucrative Chinese market they misled the public.  The dilemma in the movie was supposedly originated by Russians causing an explosion in outer space, but in reality China is the only nation to deliberately cause such an explosion.  The movie also had the Chinese eventually rescuing the American stranded astronaut played by Sandra Bullock.  In reality it is only the Russians that are set up to accomplish that.

Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore offer different perspectives that are often of high quality.  Ang Lee, well respected in America has done interesting movies in Taiwan.  United States and other countries have their own Chinese films not easily accessible to casual film goers.
Learn more at:

I am not claiming every foreign movie is superior to every English language movie.  NO, not by a long shot.  Many nations, especially those relatively poor cannot attract the necessary investment  and along with that have difficulty to develop their own experienced film crews.  Often those interested in a country with few opportunities will go to a foreign country for both training and experience.  With Hollywood and Europe grabbing promising prospects, poor countries lose talent before they can develop it.  Fortunately often the talented film people will go back home and foreign talent can be bought under the right circumstances..

Another problem in every country is that it often more profitable to cater to the "peanut gallery" meaning those seeking violence and/or, sex in its simplest forms.

Everyone wants to portray themselves as commendable and normally castigate their enemies and critics.  Look at your own culture and  seek alternative perspectives.  The truth is probably somewhere in between.  Don't worry that you will be bored with foreign films.  Be selective and check out the many possibilities as you already do for the more familiar movies.