Thursday, January 18, 2018

What happens to farm animals when humans convert to veganism

I am not a vegan or a vegetarian, but like some others have been consciously reducing my meat intake.  Why is that?  Health is a concern and veganism has lot to commend itself.  Animal cruelty bothers an increasingly urban population.  Economics will trump everything when the price of meat increases faster than average incomes.  In addition livestock are a very significant contributor to global warming.   Read about a partial vegan diet, http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2013/11/vb6-vegan-before-6.html

Attitudes towards animals varies a great deal depending on whether you are urban or rural.  One of my jobs helped me appreciate the differences:   http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2011/06/rural-and-urban-contrasts-towards-pets.html

The bigger trend has been as people do have more money they prefer to eat meat.  Flavour, prestige and protein all factor in.  At the same  time that urbanization encourages senstiviy for animal cruelty it also desensitizes citizens removed from their ancient farming history.

Industrial farming has found ways to breed more animal on less real estate and converting forest resources to farming which is increasingly for grains to feed animals.   We are not getting our calories and proteins in the most economically efficient way.  For the wealthy it doesn't matter, but increasingly for the rest of us it will matter.

Unless demographic trends and attitudes change it is inevitable that meat will eat up more of our financial resources and once again become a luxury item.  If we get better control over fossil fuel's contribution to climate change, someone is sure to notice that farm animals are a huge contributor.

What will we do with the excess number of pigs, cows, sheep, etc?  Working with pet people concerned about homeless cats I learned of  neutering programs.  Feral cats were captured, neutered and then released  We don't really want a lot of pigs and cows running around the streets, but possibly a few will be seen as pets.  There has also been a trend to stop animals being tested for chemicals and behaviour.

There is much concern about over population in the world and that refers almost exclusively to humans.  We pollute, waste resources.  Throw in overpopulated animals and we have to find ways to control our finite resources.  Of course someone will pipe up and say as we need to we will find a way.

There will be a sort of war at a bacterial level.  Wild animals and pets  and domestic farm animals have all played a role in human diseases. Hunters are given an opportunity to kill animals when authorities determine there are too many.

Just throwing out some ideas about what is likely to draw more attention in coming years.

Notie to my regular readers.

sorting out a domain hosting issue and may have a couple of days where you'll only be able to reach the blog via johnfdavidson.blogspot.com


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Starting 2018 in New Zealand


During my time in New Zealand Canada has been undergoing a cold spell as well as a lot of snow.  I am wearing shorts as I write this, because I would look pretty foolish in long pants. this is not just in resort areas, but downtown.

The first two days of the year most businesses are shut down.  We explored a number of sites in Auckland.  right near our son's residence is Mt Wellington which you can drive up about 2/3 of the way where they have created a parking lot in the crater.  We climbed a little higher and got a view.  Met a visitor from Cape Town.  We visited the Michael J Savage Memorial which we had last seen in winter.  We visited a rose garden and then the Winter Gardens.  A visit to a Chinese restaurant Cafe BBQ Duck with the fastest service and good food.  Checked out downtown and to the waterfront.  Western Springs is one of my favourite spots with a variety of birds.  Eel might not be thought of in anything less than squirmy feelings, but visitors feed them and enjoy watching them.

A trip to Hamilton, New Zealand was originally planned as a sort of namesake exploration, however attempts to find a T shirt with Hamilton on it failed and I settled for a hat.  On the plus side we took more photos at the Hamilton Gardens than at any other venue on the whole trip.  We ate at Iguana.  On  a Side trip to Pokeno found the best ice cream deal.

 A trip furthest up north on New Zealand.  Found a used book store and found a long sought for book in Whangerai.  Another interesting restaurant--Shiraz--also bought some sweets including ladoo which I only heard of from the movie "English Vlingish"

A bucket list item was to attend a Maori concert and hangi.  Rain threatened to spoil the fun, but in the end it was even better.  Mr Busby entertained us with  a tour of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and later for the hangi feast.  Two performances were great..  There was a lot of rain and also a power failure, but it was handled very well.  The second half of the second concert was in the eating area with an inspiring song to end.  The photo at the top is the two of us posing with some of the performers.  We were urged to talk to strangers and had good conversations with a couple from Perth Australia and from Germany.  The original treaty was signed and enforced under deception, but in fact the Maoris were seeking protection from other foreign nations and wanted to boost trade.  The British were not too concerned that not all chiefs signed as they felt they only needed a few to take sovereignty.

Paihia, only one night, but at a great motel--Admiral's View Motel  the next day was rainy and blustery and we had to cancel our cruise.  Weather has been kind to us, but any traveler risks having the weather intervene.  We could be home shovelling snow.

Back to our Auckland base we ended up with a new experience for us at the Genghis Khan Mongolian BBQ Buffet.  Many of my readers have probably had a similar experience, but if you haven't look for one nearby.  You get to select a wide variety of items to be stir fried.  The one we visited was in Manukau City. A train ride into downtown Auckland leads to a most entertaining walk up and down Queen St which could be favourably compared to Toronto's Yonge St.

The Maritime Museum gave a history of boats from the Maori migrations to New Zealand winning the America's Cup.  Large (and small) boats on display.  Saturday night at the Pakuranga Mall was quite the experience.  More packed than the previous Saturday.  This time had Malaysian street food and a Japanese crepe.

We were told to get up early Sunday morning and that there was a restaurant reservation for 1:00pm.  We guessed wrong. First stop was strawberry picking.  Next we spent time at a reserve in Muriwai where we were mesmerized with a colony of gannets that seemed to soar on unique currents. A para sailor was inspired and amazed us with how high he could sail in the wind.

The 1:00 reservation was another unique restaurant experience.  At Sun World Chinese Restaurant in Newmarket carts were brought around to a table and you chose  which items to eat.  I am not sure of every delicious thing I ate, but for the first time I tried chicken feet which were enjoyable.  This was Hayley's gift telling us she remembered her grandparents liked to dine like this on Sundays.

Afterwards we visited Mt Eden and later One Tree Hill with spectacular views.  They remind us that Auckland is built on volcanoes.

One of our holiday habits is to eat mostly at restaurants and for dinner we chose a Mexican restaurant called Mexico at the Sylvia Park Mall and afterwards took in a movie.  We were still full from dinner and I had been told that Mexican restaurants in New Zealand were not really very Mexican, but we were all pleased.

On our last full day in Auckland Michael delivered on his Christmas present which was a dinner at the Sky City Tower restaurant, Orbit.  Heights frighten me, but the view was terrific.  The Sky City Tower is not nearly as tall as the CN Tower, but it has one feature that attracts attention:  Jumpers.  We saw about 3 while we were there, but only for about a second.  The food was among the best we ate anywhere, anytime.  Below the dining level we indulged in what is becoming a favourite flavour, feijoa-pear sorbet by Kapiti.

Last day still another new experience.  We were driven to Mt Eden and had a Chinese noodle dinner and after that we went to Huluku Bubble Tea where you were given the choice of various teas with various condiments-- I had a Mango slushy milk tea with lychee jelly--wonderful.

My favourite restaurants tend to be Asian and New Zealand has more than its share.  That means I got to practice my chop stick technique.  Still pretty crude, but I make it work although it does also help slow down my fast eating.

The feijoa fruit has become a new obsession for me.  Apparenlty the actual fruit is only available for a limited time and I have missed that limited time.  In the meantime I have eaten it as an ingredient in cereal, drinks, pastry, sorbet (really distinctively good) and even a sparkling wine.

Reading has always been an important part of my vacations.  I finished a Jane Austen book and then bought "See you In September' by Charity Norman and while waiting for some other books started "The Husband's Secret," by Liane Moriarty.   After picking up two more Charity Norman books I started "Freeing Grace."

Traveling back and forth across 18 (or is it 16 depending on who is on daylight savings) time zones, as well as changing hemispheres is energy draining.  Actually watched the Toronto Raptors live on tv win in overtime before leaving for the Auckland airport.  The trip home seemed drudgery, but not without movies, some interesting conversations, some reading.  Our shuttle driver Caesar was back with his sense of humour.  Apparently he had been away almost as long as us and missed most of the really bad weather.

Now back to reality, but with a lot of good memories and souvenirs.  My favourite souvenirs are the photos.

For the first part of our trip in 2017 check  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2018/01/ending-2017-in-new-zealand.html

2017 Another year to remember

The main purpose of the year end blog is to savour all the good times.  It might seem strange to start off with some obituaries, but it is my way of remembering people who impacted my life in a positive manner.

Katherine Finn, mother to Barry Finn, and a former boss of mine.  She was a peacemaker and an animal lover  After we had parted company (she played no role in that) I was very stunned at a surprise 60th birthday party I received a well thought out gift--ironically a book from Stuart McLean.  She will be missed.  Her obit:unary https://obittree.com/obituary/ca/ontario/caledonia/miller-funeral-chapel-limited/katherine-finn/2947954/

Stuart McLean is someone I remember listening to on the radio.  At first as a guest on Peter Gzowski's show.  In the beginning he seemed to be telling funny stories, but in a way that made them funnier.  Later I caught onto the Vinyl Cafe.  Once I was able to attend one of his traveling shows when it hit Hamilton Place.  Another thing from the radio and this one live appearance was that he was always trying to give new talent a chance.  He first encountered the female singing duo, Dalla when they were busking.

Glen Campbell died after suffering Alzheimer's  I am not much of a country music fan, but I spent my last two years of high school in a rural area and more critically went to the University of Guelph with a heavy contingent of Aggies, some of whom became friends and it was a Sunday nite ritual to watch Glen.  It was impossible not to enjoy him.


Around the Bay Race 5 km.  Sharon with the encouragement of our son has taken a liking to running.  This year OKD sponsored a team and she joined.   8 minutes from back of the pack to the starting line

Gwynne Dyer, my favourite newspaper columnist was at Hamilton Public Library link  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/04/gwynne-dyer.html


I missed most of Doors Open Hamilton because of time conflicts.  A highlight I did manage to see was the Digital Canaries Film Studio.  They provided sets for tv shows and movies.  They had a mock White House for interviews.  Also mock court room, jail cells, hospital rooms, etc.

Michael and Haley visited us from New Zealand.   Michael made several out of town visits with Haley to show some of the more interesting points in Ontario (and New York and Washington).  We had several family gatherings.  One of the hi-lites for me was provided by my daughter Heather when as a part of a family dinner she included a marshmallow roast.  Another pleasant surprise was a meal prepared by Michael and Hayley to thank their hosts.

MM Robinson Get Together is getting to be an enjoyable routine.  7 members turned 65 this year and decided to celebrate together.  Guests came from South Carolina, Washington State and different parts of Ontario

Super crawl was mostly (not entirely)missed because of a prior commitment, but was as busy as ever.

Took in "A Few Good Men" at Theatre Aquarius

The AGH BMO Film Fesitval--watched the trailer show and one film, "Lady MacBeth."

My Superwalk for Parkinson's Canada was a little more successful (thanks to some Facebook friends).  I had my photo taken by a fountain in Gage Park that an old friend Don Herouxhad had done some fundraising for.

The Royal Winter Fair provided a moment I cherish.  Several years ago I met Shelley Peterson in Collingwood when she was just launching her writing career with a young adult novel for horse riders.  Not much contact in the meantime, but it turned out she had written the tenth novel in the series and was launching it at the Royal.  I came down to take a photo for The Rider.  First I had a brief chat with her husband David, former Premier of Ontario.  When she first saw me she remembered we had met in Collingwood ten years ago.

We decided to visit Michael for the Christmas holidays.  Getting used to a southern hemisphere holiday meant to a bit of an adjustment.  Just so, New Zealand is such a beautiful country and we were fortunate Michael wanted to show it off and Haley was very supportive.  It is beautiful (and warm).  Lots of highlights, both natural and manmade.  Read more at:   http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2018/01/ending-2017-in-new-zealand.html

Instead of hosting a New Years Eve party (a tradition of 20 some odd years) we enjoyed the music and fireworks at Sky City in Auckland.

Restaurants--  In case anyone visits Hamilton these are a few of my favourite restaurants that I enjoyed.  Limoncello on Ottawa St.,   Gate of India, Wild Orchid, Lake Road, and further down James St S  Wass with Ethiopian cuisine and Bar on Lock.  A new one for me was Spring Grill, a Korean restaurant on Upper James.

In New Zealand in one day two restaurants highly recommend:  In Tauranga we tried Thai Thani2 and were pleased with both the service and the food.  A few hours later we were at Kumar's in Paeroa and were struck with the service and the food. Musashi in Milford and Portofino in Howick were both delicious and had really good service.

Watching movies are one my favourite activities.  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/12/2017-great-year-for-movies.html

Books take more energy, but also can give a good reward.   Here are some my favourites for the year:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/12/enjoyable-reads-from-2017.html

My two most popular blog posts were book reviews.  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/02/underground-airlines.html  and
http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/02/white-trash.html

This post was delayed while I finished my vacation in New Zealand (more on that next year and with a separate post.  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2018/01/ending-2017-in-new-zealand.html  Much thanks to Chelsea Rolph taking care of our house and more importantly Oscar and Izzy.

You can read my year end review from last year.  
http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/01/looking-back-on-2016.html

Ending 2017 in New Zealand

We had planned for almost half a year for a trip to New Zealand to spend our Christmas  holidays  with our son.  Getting somewhere is always a part of the story.

A big part of the trip is the weather.  Global warming or climate change has become part of our lives, but even so as winter approached us in Canada we were hopeful we might not have to deal with the snow and the cold.  A fairly mild fall seemed promising, but remembering other years we decided rather than chance a risky trip to the Toronto Airport we would spend the nite before in a Toronto hotel and take a shuttle over.  As it turned out our instincts saved us from a high tension drive to the airport and shovelling and freezing.

We woke up on the second day of official winter to a fairly heavy snow storm.  A much better trip to the airport came with the Comfort Inn shuttle.  The driver had a good sense of humour.  We arrived good and early.  We thought we had things under control by going through security well ahead of time,but it turned out we got confused before realizing our boarding gate was in the opposite direcion requiring a lengthy walk involving two flights of down escalators and two flights of up escalators.  A five hour flight was delayed about an hour and was a trial run for our trip across the Pacific.


Arriving in Vancouver we met an old friend, Bob Stone.  I have told many that my closest friend lived over 3,000 miles away.  I met Bob a little before grade 7 with Cub Scouts that neither of us belonged to for very long.  Our friendship really developed in grade seven, but in high school we went to different high schools, then I moved for two years to a rural area about a two hour drive away.  At the time of the move we had quarrelled and it seemed like that was the end of it all.  Bob was very disciplined and had bought a car while still in high school to have his own independence.  He drove and I hitch-hiked (http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2012/02/hitch-hiking-memories.html) and our friendship survived.   When it came time to choose universities he chose Queen's (for its engineering program) and I chose Guelph because it seemed to have a unique system.  We kept in touch and for a year or two he actually occasionally visited me while he really visited his girl friend Adrianne who attended Waterloo.  She eventually transferred to Queen's.  We spent a lot of adventures together which might be a subject for another set of blogs.  After I graduated my first job was in in Barrie, Ontario and I ended up boarding with Adrianne's parents.

We each were the other's best man when we got married. Years later Bob ended up in Vancouver while my life revolved around Ontario.  Years pass and contact thinned out.  A brief revival when our son Michael went to University of Victoria on Vancouver Island.   For one of our visits Bob actually was working on Vancouver Island and for another he ferried over to Nanaimo and we had a trip together to Tofino with an interesting side trip at Bob's suggestion to  Coombs.         .

All this to make our meeting in Vancouver a little more meaningful for us.  Adrianne trying to get ready for Christmas (it was on December 22nd) joined us at the airport and helped guide us to a Bill Reid sculpture that used to be on the Canadian $20 bill.  Visiting them years earlier I had been interested in the Haida culture and later on one of our trips to visit our son we had seen the sculpture. Anyhow that was mostly an excuse to catch up.

The Vancouver Airport impressed us as at first it seemed more casually friendly but had a lot of unique features including a Haida theme that still interested me.  The stop over lasted a few hours, but we next launched the trip across the Pacific.

My experience traveling is fairly limited, but Air New Zealand made an aggravating long, inevitably cramped flight into a positive part of the trip.  Every airplane has the problem of finite space limiting their ability to make a profit.  Air New Zealand worked hard to provide a positive experience.  Their staff was most helpful.  We enjoyed the food and the wine included in the fare.  I had watched the web site and looked forward to watching a number of movies.  In the end I was only able to watch three.  After psyching myself to watch the movies I was at first put off that my seat which we upgraded to have more leg room didn't have a seat in front of it to provide a screen on the back of it.  It turned out that by hiding a flatscreen (and also an eating tray) in the left arm rest I was able to see my movies.  On an air flight there has to be communication with the flight staff and several times our viewing was interrupted to give us some useful information.   Their inflight safety instructions are based on a humorous video.  We had a few interesting conversations with the staff and one fellow passenger, Tom who was visiting his sister in Wellington.  He was from England, but had been living in Vancouver for about a year.

Some of the first things we visited were at natural parks in Auckland.  We visited areas called reserve and went for a walk.  Haley pointed what locals call New Zealand Christmas trees. Much closer to my son's is the Panmure Basin.  More trees, birds and we stumbled on a very nice hotel. (a future resource?).

Christmas in the southern hemisphere presents some challenges.  A lot of our northern themes are based on snow and early darkness.  Conseuqently few Christmas lights are seen but Michael took us to a neighbourhood that has taken up the challenge--Franklin St in the downtown area. A lot of creativity on display.


Christmas was a quiet private affair.  Sharon and I agreed this trip was our present for each other.  We had brought a few gifts from back home.

I wasn't sure if they celebrated Boxing Day, but they certainly do. Sharon and I ended up at Sylvia Park Mall and it was crowded.  We ended up buying gifts for two nieces and one future nephew as well as ourselves and a few others.  Very impressive mall.

Next we were driven to Tauranga (fifth largest city in New Zealand) with a few interesting stops along the way.  Owharoa Falls and an Oceana Gold abandoned minefield in Wahi. Two great reastarant experiences.  Bought some souvenirs. Only went up Mt Maunaganui part way and marvelled at the sheep grazing.  In Tauranga itself we found Thai Thani 2 near the water with very good food and service.  Later in Paeroa we felt ignored in our first restaurant and moved further down the street to get very good service from Kumar's with a nice touches in the food.  The chef came out to clarify one of our requests.  They kindly played my favourite Tamil song on their video machine.


We became aware of Weiheke Island on our previous visit and in the meantime developed a keen interest  It turns out to be more interesting once we arrived.  It is larger than we realized and has a lot of natural beauty.  Apparently it has a population of about 8,000 year round, but in the summer holiday season (January) it blooms to about 40,000.  It is a 35 minute ferry boat from Auckland and about 2,000 commute for work.  We went on our first wine tour and were taken for tasting to three wineries, including one certified organic.  Apparently organic does less harm to your body.  We ate at the last one outdoors.  Our group came with people from Britain (parents visiting a daughter who also came), three long term women friends coming for a wedding two women from New Jersey.  A lot of good conversation.

Tramp tracking, a recently learned term took us up and down through bush and cliffs.  We also visited a world ranked olive oil business, Rangihoua and bought some of their products.   Finished off our second Weiheke day at Red Crab Thai overlooking water.  They were about to close, but kept open for us and some others that came afterwards.

On a trip to Matakana we visited the Honey Center in Warkworth, and a nearby Donkey Sanctuary where we fed carrots to the four legged residents.  In Matakana we encountered very heavy traffic all headed to another Market and afterwards dined at the popular Rusty Pelican. On the way back we walked a trail at the Parry Kauri Park.  The Kauri tree is a remarkable huge tree that had been cut by early settlers almost to the point of extinction before it was appreciated for its unique versatility.  It is making a comeback.

One complaint from travelers is that they can't seem to get off the beaten path and learn what the locals really like.  Our son had discovered a local market after hours.  It was in the underground parking at a large plaza.  Exotic ethnic foods at very good prices as well as variety of merchandise.  Another day we went to a Sunday morning market in Takapuna and bought some more goodies.

New Years Eve was the first time in over 20 years we have not hosted a house party.  After dining at a restaurant (Portofino) we were dropped down by the Sky City, listening to some music (by Sons of Zion, a reggae band I now listen to) and wandering around over to Queen St.  Crowds everywhere with a focus to the midnite fireworks from the Sky City tower.  It was spectacular and I wish I had a better camera and knew how to use it.

With my son and his girlfriend as guide we found two more great restaurants; Misashi, with Japanese cuisine in Milford and later in the day at Portofino with Italian food in Howick.

It may seem like we are uncommonly lucky in our choices, but really that is misleading.  This is one of my more unique holidays largely because of the efforts of my son and his girlfriend Hayley.  They asked what we wanted, did research, made reservations and found some new treasures for us.  Hayley helped track down a book I was looking for.  We were driven around for hours.  One goal of a vacation is to enjoy new experiences and we certainly did that.  Some of my most memorable holidays have come about because a family member or close friend moved.  This is how we explored Halifax, Montreal, Victoria and Vancouver.  It is not without some pain, but people go where they have some sort of interest.  You renew your connection and gain a better understanding of some distant location.

To check out the other half of our vacation check:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2018/01/starting-2018-in-new-zealand.html

Friday, January 5, 2018

ARE WE TOO QUICK TO JUDGE?

Two issues have garnered a lot of attention lately and they are issues that need to be dealt with.  The first was over the removal of Confederate statues which had very definite racial overtones.  The second was the sexual harassment scandals that developed post Trump starting with Harvey Weinstein.  To repeat both of these issues are serious blots on society.  My concern is that we are quick to judge those who in effect got caught at the wrong time.

I admit that not every action or thought of mine from birth has been pure and could withstand all criticism.  I will hide behind Jimmy Carter who once was criticized for lusting in his heart.  Bad behaviour needs to be curtailed and perhaps the first step is to acknowledge it happens and identify the guilty.  Appropriate punishment or other action can then be decided.  With the right decisions society can move forward with benefits to everyone (including the guilty).

Every human being is limited by two things--their genetics and their environment.  We all know stories of people who have overcome what others would consider handicapped.  The majority of us follow a pattern for 90% of our actions and even the exceptions have much in common.

From birth we are taught right from wrong and where we fit in the status quo.  As a male I and most of my peers learned that men and boys played by different rules and in fact were more powerful physically and socially.  Some of us were taught some respect for the "weaker sex" and most of us were attached to our mothers and sisters.  At the same time sex and gender were treated differently in different cultures, but for the most part the male was dominant in critical ways.  The goal of most males has been to be a breadwinner, a protector, but also the decision maker.  Much of society has progressed, but much is still held back by the male ego.

The more powerful among us (those who didn't directly inherit our position) were motivated by the rewards of success--money, power and sex.  Many took short cuts and took unfair advantage of others. The indications of power are important to many; some by displaying wealth or dominating decisions.  Others are frustrated in their attempts to be accepted  All I am saying is that it is normal to take advantage of whatever leverage life has given you.  It is in society's interest to be fair.

One face saving device for many who don't quite get what they consider their fair share of the pie is to blame others.  Powerful men understand this and encourage the blame game.  It is easy to point fingers at all sorts of outsiders as some sort of unfair constraint on their status.  We dismiss the merits of those we have come to hate, but we benefit when we better understand what makes others behave the way they do.

All humans strive for survival and then  acceptance.  For most of us it is parents who guide us, but soon other relatives join in and then there are "strangers."  Most of what we consider "normal" is subconscious.

Jesus said "let him who is without sin throw the first stone."  Newt Gingrich was prepared to judge Bill Clinton while he was carrying on a adulterous affair.

In all our relations with other humans the first priority should be respect as in reality they are very much like we are.  As much as possible we should try to understand what they are about.  Of course we have to do what we can to prevent harm.

The world is a scary place, mainly because we do not really understand one another.  We spot differences and too often assume they are a sign of inferiority while we fail to notice the many similarities we share.

I am not saying it is wrong to condemn racist or sexual harassing behaviour, but that we should examine the problem and look for solutions.  One commentator suggested that punishment has had an effect on sexual harassment while others are saying the solution is training.  The training to my way of thinking is to reset the unconscious cultural background and subject to subjective thinking.  Torgy Segerstedt, a Swedish journalist before and during WW11 once said "No human can withstand close scrutiny."  Lets let the non sinner throw the first stone while the rest of us should look for solutions to the problem (which might carry some punishment as a deterrent)..
 



It is an ongoing battle to be fair all the time.  In an earlier blog I dealt with my own inadequacy.
http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2013/08/what-have-you-gotten-away-with.html

Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 A GREAT YEAR FOR MOVIES

In truth, many movies are time fillers and a few seem like a total waste of time.  To appreciate quality you have to endure something less than high quality.  A good percentage of the over 300 movies I watched were enjoyable.  Those of you with different tastes may find something worth your while.

"Our Brand is Crisis," gives a back door look at how decisions are manipulated.  Sandra bullock making a statement as she wanted to do it, not just for the money or contract obligation.  She plays a difficult to like person, but very well working for a Latin American election.

"Trumbo"  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/01/trumbo-and-black-list.html  told about the blacklisting era in Hollywood.  It is humorous in parts, but on a very serious topic  Later in year watched "Spartacus" where Trumbo was once again able to use his name.   Also watch "He ran all the way" another movie where Dalton used a front man, but wrote the script.

"Spartacus" reviewed after over 50 years after first watching, and again after"Trumbo" and learning this was one of his breakthroughs.  A great movie--well written.  all star cast Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov.

"Lion" was an inspiring story about tracing what would have been untraceable a decade or so ago.   2 Bollywood stars in very small roles.  Some of the scenery was filmed in Tasmania.  Dev Patel, the main character also appeared in "The man who knew Infinity" another enjoyable movie.

"Hell or High Water" contained a lot of violence, but underneath it was a well written story of family trying to stick together against human weakness and greed



"The Zookeeper's Wife" another excellent movie with Jessica Chastain.  She contributes to the movie's excellence, but she makes good choices.

"Arrival" directed by Quebecker Denis Villaneuve is told in an inventive style.  Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner perform well in a thought provoking science fiction drama.  What grounds will we find with aliens.



"Split" acting tour de force with a few twists.  James McAvoy plays a man with over 20 personalities who kidnaps three young women.  Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

"The Girl on the Train" after reading the book my expectations were high.  Emily Blunt didn't let me down and it must be admitted it was suspenseful and layered.  But to read the book is to get much more depth.  Ever the complaint of those who read the book first.

"Snowden" is  a traitor or a whistle blower- or maybe misguided.  I found him very observant and conscientious with a message we need to pay attention to.

"Free State of Jones" presented a mostly forgotten bit of Civil War history including a different perspective than was taught to me in school.  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/09/free-state-of-jones.html

"Hidden Figures" was viewed as the Charlotesville Riots were happening.  It is a shame that too many whites feel threatened by blacks.  This movie, based on true events depicts blacks overcoming ignorance to the benefit of all.  It might actually make blacks seem more threatening, but at the same time take away the notion that they are inferior.  Well produced.

"A Monster Calls" is not a movie for young children.  Deals with an impending death and is very well done.

"Lady MacBeth" seen at the Hamilton BMO International Film Festival and bears little resemblance to Shakespeare's play.

"Miss Sloane" probably suffered at the box office for being to close to how lobbyists actually operate. A great combination of politics and a twist ending.  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/09/miss-sloan-under-rated-movie.html

"The Crucible"   by Arthur Miller was inspired by the hysteria of Joseph McCarthy.  Demonstrates injustice when mobs take over.

With "Frida" I enjoyed the biography, acting of Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina and music (done by husband of director and given his own commentary on the DVD).  Later read that Salma Hayek was pressured by the infamous Harvey Weinstein during the filming.  This was a project very dear to her heart and she persisted and resisted to make it an outstanding movie and a tribute to Frida Kahlo.

"The Normal Heart" depicts the beginnings of the Aids epidemic when no one knew what it was or how it was spread.  It was associated with gays, most of them in the closet,but the epidemic proved  a big factor in Gay Liberation.  A little too explicit in parts, but realistic. Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bonner and Juliet Roberts played historical figures.

Just before Christmas I watched "Dunkirk" on a small screen, but admittedly this one deserves the big screen.  The story is an old one, but not appreciated this far down the road in history.  The Germans had forced their European opposition into a corner.  There were over 400,000 allied soldier barely holding on in Dunkirk and it looked like Britain was finished.  The movie depicted the strategic choices made, but also the individual battles on land, sea and air that allowed this most strategic retreat to give Britain and the whole "free world" another chance to overcome tyranny.  Very well done.

"Maudie" was about a famous folk artist in Nova Scotia.  My daughter went to school in Nova Scotia and we became aware of Maudie.  Well played by Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke.

From New Zealand, "The Dark Horse" based on a story of a man from mental institutions who helps poor Maori youth develop a focus on chess.  Mental illness plays a very big role.

Documentaries get right down to the facts, but of course one has to consider how creditable they are and how relevant.  In some cases they are just as dramatic as fictional movies, but mostly they are sobering.  The ones listed below and in foreign categories all seem relevant and creditable.  Imagination is great, but facts are critical.

"Elian"  was a documentary to cover Cuban/American relations-.  The events were manipulated for political purposes.  Lots of details I never knew or had forgotten.  It was very emotional at the time with many Americans not respecting international family law.

"Freedom's Furies" was about the reaction of the Hungarian water polo team to Soviet repression during the Hungarian Revolution.  It had two personal connections--Hungarian refugees did cross my life in several ways plus I had in interest in water polo through my daughter.

"Red Army"  would appeal to hockey fans, Canadians and Russians and most sports lovers.  The Russians were very good for the game of hockey.  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/09/the-red-army.html

Zero Days (2016) is frightening.  Stuxnet attacks have been hidden, but apparently Israel and United States developed a cyber weapon strategy and Israel jumped the gun to attack Iran.  It stunned Iran, but they recouped and now have a similar ability as now does Russia and North Korea.  It is terrifying because it is subtle and difficult to detect.

"An Inconvenient Truth Sequel" is a reminder that in many ways the climate crisis has gotten more serious despite increased efforts to deal with it.  The vested interests have used their resources to resist.  More at:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/11/an-inconvenient-sequel-truth-to-power.html

"Score " was devoted to the men and women who write the music in the background.  Lots of movies have catchy melodies, but this documentary reveals a more important role in capturing the mood and enhancing action.

"Red Lines"  trying to sort out the mess that is Syria..  Two activists were frustrated that they were unable to get any foreign help.    Truly frightening to see so many dead bodies, many of which were children.  Mistrust was everywhere.  Obama was portrayed as indecisive, but I feel the movie did not do justice to the Congressional mess.

SUBTITLED MOVIES

If you really like movies you owe it to yourself to take a closer look at what the rest of the world has to contribute.  There are a lot more subtitled movies to read about in this blog, but that is mostly due to the fact there are a lot more to watch and I find many of them well worth an extra effort.  Perhaps I am a bit preachy, but here is my pitch:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2015/09/do-subtitles-scare-you-who-knows-what.html

Bollywood, is one of my obsessions, but it turns out there is much more to films coming from India.   "Sairat,"the best of the year, with the cover photo at top.   It was produced in Marathi and is beautiful in music and cinematography.  The story seems stereotypical in the beginning, but the second half the story turns grim in a very realistic manner.

Widening my scope I saw a number of movies from India with different languages.  'Interrogation,' 'Thithli', "Nila," were each excellent and available on Netflix.   "OK Kanani" was the original Tamil version that was copied by Bollywood, but after seeing the two of them, the Tamil version is much superior.  Another highly rated movie, "Wrong Side Raju" is the first Gujarati film for me and was very impressive for plot, music, cinematography.  read more at:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/01/regional-films-from-india.html

"Dangal" had an odd subject for a blockbuster movie, but the public has taken to the story of the daughters of a wrestler.  Very popular in China.  Anything Aamir Khan is involved is guaranteed to have quality.  The story is very well told and the actors at all levels are very good.

"Hindi Medium"  Irrfan Khan again this time focusing on education in India.  The private schools favors the rich.

"Newton" was nominated for India's entry for the 2018 Oscar foreign film award.  About an election worker in a hostile territory raising concerns for anyone wanting to promote democracy this gives food for thought.

"Toilet, Ek Prem Katha" has an odd premise, a man's new wife leaves him when she learns they do not have a toilet.  The Indian government has a major campaign to put more toilets available (http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/11/world-toilet-day.html), but getting the toilets built is only part of the problem.  Cultural resistance has made modernization difficult.  This movie deals with it in a very entertaining way.  Another one for Akshay Kumar, a friend to the Harpers.  Bhumi Pedneker was good as the female lead.


"Mom" was a different kind of movie for Srvedi.  A revenge movie with a few twists.  Sridvii plays a step mother who is not accepted by her step daughter who gets gang raped.  Not able to find justice in the courts she with the aid of private detective take revenge.  There is a police officer (who does not play by the rules either) is on to her and later one of the targets is as well.  She is excellent and well supported by the other actors.

"Madaari" was still another film about political corruption.  Corruption is not personal, it is part of the structure.  The protagonist says he is an ideal voter; too busy to study who to vote for.  Irrfan Khan  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/02/madaari-open-movie-about-government.html

I watched my favourite Shah Ruk Khan in three movies.  "Raees" with a Pakistanni leading lady and Nawazuddin Siddiqui.  "Dear Zindagi"  Shah Rukh Khan with Alia Bhatt as a patient of Shah Rukh Khan.  Gauri Shinde ("English Vinglish") ws involved as writer.   A good role for Shah Rukh transitioning from leading male loves to an advisor for young woman   On the other hand I also saw "Jab Harry met Sejal" where he romanced the younger Anushka Sharma.  Shah Rukh Khan is always charming, but he needs to get roles more suitable for his age   He is still my favourite and most enjoyable actor to watch.  https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=2655588228309700460#allposts/postNum=8  

"Rangoon" was enjoyed by me more than most critics.  Interesting subject; Indian freedom seekers allied with Japanese during World War II.   Good acting, music, cinematography.

"Jolly LLB 2"had a very interesting script.  Akshay Kumar  is becoming the most certain box office success bet.

"Kaabil" with Hrithik Roshan is a very light hearted romance at beginning then a brutal revenge story with a blind man outsmarting his enemies.  Unfortnately Yami Gautam is killed off to make way for the revenge plot.

"Kahaani2' was a bit of a disappointment, but only because the original "Kahaani" is one of the best twists ever.  "Kahaani 2" was an above average suspense movie, just not as unique as the original.  No continuation from the first except Vidya Balan starred.

"Kanoon" (1960) a mystery, but with a strong plea to abolish capital punishment

"The Ghazi Attack" first submarine movie for Bollywood.  An opportunity to create tension.  Based on real events it is like a chess game, but with lots of stress.

"Trapped"   has been compared to" Castaway," but with a twist.  The protagonist was a vegetarian trapped in an empty apartment.  Very ingenious how he survives.

"Poorna" watched without the benefit of sub titles.  Well worth it--maybe 20% of the words were in English and I am sure I missed some subtleties.  Raul Bose was the force behind it.  Proves the value of education and motivation.  Poorna was a 13 year old who was the youngest girl to climb Mount Everest.   Excellent cinematography and background music.  Very inspiring.  Had a positive impact on social welfare.  Even some singing from Airijit Singh.

"Phillauri" is a romance in fact two parallel romances, one with fantasy elements.  Second producing film for Anushka Sharma and enjoyable.

"The Salesman" won foreign Academy award directed and written by Asghar Farhadi--pleased to learn he is working on a Spanish producton with Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Ricardo Darin that I look forward to in 2018.  All three actors are among the world's most impressive in my opinion.

From the Japanese I was glad to watch "Our Little Sister' by writer/director Hirakazu Kore-eda who did  another great family drama, "Like Father, Like Son."

From Sweden "The Emigrants" (1971) and "the New Land' (1972)  in succession was quite the endurance test, but very memorable. Read more http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/01/the-emigrants-in-new-land.html

"A Man Called Ove" cautions us not to judge people.  We see a grumpy old man nitpicking, but as the movie progresses we see a different man.  Rolf Lsssgard played a key role in my favourite movie, "After The Wedding."  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/07/a-man-called-ove.html

A fourth Swedish movie, "The Last Sentence" (with low ratings from IMDB) is a very interesting movie.  It is biographical on Torgy Segerstedt who was adamantly opposed to Hitler in writing.  Sweden was neutral while it had seen it neighbours Norway invaded by the Germans and Finland by the Russians.  The behind the scenes feature narrated by Jan Troell's daughter was very revealing in her description of the pursuit of perfect details that might not appear in the finished project.  Jesper Christensen was Danish and language was a big concern, but Troeel considered him the ideal choice.  History plus an open adulterous relationship to demonstrate Torgy was very human and I am left with his quote, "No human can withstand close scrutiny."
 



Italian,  "The Leopard"  Burt Lancaster dubbed--Garibaldi; "Twice Born" between Italy and Bosnia--surprised to learn that Penelope Cruz had learned Italian in order to act in previous film--fluent in special feature  "Paisan" (1946)

Dutch:  "Antonia's Line" was a most unusual film--a variety of characters and circumstances--lots of philosophical views--importance of friendship and love sex (multiple couples to music)   LINK  saw "Within the Whirlwind"

The Hispanic film world gave me opportunities to watch good movies on several fronts.

"The Mystery of Happiness"  interesting about business partners who were very close on the job and enjoying some activities, but never mixed up family life--one disappears the wife of the missing partner gets involved with the business and searching for her husband--where do you find happiness.   The lead appeared in the Argentine version of "Corazon de Leon."

Spain  "Julieta" (2016) directed and written by Pedro Almodovar, but inspired by three stories of Alice Munro.

"Corazon de Leon"  (Heart of a Lion) seen on Netflix from Colombia--really likeable characters, a black divorced lawyer and a short divorced architect--prejudice (short people, blacks and deaf)--pleasant music--it took a lot of research to learn thatt Marlon Moreno is over 6 feet tall and had been miniaturized to be 4'6" for the movie.   An outstanding performance by Maria Nela Ainisterra who was very charming, but also demonstrated a range of emotions..  Shah Rukh Khan is to be in a movie as a dwarf next year, but I think with a different plot.
Another one from Colombia was "Maria Full of Grace."  stunning talented lead actress.  Song by favourite, Julieta Venegas.
"
Chile, "The Club"  blunt movie about abusive clergy--the words may be difficult to stomach.  The same director as for "No"
A documentary from Chile, "Nostalgia for the Light" forced a philosophical insight by juxtaposing a renown telescope site in the Atacama Desert with women sifting through the sand looking for remains of their loved ones that had been murdered and dumped in the desert.

Fro Korea-"The Handmaiden" with clever plot (borrowed from English tv series) well executed, beautiful cinematography capturing some gorgeous scenery, beautiful acting--a bit too sexual for many, but part of the plot.   Really beautiful music

"Sunny" is about a rejected wife who chases her husband who has been sent with the Korean army to Vietnam.
Another touching movie was "My 11th Mother."

"Okja" a joint project between the U.S. and Korea with elements of fantasy.  Produced by Netflix

I watched a lot of Russian movies and recalled a number of masterpieces from past years.  One that prompted by this project that made an impression was "Battleship Potemkin" made in 1925, obviously without sound and in black and white  Amazing what was done with the resources available  Also enjoyed "Sibiriade," a massive movie about settling Siberia and "Solaris" which presented the real essence of science fiction.  Read more at:
http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/08/russian-movies.html

French Canadian, "La Derniere Fugue"  grimly realistic--life and death decisions guilt--piano themes from Bach--regrets--marital tensions see more:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/03/la-derniere-fugue.html
"Laurence Anyways" about a transgender transition--told from the man who always wanted to be a woman and his female lover who felt betrayed.

German:  'Labyrinthe of Lies" set in 1958 with most Germans, denying links to Nazis.
"Toni Erdman" If you are bothered by male and female full frontal nudity you might want to skip this, but you would be missing a movie that will make you laugh and cry (sometimes at the same time).  Really well done.  A fair amount of English dialogue.

French--thought of as a filler--"Rebellion" originally "L'ordre et la morale" is set in New Caldonia in 1988 when a few Kanak natives rebelled and took French soldiers hostage.  It was just before a French election and it was deemed critical to end the crisis as soon as possible.  The director played the key role of a man who wanted to negotiate recognizing the natives wanted independence.  A little bit of action, but mainly dealing with political pressures and how they could undermine negotiation.
Normally I avoid movies with low ratings from IMDB, but picked up from library.  "The Mark of Angels" with Gerard Depardieu and Joey Star--violent in parts, but an interesting plot, believable acting well put together.  One of the contenders for most undeserved low rating.

Over the years I have enjoyed watching a number of mini series.  They have the power to go into more depth than a two hour movie, but they don't have to drag on.  This past year I enjoyed "Shetland" and "River."  "The Crown," and "Line of Duty.:"  "13 /reasons." " Broadchurch" (with David Tennant) and "Doctor Foster."

My selection of photos and of links does indicate some difficult preferences, but does not necessarily reflect what would interest you the most.  As with most lists it just helps make you aware of some works of art that might be of interest.  You have to sort through them and your resources.  There are plenty of good and enjoyable movies I will never see, but I enjoy the search.

Check out my year end movie review from last year:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2016/12/film-memories-from-2016.html