Thursday, February 25, 2021

GREEDY LYING BASTARDS

 Now that I have your attention, who are the greedy lying bastards?  In short they are climate change denialists.  Most of us have a bit of stake in the fossil fuel industry as we are comfortable with our gas guzzling cars and maybe (as was my case a few years back) part of our pension plan was geared to the fossil fuel industry.  Still most of us are complacent and too many uninformed or worse, misinformed.  On the other hand there are others whose wealth is intricately tied to the big oil companies and they feel threatened by any suggestion that they are part of a problem and might be expected to solve the problem.  

 Part of the lying was revealed as I researched this film on IMDB.  IMDB  (International Movie Data Base imdb.com) must be recognized as an information tool because there was a strong attempt to lower this film's ratings and cast aspersions on its credibility.  This was the same sort of thing encountered in researching the two Al Gore films.  There are reviews ridiculing the idea of climate change and/or the quality of the film.  These are balanced to some extent by high ratings and rave views, but the thrust of the film is somewhat blunted.  Except some of us have become used to the idea that the GREEDY LYING BASTARDS are doing their best to keep us in the dark.

The film ends after the 2012 election, but assures us the greedy lying bastards hadn't given up.  In fact we the film has already shown us the Koch Brothers, Rex Tillerson, Kelly McEnamy and others that helped elect Donald Trump and support his big lies.  

It depicts a few disasters that are attributed to climate change, but the bulk of the film is concerned about the battle between scientists and climate denialists.  It is a familiar story, but with details up to date for 2013.  The science is as I assume basically correct, but they run up against big money.   One loop portrayed was from how courts had been loaded with picks of the big money denialists, like the Koch brothers helped result that Citizens United was able to win their case that corporations could be considered people.   Justice Clarence Thomas was implicated as a participant in Citizens United policies.  Other laws enabled even more money to be directed to favorable politicians.  Senator James Inhofe is able to smugly ridicule the notion of climate change in the Senate.  George W. Bush is shown as supporting efforts to slow changes.  

Two men behind this film are Chris Scott Rosebraugh and Patrick Gambuti Jr.  The battle has been going on for a few decades now and the scientists and environmentalists are making some progress, but the greedy lying bastards are still using their resources to slow down the process.  Either the science believers will win or we will all lose!

Naomi Klein had some thoughts on the battle.  Read more; http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/05/naomi-klein-writes-another-insightful.html


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee

 Not to be confused with "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown. "The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee" actually covers indigenous history from well before Christopher Columbus  up to about 2018 although more focused since 1890.  Treur prefers to use the term "Indian" intsead of native, aboriginal or indigenous, but also frequently uses the specific tribal name, often in more than one form.

David Treuer, born on a Minnesota reservation went on to earn a PH.D. in anthropology and teach literature and creative writing he offers some perceptive insights.  Indians were not as backward or as noble as they have been depicted.  They were however beaten down.  David's father was Jewish and had survived the Holocaust.  His mother was Ojibwe, had trained as a nurse and became a lawyer.

Indians were in North America thousands of years before European discovery.  They were many tribes with many languages.  They fought among themselves and formed alliances.  They had in fact developed agriculture and we have adapted much of it such as corn, squash, etc.  After they caught on that there were different European "tribes" they were able to play one against the other, until the American Revolution.

A big game changer was the horse.   Introduced by the Spanish, the Indians stole horses and mastered riding.  This increased their mobility  (hunting, trading, etc.) and also their ability to resist the colonizers.   Read more:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/05/north-american-indians-domesticate-horse.html

The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 allowed Thomas Jefferson to shift Indians to the west.  Some, such as the Seminoles in Florida refused to go.

Treuer covering the Pacfic northwest as part of a survey of Indian tribes across the United States.  Reminded me of university project that I confess was confusing to me at the time.  I was to focus on potlatch used by several tribes in the area.  It seemed insane that various tribal leaders would compete by giving out more items than the others.  I know see that as similar to rich men today proving who is more important by how much they can spend.  The other part that confused me was that the government made potlatches illegal despite the Indians wanting to keep them. Before and since then I had been interested in the Haida, particularly their art.  It was thrilling when the government decided to put some contemporary Haida art on our $20 bill.  Stephen  Harper in an effort to boost Canada's military image took off some Haida art off the $20 bill and replaced with Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  The photo to the left is of the original Haida artifact constructed under Bill Reid that was used for the bill.  My wife and I like many others thought a great location (Vancouver Airport) for photos.

Indians were relocated for convenience of settlers, but in one instance the Osage tribe were clever enough to retain mineral rights and when oil was discovered in their section of Oklahoma they became the richest people per capita in America, but they were undermined.  Read more http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/01/killers-of-flower-moon-bit-of-history.html

Ely Parker, a Seneca Indian and educated as an engineer attempted to organize the Iroquois confederacy for the Union Side for the American Civil War, but was rejected as not being American.  Ulysses S Grant vouched for him.  Ironically Ely helped to draft the articles of surrender that ended the Civil War.  When Grant became president there were some friendlier political policies.

Part of the friendlier government was strategies to help assimilate Indians.  One of the outcomes was boarding schools where young children were separated from their parents and forced to speak English and learn history from the American perspective.  Similar strategies were enacted in Canada with similar sad results.  Eventually boarding schools were abolished on both sides of the border, but still the results linger.

A law was established that Indians could not be taxed on their reservations.  Seminoles in Florida were perhaps the first to test this in 1976 by selling cigarettes, but later moved into gambling, first with bingo and later with casinos.  Many tribes jumped on the bandwagon.  A perhaps unexpected offshoot of this was that many tribal leaders wanting to keep more the profits ruled that some people were not really Indians and were excluded.  The author points out that blood had been imposed against Indians when it suited the government.  The bottom line is that it is human nature to want to concentrate wealth in as few hands as possible.  The author discussed that it really is more than just blood that should define Indians and other factors include language and culture.

He covers the Standing Rock protests that ended in failure.  In the end it is an American problem that includes Indians.  Naomi Klein suggested that environmental groups should align themselves with indigenous groups that not only share common goals, but have different tools to enact change.

They survived by first resisting, but in the end settled in by fighting for the Americans in the many wars (including the American Revolution for some tribes).  AIM (American Indian Movement) looked at the Black Panthers as a model as they made things happen and opted for violence, but also boosted education.  There are now opportunities to learn tribal languages and Indian history.  Indians are adapting.

There are many events depicted and different perspectives including many from his own life.  I would like to close with a quote used by the author from John Adams in a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1816; "Power always thinks it has great Soul and Vast Views beyond the Comprehension of the Weak."

Sunday, February 21, 2021

My Life and Adventures with cars PART TWO

 My career took me to different companies that all involved driving in some cases involving commutes of over 40 minutes and others that involved fair size sales territories.  Working with my brother in law who was a partner in an ad agency I ended up doing a lot of freelance sales work for a personal client Orange aPEEL  I helped set up wholesalers and then the strategy was to convince some of their retail clients to stock our product.  Fortunately the wholesalers were expanding from a small base in Ontario to a bigger base.  One factor I noticed was that sales declined in the summer and felt one reason was that many of our pet owner  consumers left for cottages.  One of our wholesalers was expanding to cottage country and beyond.  I went on longer and longer trips and eventually overnight.  I went as far north as Kapuskasing, west as far as Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor and as far east as Gananoque and even Ottawa.  Vet clinics were added on expanding the calls I could make.  Read more more on my Ontario expanded driving.

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2012/06/travels-of-salesman-part-1-ontario.html 

 My daughter insisted that she wanted to go to King's College in Halifax.  Nobody in our families had ever been to Halifax, but in fact it enriched us all.  It was agreed that Heather and her mother would fly, but that someone would have to cart some furniture and other supplies.  I asked the boss at Orange aPEEL if he would help pay hotel expenses if I sold in the Maritimes.  Some of our existing wholesalers (mostly ones I had set up) had a toehold in the Maritimes.  It was agreeable to us all.  She ended up there for five years and I made two two way trips each year.

An important step in the process was staying in my sister's home in Brossard, on the  south shore of Montreal.  I learned two routes through New Brunswick and looped around Nova Scotia covering most of the vet clinics and pet stores in those two provinces and Prince Edward Island.  A conversation with my brother in law, Ali while in Brossard suggested I would as an anglophone do better in Quebec than a francophone would do in Ontario.  I got some help from a French speaking co-worker, Jacques Major who helped me with an introductory speech and later with a special story aimed at receptionists.  Beyond that my French was pretty pathetic, but could struggle with a helpful francophone who proved to be the majority.  But the bonus was that many clinics hired bilingual receptionists or even better they called in their bilingual boss so I was able to talk directly to the decision maker.  I was able to add in two more wholesalers and one of our Ontario wholesalers expanded in both Quebec and the Maritimes.  One co-worker joked that I was really on a vacation, but in fact I was very busy.   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2012/07/travels-of-salesman-part-3-quebec.html

On my first trip studying maps I found a shortcut to a stop in Windsor, Nova Scotia.  It reminded of where I learned to drive, with hills and curvy roads.  Ironically Windsor was home to Thomas Halliburton whose name was taken for the county where I learned to drive.Most of the places I called in Nova Scotia were on the ocean and I wondered what was in the middle.  I discovered with one single call that cut across the middle and it turns out the answer is trees.

Read about expanding to the Maritimes.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2012/07/travels-of-salesman-part-two-maritimes.html

At the beginning my trips to the Maritimes were ignoring the bigger audience in francophone Quebec but that too entered my life.  

Car rentals weren't part of my life until one vacation where I had won a trip to Florida.  My father in law advised us to rent a car from Rent A Wreck which we did from the Tampa airport.  Unknown to me the condo manager had not been told of my visit, but even though the car did't look like a trustwothy person was driving he believed my story, my wife and four year old daughter were grateful.  We visited Disney World, Busch Gardens, Cape Canaveral and lots of other sites.  On my only other trip to Florida we used them again, but my brother in law had to have his towed away.

 On vacations we often flew to a site and rented a car.  From Monreal I rented a Prius, my first experience with an environmentally friendly car.  All I can remember is after returning from Quebec City I had a lot of trouble turning off a loud alarm at my sisters.  Other vacations were to British Columbia.  One time we flew to Vancouver, took a ferry over to Victoria and the next day took another ferry ride to and from Vancouver so my son could compete in a track meet..  Then again we took the ferry back to the airport.  The next time we flew directly to Victoria.  One memorable trip was after we picked up my friend, Bob Stone at the ferry depot in Nanaimo we headed to Tofino, but Bob steered us to the old route that took us by Coombs? for a unique retail experience.  We hit Tofino in the off season, but an interesting place.

The most interesting rental experience came after my car was called to garage and I was told they needed in for a few days.  This happened at the start of the Easter weekend when I was supposed to leave for Halifax   I had well over 100 sales stops planned.  We couldn't get hold of any rental cars that had any available.  Someone suggested try an airport and we were able to rent one from the Toronto Airport and with not that many choices I ended up with a high performance car.  My son was thrilled when I brought it home and the next day I left.  I soon found it could accelerate much faster than my car and I found myself passing other cars, even long streams on two lane highways.  When I met my daughter she was disappointed that wouldn't let her drive it because of rental rules.  When I returned it they at first tried to charge me for all the extra mileage (about $800 as I recall), but they reverted to original agreement considerably cheaper.

Backtrack a little.  On my previous trip to Halifax my daughter had a beginners permit and had taken driver education.  The lens on my glasses came out about 8 in the morning.  Anxious to get going I had my daughter drive to the next town,  Truro where I got my glasses fixed and I realized if I let my daughter drive I could make my sales calls a little bit better prepared.  I made lots of calls and finally decided around 65 or so in Edmonston I would take over as it would soon get dark.  Reaching my sister's I remembered my brother-in-law's original instructions and although I was too confused to use them, this time coming from the opposite direction I did remember.   the next day we got early and left as the Montreal rush hour was in full swing and Heather drove through that.  Again I made lots of calls and when we reached Toronto we again hit very heavy traffic.  Heather handled it very well.  Shortly after our trip Heather went for her license test the tester pressed time asked her if she had any highway experience and after she explained she had driven most of the way from Halifax, including three rush hours he let her get the license on her first effort. 

My career has wound down.  Towards the end I found myself once a month delivering newspapers (The Rider, a horse lover publications) over a wide area.  It was my idea to set up a number of librairies spread over four counties.  Another thing happened when one of the partners' mother needed a ride to visit her husband each day in a retirement home.  We had an interesting conversations and I learned to play a game she was fond of.  The game was trying to figure out what vanity plates meant. I got to the point where I could sometimes ask a driver.  Read more:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/02/driving-with-miss-jane.html

Some of you may have duplicated some of my favorite drives and others looking for something interesting.  Here is a list of some of my favorites.

When I decided to make a few sales calls to Sydney, Nova Scotia I saw two routes so I took them both.  One was the old highway with lots of winding and lake views.  Rita McNeil had a stop along the way.  The other way was a modern highway that wasn't at all boring. At one point I stopped at Baddeck which overlooks Bras d'or Lake where Alexander Graham Bell flew the first airplane in Canada. 

The normal route to Halifax had been done a few times and I needed to expand my sales efforts so looking at a map discovered the Atlantic side of New Brunswick which meant driving a little further through Quebec past Rimouski one could head down to Campbellton, New Brunswick through Matapedia country that was another hilly, curvy road with lots of trees.  Very entrancing.

Switching coasts and under the guidance of Bob Stone, we decided to seek out Tofino.  Bob suggested we take the old road that included Coombs with a most interesting retail store.  Along the way we passed Port Alberni (earlier I had interviewed Bill Robinson, a famous basketball player from here) where a tsunami had once reached.  Tofino is a backpacker's ideal.   The three of us stayed overnight.

In Ontario I became attached to Picton in Prince Edward County.  Mostly I approached it through Belleville, but on one occasion curious about a different route out of Kingston I discovered there was a ferry boat ride to the town of Picton.  Just my idea of a quaint village with lots of pleasant landscape in an out.

Another pleasant drive was from the town of New Liskeard which sits on Lake Temiskaming lead to Hailebury with the lake on my left the whole way.  Only one time I approached New Liskeard through Quebec on the other side.  Also scenic.

In case you missed it link to Part One:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/02/my-life-and-adventures-with-cars-part.html

My Life and Adventures with cars Part One

A car is a mechanical object, but truly your relationship with it is personal and even intimate.  It is a part of your identity and of your ego   In my case, calculations based on tax returns, expenses claimed, commuting recalled and recreational driving the total is over one million miles (not kilometres) so there is a lot of history that formed me. When we study history we tend to focus on power.   Louis XIV for instance had the power of life and death not only in France, but in colonies and was a significant promoter of the arts that we enjoy centuries later.  But even I have power that he didn't.

A car has given me a feeling of  freedom, but also of slavery.  As a youngster one could appreciate the freedom a car offered.  Without one you were dependent on how far you could walk or on getting someone else to take you where you wanted to go.  The desire for more freedom hit me before having access to a car; http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2012/02/hitch-hiking-memories.html

My father was a truck driver who was well respected, owning his own company that had four trucks.  He was put on a board of directors for dump truck operators.  He also had the distinction of winning the Canadian Winter Rally in 1960 in his first effort on a day that one of my sisters was born.  Everyone considered him an exceptional driver, but he was a poor teacher.  At age 16 he took me to a nearby parking lot in Oshawa and with a gear shift gave a few instructions.  He admitted that it was very hard on his nerves and no further efforts.

We moved to Haliburton and the high school decided to offer a driving education course and I was among the first to enlist.  My father supported this effort as he wouldn't have to endure beginner mistakes.  They used an automatic gear system and that removed one of my difficulties.  Most of the class passed the driving license test including me at age 18.  I was allowed to drive on special occasions, even a few times with my father.  A couple of these early experiences are recalled.

One, I was so anxious to drive that I agreed to drive our family dog (who had often slept on my bed) to the vet about an hour's drive away in Fenelon Falls.  When we got there I realized the horror of what I had done and asked my mother to drive back home.  Years later I actually made sales calls to this same clinic.

Two, I was asked to take my sister for a high school event on a snowy winter day.  No excuse I put the car in the ditch, but was towed out.  When I confessed at home I was told no more driving while snow was on the ground.  Not the last time I ran a car into the ditch, but a lesson was learned.  

Three.  My Grandmother Coakwell let me drive her car from Oshawa and back for one of her visits to my family.  On one part of the trip I bumped up against a trailer of another car.  She didn't say much at the time, but when my cousins were visiting from Cornwall they told me she had told them.

After high school and while at university I would be given chances to drive on my own in Haliburton. even with snow on the ground.  Then after graduation which I took in January I found it very difficult to get a job.  I am sure my parents were getting exasperated.  Finally I had a successful interview for a social worker position in Barrie, Ontario with the requirement that I had to have a car.  Although my father had always advocated for foreign cars he set me up with his friend who owned Bill Drew Ford in Ajax.  He paid a down payment and road tested the car and in a short run pointed out some minor faults, but felt it was good enough for me.

My job involved driving around a section of Simcoe County that included Collingwood and Wasaga Beach that later became holiday destinations.  I also visited home, my old university, my friends and even to Montreal.  But the job didn't last and I ended up back home.  While there I enrolled in a night course at York University and took turns with a co-worker, but occasionally went on my own.  On one such occasion  I was approached by a young man in a mall parking lot who unusually I didn't brush off because he made some sense. At that point I agreed to join the CAA (Canadian Auto Club).  One of the smartest decisions I ever made.  They have rescued me many times for  battery and other assorted problems. ONce they towed my car from Toronto to Burlington and another time from Ingersol to Burlilngton and few other times shorter distances.  I also used their travel services from time to time.  A short while ago they sent me a certificate for being a loyal customer for 50 years.  Once in Halifax my brakes failed on a Saturday night with my wife and daughter and they steered me to where I eould get help. I certainly got my money's worth and a lot of peace of mind.

I felt if I wasn't able to get another job I could at least sell the car and pay back my parents.  But my education wasn't finished.  I learned that I owed more on the car than it was worth.  My parents picked up some of the slack and felt having a car might help me get my next job.  They were right, but it took six months and finally I got a job and after a brief stop in Toronto ended up working from a Hamilton office.  I drove all over the Niagara Peninsula and Burlington with occasional trips to further areas.

This job lasted more than a year until I decided to switch jobs and started a longer career in newspaper circulation that involved recruiting, interviewing and training carriers and taking carriers out canvassing for new customers.  

One incident was unexpected.  While taking out youngsters out I would drop them at one end of a long street and wait for them at a further end.  Usually I sat in my car listening to the radio or doing some paper work, but at one stage I decided I should get out for exercise and to keep closer watch on the carriers.  On this one occasion when I got back to my car a car turned sideways to block my car and scared me.  I felt relief a few seconds later when a police car with warning lights on.   It turned out that someone had decided I was a peeping Tom.  The police were reassured I was ok, but then another moment of embarrassment resulted when I was asked to present my driver's license and my signature was missing.  They were also embarrassed and merely asked me to sign it.

I was in newspaper circulation for well over a decade and in some ways kept up a connection tied to other jobs.  I got involved in making deliveries of store copies and even carrier bundles.  I worked in Oakville, Kitchener-Waterloo, Etobicoke, Brantford and Hamilton.  Some of this involved commutes and supervising managers.  When the Etobicoke paper decided to de-emphasize paid circulation I was forced out, but given a healthy amount of money.  

For a couple of years I worked selling office supplies for two different companies mainly working in Hamilton and Burlington that included nearby small towns and reinforce my interest in maps. I drove a lot on the job.

I should confess that I had one big fault shared by many others at the same time.  Alcohol entered my life around university time, but not a concern while driving my parent's car.  However when I got a job and started settling down it was very common to join friends at parties or bars and drink and drive home.  I was conscious that I was not as good a driver after drinking as I otherwise would.  Not sure when the concept of designated driver hit my social circle, but I believe I would have been in my late forties or early fifties.  When my daughter got her license she became a designated driver for us and later my wife and I split turns being a designated driver.  It is frightening how much danger I inflicted on myself and others.  One intermediate step was to hold a New Years Eve party as I told myself to avoid not only drinking and driving, but dealing with more than usual drinking drivers.  A tradition that spans over 20 years with many good memories.

Another life style activity was sleeping in cars.  Only a few times before I did settle down.  My friend Bob Stone who is much bigger than me and drove a small sports car would a few times end up with the two of us sleeping in his car.   I also slept in my car a few times rather than impose on other people.  

In my twenties I had a tendency to drive over the speed limit and got caught.  But I learned a life license when I was called in and complained about the last ticket.  The examiner merely explained I should think about the times I didn't get thought.  Read more:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/08/what-have-you-gotten-away-with.html

Another side of my reckless youth was driving through bad weather.  When I worked in Simcoe County that seemed more prone to heavy snow I once drove from Collingwood through a storm when the provincial police had been taken off the road.  Lots of bad weather to contend with which actually attracted me when I discovered as a salesman it was easier to talk to decision makers during weather that not only discouraged retail customers, but also competing salesmen.  The worst drive was from Chicoutimi taking a "short-cut" over unploughed winding roads.

In Oakville one of my co workers was Rick Hill who became a good friend.  He had been a mechanic and also had a license for body work.  One of his leisure activities was pretending to buy cars with the idea of beating down the price.  On one occasion he came with me to an auto dealer and knocked the price down within about one minute.  After that it was tougher, but he got the deal mu,ch better than ever I could have.  At different times Rick helped me get some painting and other body work done at reasonable pricing. 

It is difficult to track every car that I bought, but most were held for years with new models at beginning, but more used cars later on.  Some were problems and others were very good.  For awhile I owned a van in order to make newspaper deliveries, but it didn't have a side window and I had a minor accident as a result.  Rick installed a side window for me.  My favorites were Honda.  I remember one salesman who had persuaded me to buy a car, but I wanted to delay as we were going on a plane ride to Florida in a very few weeks.  He got the bright idea to pay for airport transport which did make our trip much easier.  The same salesman later sold my wife a used car that his wife was driving.   I got more productive miles from the Honda than any other car.

Being non mechanically inclined a big concern was finding a mechanic I could trust.  An example of what to avoid was a mechanic I dropped into near where I worked in Etobicoke.  He had my car on a hoist and had me come over and shake something underneath.  He said I should not even drive home.  I did and the next day checked with a mechanic near where I lived and he laughed--he asked me if I had been asked to shake some parts underneath and told that is what they are supposed to do.  Another mechanic told me I had a serious problem requiring attention and a few days later my car was hesitating as had been predicted and I ran into Halton Honda who pointed out a sparkplug connection had not been tightened and when I asked how much I owed, he laughed and said he couldn't charge for something like that.

I did find a number of mechanics worthy of trust and I needed them because I drove a lot.  Delivery runs required stop and go with lots of idling and I drove on a lot of rough roads.  But I got a big break that I became conscious of when my sister in law Lorri got married to Kerry.  My brother in law Len, the emcee pointed out the family was not only gaining another member, but a mechanic.  Kerry was a matter of fact mechanic telling one what needed to be done and how much urgency was required.  One time after I went for some minor mechanical operation he told me I needed new tires and I replied that I would talk to my boss, meaning my wife.  I waited a little longer than expected and realized he had put on new tires.  This was at first a little annoying and I would have been furious if anyone else had done such a thing.  But I realized if he thought I needed new tires, I actually needed them and he probably saved my life.

Another similar break was when a nephew, Ryan started his own body shop, Enfield Body and there were occasions when little dings needed repairing and rust dealt with. Not only did he give relatives discounts, I felt I could trust his judgments.  Pictured to the left with his daughter Emma.

Before moving on, my sister's eulogy at my father's funeral hit me.  Like many sons who felt restrictions were unfair I held some resentment of my father, although I had overcome most of that before his death.  My sister, Rebecca recalled that my father, the truck driver loved to take different routes to see something different.  She also noted a pilot note that he was thrilled to have piloted me on an airplane flight when I was under a year old.

There was a big change in my life and cars played a big role that took me to the Maritimes and Quebec.  Check Part Two here  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/02/my-life-and-adventures-with-cars-part_21.html

Sunday, February 14, 2021

The Splendid and the Vile

Winston Churchill is one of the most studied (and admired) of all historical people.  He wrote plenty himself, so one wonders what new information can be made available.  This book focuses only from May 1940 to May 1941 during the worst of the German assault.  The American Ambassador, Joseph Kennedy thought the English should surrender as their situation was hopeless.  When Neville Chamberlain resigned he recommended Lord Halifax take over and King George favored him.  However Chamberlain changed his mind and the king accepted Churchill as the new Prime Minister.

 Erik Larson uses familiar sources, but also many diaries not only from notable people, but also from not so notable people and both sides of the conflict.

This one man is responsible for a lot of what we have today demonstrating how to stand up to fascism.  We forget the hardships the Brits put up with that mock our complaints about Covid-19 lockdowns. 

Much of Europe had already submitted to Germany and it seemed France was on the run. British troops were in retreat.   He was greeted with disaster after disaster, but kept his cool and did what he could to improve the situation. 

Hitler could not understand the stubbornness of the British, but  he did have some restraints.  He didn't want to be known for demolishing London.  He feared the navy, more than the RAF.  At one stage he decided he had to attack Russia before America entered the war.  Although it seemed the Germans had a big edge on organization and scientific modern warfare, the British developed their own scientific and intelligence  breakthroughs.

Lord Beaverbrook, born in Canada was a key person in Churchill's strategy.  He is the one who dramatically increased aircraft production and despite poor health took on tank production at a critical time.  He was also a steady comrade in arms.  Churchill had a way of finding the right people and motivating them.

The Battle of Britain and the blitzkreig put terror to everyone, not only in London, but also in many outlying population centres.  Churchill didn't scurry and hide, but actually watched the fireworks.  Shelters were often put together haphazardly, but slowly their safety and convenience was improved with credit to Clementine Churchill.  German pilots older and more experienced from the Spanish Civil War and the start of World War II, but the British were courageous and resourceful.  Radar, intelligence and aircraft production closed the gap.

The Americans were seen as the life saver and Churchill spent a lot of effort courting them. The attitude of the American public was of isolation.  Congress would have to agree to war and even to financial aid.  Most Americans sympathized, but not willing to go as far as Franklin Roosevelt.  Roosevelt sent over Harry Hopkins and then Averill Harriman as his personal representatives and both were helpful.  As Britain became more desperate Roosevelt was able to fine-tune legislation to lend material, ship needed goods.  At one point the British Ambassador to America died in office and it was decided to send Lord Halifax (against his will) in his place.  It took the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbour  in December of 1941for the U.S. to declare war, but they quickly included Germany with their declaration against Japan.

While bombs were falling life continued.   Illicit and licit, successful and not romances, were noted from diaries.  One critical staff, John Colville pursued his love and only had an unsatisfactory platonic relationship.  There were other temptations for him, but he stuck with his true love (at least for awhile).  He wanted to resign to avoid nearness to a hopeless case, but Churchill refused.  Eventually he entered the armed forces, finally in combat and returned to greater respect and married someone else.

Erik does end his narrative in May 1941 with the blitz ended May 11th,   There are a few loose ends that he ties up.  One interesting one is Churchill's daughter Mary became an anti-aircraft gunner.  Another one was about the affair of Averill Harriman and Pamela Churchill. both married to other people.  Averill had been sent to Moscow and their romance wound down.  Averill stayed with his wife up to her death.  Pamela married Leland Hayward until his death.  After many events the two met in a private dinner hosted by Katherine Graham, owner of the Washington Post and eight weeks later they married.  The marriage lasted until Harriman's death in 1986.

Another readable book by Erik Larson is "The Devil in the White City"  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/04/the-devil-in-white-city.html

Thursday, February 11, 2021

"TheTrue Cost" points out perils of consumerism

 As I write this my attention is split with the impeachment trial.  They are connected.  Big money has convinced enough people to take extreme measures to preserve a way of life.

 "The True Cost" explains how we have access to cheap clothing, but at a cost most of us are totally unaware of.  Getting at the root causes is a long process and literally millions are involved.

One aspect most of us have some awareness is cheap foreign labor.  As the memory fades we are reminded by disasters such as the one in Bangladesh.  Defenders state that bad as things might be in Bangladesh, the women should be grateful for the opportunity offered.  We become aware it is not just cheap labor, but also the lack of regulations to protect the workers.  As one commentator pointed out sewing is not a skill that is associated with life threatening danger, but lack of building requirements have proved to be dangerous.

Another area of concern is the use of toxic chemicals.  This is done in the United States to control pesticides in cotton fields, but also around the world where regulations are less rigid.  Chemicals are used to treat leather and other fabrics, with the overflow reaching water sources.

One bright spot was offered by farmers of organic cotton    They acknowledged that many people were concerned about chemicals in their food source, but felt clothing was no threat.  It was pointed out that skin as actually our most vulnerable organ. The movement to organic food is being extended to clothing.

The root cause really boils down to unbridled capitalism that caters to the greed of a small number of people.  To accumulate lots of money you need to see something, usually lots of something with ideally a large profit margin.  On one hand that requires to keep the cost low.  On the other hand it is necessary to create a large demand.  You can play around with the price as the lower the price the more demand.  

Creating demand is a big subject in itself, but generally promote the product (or service) so that people are motivated to want it.  In the case of clothes there is an easy to identify need because of weather and modesty.  But that demand is not enough so the world of fashion attempts to convince us that we need to look good (to get a job or a mate).  We also are convinced that old styles need to be replaced.  We are encouraged to throw away old clothes.  Of course parents usually pass the clothes to their younger children.  We have learned to disdain hand me downs as a mark of poverty. 

Making a profit requires low cost and a selling effort.  Those with money and resources are always trying to find ways of cutting costs and increasing demand.  Capitalism teaches us that the purpose of a business is to make a profit.  Originally we had to satisfy a need, but we have learned to develop hidden desires such as to out-do our neighbors (friends, co-workers and even strangers).  We have become a very wasteful society that compounds many problems.

 Unbridled capitalism is focused on profit.  Keeping down costs makes it easier to sell.   Promoting consumerism also helps to sell.  This leads to buying things we really don't need and throwing them out in order to buy something else.  Keep up with the Jones.  

The consumer can help change things by asking questions and demanding change by their choices.  The government can make regulations to restrain capitalism.  Governments can decide whether profit is the top priority and global welfare.  Labeling that includes country of origin, union or not, organic.

Traveled to Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Haita and around United states including farms.

Michael Ross is the producer, editor and shares the cinematography.  He works mainly with documentaries such as "After the End" (2013) and "Here for Now" (2012).

Andrew Morgan is director, writer and share cinemetograhy.   He is a socially conscious film maker who has done such films as  "After the End" (2013) and "Here for Now" (2012). 

Duncan Blickenstaff composed the music and has provided music services for a number of films including for the director and producer.  More well known films he has helped include "Moneyball"  (2011), "Life of Pi" (2012) and "The Age of Adaline" (2015).

Commentary from Livia Giggiola (producer, writer and with her husband Colin Firth a founder of Eco Age), Stella McCartney(fashion designer), Richard Wolff (author of "Capitalism Hits the Fan" (2009)).  Commentary ranges from farming, fashion, manufacturing and economics.

You can watch the trailer at IMDB:  https://www.imdb.com/video/vi1244508185?playlistId=tt3162938&ref_=tt_ov_vi

You can read about my thoughts on the impeachment when it was in session.  Many of the same factors were in common with big money steering public sentiment.   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/02/impeachment.html

 

 


Impeachment

Impeachment is supposed to rectify abuses of power.  The process is unavoidably political and subject to abuse.

 Donald Trump commands cult like adulation.  This adulation built on fraud is very real.  Republicans in Congress are afraid of jeopardizing their careers.  That fear is further proof that Trump did indeed expect violence to bolster his cause.

It appears unlikely that Trump will be convicted by Congress and the whole process may end up being counter productive.  The Democrats have an agenda that polls indicate are favored by most Americans, but the impeachment could be a destructive distraction.

To me the point is to reach the American public.  The evidence is not disputable and non conviction would set a precedent.  Some of the public is being swayed.  When they make their judgment they can express it in a private voting booth.  Others can make their view known to their Congress representative and may in some cases support a wavering politician.  A few constituents might bolster the courage of a Senator and perhaps they will perceive a safety in numbers.

One of the most galling factors is that Trump and his followers were angry that Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States refused to defy the Constitution.  By presiding over the official Electoral College many cried out for his hanging.  Only brave staff saved Congressional members.  Many of those same members are afraid to convict Trump or even to criticize him.  A few brave Republicans seem destined to have early primaries and lose much support.   

A bigger root cause is how big money has taken over political decisions.  It has long been known that the average voter was not concerned about the Republican economic agenda.  We also know that most voters do not really examine the issues in depth.  Big money is able to present disinformation and tap into prejudices and fears that have a strong motivation.  

Naturally everyone would like to have more money in their pocket and so tax reductions sound great.  A progressive tax system can be portrayed as unfair, but it is not in principle.  The government needs money to fulfill its purposes and most favor much of the program as it has positive effects for them.  They might object to others as benefiting such as immigrants, minorities, but that is usually short sighted.  We need immigrants and minorities contribute to the general welfare.  Surely gun rights are not meant to allow massacres.  Unwanted babies can be avoided and fearful mothers can live.  Gays have led distorted lives, but we know that they also contribute to our welfare.

The powers behind the scene need a program that appeals to a wide audience which generally highlights various social issues that for many are the one issue they understand and will vote on.  Such issues as abortion, gay rights, gun rights, immigration as attract many who don't understand the economic consequences and I would add do not really appreciate the depth of the issues.  The Republican stance on these issues hurt more than any benefit.

There are some factors  that should change the attitudes, but it will take probably decades.   Demographically the minorities are taking over.  Younger people will be more comfortable with "others" and probably better educated.   The older ones who want to maintain the status quo are dying off.  

I don't know what will happen, but I wanted to be on the record.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Steve McQueen; Mr. Cool

A few of my earlier blogs were devoted to Hollywood movie stars, but I would say they were mostly of my father's generation and watched them with my father.  Steve McQueen is more of my generation and developed the reputation of being "cool"  He never over-reacted to any of the stresses that are found in movie scripts.  Originally intended as a fan tribute, my research reveals he had faults and also that he had vision he was not credited with.   IMDB provided much of the information.

He has a troubled childhood and was raised partly by his grandparents.   Dropped out of high school in grade 9.  His parents placed him in the California Junior Republic for Boys at Chino which MeQueen claimed  "...straightened me out..."   He joined the Marine Corps at age 17 earning a commendation during a training accident.  He also was charged for being absent without leave.  One of only two (the other was Martin Landau)  of 2000 applicants accepted in 1955 with Lee Strasberg Acting Studio.

 In the beginning actors tend to take whatever is offered.  Casting picks up on what works and with directors and producers and actors can find themselves in a niche.  Steve was "cool", but wanted to demonstrate versatility. 

1956 "Somebody Up There Likes Me" uncredited part.  He disliked star, Paul Newman  and felt slighted.

"The Blob" (1958) was probably Steve's first big break.  The producer planning a science fiction movie spotted Steve on a short clip on a tv. show.  The director went to meet Steve who was a little unsettled, but with the producer and Steve's wife, Niele Adams they calmed him down and he agreed to do his part, later joking he should have asked for a percentage.  He looks younger which is appropriate as he is playing someone even younger than he was.  Steve wanted to see the dailies, but the director didn't want him to.  Eventually he accepted the producer's ruling not to.  Noted that he liked to motorbike up a steep hill, but was forbidden.

"Wanted Dead or Alive" tv series  1958-61 was occasionally viewed, but  mostly watched something else.

"Man from the South"  (1960) was a 25 minute segment on Alfred Hitchcock Presents as Steve was establishing himself.  This segment comes from a Roald Dahl story and also includes his wife Nielle Adams and Peter Lorre.  Steve is pretty cool in this as he accepts a weird bet that risks his baby finger.  There is a twist you might expect from Alfred Hitchcock.


"The Magnificent Seven" (1960) featured scene stealing from Yul Brynner when in their mutual scenes he can be spotted fidgeting.   Steve had to break from tv conract.  He had wanted the role taken by Horst Bucholz as he had more lines. Yul got married on the set.



"

 

 Honeymoon Machine" (1961) a comedy which demonstrates McQueen does have a bit of a comic touch.

"The Great Escape" (1963)  with James Garner who he later became upset with as they were both competing for race car movie and James won.  For this movie James Garner and James Coborn persuaded him to return to the movie after he had left.  His motorcycle leap was perhaps his most memorable film action.

"Soldier in the Rain" (1963) with Jackie Gleason again demonstrated a comic touch.

"Love With a Proper Stranger" (1963) saw Steve trying to expand roles.    With Natalie Wood

"Baby the Rain must fall" (1965) showed Steve as a released prisoner determined to resume his career as as a songwriter and performer.  His singing voice was dubbed by Billy Strange.  Maybe not so cool.

"The Cincinnati Kid" (1965)  saw him up against veteran Edward G Robinson and he did his usual scene stealing.

"Nevada Smith" (1966)  he played a half breed seeking revenge.  He was alao an uncredited executive producer.

"The Sand Pebbles" (1966) filmed in Taiwan depicting a Chinese rebellion.

"The Thomas Crown Affair" (1968) saw at the theatre while at university. (multi screens to advance the story) when Norm Jewison decided to ahead with this story it turned out he shared an agent with Steve who enjoyed Norm's directing on The Cincinnati Kid. Norm didn't think the role suited Steve McQueen as it required someone who looked natural in a shirt and tie.  But Steve thought that was the sort of role that suited him.  Once Steve was on board it was easier to finance the film.  Steve managed to put some action into it  with gliding, polo, and golf.

"Bullitt" (1968) years later went to San Francisco for one of his most memorable roles.   One of most famous car chase scenes that had been rehearsed with actual race drivers..

"The Reivers "(1968)  Watched in Kingston, while visiting friends at Queen's University.  Steve played a man who leads a young boy on a coming of age journey.  Somewhat of a comic role that earned him a Golden globe nomination.

"Le Mans" (1971)was a flop in which he lost money and led to a  divorce. His relation with director John Sturges fell apart.  

"On Any Sunday" (1971) was about a documentary about motorcycle racing in which he made an appearance.   He was uncredited executive producer and helped to finance.

"The Getaway" (1972) re established his box office ranking and attracted him to Ali McGraw who he married.

"Papillon' (1973) paired him with Dustin Hoffman.  He took the jump off the cliff claiming it was one of his biggest thrills.

"Towering Inferno" (1974)   Steve had originally planned to be part of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance" but was replaced by the lesser known Robert Redford.  There had been some discussion about billing credit to make the two equal and this idea was used in Towering Inferno.  Steve was upset that Paul Newman had more lines than him and insisted that be rectified. Paul Newman did some of his stunts while Steve brushed off restrictions and did a jump from a helicopter to the top of the building.  Steve helped put out a real fire with real firemen.

"An Enemy of the People" (1978)   executive producer.  A classic Ibsen play.  Bearded men.  A very different look, but also an indication he was not as concerned about his fans' reaction to his appearance as having a meatier role.

"Tom Horn" (1980) executive producer  His second last picture.  Not so much Mr .Cool   Western One story was that when he learned the rest of the cast and crew were staying at a cheaper motel, he opted out of his hotel and moved in with them.  Ended with a very stoical hanging.

"The Hunter"  (1980) was his last film and was cool in this sense that he was mostly unflappable during a wide variety of circumstances, except for being an expectant father.  Famous for his driving skills he was hampered by driving old beat up cars , a tow truck and even a Massey Ferguson combine.  Some spectacular chases. He portrayed a bounty hunter who was successful at talking bail jumpers into surrendering.  Steve had seen LeVar Burton perform and asked the producer to write in a part for him which adds a little humor to the script.    

He took martial arts seriously.  He trained in Tang Soo Do.  He had his son Chad trained in karate by Chuck Norris.   He was a pall bearer for Bruce Lee.

Towards the end of his film career he noticed shortness of breath and gave up smoking, but symptoms persisted.  Diagnosed with mesothelioma generally thought to be associated with exposure to asbestos.  He has been exposed to asbestos while in the marine corps and later as a race car driver.  He underwent a controversial and expensive treatment in Mexico, but died.

Steve McQueen certainly personifies "cool" in his archives.  In reality he was a complex individual with his share of positive attributes.  Being a celebrity certainly adds to the mix.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Take Off" Brutality in Tikrit

The title "Take Off" is taken from the end of the movie when the horror is finally relieved and the victims take off for home.  It is a brutal movie about an unfortunate time in world history.  It recreates events of 2014 when ISIS captured Tikrit trapping several nurses and follows through to the rescue of 19 Mayali nurses.

Throughout the movie the nurses are asked why they want to go to Iraq.  One young nurse explained that her parents borrowed money for her education, but after graduation her salary would not cover the interest.  The main character, Sameera has divorced her husband, told by her father not to go, married a fellow nurse and shortly after learned she is pregnant.  Complicating matters she has a son who is scheduled to visit her in Iraq during his vacation.  At the time her first husband who is nice enough explains that he has had some major setbacks in his business and says their son should stay with her.  The son is mystified and then rebellious seeing his mother's new "friend."  Her son is part of the experience and is accepting of his new circumstances.  At one point he is the one who saves the whole group because he can finish a verse from Qu'ran used to test if all the nurses were Muslim (they weren't).

The viewer is confronted with violence when the nurses first arrive.in Tikrit.  We see torn limbs, bloodied faces and chaos in the space.  ISIS takes over the hospital and we encounter random violence and the nurses enduring the whims of fanatics.  The nurses are trapped.  Not only are they needed for the ISIS soldiers they are also seen as a shield.  Diplomatic negotiations take place involving India and Saudi Arabia before before with the aid of subterfuges.  Only Sameera is Muslim and speaks Arabic and is counted on to organize and coach the other nurses.  She is motivated to reunite with her husband who has been caught up at another ISIS camp and cannot be located.  The key negotiator decided he must lie to Sameera to keep her motivated.

If you have a weak stomach you will find much of this movie very difficult.  Personally the random violence is what freaks me out the most.  

The main dialogues in the movie are in Malayalam with English subtitles, but there are significant conversations in English and some words in Arabic (with Malayalam subtitles).

Mahesh Narayan was director, writer and co-editor.  After graduating from film school he started editing advertisements, than documentaries, then feature films.  He ventured from his native Malaylam language to successfully deal with Tamil, Telegu and Hindi films.  He edited "Traffic" (Malayalm version 2011),  "Traffic" (Hindi version 2017), and Uyare (2019).  He turned to writing and directing with this film to continue those two roles in subsequent films.   He produced, wrote, directed, edited and used a virtual camera for "C U Soon" "Uyare" was my second favorite film seen in 2019.  Read more:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/08/uyare-unexpected-gem.html

Shaan Rahman shared music duties with Gopi Sundar.  Sean won an award in 2015 for most streamed film song.   Gopi's career included backup singer and music director.  He wrote for "Uyare" and won a best background score for this movie.  He composed music for "C U Soon."

Sanu John Varughese handled the cinematography.  He had worked on such films as "Karthik Calling Karthik" (2010), "Hasee Toh Phasee" (2014), "Wazir" (2016) and has gone onto to do "Badhaal Ho" 2018)

Parvathy  Thiruvothu who plays Sameera is a prolific  award winner including for this film.  Some of her films include  "Qarib Qarib Single" (2017),"Uyare" (2019) and"Virus" (2019).   She is an amazing actress becoming one of my favorties.

Fahadh Faasil played the key negotiator  for the India Embassy who despite criticism made the right choices.   He started his film career with a head start as his father was a Malayalam director and gave him a role at age 19 in 2002.  Unfortunately it was a commercial failure and Fahadh opted to complete his education in the United State.  He made his comeback in 2009 with "Kerala Cafe."  Since then he has been very busy with films including:  "Bangalore Days"  (2014), "Njan Prakashan" (2018),  "Super Deluxe" (2019) and "C U Soon" (2020).

Kunchacko Boban played Sameera's second husband, also a nurse who went to Iraq and got separated by being sent to Mosual.  In his first film Kunchacko became an instant teenage heart throb and continued his popularity in romantic films till he himself graduated from college and sought more serious roles with depth.  He appeared in "Traffic" (2011) and "Virus" (2019).

Prakash Belawadi played a senior member of the Indian Embassy.  He has been in films with many different languages including:  in Hindu, "Talvar" (2015), "Airlift" (2016), "Wazir" (2016) and "Sanju" (2018); in Kannada, ""Aatagara (2015) and "India vs. England" (2020); in Telegu. "Saaho" (2019); and in Tamil, "Soorarai Pottru" (2020).

At the time of viewing I was only able to catch it on Hotstar.  One of those treasures hard to reach without the connections.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Super 30 puts focus on education

 "Super 30" (2019) is a bit unusual in that it focuses on education.  India is a poor country, but has its share of intelligence.  Education is the force that turns intelligence into improved life style.

Hrithik Roshan takes on the role of Anand Kumar who as a young man had won a medal for mathematics and offered an education at Cambridge.  His father worked as a post master and made sacrifices, but could not raise or borrow money for the transportation and in short order Anand was reduced to humiliating poverty.  He was rescued when an older medal winner recognized him and hired him for his coaching school.  In India a prize education was at ITT schools but admission was very intense.  Schools had formed to provide coaching to boost success.  This was where Anand was hired and he proved to be the key attraction for the school.  He became upset that this education was only available to the very rich.  He decided to start his own coaching school and offer it for free for the poor.

Education of this type was big business and there was resentment.  Rich parents wanted Anand as the best chance for their children to get admitted to ITT, but he would only accept poor children.  During the course of the film business forces (assisted by corrupt government officials) took serious measures to close the school.  When what seemed like unethical measures didn't work, the efforts became more extreme.

Poverty is not just a lack of money and for the students it is also meant a lack of confidence.  Anand took measures to overcome and by the end of the film all his students are able to gain admission  to ITT.  He had accepted only 30 students (one exception) and they are the ones who are the Super 30.

Anand Kumar is a real person, born in 1973, the son of a postal clerk.  He attended government schools where he developed an interest in mathematics.  As he graduated from high school he had published an article on number theory in Mathematical Spectrum that drew enough attention that he was offered a spot at Cambridge University, but was unable to afford the transportation costs.  He became involved in coaching mathematics and his teaching methods drew hundreds of students who could afford the high expense.  In 2000 he was approached by a poor, but gifted student that pricked his conscience.  In 2002 he offered what came to be known as the Super 30 program for underprivileged, but gifted students for free.  He was subjected to smear campaigns but his students achieved high admission rates to the world famous Indian Institute of Technology. 

Vikas Bahl, the director is also noted as a writer and producer.  Some of his films include:  "Chillar Party" (2011)"Queen" (2013) winning awards as director and writer.  As a producer his films include:  "No One Killed Jessica" (2011), "Hasee Toh Phasee" (2014), "Udta Punjab" (2016) and a Gujarati film, "Wrong Side Raju" (2016).

Sanjeev Dutta wrote the script.  He wrote dialogues for "Page 3" (2005), "Life in a Metro" (2007), "Barfi" (2012),  He has been nominated for both dialogue and story for "Super 30."

Anurag Kashyap, producer has been a Bollywood powerhouse for many years. including acting, writing, directing and  producing.  Some of the movies he has contributed to include "Black Friday" (2004),  "Water" (2005),  "Aamir" (2008), "The Lunchbox" (2013), "Queen" (2013) "Sacred Games" (2018),

Music was written by Ajay and Atul Gogalval, a brother duo who have composed for such films as "Agnepath" (2012), "Sairat" (2016) and "Zero" (2018).  They have composed commercial jingles, ballets,  and an international chart album for Ganesha Symphonic Chants.

Anay Goswami handled most of the cinematography.  Some of his films have included "The Japanese Wife" (2010), "No One Killed Jessica" (2011), "Kai Po Che" (2013) and "Mom" (2017).

The editor A.Sreekar Prasad has over 260 film credits with IMDB in multi languages indicating he is in big demand.  His films include  "Dil Chatha Hai" (2001),  "A Peck on the Cheek" (2002), "Mangal Pande:  The Rising" (2005), "Guru" (2007), "Talvar" (2015), "The Ghai Attack" (2017) and "Taramani" (2017).

Hrithik Roshan is a well established star noted for action and romance films.  He is also considered the best male dancer in Bollywood and he is very impressive.  In this film at different points his students dance for joy, but he does very little, showing he wants this film to focus on education.  As for action, this time around he is beaten up a few times and never really adopts his action repertoire.  I didn't like him at one time, but gradually appreciated he has a good range of acting (and his dancing is really fabulous).  Some of my favorite Roshan movies include:  "Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham..." (2001) "Lakshya" (2004),  "Koi...Mil Gaya" (2003) Jodha Akbar" (2008 providing Aishawarya Rai her first screen kiss), Guaazrish" (2010), "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara" (2011).   His most unusual role was a quadriplegic and is covered here:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/10/paralyzed-men-in-4-foreign-movies.html

Teaching like anything else settles into routines.  Too many become complacent.  The wealthy have advantages denied others, even those of above average intelligence.  Anand Kumar opened the door for talented individuals lacking funds for necessary education.  We are all better off.

Available on Netflix and probably a DVD can be found in most large cities.

Monday, February 1, 2021

INDIAN CINEMA LOOKS AT BALDNESS DISCRIMINATION

 Discrimination has been a concern of movies since the beginning.  What it boils down to is humans identify something different about someone and assume it represents something either inferior or threatening.  When it comes to seeking a mate there has always been obstacles.  Appearance is truly the first impression people gain of one another.  Many of us feel we do not discriminate, but actually we all do.  

Fortunately some movie makers have decided we would all be better off if there was less discrimination.  Merit supersedes all the various levers of discrimination.

 It is how we maintain our self worth and justify ourselves.  Race, religion and gender provide lots of material, but when we drill down we learn that many other groups feel discriminated against. Appearance is key to succeed in love and life.  Conflicts drive movies

Baldness is common among those over 50, something easily noticed--for me looking at a mirror to see thinning hair.  Although in some circles shaved heads are concerned masculine, (even in India) in other circles baldness is embarrassing at the least. 

Actually the four movies are all sympathetic by pointing out the ridicule (and humiliation) suffered by those prematurely bald.   By prematurely it is meant before marriage.  It is accepted that older men tend to baldness.  Hair has been linked to masculinity such as with Sampson.  It also is part of femininity.

First viewed was a copy of the original.  "Ujda Chaman"  written by the same writer, but left a more polished feeling as he probably had more access to money and of course experience.  The moral is don't judge by appearance.  This was a Bollywood production coming out in the same time frame as the more publicized "Bala"  It points out that discrimination victims (specifically male) can be prejudiced against others.  As in the three male centered films the bald men feel discrimintaed because they cannot attract a beautiful bride.


 Second was "Gone Kesh" (translate to "hair gone)" about a female suffering from alopecia, a disease of hair falling out.  I first heard of it with a Toronto Raptor player Charlie Villanueva.  He had no hair or eyebrows but was a top player.  He also was very conscious of  discrimination and lack of self confidence.  He made a point of letting youngsters join in at many of his home and away games.  Vilpin Sharma played the father who often plays bad guys or gruff fathers, but here a more gentle father.  In the second half the family encounters a taxi driver who is bald and learn he chose after seeing "Agneepath"--a fashion statement, but their reaction is to contrast their own unhappy situation with that of the taxi driver.  After many rejections for an arranged marriage and two with unsuitable grooms, a shy man gets enough courage to approach Enashka and by a flukey coincidence sees her without a wig.  He looks stunned at first, but later admits his love.  Her parents had been saving money for a trip to the Taj Mahal, but have sacrificed much to ease the pain of their daughter.  At the climax Enashka is seen in pubic without her wig and has a meltdown, but her father and boyfriend encourage her to do the dance contest.  She surprises everyone by taking off her wig and entering the contest.  The denouement is set a year later and all is well, but with a slight surprise.  Ayanna Pressley, American Congresswoman has decided to show herself without a wig and does so with dignity and style. 

Third seen is the Kannada (language) original--(2017) "Ondu Motteya Kathe" (which translates to  "Story of an Egg."  The plot is not quite identical to the copy.  The protagonist is a Kannada teacher and so the writer promotes some of his language concerns, including a film star.  The Director and writer is Raj B. Shetty who also plays the lead.  Also credited writing "Ujda Chaman."  In this version the second woman is only interested in getting him as a customer for her hair recovery business, but in the Hindi rewrite they use a student who is sexually aggressive but drops the hero after she gets a pass to graduate.


Although this was the film that inspired this blog it was the last I actually saw and only because my daughter, Heaher gave me a subscription to Hotstar, a streaming service specializing in films and sports from India.  Ayushmann Khurrana has seen his career boom with a series of well accepted roles. The hero is sensitive after childhood sweetheart dumps him because of balding head.  Ironically he works for a cosmetic firm that is very concerned about appearances including baldness and darkness.  Several desperate attempts to deal with his baldness lead to interesting plot developments culminating with his former girlfriend who is a lawyer defending him against a breach of marriage contract because he lied about being bald.  Khurrana has appeared with both leading ladies in notable films involving shaming.  Yami Gautam and Bhumi Pednekar are both excellent actresses and add to the impact of this film.  Khurrana's character also plays a standup comic and he ends the film, fully bald pointing out that appearances whether baldness, fatness, darkness, shortness are not as important as character.

Learn more about one of Ayushmann Khurrana's previous movies about more serious discrimination:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/09/article-15.html

 A previous blog dealt with Bollywood's obsession with skin color:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/08/bollywood-and-skin-colour.html 

It is common in most countries to borrow successful scripts from other languages.  India certainly does, but they have a closer source with multiple languages with viable film industries.  Original ideas/stories occur in their many different languages.

In some cultures baldness is viewed differently.  Yul Brynner wore baldness as a symbol of strength.  Black athletes are noted as masculine.  Appearance will also be a factor in how we judge others, but we should realize that appearance is superficial.