Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The 100 Year life--how to make the most of it

Lynda Gratton got my attention with "the Shift" that contained a lot of provocative ideas, but as important had a unique presentation.  Trying to predict the future is a bit unfair, but she developed a format that was helpful--she used fictional scenarios, but adjusted variables ranging from best to worst likelihood.  Here is a link for my review of her well worth reading book that is consistent with her latest endeavour.  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2012/04/shift.html  I felt "The Shift" was the best book read in that year.

With "the 100 Year Life" she with co- author Andrew Scott are venturing onto new territory.  Longer life.  It is futuristic because it is still rare for humans to survive 100 years, but you may start to notice it is becoming more common  A great opportunity, but not without problems.

As in "the Shift" Lynda uses fictional characters to illustrate her points.  The first character born about the same time as me, like me has stumbled through life and with a little luck is set for a normal retirement.  The second character is younger and with a longer life expectancy and financial stresses will have to make adjustments.  Her third character, a younger girl knows she has a longer life expectancy and has to prepare for it well in advance.

The first concern for individuals is how to finance a retirement.  At one time few made it to retirement.  With life expectancy creeping up to 100 we have to consider how we can afford to live that long.  The two main ideas are to work longer or save more

At the same time the job situation is changing.  Technology threatens us in many ways.  The authors see some hope.

The authors see a need for people to change their job skills over the years.  Education can help, but needs to be flexible.  A long life with jobs can place stress on relationships and the authors believe everyone will need to spend time cultivating networks and to maintain intimate relationships.  It is important to realize that your reputation is your brand and that will be critical to make transitions.

With a long life and uncertain job prospects it is wise to keep consumption levels low as they tend to be maintained.  At times individuals will have to transition and will have to curb their spending.  Deferring gratification will be critical to learn new skills.

The core belief is that society will no longer function on the three stage life cycle of education than work then retirement.  The book is full of ideas of how to rethink the opportunities as well as the problems.

It is expected that there all be resistance from corporations and government.  The changes are most likely to come from people.  What is needed is not just pension reform, but more flexibility.  We stand to not only allow more people a more enjoyable satisfying life but also to break down age barriers and segregation.  Part time education will increase to meet the demands of an ever changing economy.  The authors feel workers will have to not only develop specialized skills, but would also benefit for a liberal education that would encourage flexibility.

Many years ago I read the prologue to George Bernard Shaw's "Back to Methusalah" where he contended that if people lived much longer they would be learn to organize government better and avoid violence.  Andrew and Lynda contend that issues like climate change will take a different perspective when we realize we and our children will have to live with the environment.

The authors admonish young people to get out to vote.  They are the ones who have the most years ahead of them and they need to be represented by people who understand the issues that help more people to be empowered by a longer life.

If you are younger than 50 this is a critical read for you.  If you are over 50 it is very useful to understand trends.  For more thoughts go to www.100yearlife.com

Friday, October 27, 2017

Are you interested in "The Happiness Hypothesis"?

Jonathan Haidt has had a profound effect on me.  He was on the Bill Moyers show when first seen and he struck me as a man of deep understanding.  He showed me I am still a prejudiced man and need to better understand other people better.  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2013/02/the-righteous-mind.html  Happiness is for most people the main goal of life.

"The Happiness Hypothesis" is not a typical self improvement book, but rather a history of different thoughts regarding happiness with much philosophy and more psychology.  Jonathan, himself had first studied philosophy and then moved onto psychology.  Along the way and towards the end there is useful advice if you are ready for it.

He believes humans understand new things through metaphors.  His favourite is that of a rider on an elephant.  The rider represents conscious behaviour and the elephant represents unconscious behaviour (that has accumulated through tens of thousands years of evolution).   The rider has evolved to serve the elephant, to give it more direction.  In another section "with wrong metaphor we are deluded; with no metaphor we are blind."

To survive humans are selfish, but we have had to learn to get along with others.  At one time it was thought survival of the fittest involved physical and mental factors at an individual level.  However more recently we realize that individuals are part of groups and that our membership is also a factor in our survival.

One early effective social inter action skill learned was the principle of reciprocity.  He gives an example from the opening of "The Godfather" where a distraught father asks Marlon Brando to deal with a man who dishonoured his daughter.  He thinks he will have to pay for it, but Don Corleone has something else in mind.  He sees this as an opportunity to expand his network of "friends" who do each other favours.  Movie goers were preparing for a violent movie, but instead it started off with  how the Godfather actually gets things done.

There is a relationship between culture and religion.  We develop trust and co-operation which in turn can effect genetic selection and direct to the benefit of the community.

Happiness is effected by your external circumstances, but another key is internal.   Jonathan feels that the truth is in between where you find true happiness.

Humans have or try to have goals, but in fact it is the effort as much as the achievement the brings happiness.  Once a goal is achieved it is in the past and we look forward to something else to do.  Internally you makes lots of choices and of course react to thousands of circumstances.

One early effective social inter action skill learned was the principle of reciprocity.  He gives an example from the opening of "The Godfather" where a distraught father asks Marlon Brando to deal with a man who dishonoured his daughter.  He thinks he will have to pay for it, but Don Corleone has something else in mind.  He sees this as an opportunity to expand his network of "friends" who do each other favours.  Movie goers were preparing for a violent movie, but instead it started off with  how the Godfather actually gets things done.

Harry Harlow had limited resources and found himself working with rhesus monkeys.  x  His experiments are considered unethical today with isolation and substituting inanimate objects for motherly attention.  What he did prove was that all infants need touching and parental caring to develop normally.  In other words love makes a difference.

Abraham Maslow, a student of Harry Harlow is famous for Maslow's hierarchy of needs.  At the top is self-actualization which could be interpreted as satisfaction or happiness.

Mihaly Csiksentmihalyi is known for the concept of flow.  One is happiest when one is engaged in an activity where they are so engaged they lose concept of time.  An example from the author was riding where some are so engaged that is what they think of most of the time.

The author contends that two areas that are vital for happiness are work and love.  Love seems obvious, but work takes up a lot of time and is where many find meaning.  From Marcus Aurelius--"work itself is but what you deem it."  Many jobs are treated as drudgery, but the author suggests if you apply your strengths any job can become more meaningful.

Happy people are kinder and more helpful.  Voluntary work by elders results in improved health and longer life

Jonathan states that meditation, cognitive therapy and Prozac all have the ability to make for positive changes.

You can read more at http://www.happinesshypothesis.com

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"Born a Crime," the beginnings of Trevor Noah, comedian

When Jon Stewart retired from the Daily Show it was a big surprise that a South African was picked as his successor.  Who is Trevor Noah?   I confess I didn't watch Comedy Central either before or after the transition.  I developed a liking for Jon Stewart from watching him on other shows, and watching the odd clip.  Trevor Noah has not crossed my radar as much, but always in a favourable way.

He is very unique.  This book explains some of it.

The circumstances of his birth were unusual in many ways.  His Xhosa mother was very independent and defied apartheid rules by living in a white area and working in a non traditional job for blacks, secretary.  She befriended a white man, a Swiss German and told him she wanted a child by him. He resisted, but later said he wanted to be involved with his son.  Of course this was made very difficult.  A mixed race chid could be classified as a colored.  This meant he could not be seen with either his father or his mother or they could be jailed.

Trevor could be described as polyglot.  His mother encouraged himHis black relatives asked him to pray in English as non speakers felt that language was more effective  He spoke several African languages, Xhosa, Zulu Tsonga, Sotho, bit of Afrikaans which helped him to socialize with more people and even help him get out of tight spots.

Trevor knew poverty.  As a youngster he learned to like bone marrow and at one point ate a variation of worms.  He was tied to shoplifting where he escaped because camera could not pick up the darkness of his skin.  Stealing was fairly normal but copying CDs to resell was critical to his survival.  Everyone has a story of what they got away with:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2013/08/what-have-you-gotten-away-with.html

Trevor got involved with a lot of questionable activities, that is activities the middle class establishment would question.  In reality he was born into a situation where to get ahead his activities were normal.  If he was a little sharper than his peers he might do a little better.  Inside he had a conscience and was supported by his mother.

An analogy from the author:  "Hustling is to work what surfing the Internet is to reading.    If you add up how much you read on the Internet--tweets, Facebook posts, lists--you've read the equivalent of a sh*t ton of books, but in fact you've read no books in a year.  When I look back on it, that's what hustling was..."

His mother was religious and dragged Trevor to three church services  including one for whites most Sundays.  She ended up married to a charming man (who Trevor also liked a lot), but eventually resented his wife's success and modern habits and became abusive.  Trevor left home and the abuse continued even with another child.  Near the end of the book we learn that she is shot by the now former husband and survives.

Trevor points out some  oddities about apartheid.  Chinese because there weretn't very many of them were not classified separately, but for convenience called blacks.  Japanese (who home country manufactured desirable cars and electronics) were honorary whites--as Trevor points few South African police could tell the difference.

His sense of humour is all through the book, but he covers some serious things.  As a comedian he takes serious issues and frames them from a humorous perspective

Outside the book it turns out that Trevor was threatened by his former step father and fled the country.  His ex step father was convicted of attempted murder.  Trevor felt the South African police did not take domestic abuse seriously enough.

This book is not about his career, but there are a few references.  Copying CDs leads to becoming a disc jockey.  At age 18 he was acting in a role with a South African soap opera.  We learn that at the time of his mother's shooting he had already established himself as a comedian and had even performed in Britain.  Trevor established himself on South African television winning awards.  Got involved with the Daily News and was able to step in after Jon Stewart decided to move on

When he makes you laugh it is probably comparing serious issues with ridiculous juxtapositions.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Miss Sloane, an under-rated movie

"Miss Sloane"(2016) deserved much more attention.   There is a lot of misdirection in the movie, but the meat is not hard for many of us to find.

It starts off with a court scene concerning expenses for a campaign dealing with palm oil from Indonesia.  A viewer wonders what that could lead to, but the misdirection slowly becomes more obvious as they go back in time and two other themes develop; the legal concern of gun control and how lobbying firms operate.

Miss Sloane is approached by a group that wants to get a woman's view of guns so that they could slant their approach more effectively.  She analyzes their situation in short order and rejects the offer.  Next she is approached by a man who tries to hire her for the opposing side on gun control, but again another sharp analysis and a rejection.  However she changes her mind and literaly steals some of her staff to her new project regarding gun control legislation.  One of the staff very coldly rejects her and a nasty interchange takes place.  This holdout offers her insight into Miss Sloane's tactics that we later see enacted.  No loyalty, ruthless, and not confiding with staff,

Miss Sloane articulates her basic approach.  Always be prepared.  Do whatever it takes.  Have a trump card that is not used until after the opposition presents their trump card.

Although the director and writer claim the issue of gun control is really just one of many issues that could have been used for the plot they cover a lot of ground for gun control.  There is not an intention to confiscate guns, but just to keep out of the hands of dangerous people.  Of course the gun lobby sees this a step along a slippery slope.  

The woman's issue is brought up.  The angle is women need protection against bad people.  This is  countered that women are murdered most often by an intimate partner with access to a gun.  The gun lobby specifically fanned fear suggesting the only way to be safe was to have a gun.  All veteran sales people realize that the strongest buying motive is fear, even more so than greed.  Both motivations are on full display.

An argument comparing the acceptance of the need for driver's licence as a concern for human safety is dismissed.   In reality the U.S. Congress in 1996 passed a rule forbidding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from advocating or promoting gun control.  The CDC board over the years to avoid controversy cut all research into gun violence  After the Newtown shootings,  Obama requested research to be resumed, but again fearing controversy the CDC said they would only do so if money was set aside for it. Congress rejected any budget for such research.

The Founding Fathers were brought up.  Most people overlook that the circumstances were very different as one example many of the founders were slave owners. The Constitution was a result of compromises between propertied  men (not women) with vested interests.  The 2nd amendment was brought to legislation at a time when America did not have a standing army and it was thought necessary to provide militia with arms.  Of course there is a lot of controversy of interpretation.  What is in the best interest of the country?

The gun lobby always had much more money.  They really represented gun manufacturers.  Miss Sloane is very clever and manages to get a lot of her points to public attention.  In fact she is so good it is decided to take her down.  That is where the opening scene brings our attention to an alleged misdeed when she dealt with the Indonesian palm oil.  If they can prove her misdeed in this case she will be finished as a lobbyist and the gun lobby can rest easy.

Of course you know there will be a twist and it is done quite well.  A few minor twists along the way keep the viewer's attention.   My wife is always suspicious, but I thought the movie could have impact no matter how it concluded.  The final twist package emphasized how slimy lobbying can be and did catch me off guard.

"House of Cards" shows plenty of sleazy manipulations   Lobbyists are in the background.  "Miss Sloane" uses an emotionally charged issue, gun control, but the real focus should be on lobbying, which has seldom been pictured in movies where the politicians essentially do all the dirty work.

The author, Jonathan Perera has a story as interesting as his script.  After graduating from university with a lot of debt he worked a few years with corporate law firms to pay off the debt.  He later taught English in China and more recently in South Korea.  He had longed to be a writer, but had no background and studied online as best he could.  He was originally inspired by a tv interview of Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist who confessed his tricks.  He wrote the script and filed it away until he learned the topic might be of interest.  He sent it while still working in South Korea.  This is his first script.

John Madden, the director, British born received his one Oscar nomination for "Shakespeare in Love," (1998), but three of his actors won Oscars, Gwyneth Paltrow, Judi Dench and Geoffrey Rush.       He also directed 4 episodes of "Inspector Morse," and one episode of "Prime Suspect," two of my favourite British detective shows.   Other notable movies were "The Debt," (2010), "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (2011) and "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," (2015).

Jessica Chastain plays the ruthless lobbyist.  When you think you appreciate how ruthless she is you get another example that stuns.  With a little observation a viewer might pick up that she is not satisfied with life.  Jessica had received two Oscar nominations in addition for this role. She received nominations for "Zero Dark Thirty," (2012) and  "The Help," (2011).   She also had a role in "The Martian," (2015).

Mark Strong plays a character with a cause, but enough ethics that he balks at when he learns what Miss Sloan does to win her causes.  Mark has been in numerous movies; "The Young Victoria," (2004); "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," (2011);  "Zero Dark Thirty" (2012) and "The Imitation Game," (2014).  He also appeared in episodes of "Inspector Morse" and "Prime Suspect."

Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays a dedicated worker with a personal secret that motivates her. When this is uncovered against her will she becomes a crusader for a bit, but later becomes disillusioned with Miss Sloan.  Gugu gained a lot of attention as the title character in "Belle," (2013) and went on to  "Concussion" (2015) and " Free State of Jones" (2016).  Just recently did a blog on the Free State of Jones" readers might enjoy:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/09/free-state-of-jones.html

Christine Baranski of "The Good Fight" and "The Good Wife"  in both of which she ironically took up role of gun control advocate, although married to ballistics expert. played a supporting role.  I was surprised to learn she had won Tony awards on Broadway.  Sam Waterson, another familiar face played one of the heavies.  John Lithgow and Dylan Baker had supporting roles as well.

Alison Pill, plays a character who is not what she appears to be.  She carries it off very well.  Born in Toronto she won a best child actress award for "The Dinosaur Hunt," (2000).  She had roles in "Milk" (2008);  "Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010) "Midnight in Paris," as Zelda Fitzgerad (2011) and "To Rome with Love" (2012).

Max Richter composed the music.  He has been a composer for a number of movies I have enjoyed."The Lunchbox" (2013); "Sarah's Key" (2010); "When We Leave" (2010) and "Lore" (2012) all with foreign languages plus ""Shutter Island," (2010).  The funny thing is although I remember they all were good movies, I don't recall the music.  I reviewed some of the music items on iTunes and for the most part they are pleasant enough and catch a mood, but with few exceptions not memorable.  Still he is very good at filling a function.  Supporting a movie with music is not always noticed, but adds to the overall enjoyment and I would say he has added enjoyment for a lot of movie goers.

The cinematographer, Sebastian Bienkov  had been busy working with European films, one of which "Adam's Apples" (2005) from Denmark was very good.  Alexander Berner, the editor had worked on "Cloud Atlas," (2012);  "A Hologram for the King," (2016) and "The Debt" (2010).

Did the gun lobby have anything to do with lack of box office success?  One can detect political views affecting how movies are perceived and supported--I am not immune to movies being hyped and I did see some promotional efforts, but it was never treated like a blockbuster.   It seems like an attention getting powerful movie, but not everyone saw it that way.  Personally I feel lobbyists didn't like it as it hit too close to home.  If there wasn't a formal boycott, I think it very likely there was an informal one.  I confess I tend to avoid movies with political viewpoints I disagree with, but also that such movies can help one realize there is another perspective that needs to be understood.

I do believe that lobbyists can serve an important and useful function.  I hope we don't throw out the baby with the bath water.  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2013/04/lobbyists-do-deserve-more-appreciation.html

The film titles that are boldened are ones that I have seen, although some may be many years ago

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"The Red Army" and Russian hockey

I am not a hockey fan, but "Red Army"  (2014) brought back memories and an appreciation of how great hockey can be.

I remember the buildup to the first Summit Series vs the Russians in 1974.  They had only played against amateur teams and were sure to be humiliated when they played our pros.  In fact the result was close to the reverse, the Canadians were humiliated in the first few games on Canadian soil.  

Bobby Clarke deliberately injured Valerie Kharmalov, a dangerous scorer which in the end might have been the difference.  The Canadians, woke up and played much better on the Russian part of the tour.  Paul Henderson made the most famous goal in Canadian history and the Canucks pulled it off.

Showed a clip of Don Cherry expressing that the Russians should not be allowed to play in the NHL.   Harold Ballard was famous for not letting any Russian play for the Leafs.   They were not alone, some of it no doubt for anti Communist sentiments then common, but others I think were afraid of the competition.

The film reminded me why I lost interest in hockey and why the Russians revived my interest.  They were very skilled at passing and stick handling and a joy to watch  As a Canadian I had mixed feelings.  I wanted Canada to win, especially at our national game, but I liked the way the Russians played, better than the NHLers.  

I watched one televised game with co-workers which I remember not so much for the excitement as I had a few alcoholic drinks  My job at the time was working with newspaper carriers and the game took place when the kids were in school.  When I got back to work I realized I was in no condition to talk to kids about anything.  Since then I have avoided drinking during work hours.

One of the benefits I got out of it was that the Russians were humans.  They had relationships, although often the coaching made life difficult for them.  The film really made more of that when some of participating Russian players got to explain themselves.  I was also surprised to learn of some coaching politics. Anatoli Tarasov was replaced by Viktor Tikhonov

Russians did make a success in the NHL, lots of them helping to win Stanley Cups and become all stars.  It opened them up to capitalism.  We love to be entertained.  I remember hearing Hillary Clinton commenting that Alexander Ovechkin was more popular than most politicians in Washington.

The Soviet players were regarded as national heroes and were treated as such by the authorities.  Although eastern block countries had to contend with defectors in different sports, the Soviet hockey players for the most part were very content.  That changed in 1989.  Alexander Mogilny was an outstanding young (honoured as best junior hockey player in the world) prospect who had already played at the top level.  After the 1989 world championships held in Sweden he disappeared and found his way to the Buffalo Sabres who had earlier drafted him.

There were a wide variety of interviews, but the main spokesperson for the Soviet side was Vlacheslav "Slava" Fetisov who had a disdain for the interviewer.  Fetisov, a defenseman was a key  person in a group of five players who were very difficult to stop.  He wanted to be able to negotiate with the NHL and although threatened with the end of his hockey career or a demotion he was able to gather a few others and forced the issue.  Part of their salary was to be returned to Russia and they were to play for the national Russian team.  This opened the floodgates and turned out to be very successful.  Fetisov earned two Stanley Cups as a player and one as an assistant coach.  He insisted to Gary Bettman that he be allowed to take the trophy to Moscow.  Despite a total refusal at one time he was able to accomplish this feat.  Fetisov is now involved with the Russian hockey program.

One enlightening moment was when Fetisov was  asked about his younger brother after bragging about how much potential he had.  It turned out that he had died from a car accident.  Then it was admitted that he, Fetisov had been driving.  Another clip with his wife Lata Fetisov explained how she felt ostracized by other NHL wives who treated her as an outsider.

Scotty Bowman, considered one of the best hockey coaches ever was a great believer in Russian players and coached over time, 5 Russian players who helped him win three Stanley Cups for the Detroit Red Wings.

Another interviewee was Vladimir Tretiak who developed a lot of fans in Canada.  He never played in the NHL, although a primary target by the league.  He is now involved with Russian hockey.

There was a lot of politics, captured on archival resources.  Starting with Joseph Stalin who made the decision to make hockey a higher national priority.  Nikita Kruschev and Mikhail Gorbachev each got involved with the hockey program  The KGB was used to minimize chance of defection.  On the other side there was a brief clip of Ronald Reagan and one of Jimmy Carter when he declared the United States would not participate in the Moscow Olympics.  Alan Eagleson was shown as an organizer of the Summit series.  As it happened I had arranged for Alan to be declared the first to be honoured on a Wall of Fame for former newspaper carriers when I worked for the Etobicoke Guardian.  Also arranged for a photo at his office and an interview with one of my carriers.  When his fraud was uncovered  I was already gone from that job.

The Soviets had a system and a national feeder. network.  That was lost when the Soviet Union collapsed and when players left for the NHL. Russia (and their former states) still turn out exciting hockey players and the world is better for it.

Gabe Polsky was writer, director, producer and  interviewer.  This film won audience awards at film festivals in Chicago and Zurich.  He produced "Bad Lieutenant: Port of New Orleans" (2009) which was directed by Werner Herzog.  He also was nominated for an Emmy for the television series, "Genius" (2017).

Werner Herzog, a prominent documentary maker was an executive producer on this film.  He had been a producer, director actor "and writer.   "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" (2010) and "Grizzly Man," (2005) were two of his noted works.

Christophe Beck born in Montreal worked on music for "Frozen"( for which he shared an award.  He also was awarded a Prime Time Emmy for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (1997).  He worked on the music for "The Hangover," (2009) "The Muppets," (2011) and "Ant-Man" (2015)  During this research it dawned on me that there are many people involved in the music--not just the composer, or someone who writes a song, but ask producers and co-ordinators.  Leo Birenberg also worked on "Frozen" as a score co-ordinator.

Cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger had worked with Werner Herzog on "Bad Lieutenant:  Port of New Orleans," and "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" and "Grizzly Man."  The second cinematographer Svetlana Cvetko had worked "Inside Job," (2010) "Merchants of Doubt," (2014) and "Inequality for All" (2013) for which I included in another bloghttp://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/10/capital-in-twenty-first-century.html

As with music and cinematography with two people listed there are also two editors.  As the film took place in North America and Russia the work load  needed to be spread around.  Eli B Despres had written and edited two outstanding documentaries, "Weiner" (2016) and "Blackfish" (2013).  Kurt Engfehrk, the other editor had worked with Michael Moore on  "Bowling for Columbine" (2002) and "Fahrenheit 9/11" (2004).

If you are a hockey fan you will enjoy this film and if you are not you will appreciate there is a lot of beauty in the game.

I have bolded the movie titles that I have actually seen.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

My original awareness of "Indian Horse" was when it was in the Canada Reads competition.  Now it has been selected by the Burlington Public Library as their "One Book, One Burlington" selection for 2017.  This is the 11th edition of the event which involves the whole community and has always offered an interesting choice.

Like a lot of people I look for new things, but as I get older I realize that there is usually lot more in a book than you understood the first time around.

The story is being recounted by a recovering alcoholic, Saul Indian Horse forced to tell his life story as part of his redemption, but he is very skeptical.  His name comes from his Grandfather who was the first Objibway of his tribe who brought a horse.  Within his own family, the narrator has conflict between his traditional Grandmother and his Christian mother.  The story starts in the 1960's while his family is trying to live their own life.  He is snatched and taken to a residential school and he has no further contact with his family.

Residential schools for indigenous students have been in the news and subject to the Truth and Reconciliation commission. The experience drove some kids to suicide, others to run away.  They were treated as heathens (with heathen parents) and inundated with Christianity.  Native languages were forbidden and when caught speaking were punished. Many of the priests were sexual predators for both the boys and girls.  Things they couldn't talk about but the effect was to deaden the soul.  Lifelong adjustments usually involving alcohol and drugs

The author loved hockey as a youth and the game provides excitement in the book..  A new priest encourages the boys to tie an interest in hockey by watching "Hockey Night in Canada" and some books.  Just below the age when he would be allowed to play hockey Saul begs for a way to be involved.  At first he is given permission to clean the snow off early in the morning, then he becomes an equipment manager.  A big breakthrough when Saul teaching himself to skate feels confident enough to discard the chair.  "I became a bird. An ungainly bird at first."

Much of the book is a sports story told with the obstacle of being an outsider.  At first as a younger and smaller player who quickly demonstrates superior skills.  Later as part of an Indian team discriminated against by white teams and their audience.  He makes it to the Junior A level in the big city of Toronto, but cannot escape a feeling of having to measure up.

After years of rejection he drops out and eventually succumbs to alcohol.  The book ends hopefully, but the reader is more aware that society has been unfair to natives.  Later in the book, one assumption is destroyed.  I don't want to spoil for those who haven't yet read the book.

Most of the book takes place in northwestern Ontario and at one time moves to Toronto, but every time they step off the familiar surroundings they encounter discrimination.

Richard Wagamese, once described himself as a second generation survivor of the residential school system.  His parents and other extended family members went through the experience.  He feels he suffered from it as at a very early age his parents abandoned him and two siblings to go on a drinking binge and he was rescued by the police. As a result he didn't see his parents again for 21 years and spent much of that time in foster homes and and one stint as an adoptee forbidden contact with other indigenous people.  He developed many bad habits before he got set on a better path.

He became a journalist.  While at the Calgary Herald he won a national award for writing on indigenous affairs.   He acted in one episode of "North of 60."   Died recently in his home in Kamloops, British Columbia on March 10, 2017.

The book has been made into a movie and debuted at TIFF very recently.

My first experience with the One book One Burlington:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2012/07/beauty-of-humanity-movement-book-review.html

A more recent experience with two libraries:

https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=2655588228309700460#editor/target=post;postID=8770153419320425889;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=0;src=link

Sunday, September 10, 2017

"FREE STATE OF JONES"

The  "Free State of Jones" really represents a minor blip in history.  For one, the South was not as monolithic as we have assumed.

Not covered in my history classes and I suspect not much mention in Amerian classes either.  William Faulkner  wrote "The past is not dead.  It's not even past."  Race is critical in American society and to some extent the movie demonstrates this.

It deals with the notion that the American Civil War was at bottom a war to maintain slavery.  Early in the film it recounts a Confederacy edict that would exempt one white person for every twenty slaves owned by a family.  Many of the recruits quickly realized that it was a rich man's war and a poor man's fight.  In Jones county they learned civic authorities were collecting taxes in kind (horses, pigs, corn, etc) that often left the citizens starving. The desertion rate was in the tens of thousands which is close to where the movie begins.  This set up Newton Knight to rebel against the rebellion.

Newton was a deserter who felt more loyalty to the Union than the Confederacy.  In fleeing authorities he encountered other deserters as well as runaway slaves who found swamps a good place to hide and avoid detection from dogs.  Although married and with kids (the movie only shows one) he became attracted to a slave, Rachel and they went on to have a number of children.

The movie is gruesome in part with very briefly a scene of a head half torn away after being hit by a cannon ball.  Deserters were more common and in the end were a major factor in the defeat of the Confederacy.

Movie was interjected with a modern court case of 1948 when one of the descendents of Newton Knight was charged with miscenegation.  They claimed he was at least 1/8 black, making it illegal for him to marry a white woman.  Flashback to the main narrative we have just met his supposed grandmother helping Newton hiding.  He is already married with one child.  Later we learn that there was a lot of inter racial mixing in Jones with some offspring ending up passing as whites while others found acceptance in different communities difficult.

One aspect of how the slave owners maintained control was keeping the slaves ignorant and unable to communicate or organize.  Reading was considered a dangerous skill.  We see Rachel attempting to learn reading while youngsters in her household are taught elementary skills.  She hides her interest from the owners.  Later in the movie she is able to learn to read.  The southern reason often given was that Africans weren't intelligent enough to read and wouldn't need it for the work they were required to do.

The Civil War only partially settled affairs for the former African slaves. The movie takes us into the Reconstruction where the whites fought back and succeeded in establishing segregation.  Newton was still standing up for the families of former slaves.

Gary Ross, first encountered the idea in 2006, but short of money he worked on the "Hunger Games" (2012 not seen).  Writing the script and developing a cast took another few years.  Gary's father had been a tv writer, Arthur A Ross.  Gary also started writing for tv, but got his big break with "Big" (1988)  He had success writing, but with "Seabiscuit" (2003 not seen)  he started directing.  Altogether as writer, director and producer he received 4 Oscar nominations.  After "The Hunger Games" he rejected opportunities to work on the sequels as he felt they were too rushed.

The original music came from Nicholas Britall who wrote the music for "Moonlight"(2016) and is also writing the music for Gary Ross' next, "Ocean's Eight."

Benoit Dulhamm handled the cinematography.  Born in France he also worked on "The Theory of Everything," and "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" (2008).

Despite criticisms that the movie covered too much I felt it was fine with flash forwards and going beyond the Civil War itself, because the story didn't (hasn't)end(ed).  I felt the editing was effective keeping up interest while showing connections between the past and more modern times. Juliette Welfing, also with a French background has been involved with a number of movies I also thought were very effective "The Diving Bell and Butterfly" (2007 nominated for Oscar editing)," Dheepan" (2015), "The Prophet" (2009), "Rust and Bones" (2013), Miral (2010), "Read My Lips" (2001) and The Hunger Games.  She will also be working on Gary ross's next, "Ocean's Eight."

Matthew McConaghey, won an Oscar for "Dallas Buyers Club" (2013).  Declared sexiest man alive by People magazine, but turned away from romantic comedies after 2010.  He was excellent as Newton.

Gugu Mabatha-Raw, born of a English nurse and South African doctor.  Her character Rachel was also bi-racial.  Gugu appeared as the title character in "Belle" (2013) and later, as Will Smith's wife in "Concussion"(2015).

Mahershala Ali after this film won Oscar for best supporting actor in "Moonlight" becoming first Muslim to do so.  Well know character in "House of Cards."  His character was a composite of runaway slaves.

Keri Russell got her start as a Disney Mousketeer.  She won a Golden Globe for a tv series, "Felicity."  Also had a role in "Dawn of the Planet of Apes" (2014).  She had the difficult role of playing Newton Knight's only wife who stayed on the property after Newton lived openly with Rachel.  Altogether in reality she had nine children by Newton.  It was said that she probably left Newton after he cohabited with a daughter of Rachel's (by another man) after Rachel died.

The many who played in Newton's rebellion and Confederate soldiers were uniformly excellent which probably credits director and producer Gary Ross.

2 hours 19 minutes to view was too much for some viewers.  There was a lot of information that had to be left out to retain the essence of the story.  An 18 minute short "The History of the Free State of Jones" was also interesting and I realize some of these people contributed to the story and some even had bit parts in the movie.

The movie illustrates that class does play a role in history.  An interesting book that illustrates this well is "White Trash."   Here is a post on it:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2017/02/white-trash.html

Note:  I have seen all the movies listed that have been bolded.  I saw an earlier generation of the Mouseketeers.    One of my more popular blogs included  "The Diving Bell and Butterfly" which you can read at:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2013/10/paralyzed-men-in-4-foreign-movies.html