Sunday, October 31, 2021

White Dog

Wandering around the library on impulse picked up "White Dog"(1982).   Over 50 years ago watched "Roots of Heaven" (1958) also based on a book by the same author and believe I read the book as well.  This led to an awareness of a dog trained to attack blacks, but had no access to book and no awareness of movie.  I thought it was based in Africa, but that was wrong.  "Roots of Heaven" was concerned about poaching elephants for their tusks. Anti racism books and films appeals to me for a disease that needs curing 

It turns out Romain Gary, the author of"Roots of Heaven" for a time lived in California and had married Jean Seberg, famous French actress making films in Hollywood.   She saved a white dog which she found very friendly, except gradually learned the dog had been trained to attack blacks.  

One of the underlying themes is that racism can be (and very often is) taught.  The dog was gentle and protective of his rescuer.  The viewer is shown sudden change of demeanor and viciously attacks a black driver causing a spectacular crash.  Later we see the dog attack a black actress.  Another scene shows the dog chasing a black man to a church.  

The rescuer realizes there is a problem and although some are suggesting the dog be put down she seeks out a dog trainer to help reset the dog's automatic attacks on blacks.  She had seen a dog being killed at a dog pound and was repulsed.

 Eventually they found a dog trainer who was black.  Quickly understood the challenge.  One of his strategies was to insist that he be the only one who would feed the dog.  Eventually the dog responded in a friendly manner, but the trainer realized it was only him that had overcome the trained response.  He worked with other black people.  In the end the dog was put down as he was attacking a white person and had seemed to have gone insane with the confusing messages he had been sent.

The dog trainer explained that at one time dogs had been trained to  to chase after run away slaves and after that to pursue black convicts.  Unfortunately there have been bigots who have carried on the tradition.  The key thing to remember is that racism is taught.

Romain Gary was a well respected writer and director.  He had written material for "The Longest Day"  (1962).  He became French consul in Los Angeles where the inspiring events for "White Dog" took place.  He first wrote a magazine article and then a novel.  He also worked on the film script.

Samuel Fuller has often insisted about writing and directing.  He focuses on violence which he is against, but wants to demonstrate the effects on both perpetrators and victims.  Had been an American rifleman during World War I winning a Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart using some of this experience in some of his early films.   Had written at least one earlier film on racism, "The Klansman" (1974).  After "White Dog" was released he was very disappointed that it was shelved for years in America, although had received excellent reviews in Europe.  This was his last American film and he went onto do films in France. The NAACP objected to what they thought was racism.

 A key part of the film was Karl Lewis Miller, dog trainer.  The DVD had an interesting feature on his role.  He used 4 dogs and was able to get screen credits for them.  In some cases he had been tasked by the director to do unusual acting.  He had acted as animal trainer for another 64 films.  He also played a break in with intent to rape who was attacked by one of the dogs.

Ennio Morricone the famous composer was in charge of music.  Some of his more famous efforts were for "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (1966),  "The Mission" (1986), "Cinema Paradiso" (1988), "The Legend of 1900" (1998), and "The Best Offer" (2013).  Sam Fuller's wife, Christa Lang (who had a small role in the film) made the suggestion to hire Ennio.

Bruce Surtees handled the cinematography.  He went on to film "Beverly Hills Cop" (1984).

Bernard Gribble was the editor.  He had edited such films as "The Man in the White Suit" (1951) and  "The Winds of War" Tv Mini series (1983).

Kristy McNicholl played Julie Sawyer, the rescuer of the white dog.   She won two Emmy awards for her role in tv. series, "Family" (1976).  Made lots of appearances in American television.

Paul Winfield played trainer, Keys which required him to be attacked a few times. He has appeared in numerous films including  "Sounder" (1972), "The Terminator" (1984).  He bred and showed pug dogs for several years.  He had been nominated for one Oscar and three Emmy awards, one of which he won.  Some movie roles he played were as Thurgood Marshall, Roy Campanella, Don King and Martin Luther King Jr.  He also performed on stage.

Burl Ives played  Carruthers, an animal consultant for movies.  Burl is well known as a singer accompanying  himself with banjo or ukulele.  A career on stage led to movies with his winning an Oscar for best supporting actor.  Some of his notable films include "East of Eden" (1955), "The Big Country" (1958), "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958) and "Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer" (1964).

Friday, October 29, 2021

Can Mankind change in time?

 Most people would agree we live in a crazy world.  Many are worried that we are going in the wrong direction.  We haven't really handled the pandemic while climate change is accelerating.  A possible nuclear war has not been eliminated.  We are squabbling over all these issues.

Carl Sagan, searching for an extra terrestrial civilization with no result.  Many would think that meant we are the only ones in the universe, but another interpretation is that civilizations self destruct before they are able to communicate across the universe.  Carl was egotistical, but humbled.

What is intelligence?  If a being can differentiate between darkness and light or if a being can seek nutrition, is that the base for intelligence?  We know evolution moves with mutations that gradually take over from previous life forms.  Life started in its simplist form, but somehow over a long period of time elevated to Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein.  Recorded history is only a slice of earth history and infinitesimal against solar history.  Eternity is incomprehensible to humans

Individualism is growing and most of us prize the freedom that allowed it.  A good example might be with homosexuals.  Only a few decades ago in western countries it was a life and death matter.  It is still a life and death matter in much of the world, but homosexuals have emerged perhaps first in the arts, but also in politics and really in all fields of life.  We have always admired those individuals who successfully bucked the establishment.  There are many more voices that we need to pay attention to.  There is resistance to authoritarianism while elites have found ways to mobilize large crowds.  Other small groups see the dangers outlined below and although their voices are being heard they are not yet being heeded enough.

Evolution has been depicted as survival of the fittest and we have taken that to mean the strongest and the fastest.  More recently we have come to realize that group dynamics played a role.  Many hunts depended on a group.  Wars for that matter depended upon co-operation and trust among allies.  Finding better ways to survive requires the effort of many.  Consider:

There has been such a thing as tyranny of the majority that held back progress and human rights.  Another reality is that small wealthy elites have been able to manipulate the rest of us for their increasing greed.

The Covid 19 pandemic is really a health crisis.  While we have been complaining about the high cost of drugs and medical services, the pandemic is recognized as truly universal and there is no cost for vaccinations.  Some might argue that the drug companies are benefiting from the panic and are probably helping to fan it.  At the same time the rest of us are at the mercy of those who are resisting.  The resisters are often just afraid or lazy, but for others it is a political decision.

Climate change is no longer a theory, but is hurting millions around the globe.  Climate refugees are mingling with genuine political refugees.  What some might consider economic migrants are at least partially motivated by loss of opportunities due to climate change.  Economically, storms, floods and droughts have resulted in a loss of productivity.  Some very wealthy people are still trying squeeze as much profits as possible.  Other people fear for their jobs and economic security.

What has stopped nuclear war has been fear of MAD i.e. mutual assured destruction.  But many nations have the bombs and others are seeking them.  There are some who believe they can survive a nuclear war, others who believe if they bomb first they will win and there are others who don't care.  Should a mad man get control we are all in danger.  One must recall that Donald Trump had access to the bomb. 

Underlying all these crises is inequality.  It is possible inequality will be exacerbated, but it is also possible there will be a resetting of the status quo.  Check how inequality has been leveled in the past:

The crisis is human made including Climate, pollution, drugs, wars and pandemics.  The problems cannot be solved by any individual, but by a collective understanding and action.


We are dealing with human nature which is ego centric.  We have separated ourselves through languages, racism, sexism, homophobia and countless other criteria.  Despite those limitations mankind could only have survived to this point as there was a part of everyone that cares for others. and we learned co-operation is necessary.

To me the greatest need is for education with some attention to critical thinking.  An earlier blog still explains the scope: Education has been politicized and a budget bargaining item.  There are so many perspectives on it, but my hope is that more people will realize its critical importance for our group survival that barriers will fall and purse strings will loosen.  The more "rational" education the better we will all be.

I have only a crude understanding of Game Theory, but believe there may be some lessons to be learned.  The best results are when an individual chooses what is best for themselves and the group.  It depends on rationality.  Making the first move encourages others to take a risk.

Rationality boils down to enlightened self interest.  We can pull ourselves over top of others, but the best long term benefits come when everyone benefits.  As a salesman one mantra was the "win-win" solution.

Trust is sadly lacking in the world mainly because some people have put their interests above that of others.  However it is vital, so that without it we will let suspicions lead to fear which cuts off rational discussion.  Earlier blogs have tackled this issue.  One with lots of useful links is:

If no one makes the first move, nothing will get done.  Fortunately a few have made that first move.  Now it is your turn.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Designated Survivor: 60 days a remake of American series

My memory fades of the original American version and is mingled with all three seasons.  The American and Korean versions both have lots of twists and lots of action.  The first two American seasons were edge of the seat exciting, but to me at least became tedious for the third season.

The main plot revolves around an explosion that kills off the legislators and allows a very lowly person on the totem pole to become the head of the nation. Tipping over the power structure of a nation lends itself to interesting plots.

The Korean series has a higher IMDB rating and is much shorter.  The greater length of the American version in my opinion hurts as after awhile the inevitable violence becomes tedious.  The "60 days" in the Korean title deals with the immediate problems after an almost inconceivable disaster and don't try to drag the plot to inevitable complications

The Korean version although following much of the plot outline uses at least two unique tools:  North Korea and a proposed Discrimination Act.

The Korean version is more focused on the political power struggle.  I felt there was more emphasis on the actual  explosion.  Secretary Han Soo Jeung is good in his explanations of power, when fired, praises president for finally exercising power.  The leading character is a political neophyte with many players plotting his downfall, but he is more steely in his character core.  He is a  master of psychology illustrated a few times by his understanding of the basic motives of others

For the Korean version, the first suspect is North Korea and a video seems to corroborate the notion prompting American military representatives to jump in.  Japanese are also moving in.  Before too long conflicts between Cambodia and Vietnam impinge on the investigation of the source of the explosion.  North Korean defectors (most of whom had risked their lives to escape a tyranny) become scapegoats and subject to violence in a strategy for a mayor to gain credibility for a run at president.  The opposition leader is a clever ambitious woman, but also decent.

Both movies depict the media leaking sensitive information and manipulating for their own benefit--doesn't that ring true?

A Discrimination bill that might lead to same sex marriages is by my understanding a very contentious issue today.  Korea has resisted recognizing same sex marriages.  Recently in a report regarding declining births they did recognize the importance of families but deliberately left out same sex parents

Power is intoxicating.  The hero at first sincerely claimed he wanted to go back to teaching, but  realized that he would be leaving power to the politically minded.  After the 60 days are up and an election has finished there is a sort of postscript that good intentions sometimes do have lingering effects.

The people who made this memorable film deserve some recognition.  The following is little more than a token, but I believe at least some of these names will go on to do other remarkable accomplishments.

Directed by Jong Sun Yoo who had done parts of three earlier series with this being his first to direct all 16 episodes.

Written by Tae Hee Kim who has been writing tv scripts since 2006.

Jin-hee Jin-plays the acting president.  He projects a naive, timid idealist sort of image, but in fact you realize he is wise to delay making decisions based on political calculations.  Check  He has been performing since 2002 and recently had a role in "Move to Heaven" (2021).  Check:

Jun-ho Huh plays the older advisor, Han Soo Jeung.  He appeared in a blockbuster"Simido" (2003) and won a Supporting Actor award.  A revered actor for over 30 years he runs a musical and acting academy out of Los Angeles.   He is very key to appreciating this series.

Kim Joo-Heon plays a security boss.  His distinctive voice was recognized from  "It's Okay Not To Be Okay" (2020).  He also appeared in "Train to Busan" (2016).  Check

Kang Han-na played the female security agent with impressive action scenes.  She has been in Korean films since 2013.

 With political movies the hope always is the possibility for a good person to get good things done?  There is a lot of realism in this series, but some idealism as well.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Squid Game

Korea makes a lot of money exporting cars, computers, and all kinds of electronics.  All of these items are concrete.  They also export culture which in essence is ideas.  K-Pop has made inroads on our airwaves and last year a Korean movie actually won the Best Picture Oscar.  Now with the blessing of Netflix, the Koreans are invading television series in a very big way.  

"Squid Game" has had a greater impact on Netflix than any other tv. series.  Many of you have noticed, but more is to come.

What is the attraction?  Unexpected violence leading to death plays a role, but what stands out is that there seems to be no justification for the violence.  The killings are just called "eliminated" for playing a game.  

The cruelty is stunning.  It is difficult to determine a motive for setting up such cruelty, but an expressed sentiment is sort of an explanation.  If you have too much money, life is boring, if you have no money life is no fun.  Harken back to Roman times when gladiators fought to the death which was sometimes averted if the crowd signaled that preference.  It was not just the idle rich that passed judgment, but often included the hoi polloi.  It was all for entertainment and it must be admitted that cruelty draws attention.

The dynamics when lives are at stake can be tense.  There are six games and the participants can only guess what they are.  There are twists galore.  There are cheaters among both the participants and the staff administering the games.  The police have tried to infiltrate.  Each participant is desperate for different reasons.  Most of them are heavily in debt with no prospect for getting out. 

"Parasite" (2019) was a bit deceptive, but in reality it depicted class differences and that modern Korea had a degree of inequality--like the rest of the world.  It seems inevitable that inequality will be with us forever, but historically there have been resets--due to such things as pestilence and violence.  Check out:

"Squib Game" highlights inequality and while it is highly entertaining, it should also be thought provoking.  Do we want some segments of our population desperate while another segment exploits them for personal profit (or their amusement).  The end should make viewers concerned about the direction of our society.

Other films have attempted to convey such themes entertainingly with various degrees of success.  Here are a few contributors to the success of "Squib Game."

Director, writer and producer Hwang Dong-hyuk   Directed and wrote "Silenced" (2011) and "Miss Granny" (2014), both highly regarded by me.   Check

Jaeil Jung, composed the music and earlier had done "Okja" (2017) and "Parasite" (2019).

Lee Jung-jae, the leading protagonist is a fashion model.  His face seemed vaguely familiar and it turns out many of his films are on my list.  "The Housemaid" (2010),  "The Thieves" (2012),  "Assassination" (2015),  and "Along with the Gods: The Two worlds" (2017).

Oh Yeong-su played an old man on the verge of dementia who turned out to be more useful than first thought.  Despite his age there are only a few screen credits, one of which I have seen.  "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring" (2003).

Anupam Tripathi played a Pakistani immigrant, another desperate participant.  Born in India he picked up an interest in theatre while there, but ended up moving to Korea where he was able to not only learn the language, but able to gain small roles.  His role in "Squib Game" was his first feature and ironically there is supposed to be Urdu dialogue, but Anupam is listed as speaking English, Korean and Hindi. 

Jung Hoyeon played a North Korean defector and created quite a stir from her role that launched her to a huge Instagram following.  Prior to this role she was well established as a fashion model and had only been in video shorts.  Surprised to learn she has been known for her red hair.  Don't be surprised when she makes a bigger splash, not just in Korea, but in the English speaking world.

If this got you hooked on Korean films you could check out some of the following:

Parasite won 3 Oscars:

"Crash landing on You" (2019)

Right now I am enjoying "Designated Survivor:  60 Days" (2019) and feeling it provides the same tension as the American original.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Telegu Remake Opens My Eyes

A confession.  A disease or addiction affects my blogs.  Not content with watching a film, my computer, music collection and household chores vie for my limited attention.  Occasionally some subtle point in a film might get missed.  Sometimes I might never catch on to the missing details, but sometimes with a little luck my awareness is expanded.

 Recently a remake of masterful original film made me conscious that paying attention does pay off.  Multi tasking is a risky, but hard to discard habit and I am aware of that.  The Telegu film industry was impressed by a very profitable Bollywood movie, "Andhadhun" (2018) and decided to make a project of converting the script from Hindi to Telegu. The remake, "Maestro" (2021) convinced me the original was better than I had acknowledged.  Watching a familiar movie a subsequent time usually yields deeper understanding and appreciation and this worked well for me.  Both are available on Netfllix.

The original inspiration was a 14 minute French film, "L'accordeur" (The Piano Tuner 2010) written and directed by Olivier Treiner about a pianist who despairs and becomes a piano tuner.  He pretends to be blind so that he can gain better understanding of his customers.  As a blind man he sees things he shouldn't. 

Why would anyone pretend to be blind?  Even the explanation seems weak.  A musician felt he would focus better.  Under his guise in quick succession he witnesses two murders, but maintains his pretense in a quick response (don't worry it is all subtitled).  In short order there was another twist (one that I missed) that complicated the plot which not only involved staying alive, but also a little romance.  The complications result in more twists and you are constantly wondering when it will unwind.  Very enjoyable journey.

It is comedic, but often in a macabre sense, apparently inspired by "Fargo" (1996).   It begins in mysterious fashion that seems unrelated to what you anticipate.  It becomes a thriller with lots of twists.  It does eventually tie into the main thread and will jog your memory a bit.  

A charitable cause, organ donations, weaves naturally into the plot (more so with "Maestro") and hopefully make you aware of a great need.  My father-in-law had one friend who had frightening heart problems that worried the friend's brother as well as my father in law.  Ironically with a heart transplant he outlived the two worriers and enjoyed another grandchild.   Inspired me to sign the donor line on driver's license. 

The strength of both films are the people behind them.  Obviously an overlap of writers is a key factor, but the Telegu film makers were prepared to take advantage of the Bollywood groundwork.

Sriram Raghavan with a writing crew including Pooja Ladha Surti, Hermanth M. Tao, Yogesh Chandekar and Arijit Biswas all of whom also worked on "Maestro".  Additional experienced writers, Merlapaka Gandhi and Sheik Dawood G. were brought in for the Telegu version.  Sriam wrote and directed " Ek Hasina Thi" (2004), "Agent Vinod" (2012) and "Badlapur" (2015).

Ayushmann  Khurrana was not the first choice for the lead role of Akash in "Andhadhun", but he was exceptionally suited.  He has great comic timing and some musical experience.  He had appeared in some good socially relevant movies such as "Vicky Donor" (2012), "Dum Laga Ke Haish" (2015), "Shubh Mangal Savdhan" 2017) and has gone to do "Badhaai Ho" (2018) and "Article 15" (2019).   Ayushmann praticised piano under the guidance of Akshay Verma for two months.  Check more:

Tabu plays Simi, the adulterous murderer.  Seen as very strong woman in such films as "Maqbool"  (2003),"Fanaa" (2006), "Drishyam"(2015) and "Talvar" (2015).  But she also illustrated a deft comic touch in such films as "Cheeni Kum" (2007).  She with Irrfan Khan was a winner of an award for "Best Seduction" in the American film, "The Namesake" (2006).  There is an easy to miss reference to her Lady MacBeth role.  Check for more at:

Radhika Apte played the romantic interest.  She graduated with a degree in Economics and Mathematics.  She began acting in theatre and moved into film.  She has performed in Hindi, Bengali, Telgu, Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam and English (where she spoke some French).  Her films include "Lion" 2015), "Manjhi:  The Mountrain Man" (2015), "Pad Man" (2018), "Sacred Games" (2018),  and "A Call to Spy" (2019)

Merlapaka Gandhi directed the Telegu version for his second effort.  He was better established as a writer for the Telegu market and was also involved with script additions to "Maestro".

Nithin plays the piano player Arun.  His father was Sudhakar Reddy, a noted Telegu film producer.  He has been in films since 2001.

Tamannaah Bhatia has appeared in "It's Entertainment" (2014), the block buster, "Baahubali:  The Beginning" 2015) and Baahubali 2:The Conclusion" (2017).   She has appeared in Telegu, Hindi and Tamil films.

Nabha Natesh plays the love interest Sophie.  She has appeared in Kanada and Telegu films.

Which of these two is better?  They are both very enjoyable to watch.  I admit I am a very big fan of both Ayushman Khurrana and Tabu and have been noticing Radhika Apte as she builds her career including in English.  Also one of my favorite songs from my favorite male singers Arijit Singh appear at the end.  On the other hand  Maestro has the advantage of the same crew of writers plus a few additional Telegu scripters to add in their own twists.  You can't go wrong. 

Remakes are a fairly common way of reducing risks in the expensive film making business.  Some earlier blogs on some good examples.

Ayushmann has experienced one of his movies being remade as in:    

Bollywood gets some of its most profitable ideas from the regional markets as in:

Personally multi-tasking has its limitations.  That is the problem in today's world; there are too many interesting and even important things to pay some attention to.  I apologize for having slighted some things I have blogged about, but will continue to try to cover a wide range of interests.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha, another delightful Korean series

Now that "Squid Game"(2021) has topped the ratings on Netflix, my addiction to Korean mini series might be more socially acceptable.  In truth  I find them very compelling.  I try to watch a variety of films, but keep coming back to the Korean tv. series.  "Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha" (2021) is another example of Netflix's investment to Korean films. 

 Watched over a period of more than a month, having to wait for new episodes.  Similar to the old time television experience.  However the mood changed.  It was mostly comedic, but it changed sharply towards the end and made you realize that the good mood had been a reaction to the unknown events.

 "Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha"  basically is a typical romance comedy.  The hero and his leading lady are very likable.  We only know that he is "unemployed" except he is always in demand for part time problems as he appears to be an expert in a wide range of skills.  We also learn early that he is from this small resort town, Gongiin, but had been away for five years.  He enjoys life and is not compelled to make a lot of money--he charges minimum wages for his part time jobs.   He enjoys surfing, cooking and reading.

Into Gonjin comes a young attractive dentist.  She had been taken advantage of by her employer in a dental clinic in the big city of Seoul (which really is a very big city).  She had been in Gonjin as a young girl and by a set of flukey circumstances decided to open a clinic.  Her view on life is a little different.  She likes good clothes and the good life.  

At first they run into each other and the girl finds him annoying, but interesting.  In this town everyone loves the guy as he is so considerate, fair and talented.  There are lots of family dynamics and outsiders are occasionally brought in to spice up things.

Eventually the missing five years becomes an obstacle.  Every romance has to survive some conflict and this one is dramatic and done effectively. 

This was director Yoo Je Won's sixth tv. series.  Part of the story involved a play within a play and included relationships between the director and the town that carries right through to the end.

Shin Ha-Eun wrote the script and made one of the supporting characters a writer.

I am trying to learn more about the music, some of which is available on iTunes.

Shin Min-A plays the normally cheery dentist, Yoon Hye Jin.  Apparently when she was in school she sent a photo at school picnic and was chosen as a model.  She looks a lot younger than her experience would indicate as she has been in series since 2001 and has won best actress awards twice.

Kim Seon-Ho plays the likable part timer known as Chief Hong or Hong Du Sik.  In a number of films he started out as a supporting actor, but was later elevated.  He is given as an example of Second Lead Syndrome which is where audiences root for the second lead male in a drama and wish the female lead would choose him although they know that won't happen).  He truly is a very likable character, but does demonstrate a range of emotions. 

Lee Bong-ryun plays Yeo Hwa Jeong, the female lead's land lady and fish restaurant owner.  She has appeared in "Okja" (2017) and "Burning" (2018).

Kim-Young-ok  plays an elderly lady who played a critical role in Chief Hong's life.  She had a role in "Squid Game" (2021).

An engaging story keeps you wanting to know what happens next.  There are always surprises in each episode.   A lot of loose ends were tidily resolved by the end of the final episode.

For a broader view of how subtitled movies can add enjoyment and understanding check out:

I just started watching "Squid Game" and likely will do a blog on it.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Winter Sleep, a Turkish masterpiece

 Long movies require patience and concentration.  But there is a lot of meat in some long movies.  A Turkish film "Winter Sleeps" (2014) is the longest film (3 hours and 16 minutes) to ever win the Cannes Festival Palm d'Or.  There is a lot to ponder, but on the other hand you might feel some resonance in your own life.

Aydin is a retired actor who has taken over the family hotel located in a mountainous region of Turkey.  He feels he is a realist, but is very cynical in talks with his divorced sister and much younger wife.  His wife Nihal feels stifled and tries to establish some independence while he talks down to her.  She explodes and makes demands that he mostly belittles and claims he doesn't care what she decides to do.  In the end the husband and wife realize they cannot control the other and seem to bend and make the best of an unhappy situation.  Others might interpret this film differently, but most would agree there is an unhealthy tension between husband and wife demanding some sort of resolution.

The movie was loosely based on two short stories of Anton Chekhov.  There turned out to be over 200 hours of film that was cut down to four hours and 30 minutes with a lot of tough decisions to get down to final size 3 hours and 16 minutes. 

Nuri Bilge Ceylan was born in Istanbul.  While studying Electrical Engineering he started studying films.  After traveling and military service he started making films.  A short film became the first Turkish short film chosen for competition and won competition at Cannes  In his early films he was involved with cinematography, editing, sound design as well as writing and directing.  His films deal with alienation, existentialism in everyday life.  He found inspiration from Anton Chekhov's stories.  Some of his films include "Three Monkeys" (2008), "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" (2011) and "The Wild Pear Tree" (2018).

 "Winter Sleep" is considered Ceylan's masterpiece which he wrote, directed and edited.  His wife Ebru also worked on the script as she had in other of his films.

Haluk Bilginer plays Aydin as a cynical motel owner.  He loves discussion.  Haluk is remembered by many for his 107 episodes of the British tv. series "Eastenders".  Other films include "The Reluctant Fundamentalist" (2012), "Rosewater" (2014), "The Ottoman Lieutenant" (2017).  Nuri Bilge Ceylan insisted on his role despite three rejections and worked the film schedule around Haluk's theatre schedule at the time.  In his

Melisa Sozen played Nihal, the young wife striving to be independent.  An Award winner.  Has done French films

Demet Akbag played the cynical sister. Necla.  She had been in Turkish films since 1986 winning national awards.  She got to deliver an interesting quote:  "Philanthropy isn't tossing a bone to a hungry dog.  It's sharing when you are just as hungry."

My first Turkish film was "Bliss" (2007) and encouraged me to watch more:

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Dream House

As a clever blogger I avoid using the first person pronoun as it turns off readers.   For this blog which stirs strong emotional feelings I feel I must state my personal stake in the game.  I am 73 and have owned my current home for almost 40 years and before that owned two other houses for shorter periods of time.  My income and that of my wife never was high enough to get out of the first tax bracket.  We were given breaks by relatives, but were not able to live in the more expensive locations in any town.  My current house is two stories with a finished basement, a small pond in the back yard and lots of flowers.  I can easily walk downtown or to Bayfront Park.

Times have changed.  The value of my house has gone up well over ten fold, but the people bidding up the prices are coming from further away and in most cases commuting a distance to afford.  If I were to give in to the real estate agents that pester me, I would have to find another house and it is not likely to be better located or offer as much space.

That is my situation and I fear the future will be a bigger challenge for those coming behind me.  In Hamilton (as elsewhere) we are having a big debate about the future.  Recently there was a big campaign to protest possible plans to expand housing including to farm land.  Not surprisingly many residents are horrified.  Building developers and some politicians are fighting back and have a case.  I noticed that the signs protesting urban sprawl were at single dwelling houses.  One of the politicians backed by a developer pointed out that the survey was very biased and offered their own supposedly less biased poll.  See below for a different political view.

The problem boils down to we who have an established house (relatively speaking"dream houses") don't want to rock the boat.  We don't want big huge buildings with multitudes in our neighborhood and we don't like the idea of farm land being turned over to greedy developers.  I fit into that category.  BUT everyone agrees that more people are coming. 

Where are these people supposed to go?  I don't envy their choices.  Cramped in an apartment or condo might be one choice.  Another would be way out in the suburbs requiring longer commuting.  Another choice to somehow get more money (an unhealthy pressure in itself) or accept that a higher percentage of their income is going to be devoted to housing. 

The basis of the frustration is the pursuit of the "dream house".  More "dream houses" can be built, but yes they will be more expensive, further away, maybe not quite as ideal and yes they will cut into our precious farm land and add pollution and accelerate climate change.

Other political view picked up from John-Paul Danko to Steve Paikin.  My phrasing:  The government empowered by greedy developers has extended the time frame, hyped up population projections and taken on a larger planning function.  I agree there needs to be a wider view of the problem, but hopefully not financed solely by "special interests".

Are there solutions to the dilemma?  There are ideas, but they are dependent on people who can help work out the big plan and the little details that impinge on them.  There will have to be adjustments or not only will people be unhappy, but they may not have much of a planet left.

Cars are part of the problem, especially as more people may be commuting further and on more crowded roads.  Extended infrastructure will also add another element of pollution and attack our climate.  Transit is cheaper and more environmentally friendly.  If people insist on living in detached houses far from city centers can we somehow put them into the transit network?  Better yet, in the future will more of us be able to do most of our work from home?  Working from home has mixed blessing in that human contact is still vital for many interactions.  We may be aggravating inequality as some will have the luxury of working from home while others can't.

At bottom the real pressure comes from population.  Some have a vested interest in ever growing population which really are markets for whatever they are trying to sell.  Part of a dream for many families is deferred because they don't have the resources to bring up another human.  We would like to support families as they are the base of society as we know it.  Large families may be difficult to maintain, and for the world as a whole and individual families some disincentives should be established.   Part of the strategy to curb excessive population growth would include sex education, availability of contraceptives, but more basic is our attitudes.

Compromise is how we have traditionally dealt with conflicts.  I learned that the city of Hamilton has limited downtown buildings to a height that does not obstruct the view of the escarpment.  I would keep that sort of restriction but perhaps we need to examine other building restrictions.  Along with that would be improved transit which always seems to run against budget concerns.  Farmland could well be our saviour, but we need to expand our food growing resources which have been done in some urban centers. Many compromises would be easier if more money was included.  That of course relates right back to inequality.  An earlier blog on taxation has some relevance:

Happiness is being satisfied with what you have while unhappiness is not being satisfied with what you have.  Having said that, human progress has come from those overcoming dissatisfaction.  What can we do to make life more satisfying.  Make living spaces more livable with more community space and also concern for privacy.  We take for granted that more people can mean more cultural opportunities, etc.  Each of us need to examine what is really important including independence, relationships and purpose.  What joy can we find?   It might too much to put this burden on education, but that has to be an important component.  School needs to be more than learning job skills.

It is good that the issues are being raised, but each of us needs to be open minded.  We have to acknowledge other people have their needs.  We should admit that we have achieved at least part of our dream and that others have not been quite as lucky. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Hunter Biden story

 Like most of you I had never heard of Hunter Biden until Donald Trump decided to target Hunter's father, Joe Biden before his office announcement. A heavy and prolonged criticism got global attention.  It certainly seemed incriminating for his father and Barrack Obama.  On the other hand anyone criticized by Donald Trump could not be all bad, in fact most of them are commendable.  At one point Trump mocked Hunter so severely and his campaign offered a T shirt "Where's Hunter" for $25.00.  Trump kept up attacks on Hunter and never apologized.

What does Hunter have to say about this unwanted attention?  Hunter is quite open about it.  The Ukrainians wanted a name with international clout and offered him a lot of money to insure that.  Underlying their effort was fear of the Russians who had seen one of their picks for President, Viktor Yankovych forced to a Russian exile.  Trump's later campaign manager, Paul Manafort was heavily mixed up for Russian interests in Ukraine.  The Ukrainians were well aware of corruption that enabled the Russian intimidation and wanted to clean it up.  Hunter was not just a name.  Among other things he advocated for a geo thermal project in Italy and  helped make a connection for Burisma with Pemex,  the Mexican energy company.  Earlier taking advantage of his name Hunter was able to help persuade King Abdullah to accept more Syrians despite an awkward political dilemma for Jordan.

Trump was certainly in league with Putin.  It is possible he just admired how Putin used power, but the links are many over the years.  Check out:   At about this time Putin was planning a sneak attack on Crimea and attempted to take more territory from Ukraine.  From my viewpoint it is hard to understand how Trump escaped with his job.  His actions were treasonous and he was trying to distract by attacking a likely rival's son.  It also fit well with Putin's strategy who wanted to take Ukraine back.  Joe Biden helped expedite the firing of a corrupt official.  Trump threatened to with hold military supplies to Ukraine that was being besieged by Russia.

The first part of the story seemed very saccharine where Hunter was trying to establish that he loved his older brother Beau.  He did lean on him a lot, even to helping with his alcoholism.  After Beau's death Hunter, already having gone through addiction drifted back to a relapse.

Most of the book is taken up with Hunter's addiction.  It covers periods of madness and efforts to rehabilitate.  For much of the time he was able to be functional and actually make a large amount of money that allowed him to maintain his dangerous habits with alcohol and cocaine.  At one point told us that writing about his addiction actually stimulated cravings.  He finished the book acknowledged that he will be under threat all his life.

At one time he had an relationship with Hallie, the widow of Beau and his sister-in-law but that was difficult.  The two shared a love of Beau, but in the end it only led to Hunter's divorce, scandal and awkwardness.

At one point after the Trump attacks, Hunter was approached by Adam Beck, a journalist with the New Yorker magazine who wanted to get the other side of the story.  They hit it off and Hunter found it a cathartic experience.  Some casual acquaintances gave him the number of someone they thought he should meet, but after leaving a message he threw away the phone number.  In the end he was saved by the love of a good woman.  Melissa Cohen was understanding, but tough.  She seemed attracted by Hunter's underlying humanness.  

Now Hunter has gone back to a love of painting.   Many critics point out that his paintings are over priced and likely bought by people who want to make an impression on President Joe Biden.  Hunter acknowledges he owes a lot to his father who not only brought him up, giving him lots of breaks and supporting him through some pretty rough times.  Hunter is well educated and above average in intelligence, but had trouble accepting various disappointments.  

If anything this story only enhances the respect some people give to President Joe Biden.  He is a man of love and understanding, a dramatic swing from his predecessor. 

Friday, October 8, 2021

Escape from Extinction

 Modern man has competed with nature extracting necessities for survival, but also for our comfort and enjoyment.  With our greed we have upset the balance.  With an ever increasing population we are taking over land, adding pollution and inducing climate change.  Millions of acres of land have been carved out of forests for agricultural purposes.  Large numbers of humans like to hunt with always technologically improved killing equipment.  Others have found the illegal wildlife trade based on skins, food, medicines is one way to survive.    

What makes the news are disasters such as wildfires, droughts  and oil spills that have literally killed millions of wild animals and accelerating extinctions.   

In "Escape from Extinction"  (2020) they start off by identifying several species that have become extinct over the century and then catalogue many other species that are in dangerous decline.  But they then relate a few success stories.  The films continues with many challenges and successes.  

Helen Mirren narrates and we hear from several animal experts. 

In the process it forces one to take a different perspective.  As a youngster and even young adult I loved a visit to a zoo, but somehow by middle age I had decided zoos were cruel places and I did not want to support them.  This film suggests  (accredited) zoos and aquariums are part of the solution.   Still it is hard to believe that being confined away from your normal environment is all good.

Zoos have been subjected to a lot of protests, but in truth most of the staff is there for a love of animals.  With greater awareness zoos, or at least many of them of have become much more humane, with animals being given more space and effort .  They are aware of the protests and point out what they consider distortions and untruths.   For instance they talk about the movie "Free  Willy" (1993) and the efforts to release a captive whale.  They believe that animals that have been in captivity for a long time are poorly adapted to survive in the wild.  They counter with examples of animal experts better preparing animals that have lived in captivity and successfully restoring to a natural habitat.

To illustrate the importance of a balance of nature they recounted the story of grey wolves brought back to Yellowstone Park that played a vital role in the regrowth of the natural habitat and have revitalized species running from beavers to Bald Eagles. 

Expanded development in India forced Asian elephants to encroach on towns and cities causing dangerous interactions.  Some animal experts learned that planting hot chilies would discourage elephants from going past the barrier.

In my home town, Hamilton there has been a controversy over extending urban development rights and supposedly paving over farmland.  A common concern as people prefer to live in detached homes (where builders can profit while the municipality has to provide infrastructure).  It seems the next generation is more likely to live in high rise buildings.  A complaint just heard over the past two or so years is coyotes entering urban areas killing pets and intimidating people.  They have nowhere to go and they are adapting to living on urban fringes.  Raccoons, squirrels and possums have already made adjustments.

An advantage zoo staff have over the rest of us is they understand animals better and are more comfortable handling them.  This is why they end up with wild animals that have been confiscated from illegal trade.  A drought in Africa threatened a large number of elephants and finally it was decided the best place would be American zoos where they could be fed and housed.

Other than providing accommodation for displaced wild animals zoos have used their expertise in the battle to avert extinctions.  They have set up breeding programs and even planned carefully to bring animals back to their natural habitats.   They have campaigned for conservation areas.   They have been involved with building corridors (bridges or tunnels) between wildlife habitats that have been separated by urban developments.   They have developed radio with GPS to track wild animals to both learn their habits, but if necessary to rescue.

In trying to conserve wild animals they are conscious that the rest are influenced by our fears of predators such as sharks.  The scary nature of sharks has been enhanced by movies, news reports and even music (Jaws theme).  Predators are necessary to keep a healthy balance of nature.  Sharks are hunted for soup and medicines with often the fins removed while still alive and the bodies discarded.

Perhaps another "noble" mission is to inspire youngsters who increasingly are removed from nature.  They are the ones who will carry on the struggle to preserve endangered species.

The one concern still remaining is animals confined into relatively small spaces.  We don't think about our pet dogs and cats being captive, but in fact I have two neutered cats confined to our house--for their protection.  Today most zoo animals are well cared for and many have become attached to their human handlers.  This actually means they are less adaptable to their natural habitat.

A film experience about nature affecting humans as "Lighthouse of the Orcas" (2016) with an autistic child and killer whales.  Very moving.

One interesting example for me was about New Zealand flightless parrots, known as Kakapo that are close to extinction.  Their eggs are laid on the ground which was not a problem before natural predators were brought to New Zealand.  They only breed in two to four year cycles.  Now it is taking extreme measures to build up their population, such as printing 3-D eggs.  I understand the Auckland Zoo is involved and so I hope to visit there (right beside Western Springs, a favorite stop for me).

About two years ago when my son and his girlfriend visited from New Zealand we bought a group package for Toronto tourist attractions which included the Metro Toronto Zoo.  With only a little hesitation I decided to go.  As a curious person I found the animals entertaining.  I especially enjoyed watching the polar bears swimming.  The animals seemed well fed and a few were playing with the zoo staff.  As part of my research I stumbled on a video put out by the Metro Toronto Zoo that encapsulates much of the positive contributions of zoos.  The video is worth the nine minutes and eased my guilt conscience a bit.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The Outlier: The Unfinished Presidency of Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter has long been someone I greatly admire.  The world has not always been kind to him, partly because he was ahead of the time and admittedly he had made mistakes.  One is reminded that politics is a very dirty business.  Kai Bird, the award winning author has constructed a fairly comprehensive biography of the former president, but with the focus on his presidential term.  The title "The Outlier" is meant to indicate that Carter was an outsider, a liberal southerner.

Jimmy grew up with black playmates and although his father could be described as a segregationist, his mother was very liberal.  Segregation actually disgusted Jimmy, but to get elected in Georgia one had to avoid racial topics.   As a young man I remember reading the Playboy interview where he admitted he had "lusted" in his heart after other women, an admission that indicated his honesty, but not appreciated by some voters.

This book has made me more conscious that Carter was a power seeking politician.  Not sure of his motive, but would say he felt he could do a better and more humane job.  Unfortunately his base was in the south where segregation was what many of the voters wanted.  He was liberal on many issues and very open, but knew to get power he had to be pragmatic.  Rosalyn, a childhood sweetheart was a very critical part of his success.

He gave his Vice President, Walter Mondale an office at the White House and included him in most discussions believing it was critical that his backup should be fully prepared.  His first act as president was to pardon over 200,000 Vietnam draft dodgers.

In many policies Carter was always concerned about budget.   Read all the details, even taking speed reading to keep up.  One telling example was his decision on liquor in the White House.  He was not a teetotaler and was known to share a bottle of Bourbon in private with guests.  They also offered wine at state dinners.  But he felt hard liquor was an unnecessary expense that hindered serious discussion.  This did not go well with many critics including Ted Kennedy.  Successfully rooted out much waste.

Pushed many policies for consumer protection including legislating seat belts and air bags despite much libertarian opposition.  Personally against abortion, but supported Roe v. Wade and advocated sex education and contraception for teenagers.  Re-opened up market for craft beer.

He made a point to nominate more diverse candidates for the court system.  One notable one was Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Females, blacks and hispanics all gained more court appointments.

An early foreign policy controversy came with his decision to give up control of the Panama Canal.  Many financial interests and right wing politicians were adamantly against it.  Was generally an advocate against human rights abuses, but did soften a bit for political concerns.

Against many of his advisors he got involved in Mid East politics.  In the end this cost him the normal Democratic Jewish support.   Looking at today one can appreciate that one huge obstacle was the Israeli insistence on the illegal settlements on the West Bank.  Carter pushed on this at the risk of a Begin walkout.  Both Sadat and Begin said it would not have succeeded  except for the dogged persistence of Carter.

He had been told that Iran was a staunch ally against Communism, but he was well aware of human rights abuses and did mellow them a bit.  To the shah Jimmy Carter once quoted a 13th century Farsi poet, "If the misery of others leaves you indifferent and no feelings of sorrow, then you cannot be called a human being." 

Zbigniew Brzeinskis always advocated that it was important to support Iran against Communism, but overlooked much of violent protests.  Eventually the anti Shah forces succeeded in a Revolution.  Carter was sympathetic, but very reluctant to accept the Shah as an exile, but when it was revealed that the Shah needed urgent medical treatment, among many others Henry Kissinger strongly campaigned and eventually Carter agreed.  This soon led to the hostage taking at the American Embassy.

Again right wingers (and also Brzezinski) were wanting an aggressive action while Carter wanted a diplomatic response.  The rescue attempt was risky to begin with and ran into many technical disasters. m Initially Carter's support improved, but is now symbolic of how weak many felt Carter was.

While the Iranian hostage crisis was in play Russia decided to invade Afghanistan.   Some advisors thought it was due to a miscue between Communists in Afghanistan.  The Americans imposed sanctions, but Carter felt a stronger gesture was required and decided the Americans would boycott the Moscow Olympics.  Personally I felt the Olympics should be beyond politics, but of course it isn't. An earlier blog at the time of the 2016 Brazil Olympics covers some views including political:

Politics is a dirty business.  Ted Kennedy felt he should be president and execute his legislation hi-lited with a universal health program.  After his effort to win the Democratic nomination for the 1980 election he avoided the traditional rituals to project party unity. 

The Republicans were afraid of an "October surprise" The author recalls some unproven (only circumstantial evidence) that there was an effort to delay hostage release until after Reagan's inauguration.  It is not hard to believe, but in actuality it was difficult as the Iranians were divided and American financiers had vested interests in prolonging the process.   Before the one debate the Republicans managed to steal Carter's debate preparation.  Carter, although a Southerner had disappoined many fellow southerners with his advocacy for blacks.  The Republicans wanted to make a statement without being direct and chose to hold their first rally at Philadelphia, Mississippi  near where two black men were murdered.   The Republicans had a big swing from Evangelicals who were racist, but really concerned that a white school was denied a religious tax exemption.

Those trying to bring down Carter left their mark on today's politics.  Roy Cohn, considered to be a mentor to Donald Trump intruded at least twice.  On one occasion the author traces Cohn to a fake scandal with key advisor, Jordan Hamilton involving a cocaine incident at Studio 54.  It turned out Jordan was not even there.  Cohn arranged for a change in endorsements by having Roger Stone distribute money to the Liberal party. 

After a humiliating election Carter learned that his peanut warehouse was bankrupt.  He ended up selling some of his assets and started teaching at Emory University and writing which formed a big part of his income.  He originally planned to take up a new hobby, but before too long he felt himself being drawn into more serving projects.  Expected to fundraise for the traditional presidential library he decided to add on a conflict resolution center and felt more motivated.  He befriended an old foe, Gerald Ford at Anwar Sadat's funeral and together they wrote an article in Reader's Digest criticizing Israel's illegal settlements.  

Carter got involved in many different different diplomatic disputes.  He helped Daniel Ortega to accept an election loss in Nicaragua, using himself as an example.  He got involved in disputes in Haiti and North Korea where he is credited with averting military action.  Supervising elections was a task he took on which gave them more credibility.  He wanted also to improve global health and chose to obliterate the guinea worm disease.  Another major project was Habitat for Humanity requiring some physical effort and at 97 is still carrying on.  

Many commentators praise his humanitarian deeds, but maintain that he was a weak president.   He made his share of mistakes, but few understood his calculations or the circumstances.  Unfortunately he was not as spellbinding an orator as Ronald Reagan or Donald Trump, but he did more for America than either of those two more attention getting presidents.  It is to the detriment of America (and the world) that voters do not really examine the issues, but pay more attention to the rhetoric and ignore the underlying problems. 

An earlier post on Jimmy Carter:

Monday, October 4, 2021

Terry Fallis with a little humour

Trying to understand the world, serious books  are usually on my list of books to read (and blog about), but we all need a laugh once in a while and if there is some point to it, so much the better.  Terry Fallis has always had some sort of political involvement, but most of his books focus on human interactions rather than concerns with policies.  

My first awareness was with his first book, "The Best Laid Plans" which marked him as someone to follow.  His first novel experience was a trial.  Like beginners everywhere he met more rejection than encouragement.  He demonstrated determination and persistence by offering his book chapter by chapter on podcasts.  Eventually he caught on to publishers.   

This first novel not only won the Stephen Leacock award, but also the CBC Canada Reads program.   Later turned to a six part mini series.  The Canada Reads program is a great platform to make more Canadians aware of what our authors have to offer.  Check out

 It might surprise us to learn that at McMaster University he studied and graduated with an engineering degree.  He was also an activist for a wide range of causes and became the student union president.  A project even before engineering was hovercrafts which later he worked into some of his novels.

After graduation he became involved with the Liberal Party and eventually worked on campaigns and strategies for Jean Chretien and Michael Ignatieff.  Outside writing he has started a public relations firm.  Perhaps that is why he is very aware that to get things done it is better to be humourous.  You will recognize that he has liberal sympathies, but his writing avoids preaching and is more focused on personalities and their human foibles.   Michael Ignatieff has caught my attention and although not as humourous exhibits political awareness without being too preachy:

A key to the humour is that he uses a subjective voice of a likable character, that although naive in so many ways is also to spot the hypocrisy and pomposity of human nature.  There is a little romance to spice up things a little bit with the lovable awkward narrator involved.  No need for swearing or intimate details.

One character hit home to me is an older woman who has Parkinson's.  That is also in my family, and it is good to realize those stuck with the disease are functioning and likable. 

Although the characters often venture outside our borders the Canadian perspective is always evident.  Americans have lots of political satire, often noted for biting commentary.  Terry uses pseudonmys, although you might recognize similar personalities, but they are just similar.  Unless you are very hard right wing you probably will laugh at all the human foibles pointed out.

Some of the books are in sequence, most notably the ones that end (hopefully not) with "Operation Angus."  It is good to know that his humour does not depend upon the same set of characters.  In "Shy Brother" he uses twins in ingenious ways, based on I learned later that Terry is a twin.  His brother often helps out with his scripts.

His fourth book, "No Relation" won his second Stephen Leacock award.  It was based on the premise that people with similar names to a celebrity bear a burden.  True it may be trivial, but can have some impact and his subject hooks up with others with a similar burden.  You may have noticed that my blog title is "The Real John Davidson" and here is the background:

"Albatross" had an interesting premise.  Supposedly every body has a sport they are perfectly suited for.  Terry takes an unathletic boy who unknown to him at first is ideally suited for golf, despite no interest in that sport.  This leads to all sorts of humourous efforts that eventually demonstrate human nature for us ordinary folks.

There is not much emphasis on policies, but there is plenty of human nature insights.  Wipe off that frown and grab a Terry Fallis book.  For awhile you will be distracted and gain a different perspective on human nature.