Saturday, April 29, 2023

The Shortest History of War

 Gwynne Dyer is a much respected analyst and writer of military affairs.  The ideas and understanding offered need to be understood by a wider audience and yes it is a matter of life and death for global civilization.

The purpose of this book is to illustrate how human nature (and technology, but really human nature) has led us to our current perilous state and how we can hope to extricate ourselves.

 He does pack in a lot of information, but is well written.  One useful tool is flow charts.

Aggression against outsiders has always been with us.  Evolution has favored the winners. Survival has required force and when you add in fear war seems inevitable.  Our nearest primate relatives the chimpanzees do organize to fight other groups of chimpanzees.

The first humans who organized into tribes were hunter-gatherers who tended to avoid conflict, but it is inevitable.  They tended to be egalitarian which helps to reduce wars.

The agricultural era led to wars.  Some speculation that it might have been spurred by what might be termed "pastoralists" who were more mobile than farmers, but likely envied farmers in settlements who had goods that were envied and might be had with force.  This in turn led the farmer settlers to construct walls and later to develop soldiers.  The farmer settlers tended to be less equalitarian than hunter gatherers.

As settlements became larger and less equalitarian leaders developed who had interests that were opposed by leaders of other settlements.  Armies could be formed and/or mercenaries hired.  We follow the development of weapons and strategies.  A problem that probably was always there is that most soldiers are reluctant to kill. 

Dealing with that has been an ongoing problem that commanders have developed strategies to overcome.  One comes from training camps that isolate from regular social circle.  Psychology used to toughen up.   Patriots are better fighters as inspired by Napoleon.

Distancing your soldiers from the enemy lessened reluctance to kill.  Germans enacted aerial attacks on civilians and the English soon followed.  Air staff reported not even seeing the victims, just smoke and explosions.  Modern warfare has seen the increasing use of drones where those in control are often hundreds, even thousands of miles away.

Nuclear weapons change thinking.  Leaders realized whole cities could be wiped out, but doing so would invite retaliation which we learned could lead to a nuclear winter.  As the Soviet Union increased its arsenal and China jumped in the ingredients for civilization extinction were in place.  The big powers realized they could not attack one another without the risk of escalating.  Wars have continued, but never with the big powers against once another.  Perhaps the greatest danger is between Pakistan and India  as they are adjacent and hate each other.

The future is discouraging with nationalist sentiments very global, but Dyer feels we have made some progress and there is hope.  The League of Nations failed to stop World War II and leaders realized that stopping World War III was critical.  To get the cooperation of the main powers (in effect the winners of World War II) they offered a veto.  The United Nations has been able to provide troops to enforce ceasefires on a few occasions.  A World Court has managed to convict a few war criminals, but again the major powers have mostly refused to join, although frequently refer to them. 

Quoting the author:  "If the time has come to devise a different method of settling our disputes, it can done only with the cooperation of the world's governments, for it is the absolute independence of national governments that makes war possible.  Unfortunately mistrust reigns everywhere and nations seldom allow even the least of their interests to be decided by a collection of foreigners."

Many government and military leaders do support a greater platform for a world government, but elected politicians reading the will of voters are catering to the fears of people.  That is where the opportunity lies.  Rational self interest dictates we need a better way of mediating conflicts and restraining nationalist  sentiments.  It is a battle to get enough people to as Dyer suggests "accept a mutual recognition that we are all better off when we respect each other's rights and accept arbitration by a higher authority, instead of killing one another when our rights come into conflict."  A tough task but since hunter gatherer days we have gradually widened our acceptance of others from kin to tribe, to nation and so on.

Climate change (if not fear of nuclear disaster) may be the issue that encourages people to realize they really do have common interests.  We have always had common interests, but have let emotions stop us from working together.  There has been slow progress and we need to keep trying.

Before leaving I would like to defend Gwynne for some criticism he received for predicting Russia would not invade Ukraine.  He basically had pointed out how incredibly stupid an invasion would be.  He was right, it turned out to be incredibly stupid.  Putin was not stupid, but he let his egotism overcome his intelligence.  Dyer notes writing in March 2022 that he cannot predict how it will end, but suggests possible outcomes that may or may not advance his hopes.

An earlier book on war:

 Another intelligent and relevant book by Gwynne:

A personal appearance in Hamilton:

Monday, April 24, 2023

Under the Queen's Umbrella

There are thousands of films you could watch at any time.  Unfortunately they aren't all equally interesting, but even the good ones require some sorting not only for quality, but for your personal preferences.  A lot of research narrows things down, but a good recommendation is a treasure.  Thanks to Nancy Martin, Chuck Conlon and Barb Martin for steering me to this gem, "Under the Queen's Umbrella" (2022).

It concerns about the perennial quest for power in all times and all cultures.  This particular one is set in medieval Korea a few hundred years ago in the Joseon era.  You might not think women play much of a role, but in this setting (that has taken a few historical liberties) they have a great deal.  Don't think they are more gentle about the process--far from it!  The original Korean title ("Sharup") means an umbrella and symbolizes the caring of women for their children.

Primary character is the Queen with four sons.  She is opposed by a woman called a Dowager Queen that we might call the Queen Mother and in this case is the mother in law of the Queen.  Of course there is a King who basically is a caring and thoughtful ruler with ten wives and some concubines.  There are lots of mostly male counselors that have their own vested interests.  There are other mothers with sons and daughters who want to protect the interests of their children (and thereby assure their own future security).

The Dowager Queen actually started as a concubine and was somehow able to intrigue to get one of her sons to be the current King.  In reality concubines have not historically had this much influence, but  there have always been concubines.  The Queen naturally wants her eldest son to be the Crown Prince in line for the throne.  Unfortunately he dies in circumstances that are mysterious and it is decided rather than pick up with the next son to open it up for the most worthy candidate even to the sons of the royal concubines.

There is all manner of cheating and manipulations.  And lots of maneuvering upon a wide range of characters.  The Queen and the Dowager Queen are the most clever.  The Dowager Queen when confronted by her unethical behavior answers with "so."  The Queen is more ethical and is also very methodical in uncovering incriminating information.

Education is important for the upper classes.  A surprise element was sex education at least for upper class males which drew interest from otherwise lackadaisical students.  An important factor is to provide for an heir.

One ongoing theme is that treachery breeds more treachery.  Nobody arrived at their present status without corrupt manipulation.

This series was a mammoth effort that received high ratings.  A talented cast and crew should be noted.

Director Hyung Shik Kim has ten tv series for his film credits.

Park Ba-ra wrote the script (her first) after doing a lot of historical research.  She wanted to respect tradition, but also give a more progressive, feminist tinge.  In her script the Queen is seen running which has never been shown in other Joseon dramas.   The competition for Crown Prince never happened as there was a strict hierarchy determined by blood lines.  She did feature the traditional Korean hair pin and high lighted Korean foods including kimchi.

Kim Hye-su plays the Queen.  A black belt in Tae Kwon Do, Hye-su is a much decorated actress.  Some of her films include:  "The Red Shoes" (2005), "The Thieves" (2012), "Signal" (2016) and "Hyena" (2020) in which she contributed to one of my biggest laughs in years, "Juvenile Justice" (2022) check

Kim Hae-sook as the Dowager Queen is very dislikeable, but that is what you want in a villain.   She has 74 film credits including "Thirst" (2009), "The Thieves" (2012), "The Handmaiden" (2016), "Along with the Gods:  The Two Worlds" (2017),  and "Hospital Playlist" (202-2021).  

The King projects both wisdom and authority and is played by Choi Won-Young.  He has four film credits including a cameo appearance in "Hyena" (2020).

Queen Yoon,  a deposed Queen is played by Seo Yi-Sook.  She has 27 film credits including "Queenmaker" (2023) which will be blogged about shortly.

The Chief State Counselor, another dislikeable character is played by Kim Eui-sung.  He has 55 film credits including "Train to Busan" (2016) and "Memories of the Alhambra" (2018-2019).

You can get captivated by this series on Netflix.  Sometimes in our vanity we think that modern society is the centre of existence and spend little time pondering how we reached our present state.

Friday, April 21, 2023

the Road to Keringet: A different kind of read

Reading "The Road to Keringet" was a new experience.  At first I was confused and I only read it in snatches.  But eventually it made sense and I learned some personal connections.  The style was unfamiliar.  Ultimately it was a daughter answering to her dying mother's request to tell her life story.  There already was a lot of written information to draw upon.

It starts out with a daughter visiting her mother in a nursing home.  It turns out to be in Hamilton, my adopted city.  The mother had worked at the Hamilton Public Library which I visit at least five times a week, but did not get this book there.  I got it from my sister who lives near Montreal.  The mother was a member of the Canadian Authors Association where I once made a presentation.

The daughter, Maggie is a psychoanalyst and the mother had been a prolific writer.  Such a prolific writer when not writing short articles, books, and book reviews she wrote letters and journals.  In all that writing an interesting life history was revealed.  It also reflects a lot on the author.  The book switches back and forth between events of the past with current efforts to explain and clarify.

As her mother lay in a precarious dilemma her daughter pondered "What if she dies?  What if she didn't?"  Towards the end her mother's life there is much uncertainty as she is confronted with dementia, incontinence and depression.  Maggie Ziegler had a difficult relationship with her mother, but realized there was love and guilt.  As a psychoanalyst she had been trained to examine herself and when her mother asked to write her biography she eventually agreed and was given access to a lot of written material; letters, journals, notes, etc.  They were very detailed.

Born in England, in a small town called Chesterfield, near to the larger city, Sheffield.  Her ambition since the age of 8 was to work in a library and to write  When the war started she got involved in supporting the British war defense effort.  By 1943 she had enlisted with the Auxiliary Territorial Service and found herself in Kenya.

Lots of unattached and some attached (i.e. married) soldiers.  Before too long, like many of her friends she got engaged after a short acquaintance.  The army sent him to the Indian theatre and before long she met another charming man. His name was Wolfgang and he had as a Jew fled Germany in 1938 to Kenya and then interred as an enemy alien.  When the British found themselves short of farm managers he was released and employed on farms.  He was a socialist and loved classical music.  He proposed to her almost right away and when she explained she was already engaged he didn't give up.

Mary's family was opposed mainly because he was German, but she broke her engagement with the other fellow.  They got married, but he was often required elsewhere.  Her letters revealed that she was seeing another man and it was not entirely platonic.  She got pregnant, but confessed to Wolfgang who said he would accept the child as his and he did.  It was several years before any of their other four children were aware the eldest had a different father.

After the war Mary was able to get back to England at government expense, but Wolfgang had to wait.  They settled in England and eventually became a family of six.  Their household income did not meet their needs as expected and at first Wolfgang moved to Canada, Hamilton.  He landed a better job and Mary and children followed.  She eventually worked at the Hamilton Public Library and continued getting articles published.  She was asked to write a book about the role of women in the war and in 1973 published "We Serve That Men May Fly."

At one point Wolfgang wanted to own a farm and found one he could afford.  He had a received a settlement from the German government.  It turned out to be where the Hamilton Airport is now located.  The two quarreled and separately with their kids moving back and forth.  And from time to time they supported each other.  

The book carries right to her health breakdown which involved dementia, depression, broken bones and surgery.  Her four children who all lived in far away places took turns visiting her with Wolfgang also visiting.  She died and her ashes were distributed around Burlington Bay.

For me a few Hamilton references made it more interesting.  Jackson Square is a walk away and the Farmer's Market is a place I visit at least once a week.  We are now members of the Royal Botanical Gardens, a favorite place for the Ziegler family.  Others might identify with Kenya or England.

Writing is a way of understanding.  You remember better not just for the reminder, but for the process.    One point made in the book was when they got a television there was less writing.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

D.P. stands for deserter pursuit

 In many war movies it is common enough that military police are shown, usually as interfering or occasionally as supportive, but seldom explored with their own dynamics and personnel concerns.  "D.P." (2021) gives more of an inside view, or at least one perspective.  Available on Netflix in dubbed format.

Military service is mandatory in South Korea which means a lot of men are pulled from career paths and forced into military discipline.  Resentment is not uncommon and feelings of abandonment can lead to desertions.  Harassment, hazing and bullying are too common.

In the first season there are six episodes of around 50 minutes each.  We follow one young man who once in the military is selected to be in the D.P. squadron.  He met some physical requirements and had demonstrated a clever observation.  He is joined by a slightly senior partner and the two work on a few cases. 

Over the next six episodes they pursue a number of deserters with some followup.  Interviewing family and friends, studying tapes and going over locations. Jurisdiction issues add to the stress with the SDT (an anti terrorist organization), local police and even other divisions of the military with conflicting concerns.  For the last episode there is quite a tense standoff between a few government forces, a discharged solider and a bully soldier.

The cast and crew are noteworthy.

Jun-hee Han directed and wrote. executive producer

Kim Bo-tong developed the story from his own military experiences and later produced a webtoon.  He co-wrote the script.

Jung Hae-in played the junior partner.  Earlier films included "Something in the Rain" (2018) and "Tune in For Love" (2019).

Koo Kyo-hwan  played he senior partner.  Film credits include "A Werewolf Boy (2012),"Escape From Moghdishu" (2021), "Extraordinary Attorney Woo" (2022).  Check and

Kim Seong-gyoon played their supervisor.  His film credits include "The Suspect" (2017) and "Divorce Attorney Shin" (2023).   Check

The series was popular enough that by demand a second season is on its way.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Bullfrog Wisdom

 I saw Admiral  William H. McRaven with Fareed Zakaria.  He has an interesting history giving him some credibility for this book, "The Wisdom of the Bullfrog" on leadership advice.

Subtitled "Leadership made Simple (but not easy)" might explain although there is a lot of common sense you need to make an effort.

 The term "Bullfrog" comes from his background as a leader with the SEALgroup where he started out as a frogman.  He was a key factor in the assassination of Osama bin Laden which is covered in the book.  Things did not go according to plan, but in fact they planned for that.

Tom Landry, former Dallas Cowboys coach is quoted "Setting a goal is not the main thing.  Ir is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan."  The Osama bin Laden plan got off to a bad start with one helicopter crashing near the site.  Disasters had been anticipated and worked around.

The Admiral's first point is that honor is a key to leadership.  Trust is necessary and is based on character. 

On one hand you need to be confident.  You were entrusted with a command, so you must command.  On the other hand humbleness is important.  He quotes Pope Francis; "A shepherd should smell like sheep."

He returns to the notion that character is critical.  It is too easy for some to bend the rules to achieve some goal, such as increased profits or a promotion.  An example he offers is Enron, a company run by very smart people, but used unethical means to gain greater profits.  Sooner or later such behavior will have to be accounted for.  

Periodic inspections can make a difference.  It is normal to get complacent and an inspection can reveal small problems that can lead to big problems.

A last point he made was to find someone you can trust.  In his background that person was often thought of as a swim buddy, someone who would support and protect you.  No one person can withstand all the trials the world can throw at you. 

There are a lot of books on improving our lot in life.  They each have a different perspective, but with a lot of overlapping good advice.  We can all use a little reinforcement.  Check out some other books I have read;

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Divorce Attorney Shin

 Divorce is a scary word and we associate divorce lawyers with being a bit shady and after the big buck.  "Divorce Attorney Shin" balances drama and comedy as good as any film or series I can remember.  It was adapted from a webtoon.

 Attorney Shin, who got top marks after graduating in half the usual time chose divorce as his only practice because he thought it was where he could do the most good.  We learn that he became a lawyer because of his sister's accidental death (and earlier divorce).  At the time he had been a concert pianist and music professor in Germany. 

A few cases capture his methods.  A successful radio hostess, Lee Seo-jin is not concerned about her share of divorce proceedings, but wants child custody despite the fact she was in a sex tape and also failed to show up for an urgent teacher appointment.  Attorney Shin gets an interview with the young child and learns facts.  Without giving away how he further handles the case, an important outcome is that Seo-jin compels herself to work for Seong-han as a sort of handyman trouble shooter.   

Another case involves a cleaner woman who is abused by her mother in law and although she agrees her husband is a good man wants a divorce.

 In another case a woman refuses a divorce for husband who requires a liver transplant to survive.  His mistress is willing, but can't unless he gets divorced.  The wife is well acquainted and accepting the situation, but maintains she would rather be a widow than divorced. 

Another man is accused of beating his Vietnamese immigrant wife.  It turns out he is infertile, but she bears a child.  Not quite what you are thinking. 

Near the end he agrees to help a wealthy woman divorce her wealthy husband.  But this case has deeply personal ties to Attorney Shin. 

In another some what related instance a rival firm is annoyed at Attorney Shin and tries to spy and sabotage him, but the lawyer asked to do this becomes an admirer and wants to work with him.  Attorney Shin greatly distrusts anyone connected to that firm, but he has a clever trick up his sleeve and does get hired.

Many of the cases have been disclosed, but how they are resolved is more interesting.  There is more to the plot and more to the presentation which to my mind is very well done.  There is a romance, but comes from a surprising source.  Not involve the leading male or leading female.

Attorney Shin has two friends from his middle school days that are constantly socializing and supporting one another.  Other than them, Attorney Shin doesn't appear to have any friends.  A driving force for him is his young nephew.

There is a musical influence bearing in mind that he had been a concert pianist and likes to sing what he calls trot Korean, a sort of pop genre.  One quote as I remember is that "the silence between notes is as important as the notes themselves."  One classical reference is that Beethoeven adopted a nephew.

An uncle of mine through marriage was a lawyer and later a judge.  His brother was his partner and the two of them shared divorces.  Our uncle's wife claimed that her husband tended to save marriages while the brother (who had been divorced) tended to expedite the breakups.  I should add that the brother was basically a nice guy.

As usual I would like to note some of the cast and crew who made this series so captivating.  Researching was difficult because Koreans use different spellings for their westernized names.

Jae-Hoon Lee was the director with 6 film credits.

Yoo Yeong-ah was the writer with 13 previous scripts including a joint effort on "Miracle in Cell No. 7" (2013)  that had been remade in several languages.  It is a real tear jerker and I was fortunate to see one of the remakes in Turkish--check at

Cho Seung-woo plays the Attorney Shin strikes me as a sort of Dustin Hoffman character, not strongly good looking, but very friendly and folksy smart.  He has 24 film credits with several national awards and has performed as the lead in a stage musical, both in the original and revised versions.

Hye-jin Han plays Lee Seo-jin in all episodes.  She is very charming and is conflicted with loyalty to Attorney Shin and offers to resume her work on radio and television.  She has 17 film credits.

Kim Seong-gyoon plays Jang Hyong-geun who is long time friend to Attorney Shin and is his office manager.  He provides the only romance after the agony of his own divorce.  Has 37 film credits.

Moon-Sung Jung played the third of the three close friends from middle school who happens to be a real estate agent in the same building  He has 20 film credits.

Kang Mal-geum plays the manager of a ramyeon shop visited by the three friends and eventually becomes a romantic interest of Jang.  Her film credits include "Squid Game" (2021) and "Thirty Nine" (2022).   Check:

Hwa-yeon Cha plays the former mother in law of Attorney Shin's sister who has mixed feelings.  She has 20 credits including a few very long running series. 

So far this is my favorite series I have seen this year.   Its blend of comedy and drama means you are never bored.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Maestro in Blue--Greek series

"Maestro in Blue" (2023) is the first time Netflix has aired a Greek tv. series.    It likely won't be the last.  Many viewers are looking forward to the second season.  It is available dubbed in English.  It has made it to the top ten of series in 31 countries.

The island of Corfu is a character   Like California, but being an island boating is a bigger deal.  The story starts with the arrival of Orestis who has agreed to restart a musical festival that had been stopped because of the Covid 19 Pandemic.  Very soon he is distracted by a much younger Klelia (actually supposed to be 19).   

We soon meet most of the characters.  Fanis and his wife, Sophie (having an affair with a local doctor).    Their daughter is Klelia and they have a son Antonis.   They have been stockpiling some illegal gained money.  He is planning to run for mayor.  We also meet his smuggling partner,  Harlambos  who Fanis does not like.  His wife Maria is helping with the festival  Their son Spyros is attracted to Antonis, but he is ambiguous about being gay and he also has a relation with a young woman who knows he is inclined to homosexuality, but doesn't care.

The story revolves around the relationships of the described characters and a few others as they ready for the revived music festival.  Secrets that are not all really secret, both sexual and criminal.  There are also significant episodes of homophobia and adultery.  The music festival is intended to cover a wide variety of musical genres.  Some of the music is really outstanding

If you are queasy with topless nudity or simulated sex of both types there will be a few uncomfortable moments.

Christopher Papakaliatis is director, writer and lead actor.  He started acting for television at age 16.  At age 23 he wrote his first television script.  He wrote, directed acted and was music his first feature, "What If" (2012).  He also acted in theatrical plays including as Mozart in "Amadeus."  Many of his films were commercial successes in Greece.  He has 19 credits as an actor, 6 as a director and 10 as a writer.

Music, really a backbone of the series was handled by Kostas Christides.  He had studied music in England and Los Angeles.  He worked mostly in the American film industry with a few efforts in Greece.  His film credits include "The Shipping News" (2001) and "Runaway Jury" (2003).  "Maestro in Blue" was his third film with Christopher Papakaliatis.  

Cinematography was handled by Antonis Zkeris.  Some really beautiful scenery.  9 film credits.

Editing was by Stella Filippopoulou who has 29 film credits.  

Klelia Andriolatou is the leading lady, also named Klelia who is courting a man 25 some odd years older.  She had started in journalism, but soon studied theatre and had appeared in 2 plays.  She has 5 film credits.

Fanis Mouratidis plays an ambitious man who wants to be mayor and has been building up his resources by laundering money.  26 film credits.

Maria Kavoyianni played abused wife to  Harambos and was active with festival.  48 film credits.    

Marisha Triantafyllidou played Sofia     35 film credits

Haris Alexiou played mother to Sofia and sings a few highlighted songs.  Haris is a very prominent singer in Greece who also composes.  Mostly appeared in video films.  She performed on the soundtrack for "Before Midnight" (2013).

Giannis Tsortekis played Haralambos.  With 40 film credits.

Orestis Chalkias played Antonis, a musician/singer who sang key songs.  He had been a founder of a rock band.

Spyro Curtis played a musical consultant friend to Orestis.  Spyro has appeared in numerous American films in uncredited roles (including 12 I have seen).   He has been a music producer for "The Magnificent Seven" (2016) and "Portrait of a Lady on Fire" (2019).  He was a music supervisor for "Dune" (2021).

An oddity is that at least four actors have taken on their stage names with their roles.

Music does play an ongoing theme of the film, but if you have only a passing interest in music there is also many relationship dramas.  With its worldwide acceptance it seems the second series will have a ready made audience.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Of course it is political! So What?

I don't have any inside information.  My perspective is shared by many.  I would like to add my voice to those who hope to see justice prevail and sanity return. 

Now that Donald Trump has finally been indicted there are choruses declaring it is unconstitutional and political.  Of course there is a political element to it, how could there not be?  But the accusers should look in the mirror.  Their protests are most certainly motivated by a desire not to offend Trump's base in their own political ambitions.

Donald Trump declared his candidacy for the 2024 election a year ahead of time.  Some feel that was to give him some protection for his legal problems.  

I am reminded that Al Capone was jailed not for his heinous gangster activities, but for income tax evasion.  Trump has been the most unethical president ever and has done immense and difficult to reverse harm of any president ever.  Other charges are proving difficult to stick.  Hush money is relatively petty compared to other charges, but arguably an election changer.  It would have taken a few more people to not stomach his un Christian behavior in spite of his claims to achieve Christian goals.

Trying to hush up knowledge of an affair (when his wife was pregnant) seemed necessary as his election prospects were dependent a lot on evangelical voters.  The legal details do matter, but it is obvious he was misleading voters.  

Originally Michael Cohen was sent to jail for his participation in the transaction.  Bill Barr, a Trump appointee squashed any further action.

Trump is an egotist playing games.  Delaying legal action has always been part of his strategy and has for the most part worked.  Michael Cohen had declared Trump would not run again, because he feared another loss which would be humiliating.  However he seems to have the idea if he is a running presidential candidate that gives him some protection.  Why?  Does that serve democracy or justice?

Trump has decided this case calls for fundraising and has been successful.  His supporters seem to think either he is innocent or his good deeds are more significant.  Some of his supporters believed a coup was justified.

There is the perception of a witch hunt.  Some of the other legal efforts are more substantial and by trivializing this case his supporters hope to prove the whole effort to take Trump down is just an unfair partisan effort.

All the networks are taking advantage to attract an audience.  Endless speculation, trivial details and constant repetition.  I am part of it.  Sorry.

People believe whatever Trump says.  Unbelievable.

When will the Trumpers realize what a fraud he was?  Admiring him as a showman sticking it to the man can only go so far.  Climate change made a subject of ridicule by many Republicans is turning out to be real and threatening.  Supporting Russians when they carry on unjustified brutality.  The pandemic was handled disgracefully.  The tax cuts and much deregulation served to increase inequality.  Maybe appreciating how Biden handles crises compared to the grand egotist is worth consideration.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Johnny, a touching story from Poland

This is a first for me, a Polish film review.  A brief description of "Johnny" (2022) might lead to a quick dismissal, but I hasten to add that it really is very touching.  The brief description might run like this--it is about a priest and a criminal who are involved with a hospice, where people are sent to die.  We don't like to think about dying, but the priest is very consciously trying to make their last moment meaningful and his general philosophy is that time is very precious.

 In reality this is based on the life of Father Jan Kaczkowski who died in 2016.  At the end credits we see the actual Father enjoying life, including dancing, drinking and laughing.  We also see the former criminal Patryk with his new wife and children.   Available on Netflix.

Near the beginning we are introduced to Father Jan (who lets himself be called Johnny) where soon he is given responsibility for a hospice .  He learns he has glioblastoma with probably only half a year to live, We soon meet Patryk as a rowdy fighting young man.  He is a drug addict and thief and owes a lot of money to a loan shark.  He is given a sentence of 360 hours of communal service at the hospice under the guidance of Father Jan.

Father Jan is a very forgiving person, but also patient and thoughtful,  Patryk is resistant and also uncomfortable dealing with dying people.  Father Jan encourages him to change.

Gradually Patryk comes around and is even seen helping a dying woman leave a video message for her son.  Later he gets carried away and kidnaps a son to bring to his dying father in hopes of reconciliation, but that doesn't work out.  Somehow a female staff befriends him and they develop a relationship.

Father Jan dies after deteriorating, but his legacy has carried on better than some might have expected.

The film has won a few awards.  The cast and crew are noteworthy.

Director was Daniel Jaroszek who won awards for this film.  Altogether he has 6 film credits as director.

Maciej Kraszewski wrote the script.  He has 6 film credits as a writer and has done some directing.

Robert Kijak was the producer with 23 film credits.  He won a best film award for this film.

Michal Kush composed the music.  He has 121 film credits.

Michal Dabal was the cinematographer  He has over 25 film credits including "Munich" (2015), Blind((2016)

Maciej Kozlowski was the  editor with 10 film credits.

Dawid Ogrodnik played Father Jan Kaczkowski as a patient man slowly deteriorating.   He has 41 film credits including "Ida" (2013).  Has won international awards and for this one.

Piotr Trojan played Patryk, the addicted thief.  He had 47 film credits.

They say people don't change.  That is not always true and this is a good encouraging example.

As usual I have bolded the first mention of films I have seen.  Admittedly my experience with Polish films has been very limited, but this film has encouraged me to keep my eye out.