Friday, May 31, 2024

James, better known as Jim

I had read Huckleberry Finn a few times, first as an adventure story, but later came to appreciate it as a master satire.  

For a few chapters "James" seems to parallel "Huckleberry Finn", but from the perspective of Jim.   Then there is a TWIST,  an intriguing "What if" tangent but I do not want to give any hints.  Percival has changed the timing of the story closer to the Civil War.

Twain had picked up both black and southerner dialects --"n****r" in this the original and in the spinoff Everett was even more vernacular such as "bullshit".  Jim speaks an educated form of English, but only to a few select slaves.  He is very careful not to speak that way in front of any whites.  We don't know how, but he also can write.  Whites are afraid of educated slaves.  The possession of a pencil can be life threatening.

There is a lot of religious skepticism.  Jim has little  faith in religion expressing that it seems to be a tool of the white slavers.   Two con men (also included in the Twain version) use religion as a tool to squeeze money out of gullible white people.

Percival Everett lays quite a lot on the minstrel movement including incorporating the real Daniel Decatur Emmett (who wrote the Dixie song) and his Virginia Minstrels as major characters.  Jim has a beautiful tenor voice just when Emmett's tenor has disappeared.  Here Jim can pretend to be a white putting on black face to entertain whites.  Jim is surprised to learn the minstrel movement is the white's way of mocking their slaves.  While with the minstrels Jim encounters another runaway slave who passes as a white.  Slaves developed a cakewalk to mock whites, but the minstrels misinterpreted and used it in their mockery routine.  

Stephen Foster was another song writer who developed a reputation using the black slave music style, but some claimed he went on to trying to humanize blacks by changing his lyrics over time.  Today we recognize the black influence on music.  Elvis Presley was fairly open about borrowing songs from blacks.  While attending the University of  Guelph I went to a coffee house that had the original singer, Big Mama Thornton for "You Ain't Nothing But a Hound Dog".

There is more violence revealed from the slave perspective including beatings, lashings, deaths, rapes and murders.  The reality contained more violence than Twain wanted to portray.

The last sentence of the book; "Just James"  reminds us this has been a black slave runaway perspective.  Hit me like 'Bond, James Bond".

As a student, Percival Everett played jazz and wrote term papers for other students to help pay his way.  Percival is an English professor at the University of Southern California.  His book, "Erasure"(2001) was adapted to the movie "American Fiction" (2023).

If you enjoy political and racial satire, you will love this book. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Cathedral of the Sea

 "Cathedral of the Sea" (2018) is set in medieval Barcelona.   Today some of us complain about inequality, but am largely unaware of  how far mankind has come.  And also we appreciate there are always some people who feel they are more  deserving.

The poorer class had it rough.  Work was hard and rewards slim. Bernat was a hard worker who resisted suggestions to get married, but when his father died he did get married.  The lord decided to exercise his rights over a new bride and ended up traumatizing her.  A child is born, but the lord demands Francesca breastfeed his own wife.  Bernat is upset he is separated from his son and takes drastic steps.  The result is he accidentally kills a guard and kidnaps his son.

On the run he contacts a sister who had married a successful businessman.  Bernat had given up his inheritance so that his sister could pay a dowry which in turn was used for her husband's investment.  Bernat does what he can for his child, but he is in hiding.

The next part of the story shifts to his son Arnau.  Arnau still faces  discrimination.  He proves to be a very capable leader, but still looked down upon by nobles.  There are many ups and downs.  A plague kills off much of the population and provides opportunities for the survivors.  Jews are blamed for the plague.  Arnau gets involved and picks up some key Jewish friends.  It is strange there is almost no mention of Muslims even though they were actually dominant in major parts of Spain 

Barcelona has proven to be one of the more alluring of locations.  Several films from different languages have felt Barcelona

This series commands your attention and here are some of the key people responsible.   

Jordie Frades was the director and an executive producer.  He has 26 credits as a director, 9 as a producer and 6 as an assistant director.

Ildefonso Falcones wrote the novel and worked on the script.  As a youngster he was a Spanish junior equestrian champion.  He quit shortly after as his father died.  He studied to be a lawyer and did set up a practice in Barcelona.  His first novel took 5 years, but future efforts were done quicker as he spent more time with his real passion of writing.  All his 5 novels were historical fiction.  He has two film credits for writing.

Federico Jusid composed the music.  Born in Argentina his musical career took him all over South and North America and Europe.  He wrote and performed as a pianist for the concert stage.  He has 133 composing and 47 music department credits.  His films include  "The Secret in Their Eyes" (2009), "7 Anos" (2016), "Neruda" (2016), "Twelve Year Night" (2018) and "Rest in Peace" (2024).   Check    Unnoticed by me at the time that film also represents Federico's one producing credit and it is one film I have used a story from on several occasions.

Teo Delgado was the cinematographer.  He has 90 cinematography credits and 40 credits for camera and electrical department and 5 as an actor.

Carlos J. Sanavia was the editor.  He has 20 credits as an editor.

Daniel Grao played Bernat Estanyol father to Arnau.  He has 78 acting credits including "Julietta" (2016).

Nathalie Pozo played Francesca, Bernat's wife.  She studied at the British bilingual school in Madrid.  She has 54 acting credits.  

Aitor Luna played the lead character, Arnau.  He has 30 credits.  

Pablo Derqui played Joan, the adopted brother of Arnau.  He has 63 acting credits including "Neruda" (2016).

Andrea Duro played Aledis who had a brief adulterous affair with Arnau.  She has 33 acting credits. 

Joseph Maria Pou played Sahat, a Jewish convert who help Arnau.  He has an extensive theatre career.  He has 130 film acting credits including "The Sea Inside" (2004) and "Blanieves" (2012).  Check that covers a range of Javier Bardem films.

Michelle Jenner plays Mar who was adopted by Arnau.   In her early days she dubbed foreign films representing kids.  She has 59 acting credits including "Julietta" (2016) and "Money Heist:  Berlin" (2023).

There is a sequel  "Heirs to the Land" that I intend to watch and blog about.  This series was very engaging.  Available on Netflix dubbed and subtitled.

The first mention of a film I have seen is bolded.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Queen of Tears

An unusual premise sets up the series.  A man is about to announce his desire for a divorce, but his wife first tells him she has been told she has three months to live.  Their back story is interesting.  They met at summer office  work.  He was strongly attracted to her, but seemed to feel  she would not be able to earn a living, but felt he was smart enough to earn money for the two of them.  In truth he was from a farming background, but really was smart enough to be a lawyer and earn lots of money.  On the other hand she was the grand daughter of a powerful corporate owner and actually was very competent.  Their love has many ups and downs including divorce..

Another theme is corporate corruption.  It is a common theme and one supposes most of us feel there is some basis for it.  The "Queen" refers to the name of the corporation.  It is easy to imagine there are rivalries and jealousies and certainly sycophants.. 

Flashbacks are common enough and in this series they are used effectively to give different perspectives of critical events.  One in particular makes a strong point that may catch a viewer off guard.

One criticism is the series is too long while others love the details and nuances (me).  It takes a top notch cast and crew to engage you over the series and they come through.  Here are some key ones.

Two directors share all 16 episodes.  Kim Hee-won has 8 directing credits, 2 for assistant directing and one for producing including "Crash Landing on You" ((2019-1020), "Vincenzo" (2021) and "Little Woman" (on my upcoming list).  Jang Young-woo has 9 directing credits, 3 for producing and 1 for assistant director also including "Crash Landing on You" (2019-2020).  Check

Park Ji-eun wrote the script.  Early in her career she wrote for radio talk shows.  She has 10 writing credits and 2 with additional crew including "Crash Landing on You" (2029-2020) that is one of my all time favorites.  Apparently "Queen of Tears" surpassed it in terms of online viewings up to 1.75 billion.

Kim Soo-hyun played the lead male, Baek Hyeon-woo.  He is popular not only in South Korea, but also China, Taiwan  and most eastern parts of Asia.  His mother had encouraged him to take acting lessons in school to help with his introverted personality  Soo-hyun is perhaps the top endorser for Korean cinema.  At one time he endorsed 17 products simultaneously and is now has over 35, including other nations.   He has 19 acting credits, 1 as a composer and one for a soundtrack  ("Queen of Tears" (2024).  Other credits including "The Thieves" (2012), "Miss Granny" (2014), "Crash Landing on You" (2019) and "It's Okay not to be Okay" (2020).  Check 

Kim Ji-won played the leading lady, Hong Hae-in.  She started as a singer.  She has 20 acting credits inluding "My Liberation Diary" (2022).  

Park Sung-hoon played the creepy, but sophisticated villain, Yoon Eun-seong.  Lots of theatre experience.  He has 23 acting credits including  "The  Glory" (2022-2023).

Jung Jin-young played the powerful Grandfather Hong Beam.  He has 56 acting credits including "The King and the Clown" (2005) and "The Good the Bad and the Weird" "(2008). 

Lee Mi-sook played Mo Seul-hee who you will all come to hate.  She had been one of the top three film stars in Korea during the 1980's, but quit in 1987 to get married.  Ten years later she resumed acting and has accumulated 49 film credits (very often as leading lady)

Sebastian Roche played a German doctor Dr. Braun.  From the age of 12 to 18 he lived on a sailboat with his parents and brothers traveling around the Mediterranean, Africa and South America.  He speaks French, English, German, Spanish and Italian.  He has appeared on American and French tv and altogether has 116 acting credits including "The Last of the Mohicans" (1992), "The Namesake" (2006) and "Safe House" (2012).

With such an outstanding cast and crew it has become so popular.  Available on Netflix subtitled and dubbed.  Highly recommend.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

With "Mai" Vietnam stretches for the global market

"Mai" (2024) represents an interesting film professionally done.  Although promoted as a romance it does not have a happy ending.  It has already been the top box office for a Vietnam film in the home country.  It is currently making strong efforts for North America.  

 Mai is an attractive woman in her thirties who is a masseuse.  New to an apartment complex with other men and women.  We also meet Duong, the spoiled son of a wealthy woman while he is having sex in a nearby apartment.  He takes a shine to Mai, but is repelled for a while.  A third party we meet by video phone is Binh Minh, a daughter about 20 years of age.  

Their massage is legitimate, but the women often have to deal with male customers who want extra services.  Mai is so innovative and good with massaging that the other women are losing business and resent it.  

Mai finally succumbs to Duong who is in his early twenties.  She has a past she doesn't want to talk about that has prevented her from getting too attached to any man and Duong is irresponsible and immature.  Nonetheless she falls for him and agrees to meet his family.  A big surprise is meeting his mother, Dao who she had already a good relationship with.  The rest of the film revolves around Dao's strong wish to break up the couple.  She is not against Mai and in fact is concerned she not marry her irresponsible son.

Duong has made an effort to be responsible, but his mother is clamping down.  He had a job playing the piano at a nightclub, but his mother forced him to be fired.  They do seem an odd pair, not for an age discrepancy, but personalities.  But our sympathy for the couple increases.  Be prepared for more surprises.

In the future you likely will hear of the cast and crew either from Vietnamese or other sources.  Here are some of the key ones.

Tran Thanh was the director, executive producer and co-editor.  He speaks Vietnamese, Cantonese and English. Tran has ben a very popular tv. host.  He took part in a video program for foreigners to learn Vietnamese.  As a very talented mimic he has been used to dub foreign animated films into Vietnamese.  He has 13 acting credits plus 3 for directing and 3 for editing.  

Thao Nguyen was a producer.  She has 10 producing credits, 7 for editing and 1 for camera and electrical department.  She produced a Korean film made in Vietnam, "The Roundup" (2022).

Nguyen Hoang Anh composed the music.  She had been a songwriter, arranger and music producer for top singers in Vietnam.  She has 30 composing credits.

Diep The Vinh was the cinematographer with 8 cinematography credits and 3 for the camera and electrical department.

Phuong Anh Dao played Mai.  She has 12 acting credits.  She is very memorable.

Tuan Tran played Duong.  He grew up in overty and at age 4 accompanied his mother when she sold lottery tickets.  He learned to play the piano for this role.  He has 7 acting credits.

Hong Dao played Duong's mother in a key role.  She was part of a comic duo performing in both Vietnam and the U.S.  She has 17 credits for acting including "Beef" (2023), an American series.  

Uyen An played Binh Minh., the daughter of Mai.  She is the sister of the director Tran Thanh who made her cut her hair to fit the role.  She has 2 acting credits.

A lot of us think of Vietnam as a war torn country, but in fat is modernizing and starting to produce films that will engage Western viewer.  Available sub-titled on Netflix.

Sunday, May 19, 2024


The strategy of most investment books is to leverage your resources to get more growth easier.  Whether one is conscious of it, pretty much all of us are looking for ways to get more benefits with less effort. 

I plead guilty.  Companies use their resources for the same thing.    Both companies and individuals have restrictions  Most of this history is based on the U.S.  Some of the trends are in Canada.  More directly we deal with many of the same companies.

An early example of misunderstood history comes from the Boston Tea Party of 1773.  We have been told that Boston citizens were outraged they were being taxed without representation.  The author gives another version.  The British East India Company had been given the right to transport tea to America without any taxes.  Independent businesses involved with tea were expected to pay taxes.  Thus the big British company would gain a big advantage over the little guy and virtually put them out of business.  By today's standards the Boston citizens dumped about one million dollars worth of tea which the British government demanded be repaid.  The Bostonions refused.

Thomas Jefferson was involved with both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution  At the time England was the only country that allowed protection for inventors.  Jefferson set a patent procedure up.  In effect inventions helped develop monopolies in that inventors after registering and describing their invention could sell to others.  Jefferson himself had been an inventor.  Check

A contrast to our western modern economy is provided by Richard Borsha Lee who spent two years studying the !Kung Bushmen in Botswana.  He learned the average Bushman spent a maximum of about 32 hours per week getting food.  With increasing automation it had been projected that the modern western man (or woman) would spend less and less time working and earn more money. 

Presidents like Republican, Theodore Roosevelt and Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt helped keep the middle class vibrant despite efforts to give the wealthy more power.  

In 1971, Lewis Powell wrote a confidential memo planned how the wealthy could gain more power and dominance.  His first priority was to penetrate the education system not only by favoring sympathetic staff and also at the textbook level to blunt progressive ideas.  Gaining control of the media was essential. He noted that the courts could have a strong influence and became a Supreme Court judge.  

A key element for conservatives in winning over the majority is to encourage distrust of the government

Ronald Reagan accelerated efforts to concentrate wealth.  Productivity was roughly linked to wage increases until Reagan's initiated changes.  Most famous for saying "Government is not the solution to our problem.  Government is the problem".   He was proud to break the Air Controllers Union and criticized unions in general.  He suspended the Fairness Act which had restrained misinformation.  Of course a reduction in taxes, especially for the wealthy.  He also championed de-regulations claiming they inhibited the economy, overlooking  the role they play in protecting consumers.  See

Fox News was considered an investment by deep conservatives.  Rupert Murdoch realized they would initially lose several hundred million dollars.  After five years they began to dominate news broadcasting, although eventually admitted they were an opinion network.  Criticizing the government, particularly Democrats is a major strategy.  Studies have shown that areas that have access to Fox do better for the Republicans than those areas that do not have access.

Donald Trump's again lowered taxes which not only dramatically increased the deficit, but also increased inequality.  De regulating was also very strong minimizing consumer protection.  He botched the Covid 19 pandemic for which many paid the ultimate price and also gave opportunities to big companies to take over small companies.   

Monopolies by concentrating wealth to a privileged minority increase inequality.  Some effects of inequality:  more teenage pregnancies, more crime, more obesity, lower rates of social and political engagement, more suicides, less empathy and altruism and ironically decreased worker productivity.

One concern of big business has been the cost of labor.  At one point some people were to take advantage of slave labor and legislated to protect the practice and fought a war to maintain it.  In modern times a few conservatives have advocated for private prisons and others in turn used prisoners as cheap labor, at a time when the U.S. seems to have a heavy percentage of prisoners a high percentage of which are minorities..

Governments have been accused of  monopoly and it is true.  The author feels one kind of monopoly that is good--a natural monopoly.  Examples are water, electricity and sewer services.  The public services have proved to be more efficient and reliable than private companies.  One example used is from Pacific Gas and Electric at its failure to maintain power lines in California thereby contributing to a forest fire that killed people.  The underlying factor was the profit motive. 

Here in Canada I see signs of similar efforts to develop concentrated wealth.  Pierre Poilievre is noted for his slogan "Axe the Tax".  First it seems like an effort to stop an effort to deal with climate change which would benefit fossil fuel providers.  Second it amounts to the theme that the government cannot be trusted.  He has no solution to climate change which will cost more as time goes by..

What can be done?  Individuals have a vote and buying power that may seem inadequate, but do have a cumulative effect.  It is really the government that can make changes.  The majority should have voting leverage with taxes that are supposed to be progressive.  The author thinks the core problem is a relative lack of competition and suggests laws need to be modified to limit how big a company is allowed to get.  The voting system does make a difference.  I have blogged on proportional representation in Canada and elsewhere, but the American system could also be made to better reflect what the voters really want.  Check

Corporations are run by investors, but there are other stakeholders that should be given a voice.  Workers are obvious even though unions do negotiate wages and working conditions, they don't have any voting power.  The community where the corporation is located has a big stake, but usually has little say in corporation decisions.

In reality one way or another there will be a breakup of the status quo, but it may not be nice.  Check

This book is only 147 pages, but packs a lot more than should be summarized.  Well worth the reading.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Action Films" Fantasy Vs. Realism

With all my movie reviews I have avoided action films.  To me they do not seem realistic, but I recognize that my adrenaline is flowing and the tension can be enjoyable.  Film can be realistic, but most people watch for enjoyment.  My contention is that too much action is not good for realism or enjoyment.

"Bullitt" (1968) with Steve McQueen and a few years later "The French Connection"  (1971) with Gene Hackman had innovative dynamic car chases and I was open for more.  I watched a few lesser action films and I couldn't resist "Face/Off" (1997) that had an interesting story about one criminal hiding behind plastic surgery.  A bonus was an elaborate chase scene.  It started as car chase and then transitioning to even more precarious airplane chase and boat chase scenes.  It was contrived and ridiculous.  The director John Woo learned film making in Hong Kong and established himself with ultra violent movies.  It was tense until they added on the extras.  I am sure others saw the added segments as an exciting bonus.

A year or two ago my wife and I latched onto "The Blacklist" (2013-2023) that we mostly watched a streamed version. until the last year.  Every episode had at a minimum at least one automatic guns shooting  Also a fair amount of hand combat and sometimes stunt driving and explosions.  The attraction was criminal conspiracies with global connections that never seemed to end.

More recently two films caught my attention.  

"Vagabond" (2024) is a Korean series pairing a stuntman and a National Security officer up against a very elaborate conspiracy which turned out to be evern more elaborate.  The plot was intriguing and I liked the two lead characters as well as one of the villains.  Naturally there were loads of explosions rapid shooting and more martial fighting.  I did enjoy, but for me the action dragged on more than necessary.

"13 Bombs" (2024) was promoted as the most expensive film from Indonesia.  Obviously they wanted to be considered major league and naturally action played a critical role.  It was expensive because they blew up lots of buildings.  Lots of gun fighting as well.  A unique feature was the role of crypto currency and that the heroes were actually naive young adults, but it did make some sense.  I have watched a number of Indonesian films and felt they were making progress. Now I feel they have been sidetracked

Robert J. Sawyer. is one whose science books were thought provoking and enjoyable.  At a local presentation he commented that he was grateful that a few of his books were picked up by film studios.  He did not include explosions in his writing, but found the film adaptations included lots of them.

Once a viewer gets used to a level of violence it takes more action  to reach the same level of excitement.  Satiety demands more stimulus.  Do action films encourage societal violence?  It depends, but it must be admitted too much is not good.  Violence does exist and it is not desirable to turn your back on it.  War and crime exist and if it is far away we can ignore it.  Denying violence makes you vulnerable.

Chaz Ebert mentioned that her husband Roger felt movies allow you to walk in the shoes of others and to empathize.  Might fantasizing yourself in the shoes of an action hero (or villain) help you better understand or enjoy the experience?  Check

This post is my opinions.  I try to keep a middle ground and see a need to have balance.  When I feel the action is not making a point I tend to turn away, but sometimes it is too exciting.  Sex, romance and mystery are other attractive features to absorb.   What you enjoy with watching films is your choice; I just suggest films I have enjoyed.  Hopefully I haven't steered you wrong.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

"Postcards" combines Bollywood and Nollywood

The promise of combining Bollywood and Nollywood seemed too interesting to pass.  Indeed "Postcards" (2024) was a successful experiment that can be enjoyed.

The first episode or two puts emphasis on Nollywood and Bollywood dancing.  It provides an excuse for one Nigerian dancer getting a chance to get into Bollywood musicals.  By coincidence his mother is sent to India for medical treatment.  She has an estranged brother in India.  An Indian doctor for the single mother is married to a Nigerian.  The series is well developed to a happy ending. 

Series have the advantage of developing more complex plots and characters.  In real life it is fascinating how we al connect.

Some key people  include the following:

Hamisha Daryani Ahuja was the director, writer and one of the producers.  She is part of a third generation Nigerian family born to an Indian origin family.  She studied at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario and later at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York.  She has 2 directing credits, 2 writing credits and one for acting.  Both films involved co-operation between Bollywood and Nollywood.

The music was credited to Prajatantra which turned out to be a team of two experienced composers, Akuh Prajapati and Rakshit Thantry.

Sola Sobowale played Aunt Bunmi the single mother.  She has been the winner of regional African acting awards.  She has 100 acting credits and 3 for producing.

Richard Molte-Damijo played the estranged (wealthy) brother.  He had been involved with journalism and also a politician.  He had 127 acting credits.

Some of the other actors included Rajniesh Duggall, Tobi Bekre, Rahama Sadau and Nancy Isime,

I have noticed rather low ratings, but i strongly disagree thinking perhaps the initial episodes seemed too similar to popular cheesy films.  As with all good series the introduction is just to set up some of the plot and some of the character development that later will fit into a more serious theme.  On Netflix with occasional subtitles, but mostly in English.  One noteworthy line is when one character tries to communicate and is told "We had the same colonizer.  Speak English." 

While trying to organize the above post I watched another Nigerian movie, "Afamefuna" (2023).  It is a movie  that impressed me.

It starts off with a murder mystery with the main character being interrogated.  We go back to the history of the accused and the victim which turns out to be very complicated.  In effect one man had taught the other a business that required manual work and selling at the beginning and lead to trading.  

Stick around and you will see an incredible love story.

Nigeria is one of the top three film producers in the world and have gained a lot of experience.  Before the growth of cinemas and long before streaming was accessible, DVD's were a popular platform for films.

Kayode Kasum was the director.  In his early career he was a motion graphic designer and later worked with advertisers.  He likes to use three languages on his films--English, Pidgin English and  an African dialect.  He has 29 directing credits and 9 for producing.

Stan Nze played the title character, Afamefuna. He had a degree in computer science.  He was involved in a project to develop acting among children 8 to 13 years.  He has 123 acting credits and 7 as producer.

Atlanta Bridget Johnson played Amalka, the boss's daughter and the love interest of two men.  She was born in Zimbabwe, but was raised mostly in Nigeria.  To get started as an actress she moved to South Africa where she did stage work.  She has 2 acting credits plus has done a music video.

Alexx Ekudo played Paul who trained Afamefuna and is the murder victim we were introduced to at the beginning.  He has a diploma in law.  He also has 109 acting credits.

Segun Arinze plays the police interrogator.  His career started as a singer.  He has been an acting coach and has been involved with African Film Festivals.  He has 192 acting credits.

"Afamefuna" is available on Netflix with English and subtitles for Igbo.

As the Nigerian cinema continues to develop it should be easier to get information at the level available for other national cinemas.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Why do so many Arabs oppose Palestine Occupation?

On the surface the title is absurd.  Why does anybody oppose occupation and its companion, humiliation?

The occupation has a long history.  The Jews were expelled close to 2,000 years ago and not by the Arabs. They suffered wherever they went.  Some felt the only way to alleviate their misery was their own state.  They organized as Zionism and gathered support.  World War II heightened the pressure, not only by Jews wanting to escape, but also a guilty group of nations who in some ways had contributed to the Holocaust.  

At the same time Arabs were realizing national aspirations.  Some had increased their leverage with vital natural resources.  In Palestine, Arabs had contributed to the Allies.  Going back to World War I we learned that T.E. Lawrence had organized Arabs to help defeat the Turks.  

In 1948 the original intent was to establish two separate states.  The Arabs were resentful feeling Palestine was theirs and in fact they dominated the population.  The disputes seemed to go the way of Israel.  In truth they were fearful of the Arabs.  Fortunately for them they were able to have political, military and financial support for their security.  

One could say the Arabs were greedy, selfish, nationalistic, but should that be a surprise?  They wanted what a lot of western nations now take for granted after their own struggles.

Naturally the Israelis were fearful of the Arabs and set up strong defensive systems.  America has given them hundreds of millions of dollars for military equipment and been quick to shut down any efforts at the United Nations to promote Arab interests in Palestine.

Jewish immigration has made Israel stronger, but if they were to expand to more natural borders for Palestine they would be outnumbered by Arabs.  

What has the occupation been like?  Israel is partially dependent on cheap Arab labor.  Arab resistance  can result in imprisonment and shootings.   

The politics of Israel have evolved in large part around keeping Arabs under control.  We in the West have mostly heard their version.  The Arabs have been constantly pictured as violently unreasonable.

In America one group of voters who have helped decide who controls their government are labeled Evangelicals.  They are not uniform, but a strong core believes that for the second coming to happen Israel must be controlled by the Jews.  In close election their support has been crucial and very few American politicians are willing to risk offending them.  Lately more Muslims and Arab sympathizers have supported Palestinian yearnings.  They are still pretty much a minority, but have been able to stir up idealistic people (especially youth) who see the situation a little differently.  They are mocked and criticized.  Both sides feel the other side is ill informed.

Many voters think Joe Biden is a big part of the problem.  He still is committed to Israeli independence, but made the suggestion that some variation of a two state solution should be in the works.  Plus humanitarian considerations are more prominent this time.  Some seem to feel if Donald Trump were in power the situation would soon by rectified..

Donald Trump has already contributed to the mess.  During his initial campaign he threatened to stop Muslim immigration and once elected tried to implement that policy.  He decided that it would be a good idea to put the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.  The White House felt it unnecessary to consult with the Palestinians.  The resistance concluded that political solutions for their ambitions were a waste of time.  As Bernie Sanders said "Talking nice doesn't work."  

Netanyahu is correct when he says that most Palestinians support Hamas.  It may be reasonable to suppose that most people wold like to avoid violence, but most people have a breaking point.  Netanyahu has a history of trying to dominate Democrat politicians and they have been accept Israeli settlers.  He would prefer that Trump win the next election.  For himself another concern is his own future.  Polls suggest he would lose an election and he would likely be prosecuted and sent to jail.   Who would replace him seems very likely to be even more anti Palestinian.

In Palestine, Israel seems to have some control over the West Bank which is perceived as weak by Arabs who want more changes.  Hamas is considered extreme, but they have gained a lot of sympathy from their fellow citizens who felt more humiliation, not just in Gaza, but also in the West Bank.  Mahmoud Abbas, the P.L.O. leader may seem ineffective, but has his own reasons to maintain power.

David Petraeus expressed a concern that his military activities created as many terrorists as he killed.  That concern does not appear to have much weight with the Israelis who feel their security is dependent on suppressing the Palestinians.    

Our obsession over the Middle East has proved to be a great diversion from Russian aggression against Ukraine.  Putin would be content for the Mid-East conflict to continue.

How can the situation be fixed?  Not easily and not quickly is my first thought.  Expectations are important, but realistically more people need a deeper understanding.  There is nothing strange about the resistance of the Palestinians and their desire for independence.  Also there is nothing strange about the fear felt by the Jews in Israel who feel under attack not only by Arabs, but also by much of the rest of the world. 

Whatever legal constructs might be created the underlying requirement is to build trust.  There are a few people on both sides of the issue trying to do that in different ways.  Sports and entertainment provide some opportunities, but takes time.  Recently learned of a group called Jerusalem Youth Choir integrating  both Arabs and Jews which encouraged me to buy a tune from iTunes.  More substantial opportunities might include climate change, pollution and international crime where everyone stands to lose.   Mis- information is prevalent on all sides.  Politicians take a lead from voters, but some courageous ones lead the voters.  Yuval Noah Harriri, a Jewish intellect is one person of stature who advocates for the Palestinians.  The problem really revolves around humans. 

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Strained represents a step forward for Nigerian Cinema

Nigeria has a big population and important economic resources.  They have a history o film making.

It might be fair to say they have emphasized quantity more that quality.  They are second in films produced to India.  They have been developing the necessary skills to develop quality.

"Strained" (2023) deals with an all too human situation.  A misunderstanding from childhood.  There have been films and books about mothers abandoning their families.  The story is recurring enough that most of the time the act is the result of an abusive husband.  It takes a fair amount of abuse.  In some such cases the wife is able to take her children with her, but many times it was not prractial.  Children often do not understand and blame their mothers for the misery that follows 

You may have seen a few variations on this theme and there are not really many unique features.  In this film it is the husband who supports his mother in law.  A family problem to do with a business trip that forces the need for some help to mind the new baby.  The husband's sister is not able to help and out of desperation the hated mother comes.  We are very sympathetic to her.  They clash over breast feeding with the older women favoring it while her daughter uses a breast pump.  Diet is a source of conflict.  The situation does indeed smooth over a bit, but the mother upsets her daughter over a misjudgment.   While this was going on a close friend of the daughter had marital problems and evenutally both women helped resolve the situation. 

You feel the tension between the two women because of the two actors (with believable script and able direction).

Most of the films out of Nigeria have mass appeal, but this film requires more of a sophisticated audience.  There are a lot people with experience and exposed to foreigners the level diversity rises.  

The director, editor and producer, Okechukwo Oku has a varied background  The son of a promiment musician he was familiar with show business.  He directed, produced and musically performed with several music videos.  He has 29 credits as a cinematographer, 27 as a director 21 as editor and 4 as producer.

Onyinyechukwu Amadi was the writer.  She has 4 writing credits.   

Onyebeat with 5 credits provided the music.

Austin Ezeh was the cinematographer.  He has 10 credits as cinematography and 7 for the camera and electrical department.  Also had 2 acting credits. 

Tracey George played Eberle.  She has 9 acting crdits and one for Costume Department.

 Three other key actors were Padita Agu, Samuel Nnabuike and Queen Nwakoye.

 Available on Netflix in English with a minor subtitles for Igbo language.   There will be another post on Nigerian cincema in a few days.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Student Unrest

News outlets are prioritizing  student riots in the U.S., Canada and Europe.  Brings back some memories and forced me to examine my perspective.  One concession is that violent protests do get attention.  Even many liberals are upset, but perhaps not as much as conservatives.  I like to think I am progressive, but feel a bit pushed.

As a teenager and young adult Israel was perceived as under assault  and doing many good things.  A little later  I became related to Muslims and had opened my mind to more information.  The more information pointed to different perspectives.  The Mid East has all my life seemed violent, but I had other priorities.

As always there have been agitators and opportunists.  Before October 7th the big news for me was the aggression of Russia against Ukraine and I was conscious of a horrible situation in Sudan.  Since then attention has been diverted to the outrages of Homas.  Truly there have been outrages and continue to be.  In America for some reason Donald Trump, deservedly out of office stirred up political support for the Russians and tried to prevent American support for the Ukrainians.  At the same time China and Iran lent military aid to Russia.  So those true enemies of democracy were pleased that attention was diverted.  Are they evil enough and smart enough to have engineered such a diversion?  

Would they welcome student protests?  Would they want to stir things up a bit?  At this stage my suspicions have nothing to justify them.  It is well known that non students have joined the protests.  Some share the concerns, others like the disruptions for their own reasons.

Joe Biden has noted that settlers have been provoking.  He even went so far to suggest a two state solution would be a goal.  The newscasts seemed fixed on how authorities can cope with the protest violence with a few reminders that hostages are still at risk. 

A much expressed concern is anti-Semitism.  It is likely that some bigots will use this opportunity to express their bigotry while many have also expressed Islamaphobia.  Prejudice is a human trait and can be amplified under stress.  Undoubtedly anti-Semitism is part of these protests, but should not be allowed to avoid the real issues.  

On October 9th I wrote a blog and since then the situation has worsened.  My thoughts then:

I don't know all the reasoning that has set some students at odds with authorities, but I have a few sympathetic thoughts .  There is greater awareness that Palestinians are not free.  Students are woke to the idea that Palestine is also under assault. There is distrust and fear on both sides.  The way to power has been to keep the Arabs under stiff control.  Benjamin Netanyahu is by no means the most adamant about not allowing a two state solution.  Netanyahu is a smart statesman who was able to negotiate with other parties to construct a coalition, but realizes that concessions to the Arabs could break the coalition.  I don't really understand how his corruption has created a desire for an election.  I would fear who would replace him, most likely someone even more hard line.  

The White House is conscious that some concessions need to be made for the non terrorist Arabs, but are restricted not just by legalities, but by diplomatic conventions.  Netanyahu fears what will happen when the conflict ends.  Many Israelis think the only solution is to get rid of all the Palestinians.

The protesters feel more must be done.  Sending military aid only supports abusers and will lead to unnecessary deaths.  Several years ago there was a movement to boycott Israel and a counter movement against that.  Read more:   In fact there are a lot of American investments in Israel including from universities and that is one of the tools students are wanting to use.

Hamas is the result of inaction and abuse.  They have support and power because the Palestinian cause has been ignored and abused.  Violence was integral to building Israel.  Netanyahu is using the violence to cling to power

As a student I read and was influenced by what would be considered "radical" opinions but was too locked into the status quo.  I do remember doing some minor protesting when the Chancellor of the University of Guelph, a former Premier of Ontario said something that offended our student president.  I don't remember what it was about and a year or so later I accepted my degree from this same person.  Getting a job and settling down proved more of a challenge.  I learned politics is very manipulative, but found little to do about it.

I agree hate speech should be illegal.  At the same time politicians of all sorts have been very careful to avoid speaking many truths.  Right now Trump is doing what he can to stir up hatred and complaining about how a gag order restricts his free speech.  Freedom of speech is essential, but to be successful requires open minds on all sides.

My hope is that student protests will help improve things in the long run.  Thinking back to the Vietnam War (had met one draft dodger) student protests were one factor in making Republicans realize the war should be ended.