Tuesday, May 31, 2022

My Two Cats are my Pandemic Saviours

Retirement came  about 8 months before the Covid Pandemic started changing our lives.  My wife retired within the first few weeks.   I had started helping immigrants to practice English giving me some structure and purpose, but it was an early casualty.  Various restrictions came and went, at one point most stores were closed or tough measures taken including masks and limited accessibility.  Any regular readers of my blogs might have noticed an increase in frequency.  I watched more films.  Although things have opened up it still seems frustrating.  We had planned trips to New Zealand and/or Italy, but  they seem years away.  Things are looking up a bit, but time to reflect on our cats that helped us get through.

I didn't always like cats:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2012/01/how-i-became-cat-lover.html

Mary Ditta, at work was my cat consultant.  She encouraged me to get a second cat when a young stray kitty approached us.  She also thought it a good idea to get a second cat, even a male to be a companion for the one already at home.

We decided years ago our cats would be indoor cats.  However one escaped during a pre Christmas gathering and we were unable to locate her.  On her own she returned a few weeks later just around Christmas looking the worse for wear.  Indoor cats live longer.

Our two cats had spent a lot of time alone and we had wondered what they do.  Except for a few incidents they mostly slept.  Probably partly boredom, but also conserving their energy.  How do they amuse themselves?   They both are addicted to boxes and an empty laundry basket which sometimes is carried with them in it.  Two cats amuse each other, but are also rivals for our attention  Hiding is one of their activities to play with us.  They are territorial with each other to some extent, but very upset with birds or animals that appear to invade their territory.

 For a time I worked for a Chinese pet bed wholesaler.  The Chinese connection was something I did not seek, but had been recruited by a man who had been given my name by two of my pet retail customers.  In the end he died in an accident and I learned he had been lied to thinking he had an exclusive area.  On a call to Vancouver I actually was talking to the manager in China itself.

 Some say cats (and dogs) provide unconditional love, but that seems a bit lopsided for me.   Feeding time has many rituals.  We sometimes try to defer their gratification, but are not enough consistent.  Cats are more independent than dogs and although felines can bug you for food and other times want to be stroked they can walk away and resist your attempts to get their attention.

The purr of a cat is one of the most satisfying sounds in the world.  You can't take it for granted, but seems like a reward for putting up with their more common aloofness and even demands.

For a brief time I had been recruited to help sell a new type of kitty litter.  One of my pet retailers had a friend with a son who had developed a new litter product in Mexico.  I learned a bit of the story.  The inventor was a Canadian who had moved to Mexico and somehow got involved in trying to develop a lighter kitty litter that old ladies could easily lift.

This led to finding a plant from Mexico that was much lighter than conventional litter.  He tried to discover a clumping agent and while eating with his mother (who had recovered from cancer) noticed flax worked for clumping.  Made contact with flax manufacturer in western Canada.  The product was tested in Mexico City at a rescue charity.  It seemed to work.  Each night the manager put litter through a sifter that made it easier to deal with a large number of cats.

A big sales pitch for me was that everything else I sold slowed down in the winter.  Kitty litter actually is more needed in the winter as cats allowed outdoors don't bother with litter in the good weather, but in the winter they spend more time indoors and their owners are forced to deal with the unpleasant smell.

Unfortunately my cats did not like the new litter and refused to use it.  Also as a small business owner, my friend overlooked many marketing details some of which were pointed out to me by another of my pet retailers.  They had a nice interesting story about how the product had been developed, but when packaged the story was inaccessible to the casual observer.  Although I got a few retailers to try it, the owners were so discouraged that they stopped manufacturing it. 

Each cat has its own personality.  The first time we had two cats, the second one was a stray and we saw a little resentment, but no fighting in our presence.  The stray was the more active of the two and would scare us with jumping up to a second story rail and seemed to enjoy our reaction which was mainly fear she would fall.   When Maggie left us we were surprised Molly seemed more listless and didn't live as much longer as we expected.   The not so pleasant aspect of living with cats:   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/12/maggie.html

The second pair of cats were closer in the sense of when we got them.  The second cat, Oscar, a male (the black and white one above) was more aggressive and at first shoved Izzy, the older, larger female cat aside to eat out of the same food bowl.  This was so exasperating for me that I sometimes picked him up and put behind a door to give the female a chance to eat in piece.  Izzy's reaction was unexpected as she went upstairs where we had closed Oscar behind the bathroom door and waited outside.  Over time that changed as Oscar actually although more active was smaller and it seemed strange that they took turns being more aggressive, but generally tolerant.  They do play and it amazes me that the smaller one is more aggressive.

Curiosity is a trait associated with cats.  We admire it with human inventors, but laugh at cats.  Laughter is supposed to extend your life or at least make it more enjoyable.  My two cats provide a lot of laughter either when playing with each other, acting as rivals or trying to get our attention. The Dalai Lama has been a good model with the merits of laughter and my cats provide the opportunities.  A dab of peanut butter on my finger has become a ritual with Oscar that makes me laugh at his antics.   He plays cool and makes me chase him and reassuring, then he gets serious and obviously loves the flavor. 

The pandemic has been an ordeal.  Retirement was supposed to be a time to enjoy life, do some travel and to do meaningful things.  We are all making adjustments and I am grateful my cats have made it easier.  

Quietly watching my cats I have time to think and ponder.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/10/philosophy-from-observing-cats.html

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

#Home: Comedic clash of generations

 High ratings got my attention, plus I have found Malayalam films mostly to live up to their ratings.  Tracked it down to Prime.  My new top movie of 2022.  It sneaks up on you, but is very pleasant while you are waiting for you don't know what.

The main character, Oliver Twist lives with his father, wife and two sons.  He got his name from his father who used to translate English books to Malayalam and was struck by the name "Oliver Twist."  He named a daughter Mary Poppins.  Oliver Twist named his sons, Antony Oliver Twist and Charles Oliver Twist.  The father still likes to quote from the Charles Dickens book.  Oliver is retired, seems to be fairly well off (very nice house with large fish tank), but as one son said has not done anything extraordinary and has not kept up with the times.

  One of the sons really is just visiting while he tries to finish a film script in peace.  Both of Oliver's sons are very adept with social media.  The father feels left out and buys a smart phone, but needs a lot of help to use it.  Unfortunately by accident  (really covering up his inability to turn off one program)  he unintentionally starts a live video broadcasts of his eldest son Antony criticizing a co-worker that has a negative impact on his film ambitions.

The Oliver Twist family has a social relationship with Antony's in-laws.  In fact his father in law, Joseph is having a book published that they are all looking forward to.  The two familes get along very well.

Oliver talks to a psychologist , Dr. Franklin who mistakingly thinks he is the son's father in law (or friend).  Oliver admits to a sleeplessness allowing for some physical comedy to follow.  Tai chi routine is clumsily joined.   Oliver is soon being taught smart phone and learning new uses.  He also develops smoother Tai chi.

Antony is frustrated trying to write a note to a producer and decides his father's penmanship would make a better impression.  Apparently the use of modern electronics supplants traditional ways of communicating.  Oliver finally recalls an event to his son from 48 years ago.  Antony is amused, but apparently not very impressed.

Antony upset his wife by phone at birthday celebration.  The psychologist explains that smart phone is stealing time from Antony's wife, Priya and compares to a cigarette addiction.

Antony had quit a job to go full into film, but running into finance problems.  His in-laws visit during rain storm and in the end Oliver and his wife feel belittled.

Near the end there is a celebration about Antony's father in law and the biographical book about him.  Antony bragged his father in law was a man of accomplishments, unlike his own father.  Very subtly there is a twist in the plot.  The end credits show most of the family taking part in Tai Chi and a few other activities.

At the end Antony claims "I'm always imperfect at my home. "  The sentiment was captured in a song that I bought.

Rojin Thomas, wrote and directed.  This is only his third feature, previously he wrote and directed two child oriented movies, the first of which was very successful, but the second not so much.  This film gives a writer's perspective of the agony of getting filmed.  Along the way we get a young perspective of an older generation that has not kept up, but nonetheless have merit. 

Vijay Babu, producer  and played psychologist Dr.Franklin.  He produced and won award for "Philip and the Monkey Pen" (2013), Rojin's first film and also produced "June" (2019)

The background music was by Rahul Subrahmanian who also wrote the music for Rojin Thomas's first two films.

Neil  D'Cuncha handled the cinematography.  One shot that may startle you is of a big fish in a big tank

Editing was handled by Prejish Prakash.  He had edited for "Khatta Meetha" (2010), "Philips and the Monkey Pen" (2013) and "Kilometers and Kilometers" (2020).

Indrans who plays Oliver Twist started as a tailor and did costume designs for films.  Since then he has performed in over 300 films, mostly comical and supportive.  A slim, gangly body and an accent lends itself to comedy  The two of his I have seen were not comedies.  One, "Aalorukkam" (2018) has a very big surprise for him when he tracks down his estranged son after 17 years, but afterwards I was surprised to learn that the Malayalam culture is much more socially progressive than I assumed.  The other film was "Virus" (2019).

Sreenath Bhasi played the film writer and eldest son, Antony Oliver Twist.  He has been in numerous Malayalam films such as "Ustad Hotel" (2012), "Parava" (2017), "Kumbalangi Nights" (2019) and "Virus" (2019), 

Johny Anthony played Suryan, Oliver's friend from childhood.    He has appeared in "Varane Avashyamund" (2020), "Love" (2020) and "Hridayam" (2022).   

Deepa Thomas, played Priya, wife of Antony.  She also appeared in "Virus" (2019).

Much like my previous top film, the ending is beautiful makes the whole film seem worth the high rating and the characters hold your attention throughout. 

I discovered or really stumbled about Malayalam films and am enjoying.  Here is a bit about my breakthrough and includes some of the bolded movies:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/03/how-i-discovered-malayalam-cinema-and.html

Another good film that demonstrates the writing process for someone wanting to produce a film.   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/06/ee-nagaraniki-emaindhi.html

As usual films I have seen are bolded at first mention.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

The Boss, Anatomy of a Crime

This film got my attention by accident.  Bored with offered selections, went through a long list of Netflix suggestions before I found "The Boss, Anatomy of a Crime" ( El Patron, radiografis de un crimen 2014).  It had a good rating, but the descriptions made it seem "different" and unique.  It was about a killing which is common enough, but there was none of the usual mystery.  The story was about an exploited man who responded to abuse.  My film selections are intended to give more attention to those that might be overlooked in the over hyped entertainment marketing.  With subtitles is in English and set in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

 We are first introduced to a lawyer after a murder case trying to find some mitigating circumstances for a client who not only admits his guilt, but that he was enraged at the time.  The story then flashes back to how Hermogenes gets hired by Latuada, the owner of 8 butcher shops who treats an existing butcher with physical brutality.  Hermogenes seem a little stunned, but accepting and assuring he can do a good job.  The owner suggests Hermogenes move to the back room of the shop to be closer to the job.  

We flip between before a killing and to the court case.  There are several flips, but with little effort they make it easier to understand the story. 

Wife of lawyer, Clara seemingly annoyed by her husband's interest in what seems like a hopeless case eventually gets involved and she becomes very supportive of Hermognese and his wife.

Hermonogenes feels guilty and fatalistic.  When asked about his boss, he says he was not nice, but "God didn't make him nice."

Near the end we see the actual killing and it is brutal.  It seems like very little provocation, but we would be anticipating some very strong and personal criticism after a customer had returned some bad meat.  Afterwards we gain the lawyer perspective that said there had been a long buildup (much of which we did see).  Because of the job, Hermonogenes happened to have a knife in his hands when reached a boiling point.

The police and the prosecutors laughed at what an open and shut case this was because of the very candid confession.  They termed it aggravated murder and called for a life sentence.  The lawyer made a stirring speech to the effect of the pressures put on Hermonogenese including some criticism of the gov and the final sentence was for homicide under the heat of passion.

Based on true events. 

It is set in a butcher shop and some of it may be upsetting as not only do they show cutting meat, they also show how they spray stuff to hide rotted meat and how to cover it up with color agents.  Ironically Argentina is known world wide for their quality beef.

Sebastian Schindel was director, editor and co-writer.  He read the book and was shaken by the description of exploitation and slavery.  He met with viewers who told him similar stories of exploitation.  When asked to help with groups to work against what was called "cultural slavery" he agreed.  Sebastian started his film career in 2000 and has been a writer, a director, editor and producer.

Nicolas Batlle writer and producer has been involved with "The German" (2013).  He has not only written and produced scripts, but also been a director.

Javier Olivera, co-writer got started as a painter and later attended film studies at UCLA.  He had directed a series of films for UNICEF.  He teaches screenwriting and directing at Uruguay Film Campus.

Guillermo Pfening played the concerned defense lawyer,   Guillermo had played in "The German" (2013)

Andrea Garrote, Nora,  was in Oscar nominated "Wild Tales" (Relatos Salvajes 2014) in same segment as Ricardo Darin, one of my favorite actors  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/04/ricardo-darin-brings-charm-from.html

Joaquin Furiel played Hermonogene sas a mild mannered exploited butcher.   He was the lead in most popular film blog ever "The Lighhouse of the Whales" (El Faro de las Orcas 2016).  He started acting lessons at age 12.  Received best actor awards for this one.  Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/03/the-lighthouse-of-orcas.html

German de Silva played a friendly butcher who gave useful advice (including how to cover up bad meat).  Appeared in won a best supporting actor ward "Wild Tales" (2014) and "The Two Popes" (2019)

Luis Ziembrowski, played the boss (deliberately not labeled employer).  It required a gruff, hard nosed and crooked acting.  In another role, "Lili's Apron" (2004) he had played a Mrs. Doubtfire sort of role.

Victoria Raposo played Clara, the wife to lawyer and key to lifting accused out of a suicidal guilt feeling swinging from an annoying wife upset at her husband' obsession.  Acting since 2010, she once was a casting director for a tv. series.

Monica Lairana, wife to butcher  Gladys--an early extra role for her was with "Evita" (1996),  Won a best supporting actress award for her role in this film.

Inspired by this film I watched on Netflix another gem from Sebastian Schindel, "Crimes that Bind" (2020) which I recommend.  

The movies that have been bolded are ones that I have watched.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Stolen Focus--you need to focus before it is too late

A concern more of us are waking up to is our lack of focus, of not being able pay attention.  It is not just for individuals, but all of society.  When we need clarity in our thinking we are distracted and confused.  The process seems to have accelerated and we may be headed to a disaster, but there are some insights that might save us.

 At first it is easy to blame social media,  Many examples are provided, but the bottom line is that social media companies are profit oriented and the way they profit is through engagement.  Every time you push a link the information is collected to compile a profile on you.  From there, algorithms are developed that steer you to either an advertisement or just as likely more posts that are designed to keep you engaged and exposed to more targeted ads.  Another feature is the infinite scroll which encourages you to stay on board just a little bit longer. 

Another associated concern is multi tasking which social media enables.  As I write this I am also watching a movie on a streaming service.  I used to think I could pay full attention to two or more activities, but the brain was not designed that way.  Probably some of you are multi tasking as you try to figure out how much to pay attention to my words.  Some people are more adept at switching interests back and forth and retaining some value, but science has proved that the mere act of switching guarantees you lose something.  This problem is exacerbated with the multitude of electronic devices.  Distracted driving is an increasing cause of death.

But the problem goes much deeper.  

A lack of sleep slows down reactions, impairs memory and can even raise blood pressure.  Sleep is when your body cleans out toxins.  REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is when your body dreams and sorts out the events of the day.  It occurs towards the end of 7 or 8 hours.  We evolved with the natural cycle of sun and dark, but now artificial light extends our day and disrupts our sleep, further diminishing our focus.  Lack of sleep has many causes:  busyness, stress, light and noise are a few factors.

What you eat and drink affects your ability to concentrate.  We have changed our eating habits very dramatically since our cave days.  In a busy world we eat prepared foods that use preservatives to make for more economical storage.  Supplements we take  are not as good as fresh nutrients. We eat a lot of sugar that causes a spike in energy, but crashes.  Caffeine amplifies the effect of sugar making our moods unsteady.  The brain needs a steady supply of fuel provided by what we eat. 

Pollution puts more unhealthy chemicals into our bodies.  What comes out of factories spreads through the air that we breathe.  Chemicals are constantly being added through pesticides, cosmetics, fire retardants and are not always tested adequately.  The level of inspections is subject to political budgets.   All this adds to the body's inability to concentrate

When people of my age were young we played out in the streets without any supervision.  In the past few decades parents have overemphasized the dangers and most youngsters today are heavily involved with supervised activities and/or spend hours every week in front of screens.  It has been found that free play time actually reduces anxiety and promotes social skills.  Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist noted that increasing anxiety is partly the result of play deprivation has a profound effect on many http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/02/the-righteous-mind.html

Johann offers some solutions, but feels an individual is limited in dealing with the problem.

There are technical aids to limiting screen time and of course taking responsibility to limit your time.  You can refrain from screen viewing before going to bed.  You can monitor your diet to avoid empty nutrition. 

Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi devoted most of his science career studying what he termed "flow."  That is activities are absorbing because they are enjoyable and meaningful.  These could be any effort, either physical or mental.  One example that has greatly diminished is reading.  Actually reading a book as opposed to reading online lends itself better to flow.  Reading fiction helps develop empathy.  The author says "...when you widen human empathy, you open the universe a little more."

But the real problem is systemic.  Stress is manufactured by our lifestyle.  It may seem hopeless, but many issues have improved after enough people became aware of ia problem and exerted pressure on governments.  Some examples are banning lead in paint and in gasoline, seatbelts and alcohol testing on drivers.  In Mexico they raised taxes on some sugary products that helped curb obesity and diabetes.

Online surveillance can be stopped completely which may necessitates new models for some social media providers such as more reliance on subscriptions.  Infinite scrolling can be modified so that a viewer has the option of whether or not to go to the next page.  In France they have stopped emailing employees in specified hours so they can relax.

Stress is unavoidable no matter what system we find ourselves in.  Our present standard  of living owes a lot to economic growth, however the author claims economic growth is a major cause of stress and unless checked will increase to the point of disaster.  Dr Jason Hickel  advocates a "steady-state economy." Instead of working to buy more goods that we don't need, time to enjoy nature, our families.  With a four day work week we ought to be able to sustain ourselves and have security.

Al Gore realized that before we could fix climate change we would have to fix democracy.  Johann Hari is pointing out that before we can fix much of anything we need to fix this attention crisis.

W.H. Auden after looking over technologies of destruction warned, "We must love one another or die."

 I cannot pretend to have done justice to all the thinking in this book.  To do so you should read it for more depth.  You can keep up to date with changes at https://stolenfocusbook.com/  From there you can get on a mailing list.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Power of Us

 In a university course we were taught that one of the triggers for prejudice was pride in our own group.  If your group is so good it must mean they are better than other groups.   In other words a bias can lead to a prejudice.  The authors contend that we get our social identity by the groups we associate ourselves with.

We are who we identify as.  We have multiple identities, but some give more conscientiousness.  We have a need to belong, but many of us want to retain some distinctiveness and others want a higher status.  Group identity can help direct us to do things co-operating.

The inter-net has enabled more people with the same interests to find each other.  Once aware connections are much easier.

You belong to a wide range of groups, some of which are taken for granted and others that you are fervently proud about.  You have a gender, a racial/ethnic background, an education, an age, etc. etc. and all of these and many more are groups you a member of.

Sports fans allied to teams feel good when their team wins.  Fans can even accept transformations if they are winning.  A good example might be Mohamad Saleh who joined the Liverpool soccer team and subsequently hate crimes were reduced in the area.  In Iraq after ISIS impacted area there had been fear between Christians and Muslims.  Adding some Muslims to Christian teams lessened tensions and again winning helps toleration.

Apple users originally felt a little rebellious and perhaps a little smug.  I became one of them by the fact that an employer used them.  I found them easier to operate than a PC.  We notice and took pride that the Apple logo is a product on display on tv. shows and movies

Some groups seem crazy and believe things that the rest of us find bonkers.  The key to facing countervailing evidence is social support.   Erich Fromm is quoted"An illusion shared by everyone becomes a reality."

Groups often have a hierarchy.  There are no leaders without followers meaning everyone has some power Pointed out by Mark Van Vugt.   http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2014/07/selected.html
 

Trump told his base that they were victims.  Others were to blame.  His base group consisted partly of those who felt outsiders were to blame for their diminished circumstances while others felt that others were threatening their rising standards.   Sometimes it is easier to form a group that is against something than is for something.

Sometimes it is easier to manipulate groups.  Robert Mueller uncovered that Russians did interfere in the 2016 election by using Facebook to encourage rallies for and against Trump as they wanted to inflame conflict.  To cross a divide it is better to avoid inflammatory words and allow for interaction that lessens antagonism

Groups tend to make better decisions when people can express divergent views.  If a leader encourages all views a sense of fairness will also tend to better decisions.  Opposing views are more likely to be accepted if they can be made in the long term interests of the group.  Leaders can help make everyone feel they belong and can help guide in a positive or negative direction.

Inequality is increasing.  The richest 10% control 85% of the wealth.  The pandemic not only increased inequality, but exposed the illegitimacy of it.  We need a leader like Nelson Mandela.  It has been suggested that like Republicans have linked gun rights, abortion, racism and homophobism the Democrats could unite environmentalists and human rights advocates into one group that benefits everyone.

Climate change initially encountered a lot of skepticism, but over time gained some credibility, but lately losing ground.  Conservatives do not accept that human caused climate change is real and increasing.  Vested interests are funding misinformation and are finding a receptive audience along partisan lines.   We are all earth beings, but few of us see it that way.

Astronauts for the first time in human history got a different perspective.  They got to see the earth as a whole and realized they were a part of it.  We all are.  Some problems such as pandemics and climate change are global in nature and we can deal more effectively if we all see ourselves as earth beings.  How we get more attention to solve global problems is to expand our concept of a group.

E.O. Wilson is quoted   "The real problem of humanity is the following:  "We have a paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology."  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/11/edward-o-wilson-tackles-meaning-of.html

There are many dimensions to being a group member which are explored in this fascinating book.  Their last words were to point out that the future depends on what we do as group members to make a better world.

Acknowledgements can be revealing.  The two authors did not initially like each other, but  had been assigned to the same sub basement room in the University of Toronto psychology department.  Circumstances conspired to make them find their commonalities and learn to work together (as a small group).

Saturday, May 7, 2022

The Wolf's Call (Le Chant du loup)

"The Wolf's Call" (2019 Le Chant du loup) follows a unique niche, submarines in combat.   Over the years I have enjoyed "Das Boot" (1981), "The Hunt for Red October" (1990), "Run Silent Run Deep" (1958).  They have the usual tension buildup, but they are isolated, under water, at the mercy of bombs or torpedoes and in cramped claustrophobic conditions.

It is listed as a sci-fi film, but is so realistic I am unable to tell what sci-fi is left after all the modern technology.

The main protagonist, Chanteraide is an AWA or acoustic warfare analyst at a relatively low rank.  His hearing is very sensitive to help identify ships and weapons of both allies and enemies.  He detects what he feels is a deception and is able to prove to superiors they were about to make a mistake.  Towards the end of the film his credibility has risen and he is involved in some critical military decisions.  One example of his sensitivity is demonstrated when his girl friend approaches him from behind and he is able to grab her hands as she tries to surprise him.

A key plot development is when an unexpected missile is sent to the free world and the protagonist is able to determine it does not contain the expected nuclear warhead.  It is concluded that the missile had been launched by a third party, most likely a terrorist group wanting to start a nuclear conflict.  Other delicate decisions have to be made under very stressful circumstances, but Chanteraide is able to overcome some difficult rigid protocols.  

The plot moves forward with lots of deception involving international forces as terrorists try to force the issue.  You watch movies like this because you like the tension and this one delivers.  The enjoyment has been engineered by a very capable crew. 

Antonin Baudry became the writer and director after an unusual path.  He graduated as an engineer for bridges.  He also earned a degree in literature that allowed him to become a cultural counsellor which he did at the French Embassy in Washington, DC and associated with their Embassy in Madrid, Spain.  Utilizing his diplomatic experience he used a pseudonym to write a graphic novel (comic).  A sequel earned a national award and he revealed his identity.  His comic was used for a film, "The French Minister" in 2015.  He had a dream to be a film maker and "Le Chant du loup" was his big chance.  He was nominated for a Cesar Award  for a first feature. 

At moments this film has upped tension found in other submarine movies.  One of the ways is the use of sound.  I watched and listened off a DVD and can only imagine the sound effects on the big screen, but the mere fact that life and death decisions were made on the basis of very subtle sounds generates a lot of anxiety.

The Cesar awards (the Oscars of France) awarded this film top prize for sound.  Not something I have appreciated in the past, but the producers assembled some of the best.  Sharing the award were sound editors Nicolas Cantin  ("The Chorus" 2004), Thomas Desjonqueres ("The Ghost Writer" 2010, "The Past" 2013), Raphael Mouterde ("Lord of the Rings" 2002 "Mood Indigo" 2013,  Clouds of Sils Maria" 2014), Olivier Goinard  ("Mustang" 2015) and Randy Thorn ("Forrest Gump" 1994,"The Revenant" 2015).

Alain Attal,  one of three producers with other productions including  "Tell No One" (2006),"The Concert" (2009), "Little White Lies" (2010) and "Polisse" (2011).

Ardavan Safaee another producer has since been executive producer for Oscar winner, "CODA" (2021) .  

Jerome Seydoux still another producer  had been involved "The Scapegoat" (2013), "Marius" (2013), "Fanny" (2013)  He was an executive producr for "Snowden" (2016) and CODA (2021)

Francois Civil carried the weight of the film as the protagonist Chanteraide.  Started as a child actor in 2005.

Omar Sy played a submarine captain.  He won a Cesar and many other awards for "The Intouchables" (2011) the richest  French film at the time.   He went on to "Mood Indigo' (2013), "Samba" (2014), "Burnt" (2015), "Jurassic World" (2015) and "Lupin" (2021).  A big international award winner who learned English watching American television.

Mathieu Kassovitz played a high level commander.  He is noted as an actor, writer, director, producer and editor.  Some of his films include "La Haine" (1995), "Amelie" (2001), "Munich" (2005) and "Rebellion" (2011).  He has won Cesar awards and at Cannes.

Reda Kateb played another commander.  He has appeared in  "A Prophet" (2009) and "Zero Dark Thirty" (2012),

Paula Beer played the hero's girlfriend.   She is German, but also fluent in French.  Her credits include "Frantz" (2016) and "Never Look Away" (2018).

A top notch submarine thriller with an excellent cast and crew. 

Monday, May 2, 2022

The No Asshole Rule

Do provocative titles make a difference?  There are no words in this book that aren't spoken by millions of people everyday.  There is much to commend it and even change your life for the better.  An average work day takes up about a third of your day; no need to let assholes spoil it.

Author Bob Sutton has the credentials.  Currently working from Stanford and having graduated from Harvard he has done lots of research into business management and has had many books published.  This particular theme started its journey as articles with the Harvard Business Review.  

A definition of "asshole" is someone who demeans another person (usually with less power).  How do they do it?  Yelling, insulting, sarcasm or even silence among other tools to put down someone.  The author contends there is at least a little bit of temporary assholeness about most of us.  That can get out of hand if we are not careful, but the real concern is what he calls certified assholes.  

Obviously such behavior is demoralizing to the victim, but the damage is more widespread than might be appreciated.  The stress given to the victim is often transferred in part to co-workers and even family.  Bystanders and even those who only have been told about it are also intimidated.  Sutton quotes studies that show that assholes can damage a company's bottom line.  Staff turnover (with attendant costs), investor uncertainty, staff morale are just a few of the drags on profit.

Often an asshole is productive and is tolerated for that reason, but the author suggests that is likely illusionary.  At the end Sutton points out it no one really wants to work with an asshole.

The book was published in 2007 at which time he identified John Bolton as an asshole.  The author felt that "certified" was likely apt.

Steve Jobs was also identified as an asshole.  A perfectionist he made a lot of details more effective.  A lot of good people, though did not want to work with him.

Bobby Knight, a very successful basketball coach, but was noted for a lot of asshole behavior the author conceded that maybe he was a bit of a strategic asshole.  Personally I was offended by one of his actions: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2016/05/a-big-disappointment-with-one-of-my.html

Many years ago in my university days, a sociology professor, Don Grady recounted an experience he had in an elevator shared with Lyndon Johnson when the president lost his temper.  A confined space made it more chilling.  LBJ projected intimidation to get things done, but he also had a more thoughtful side.  Any man that could work with Martin Luther King Jr. can't be all bad.

Maybe I am in a temporary state, but I can't help identifying Donald Trump as a certified asshole.  My claim is based solely on public information gleaned from the media, but he seems proud of it.  Insulting and wild gesturing to demean individuals and groups has been too common.  Many are entertained by it partly because they find politics boring and others partly because they like demeaning many they do not know.  Not a good way to deal with serious problems like climate change, pandemics, international provocations, crime, inequality, etc. etc.

It used to be said that the customer is always right, but employees know that is not always true.  Sutton applies the  rule to customers.  Companies don't need disruptive customers.  Southwest Airlines supports its employees against abusive customers that make everyone uncomfortable.

Don't be an asshole.  The condition can multiply.  The first step is to admit that you are.  Sutton acknowledges that being a temporary asshole is normal and even that some successful people have been strategic assholes.  

To minimize the problem start at the hiring process.  One approach is to hire as interns to better assess for assholes.  Multiple interviews involving co-workers and subordinates.  Often an employer has to decide if a top producer is worth the aggravation caused.  The author compares this dilemma to decisions that sometimes are tipped by sunk costs--a mistake. 

Don't replace assholes with wimps.  You need constructive challenges from staff, but that can be done by setting a new atmosphere where no one is afraid to express themselves.  Karl Wieck suggests "Fight like you are right; listen as if you are wrong."  Definitely check references as they often give clues to real history.   Important to emphasize to all applicants that your company emphasizes team work.

Leveling pay inequality boosts team work and is good for profit.  An example of this is COSTCO.  Don't treat employees as arch rivals.  Two experiences illustrate this for me.  In the worst we had a contest that allowed each territory manager to sell and recruit workers in other territories.  This encourages resentment.  By contrast two teams were also encouraged to go into other territories, but the incentives were set up so that a team could win a small reward for achieving a quota, but get a much bigger reward if  both teams reached the group goal.  By the way, I won both ways, but teamwork was much better for the company and also for each participant. 

What can an individual do if they have deal with an asshole?  It is not easy, but start with low expectations and be emotionally detached.  Stay calm in the face of belligerence.  When opportune gently correct misinformation.

This is only a crude outline of advice to be gained reading the book.   

In my opinion Jessica Lerner  has made at least two wise choices.  One was marrying Daniel Pink and other was recommending this book which got my attention on one of her husband's facebook postings.  Thank you.  There are likely more wise decisions.

Daniel Pink is a long time favorite thinker you can check at:  blog http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/06/to-sell-is-human-and-we-all-do-it.html

Check out another provocative title with good advice:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2018/03/get-your-sht-together.html

Robert "Bob" I. Sutton  has done a lot since this book and you can check his current thoughts at: https://www.bobsutton.net/