Monday, August 30, 2021

The Organized Mind can boost how you handle information

 I am grateful to Jen Mark for recommending this book.  We are Facebook friends that I think came about for a mutual interest in horses (I sold ads for an equestrian publication).  She is also independently friends with my son and I suspect the connection has something to do track practice and York University.

 Daniel J. Levitin offers better ways of dealing with the information overload we all contend with and that too often impedes our ability to prioritize and decide.  He uses a lot of words and examples to make his points and if you are interested they are well worth reading.  My goal is to summarize and highlight his "heavy" book so that you may or may not decide it is worth the effort.  I

If you would like to make better life decisions and form better habits, this is an excellent book.  Life and death decisions too often have emotional elements that cloud a rational decision that offers greater quality of life and longevity.  In addition to explaining the underlying foundations of organizing he dishes out several dozens of practical tips to make your life better.

"Attention is the most essential mental resource for any organism."  The brain is constantly monitoring a wide range of activity surrounding you and automatically filtering what is most necessary for your conscious awareness.  What you focus on in effect determines the quality of your decisions.  More from Daniel Goleman:

Daniel believes the ability to shift the burden of organizing from your brain to externals is the key to success.  Language was one of the first steps in this regard with writing another big step.

The author believes statistics help us make better decisions.  Of course we never have all the complete information to be certain, but by using the Bayes rules we can start with what we have and progress as more information becomes available.  Thomas Bayes was born around 1701 and his famous rules were not published until after his death.  For information on a very successful user of the Bayes Rules, Nate Silver check:  An important point is that correlation is not causation.

One statistical opportunity that too many misapplied occurred after the 9-11 attack.  Many were fearful of traveling by air, overlooking that the most dangerous part of airline trips is the drive to the airport.  Over the next year 2,170 more traffic deaths resulted than usual. 

Multi tasking is less efficient than focusing on one task at a time.   The brain is limited and in effect switching your focus and in each change requires some refocusing and drains energy.  Some people might be more efficient that others, but everyone loses by switching.  As I get older I appreciate this and am trying to modify my bad habits.

Filing helps us find relevant information quickly.  Having sold office supplies I appreciate that filing is critical to run any business (as well as your own personal interests).  Levitin points out that the first step is categorize everything you want to file.  A general principle is to file like items close to one another.

On a personal note at one point in sales I used what might be called recipe cards and developed the dilemma of how to file: alphabetical or by next call and how to prioritize.  If something or someone needed a response I needed to find my information quickly.  When I was able to switch to computer filing the possibilities expanded exponentially and I was able to locate and sort by such factors as priority, next call, travel areas, time zones, even such an item as floor type so I could find needed information quickly.  

Critical thinking should be a priority for education.  Not just accurate information, but the means to evaluate.  Daniel suggest we could use journalism standards set by the better news organization, specifically the New York Times and Washington Post.  They sometimes get beaten by organizations who jump on information before it is confirmed, but too often the information is incorrect and can have lingering negative effects.  Reputable publications do not publish information until it has been corroborated by another reliable source.   You cannot make rational decisions unless your information is accurate.  Another point emphasized is that we must encourage students (including ourselves) we must strive to understand other people and respect their differences.

The fight for your attention has been evolving.  As a salesman and employed by an advertising agency I realized that all the people I wanted to persuade to do something for my benefit had other things on their mind.  Businesses realize they must be more effective at gaining the attention of their prospects.  Technology and science are their tools.

Willpower is necessary to follow up your intentions.   It depletes with your energy, so it is better to do things early.   More about willpower including a reference to one of Daniel Livitin's resources, David Allen.  My favorite quote regarding willpower is "The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win." by basketball coach, Bobby Knight

 Another common failing is not to prepare for failure.   Whatever technical system you store your information is likely to fail at some point.  There are lots of backup systems, but you need to be sure that they are not subject to the same action such as a bomb or a fire.  If it important enough you might consider distant locations or the cloud, but bear in mind they also have disadvantages.  On a more physical level we all plans that sometimes don't work out.  Before making a move in many cases your confidence level would be strengthened if you had plans for failure.

Modern technology has increased our choices beyond comprehension.  You can easily have access to unlimited amounts of music, film and reading.  The choices you do make will impact not only enjoyment of life, but also your ability to make decisions.  Consciously filter out that which doesn't interest you.

There is much more than I have covered and I suspect that many would find different points of greater personal relevancy.  It would be worth while for most of you to tackle Daniel J. Levitin's book.

Daniel is a busy author and you can keep up to date with his output at: I will end with his last sentence.  "The key to change is having faith that when we get rid of the old something or someone even more magnificent will take its place."

Wednesday, August 25, 2021


Those of us who have taken the trouble to be vaccinated and have and still wear masks when appropriate are starting to get a little perturbed by those who dismiss our concerns.  One of their arguments is that the rest of us do not have the right to infringe their "freedom."  BULLSHIT!

Freedom is an abstract concept that we all like to talk about and to be honest are always trying to increase by getting more money, getting more fit and by being smarter.  That should tell you that you don't already have unlimited freedom.  There are the physical limitations of your body (strength, gender, health, etc) and of your circumstances (housing, air, transportation networks, access to electricity, wealth, and yes, education).  On top of that society (that we have a small say in) has imposed lots of restrictions supposedly for our own protection.  When someone has been injured, say by a drunk driver, society sets up laws that limit your alcohol intake to a percentage before you start driving and we have programs to test this as we aren't at all convinced every driver would avoid going over their alcohol limit.  There are literally millions of legal restrictions on what we are allowed to do.   Some earlier thoughts on regulations:

There is a another restriction we place on ourselves.  We are intimidated by society.  The sight of a gun makes one aware not to offend.  The law threatens with fines, public notice of our crimes and ultimately jail.  Beyond this most of us (including you) dislike ridicule which can range from a disapproving society to a family member.  Some of us have worked ourselves into a corner where we need to prove how tough we are or loyalty to someone.  There is suspicion that many of those refusing to comply with Covid-19 protocols are too proud to admit they are wrong.

I am doubly vaccinated, wear a mask when appropriate, try to keep my 2 meter distance and even wash my hands more often.  I am not so worried that I might suffer the Covid 19 disease, but realistically I have two sets of concerns.  First, we were told that not 100% of those vaccinated are actually immune and we are hearing about some vaccinated individuals who have tested positive, but with very few of them actually dying.  We are also are wondering about why we might need a booster--is it because the first two doses might not last more than a few months?

Second it appears some of the vaccinated might pass on the disease, especially to the more vulnerable such as children under 12 or those with compromising conditions.  That bothers me and should bother you.  Aside from those close to us what kind of society would we be left with as all sorts of people die or suffer serious consequences?

Complicating the matter the Covid-19 has developed new variants such as Delta that is not particularly threatening, except it is more contagious.   There are other variations and the longer the pandemic lasts there are certain to be other variants that require a different set of protocols with greater restrictions on our behavior that will surely impinge on our freedom.

In the meantime the situation has become so bad that medical resources are reaching and in some areas passed their limits.   If you have a heart attack or stroke or an accident you may have to wait in line, a line that creeps along as someone dies.

You can be part of the solution to this nightmare one way or another.  One way you can edge us closer to herd immunity by adhering to the established protocols including vaccinations.  Or you can edge us towards herd immunity by dying.  If enough people die the rest of us will be safe from this particular calamity.  

We in Canada have an election coming up.  I will not be voting for anyone who advocates banning mask mandates or is against vaccination passports.  I will not support businesses that do not take Covid-19 seriously.  It used to be said that your freedom ends at my nose, but today it should be recognized that if an un-vaccinated person not wearing a mask wants to intrude within two meters of my nose that freedom needs to be restricted at least as much as a person drinking over the limit.

Some of you may not have much of a choice.  Masks may be medically inadvisable and vaccination might be unsafe.  There are few alternatives--shields are said to be effective and two meter rule seems to be working.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Priyanka Chopra from Bollywood to Hollywood

North Americans might be familiar with Priyanka for "Quantico" and a few movies, but there is much more to her.   Following her book gave me more understanding of this very rounded woman.  Time put her on a cover and declared her one of the "100 most influential people, while Forbes named as one of t"he Most Powerful Women".

She is the daughter of two military doctors and was moved around quite a bit, partly to military bases, but also with relatives, including three years as teenager in the U.S.  She had thoughts to becoming an aeronautical engineer, but got sidetracked as a model and really turned around when her younger brother trying to get his old room back suggested her for Miss India World contest which led to the Miss World contest in London, England.  Surprised to learn there is betting on the Miss World and not surprised that at first she had long odds, but they crept up as she was seen and heard more.

Bollywood is patriarchal and sexist.  Her beauty title gave her name recognition, but still directors felt women were interchangeable and consequently didn't deserve as much money as the male leads.  A nameless director suggested she needed a "boob job".  Another aspect of appearance is skin color and many in Bollywood have endorsed skin lighteners including Priyanka who explained she used them at a time of insecurity (some people had said she was "dusky") and then was happy to get paid for endorsing them.  However as her personal confidence grew she looks upon them as something to be discouraged and has distanced herself from them.

A chance for an American music career sidelined her for awhile, but then uncovered new opportunities.  She had been spotted lip synching to Sunidhi Chauhan (one of my very favorite singers) and later an segment was found where she actually did sing quite capably.  One of her music clips was used for a  pre NFL game, but was met with strong racist attacks.  After many inter continental trips back and forth she decided to shelve the idea.  The many events she attended in her efforts had brought her into contact with television people.  She has occasionally been used as a playback singer.   I bought one of her tunes in Marathi language used for a film she produced.

Below are some of the films she has appeared in, but she has done quite a few more.  Her film career started in 2001 with a short film just after being crowned as Miss World.  Starting as a novice she gradually learned to always be improving.  She had to learn dancing, martial arts, riding and gain more familiarity with other languages.  Her advice to actors is to listen carefully before delivering their lines.  When reacting to someone else it is important to convey the multiple emotions one might feel under the circumstances.

Her first feature film, "Thamizhan" (2002) was in the Tamil language which she was not fluent in.  but she was coached to speak phoenetically.  A common problem in India with dozens of languages that established actors find opens up opportuntiies.  Sometimes words are dubbed and other times they are able to speak phoenetically.  Priyanka was paired with popular Tamil star, Vijay.

"Bluffmaster" (2005) was  an early film with Abhishek Bachchan and was where she lip synched the song that got international attention.

"Krrish" (2006) was with Hrithik Roshan and was a bit of a science fiction movie.

"Don" (2006) and "Don 2" (2011) were played against my favorite actor, Shah Rukh Khan where she played a police officer in pursuit of the very slippery international criminal.  They played together in another movie in between "Ra. One" (2011).   For more on the very popular Shah Rukh Khan:

"Fashion" (2008) was a woman centric role about the glamorous and shady world of fashion.  Also starred Kangana Ranaut with the two of them winning lots of awards.  More on Kangana, another actress who is used a lot in women centric roles:

 "Dostana" (2008) was filmed in Florida and co starred Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham pretending to be gay to get preferred accommodation.  They both fall in love with Priyanka who is especially sexy.  A song that has come to be associated with Priyanka is " Desi Girl" sung later by Nick Jonas to good effect.

"Kaminey" (2009) was actually a minor role that Priyanka sought as she liked it.  The star was Shahid Kapoor.

In "Agneepath" (2012) this time she played the sister of leading man Hrithik Roshan.  Hrithik helped when Priyanka's father need some international treatment for a critical illness. 

"Barfi" (2012) was another challenging role as an autistic woman in a romance comedy and she get the buy played by Ranbir Kapoor.  Another set of awards.

"Mary Kom" (2014) was still another challenging movie, not only for playing a real life champion boxer, but also because her father died during the preparation phase.  Physically demanding she had to develop her body to fit the part.  More awards.



"Dil Dhadakne Do" (2015) was a sort of family romance written and directed by Zoya Akhtar and included her brother Farhan Akhtar.  For more on Farhan who is one of the most accomplished film makers:

"Quantico" represented a big breakthrough for the American market as she was the first born Indian to lead a tv show.  She appeared in 57 episodes from 2015 to 2018) filmed in Montreal.   A sex scene from "Quantico" which I watched a trailer on tv grabbed a lot of attention.   Priyanka had played sexually active women in some films and didn't expect the criticism for this particular episode.  As she points out as with her Bollywood films sex was suggestive rather than explicit.   So far I have not watched a single episode.  She commented that at various times although very fluent in English she had been asked to change her accent back and forth between British and American.

She appeared in a short film with her popular cousin, Parineeti Chopra that traded on the success of "Frozen 2"  It was "Frozen 2-Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Praineeti Chopra-Promo" in Hindi.  

"The Sky is Pink" (2019) was a movie she co-produced as well as starred in., this time again with Farhan Akhtar  It was reported that her husband shed tears for one of the scenes and was unlikely to have been the only one.  A favorite of mine:




 In "The White Tiger" (2021) which she was an executive producer she played an American back in India with her husband Rajkummar Rao.  It had been based on a Booker Man prize winning book by Arvind Adiga.  Read more

There is more to tell.

Together with her mother who formed Purple Pebble Pictures she started producing regional films in India.   They produced films in Marathi, Bhojpuri, Assamese, Sikkimese-Nepali and Punjabi.  These ventures helped develop films for relatively small audiences, but in some cases enriched the Indian film industry  One very notable example was "Ventilator" (2016) in the Marathi language won national awards and was remade as "Ventilator" (2018) in the Gujarati.  It was very good and for me hit me personally.  She has also been involved producing movies for Bollywood and Hollywood.

As Miss World she went to many charitable events.  When she became a star she got involved with individuals needing charity.  One example was when visiting her parents she learned that one of their caretakers was a young girl whose parents could only afford to give her brothers high education.  She realized she had been blessed with understanding educated parents and in individual cases set up to help.  In 2011 she formed the Priyanka Foundation for Health and Education.  She was involved with UNICEF projects in India, but then was asked to be an international ambassador taking trips to Bangladesh and across Africa, and the Middle East.  She was acutely aware of female discrimination and sexual abuse. 

At age 35 she finally met the man she wanted to marry, Nick Jonas a musician 10 years younger.   Mutual friends suggested they should meet, but for quite awhile contact was very fleeting.  One early example was the 2017 Met Art Gala where by coincidence they were both wearing Ralph Lauren fashions.  For awhile contact was by Twitter and very short encounters.  By 2018 things started moving faster.  At one point he took his brothers (of the well known rock band, Jonas Brothers and in December of that year they had three day marriage celebrations that some have said were more impressive than the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  The first ceremony was Christian and was administered by Nick's father, a pastor and then a Hindu ceremony.  Now they live in Los Angeles and Priyanka goes back and forth to India and elsewhere. often joined by Nick   She is now known as Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

I hope her memoir title remains true.  There is a lot of potential left.  Right now they have a few dogs, but both claim to be family oriented.  Priyanka has more to offer films than acting.

The movies seen by me are bolded.  Priyanka takes up a longer personal film list, but I felt this list covered most, admittedly not all  of the highlights.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Ben Rhodes Update on the World Worth Reading

Ben was one of Barrack Obama's closest confidants and got a good view of the world when the Democrats were in power.  As Trump took over, Ben got to see the world more as an outsider.  Fortunately for us who would like to better understand the world he is very articulate.  He is cynical, but analytical.  Recommended by Fareed Zakaria, but also by a few of my acquaintances.

Part of his book is based on conversations with dissidents, primarily in Hungary, Russia and Hong Kong.   Ben feels that the world seems to be tilting towards authoritarianism

While reading about his Hungarian conversations with dissident,  Sandor Lederer coincidenttally Fox news highlighted by Tucker Carlson have been praising Hungary.  Many of Victor Orban's priorities to gain and maintain power are familiar.  Careful to pick compatible judges,  coerce media to co-operate, seek wealthy donors for campaign, rant about immigrants and although there is a a tinge of anti semitism become  friends with Israel and Natanyahu. 

At a memorial event for the Normandy invasion Ben became aware that the Russians actually suffered more from World War II and are not credited enough for their role in defeating the Nazis.  Putin is something like Trump in that he is obsessed with the lost glory of Russia.  Russia is actually weak and are not the danger they were once.

Ben had a few conversations with Alexey Navalny, a dissident who shared felt Russia should be nationalistic.  His biggest concern was the lack of truth.  As you may know Alexey survived what some assume is a poisoning effort on the orders of Putin and is now in prison.  A quote from Alexander Solzhnitsen " Violence can only be concealed by a lie and the lie can only be maintained by violence."

China is the real game changer.  They not only have developed into an economic juggernaut, but also perhaps the most controlled population in history.  While visiting China Ben and Obama were warned about their unannounced visit to the "Tibetan separatist" revealing government sensitivity regarding the Dalai Lama..  Talking with dissident  Bao Pu on different occasions Ben learned of the Chinese government ability to know what any one person was thinking.  Hong Kong is being treated much more harshly than promised.  They have developed protesting on a massive scale and support other protest movements such as mentioned for Belarus.

Xi Jinping was more interesting than I had thought.  He married a pop singer.  More astounding was that his parents had offending authorities and suffered.  Xi in fact has not only worked to more controlling, but also projecting China more globally than his predecessors.   

 The Uighurs are an oppressed group in China with over one million under detention.  Xi dismisses all complaints as none of your business.  During the sweep looking for terrorists the Americans scooped up a few Uighurs that ended up at Guantanamo.  During Obama's administration it was assessed that the Uighurs posed no threat to America. The Chinese authorities were interested, but it was decided the best option was to release them in America.  Republicans kicked up such a fuss that that was blocked and made it impossible to close Guantanamo.

I am reminded that during the Olympics, the Chinese government has successfully demanded that Taiwan be known as Chinese Taipei and be denied their national anthem and flag.

Obama felt one way to deal with China was to develop a trade group to compete against China.  That was the Trans Pacific Partnership which eventually he was forced to cut American participation while the remaining nations tried to scrap it together.

A theme of the book is summed up by one Obama quote:  "Power doesn't give up without a fight."  

The last section of the book Ben offers his thoughts on what has happened to America.  Austan Goolsbee , Democratic advisor pointed back to Clinton who broke barriers for financing, while George W. Bush reduced taxes for the wealthy and Obama was forced to do a partial stimulus due to Republican resistance.  Then Trump compounded the debt problem that will take an immense effort to counter the accumulative moves. The Republicans are very quick to criticize, even if it involves reversing their own policy claims.  The base problem is that the Republicans in reality are catering to their financial base of wealthy donors. 

Ben realizes that many parts of the world have legitimate grievances that have been ignored by Americans  and that policies have too often been tied to short term economic priorities.  He feels the Trump administration made a bad situation worse.

While reading this book I heard some remarks by Admiral Michael Mullen regarding the fall of the Afghan government.  He attributes it to corruption of the Afghan government as people see Americans supporting that.  This had been predicted years ago.

Although the book makes for depressing reading, it does hold out some hope and is well worth the effort to understand better forces that are shaping our world. 

Ben's book, "The World as It Is" mainly about his years working with Barrack Obama is reviewed:  

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The White Slave--an introduction to the Colombian novela

An older Italian neighbor was according to her son addicted to Colombian novelas.  When the Russians found themselves with unexpected open television time after the breakup of the Soviet Union they filled it in part with the Colombian novela.  Not sure if "La Esclava Blanca" (White Slave) qualifies as a Colombian novela, but it sure is addicting and is spread over 62 episodes of 40+ minutes each.  Available on Netflix.

There is a complicated plot with moving parts   Here follows a crude summary.  A house is burned down and two people (husband and wife) are killed.  The killer has been commanded to kill a baby, Victoria but can't quite bring himself to do it.  Black slaves escape and the caretaker of the baby takes her with the group.  A few years later the whites surround the camp and re capture the escaped black slaves while the young white girl escapes.  The local priest is able to send her to a nunnery in Spain.  While there she forms the idea to avenge her parents and get back with her sweet heart, Miguel.  In the meantime the man who commanded the deaths of the owners takes over the estate.  Victoria is able to disrupt a planned marriage between the owner and a noble women and substitute herself.  Tons of complications and other characters.  There are romances and murders and treachery.  Lots of summaries are similar, but I would say this has some uniqueness that might be worth your while.  Unlike the Korean series that I love this one has more violence and more sex.

Slavery was in a transition at this time in what was known as Granada.   It was illegal to bring in new slaves from Africa.  Slave rebellions from both indigenous and Africans happened.  A few slaves won their freedom.  Negotiations started before 1839 with apparently a few districts were able to abolish slavery within their district.  In 1851 slavery was officially abolished, more than a decade ahead of Americans.

I am confident this was popular beyond Colombia, but there is not a lot of information.

Very struck by the acting which is probably a reflection on the directing with characters coming and going and sometimes re-appearing.  

Director Liliana Bocanegra has been directing tv. series since 2010.  Along with Mateo Stivelberg was nominated for best director for this series at the Seoul International Drama Awards

Eduardo Galbo conceived the original idea and wrote some episodes.  He has also been a prominent producer of tv. series.  There was obviously a crew of talented and experienced writers.  Andres Burgos  and was nominated for script writing award with the Seoul International Drama Award.

The music composer was Alejandro Ramirez-Rojas who has been writing for films since 2006 and has won some national awards.

Miguel de Miguel plays Nicolas the unscrupulous, murderous landlord and the viewer will detest him, but he is a very smooth operator.  Born in Spain, Miguel has appeared in mainly tv. series in Spain.

Norma Martinez played Adela Nicolas's mother, a schemer, self righteous and capable of cruelty.   Her first film in 1988 was from Cuba, but most of her career has been spent in Peru.  "Proof of Life" (2000) and "Man on Fire" (2004) were two English films she had a part in.  She was at one time a professional wrestler. 

Nerea Camacho played the white girl, Victoria who survived her parents being murdered due to escaped slaves, was sent secretly to Spain and years later masqueraded as a noble lady who married Nicolas as        part of plan for revenge.  She retained her love for a childhood sweetheart who is a slave and it turns out the illegitimate son of Nicolas.   Nerea has appeared in Mexican series, but mostly in Spain   About 20 years old when this was filmed, but seems very mature in the role.

If you like soap operas with a little history, a little sex and some violence this is very addicting.  A very enjoyable film from Colombia for me was"Corazon de Leon," a romance comedy with Marlon Moreno and Maria Nela Sinistera which I would also recommend.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

2020 Olympics Part Two: The People Who Made it Interesting

What really makes the Olympics so riveting is the people.  All have made sacrifices to be there and many have very high skill levels.  Only a few will win the gold medal.  Others may be happy with lesser medals, or personal bests or meeting other athletes (and non athletes).  Disappointment and bitterness is visible.  Without losers there can be no winners.  Here it is to appreciate effort and fairness.   Armchair quarterbacks are quick to criticize and advise, but they can't ever know the whole story.  One of the benefits of the Olympics is to encourage more people to be more active.

Naomi Osaka, hometown Japanese tennis star feeling mental pressures decided she was not up  to an Olympic match   Shortly after Simone Biles, announced she would not be competing in her next competitions.  In the case of Simone the preparation is difficult to comprehend often for a six second vault.   Her team mates and others rallied around her and she finished by winning a  bronze in the last event.  I hope like other athletes she will be remembered for what she did more than any "failing" plus as an advocate against sexual abuse.  In her defense I picked up from Facebook (thanks Victoria Pearce) a quote from John Wooden--"Success is peace of mind in knowing you have done your best."

It is hard to avoid that most commentary on gymnastics (and diving) focuses on negatives.  In reality that might be the most effective way to differentiate performances.  Naively I would hope to see more emphasis on the positives. --difficult routine and execution--build up a score instead of knocking it down.

The men's high jump provided not only a tense competition, but one of the more dramatic happenings.  In the end two men were tied and decided not to have a jump off, meaning they would share a gold medal.  This was ok'd by officials.  One was a Qateri, Mumtaz Essa Barshim who showed some emotion, but the other, Italian Gianmarco Tamberi was exuberant jumping up and hugging his opponent,  By coincidence he was on the track when another Italian unexpectedly won a gold medal for the 100 meter sprint and the two hugged each other.

Sifon Hassan was for me the most remarkable athlete.  An immigrant from Ethiopia she ran for the Netherlands and unlike many who chose to concentrate on their best chance for a medal, she decided to go for three medals.  She fell in morning heat for 1500, but went onto win from way behind.  Then in the same evening won gold medal in 5,000.  She had to accept a bronze for the 1500 final, but then went on to win the 10,000.

Women's golf got my attention more than I expected.  I had only heard of Lydia Ko and after a bad first round she finished second. An American Nelly Korda won, but a favorite of the announcers (and mine) Aditi Ashok, only 18 from India finished fourth.

Canadian women soccer team beating their Americans  (yes that does give extra joy and apparently extra humiliation for the Americans)  in penalty kicks.  Then beating Sweden for the gold medal with another penalty kickoffs.  A lot of tension in both games. Concern was expressed that there is no Canadian women's soccer league and hope that their success will spur the effort.  

Many years ago I was on the executive for a recreational youth soccer league.  We lived away from the playing field and often ended up driving other distant players including one precocious girl.  Our league let boys and girls play together, but at about the age of puberty most girls dropped out.  I campaigned for a girls team to play against similar teams elsewhere in the city and after a year it occurred.  That last thing I did was to hire a coach before resigning as my son had moved on.  More on my volunteer career:

On the men's side Brazil and Italy displayed a lot of skill and also ended up in extra time, but Brazil was able to score before being stuck in penalty kicks.

Enjoyed the Japanese women's basketball team   They were outsized by American women and probably most other opposition, but played to the potential of the game with their passing, shooting and aggressive defense.  Am reminded that at one time there was a league that required teams to confine themselves to a total height for players on the floor.  There was even a team in my hometown, Hamilton until the league folded.   On the men's side France, Spain Slovenia and of course the all star gold medal Americans were exciting to watch.  My basketball connections:

I was only able to get a glimpse of handball.  Compared to basketball, shorter players can better hold their own.  Instead of a hoop 10 feet above the floor there is a net guarded by a goalie.  There is a requirement to bounce the ball if you go more than a few steps.  The French women beat the Russians for the gold in a competitive game.

The start for short sprint events got more attention.  In track, Donovan Bailey was really a good explanation of the psychology perhaps for me creating more focus.  With almost no loud crowds to deal with the athletes are more sensitive to slight noises such as camera clicks.  The judges have in some cases been forgiving, but they have access to more sophisticated equipment that measure more delicately response time which now becomes a decision factor regarding false starts.   There were it seemed more numerous false starts than usual and one can appreciate that the psychological adjustments can be the critical difference in races decided by less than one tenth of a second.  For swimming which also has more sensitive  timing equipment one positive point was that allowing for the fact that sound travels giving the furthest from the starter a disadvantage.  They are able to give simultaneous beep sounds at the starting blocks.  Andre de Grasse bronze winner at 100 and 4 x 100 relay and gold at 200 seems to be able to relax at stressful times (for example with three false starts for one heat).   He is also able to beat those with better times, but he has consistently picked the right time to perform.

As a high schooler in small schools sprints (specifically 100 yards) I had awareness that the start was critical, but wasn't very good.  In one race the placing judge pointed out that I was likely the fastest at the finishing line, but didn't qualify to move on.  At the time we ran in yards and I missed the opportunity of an extra 10 yards or so offered by the 100 meters.  It is incredible to think on how little details can have a magnifying consequence.   My son went to high school where there was more frequent competition, more choices and better coaching.  He started off encouragingly with the 100 meters, but moved up to 200 meters, then 400 meters and settling on 800 meters where he was able to compete into his 30's.

In some qualifying relay (team) events best athletes kept out to rest or compete in other events--backfires sometimes.  The relays are exciting because there is often a change of rankings with each baton exchange.  The baton exchanges require skill and practice and in a few cases hurt those teams that did not practice enough. 

Also more aware of the hazards of space management for longer track distances with staggered starting positions reflecting allowance for curves.  If they are able the ones on the inside have a potential advantage if they are able to have a good start., but in danger of being blocked in  Unfortunately there have been a few tumbles that eliminate potential winners, but more common are the concerns about being boxed in or have to go outside with greater distance.

Decathlon and Heptathlon are events developed for the Olympics and have been thought of as test for the best all around athlete.  No one has ever been top in all 10 or 7 events (running, throwing, jumping) which is humbling and boost camaraderie.  Damian Warner set new Olympic and Canadian records to win a gold medal.  

Race walking may seem boring, but I felt an affinity to it from my youth in Oshawa.  One of our few international champions was Alex Oakley.  I once saw him training at a local park where he lapped another walker.  At one point the neighborhood kid decided we would include race walking as one of our contests.  We didn't really know the rules and most of us drifted towards lifting both feet off the ground with our legs straight as it was faster.  Understanding the rules a little better it is easier to appreciate how natural it would be to cheat and at Tokyo the judges were busy.  Evan Dunfee had gone through a teasing experience at Rio that saw him temporarily winning a bronze medal and then relegated back to fourth.  This year he came through with a bronze in the 50 kilometers.

One disappointment was that Jessica Phoenix was forced to withdraw her entry in eventing equestrian as her horse had medical issues.  I had taken her photo for The Rider and she always struck me as a modest, cheerful and capable athlete.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus became alarmed with her coaches and was told by relatives it was not safe at home.  So she defected to Poland.  Defections used to be more common.  An Arab athlete withdrew because he refused to match up against an Israeli.  On the other hand the Iranian coach was willing to shake hands with the Israeli coach of the Czechoslovakian basketball team.  There were other political moves, but not many that got noticed.

Some sports may seem questionable, but the benefit is that their inclusion encourage more people to participate with social as well as health benefits.  Surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing, karate and softball/baseball were additions.  Track added a mixed 4 x 400 relay that was very exciting with Poland winning. 

There were a lot of interesting tv. commercials.  These two were part of promotional efforts for the Paralympics:

Petrocan had a series pointing the role of coaches.  "It gets easier later." with coach Bob Westman encouraging paralympian Marisa Papaconstantiou.  Athlete have to go through the drudgery of getting prepared.      

Toyota. did little profiles of athletes.  Jessica Long, born in Siberia was adopted at 13 months and five months later had her two legs amputated following a disease that had been known beforehand.  She had been encouraged to be active and got involved with swimming going on to become the most decorated American Paralympic swimmer. 

For my earlier blog on the 2020 Olympics:

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

2020 Olympics: The setup and frame

This is not a detailed professional analysis of a massive sports festival but more an obsessed fan's observations that revolve around the festival that occurs every (mostly) two years. This has been difficult time for me to get anything done.  Of course being retired means there are many options and few deadlines, but the Three Ring Circus is very distracting.  To be honest like many people I would ordinarily not go out of my way for 90% of what I do feel compelled to watch during the Olympics.  In some cases there is a novelty, in other cases there is something significant.  Other times it is a time filler, but the whole is  more important than the pieces.

My obsession began in 1960 at age 12 for the Rome Olympics.  I was a news carrier and would take a look at the paper before actually starting delivery.  I ended up cutting out the stories and results.  There wasn't much television coverage and certainly none live.  The 2020 Olympics was very unique.  For starters it didn't happen in 2020.  Despite the delay the pandemic was still a major concern.  While that was very obvious, only slightly less obvious was that climate change can no longer be ignored.

The pandemic caused a lot of adjustments.  Almost all athletes had their training  disrupted--a few got Covid 19 and recovered to participate, but others didn't recover good enough.  Some decided it was too risky and participating would send the wrong message.  In a sense everyone has been affected.  In some team sports they allowed rosters to increase from 18 to 22.  Also reduced the amount of social interaction between athletes and support staff.  The stands were to be empty with no paying customers.  The other athletes and staff coming to cheer on their team mates were forbidden to sing or cheer and of course were expected to wear a mask.  Although protocols seemed to have been adhered to, the Olympics cannot avoid being a spreader event.  In fact Japan was in the midst of another pandemic wave.

When showing the Canadian winners of women's synchronized diving because the presenter is not permitted to place the medals around the neck of the winners, the two women in turn put them over each other with this procedure becoming normal wherever possible.  

The heat often reached 30 degrees Centigrade.  Heat management is a key to improving one's performance when it most counts--in the final.  Most noticeable in track especially in the longer distances.  It is always position that qualifies for the next step, but time also may qualify.  The wisest movement is not extend yourself more than necessary, but is subject to risk that someone else will extend themselves enough to qualify at your expense.  This strategy probably effected the final outcomes more than usual.

Confused about Sapporo being the site for the marathon and long distance walking events as it is well north of Tokyo on another island.  It was a complicated issue at first seemingly dictated by health concerns for athletes.  Television was a major factor as organizers realized previous long distance running and walking events in 30 + degree weather resulted in massive withdrawals during the event and great suffering of those who survived.  Late July and early August are normally the hottest time of the year, but avoided overlapping with major sporting events in Europe and America.  Again television dictates important details.

Because of the heat many outdoor events had to be rescheduled.  At one point there was talk of changing sailing events because of a possible cyclone which hit China.

For most of us the only access was through television.  Canadians are fortunate in that the CBC traditionally goes all out.  NBC was a lot more restrained in hours, but most Canadians had access to whatever might be of interest there.   NBC was more worried about upsetting their regular advertisers. This year CBC really expanded, using other networks like TSN to co-ordinate coverage plus offering free streaming services for many events.  Not quite 24 hours, but sort of.  As Tokyo is 13 hours ahead the Eastern Time Zone found 10 am to about 7 am. with no live events, but plenty of tapes, interviews, analysis. The challenge of coverage and accessibility was more difficult because of more events.

Actually staying at home with television has advantages over actually attending.  We can flip from event to event almost as our fancy dictates.  The camera has become more innovative than ever with more tantalizing views than ever with lots of replays.   

I was struck by underwater and slow motion views that apparently are denied to diving judges.  Water polo sometimes included underwater shots of what goes on which often is more violent that what we see on the surface.  Check out  Perhaps I am just jealous, but at home you can appreciate the athleticism and artistry better, but of course the emotions of the crowd are irreplaceable.

This is  most gender equality Olympics yet  There were mixed gender events with a track relay, and with shooting and tennis amongst others.  Male and female flag bearers for most nations.  Altogether 49% of the athletes were women.  Equestrian is the only event where the sexes compete as equals with women often winning as it takes  more than brute strength to control a horse that might weigh half a ton.

For the first time openly transgender women were included, but it's complicated.  Some of the inclusions were a New Zealand weightlifter, a Brazilian volleyball player, a  member of Canadian gold medal soccer team.  In these cases consideration is given to hormone treatment focusing on testosterone levels allowing that some is natural in women.  Another factor is time from transition as in many cases there is a temporary muscle retention.  There is also a concern over cis females (those normally considered female) with their testosterone levels.  Two teenagers from Namibia had such high testosterone levels they were not allowed to run the 400 her best event, but one of them did win silver in 200 meters.  The International Olympic Committee  is attempting to balance inclusiveness and fairness.  It seems likely there will be further classifications in the future.

Sexism is prominent.  Women's Beach Volleyball requires skimpy bikini like outfits.  Prior to the Olympics the Norwegian handball team was fined for rejecting the skimpy outfits that had been standard.  An American celebrity offered to pay the fine, but fortunately the handball association retracted the fine.   The German gymnastics team protested with full length leotards.  Ironically other women, especially in the past had been required to cover more of their bodies.  I assume that skimpy outfits used in other women's sports are for their comfort.  Although men will always enjoy bare skin and form fitting outfits we are starting to better appreciate the skills and efforts required.

Back in 2011 the World Anti-Doping Agency banned Russia from international sporting activities including the Olympics.   As a compromise the IOC allowed Russian athletes to participate as the Russian Olympic Committee with a few restrictions.  They cannot use the Russia name, or use their flag or have their national anthem played.  It was suggested that should one of them win a gold medal  they could play the Tchaikowski Piano Concerto Number One (which is much more impressive).  The Russians missed a few athletes, but maintained some of their national prestige with a respectable haul of medals.

Surprised to learn that Hong Kong participates (since 1952) including 2021.  Puerto Rico has long had its own team.   Refugee Olympic team was first allowed in 2016 and has continued with limited success in medal events, but are making a statement.  

Taiwan presents a special problem for the IOC because China objects strongly to any implication that Taiwan is an independent country.  They were banned for several years, but in 1981 agreed to a compromise that required them to use the name Chinese Taipei and forgo use of the national anthem and flag for medal presentations.  A few foreign media have decided to use "Taiwan" in their coverage of the games, but this rouses stern rebukes from Beijing authorities.

Tokyo not only wanted to represent Japanese culture, but wanted to incorporate more environmentally friendly elements.  The torch lit in Greece was designed with a cherry blossom motif and made partly from recycled aluminum.  The cauldron that houses the Olympic flame was designed by Canadian architect, Oki Sato.  It was made to represent five separate flames coming from a flower.  For the first time it was fueled by hydrogen which does not emit carbon dioxide.

For the medals, electronic devices such as mobile phones were collected from Japanese citizens and metals drawn from there including gold, silver and red brass (95% copper and 5% zinc).  Junichi Kawanishi designed the medals.  Each of the medal winners was also given a small bouquet made from flowers that had been grown in the areas affected by the tsunami and nuclear disaster symbolizing Japan rising again.

Perhaps music has been considered masculine for too long, but it adds enjoyment to some of the women's events such as gymnastics and synchronized swimming. 

The Olympics has inspired a lot of memorable music.  I remember the Celine Dion choice for the Atlanta Games in 1996 was criticized, but the organizers defended saying they wanted the best.  I think the best and the most appropriate was Whitney Houston singing "One Moment in Time."  Unless I missed it on a bathroom break there were no catchy original songs.  I had read that the composer had been charged with a sexual crime and his music taken out of the program.  

Personally I decided to do musical posts on Facebook to commemorate gold medal winners from countries that don't always get a lot of attention.  Ones I found time and space for were the Netherlands, Philippines, Jamaica, Morocco, Ethiopia, Latvia, Italy, Puerto Rico and Fiji.

The opening ceremony was more subdued than in the past.  The athletes paraded in and speeches were made.  Naomi Osaka lit the flame.  A moment of silence was observed for the first time during the Opening Ceremonies for the murder of 11 Israeli team members (plus one German police officer) during the 1972 Munich Olympics.  At the time this caused the first disruption of 34 hours, overcoming some opposition to continuing.  Palestinians used the Olympic platform to make a violent political statement that backfired on them.  But it made security a much higher priority for future Olympics.

The marathon did attract a lot of spectators behind guard rails, but they all have masks on.  With the walking events it provided opportunities for local and visitors to watch something without buying tickets.  The Japanese were encouraged to watch on television.

For the closing athletes paraded in and speeches were made with the Olympic flag being handed over by the female Tokyo mayor to the female Paris mayor.  There was some entertainment by dancers and singers (I think lip synched).  The French part of the closing was very impressive, a big part of it staged in Paris, itself with jets leaving colored streams for their flag around the Eiffel Tower.  Skateboarding around the skyline and with break dancing (to be added 2024).   To me the ceremony seemed more subdued from the point of view of athlete's participation which has traditionally been rollicking.

Tokyo will be paying off the debt for decades.  They had hoped to present themselves as a modern city with many attractions for visitors.   One aspect that is unique is that the Japanese have a fondness for forest or tree bathing and have integrated elements into Tokyo itself.

Fareed Zakaria commented on the logistical masterpiece of organizing.  Many athletes and officials had no direct flights, supplies from different parts of the world (eg. sand from Vietnam), horses.  It demonstrates that international co-operation can be impressive.  Fareed wishes that dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic was as good.

For my post on Brazilian Olympics/Paralympics

There is too much for one post so if you are interested in my humble opinions there will be a second post. within a day or so.  Followup here:

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Live Twice, Love Once--a Spanish gem

Alzheimer's is not funny, but as society ages it likely will be a bigger part of our lives.   Nevertheless this movie will make you laugh, but you will also understand human nature better.

We are introduced to Emilio, a widower and retired mathematics professor.  He is going through a ritual of visiting a local cafe and working on a magic square puzzle.  The waitress comments that usually he has the puzzle figured out before she serves, but not this time.  Things are not quite normal and at a medical exam he is told he is at the first stages of Alzheimer's.  We meet his daughter, Julia  at the hospital who describes herself as a medical visitor which throughout the movie is corrected  by others to "sales person."   

We are introduced to the family when Emilio comes to dinner.  Julia's husband and daughter are absorbed with cell phones.  The daughter, techno savvy Blanca is key to subsequent events.   Emilio is put off by his grand daughter, but when he gets stuck with her she defends her interest in her cell phone by declaring it to be "God."  When he puts that idea down she demonstrates that you can find out information on anybody.  He doubts they know anything about him, but she proves him wrong.  This leads to an inquiry about a woman who he had a crush on as a youth.  Throughout the rest of the film Blanca shows him how to use the cellphone to make his quest easier.

There are interesting complications along the way, but his daughter and son in law take an interest.  His daughter is a little offended that Emilio seems to be forgetting her mother who had died five years before.  She asked her father why now and not five years ago.  He replied that then he just wanted to forget, but now he fears he will forget.  It becomes a race against time.

We are shown a flashback of him as a young man obviously smitten with Margarita, but also absorbed in his studies.  Some small details re emerge later in the movie.  He comments to his daughter that he let Margarita slip away because he was too busy with his studies.  

Of course finding someone from fifty years ago has lots of obstacles.  With lots of complications  (some very funny and some involve social media) they do reach her, but she is not quite what he expected.  There is quite a gap  (maybe half an hour film time) before they hook up again for the finale.  Although the main character deteriorates, in sum the movie is delightful and beautiful.  Three generations interact with one another in encouraging ways.

Directed by Maria Ripoll who has been directing films and tv series since 1987.  One project interests me as she crosses Spanish film with Bollywood, "Traces of Sandalwood."

Maria Minguez has been writing scripts for films and tv. shows since 2005.  She also has been an assistant director since 2007.   She won a local award for this script.

The background music was supplied by Arnau Bataller.  The gentle music supports the mood.  He has 83 credits for film composition going back to 2000.   He won a local award for this film

Nuria Roldos handled the cinematography which was in the picturesque area around Valencia.  He has been handling camera work since 1987.   He received a local nomination for this film.

Nacho Ruiz Capillas was the editor.  He has been editing films since 1988 including such as "Elsa and Fred" (2005), "Dark Blue Almost Black" (2006), "The Education of Fairies" (2006) "Agora" (2009), "100 Meters" (2016) and "A Twelve Year Night" (2018).  Check: and

Oscar Martinez played Emilio who seemed normal then deteriorated, but then had occasional breakthroughs.  Oscar was born in Argentina and built a successful career there including Oscar nominated , "Wild Tales" (2014) and "The Distinguished Citizen" (2016).  He won a local award as best actor for this role.

Inma Cuesta played Julia, the daughter who was trying to help her mostly non-coperative father, while dealing with a lively daughter and an unfaithful husband.  Winner of numerous awards in Spain, some of her films included "Biancanieves" (2012) and "Everybody Knows" (2018).  She received two nominations for best supporting actress for this role.

The biggest star of this film is the shortest, Malfalda Carbonell who played the grand daughter.  Originally the role was written for an older teenager, but she was so impressive they re-wrote the script for a younger teenager.  She starts as a self centered teenager, but soon enjoys explaining things to her grandfather and searching for his lost love.  She is the glue that makes this film work.  Before and after Malfalda has been busy with several tv. series.  She won a local award as best supporting actress.

Nacho Lopez played the son in law who was unemployed, but wanting to be a motivational  coach and at different points tries to coach different people to co-operate with him.  He does co-operate in the quest and at one point he uses his coaching to persuade someone to help.  He is also unfaithful and at one point his wife has had enough.  In other words he is charming, but self indulgent.  Nacho has been acting in tv shows since 2000 and was nominated as best supporting actor for this movie.

Alzheimer's is not belittled.  When Emilio is confronted with the reality he is reluctant to face up to it, but then decides to pursue a lost love, not so much to start another romance as to be remembered.  There are a lot of delicate touches that might be missed and probably I missed some.  The writer and director have been careful to show little things can mean a lot.  

Just a personal note.  I have noticed my memory is not what it used to be and one of my motives for blogging is to remember what is meaningful to me.  If nobody else reads my words, I do, just because the memories mean more to me than they do for anyone else.  The words "sales person" could describe most of my work life, but usually employers realize there are demeaning connotation and substitute words like medical visitor or marketing manager.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Bette Davis

 Unlike my other posts on movie actors this one involves a book.  Although by my teen years I had seen hundreds of movies from the same time frame as Bette Davis, but had not paid any attention to her.  She was not seen as glamorous or even an especially good actress.  She was a major star and in fact it stems from her acting talent.  "Bette Davis Eyes" song highlights one of her more appealing features.  A makeup artist expanded her lips and that somehow emphasized her eyes. Bette became very fussy about those who handled her appearance with Edith Head being her favorite dressmaker.  She also had her favorite cinematographers.

 In 1928 she was an usher who had taken part in some theatrical productions.  When she reached Hollywood in 1930 she was asked to lay on her back while 15 male actors kissed her. as a sort of screen test.  Only Gilbert Roland is remembered. 

The book, "Dark Victory" has inspired me to indulge in some gossip and the rivalry with Joan Crawford is very interesting.  Bette contrasted the two by saying that Joan was a movie star while she, Bette was an actress.

In 1933, Bette was scheduled for the first time to have her name above a movie title, but on the day set aside to publicize this occasion Joan Crawford announced her divorce from Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and dominated Hollywood news.

An early breakthrough from minor roles was with Geroge Arliss, a revered actor who praised her in 1934 with "The Man Who Played God,"  

 She had been loaned to RKO by Warner Brothers for "Of Human Bondage" (1934) with Leslie Howard.  She received an Oscar nomination and although she didn't win, some critics felt this performance was better than what she did win Oscars for "Dangerous" (1936 and "Jezebel" (1938). 

While filming "Dangerous" it is said she fell for co-star Franchot Tone (she said as much several years later).  But Joan had got to him before and announced their engagement during the filming.

 In "Now, Voyager" (1942) she was really made her up to be less than plain before being glamorized . She campaigned for this role and insisted upon a more bland look than management wanted as she thought she would gain more respect as an actress.

She and Joan Crawford had been paid to smoke to encourage women who wanted to look sophisticated.   More on the marketing of smoking with movies:

Joan Crawford won her only Oscar for "Mildred Pierce" (1945), but for the role that Bette had turned down.

 In"A Stolen Life" (1946) she played a dual role as a twin sister.  The shy one had lost to the more outgoing one, but it is the outgoing one who drowns and the survivor pretends to be the wife of a man they both loved.   Glenn Ford used this film in part to revive his career after two years in the armed services. 

During WWII she became heavily involved with war bond raising including train tours.  Together with John Garfield formed the Hollywood Canteen so that servicemen could visit movie stars.

"All About Eve" (1950), perhaps her best known film.  Joseph L. Mankiewicz managed to add dialogue that stresses the importance of the script, but allowed Bette to respond that an actress sometimes has to rescue the script before the audience disappears.  Nominated for Oscar along with co-star Anne Baxter which probably split their vote as neither won.

 In "Pocketful of Miracles" (1961), the wheels had turned.  Bette Davis played an older poor woman, while Glenn Ford courted a younger woman.  Read more on Glenn Ford:

"What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" (1962) brought two rivals together with Bette playing a deranged, bitter former child star while Joan Crawford played the crippled sister who in many ways managed the household.  Lots of petty issues.  Bette chose her preferred role and was concerned that director,  might give Joan more closeups, so had to be assured that Robert Aldrich was not sleeping with Joan.  Also knowing that Joan was on the Board of Directors for Pepsi, insisted that a Coke machine be installed on the set.  Bette was nominated and favored for another Oscar, but Joan not only campaigned against that, but was able to accept the Oscar for Anne Bancroft, the winner. 

"Hush...Hush...Sweet Charlotte" (1964) was another chapter in the rivalry.  When Joan Crawford claimed she was too injured to shoot film, Bette helped recruit Olivia de Havilland.

"The Whales of August" (1987) second to last film with Lillian Gish, silent film star. 

Bette truly was in film, not so much for the glamour, but for the acting challenge.  She certainly did make herself into a long lasting movie star.  Over her career she was always fighting for artistic rights and tried to break contracts and at least once walked off the set.