Tuesday, September 28, 2021

HAMILTON READS 2021: BLAZE ISLAND"

 Hamilton Reads for 2021 selected "Blaze Island" by Catherine Bush as their choice. This is her fifth book.  Each of her books have been recognized by the Globe & Mail as well as other publications.  Born in Toronto and educated at the University of Toronto and Yale.  She has taught creative writing at Concordia University, University of British Columbia, University of Florida and at summer literary seminars in Kenya.  She has also been writer in residence at University of Alberta, University of Guelph, McMaster University and the University of New Brunswick.  In 2019 she was  a Fiction Meets Science Fellow in Delmenhorst, Germany.

One of her writing workshop stops has been to Fogo Island just off of Newfoundland where over eight summers she wrote "Blaze Island".   One of her concerns has been climate change and decided to make that one of her main themes partially inspired by her sister Elizabeth Bush who is a climate scientist..

Modeled on "The Tempest" by William Shakespeare.   I watched the Stratford version with Christopher Plummer on a DVD.  The story changed Fogo Island to Blaze Island and even used the house she stayed in as the main location.  Miranda is a relatively innocent girl in both stories.  Her father, Alan Wells was a powerful man, but with enemies some of whom forced him out a job at a major university.  A major hurricane headed to Blaze Island and generates a lot of human response.  Science and wealth clash.

 Geo engineering is an issue.  Some feel it is the easiest way to deal with climate change while critics charge we cannot predict unforeseen consequences.  Others feel that after mankind has failed to curtail harmful activities we may be forced to engineer a solution, if we can.  In any case it appears as part of a power struggle.

Each year the Hamilton library declares a noteworthy book to be the Hamilton Reads selection.  There will be some inter action with the author.  Climate change is a topic of prime interest. 

I would end with the last line of the book:  "Change is clear after it happens."

Here is a previous selection:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/04/hamilton-reads-2020-moon-over-crusted.html


Friday, September 24, 2021

Would you rather be burnt, mummified or rotted?

Since the conversation about death (especially your own) is generally avoided, when the time comes it is much easier to go along with tradition.   Some of us might be morbid, but prefer to think how we want to leave the world

Many years ago I had an interesting conversation with Greg Morden, who was about 14 years old and a very useful worker with the Oakville Journal Record.  He was the son of a funeral home owner.  He pointed out that many people really don't accept the death of someone until they actually see the body.  That does make sense, but is not always possible and I would argue not necessary.  I mention that because it did impress me at the time and I still see some merit, especially in a world where people do not feel comfortable talking about issues surrounding death.  Funerals are in one sense for the living, the ones left behind, but I also believe the dead person has a right to decide how they want to depart.

A few years ago, my brother in law, Ali died while visiting relatives in Morocco.  This created a problem for my sister, Rebecca and her daughter, Samia as they were in Montreal going about their regular affairs.  In Muslim tradition the body has to be buried the same day as their death.  With the help of Samia's boyfriend, now husband they arranged a flight to Morocco and were able to attend the burial along with the other daughter, Leila who was already there.  I don't know the details, but assume he was buried in a shroud, not a casket.

A few weeks later most of my siblings assembled in Montreal to comfort my sister and her two daughters. There was a memorial service that included some cousins and some of Ali's family that lived in the Montreal area.  I watched some Muslim rituals and it gave some sense of closure.  Ali was someone I had come to both respect and admire.  His death was a shock to me.

I have long been offended with the concept of embalming and the reasoning behind it.  It is our last appearance and we and our survivors want us to look as good as possible.   Mostly they wear their best clothes and their skin is as normal as possible.  A few have made a statement such as wearing motorcycle gear, that surprised me.  A few criticisms would include that it is not "natural" and the chemicals required to put on the show are toxic.  They are a poor man's way to mummify the body.

Very powerful Egyptian rulers were mummified.  I have seen one at the Royal Ontario Museum.  To me the notion seems very delusional.  Inevitably the body does deteriorate, but over a much longer period of time (in terms of human awareness).  It is man trying to defy reality.

Cremation when I was young was unheard of.  I stumbled on the practice when reading about Gandhi.  Later I learned some of the traditions and still later more of the details.  It has become mainstream in North America.  Some object to embalming, some to the expense of traditional funerals and some like the romantic notions of spreading the ashes over some significant land or water.  Originally in India it was thought that burying bodies contaminated the soil.  My obsession with Gandhi explained:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2012/08/gandhi-life-long-fascination.html

Recently I revisited the Netflix series, "Six Feet Under" and this time saw it through to the end.  Mostly it was dramatic stories of people who died and were disposed of traditionally with some variations.  Embalming and cosmetics were a regular part of the series.  As best they could the funeral staff did their best to present the deceased as pristine as possible.  Towards the end of the series we first encountered a natural burial.  In the last episode it seemed like the writers and producers were making a statement in favor of natural burials as a few of the main characters chose that method.

In my youth I learned of what seemed pretty radical practice in the Zorastrian  (now Parsi) religion where dead bodies were exposed to large birds that would peck away and essentially eat the body.  I have since learned that when the body (reaches) down to bones they use natural chemicals to dissolve the bones.  This practice has continued among that religion overcoming a problem of the birds being killed by pesticides.  It occurs not just in India, but also North America.

Our feelings about disposing of dead bodies is tied to our concerns for immortality.  Some people felt that there could not be a resurrection without a whole body.  Those who survived felt obligated to give their loved ones the best chance possible.

Mankind has always been fighting nature.  We all do.  We may come to feel the beauty of nature, but in countless ways we have always been fighting it.

To my way of thinking there are two concepts that humans cannot comprehend (I include myself) and they are infinity and eternity.  Many of us have pictured a place where we continue on (heaven) and we aren't bored.  Personally I am inclined to doubt these visions, but even more to be repelled by the notion.  Eternal bliss seems undesirable like a drug induced stupor.

An alternative vision is based on the concept that nothing in existence can be destroyed, but only transformed.  Water can be a solid (ice), liquid (water) or gas (vapors).  Vegetation breaks down and becomes compost.  Bodies do as well.  Your immortality is there--you were assembled from all sorts of physical entities and has been transformed by the food you eat, the air that you breathe and how you take care of your body.  Your body provides food for bacteria, insects and yes, worms.  They in turn are food for bigger animals.  Perceptions and ideas are imbibed and some passes on.  

How would you like to fit into all this?  to me the natural way makes the most sense.  The environment is meant to dispose of your body.  As for you when you understand eternity how long would you like to live your perception of yourself?  Well you don't have a choice, but if you did wouldn't it be more satisfying to think you have been transformed than locked in a box

An earlier blog:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/04/death-is-natural-but-disposal.html


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

I, Claudius

Roman history was part of my high school curriculum.  We talk of cut throat  regimes, but the Romans were way ahead of us.  For entertainment some of them demanded someone die usually by a sharp blade.  

 Back in 1976 the BBC released this series and it may seem dated, probably reflecting both technology and budget limitations.  How realistic by modern standards?  Several stabbings are depicted and one where a woman has a baby removed from her womb and cannibalized.  You don't actually see any penetration, but see blood flowing.  Romans were noted for orgies and adulteries and the viewer sometimes watches bare breasts or buttocks, but the simulation of sexual activity is mild by modern standards.  There are no large crowds, but we hear large crowds.  It is realistic enough and the story is compelling. 

 The story begins with an old Claudius writing his memoirs.  After his birth he was seen as lame and a stuttering fool.  An omen in his favor was when a wolf fell on him from a flying eagle.  He survived as not threatening, although at various times others want to get rid of him as he made them feel uncomfortable.  He was upset at the gladiator games. 

History interested the young Claudius and he later won respect of one historian while offending another.  He witnessed up close the rulers and their many intrigues.  There were many brutal murders, some by knife, sword or poison.  Lying was common to project false loyalties.  At one point a contest between a prostitute and an adulterer (Claudius's wife) to establish who have more sex in a limited time.  The story covers about 70 years and includes Marcellus, Augustus, Tiberius and Caligula.  The first are schemers, but Caligula is insane, believing himself to be a God.  Subordinates tip toe around him.  Claudius rules for awhile, but knowing a lot about intrigues was very careful. There are references to Jesus, but his importance is dismissed.  Claudius can best as a religious skeptic.  The story continues to the death of Claudius which is by poisoning. 

Herbert Wise, the director later married to Fiona Walker who played Agripina.  His career was mostly with  BBC television. most success after Claudius winning an award for "Skokie" about Nazi group in U.S.  Some of the series he directed included "Cadfael"(1996- 1997), and "Inspector Morse" (1989- 1996).

Jack Pulman, script writer who had worked on many BBC projects  "Portrait of a Lady" (1968) and  "War and Peace" (1972- 1973).

Robert Graves, wrote the novels that formed "I, Claudius".  He started as a poet and had poetry books published during WW I while he served as an officer.  He wrote a series of books on the story told by Claudius.  Decades later he was involved in the television script.

Derek Jacobi was a key motivation to watch this long series.   Recognized as a distinguished actor on stage, movies and television.  Over the years I have enjoyed watching him in "Cadfael (1994- 1998)", "Breaking the Codes (1996),  "The Jury" (2002)", "Last Tango in Halifax" 2012- 2020)  as the leading character and many more in supporting roles.  He said at one time that the toughest makeup was the six hours it took to get him ready to play Claudius as an old man.  He has studied history at Cambridge.

Sian Philips won a BAFTA award for her portrayal of Livia, perhaps the key intriguer in "I, Claudius".  She married Peter O'Toole and appeared with him in "Beckett" (1964), and "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (1969.  Well known on stage, winning a Tony award for "Marlene" (1997- 1999)

.John Hurt, played the insane Caligua.  Has appeared in such films as "The Elephant Man" (1980), "Captain Corelli's Mandoliln" (2001), "Snowpiercer" (2013) and "Jackie" (2016).

Patrick Stewart played Sejanus.  Perhaps best known as Captain Jean-Luc Picard with Star Trek1987- 2022).  

Movie viewers in modern times become complacent about violence and treachery.  We shouldn't forget that violence and treachery are not new.  Ancient history really isn't ancient.  Instead of guns and explosives they dealt with knives and swords.  The Romans were organizers (and intriguers).  Well worth a look.

I have bolded the movies I have watched.


Thursday, September 16, 2021

In Family We Trust

Checking Netflix "In Family We Trust" seemed like a good bet.  It had a rating of 8.1 and lots of favorable reviews.  It is actually underrated.  Twists I have never noticed before and very well done.  Misunderstandings, deceptions, patriarchal jealousies, spying and more.  Not exactly a happy ending, but satisfying. Illustrates how one deception/misunderstanding can compound.  But it also illustrates how families can stick together.

The film has an interesting development.  A special band Nine by Nine provided a core of the film taking on the roles of nine grandchildren in a family murder drama.   They were set up for a specific time (have since been disbanded) to do some music albums and at least this one movie.  In looking for a suitable format the producers patched together some ideas from Hong Kong films.  Some scenes are set in Hong Kong

It is supposed to be a Chinese family long established in Thailand.  That seemed new, but with English subtitles I came to assume they were speaking in Thai which sounds a little different than Chinese I have heard in other movies.  When the scene switched to Hong Kong, the Thai characters spoke in English when speaking with locals.

The first two episodes establish the family.  It consists of the grandparents who have established a major hotel and huge bank accounts.  Four families all live in high end houses along the same side road.   The Grandfather dies and leaves a will that treats his sons much better than the daughter.  The daughter Phatson had worked at the hotel for 22 years and was considered excellent.  Confronting the brother left in charge he slaps her.  Later she approaches him at his home, but is confronted with his bleeding dead body.  She flees and is spotted by her grandmother.  She becomes the first suspect, but shortly we learn of another suspect, but there are a lot of episodes to go.  His will also causes resentment.  Each episode provides another twist or wrinkle.  All four families are involved with mixed amounts of co-operation and distrust. 

I believe viewers will find it as engaging and smooth to watch as your typical Hollywood production.

Songyos Sugmakanan was a director and a member of the writing team.  A winner and nominee at several international film festivals.  Also involved as a producer of other films.

Anther member of the writing team, Supalerk Ningsanond took part writing "A Teacher's Diary" (2014) which was adapted to "Notebook" (2019) in Bollywood.

Another writing team member, Vadudhorn Piyaromna also took a role in "Bad Genius" (2017) and in addition made up the exam used in the film.   Later involved with the tv. series that was based on the film.

One of the cinematographer, Pithai Smithsuth had done some camera work for two Hollwyood movies, "The Hangover" (2011) and "Da 5 Bloods" (2020).

The Nine by Nine team all had experience in other films.  One, Teeradone Supapunpinyo had been in "Bad Genius" (2017).

I have watched a few Thai movies that ranged from fight to art and in between, but one that I really enjoyed, "Bad Genius" (2017)  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/06/bad-genius-out-of-thailand.html

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Beynelmilel

Music makes life more pleasant for most of us, but it has been a political tool.  I have little love for traditional Turkish music, but this movie, "Beynelmilele illustrates the role of music as a weapon.  In truth the main reason I watched this movie is I had enjoyed the presence of an actress who I had seen in a most memorable film years ago.

Set in Turkey in the 1980's depicting a right wing dictatorship.  Aimed at traditional musicians who play music that is outlawed.  Many Westerners would be very bored with the music, but should respect that all music has evolved from common elements.  Wanting to survive the musicians try to co-operate.

We see a military leader demanding a change in the songs chosen.  A wedding is shown with women doing traditional dances on one side of a curtain and men doing the same sort of dance on the other side.  Later the men are forced to shave off mustaches and cut their hair.  We also see that there are informers who report of violations on petty matters.

There were warnings that the last few minutes were very different.  What I saw was a violent reaction to some revolutionary protest and several years later an ironic section with the Russian Army chorus singing a revolutionary song (The International) that the main female lead said had been written by her father who in fact had claimed that to save her.

Oversimplified, but the focus is on the music that is favored and hated by the dictatorial regime.

The director and co-writer, Sirri Sureyya Onder was born in 1960 and thus would have been in his twenties at the time of the actual events of this movie.  He played a minor role in the film.  He played oher bits and once appeared on "Anderson Cooper 360" on a Turkish themed episode.  This film won numerous international awards for .  In 2011 as a socialist he became a member of the Turkish Parliament.  "Beynelmilel" was his first script and the next year he adapted "Bliss" (2007) which is one of my all time favorite movies.  Check out http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2011/05/turkish-delight-in-book-and-movie-form.html

The co-director, Muharrem Gulmez is better known as a producer, but has written, directed and acted in some other Turkish films.  He was the second unit director for a James Bond feature, "The World is Not Enough"(1999).   (He is listed as the production manager for "Head-on" (2004). 

The cinemtaographer, Gokhan Atilmis won an award for his work on "Beynelmilel". and has 32 film credits to his name. 

Cezmi Baskin played the band leader and won a festival award for the role.  His acting career started in 1988 and with over 90 credits continues with plans for 2022.

Ozu Namal is the main reason I considered watching this movie.  She was mesmerizing in "Bliss" (2007).  She has won numerous acting awards including one for best comedic actress.  In "Beynelmilel" she plays the daughter of the band leader.

Getting wrapped up in modern Western music it is easy to overlook that music has always been part of society I suspect from caveman days. 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Are Campaign Strategies in Canadian Elections in Your best Interest?

 In trying to determine the best way to get elected Canadian politicians have to understand the system.  The Prime Minister is selected by members always on a party basis.  The members are elected by a First Past the Post system which means they have to get more votes of the elected members than any of their opponents.  If the total of member votes is over 50% we have a "majority" government.  If not a negotiation ensues involving at least two parties  What this boils down to is each member does not need to get a majority to get power.

With polling resources history and psychology factored in, the prospective leader decides which ridings are likely to be winnable and which issues will appeal to their core base.  This guides where they visit and what they promise and what they criticize.

We have 4-6 national parties who are all trying to put their limited resources to where they could expect the best results.  The FPTP system means they do not have to persuade everyone to vote for them or even 50%.  Another factor is that partially because of this system many do not bother to vote, either thinking (most often correctly) their vote would not make a difference and others feeling it was not needed.  Then you might try to determine what your core supporters would like to see.  After that what other issues could you address that would not deter your established supporters and perhaps gain more supporters.  The advantage of a multi party system is that each party could cater to nuanced thinking as for example those in favor of strong fiscal policies might split on social concerns.  We Canadians do not really fit into two schools of thought on how we want the government to represent our interests.  In the American system voters can protest with independent parties, but in reality they have to choose from two packages of policies.

The voter is faced with four or more choices and some without giving it much thought already made their decision.  Others wrestle a little bit about competing policies.  At some point a few decide who they do not want to win the election and then decide which one of the opponents has the best choice to prevent the selection of the dreaded opponent which often means they do not select their most favorite.

The national leaders are faced with a challenge.  They cannot go everywhere and they cannot please everyone.  Where they go is partially dictated by financial resources.  They try to pick ridings where they have a chance to win.  They know from history and possibly polling which are the best bets.  They know they do not have to achieve a majority, only a plurality.  Beyond the specific ridings they also consider provinces, regions and cities with multiple ridings.  Their schedule will be tied to where they think they can win a plurality.

What does all this mean to the country?  Often one party is able to win the majority of ridings and become the government, even though in some cases they did not get the most total votes and most often not over 50%.  Sometimes no party gets a majority of the seats and they negotiate to see what combination of parties are compatible enough to govern.  That process seldom goes beyond two parties, but at least does force compromises appealing to a wider range of voters.  The party in power makes the big decisions and can safely ignore the wishes of many.  If the leader of a minority government determines they have a chance to become a majority they can call an election at a time that they feel favors them.

 All too often a voter realizes that their first choice has no realistic chance while at the same time realize the party that they detest has a much better chance.  The solution is to vote for a less disagreeable party that has some chance of winning.  Proportional Representation offers a better deal. The voters votes for their first choice because it will be added to a wider range of voters and count towards actual representation.  They cannot be ignored even if they support a party that has less local support.

The established parties like the old system as they can understand what they have to do to win--basically split their opposition  (divide and conquer) while building up a strong base.  Minority leaders like PR because they see that is their best chance to get their foot in the door,  Voters benefit from PR because their vote really counts, all ideas have to be argued.  It encourages rational discourse.

After whoever gets elected the voters need to remind the members we want a better system.  Many countries have benefited and is reflected in greater co-operation among different viewpoints, greater progress against climate change. and other progressive goals.  It has been realized that counting on politicians to set up electoral reform is almost impossible.  A citizen's assembly has proven to be more effective.  An honest politician need not worry if they have a valid viewpoint as there likely will someone who wants the same viewpoint to be represented.  It is key to a voter decision that those they choose represent their viewpoint

A reminder and more explanation:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/02/a-broken-promise.html

Further thoughts regarding multi party system:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/08/when-your-guy-gets-in-is-it-ok.html

Friday, September 10, 2021

Move to Heaven---WOW!

Some of you must be wondering how a supposedly sane person of the English speaking persuasion could get so wrapped up in Korean mini-series.  Maybe you are right, but it is such an enjoyable delusion.  This series, "Move to Heaven" had an unusually high rating from IMDB (8.7), but I do realize that can be misleading.  Netflix has a number of Korean series worth watching. 

Nothing is original in this world, but the Koreans sure have a way of twisting ideas that seems original.  Another one with an autistic character.  Autism comes in various shades, but generally they take things literally, do not like to be touched, some of them are extremely clever and all them seem to have prodigious memories.  With "It's Okay To Not Be Okay" an autistic is one of the main characters that others like.  In "Move to Heaven" Geu-Ru  (Asperger's Syndrome) picks up minute details and is very obsessive.  Check out:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/03/its-okay-not-to-be-okay.html

Trauma cleaning is what Geu-Ru and his father do for a living.  Basically it requires a cleanup of the mess left behind after a death which can include bodily fluids and also a housekeeping mess.  Taught by his father he learns you can tell a lot about a person by what they leave behind.  The two collect some meaningful artifacts and pass on to suitable relations.  Trauma cleaning has perhaps been covered in other films, but this one seems more real.  The deaths selected for an episode are dramatic in different ways. Each episode is unique

Misunderstandings are the basis for many a story  We meet his father in the first episode and can see he has taught his son reverence for the dead and how to pick up details that affect the living who didn't know or understand the details.  Plot reveal:  the father dies on the first episode, (although his lessons are brought out in future episodes).   What seems strange coming from such a kindly man is he had named an unknown half brother as a guardian and we soon learn the guardian has just been released from prison and presents an arrogant and somewhat violent demeanor.  Finding out his true situation is very interesting. So much that Ge-ru who quick deciphers all sorts of very trivial details to learn the most important details that would be appreciated by the the apparently disinterested acquaintances is apparently blind to the true character of his uncle.  A friendly female neighbor gets involved, but also misunderstands the uncle.

We gradually learn the back story.  It contains unexpected disasters, broken promises, an unfortunate life path on one side and at bottom, a big misunderstanding.  The details which are well presented make for a riveting story.

The story is set in Seoul, but at one point we learn that the story really begins in Busan.

Almost none of the names are familiar to me, but I feel confident I will see more of those who put together such a great series.

Kim Sung Ho, the director. has done ten films before this one.  One of them "How To Steal A Dog" was an enjoyable one based on an American children's book which Sung Ho helped to adapt.

Yoon Ji-Ryun, wrote the script and this is his only listed credit to date.

Tang Joon-sang played Geu-Ru, the autistic young adult.  He had a supporting role in all the episodes of "Crash Landing on You," my favorite Korean series.  Check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/02/crash-landing-on-you-very-addicting.html 

Lee Jahoon played the uncle, Cho Sang Guwho had spent time in jail and was a fighter.  He has won numerous awards.

Olivia Castanho plays the attractive neighbor who is protective of Geu-Ru.  She is an American actress, but has also played in Mexican and Taiwanese films.

The series does well despite no real romance with maybe only a hint.  

The high ranking is deserved and most of you will find it very absorbing.   

Here is another view of autism from an unusual angle (a standup comic):  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/04/funny-you-dont-look-autistic.html



Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Compromised

 There are a lot of anti-Trump books and I thought I had read enough of them, but then he is still free to rant egotistical madness to audiences.  Peter Strzok had a good case, but it was distracted because of an affair and opinionated texts he had.  He uncovered evidence  that should have added to the case against Trump and needs to be heard.

We tend to think where there is smoke there must be fire.  There has been a great deal of smoke regarding Russian intrusions into American politics including a long history of Trump dealing with Russia  and  numerous contacts from his team with Russian insiders.  Paul Manafort was a campaign manager who had worked in Ukraine to bring about a pro Russian administration at first successful, but eventually overturned.  It was noted that the only effort by the Trump team to effect official Republican policy was to eliminate financial aid to Ukraine who was fighting off a Russian invasion.

 The reading is slow and more detailed than one might want and I would describe the tone as "defensive."  But that lends to credibility.  There is much information withheld because it is classified.  The affair that distracted from his mission is only referred to near the beginning with the explanation in the interests of his family he will not be explaining it.

We learn that Peter has a long history in international affairs.  At age 8 he watched his father burn sensitive documents in Tehran at the time of the Iranian Revolution.  After that he was taken to Burkina Faso and Haiti where he came to understand the abuses of autocratic dictators. 

Involved with investigation of Hilary Clinton's emails.  Concluded there was a lot of mishandling (common enough), but no criminal intent and not essentially different from other political positions.  Resented resources devoted to that while more serious investigations starved for resources.

He had been involved with Russians infiltrating American society.   Some of the Russian tactics are recounted with one of the key ones being they seek to gain what they called "Kompramat", but what we might think of as "Compromised."  Once they are able to find some dirty secret the Russians feel they can force such an individual to do what they want.  We actually do know some compromising information about Trump, but suspect a lot more.

The Soviet undercover agents Strzok uncovered ended up being part of a prisoner exchange with the Russians.  Peter notes that one of the Soviet "traitors" involved later was a victim of a poisoning attempt using known and unique Soviet methods.

During his campaign Trump declared he had no business connections to Russia while we have learned he was having Michael Cohen negotiating for a Russian Tower.  Probably would not have deterred very many of his supporters, but Russian held back, perhaps because they had more serious secrets and wanted Trump to win. 

One interesting detail was that Russians look for birth certificates of people who died young.  In one case they dug up Canadian records (probably a trifle harder to trace in America) used in one of the counter-intelligence cases.

The so called Steele Dossier attracted a lot of excitement, but according to Strzok it was not as big a factor to open an investigation as reports of George Papadopoulos bragging about Russia offering election support.  The striking bit about a "golden shower" may or may not be true, but Trump's reaction was strange--he did not deny, but was offended that it was claimed prostitutes were involved and then asked what year it was.  The author speculates that Trump thought he was famous and powerful enough not to have to deal with prostitutes and that the year (2013) implied there might have been different incidents on different years. 

Most of the solid information that the FBI was able to assemble concerned staff members and not Trump directly.  It is hard not to wonder how these contacts would be unknown to Trump.  One key connection was when Paul Manafort and Rick Gates provided detailed polling information to Konstatin Kilimnik.  We do know Russians were very skilled at directing social media where it could be most effective.

Trump found ways to get rid of pesky bureaucrats like Comey.  The next day after firing Comey he forbade the media while he talked with Russian diplomats in the White House

Peter had made some texts that conveyed some of his political thoughts and once they were uncovered it led to his being taken off the Trump investigation (for the Mueller Report) then to losing  accessibility and he endured threats to him and his family and finally was fired.  Public servants are entitled to personal opinions, but can also be expected to maintain an objective approach to their jobs.  Trump several times called Peter a traitor.  It was part of Trump's campaign to discredit the Mueller Report that Peter had contributed to. 

The Mueller Report was taken by Attorney William Barr who reviewed it and provided a summary that in effect misled.  I also believe that several classified sections may well have hidden incriminating evidence.  Peter testified both behind closed doors and in public and noted that in public politicians seem more interested in grandstanding than in determining the truth.

It does seem strange that after decades of the Republicans castigating Russian efforts that Trump welcomed their contributions to their campaign and the self-righteous power hungry Republicans went along with it. 

Trump still has supporters.  To me Hilary Clinton was not far wrong when she declared they were "deployables" in many cases, racists (at the very least tolerant of racists), shallow celebrity worshipers and otherwise resistant to necessary change.  Hopefully this book will at least arm sane people with the logic.

Links to other anti-Trump posts  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/06/house-of-trump-house-of-putin.html

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/11/fear-another-anti-trump-book.html 

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/08/the-trump-campaign-from-journalist.html

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/02/hillary-clintons-what-happened.html 

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/03/the-death-of-truth-by-michiko-kakutani.html

Monday, September 6, 2021

2020 Paralympics

Why should anyone bother with the Paralympics?  Are they some kind of freak show?  Must be an offshoot of the Olympics so some rich dudes can make more money!

 A bottom line question might be why do we like sports as entertainment?  Society probably would be better off if more people were physically active.  What makes sports more satisfying than  calisthenics?  Two things We have come to appreciate skills on display, but more critically we love the uncertain drama provided by honest competition.  How do "disabled" people fit into this?  They also can provide competition, develop skills and in addition they can take a more productive and respected role in society..  

Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee at the Opening Ceremony spoke about "wethe15" group that advocates for the disabled.  The 15 refers to 15% of the world's population is disabled in some manner.  Their goal is to end discrimination which means such things as changing laws, developing assistive technology, reducing systemic barriers and educating the rest of us.  Inclusion benefits us all.

The original goes back to 1948 in London, England where some doctors attempted to rehabilitate people who had been injured in war.  It was also the year that the Olympics was held in London and organizers decided to call there event Paralympics, standing for Parallel Olympics (not paralyzed as some came to assume)>   It was realized they needed some competition and the first that seemed practical was for archery.  As time went by more people were included that were disabled from accidents, from genetics or from war.  Israel set an interesting example as they had been involved with armed combat that ended in injuries.  They needed to treat their wounded warriors to show them and others that they would not be forgotten.

My awareness started in 1976 when I was working on a book on basketball and the Montreal Olympics allowed the Paralympics to locate in Etobicoke.  One of the things outsiders notice about basketball is that tall people seem to dominate, even more than with other sports.  Trying to adapt basketball to a wheelchair format involved an even greater range of physical handicaps.  There were a variety of physical handicaps--some people had amputated arms or legs or were partially paralyzed.  These were assessed and give a point value.  A team could exist with a wide range of abilities, but to make it reasonably fair the players on the court at any one time had to have a total point value.  This meant that as players were substituted the points would remain under the acceptable limit.  

While trying to understand that concept I watched what I consider one of the most exciting athletic achievements of my life.  Arnold Boldt had only one leg and it was lightly raining.  Both he and one competitor were successful at increasing heights.  When crunch time came, not only did Arnold win the gold medal, but went on to set a world's record.  I don't remember what it was, but it was over my head.

 4,500 athletes from 160 countries   Korea was the first nation in 1988 to have Paralympics in the same city as the Olympics   (use many of th same facilities)  politics put aside for common endeavors.  The CBC is providing described video and American Sign Language for their coverage.

Classification of disabilities is key to having fair (and competitive) events.  Because of the many classifications there are more medal events, 539 than at the Olympics.  Unfortunately there are athletes from all nations and all sports who look for opportunities to gain an advantage.  Getting oneself classified as having a greater disability gives the cheater an advantage.  platforms for medal ceremonies were level

The flag has three agitos (from Latin translates to I move) in green, red and blue, the most popular colors on national flags. 

We're not here to inspire.  We are here to win" is the motto of the World Wheelchair Rugby..  They want to be known as athletes.  There is a story behind each athlete and here are some of them.

The Refugee team has 6 athletes.  Male flag bearer Abbass Karimi was born with no arms, fled Afghanistan at a young age and has been in 4 refugee camps where he learned to swim and compete in backstroke and butterfly.   He now lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Guides for the blind are unique. They have to be able to keep up with the athlete, but also make sure they do not stray off the path or fall.   One celebrated guide is Andy Potts who has competed in the Olympics and Iron Man Competitions.  The Covid pandemic has cut his opportunities to compete and also his training and coaching facilities.  Kyle Coon had participated in triathlons for visually impaired and was able to hook up with Andy.  In this version of the triathlon the guide is tethered for swimming and running and rides on a tandem bicycle where the guide is in front steering and braking while the athlete pedals. 

Sometimes guides can become really attached.  Manuel Antonio Vaz da Veiga  proposed to Keula Nidreia Pereira Semedo representing Cape Verde after the finish of a qualifying heat.  Semedo lives in Portugal and has a diploma n physiotherapy.

The Afghan athletes withdrew because of flight cancellations and were concerned that the Taliban will disapprove of their desire to compete.  The International Paralympic Committee has decided to incorporate the Afghan flag into the Opening Ceremonies.  While the Paralympics had started the two athletes were able to be evacuated by French, taken to Paris and then flown to Tokyo.  The event one had registered for had already been held, but authorities allowed Hossain Rasouli who had lost an arm to a land mine to enter a different event.  

Goalball, a unique sport for the blind has more referees than on court players  There are three players per side who take turns throwing a ball with bells towards a goal.  As there are degrees of visual impairment each player wears a mask. 

World Games for the Deaf has been established since 1924.  It might seem logical if they combined their resources with the Paralympics, but they don't think so.  To start with they do not see them as impaired, but more like a cultural and linguistic community.   They have only one classification to determine if they are qualified as deaf.  There are no sports just for the deaf and only a  few adjustments.  The main adjustment might be using strobe lights instead of starting guns.  The differences are significant, but so are the commonalities.  At various points the Paralympic movement communicated messages in sign language.  There is strength in unity.

The Covid pandemic closed access to pools for the Canadian Paralympic swimmers more than for other nations.  Japan had its own decisions to make--they felt obligated by international and commercial agreements, but still the population opposed honoring the arrangements.   As expected Covid rates went up during both games.  For the Paralympics they further cut down audience accessibility

Ibriham Hamadtou, 48 year old Egyptian lost both arms in a train accident at age 10 plays table tennis by hold the paddle in his mouth and serves with his right foot.

Katarina Roxon from Kippens Newfoundland and Labrador had highway section name after her.  She won a bronze medal in a relay event.

Katie O'Brien had been a bobsledder who took part in the 2013 World Championships, but then switched to cycling and took part in the Rio Olympics.  She was involved in a cycle crash in a velodrome that threatened her life. She was told she would never be able to walk, cycle or talk properly, however she did recover.

Vanessa Low, representing Australia set 3 world records in succession.  It happened in the long jump in 3 successive jumps where she beat the established record.  At age 15 in Germany she was pushed in front of a train and had both her legs amputated above the knee.  She competed for Germany and met here future husband, Shaun Reardon, an Australian para athlete.  She switched citizenship she she married. 

Patrick Anderson who helped Canada win medals in previous Paralympics skipped 2016 and then at age 42 decided to try again.  His moves, shots and passes will excite any basketball fan.  Also performs professionally with wife in a singing duet.  Canadians finished 8th.  Wheelchair Basketball has reached such a status  that it offers scholarships to American universities and has pro leagues in Spain, France, Brazil and Turkey"

Sitdown volleyball had a breakthrough with tv. coverage.  CBC promised to cover two games which they did, but it proved so popular they played live a full game with non Canadians (Brazil and Italy). They went on to cover at least two other full games, but unfortunately Canada finished fourth. They provided the tension that sports junkies are addicted to.  It originated in Netherlands to help injured soldiers.  I was surprised  to see how frequently the players would be standing, talking to their coach or celebrating.  The impairments are diverse and some not visible, but there are rules to even the play such as requiring a player to have at least one buttock on the floor at point of contact.  They also require each team on court to have only one player of the least impairment.  

People you might have looked at and tried to ignore are often very interesting.  One character who elevated himself to an international media star is Grant "Scooter" Patterson from Australia.  He has won two medals, but it is his personality that has drawn attention.  He has a form of dwarfism (diatropic dysplasia), but has managed to live an enjoyable life.  He has used his platform to encourage parents of disabled children.  Check this  amazing out.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLlP4vzKA7g

The Closing Ceremony was different in that the athletes gathered in the stadium and waited for the flag bearers.  There were questions about whether the games should have been held, but it was felt that they were necessary to help keep the movement going forward.  My feeling is that each time they have held the games they have advanced in skills and organization and just importantly have made the world pause to realize the impaired have much to offer and deserve more respect. 

As with the Olympics the program switched live to Paris where it was daytime.  Various performers demonstrated, but perhaps the most impressive was a man paralyzed except for his eyes was able to with technology deliver a message.

A tradition established at the 2014 Sochi Paralympics was an offshoot of the Paralympic movement labeled '"I'mPOSSIBLE.  The words "impossible" were hung from the roof while Alexey Chuvasey, a Paralympian rowing champion climbed a 15 meter' rope to insert an apostrophe and make it I'mPOSSIBLE signifying achievement. Awards were given out to recognize contributors to the movement:  Katarzyna Rogowiec, a cross country skier  from Poland won the female athlete recognition .  She had won gold medals and later served in such IPC committees as the one for Anti-Doping.  The male version went to Lassam Katongo of Zambia.  He had been a coach, a board member and a teacher.  Two schools from Japan and one from Malawi were recognized for teaching the Paralympic values and boosting inclusion.

What a Wonderful World ends the television coverage with different versions.  It is getting better for more of us and the Paralympics is a booster.

A blog about a movie on the history of Paralympics contains more background and more names:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/09/rising-phoenix-disabled-move-forward.html

To read about the Tokyo Olympics check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/08/2021-olympics-part-two-people-who-made.html

To read about the 2016 Rio Olympics and Paralympics:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/09/olympic-impressions-for-2016.html