Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Her Name is Margaret

On the surface Margaret is not the sort of person most of us would want to befriend.  Humans come in a variety of forms.  We are each a result of nature and nurture and it is in our best interests to understand that better which might result in a better world.

Denise Davey a reporter with the Hamilton Spectator was interested in  homelessness.  She stumbled on Margaret and decided she would be worth studying.  She was able to contact Margaret Jacobson who normally would not open up to strangers.  But given a chance to tell her story Margaret took advantage, possibly as Denise suggests she wanted to make sure others did not live as she did.

Denise was able with permission to have access to an immense storage of information. including medical reports, police reports and personal notes.  She interviewed relatives, medical staff and many personal acquaintances. At one point Denise was told the Spectator would not cover the story on Margaret, but after a change of heart her story got a strong response.

Margaret was born in the Caribbean.  Her father was a stern missionary and expressed disappointment that his first child, Margaret was not a boy.   He was always quoting the Bible, expecting better behavior from his children.  Despite her father's beliefs, for her early years Margaret took religion very seriously,

 She was given electric shock treatment at age 15 in Antigua.  Her mother thought the problem was lack of faith although she had been a model daughter and displayed an intense religiosity. 

By age 16 Margaret displayed sexual behavior by exposing herself to others including her father.  She may have been promiscuous and/or exploited.

The family traveled around the Caribbean and North America while Margaret got left in Hamilton, Ontario.  She spent time in mental health hospitals, but was frequently discharged to boarding houses that were usually poorly supervised.  Between 1963 and 1977 Canadian psychiatric capacity went from 3.7 people per thousand to 1.0 as governments adjusted their budgets.

From 1976 to 1983, information on Margaret was almost non existent.  In1983 she was found eating garbage, covered in feces and lice at age 39.

A lot of problems compounded.  Underlying schizophrenia diagnosed late, difficult parents, unhappy events (deaths, etc), poor housing options, poor budgeting, lack of support at critical time.  For a brief time she lived with Bob Dixon, but his landlord forced Bob to kick Margaret out or be kicked out himself.  Much of her behavior was provocative including exposure, masturbation, smoking, urinating where she was--period blood not cleaned up.

Margaret died on December 6, 1995.  A request for a death inquest was rejected.  She had a child in 1976, but was forced to give it up.  Years later her son, renamed Jeremy who had a wife who had traced his mother back to Margaret. and wanted to know more.  Denise was reluctant, but complied.  Jeremy recognized she had an oppressive father .  He feared he might also get schizophrenia and he did, but was better prepared.  The death anniversary for Margaret was held at the same time as a memorial for the Montreal Massacre.  She is buried in Woodland Cemetery in Burlington Ontario Section 10, Row 39 and grave 8. 

The author brings in history of mental health treatment and alternatives suggesting better ways to handle.   Denise recounted that Rosemary Kennedy had been lobotomized under orders of her father with tragic unintended results.

Homelessness costs society in ways that could be turned around.  Emergency services, communicable diseases, petty crime and perhaps most of all wasted human potential.

At the end of the book are suggestions on how you might help make the lives of some homeless a little bit easier.

Diagnosis as early as practical.  Better trained boarding house supervisors, support for maintaining medication, addiction counseling, more serious affordable housing policies, budgeting counseling and more.   Women are subject to sexual exploitation and should be given more shelter space.

Jack Layton said "As mass homelessness has become the new reality in Canada starting in the 1990"s some tried to pin the blame on the homeless themselves."  Encampments have become common and all too close to where I live.  About three blocks away along a parkway I had gotten to love walking on my way downtown.  A proposal to build tiny homes in the area has neighbors outraged.  Their anger and fear are really about the encampments and I share much of the fear, but the tiny homes really are a tiny, but significant improvement. 

Malcolm Gladwell pointed out that homelessness is expensive.  Emergency services and shelters are costly.  Panhandling is expensive;  Courts and jails are tied up with petty crimes like shoplifting, trespassing and public urination. The real tragedy is lives wasted.

Denise provides some examples of how efforts to cut homelessness involving housing and supportive mental health services have improved the outlook for society. One was from Finland and another from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.  Also in Trieste, Italy.

Although shelters generally have to turn people away, many of the homeless reject them, a fact that mystifies many.  Some reject because of confined spaces, loud noises, , strict rules, fear of violence, bedding, pets not allowed and others just give up the effort.

The basic problem is society's attitude.  Most of us feel life is a struggle and we can only spare so much sympathy (besides there are plenty of distractions).  We hope somebody else will deal with the mess.  The government increasingly relies on volunteers to help them keep down taxes.  Powerful people feel the government does too much while many suffer  and opportunities are lost.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

 Kobo offers a wonderful opportunity to read worthy books, but I was in a hurry and needed to grab some library books and had no time for a long waiting list.  I stumbled on "Symphony for a Dead City."  It is a partial biography of Dmitri Shostakovich focused around the Leningrad Siege of World War II, and using that event as a platform.

Dmitri Shostakovich was a name I had heard of even had a few tunes in a music collection, but did not think of him as key music composer.  Born in Leningrad he became recognized as a musical talent at an early age.  Despite his talent he was criticized by Stalin and was lucky his reputation helped him avoid execution.  He was closely watched.  Like other celebrities he might be allowed foreign travel, but only if his family would be used as hostages.

 He wrote film music and quartets and even an opera.  Symphonies are mostly how he is remembered.  He wrote six symphonies that earned international recognition before the Germans attacked Russia and Leningrad.  A terrible mistake was made by Leningrad authorities that assured there would be very little access to food.  The Germans decided it would be more efficient to starve the city.  The longest siege in modern history resulted and many did die and some others escaped.  Heroic efforts and more commonly desperate measures.  Many books were eaten or burned for heat. More seriously dead bodies (cats, dogs and humans) for food.  A distinction was made between eating a discovered dead body and murdering a live human being for food.    

Shostakovich volunteered for a fire brigade, but had little encounter with real danger.  He started writing his Seventh Symphony and shaped it to reflect the Nazi invasion.  He was deemed important enough to get him out of the city to finish in her safer location.  He always liked to use a big orchestra, but made a bigger effort to include more musicians as a way of protecting them.  Several international orchestras were anxious to get the complete scores and it was hailed a critical success as well as a morale booster.

Stalin was a ruthless leader who had his opposition killed.  The generals were afraid to give him bad news.  Ironically he believed Hitler and made excuses when promises were broken.  An awful shock when he realized he had been betrayed.  After a period of adjustment he applied his ruthlessness to the Germans.  Americans and Brits were supportive, but Stalin always wanted more, most notably a second front.  Without the sacrifices made by Russian soldiers and civilians the war would have lasted much longer.  More Russians died than their allies.

Hitler looked down about the Slavic races and felt the land they occupied would be used for German expansion.  In fact many people in subjugated Russian areas rose up against Stalin, but they were quickly abused and most turned around and fought against the Nazi intruders.

Shostakovich was still not appreciated by Stalin and he was denounced with his works forbidden in 1948.  Nonetheless he composed another three symphonies in his life.  He was a devoted family man who enjoyed soccer.

Nikita Kruschev denounced Stalin when it was safe to do so--after his death.

What compelled me to write a blog about this random selection was the author Matthew Tobin Anderson's historical points.  He felt the war with Stalin and Hitler brought out the worst in man, but humans do learn to co-operate.  Stalin and Hitler were both tyrants who harmed their countrymen, but were overcome.

Dmitri Shostakovich is one of a string of fine Russian composers that we can all enjoy.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Ducks: My first graphic novel

 I try to catch the Canada Reads contest each year.  Only got sections of it and was surprised to learn that a graphic novel won the 2023 prize.  I am classifying this as fiction, but it is pretty obvious it contains a lot of personal content--Kate Beaton uses her real name and those of others.

Up until my teen years I read lots of comics, mostly about the super heroes, but also Classics Illustrated.  By high school I had transitioned to hard cover books and taken a snobby view of comics.  Graphic novels tackle adult themes and offer another platform for serious matters.

For instance, rape.  The author admits to suffering two rapes and both are referred to in the novel. 

The main thrust of the novel reflects a current reality.  Adolescents are encouraged to get a university education.  All too often they end up with a lot of debt and poor job prospects.  If they happen to live in the eastern part of Canada job prospects are even more precarious.  The author from Cape Breton felt overwhelmed with her debt and had heard from Maritimers that high paying jobs were available at the Alberta oil sands.

One aspect of working in the Oil Sands is that there are very few women.  Rape was a relatively rare event, but sexual harassment was very common.  Lewd comments were almost taken for granted.  Kate tried to recognize a male perspective.  Many of the men had left wives and children and had little contact with women.  They did not go to such an isolated place to meet women.  Men without women are different creatures.  Loneliness was common and with little mental health support, drugs and alcohol were common

The big driving force was money.  One outcome was the desire for overtime and taking on second jobs (to make up for mandatory rest times).  For some the extra money causes extra consumption.  Kate resisted going home to save money, but did take off a year to work in Victoria at a lower paying job, but closer to her interests.

The title "Ducks" refers to the environmental problem.  At one point newspapers were publicizing dead ducks due to chemical leaks. Kate pointed out that there were plenty of meetings regarding safety, but not as much emphasis on environmental concerns.  

Although people from all parts of Canada worked in the Oil Sands the culture was most effected by a lot of Newfoundlanders and Maritimers.  Apart from their unique cultures perhaps mostly expressed in musical tastes they share a history of jobs disappearing such as from fishing and mining.

In an afterward Kate admits her consciousness of indigenous issues came from her experiences in Alberta.  She got special permission to use the words and likeness of Celina Harpe an elder of the Cree community of Fort McKay in the narrative. 

The book gives me no desire to visit the Oil Sands, but she wrote about time in Cape Breton and Victoria, two places I have visited and loved.  Too bad we can't spend all our time in such places.

Are graphic novels for you?  It depends.  For me the subject and the credibility of the author would be critical.  This was an encouraging venture and many of you might have gotten some value out of it.

The book reminds me of my efforts to be an environmentalist in conflict with my desire to retire.

My experience with Suncor didn't start out to support the Oil Sands.  One of the retailers I sold to was Ontario Co-ops who had an arrangement with Sunoco (part of the Suncor corporation) to blend in ethanol to gasoline served at many of their locations.  Ethanol was supposed to give improved engine efficiency and was natural being derived from corn.  Seemed like a good thing to invest in and I wrote away for an annual report from Suncor.  I spent a lot of time looking for any mention of ethanol and finally found it, but it was pretty miniscule.  Still I thought I was very clever and bought shares in my self-directed pension fund.

Ethanol became more common, but more importantly Suncor turned out to be the most successful investment I ever made.  The dividends at first were small, but I  bought a few more shares, then noticed it seemed to split every few years.  A few times thinking I was ahead of the game I took the profits after a split to diversify into a few other stocks, some of which did ok, but none performed as well as Suncor.  I became more conscious of the Oil Sands, but still saw ethanol as my motivating driver.  Oil from the Oil Sands was much more expensive to extract, but Suncor and others invested large amounts of money for what was seen as the inevitable rise in prices.  Lots of political turmoil had made both Canada and the United States dependent on foreign countries and in fact our purchase of gas seemed to be financing lots of Mid-East jihadists.

The dividends from Suncor became significant and while interest rates declined my income and capital gains from Suncor was more critical to retirement plans. Another thing I noticed on a few day trips to the States and a major trip to New Zealand was that the Canadian currency had more power than earlier.  The Canadian dollar seemed to track the price of oil.

I would like to think I am both smart and ethical.  The smart part of me thought although fossil fuels were bad, nothing I did would change their power, so I might as well keep the stock.  I had some advice that reinforced that thinking.  Later spurred by my son Michael I started voting for the Green Party and in general became more concerned and informed about Climate Change, but still clung to Suncor.  Eventually my conscience troubled me more and I began to believe that renewables would eventually conquer the fossil fuels.  I sold my Suncor shares, though I confess I timed it until just after the date of record for dividends. 

In total my Suncor investment increased by well over 10 fold.  I used to drive more than the average person because of my jobs (http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/02/my-life-and-adventures-with-cars-part.html) that has already been curbed.  The Canadian currency has become weaker and that will also affect my travels and probably even local purchases. Hopefully the air will be nicer and perhaps the climate more controllable, but both are long term projects.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Can You See Us?

Good films are coming from all corners of the earth.  Zambia has done films and developed some expertise, but "Can you See Us? is the first to make the American Netflix   There is usually a lot of accessible in-formation to sift through, but Zambia has a short history.  Roughly over 90% of the dialogue is in English with some in Nyanja (subtitled).

One factor giving this film credibility is the back story.  John Chiti was born an albino, meaning with no skin pigmentation he was white.  His father was so upset, he blamed his wife and divorced her.  Another man stepped in was treated as a father.  At first he was sheltered, but when he ventured out he was mocked and bullied.  His stepfather explained that people feared those who were different.

After his mother died he was able to live with his father and step-mother.  His father had changed his attitude and John not only got a stepmother (in the film she was initially upset), but also some siblings.  He discovered music and became accepted  as a composer and performer.

The film also depicts an attack he endured at the age of 15.  There existed a superstition that the body parts of an albino had magical powers.  He was rescued, but such attacks are too common in Africa.

Not shown in the film are that he became an advocate starting the Albinism Foundation of Zambia. He also got involved with the African Disability Protocols to help promote disability rights across the continent.  He wrote a song, Corona Virus to point out the challenge of dealing with the pandemic for the disabled.  He feels his celebrity on television and from his songs has made life easier for albinos.  He helped contribute to the script.

"Mwabi," the original title is a derogatory term for albinos.

Cast and crew deserve some attention for this historic effort that is well worth your time.

Kenny Mumba was the director.  This is his first credit as director, but has one credit each for editing and cinematography.  He had gained experience with commercials across several African countries. 

Lawrence Thompson did the writing  Lawrence was an executive producer and the main writer.  He also directie a short film.  He created Zambia's first soap opera, producing and directing over 100 episodes.   He was a cameraman during the research for "Cry Freedom" (1987).  Andrew Thompson also was involved with the script had been an accountant for a previous film

Yasmin Dodia-Mumba was the  producer.  She has a background in commercials and musical videos.

Rick Joaquim was the cinematographer   36 credits as cinematographer.  Started in South Africa doing music videos and commercials.  Later based in London getting involved with narrative films returning to South Africa.  Won numerous awards internationally.

Leon Gerber works from South Africa with 11 film credits as editor.  Nathan Busumani was also editor with his first film and had a small role in the film.

 Kangwa Chileshe played the father.  He has three film credits, all in Zambia.

Cast a young albino girl Thabo Kaamba to play the role of Joseph  at the age of eight, Thabo’s path crossed with Yoweli, a local filmmaker who cast her in "Ubunto season 2", a show that aired in South Africa.

The President of Zambia, Hakinde Hichlema attended the premiere and has promised he would take steps to improve the situation.

African films have not gotten much attention in North America, but that is changing.  Recently the Group of 20 invited the African Congress to join.  Nigeria is already a prolific film producing nation, developing skills and making inroads to the rest of the world.  Check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/07/nollywood-upcoming-force-in-global-films.html

Monday, September 11, 2023

FIBA World Cup 2023

I have grown fond of watching the FIFA World Cup, but now that I have a little better access to the FIBA World Cup I prefer its excitement.  The most recent FIFA world cup was the 22nd edition and had 32 teams and offered 64 games.  The current FIBA World Cup is the 19th version and also has 32 teams, but offers 85 games.  Part of the difference is that soccer is supposedly more strenuous and the players need more time off.  Basketball games are only 40 minutes long and substitutions are frequent. The 24 second clock assures there is stress, but few lulls in action.  After the first group games the teams are split into new groups--the top two of each group still in the run form new groups--the bottom two form another group, but can no longer advance.  In effect this means each team gets at least 5 games. 

The NBA has many foreign players.  With some players and owners the FIBA World Cup is an intrusion on free time and also risky.  Others feel representing their nation is a goal. The rules are not the same and given an advantage to those who understand them better. They know one another--a positive photo shows Luka Domcic and Shai Gilgeus-Alexander hugging one another.  At the end was seen Dennis Schroder hugging Bogdanovich.

We all love to watch outstanding scoring for which there was plenty but a key to winning is defense.  The top teams all displayed strong defense.

The tournament was held in three different countries.  Jakarta, Indonesia; Manila, Philippines and Tokyo, Japan.  Indonesia apparently did not get the automatic host team, although the most populous of the three.  I did notice in Jakarta women wearing at scorer table which demonstrates progress to equality.

In the group sections tv. coverage was only accessible for the Canadian team.  As the games were at inconvenient times I mostly relied on PVR versions and got caught two times with games that exceeded the time limits of my programming efforts.  A lesson learned.

The Canadians were considered real contenders, but not quite as much as they turned out to be.

The French game was a big surprise.  They were ranked higher and initially seemed to deserve it.  However the Canadian team pulled themselves together and easily won during the second half.  Not quite the first time I noticed Shai Gelgeus-Alexander from Hamilton, but he put ona  great display and proved to be a two way player.

Lebanon was overwhelmed. They were not too bad on offense, but terrible at defense.

The third game repeated a pattern of the first game.  Latvia was an excellent team who played very well together and jumped off to a lead in the first half.  Again the Canadians seemed to have better understood their opponents and came from behind.

In the crossover group the Canadians lost to Brazil, putting them in their first must win situation.   

Spain was another higher ranked team with a lot of good players and worked together very well.  This was for me the most exciting game of the tournament.  The Canadian coach, Jordi Fernandez had coached under the Spanish coach.

The game against Slovenia had one of top players in the world, Luka Domcic.  Another tense game

Canada lost to Serbia.  Fouls did them in.  There is a flukey element in that some actions result in a foul, but very similar actions do not necessarily.  The timing is also critical in that risks need to be minimized after early fouls.  I remember in high school that too often a player who has fouled will make a quick second foul and it is wise to take a player out of the action.  Having said that it must be acknowledged that fouls happen because one team gets an edge and can only be stopped by a foul. 

They beat U.S. for bronze in overtime.  U.S. scored 4 points with 4 seconds to force the overtime. They deliberately missed second foul shot so they could shoot for a 3.

The Gold medal game was 83-77 in favor of Germany which was the only undefeated team.  I had seen Germany almost lose to Latvia and later defeat the U.S.  Dennis Schroder was the key player.  Relatively short he was fast and very deceptive.  He looked terrible against Latvia and I despaired realizing he had been traded to the Toronto Raptors.  But he shone in two subsequent games and was awarded MVP for the tournament.  He demonstrated his leadership as he pulled down two huge team mates who took in his advice.  Schroder and Bogdan Bogdanovic were seen hugging after the German victory over Serbia. 

 The German coach, Gord Herbert was born in Canada and had participated on the Canadian basketball team for the 1984 Olympics and the 1986 FIBA World Cup.  He played professionally in Finland before getting into coaching.  He coached in Germany, France, Finland and Greece.  Also was an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors.

The Serbian coach, Svetislav Pesic has an interesting history including ties to Germany.  He played for Yugoslavia.  He coached the Yugoslavian Junior team (that included Vlad Divac and Toni Kukoc) to World Junior Championship in 1987.  He coached a German national team to victory at the Eurobasket   in 1993.  In 2002 he took the Yugoslavian team to the gold medal for the FIBA World Cup.  He has coached club teams in Spain and Germany.  He has dual citizenship with Germany with a son who played on the German national team and a daughter who married a German player. 

For many the Olympics is a bigger deal, perhaps as part of the biggest sports event of any year.  Only 12 teams are included and there is a vigorous qualifying procedure.  There will be a change in lineups.  Nikola Jovic probably could have made a difference for the Serbians.  So might Jamal Murra, another key player for the Denver Nuggets for Canada.  For Canada I would like to see more bigger players such as Chris Boucher and Zac Edey will have matured to be more of a factor.  Each nation had players who did not participate in the World Cup.

My personal connection to basketball:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/06/my-60-year-love-affair-with-basketball.html

Saturday, September 9, 2023

How Borders Make and Break Our World

Borders are lines.  The lines represent control.  The author starts off with some concepts we take for granted and gives fascinating examples of how some borders have been set.  Then he steers us to the future and how we will have to adjust our thinking.

Humans have been making territories for thousands of years.  Mainly to protect what the consider their own.  

In Scandinavia we are told about boundary procedures between Norway and Sweden which has the longest European boundary between two nations  One interesting aspect was a recognition of the Sami who herd deer across those two nations plus Finland and Russia.  The Sami were involved in the foundation of the World Council of Indigenous People.  

 Roman Empire was pretty impressive in its extent.  I had been told as a young student that Hadrian's Wall was built to keep out the fierce Scots.  The author points out it really marked the northern most boundary of the Empire.

China is known for the Great Wall.   Modern times have called for new measures.  The concern is to keep out undesirable messages from the outside world. Incidentally to keep discontent inside.  In 1998 China built its first firewall out of fiber optics.  It required a lot of manpower as monitors.  Other countries, such as Russia, Iran, Egypt and Venezuela found the Chinese strategies could be copied to help keep out western notions.

Israel and Palestine had been subject to a lot of historical factors.  In 1947 the United Nations recommended for the creation of two independent states; one for the Jews and one for the Arabs with the city of Jerusalem being an international city.  Military action went against the Arabs and their found their territory being occupied.  The border became controlled by the Israelis and they started exploiting the Arab lands by destroying such things as olive trees and setting up housing for Jews.  Israel has received more support from the Americans (evangelicals a key element) than Palestine received from Arab nations.

Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon two English surveyors were hired to settle the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland that had earlier been bounded by two different royal grants.  One step in the procedure was to use detailed astronomical measurements. The Mason-Dixon came to be associated with the division between the North and the South.   The fugitive slave law allowed bounty hunters to cross the line to retrieve escaped slaves.  Relating this story to an American visitor this past weekend I was told that Toledo was mis located in Ohio as it actually when proper surveying should have been in Michigan.  This was so disruptive that it was decided to keep the borders the same.  To compensate Michigan was awarded the Upper Peninsula that had no land connections.

 North America had their divisions before Europeans began to impose their own lines.  The indigenous tribes were concerned also about hunting grounds and food growing areas.  The French, Spanish and English carved up most of North America and the lines changed with wars and treaties.  A Mexican Revolution created an independent nation.  By 1848 Americans attacked Mexicans and the net result was a redrawing of the border with the Americans taking over all of California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Texas and parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming.  Many of the people in those areas considered themselves Mexicans or indigenous.

Donald Trump  announced his candidacy for President with claims that he would build a wall that Mexico would pay for.  Appealing to a large segment he promised he would stop the murderers and rapists.  What is overlooked is that America needs immigrants to keep their economy going.

Pandemic have crossed borders for centuries. The Black plague cut European populations more than half and was little understood.  One of the first strategies was to isolate victims.  Venice added ten days to a previous standard of 30 days isolation.  To get better protection they extended their watch and were able to divert ships from heading their way.  In effect they extended their borders.

Covid 19 intensified protections.  Immigration and tourism was halted while each nation tried to impose their restrictions.  Trade was greatly impeded and a common excuse for inflation was supply chain problems.  I remember reading years ago that the Japanese developed the concept of Just In Time which during Covid was upended.  We are still recovering, but have learned a few things including co-operating with other nations behind other borders.

Climate change is affecting everyone, although not evenly.  Your geographic location is key, but so is your wealth.  The author brings efforts in Africa to our attention.  A big concern is the spread of desert regions.  One strategy is to plant trees, but although lots of trees have been planted it has not worked.  Poor natives have found wood to be one of the valuable assets they have access to.  New strategies put a greater emphasis on soil restoration.

Ceuta and Melilla are two Spanish posts at the northern tip of Africa.  They are like magnets for refugees from sub Saharan Africa.  The Spanish Government has fortified both locations, but no matter the barriers the refugees keep coming.  Like the United States border draws refugees from Ecuador, Honduras and Mexico,.  For many they really could be classified as climate change refugees.  

Americans and Europeans think the hordes of people are just seeking economic benefits which is true, but tied into loss of opportunities due to climate change.  Those most affected by climate change are also the most poor and had little to with causing climate change.   Humans have always sought better land when natural circumstances have changed.  Movement hindered by borders.

While mankind has spent tremendous effort to shore up lines other forces such as climate change and pandemics have shown little respect for these lines.  A political force in America and Europe is to fight immigration tooth and nail.  But maybe it is time to declare global citizenship and tackle the problems that really affect us all. 

Some more relevant thoughts:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/04/move.html

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Satyaprem Ki Katha

 This movie was selected because of a high rating, but in the beginning I felt cheated in that it seemed frivolous.  They might have overdone it, but when it turned serious I paid more attention.  There is a message and it comes near the end as with "A Thursday" (2022) only from a different perspective  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2022/02/the-message-is-spoiler.html

The film does start off with carefree young man, Satyaprem ending up at a dance performance where Katha is putting on an excting routine.  Some time later he has occasion to rescue her from a suicide attempt.  She is resentful being blocked from her desire, but gradually Satyam, better known as Surya calms her down.  Her parents are so impressed even though there is not only a class difference, but a lack of career ambition they nevertheless request she marry Surya.  He is stunned, but agrees.  She only agrees because she realizes she has made a lot of bad decisions and defers to her father.  They do get married, but that is when we become conscious she has a deep problem.  

There is some humor, but we can't help realizing Katha has a serious problem.  She does come to appreciate Surya, but their relationship is troubled.  A quote from Katha hints there is an underlying problem:  "There are truths that others won't tolerate.  There are truths you cannot tolerate."

You might not be too surprised, but likely you will still be stunned.

A lot of talented people who led up to a stunning impact.  Here are some of them.

Sameer Vidwans was the director with ten film credits.  An earlier film "Anandi gopal" (2019) was in the Marathi language and won international awards.

Karan Shrikant Sharma was the writer and had 5 film credits.

Music provided by Manan Bhardwaj, Meet Bros., Payal Dev & Rochak Kuhli.  A few songs are sung by Arijit Singh, my very favorite singer.

 Ayananka Bose shared the cinematography.  He has 25 film credits including  "Dostana" (2008)"I Hate Luv Stories" (2010), "Kites" (2010), "Kaabil" (2017), "Freddy" (2022) and "Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar (2023). 

Hari K. Vedantam also provided cinematography.  He had 38 credits including "Black" (2005), "Paheli" (2005) and "Fanaa" (2006).

Charu Shree Roy was the editor.  He started out writing and directing short films before becoming an editor.  He has 40 film credits includng "Lipstick under my Burkha" and  "Chhichhore" (2019).  See http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/03/chhichhore-is-for-losers-ie-most-of-us.html

Mukesh Chhabra provided casting. After studying acting he spent over six years teaching and acting.  As a casting he has been in demand.  He is noted for bringing such faces as Rajkummar Rao, Sushant Singh Rajput, Mrunal Thakur, Pratik Gandhi, Sanya Malhotra and Fatima Sana Shaikh to the screen. He has over 200 credits for casting including ""Amal" (2007), "Kai Che Po" (2013), "Wrong Side Raju" (2016), "Mom" (2017),  " Sacred Games" (2018-19), "Sanju" (2018), "Notebook" (2019), "The Family Man" (2019), "Dil Bechara" (2020) and "Laal Singh Chundha" (2022).  Check  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/05/kai-che-po.html

Kiara Advani played Katha with a big contrast from provocative dancing to her troubled soul.  Her original name was Alia, but she was advised by Salman Khan as Alia Bhatt was well established.  She chose a character played by Priyanka Chopra name Kiara.  She has 32 film credits including "MS. Doni:  The Untold Story" (2016), "Lust Stories" (2018), "Good Newwz" (2019), "Kabir Singh" (2019) and "Guilty" (2020).  Check  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/09/arjun-reddy-and-kabir-singh.html    She also has done films in the Telegu language and one upcoming.

Kartik Aaryan plays a title character, but better known as Surya.  His parents, both doctors wanted him to become an engineer which he finally completed the studies after an interruption following an early film.  He has 21 film credits including "Pyaar Ka Punchnama" (2011), "Pyaar Ka Punchanma 2" (2015), "Sonu Ki Tatur Sweety" (2018). "Dhamaka" (2018) and "Freddy" (2022).  When he was filming "Shehzade" (2023) there was a serious financial crisis and he returned his pay and was credited as a producer.  Check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/11/dhamaka-is-this-what-tv-is-coming-to.html

Anuradha Patel  played the aunt to Surya who intruded into the couple's problems.  She has 49 film credits including "Ya Jaane Tu...Ya Jaane Na" (2008).

Gajraj Rao played Surya's father.  He has 34 film credits including "Budhia Singh:  Born to Run" (2016), "Badhaal Ho" (2016) and "Made in China" (2019).  Check  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/05/three-bollywood-films-that-got-my.html

Supriya Pathak played Katha's mother.  She has 84 film credits including "Gandhi" (1982), "Kamla Ki Maut" (1989),  "Sarker Raj" 2008),"Wake Up Sid" (2009), "Ram Prasad Ki Tehvi" (2021) and "Mimi" (2021).  She has done many films in Gujarati

Siddhath Randeria played Katha's father.  He has 13 film credits.

A few movies have found a contrast in tone between the early part and the ending are effective in making a point.  This one in my opinion succeeds.  Available on Prime with subtitles.

Sunday, September 3, 2023


 "Ustaad" (2023) is an unusual love story in that it involves a motorcycle as well as a girl.  I believe it was inspired by the director/writer's love for a particular bike.

The story is a story within a story as Surya is telling the senior pilot the story of his life while the plane is on automatic pilot.  We see Surya as a youngster at the fair with his father.  His father is supportive and encouraging him to play, but when we get to a Ferris Wheel ride, Surya panics and we learn he fears heights.

Later we learn that his father dies after falling from a family roof, further reinforcing his acraphobia.  His mother who is a teacher raises him.  Despite her good guidance Surya is aimless.  As he reaches his young adult hood he doesn't really have any plans.  His young colleagues make fun of him, particularly his inability to drive a motorcycle.  Somehow an old motorcycle catches his attention and he is directed towards an older mechanic who specializes in old motorcycles.  The mechanic gets it running and gives it a name, "Ustaad" which in Telegu means master or expert. 

At about the same time and as a result of a motorcycle he meets the girl, Meghana who is getting a college education and has plans for her future (which involves an argument with her father).  It takes awhile but they get closer and closer.  While this is advancing he watches a commercial jet over him as rides his motorcycle.  He associates his desire to be a pilot with the motorcycle and takes steps to overcome his acrophobia.  The next big event is a discussion with Meghana's father who sees Surya as a poor match for his daughter.  The rest of the film is a breakup with Meghana who admits she loves him, but sees no future, partly due to his inability to control his temper and his carrying through with his ambition to be a pilot.  It is not too much of a spoiler to tell you there is an heroic pilot scene.  

This enjoyable film, in Telegu language is the result of many talented people.

This is the first film for writer/director Phanideep.  At the end credits they show a photo of an old motorcycle as the inspiration for the film.  One can conclude that many of the incidents shown were part of Phandeep's history.

B. Akeeva provided the music and like the writer/director made his debut with this film.

Pavan Kumar Pappula was the cinematographer with 12 film credits.

Carthic Cuts was the editor with 10 film credits.  

Sri Simha Koduri plays Surya as he gradually matures.  He has 8 film credits as an actor and one as an associate director.  

Kavya Kalanram  plays Meghana.  She has 3 film credits.

Anu Hasan plays the mother of Surya.  Her father was an elder brother to Kamal Haasan, the famous Tamil film maker.  She redeived an MSC degree in Physics.  She got into Tamil films.  For four years she hosted her own show as anchor, "Koffee with Anu."  She has 13 film credits plus did some dubbing, including for Preity Zinta.

Ravi Siva Teja played a close friend (and advisor) to Surya.  He has 11 film credits.

Ravindra Vijay played the alcoholic mechanic that picked the name for the motorcycle and the film.  He earned a medical degree, but only practiced a short time.  He could speak five languages including English.  He started with theatre and went on to have 13 film credits including 8 episodes of "The Family Man" (2021).  Check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2023/03/the-family-man.html.  

Gautham Vasudev Menon played the senior pilot who listened to Surya's story.  He has mostly been involved with Tamil films.  He directed 24 films, mostly in Tamil, but also a few of his earlier films were remade in Bollywood under his direction.  He has 31 acting credits, 24 directing credits and 21 writing credits.

It is basically a coming of age story.  The main character starts out as immature and over time he (or she) matures.   The couple are very likable and are well supported by the rest of the cast.  Available subtitled on Prime.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Aachar & Co

At this time I had plans to blog about a big budget film and its sequel, but in the meantime discovered something unique offering a simple change for a change.  No sex, no violence, not even romance.  How can such a film hold your attention?  It is in what many would consider an odd language, Kannada.

What you get is a family story.  A family with ten children (3 sons and 7 daughters) and a generous indulgent father.  No romance might seem boring, but marriages were arranged in a patriarchal manner with the daughters fantasizing about rich husbands.  The father dropped his youngsters off to school, actually drove his car while they walked or cycled beside him.  And at least one of them snuck off and avoided school.  The father was an engineer and made good money and tried to prepare his children for the future.  One marriage was arranged and paid for.  

Unfortunately he died.  And so did his income.  Nobody could replace his income.  For awhile it seemed nobody could handle the responsibility.  The eldest son was offered a job promotion in far off Delhi and was encouraged to take it.  Arranging marriages didn't go quite as planned.  One prospective groom rejected Suma because her lack of education.  Surprisingly her younger sister was chosen and Suma accepted it. 

The rest of the film demonstrated how they faced adversity and each matured.  Suma is the only one I mentioned by name and in the end she shines.

Below are some of the contributors.  This is the first Kannada film to hire a group of female technicians with the intention of leveraging female equal pay and opportunities.

Sindhu Sreenivasa Murthy was the director, writer and played the role of Suma.  She is little noticed at the beginning, but gradually gets more attention.  She became involved with theatre at the age of 16.  She has 9 film credits as an actress.  She had prepared a 6 minute presentation film to attract the attention of a film production company that led to the full feature.  I look forward to her next film "13 Days" which won a nationwide script contest of 600 entries.

Kanan Gill was the co-writer, best known as a comedian.  There are more than a few moments when you will laugh and it is likely he had something to do with it.  He was a software engineer and entered and won the "Punchline Bangalore" contest following up with another comedic contest in Mumbai.  Quit his job to concentrate on comedy.  He had been the lead singer of a band and became noted for writing funny songs.  He has 9 film credits.  You can check him out in English on Youtube where he has a number of popular clips.

Bindumalini Narayanaswami provided the music.  She has 6 film credits.

Cinematography was provided by Abhimanyu Sadanandan with 5 film credits.

Ashik Kusugolli was the editor with 3 film credits. 

Sudha Belawadi played the mother.  She has 86 film credits.

It seems there is a lot of competition for your attention and sex, violence and romance are tools.  Maybe "Aachar & Co" cannot hold your attention, but if so, examine yourself and how much you crave the unhealthy violence.  Is there more to life?  Family movies are usually boring, but I highly recommend this for appreciating a maturing process as it tangles with responsibility.  

Monday, August 28, 2023


I love watching Korean tv series, but admit other than a few stars I have trouble identifying some of the lesser roles which too often results in confusion about who is the good one and who is not and of course in reality it is more complicated.  This phenomenon is not as rare as I thought.  Author Jennifer L. Eberhardt recalls as a young black student her parents moved to a mostly white neighborhood where she found it very difficult to distinguish the faces of her new white friends.  

Another (true) story recounts how elderly Chinese women found their purses being snatched by young black men, but they couldn't identify them in a police lineup because they all looked alike.  This of course leads to fear of all black men.  The point of these stories is that people are better at recognizing the faces of their own race.

Personal stories are one of the tools used by the author to help us understand bias.  Her stories come from Harvard, Jamaica,grocery store, prison, school, children, relatives, etc.  There are a lot of scientific studies referred to, but for some stories have more impact.  Check  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2011/06/tell-to-win-offers-winning-formula.html

Blacks perhaps represent the most obvious example of prejudice.  Prejudice starts with a bias for one's own group.  To justify the degrading handling of black people the white elites dehumanized them.  They lacked intelligence and morality.  When evolution was publicized it was pointed out that whites were at the top of the human scale.

Discrimination is pointed out from many angles.  Under Jim Crow, blacks were poorly educated, kept outside of white neighborhoods, unable to vote and forced to defer to whites.  They were very restricted for available housing and had to pay a premium for loans.  Going through until current times blacks were far more likely to run into problems with the law.  The United States has the highest  incarceration in the world and blacks are over represented.   The bail system handicaps blacks who in turn spend more time in jail exasperating problems with employers and family.  The discrimination is to an extent self reinforcing which further justifies prejudice.  The color black itself triggers prejudice.

Police officers are also biased like the rest of the population.  The nature of their job creates stress, that heightens bias, even among black officers.  They witness violence and people they are trying to help turn against them.  Police are not trusted which results in witnesses refusing to testify.   This creates a vicious cycle.

Jennifer Eberhardt visited Charlottesville a few months after the riots.  In truth the racists were outnumbered and many of the students and staffs were very upset about what they saw as an invasion.  Eberhardt points out that although there have been some victories towards equality we take too much for granted and much work remains.

Another story with deeper implications.  Two black men waiting for a colleague at Starbucks found themselves handcuffed and escorted to a police vehicle.  Starbucks did try to remedy the situation not only with an official apology delivered in person, but also spent a lot of money for bias training sessions.  The author then reflected that perhaps the original complaining waitress was trying to do her job and was concerned about how other customers were reacting.  Perhaps she was just reacting to a public bias. 

A reference to Donald Trump is short, but impactful.  Ron De Santis is not mentioned, but his attacks on Critical Race Theory bring out biases from his supporters.  Such politically powerful men set an example that for many reinforces their deepest biases.  I have always felt that education is a key to minimizing prejudice.  Also close contact, but the author contends we need to realize there will be bumps along the road.

AirBnb found that both whites and black hosts would turn down blacks.  A pledge to abide by some ethical standards helped to reduce discrimination, but some potential hosts declined the opportunity.

Oakland police alarmed over criticism took some steps to improve.  Training for greater awareness of bias is one aspect the author has been directly involved in.  In the past, pursuing suspected criminals too often led to innocent people getting hurt.  The new policy would call off pursuit when suspects entered back yards or dead end alleys.  Backup was to be called and officers to slow down.  It was acknowledged that bias kicked in for high stress situations.   They were also an early adopter of body cameras which helped make officers aware they were being recorded.  The result was less civilian injuries while the crime rate was lowered.

Blacks are far from the only victims of bias.  Other racial minorities, women, gays and Jews are referred to in this coverage.  Whatever one feels affiliated with must be okay, but others not necessarily.

The term bias is perhaps the key to understanding prejudice.  One of my university sociology professors told us that "pride" in your own group makes you think those outside your group are not as good.  Now I would substitute the word "comfort"  We feel most secure with those like us and too often are afraid of others.  We need to seek common ground.  From the same course we were asked to write about our own prejudice and I chose older people, even though I had good relations with two grandmothers.  Now that I am 75 I feel there definitely is prejudice against older people as there also is against younger people.

I have been a bit self-righteous, thinking I was beyond prejudice, but digging inside I learned that was never true.



Friday, August 25, 2023

Mask Girl

A most unusual story.  Seven episodes each focused from a singular perspective.  You will see some of the same events repeated, but from a different point of view.  Not wanting to give away too much of the plot a few things could be pointed out.  Three actresses are used for one adult role not due to aging--in fact a fourth is used for a younger version of the same role.

A common theme is bullying.  At first we are introduced to Kim Mo-mi as a young girl.  As she grows older her looks turn very plain (ugly to many).  The first episode is concerned with the young child who receives a lot applause as a dancer, but next we see her as an adult office worker who had learned her appearance with a large nose and high cheek bones is a turnoff.  But she still craves applause and decides to wear a mask and perform song and dance routines that do generate positive responses on the inter-net.

The second episode is told directly from one of her admirers who is able to uncover her disguise and realize she actually works at the same office.  However he is still extremely shy and has endured bullying as a youngster and being mostly ignored as an adult.  Of course you know circumstances lead to inter action.  

The third episode is told from the viewpoint of the obsessed  fan's mother.  You can easily imagine an interfering mother, but it is more complicated.  Once she decides on a course of action she is like a bulldog, but she is very resourceful about it.  By this time if you are not hooked I would like to assure you there are lots of surprises and conflicting role perspectives. 

The actions from the first three episodes drive the plot, but it probably is too difficult for most of us to guess what happens next.

Apparently in a very short time it has gained a lot of popularity.  There are a lot of very capable people responsible who deserve some credit.

The director is Kim Yong-hoon with only his second film as director.  He is credited as a content developer for "The Thieves" (2012).  

The writer is Mae Mi who wrote the original webtoon.

The music was by Jang Young-Kyo.  He has composed for "The Good the Bad the Weird" (2008), "The Thieves" (2012), "Assassination" (2015), "Train to Busan" (2016) and "The Wailing" (2016).

Three actresses were used for the adult main character, Kim Mo Mi.  The first was Lee Han Byul in her first feature film.  

The second was Nana who did the dancing as the Mask Girl.  She is best known as a member of the girl band, After School and others.  She has 40 film credits.

The third actress was Go Hyun-Jung and she carries the role over the most episodes.  She had been runner up to Miss Korea in 1989.  She has 20 film credits.

Ahn Jae-hong played the obsessed fan.  He has a theatrical background and even as he established himself in films he returned to the stage when time permitted.  He has 30 film credits.

Yeom Hye-ran played the mother of the obsessed fan.  She also has a theatrical background.  Her film credits include "Memories of Murder" (2003), "Live Up to Your Name" (2017), "Lawless Lawyer" (2018), "Chocolate" (2019) and "The Glory" (2022).  Check http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/07/live-up-to-your-name.html

At first it is confusing, but after awhile you will appreciate it is well put together.  

I have started to notice that with dubbed films IMDB lists the dubbers ahead of the original actors and I have sought other sources to give proper credit.  Wikipedia is excellent.  I suspect that IMDB with a history of listing the voices for Japanese animated features just carried that practice on with regular films.  Dubbing has opened up foreign films for many film watchers and has its own required skills.  In the future I intend to note dubbers when appropriate, but still feel that the actual actors deserve more attention.

Currently available in both dubbed and subtitled versions on Netflix.

I have bolded the first mention of films I have seen.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023


 Taiwan is a hot spot.  China covets it and threatens harm to all of us who give it any support.  I believe Taiwan's cinematic history deserves support.  This post is not comprehensive, just reflecting some films seen over the past few years.  The film series that prompted me to do this blog was "Wave Makers" (2023).  A negative factor was that the movie "Gravity" distorted reality to avoid offending China and to gain admission to the Chinese market.

The Wave Makers is a political series, without any reference to the obvious hot issue of China relations.  They may have decided that to get on a streaming service they should avoid offending China.  The series does cover other issues such as the environment, immigration, and sexual harassment at work.  Sexual harassment had become an unspoken issue in Taiwan.

 Ying-Hsuan Hsieh played a politician who had recently lost an election, but was highly regarded as an advisor.  How can a loser help, but she does, partly learning from mistakes.  She was also in Dear Ex playing a widow whose dead husband left his money to a gay lover.

Jaag Huang played another political advisor.   She appeared in "Life of Pi" (2012)

Gingle Wang played the girl who had  been harassed.  She also appeared in "The Falls" (2021)  and  "Light  the Night" (2021).

Leon Dai played the sexual harasser.  He also appeared in "Yi Yi" (2000) and "The Assassin" (2015).  "Yi Yi" achieved international attention.

"A Sun" (2019) is a tough story to watch as a family deals with bad breaks.  The Writer Director Mong-Hong Chung had been a cinematographer including for this film. 

"Dear Ex" (2019) is about a widow and her son who learn their ex husband/father when he died left his (limited) fortune to his male lover.  The film is about a reconciliation.

"A Thousand Good Nights" (2019)  A series about an abandoned girl picked up by a station master.  There is a mystery there, but the focus of the story is a tour of Taiwan.  Bor-jen Chen played the adoptive father, also in "Light the Night"  (2021).

"Warriors of the Rainbow:  Seedique Bale" (2011) combined two parts to qualify for Oscars.  It was about indigenous fight off the Japanese.  The indigenous were headhunters believing they had to have an enemy's head to cross the rainbow bridge to the spirit world.  The Japanese controlled most of Taiwan between 1895 and the end of WWII 1945. 

"American Girl"  (2022) about a girl living in America returns to Taiwan during the Sars epidemic.

Man in Love (2021)  Roy Chiu plays an uneducated gangster courting a woman with the hope to leaving his criminal life.

"The Post Truth World" (2023) is a mystery thriller involving a hostage situation.

Light the Night (2021)  Mainline Chinese write negative reviews and lower rating   Welsh/Mandarin actor  The series consists of 24 episodes of approximately 45 minutes each, starts off with the discovery of a dead body.  The rest of the series is flashbacks gradually revealing relationships and motivations and the attempt to unravel the mystery.  Lots of complications.   It is well done.  A very lot of smoking from many characters.  

"Eye of the Storm" (2023) Just became available as I was finishing this blog.  Set at a Taipei hospital with the onset of the SARS epidemic.  Everyone is stuck inside the office with lots of sub plots.  At the end the hospital survives, but not every character.

Ang Lee is perhaps the most famous Taiwan film maker.    http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2014/08/chinese-cinema-is-peek-into-their_1.html  Like other Taiwanese film makers he wrote, directed and produced.  Raised and educated in Taiwan he went to America to study film making studying with Spike Lee.  After graduating he spent a few years as a house husband and then struggled.  His wife encouraged him.  Won Oscars as director for "Life of Pi" (2012) and "Brokeback Mountain" (2005).   His Mandarin films include "The Wedding Banquet" (1993), "Eat Drink Man Woman" (1994), "Lust, Caution" (2007) and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (2010).  English language films include "Sense and Sensibility" (1995), "The Ice Storm" (1997), "Ride with the Devil" (1999) and "Billy Lynn's Half Time Walk" (2016).
Despite the political factor (or maybe because of it) Taiwan has much to offer the world including their film makers.  We need to understand their dilemma that affects us.

A book about Taiwan was an earlier blog selection:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/11/two-trees-make-forest-canada-reads.html

I have seen each of the movies mentioned.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Women's World Cup 2023

  •  I am not a rabid soccer fan, but always look forward to the (men's) World Cup in expectation of seeing great examples of athleticism and some dramatic moments.  It has taken awhile but I now reserve the same expectations for the women's version.  

 I missed most of the earlier matches, however from little snatches I was amazed at their dexterity and team work.  Defense in one sense is measured by low scores.  There have always been blowouts, but this year many of the games were decided by one goal including the final (Spain 1 to England 0).  But it is mostly goals that draw fans.  One of the most outstanding one was by Sam Kerr of Australia against the English.  The most goals came from Japan's Himata Miyazawa with 5.  Altana Bommati of Spain was judged to be the most valuable player. The top goal keeper was England's Mary Earps.  Salma Paralluel of Spain also scored an impressive goal was awarded top young player.    A fair play award was given to Japan.  Referees were honored as well.  

Previously I felt they were not ready for a 32 team format, but this time there was more equality, possibly a measure of increasing gender equality.   The organization had progressed from previous efforts.  Although not the first World Cup to be hosted by two nations it was the first to be hosted by two conferences, with Australia part of the Asian Federation while New Zealand was part of the Oceania Federation.  It was also the first host to be in the Southern hemisphere.  

The prize pool had been increased by $80 million US. to $110 Million US.  More importantly steps were taken to make sure some of the money is to go individual players although administered by national associations. 

Both the Australian and New Zealand agreed to allow flags from indigenous to be displayed.  

There was concern that distances required for air transportation needed to be offset and there were some programs in that regard.  Some decisions were made to minimize air flights between Australia and New Zealand.

I had been expecting the Americans to dominate and the Canadians to hang on to the top tier, but both were eliminated early on.  In some ways the two English speaking nations were more emancipated than others, but the world has caught up.  Still many associations were in legal battles with players over finances and rights.  The Spanish association was one which may be settled after their victory. 

From the previous Women's World Cup:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/07/womens-world-cup.html   I would like to acknowledge that Wikipedia provided some important information for this post.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Us Against You

 This is a bit of an awkward selection.  I didn't realize Fredrik Backman had written a book between two favorites, "Beartown" and "Winners" on the same topic of a hockey team in northern Sweden.  If you are not a hockey fan you might be put off by the topic, but if you really enjoy character and relationship development you would be a loser.  Politics plays a surprising or not role.  As one manipulative character explains, "Everything is political.  Everyone needs allies."

Fredrik Backman is perhaps best known for "A Man Called Ove" which was made into a Swedish movie of the same name and more recently an American movie called "A Man Called Otto" starring Tom Hanks.  Another book made into a tv. series was "Anxious People." 

The repercussions of the rape of the coach's daughter related in the first book plays out further.  To add to the social turmoil gay bashing is recounted from which one quote is worth remembering:  "They've <most of us> lived their whole life assuming it was something you could tell about a person at first glance.  But you <a central character> were...like them."

A lot happened between the first and the third book.  Some new characters were introduced that carry on to the third book.  There are some deaths.  The relationships that we were made aware of progress with circumstances.

A female coach does not fit any stereotypes.

Sponsorship played a bigger role between two rival nearby teams and also a foreign player with their own agenda.  

I have read a few other of Backman's books and seen a movie.   I highly recommend this series, but suggest read it in proper sequence as developing relationships are very key.  Start with "Beartown" then move onto "Us Against You" and finish up with "The Winners".  Personally I would like to read another sequel.

I spent two years in a small rural town where hockey was king.  One of my classmates made it to the NHL.  Track and basketball were my sports and I did very well at the local high school, but those sports didn't attract the crowds or interest generated by hockey.  As for me, hockey was the Saturday nite entertainment and I attended most games.  Elsewhere I have mentioned meeting hockey celebrities like Bobby Orr and Gordie Howe and sharing a common influencer with Wayne Gretsky.  My sports preference is for basketball and increasingly soccer.

Other blogs for Fredrik Backman





Wednesday, August 16, 2023


"Coloseum  is a docu drama series with some insights to Roman history.  One point made clear at the beginning is that the Romans became connoisseurs of violence.  Juvenal, the satirist came up with the phrase "bread and circuses" as a prescription for Emperors to maintain power.

The Coloseum was built to appease the masses and demonstrate Roman ingenuity.  Construction was started in 72 AD and completed in 80 AD.   Haterious was put in charge.  The building required one million bricks and 300 tons of iron clamps.  Concrete was not invented by the Romans, but they included volcanic ash that added strength.  Slave labor accounted for the heavy work.  It could seat from 50,000 to 80,000     

A few years later it was decided that special effects were needed and this required an underground network where animals and people could stay and literally pop up when the show was ready.  A lot of difficulties had to be overcome to finish the Hypogeum and one of the developments was a tread wheel crane to move objects up above ground.

A variety of entertainment was offered.  A favorite was gladiator combat which often, but not always led to a violent killing.  Gladiators and worker slaves were selected from the many Roman conquests.   Another crowd pleaser was executions, sometimes by animals.  The meat from dead animals was given to people.  Later when Roman leaders saw Christians as dangerous they were a prime target.  One episode told the story of Ignatius.  He was from Antioch where a series of earthquakes had spooked Roman leaders who blamed them on Christianity.  Ignatius had decided he could not bow to a Roman Emperor as above his Lord and thought of the concept of martyrdom.  Eventually martydom did help Christianity to become dominant.

It was very possible for slaves to become free and fairly common.    

Two historical characters were given coverage and connected to the Colosseum.  Marcus Aurelius has been considered a philosopher king who is still quoted today.  Galen was a medical expert who was ambitious wanting to provide his expertise to the elite.  He started in Pergomon where he worked at a gladiator school.  It is easy to think gladiators were expendable, but they were actually valuable with a lot of time and money invested in them.  Galen learned to keep them healthy.  From there he went to Alexandria where he learned about dissection.  He developed surgery employing sophisticated tools (for the time),  pain killers and disinfecting.  He was also a pharmacologist and developed an antidote to poison.

His goal was to meet Marcus Aurelius and used his philosopher teacher Eudemis who knew the emperor.  It did not work out, but a few years later Eudemis fell ill and Galen diagnosed a type of malaria with no known cure.  However Galen was able to help.  Reminding Marcus Aurelius didn't have much effect, however in a distant battlefield his boasts were recalled when a plague (likely smallpox) affected large numbers of soldiers.  He was called and although he was not able to cure the disease he was able to help some survive and earned the trust of Marcus.  The two actually shared similar viewpoints.  Galen was a prolific writer on medical concerns and some of his ideas are still used today.

Marcus Aurelius did not like gladiator games and replaced metal swords with wooden swords that proved to be unpopular.  With the plague depleting soldiers he decided to convert the healthy gladiators to soldiers promising them freedom.  Marcus Aurelius marks the point when the Roman Empire went downhill and waves of barbarians assaulted the Roman Empire..  

Christianity gradually gains power with at one point pagan statues taken down including at the Colessum. 

The violence is intense and repetitive.  There is significant historical information from experts if you can deal with the violence.  I watched it from a DVD borrowed from the local library.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Untouchable How They Get away with it

Why do some people avoid repercussions for their criminal behavior?  How do they do it?  The rest of us live by rules which we may occasionally break, but usually pay a price for.  

This book is really about Donald Trump, but Honig uses many examples of people who have gotten away with something.  It was written before the most recent indictments, but anticipated them.  His prosecutor experience is well used, not for just for legalisms, but also the psychology.

Jeffrey Epstein was very wealthy and very connected with Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Prince Andrew.  With lawyers Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr he was able to have charges dramatically reduced.

One way mobsters controlled their subordinates was to hire their lawyers.  Intimidation would be a tool.  Cassidy Hutchinson had to break from her Trump lawyer (after testifying three times in his presence), in order to testify against him.

Trump threatens opposition and often follows through.  After the Ukrainian attempt at bribery, Trump was able to demote Alexander Vindman, his uninvolved twin brother and the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.  Another notable victim was Liz Cheney.  Threats reversed testimony in the prominent cases of Kevin McCarthy and Michael Flynn.

 Mobsters use intimidation to control witnesses.  Some of it is blatant and behind the scenes.  Some of it is more public such as when they pack f courtroom with gangsters. 

Trump has used pardons (and the promises of pardons) to stop t or prevent criminal testimony.  Some examples include Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort and Steve Bannon.  As he is no longer president the promise of future pardons when re-elected carry some weight.   Honig pointed out that President George H.W. Bush pardoned five insiders who had been indicted with regard to the Iran Contra case, thus preventing a potentially politically damaging trial from happening.

Executive privilege had been used as far back as George Washington who felt the need to block the public from sensitive information.   At the time of the Nixonian scandal  his team claimed executive privilege regarding some sensitive tapes.  For the first time the Supreme Court acknowledged executive privilege as legitimate, but also declared they could not bloack the tapes which scared Nixon so much he resigned before a trial could be held.  Trump took advantage of interpretations and was able to block communication between staff and Congress.  We can only guess what incriminating information was buried. 

The Mueller report actually depicted a case against Trump being helped by the Russians, but Honig feels Robert Mueller was handicapped and was too easy in letting William Barr distort the findings.  Still many of Trump defenders mock the whole procedure.

Honig feels that Merrick Garland has been too soft and that delays will likely end up tied up with the election schedule.  Also for many people the delay seems political.  My view is justice delayed is justice denied.  Check:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2023/07/justice-delayed-is-justice-denied.html

Dealing with reality Honig last line hits home; "Imperfect justice is preferable to no justice at all."  It will always be infuriating that such as Trump might well get away with it.  He speaks with credibility, but like the rest of us admits Trump might still get away with it.

Trump's hard core supporters believe any illegalities Trump may have done are justified by all the good he did.  One cannot be indicted for mismanagement, but his supporters should bear his other many faults in mind:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2019/10/the-non-indictable-sins-of-trump.html

Sunday, August 6, 2023


Power struggles are a common theme in stories.   Caste still plays a powerful role in India and is often tied to money, i.e. old money.  Political power is tied to economical power.

The relationship between Maamannan and his son Veeran is generational.  The father accepts the caste reality and tries to work within it. Veeran resents his father's compliance with the upper caste.  Ratinavelu is a brash upper caste man who is ruthless.  In one scene we see him beat a hunting dog to death.   In others he beat humans and humiliates Maamannan by forcing him not to sit.

Ratinavelu raises hunting dogs which are sometimes let loose.  He reveals his violent nature by on at least two occasions he kills his own dogs in a rage.  Veeran on the other hand raises pigs which sometimes are victims of the dogs.  Leela is brought into the script not so much as a romantic interest as a feminist protagonist who has had her fitness studio attacked.

The situation escalates when an election is called.  The violence is to intimidate.  Maamannan's style is not to retaliate and in the end his style wins him another election.  He is reconciled to his son Veeran.  

Violence is throughout the story, most of it mindless or in retaliation.  Some what exaggerated, but more realistic than I have seen in other Tamil films.  The end provides hope of progress for true equality and left a good feeling.  Freedom is not won cheaply.

It takes a good cast and crew to make such a fine film.  Here are some key ones.

Mari  Selvaraj, writer/director with only his third film. 

Udhayanidhi Stalin is the producer and also the lead actor, Veeran.  He started as a producer and got acting roles.  He has 15 credits as a producer and 18 for acting.  His father has been the  Chief Magistrate for Tamil Nadu.  Udhayanidhi  has become involved in politics and has decided to drop films for the time being.

A R. Rahman, one of the foremost composers in India and beyond provided the music.   He studied piano at age 4 and became involved with his father's musical business  including composing.  His father died when he was 9 and it was a scramble to get education.  Nonetheless his education did include music and at a young age involved writing music for  tv. ads and organizing rock bands.  At the age of 23 he converted to Islam and adopted his current name.  Mani Ratnam approached him to write music for the Tamil film, "Roja" (1992).  He has 204 film scores including "Bombay" (1995), "Fire" (1996), "Dil Se" (1998), "Lagaan:  Once Upon a Time in India" (2001), " Kannathil Muthamittal" (2002), "Swades" (2004), "Slumdog Millionaire" (2008), "Gajini" (2008), "Rockstar" (2011), "Jab Tak Hai Jaan" (2012), "Kadal" (2013), "The Hundred Foot Journey" (2014) and "Pele:  Birth of a Legend" (2018).  He has won 2 Oscars and numerous other awards.  He has performed as a playback singer in several films including this one.

Theni Eswar was the cinematographer.  He has 13 film credits including "Taramani" (2017), "Peranbu" (2018), "Merku Thodarchi Malai" (2018) and "Paava Kedhaigal" (2020).  Check my top film for 2020:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/03/peranbu-top-film-out-of-india.html

Silva Rk, the editor has 19 film credits.

Vadivelu plays title character who rose above his Dalit background, but is still deferential to those above him.  He normally is seen in comic roles or supporting.  He has 224 film credits including "Kanthaswamy" (2009), "Mersal" (2017) and "Thambi"(2019).

Fahadh Faasil  played Ratinavelu a real rotten bastard such a contrast to many of his other roles.  He comes from a film family, but his first film was an embarrassing failure.  He left and amongst other things got a philosophy degree from the University of Miami.  Returning home he renewed his film career and now has 60 film credits as an actor and another 4 as a producer.  His films include "Bangalore Days" (2014), "Take Off" (2017), "Nijan Prakashan" (2018), "Kumbalango" (2019), "C U Soon" (2020) and "Pushpa: The Rise" (2022).  Check another top favorite movie:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2021/03/bangalore-days.html

Keerthy Suresh plays Leela, the female lead.  She came from a film family and had a few roles as a child actress.  In school she won some swimming awards.  She went on to get a degree in fashion design and participated in an exchange program in Scotland and an internship in London.  Back to films she has 35 film credits covering Tamil, Malayalam and Telegu including "Mahanti" (2018), "Penguin" (2020) and "Vaashi" (2022).  At one time she was the highest paid actress in south India.

Ravenna Ravi played Jyothi, the wife of Ratinavelu who occasionally restrains his temper outbursts.  Her career started with dubbing for Tamil, Malayalam and Telegu films with 19 film credits.  She has compiled 9 credits for acting.

Lal had a small role as a political operative.  He has been an actor, directer, writer and producers.  He has over 150 film credits including "Thottappan" (2011), "Pulimuragan" (2016), "Helen" (2019) and "Kaaval" (2021). 

There is violence and cruelty to animals that would disturb some viewers.  The rest of us might feel a bit nauseous, but message would be visible.  Good production values.

As usual I have bolded the first mention of films I have seen.