Friday, June 30, 2023

The Ransomware Hunters

The inter net has opened a Pandora's Box.  It has made many billionaires and definitely made life more pleasant for more people than almost any other invention.   We have become so dependent on it that it can upend our lives.  Some have mastered its innermost secrets, at least enough to manipulate the masses.  Using mammoth amounts of details some made fortunes analyzing, refining and developing strategies to make more profit.  Stealing information was another way to make money.  More recently another way was developed by blocking access to information and demanding a ransom to restore it.  And beyond that others could unravel blockages.

 The book starts with some people who might be called misfits as alluded to in the subtitle.  They were obsessed with what computers and the inter net allowed them to do.  They developed skills, but the time required combined with their personalities assured they were not popular.  Of course when they were able to apply their knowledge for the benefit of others they did gain a sort of popularity.

While some turned their skills to exploiting others for profit, a few loved the challenge of developing their skills further.  For some this meant stealing information for those willing to pay.  Eventually some learned they could make easy money by blocking access to computers and the internet.

Still others wanting to help enjoyed the challenge of breaking the puzzle.  Some of them found each other and worked as a team.   Initially they were sometimes able to decypher the blocking and restore the original information and save the ransom.  Sometimes they were able to determine the address of the perpetrators and if they were not in a country with no extradition they could be arrested.  

The internet has opened up the whole world and hackers are very adept at exploring internationally for opportunities as well as support.  It was thought Russian gangsters were involved at early stages.

As ransomware became more common, legal authorities became concerned and did take steps.  The F.B.I. was interested, but their setup offered limitations. They tried to train established agents, but found in the first place they were not skilled enough.  Even more they ran into a culture problem.  Taken from other cases, agents found they were often ridiculed because even when successful there were seldom arrests and the crimes seemed less serious.  Promotions were largely based on arrests.  When the F.B.I. tried to recruit the really skilled, there was no interest in the regular training program and no desire to carry a gun.  Over time some rules were bent and a strategy of contracting skilled operators for specific projects.

In the Netherlands, a different strategy developed.   The started a branch called the High Tech Crime Unit.  Soon they actually recruited skilled hackers and paired them with regular trained officers.  The high tech people were part of the culture.  Another development occurred when an autistic person was directed to them which at first was resisted, but persistence resulted in training that paid off.  Pairing an autistic with a regular agent worked better as there was respect on both sides.

The ransomware hackers at first had money sent to safe accounts in places like Panama, but realizing they might be traced discovered bitcoin which was much harder to trace.  Iran, Russia and North Korea are almost impossible to penetrate as they do not have extradition to the U.S.

COVID increased society's dependence on the inter-net.  Schools were shifting to online instruction which could be disrupted.. 

Recovery companies saw an opportunity to help victims.  Unfortunately many of them were exploitative.   Some companies would negotiate a lower demand and keep the difference without telling the client .  Sometimes making a working relationship with the attackers to their mutual benefit.

Insurance companies are finding it more difficult to insure with the ransomware amounts escalated.  .  Negotiations original demand

As defenses get more sophisticated so also do offenses.   This book was published in 2022 and is excellent to bringing you up to that date..

This account is told by investigative reporter Renee Dudley and Pulitzer Prize winner Daniel Golden.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Deep Sea Mining and the Future of Mankind

This is an opinion post which will clash with monied interests.  Stats will be available elsewhere and are likely argued over.  My contention is that mankind is headed for a disaster.  Climate change is denied by many in power while others see opportunities to enrich themselves.

Recently heard a CBC radio spot on deep sea mining.  On one hand it was pointed out that dealing with climate change we need to get more minerals that the earth is running out of.  Those essential for electric vehicles minerals are available in our oceans.  On the other hand it is very likely that there will be a negative impact on climate change.  

Quite the conundrum--we need to mine the oceans and we need to deal with climate change.  Have we learned about how mother nature works?  Forest management is supposedly more professional and long term, but as I write this the weather is noting that we will have smoke in our air again, even though we live hundreds of miles from any forest fires. 

Time to examine root causes.  Greed has been a motivating force, tending to be short term.   Man has always been able to find more resources and have decided we know best how to use them.  It seems the earth can support more people than ever, but can it really?  There is still a lot of misery in the world and we can feel Mother Nature fighting back.  

What to do?  I am in favor of cleaner methods of mining and maybe better recycling, but is that enough?

The core problem is overpopulation with the rest of the world catching up to the wealthier west in their standard of living.  Medicine has prolonged life and hopefully more of us will survive longer to enjoy life's beauties.  Remote tropical islands had faced similar problems and developed drastic measures in some cases involving infanticide or senicide.  Can we take a long view? 

 We know trends that lower birth rate.  Gender equality, has lowered birth rates in western cultures and seems to work in other cultures.  Getting more industrialized (or westernized) is another way of looking at it.  Many births are not planned and could be avoided with sex education and making contraception more easily accessible.  If these do not solve the problem we may have to consider more serious steps. 

Do you think we have a choice?  Or do you care what happens to later generations?

A man who had a bigger understanding of the universe was Carl Sagan.  He had many relevant things to say; check

Naomi Klein, an environmental activist is worth studying her perspective.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Cure--A scary masterpiece from Japan

"Cure" (1997) was not on my list, but turned up on my local library list and a brief exploration suggested it was some sort of classic.  It certainly is different and hard to understand.  On the DVD there were special features that helped understanding and Wikipedia provided more perspective.  If you are upset with violence you will not enjoy this film.

It appears to be about serial murders and a detective, Takabe chasing down the killer.  The mystery is that when the murderers are caught they have no memory of what they did.  Eventually it narrows down to one mad man (?), Mamiya who mostly refuses to answer questions, instead asking them.  The detective who at first radiates a demeanor of calmness, but as we learn his wife who he truly loves has mental health issues which are very stressful.  He loses emotional control with Mamiya who claims to know what a burden she must be.  

The film is designed to keep you on edge all the way through.  Bong Joon Ho, famous for "Parasite" (2020) claimed that this movie was one of his top ten.  It seemed worth pursuing for a deeper understanding.  An interview with Ryusuke Hamaguchi (who admitted to learning from Kiyoshi Kurosawa) and other DVD interviews did offer some rationale.  

There were several murders that are each very abrupt and gruesome.  The first at the very beginning appears to be between a prostitute and a customer who unexpectedly hits her repeatedly with what looks like a pipe.  More follow at unexpected intervals. 

The original title was "The Missionary" and it was referred to in the script as the police were speculating on Mamiya' motive.  Some felt he was a missionary for the beliefs of Franz Mesmer.  He was an early precursor to the notion of hypnosis. 

The writer director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa had noticed that after a murder in the news neighbors were questioned and invariably said the killer was normally a nice person.  Reporters mostly expressed the idea that the killer was hiding their intent.  Kiyoshi felt a nice person could kill which was an underlying premise for the script.  Kyoshi also admits that he didn't consciously do some of the things attributed to him, and in some cases "retrofitted" later thoughts into his explanations.  He has been noted for his unique use of space where he felt what happened outside the frame was also important.  There were a lot of hypnotic references such as flashing lights and water flowing.  

One of the actors (likely Masato) commented that Kiyoshi did not use rehearsals a lot and more for the crew who needed to know their positions.  Kiyoshi ate his lunch alone most often without cast or crew so that he could sort out the issues of filming. 

He once won a scholarship to the Sundance Institute.  He was also for a time a professor at the Tokyo University of the Arts.  Kiyoshi has 61 credits as director, 54 as writer and 16 as actor including "Tokyo Sonata" (2008).

Music was provided by Gary Ashiya who has 42 credits.  It was remarked that music was only played during the beginning and at the end.  In between ordinary household sounds dominated with Kurosawa commenting that an empty laundry dryer was especially annoying. 

Tokkusho Kikumura was the cinematographer with 47 film credits.

Kan Suzuki was the editor with 56 credits.

Tomoyuki Maruo, the production designer played a role in setting up this film.  He had worked with Kyoshi when they were both doing videos.  A common problem was low budgets.  This problem was solved for "Cure" as more money was made available.  Up until this time film makers could not afford sets and used locations which were often run down.  Despite higher budgets the locations practice was carried on for this film.  Tomoyuki has 50 credits as Art director and another 29 as a production designer, including "Tokyo Sonata" (2008). 

Koji Yukusha played Takabe.  He was a popular actor which possibly accounts for the need of bigger than video budget.  In that same year 1997 he was he leading man in two other noteworthy films, "The Eel" (1997) that earned an acting award at Cannes and "Shall We Dance" (1997) that was a very popular international film.  Check the third paragraph   Koji has 109 credits including "Tampopo" (1985), "Memoirs of a Geisha" (2005)"Babel" (2006),  and "The Third Murder" ((2017).

Masato Hagiwara played Mamiya.  In trying to recruit him for the part Kiyoshi asked him to watch "And Life Goes On" (1992), a Turkish film by Abbas Kiarostami.  He is another popular actor with currently 134 film credits, including "The Journalist" (2022).  Check

"Cure" is a unique film and if you don't get too upset with gruesome violence you might enjoy it, even be impressed.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

The Persuaders

To some of us it seems like the right wing controls the platform.  Not only do they seem to have more money, they also seem to be better organized.  Anand Giridharadas has discovered there are progressives that are conscious of the difficulties and have solutions.

One underlying motive is the frustration found by many when trying to discuss Donald Trump or various right wing policies.  Those on the other side seemed oblivious to facts.

Linda Sarsour is one with a Palestinian heritage and had been an organized protester, but reluctant to get involved with white women as they had a different agenda taking focus off of colored women.  Trump inspired not only racists and evangelicals, but also many who hated his policies.  Linda realized her own background had limited her concerns, but she recognized many issues already affected Muslims, blacks and Hispanics such as LGBTQ and reproductive issues.  Asked to take part in the March of Millions she was reluctant but adopted the philosophy that you have to meet people where they are at.  With support from other agencies  they changed the title to March on Washington and also refused to accept corporate sponsors instead raising funds from small donators, Labor Unions and agencies with similar policies.

Reminds me of Naomi Klein who noticed that right wingers coalitioned many concerns such as gun rights, anti abortion, anti LGBTQ and minorities.  Her main cause seemed to be climate change, but she realized that such groups gained power by helping indigenous causes.

Loretta Ross had a long history working with rape victims.  Her thinking had been aligned with the victims, but was approached by a perpetrator, William Fuller who claimed he had raped women and then in prison raped men feeling it was matter of power and control,  He studied the issue including from a feminist point of view.  He gave Loretta a different perspective.  She carried it over to other aspects of anti hate activisim.  It is very common for many racists to claim "I'm not a racist, but..."  She pushes with tests such as if a black person needed a kidney and you were a match would you help?  The search is for common ground.

Alicia  Garza was one of the founders of Black Lives Matter.  What prompted her involvement was the not guilty verdict for the murderer of Trayvon Martin.  The movement is intended to raise consciousness of people and not be violent.  She saw the process of 'Waking" is a bit precarious and one should not fault someone who slips, especially in the early stages. 

Bernie Sanders was a no nonsense politician who avoided personal stories or what might be considered stunts.  His persistence over many years earned him credibility, but failed to get the attention of the masses.  His policies were not really radical as many of them were already proving themselves in other countries.  As he aged he became more pragmatic explaining more of his personal history and has made decisions to help the cause, rather then a strict adherence to policies considered too radical for Americans.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was turned on to politics by Bernie Sanders as she found herself agreeing with the logic of his policies, but she was more activist and stirring up attention.  In an effort to diminish her, conservatives dug up a video of her dancing at a rooftop party, however she updated the video and demonstrated her critics were out of touch.  From a conversation she had with Ta-Nehisi Coates  "...if we're doing the job right--is to translate public will into the actual law...But who shapes and directs and moves that public will is writers, journalists, activists and artists.  They shape the public will and bring it to a point and translate it into policy." 

Anet Shenker-Osario is familiar with Hebrew, Polish, English and Spanish which perhaps has made her realize language is imprecise.  She even has done some standup comedy.  As she puts it we strive for more clarity.  Republicans have been successful at branding themselves as representing "freedom" and "family values", but that is nonsense to think they are more committed than Democrats.  Another theme of the right wing is the importance of "law and order."  When it comes to dealing with "persuadables" she believes "What we actually see is that they toggle between competing views of how the world works, and whatever they hear most frequently becomes 'common sense' and what everybody thinks."  Repetition with the right words can make a difference.         

An early inspiration for Anet was  George Lakoff who was well aware of the power of words.  As an example George pointed out the right often refers to "entitlements", but he suggests "protections" is more accurate and effective.  See more at:  

The last part of the book deals with deep canvassing.  A lot of his has evolved after traditional approaches have failed too often.  Basically you must learn and then earn the trust of whoever you talking with.  You need to widen their scope.  At this stage personal history can reinforce the message.  Every person is of course unique and conversions may take a long time, although some may hit a light bulb moment.

When the whole scene seems insane please be assured there are people working to make things better.  Anand Giridharadas made a point to spend a lot of time with the primary characters in this book.  He learned how their thinking had evolved.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Where the Tracks End

 "Where the Tracks End" (2023) is a simple low budget film from Mexico.  It is told in two parallel tracks, each emphasizing the importance of education.

The main story follows a young boy Ikal whose parents are involving in construction of the rail.  He never knows how long he will be in one location and has little interest in school.  He is lured by an older woman who teaches a group of children in ramshackle facilities.  He gets along with some of the other children and four of them visit a traveling circus.  He progresses with education, but has to move away.  

The other story shows a young man talking with teachers in the process of actually closing schools.  We come to learn he feels badly, but is powerless.  This story which is really in the future has a sort of sweet ending.

A simple movie, but requiring a delicate touch.  Here are some of the cast and crew.

Ernesto Contreras was director and executive director.  Won awards internationally including Sundance.  He has 26 film credits. He has also been a producer and an editor.

Javier Penalosa wrote the script.  He has 30 film credits.  He also writes children's and young adult literature.

Two composers handled the music.  Gus Reyes has 91 film credits and has also been involved in orchestral arrangements for rock bands.  His partner Andres Sanchez has 53 film credits and has been a bass player for several rock bands. 

Juan Pablo Ramirez was responsible for the cinematography.  He has 44 film credits and won a few international awards.

Jorge Macaya was the editor.  He has well over 50 film credits.

Adriana Barraza played Georgina, an older woman who encouraged children to get educated and had unique ways of piquing their interest.  She was nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in "Babel" (2006).  She has been a director and an acting coach (running a school for actors) with over 80 film credits including  "Amores Perros" (2000) and "Spanglish" (2004).

Kaaarlo Isaac played the young boy, Ikal with poor parents on the move.  The weight of the film really fell on him and he did an excellent job.  He has three film credits.

Guillermo Villegas played Hugo Valenzuela who was a school inspector. He has 39 film credits.

Blanca Guerra played a circus manager.  In 1983 she was member of the jury for the Moscow Film Festival.  She has 106 film credits. 

It is a simple movie in which you can identify with the curiosity of children.

Available with dubbing or sub titles on Netflix.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023


"Agency" (2023) is in some ways a typical Korean drama series, but a uniqueness comes from being set in an advertising agency.  Lots of drama pitting a young woman with a desperate poor background against an often arrogant dynasty.  Lots of characters in between.

I've sold ads and been inside an ad agency.  Creativity counts, but there are other factors such as teamwork, taking the time to understand what the consumer really wants (they often do not know) and management of the team.  Creativity is not so much looking outside the box as re arranging what is already known with the only boxes you could know about (stretch your awareness, you know more than you think).

The main battle is between a brother and sister to take over the conglomerate.  Other executives and family members participate in for their own greedy reasons.   

At one point a receptionist is only a contract worker, but has agreed to be a spy for a corporate manipulator.  Our heroine uncovers her and switches her loyalty, but eventually she is let go.  She is brought back and made part of a team.

 One scene shows there can be morality.  Nobody likes to lie and advertisers are often accused, if not a lie, then misleading.  The protagonist refused to take business from loan company remembering how they took advantage of her family. 

One strategy I noticed was that the protagonist was often very anxious and appeared to be smoking, but in fact she was putting unlit cigarettes to her mouth.  I hoped it might be an alternative to smoking, but a few of the characters were seen smoking.  Thoughts on the matter:

Here are some of the people who make this series so enjoyable.

Shim Na-yeon is a director

Bae Se-Young is the writer.  This film has some really good dialogue from a variety of roles.

Kim Hyun-jong and Ahn So-yeong are credited with music.

Lee Bo-young plays Go Ah In who appears very self confident, but has psychological issues.  She was Miss Korea in 2000,  She has 23 film credits that I hope to explore more.

Na-Eun Son played Kang Han-na, the spoiled feisty grand daughter who is a power figure.  She was a key member of girl band, Apink and was noted as a lyric writer.  She had the nickname of "Sold-Out girl" as she sold out concert venues.  She has 50 film credits.

Han Joon-Woo plays Park Young-woo, secretary to Kang Han-na.  A clear thinker from a middle class background who sees himself as a servant.  He has appeared in "Hyena" (2019).

Jo Sung-ha played Choi Chang Soo, brother and rival to Kang Han-na.   His film credits include "The Suspect" (2013) and "Navillera" (2021).  Check  

Park Ji-Il played Cho Moon-ho, an executive with little apparent power.  From a supporting role he gets some interesting dialogue often while playing the game Go against himself.   His film credits include "The Suspect" (2013), "Live Up to Your Name" (2017) and "Thirty-Nine" (2022).   Check:

Jang Hyung-sung plays Yoo Jung-seok, as an former executive, now a mentor to Go Ah in under much reduced circumstances, but with good lines.  His film credits include "Signal" (2012) and "Under the Queen's Umbrella" (2023).  Check

Jeon Gook-hwan plays the elderly patriarch who is still manipulating events and is very clever.  He played the father of the male protagonist in "Crash Landing on You" (2019).  Another quality film he was in was "Silenced" (2011) about abuse in an institute for the deaf.  Other films include: "A Company Man" (2012), "The Chaser" (2012), "Misty" (2018) and "My Mister" (2018)

Kim Mi-Kyung plays her mother.  She has 71 film credits including  "It is Okay Not to Be Okay" (2020), another of my favorites and she was a big factor although only a supporting role, "Trolley" (2022-2023) and "Doctor Cha" (2023).  See 

The good guys against the bad guys with lots of twists.

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

Saturday, June 10, 2023

The Good Bad Mother

"The Good Bad Mother" (2023) is one of my two favorite series so far this year.  A complex plot not fully appreciated until the end is one factor, but also the presentation including acting, cinematography, editing,  music and more is top notch. 

Relationships are often based on circumstances and (mis)understandings.  We are always surrounded by circumstances beyond our control.  Our birth establishes limitations and pathways.

Pigs play a role in the story.  We first see Jin Young-soon being proposed by Choi Hae-shik accompanied by a baby pig.  They operate a pig farm as she becomes pregnant.  Although an honest man Choi Hae-shik crosses a gangster and a corrupt prosecutor which results in his death, with the viewers well aware he was murdered, however the culprits get away with it. Years pass while her son Choi Kang-Ho becomes very studious while his mother restricts him in many ways in her way seeking revenge for her husband's death. He has a girl friend Lee Mi-joo and they are close until he breaks up and shortly makes moves to get close to both murderers of his father.  This all happens in the first two episodes which ends with an accident that renders Kang-ho as an amnesiac with the mentality of a seven year old.  Many ups and downs follow with lots of misunderstandings and surprises. 

There is comic relief among the neighbors of Jin Young-soon who provide their own sub plots.  Pigs provide her livelihood, but are resented by many resulting in a fire.  The viewers are told that pigs are naturally clean animals and have one unusual limitation--they cannot lift their heads to look up.

Here are a few of the cast and crew who helped turn out this very good series.

Na-Yeon Shim was the director.  She has 5 film credits. including "Beyond Evil" (2021).

Se-yeong Bae was the writer.  She has 12 film credits.

 Ra Mi-ran plays the mother  JinYoung-soon.  She is labeled good and bad, because after her husband was killed she determined that her unborn child would be tough.  In actuality she became an exceptional mother although for awhile treated very poorly.  She started in the theatre.  She has 57 film credits including "Thirst" (2009), "Hope" (2013) and "Black Dog" (2019).

Lee Do- hyun plays the son Choi Kang-ho who becomes a brilliant student and eventually becomes a chief prosecutor.  His personality seems to change and he alienates a lot of people close to him and then has an accident that takes away his memory and makes him the equivalent of 7 years old.  He has 13 credits including "The Glory" (2022-2023).

Ahn Eun-jin plays a single mother, Lee Mi-joo.  She started in musical theatre and has 12 credits including "Diary of a Prosecutor" (2019).  

Jeong Woong-in plays the duplicitous prosecutor.  He has 44 film credits and notably was awarded best villain for 2013.

Moo-Sung Choi plays the gangster and is also very menacing.  He has 10 film credits.

Available on Netflix. If you have found Korean drama series to be worth your while, this is especially good.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023


 Paul Berton is the editor in chief of the Hamilton Spectator.  "Shopomania" is subtitled "Our Obsession with Possession." The world is facing many difficult problems and over shopping has been identified as a contributor to current and future global concerns.

Seemed a whimsical format, but well thought out.  Anecdotes about shopping peculiarities but also normalities.  How can we build a more sustainable society?  Shopping at one level is a necessity.  We need to do it in order to survive and society needs it to have a functioning economy.   

The Covid 19 pandemic forced new shopping patterns.  Jeff Bezos at Amazon is worth more than some countries.  Small businesses did not fare well with many closing.  J.B. MacKinnon " Since the turn of the current century over consumption has become the biggest environmental threat to the planet."

Shopping is part of many social conversations with some bragging about how smart they are (or wealthy).  Buying forbidden products is exciting for some with ivory being one example.  Buying frenzies are regular events such as Black Friday, Cabbage Patch dolls, toilet paper, etc.

City locations have had a geographic component such as rivers but underlying a lot of decisions has been trade routes.  Now some decisions are based on shopping.  A good example is Dubai which is basically a desert island that has turned itself into a shopping mecca.  

One of the inevitable consequences of increasing consumption has been garbage.  Cities in the wealthier nations are wrestling with landfill sites.  On a bigger scale the wealthier nations had been sending large amounts of garbage to poorer nations.  China in 2018 refused to accept more foreign garbage recognizing health hazards.  Within a year garbage exports to Africa has quadrupled.  The United States in 2019 had sent over  one billion pounds of plastic waste spread over 96 countries.

I thought I was above consumerism, but this book reminds I am not.  At one time I found it very difficult to walk out of a book store if I had not bought a book.  I have curbed that habit, by relying on the library to feed my reading addiction.  I am reluctant to part with any of the books cluttering my home and I still judge people by how much they display books.

Berton contends there have been efforts to deal with the problems of shopping while admitting that our economy is a delicate balancing act.  As individuals we should ask ourselves three questions:  1.  what do we really need?  2.  what do we really want? and 3. how do we achieve these things?

The three R's of the environmental movement are Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  The emphasis has been more on recycle, but needs to be more on the first two.  One of the drivers of shopping is the desire to own things (guilty), but part of solution could be sharing and renting things you only need occasionally.

One future possibility could be with self driving cars that we could easily rent for the times we need to get out--it should be relatively cheaper and easier on the environment.  The author also suggests that a partial replacement for manufacturing would be repairing goods.  Mankind is approaching various crises that are mostly inter-related and we need to grapple not only as individuals, but as nations.

In his acknowledgements Paul Berton notes that this book necessitated a lot of research, most of which he didn't do.  Of course there are a lot of facts that need to be organized to make a point.  He does a really good job of it.  I am reminded of his father, Pierre Berton whose writings take up a lot of space on my shelves that he was able to hire researchers to gather up information that he organized into easy to read chunks of significant Canadian history.  The thinking and organization of father and son have enriched more than just Canadians.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Doctor Cha

At the beginning I thought "Doctor Cha" (2023) would be a comedy,but in reality it should be classed as family drama.

At the beginning we meet Cha Jun-sook a married woman who actually has a medical degree, but has never practiced  We learn that she had been taking care of children and the household for twenty years.  A fluke emergency reveals that she is out of touch with medical practices, but rekindles an urge to practice.  Gradually we learn her husband is an important doctor and apparently loved another woman before marriage by again another flukey event got       pregnant and married  her.  As it turns out his first love returns with a daughter (his) and has a supervising job at the same hospital.  Seems like a lot, but it is only a setup for more complications which are not all funny.  

A good cast and crew made this easy to watch.


 Two directors were Dae-jin Kim and Kim Jung-Wook.

Based on a book by Yo Kura Kabe.

Uhm Junghwa plays Cha Jung-sook.  She has 29 film credits including "Our Blues" (2022), Check:

Kim Byeong-cheol plays Seo In-ho and has 22 film credits including "Squid Game" (2021).  He is caught in an awkward situation.  Circumstances force him to bypass his true love to marry a woman he impregnated and then he impregnated his first love and ironically as the story begins both women work in the same hospital.  He plays a bit of a goof sometimes, but is supposed to be pretty smart and with a guilty conscience.  Check

Kim Mi-kyung plays the mother of  Cha Jung-sook.  She has 71 film credits including  "It is Okay Not to Be Okay" (2020), another of my favorites and she was a big factor although only a supporting role and "Trolley" (2022-2023).  See  

Min Woo-Hyuk played a surgical specialist who became attracted to the older Cha Jung-sook.  He has been involved with the musica stage.

Myung Se-bin  played the first love.  She was a textile graduate and was spotted by a singer, Chin Seung-han in a department store.  He put her in a music video and for there she did some modeling and in turn was able to get into films.  

The plot is conventional, but with a few twists.  It is easy to get caught with the various inter relations.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Bheed, Covid drama from India

 We are still recovering from the Covid 19 pandemic.  Bollywood has decided to add its interpretation of what happened with the film "Bheed" (2023) now available with subtitles on Netflix.

India is a poor country.  Many poor people from rural areas migrate to cities for jobs and periodically return home which was hastened by initial surge of Covid 19.  Trying to cope with the pandemic lockdowns were used.  Few masks are used and it seems social distancing is not possible.  There are caste differences (referred to as communities) and religion.  A large number are vegetarians who refuse meat tainted food packages.  

The main protagonist is Surya Kumar Singh Tikas who has just been given a promotion and put in charge at a border point.  The crowd is much larger than expected and he doesn't gain the respect he needs to do his job.  He sees a lot of injustice and in fact aids some of the migrants.  His love, Reenu Sharma is a doctor, but of a different caste with her parents wanting to control any marriage.

One of his subordinates feels he should have been the one promoted and turns other staff against him.  One of the migrants Balram Trivedi becomes aggressive in trying to provide food for his community.  At one point he places a gun on Surya's head, but before too long they become allies.  The film is reminding us of the turmoil caused by the pandemic.  The consequences are ongoing.

Many of the cast and crew have a history of advocating for social causes and this film certainly reflects concerns for justice and artistic expertise. 

Anubhave Sinha is director, writer and producer.  His 14 film credits include "Article 15" (2019) "Thappad" (2020), both of which had political and social issues.  Check 

Bhushan Kumar was another producer  At age 19, his father died and he took over the music business turning it into a major force.  Then he got involved with films.   Has 180 film credits  including "Hindi Medium" (2017),  "Kabir Singh"(2019), "Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui" (2021) and "Drishyam 2" (2022).  Check:

 Music handled by Mangesh Dhakde.  61 credits including "Article 15" (2019), "Thappad" (2020) and "Anek" (2022)     check

Soumik Mukerjee handled the cinematography.  The decision was made to record in black and white to emphasize the starkness of the situation.  With 20 film credits including "Thappad" (2020) and " Jaadugar" (2022) .

 Atanu Mukherjee was the editor.  He has 23 film credits including also for writing and directing.  One of his films was "Serious Men" (2020).

 Rajkummar Rao played Surya Kumar Singh Tikas.  He acted in two theatrical groups before heading to the films.  He has been on a streak of films including "Shaitan" (2011), "Shahid" (2012), "Talaash" (2012), "Kai Po Che" (2013), "Queen" (2013), "Hamari Adhuri Kahani" (2015), "Trapped" (2016), "Bareilly Ki Barfi" (2017), "Stree" (2018), "Made in China" (2019), "Ludo" (2020), "White Tiger" (2021) and "Badaai Do" (2022).  check

Pankaj Kapur plays Balram Trivedi who was a desperate migrant.  He has 71 film credits (acting, writing and cinematograhy) including "Gandhi" (1982),  "Ship of Theseus" (2012) and "Jersey" (2022).  Check:

Bhumi Pednekar plays Renu Sharma, a doctor.  She started with casting.  Big break came when asked to help cast "Dum Laga Ke Haisha" (2015) where she auditioned for and had to gain a lot of weight for an unusual romance where she played an overweight bride that had been arranged to solve a revenue problem.  She went onto a number of memorable films such as  "Toilet: Ek Prem Katha" (2017), "Shubh Mangal Savdhan" (2017)  and "Bala" (2019).  With Rajkummar she played a lesbian to his gay role in "Badhaai Do" (2022).  Having gained a lot of weight to get a role she lost a lot of weight to get other roles, but fortunately she is a very credible actress.  Check

Aditya Srivastav  played Ram Singh, a rebellious subordinate staff.   His film credits include "Raat Akeli Hai" (2020), "Super 30" (2020), "Haseen Dillruba" (2021) and "Human" (2022).   Check

 I have bolded the first mention of films I have seen.  The links for this film are among the most of all my blogs and many could have been used multiple times, because the cast and crew have participated and contributed to more of my favorites than almost any other film.  That does not necessarily mean it is my top favorite, but that it certainly received a lot of expert and artistic attention.  Available on Netflix.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

The role of taxes

As I write this the American government has been battered by some wealthy people who with the debt ceiling had a tool to force changes in the law that suit them.  Not sure how this particular battle will run out, but feel it is likely there will be future battles.

 With the Americans the discussion had been focused on cutting expenses and making the poor work to earn their welfare.  Assistance to the poor is to be cut.  All sorts of regulations were burdensome.  It is true you should not spend more than you take in.  There are painful results if individuals attempt to do it, but there are also consequences for governments.  One consequence might be inflation.  High interest rates.  Bankruptcy may seem impossible, but governments have faced that, just not the exceptional United States (so far).  Corruptions has overtaken some governments when the government can't provide services.

One part largely missing from the conversations is taxes.  Politicians treat taxes as almost a dirty word, to be avoided for fear of losing votes and the support of wealthy donations. Cutting taxes and bragging about it are normal.  Obviously most voters react negatively to increased taxes.

The Republicans have proven themselves to be hypocrites and working for the benefit of the wealthy.  A major cause of the increase in deficit came from the Trump administration's major tax reduction.  One proposal they rejected was to increase the number of tax collecting experts.  The one department that actually pays for itself and coincidentally mitigates inequality.  The subject of taxes is easily dismissed.

Progressive taxes are an attempt to be fair, but are resented by the very wealthy who have managed to reduce their high rates but still not enough.  In theory everyone pays at the same rate. When you earn more you pay more, but at established rates.  The wealthy also resent restrictions on their income.

Some commentators suggested that the poor could vote to get their way.  In truth there are attempts to bribe them and most politicians are careful not to increase their taxes.  The wealthy know they can swing the poor to their side; by appealing to their prejudices.

One sensible philosophy was provided by John Maynard Keynes who proposed in times of prosperity to build up surpluses and in times of need to use the surplus.  The wealthy feel rather than building up surpluses it is better to reduce their taxes.  

In a smaller simpler civilization the people had more real control.  As civilization became more complex, power becomes unequal and exploitation is normal-- check

A more rational plan to solve the many problems of Americans would include taxes.  Taxes are the price for civilization.  The government is not the source of all problems and in fact has been and certainly can be an engine for progress. Uneducated voters are easily manipulated. 

Even the wealthy overlook that they get infrastructure, a legal system, military protection, an educated labor force, and sometimes protection from pandemics.etc.

An earlier blog:

Another blog:

Another perspective:  

Also following the Toronto Mayoral election where there seem to be all sorts spending programs proposed with any taxes ridiculed.  Olivia Chow is attacked for proposing increased taxes for one segment.  Rational people understand there is a cost to pretty much everything and fairness is the best way to win co-operation.