Monday, December 31, 2012

My 2013 Resolutions

Time can drag on when you are sorting out your priorities in life and how best to achieve goals.  A public declaration is part of my strategy.

Habits run my life.  I have spent over 64 years developing them and some of them are helpful but others have constrained not only how much wealth I control, but also more importantly my enjoyment of life.  A lot of thinking and preparation went into this set of resolutions

I am not without discipline and willpower, but not enough. Wean myself off of binging on chocolate--made difficult with gifts of chocolate.  Problem apparently is caffeine, but also I like the taste so much I end up eating more cream, sugar, etc.

The specifics listed below are intended to be something to be aimed for and then something to be built upon, but not to the point of becoming obsessive.  Now that I bought myself an egg timer I can use it for meditation and exercises.

Pushups minimum 4 times per week doing 100 pushups within a 20 minute period

Situps minimum 4 times per week doing 80 situps in a 20 min period

Meditation min 5 days per week of 10 min.  Mindfulness to expand.

Idle time--exercise, rest, learning, enjoying (relaxing) NOT aimless surfing Double stepping

Sales effort--minimum average of 40 efforts per day with 15 direct contacts

Reading--still more non fiction (improvement, business, biography, history), but increase fiction that is enjoyable

Enjoy music as much as the news.

Start the year with attention to organizing.  Like most people I have enough resources to make my life better.

Be nicer, listen more deeply

Sunday, December 30, 2012

FAVORITE MOVIES OF 2012

Everyone has their own idea of what the best movies are and I can't pretend to be any wiser than any of you.  Movies mentioned indicate my preferences.  Your thoughts are more than welcome in fact it is my hope to check out some of your ideas.  The movies mentioned are movies that I watched in 2012, many of them were made in previous years and come out of over 130 movies.  Many more are deserving of mention, but this is not intended as a list.

Director commentaries and special features often helped me appreciate something I would not have appreciated on my own.  Others think the movie must stand on its own.  Like everything else movies have a context and if you don't understand the context you will not fully appreciate the movie.

There is still a foreign language bias in my preferences and that means there are more choices than time.  Years ago it was common advice not to invest your money in any one country as it might not be safe.  Watching foreign movies doesn't mean that Hollywood is no good, but rather that there are wonderful ideas out there and you would be foolish not to enjoy them.  Like foreign foods they will add spice to your life.

Let's start off with the English speaking movies.

George Clooney figured in two I enjoyed, "The Descendents" (directed by Alexander Payne who also wrote the screenplay after winning Oscar for Sideways) was a family drama where a father draws his two daughters back into the fold while also deciding on a family heritage.

"Ides of March" was directed by George as well as playing one of the lead characters.  George seems to have a cynical view of politics which I share to some degree.  The movie has a few twists and has excellent acting by George, Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti and Paul Seymour Hoffman.

"J Edgar," (directed by Clint Eastwood) was recommended to me by one of my wife's closest friends, Barb Martin.  It was a fascinating character study of a man who liked to take credit for things he didn't actually do.  Still he was a skillful manipulator with a strong impact on American history.

"The Debt" (directed by John Madden) had two sets of actors to play younger and older versions of the same people.  It is a cover up thriller type of movie very well done.  Helen Mirren plays a key role.

"Water for Elephants," (directed by Francis Lawrence) was a drama played out on a Depression era circus background.  One thing I remember is that Robert Pattinson is more than a teenage idol.  An enjoyable movie.

"People Like Us" ( directedby Alex Kurtzman also writer, with music by a favorite Bollywood composer, A R Rahman).   Apparently the director had gone through a similar experience as the lead male actor and probably that helps give a feeling of authenticity. Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks and Michelle Pfeiffer all give effective performances.

Filmed in 2009 "Agora", an English speaking film directed by a Spaniard, Alejandro Amenabar got my attention.  The movie stars Rachel Weisz in a woman centric role.  The director was very fascinating as he explained in a special feature that he had wanted to do something that involved astronomy and ended up setting his story in ancient Alexandria focusing on a woman scientist.  Based on fact, but not necessarily 100% factual the director demonstrated how some ancients may have deduced that the earth goes around the sun and even that it uses an elliptical orbit.  Alejandro also co-wrote the script and has written the music for several movies.  An earlier movie of his that impressed me was "Abre Los Ojos" re-written by him as "Vanilla Sky".  Someone to watch out for.

One classic I watched (for the first time) was "Unforgiven."   Directed by Clint Eastwood.  It was numbing.  It was crude and brutal, but in a very realistic sobering manner.  Attitudes were stripped to their cores.  Crudity was brought out as part of every day life.  It was well worth viewing, but you need to have a strong stomach and be open minded.

"The Maltese Falcon" was a classic I had seen before, but was able to take a closer look at.  Black and white movies seem too old fashioned, but they perhaps should be judged by how well they used their more limited resources.  I have always felt the key factor in a movie is the story.  Actors enhance it and directors are the key resource managers.  Technology can sometimes take over and distract from the story. I understand this was the first movie that John Huston directed.  This movie helped Humphrey Bogart elevate himself to a higher level of stardom.  An enjoyable movie.  Just before Christmas I watched "The African Queen" again directed by John Huston, starring Humphrey Bogard and Katherine Hepburn with excellent cinematography.  All around very enjoyable..

One of the last movies of the year for me was from a childhood memory, "Captain Blood".  I had first watched it with my father who was an Errol Flynn fan (and I suspect like myself also an Olivia de Havilland fan).   Later I watched it in stages with my young son Michael while waiting for school.  It was one of the first movies with music by Erich Korngold.  It might look a bit dated, but I loved it when I first saw it and it still gave me a thrill during the holidays.

A strange category with just one entry, "The Artist".  It is English, but it is subtitled.  It justifies the fuss.  One line in there was "mugging", implying without words actors tended to over act.  Some truth to that, but watching the movie it was interesting how they captured the mood without spoken words.  The acting was different, but the emotions came through loud and clear with the two French leads excellent.  A wonderful collaborative effort between French and American staff.   The cinematography was also noteworthy, and perhaps not noticed because in black and white.  Michel Hazanavicius directed it.

If you can't be bothered with subtitles the rest of this blog is like a tease.  You will be tempted, but you might get headaches or eyestrain or you will be forced to concentrate more than usual.  If you give in to the temptation you just might feel you have discovered a brand new joy in life.  The next three listed are my favorite three of the year.

Perhaps my favorite movie overall of the year was "A Separation."  In North America one gets used to thinking of Iran as a backward nation filled with fanatics.  This movie shows they are civilized and have the same sorts of personal tensions we are familiar with.  The story has mysterious elements, but I would emphasize the personal dynamics are done much better than standard movie fare.  The director set out to give the movie a documentary feel and succeeded.  The movie had to work around censors.  The writer and director (and his daughter played I would say the very significant third lead) was Asghar Farhadi who had to deal with Iranian censors and is not really appreciated by Iranian authorities.

Another top favorite is "The Intouchables" from France.  I assumed it wouldn't be shown at commercial theatres in my area, but it was picked up by the Art Gallery of Hamilton film fest.  Francois Cluzet plays a paraplegic in contrast to a previous role in an action movie, "Tell No One."  Omar Sy plays a cultural contrast.  The two give different pictures of modern Paris, the one very elegant and the other more desperate.  The story, based on real lives is funny in unanticipated details and uplifting.  The two characters at opposite ends of both wealth and health helped each other squeeze more out of life.   Directed and written by the team of Oliver Nakache and Eric Toleando.

From Bollywood, one that totally fooled me was "Kahaani".  It wasn't so much that the killer was a surprise, but the whole setup was in line with "Sixth Sense" or the "Usual Suspects" and for most of you this description will not spoil it.  Watching Vidya Balan, even playing an 8 month pregnant wife is one of life's pleasures.  The movie steadily tightens the suspense, but you are not really prepared for the resolution.  The most moving music is at the very end during the credits with religious overtones sung by Abitabh Bachchan, someone who I respect, but had not realized he sang.  Directed by Sujoy Ghosh.

"Barfi" was confusing to me at first.  The trailer indicates there would be a lot of comedy and there certainly was.  Also there would be some sort of love triangle and there was.  In many reviews at IMDB there seemed a reluctance to give out plot details and I now appreciate why they felt that way.  The movie is really about  relationships and was much deeper and richer than I anticipated.  Music played a strong role as it does in most Bollywood movies, but not in its familiar form.  The presentation is different with high reliance on flashbacks.  Directed by Anurag Basu.

"Don 2," heavy on plot, action and special effects was enjoyable. Filmed in Malaysia and Germany with wonderful cinematography.  The plot was convoluted keeping you on your toes.  Shah Rukh Khan showed he is more than just a romantic hero.  Directed by Farhan Akhtar.

"Stanley Ka Dabba" caught me off guard.  I had the idea it was a children's movie and it proceeded in many ways like I expected.  But towards the end I realized it wasn't a chidren's movie, but deeply concerned with education and a social problem in India.  Checking the special features I learned that it was filmed after a series of special classes initially without a script and very low budget.  The brain behind it was Amole Gupte who was also involved with "Taare par Zameen" another excellent movie that focused on an education issue.

Also watched a Bollywood classic, "Sholay".  I am so used to seeing Amitabh Bachchan as a strong father figure I didn't appreciate he got started as a young macho star.  It was very action packed from beginning to end with a few surprises along the way.  Directed by Romesh Sippy.

Canadian movie, 'Monsieur Lazhar.'  Also up for Oscar with "A Separation".  A very good movie, based on a one person play.  It fooled me into thinking they might have a tidy happy ending, but did have a realistic one.  For 2011 I felt "Incendies" was the best film I got to watch.  After watching "Monsieur Lazhar" I followed up an earlier movie of director/writer Philip  Falardeau, "Congorama" and was very impressed with its subtlety.  This year the best Canadian film and one of the best overall was "Monsieur Lazhar" which just demonstrates the strength of Quebec in international movies.

A Dutch film of 2011, "Bride Flight" was interesting following some Dutch women (and one man) headed to New Zealand after the war.  A soap opera plot, but well done and some wonderful scenery in New Zealand.   Directed by Ben Sombogaart.

"Headhunters" from Norway was one that interested me as I had just discovered the original author, Jo Nesbo.  They did an excellent job of dealing with Hollywood standards on a paltry Norwegian budget.

A recent French classic, "A Very Long Engagement" directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunnot who had done the more famous "Amelie" also with Audrey Tautou.  In this movie which was a lot more complex than I had imagined I was surprised to see Jodie Foster in a French speaking role.  Marion Cottilard who is becoming one of my favorites also had a signficant role.

Other movies worthy of watching came from Sweden, Turkey, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Argentina, and Brazil.
  
"El Mariachi" has become a classic. Originally intended for the Mexican video market with a $7,000 budget it drew attention at the Sundance festival.  It is a reasonably entertaining action film, but more entertaining was the director, Robert Rodiguez's commentary where he explained in almost every scene how he kept the cost down.  Most of the actors were not paid, the scenery was taken as it was found, props were improvised and the film was carefully monitored as they couldn't afford re-takes.

Looking forward to:  Life of Pi, Talaash, Lincoln, Cloud Atlas, Midnight's Children, Rust and Bone that have released in 2012.  I also plan to watch a number of classics, movies that told a meaningful story without all the modern technology.

If I didn't mention one of your favorites tell me and also why you liked it.  For my favourites of 2011 check out http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2012/01/movies-i-enjoyed-in-2011.html

Friday, December 28, 2012

BOOKS I ENJOYED IN 2012

As you browse through a bookstore or the library you are dumbfounded at all the interesting books you don't have time to read.  The situation is only compounded by the availability of e books where you don't have to worry about locked doors.  My selection process is a lot of browsing, reading, listening and watching reviews or references, and listening to friends' advice.  As a result of all that I have spent hundreds of hours over the past year enriching and distracting myself.  Hopefully you might find a few gems.  I have read over 70 books in the past twelve months and these are the ones I remember the most.

I purposely minimize reading fiction books as they are very distracting for me.  One good example is "The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln" written by Stephen L Carter.  I had read an earlier book, "The Emperor of Ocean Park" by the same author and was very struck at his understanding of the law and legal matters while still writing in-depth characters and a clever plot.

Abraham's Lincoln's assassination is one of the pivotal moments of history, although the author believes there are stronger forces than any one man.  After Lincoln's death at the hands of John Wilkes Booth, Andrew Johnson tried to carry on the spirit of Lincoln's expressed intentions not to be too harsh on the southern rebels.  He was not as politically astute as Lincoln and soon generated a lot of resentment that resulted in his own impeachment trial.  One of the themes of this book is that even if Lincoln had survived and Johnson died the historical forces would have expressed themselves anyway. This book is a great mixture of plotting, characterization, political and legal subtleties.


The Burlington Public Library had their Burlington Reads selection "The Beauty of Humanity Movement" by Camilla Gibb and without knowing too much about it I reserved it.  It focused on Vietnam in modern times, but with a strong focus on the impact of the war.  It intrigued me enough that after reading it I visited a restaurant to try the soup that figured prominently in the book.  You can read about that adventure in one of my more popular blogs, http://bit.ly/OPpsTV  The book was an enjoyable experience enhanced by physically following up one of the themes.

A book I would describe as one to take to the beach is "The Panther" by Nelson De Mille. He turns out a thriller about every 18 months after a lot of research.  There is an intricate plot, interesting information and a lot of humour.  The humour comes from sarcasm and perhaps the best of it is the internal thinking of the main character, John Corey.  I have covered in another blog about marrying into the De Mille family which you can read at http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2012/05/tribute-to-nelson-demille-real-writer-i.html

Another mystery novel I read had a personal connection as I have known the author John Lawrence Reynolds through work.  He had written a number of mysteries set in Boston years ago, but when returning to mysteries he set his latest book on the "Beach Strip" in Hamilton and part of the joy was recognizing local places and history.  His characterizations are a big part of his writing.

Still with fiction I finally read my first Jane Urquhart book, "The Stone Carvers"  An enjoyable book which covered areas of Ontario I am familiar with.  Inspired by the Vimy Memorial.  I will be reading more of her books in the future.

A book that is still impacting me on a daily basis is "The Willpower Instinct" by Kelly McGonigle.  Willpower is the one personal attribute that can make the most difference.  This is a how to book, but is only as good as the willpower you can put into it.  We all have some willpower, but the trick is how to stretch it and she offers a practical perspective.  A more detailed description by me can be found at  http://bit.ly/S9WrMo

The Shift---future scenarios  My favorite non fiction book of 2012. We would all like to predict the future, but it is similar to jello. Lynda Gratton runs by a lot of possibilities  and links them to trends that either can be encouraged or discouraged.  She gives herself the freedom of fiction to discuss many possibilities.  More details can be found at http://bit.ly/I9rpdj







"Fairness and Freedom" denote compatible traits but there is an important distinction.  Freedom sounds so noble and everyone craves it.  We want to do what we want to do.  Capitalism thrives on freedom, but too often the levers get re-set and some people have more freedom than others.  For instance those who control capital can shift labour to slave wages and fewer safety and environmental restrictions with just a few key strokes.  Free trade is not free for everyone.  Fair trade is an attempt to  make sure everyone gets their "fair share."  New Zealand has a longer history of concern for this while America is convinced freedom is everything.  Having concrete examples helps clarify the distinctions.  More details can be found at http://bit.ly/LxMuvF


Business   Demand is a book that gets right to the basic of business. Persuading people to buy something.  It has always been the case that if you make life easier for someone else to do something they want to do you can sell something.
Again, more details can be found at http://bit.ly/NiWrMo

Read about my favourite reads of 2011 at:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2012/01/books-i-am-glad-i-read-in-2011.html

Sunday, December 16, 2012

SPLIT SECOND PERSUASION

If persuasion was easy and simple  there would not be the need for so many sales people most of whom struggle.  Kevin Dutton has found that the average person endures around 400 persuasion efforts per day.  We have become hardened to most of them, but the author has uncovered some basic natural and simple facts of persuasion.  For those who think persuasion is not nice, you could reflect that at one time physical coercion was more common and as the author points out persuasion is an indication that we are really civilized.

Mixed in with a lot of references to scientific research are fun exercises, humorous incidents and an amusing style that will help you painlessly dig up some basic stuff of persuasion.  Some of the main subjects include babies, psychopaths and sales people.  We are all complex beings and most of us are clueless how our brains really work.  It is wired to take short cuts and some of us understand the shortcuts better than others.

Starting with babies, how is it that such totally defenseless beings are able to get their parents to relieve their (ie. the babies') discomfort as soon as possible?  Or cow complete strangers?  Crying helps, but there is more.  We are programmed to respond to baby faces with their rounder shapes with relatively larger eyes and  dilated pupils gets our attention.  This carries on to adults with one example being when the driver in heavy traffic is able to catch the eye  of fellow drivers they are more apt to be let in.  As counter to this, eye avoidance is common in traffic.

He gives many dramatic examples of split second persuasion where incongruity with sudden unexpected words or gestures reverse someone's direction.  From preventing a suicide to reconciling families, to a sale.  Kevin uses SPICE as an acronym to explain the mechanism.  It must be simple, perceived as in the other person's self-interest, incongruous, done with confidence and demonstrating empathy.

Psychopaths are pictured as cold blooded, but surprisingly the author says they are empathic.  Not in the warm way we usually visualize when the word is used, but calculating.  They understand what the other person feels and they can calculate how best to take advantage.  All psychopaths are not criminals and in fact many are business leaders.

Salesmen have learned or stumbled on techniques that work.  Most salesmen realize that sales are made not through logic, but through emotions.  Body language is key.  Light touching or leaning forward can be effective.  Confidence is hard to fake.  Searching for common ground is natural and helps develop empathy.  Knowing what the prospect feels is critical to persuasion and a smart salesperson will frame their proposition in ways that bring out favorable emotions.  Reciprocity is a normal human survival trait that salespeople can exploit in different ways.

Cognitive drain is a concept that when the brain has various operations on the go it loses its ability to either take on a new task or to perform at an acceptable level.  In other words we can be distracted.

"Split-Second Persuasion" is not so much a how to book as a layman's psychology text that will help you understand what is really going on.  If you are interested there are lots of practical thoughts.

Do you need more persuading to actually pick up the book?  Some more information can be found at the following website, http://splitsecondpersuasion.com/

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bollywood Music can grow on you.

My love of Bollywood music is the result of a lot of stumbling and now I am obsessed.  Most Canadians are blissfully ignorant of it or have a stereotypical prejudice.  There is a lot that is strange by North American standards and would take a lot of time to appreciate.  We don't often pay attention to the unfamiliar, which means that part of culture that is not touted by what we regard as authoritative is to be ignored.  Too bad there is lot to enjoy in this world.  I have chosen a few links I hope will appeal to your North American tastes to give you a better feel.

I got launched in my new interest with a song I still think is one of the best.  After some research I decided to watch "Kal Ho Naa Ho".  I was told by a library staff that it was a very sad movie, but the truth is at the first half it seemed pretty juvenile.  Then at one point the hero sings a very philosophical mellow song which caught me off guard as up to this point he had been engaged in a lot of frivolity.  They had another version of the song played towards the end which was labelled sad version and it was even with a little bit of over actingthe most sad part of any movie I had ever seen.  My wife thinks it is suitable for doing yoga.

You can listen to it at http://www.shankarehsaanloy.com/ and pushing the start of the audio gallery.  The first item of music is the song.  Most people will find it very melodious and soothing.  The sad part really comes from the movie context.  The other song items are all different from one another.

Another song  from "Kal Ho Na Ho", "Kuch To Hua Hai" resonates with me, a song of two people expressing their new love, and you might assume it is for one another, but one is focused on our sad hero.  The lure with this song is most of it is set in Toronto and I recognized a lot of the sights.

I checked who wrote the music and learned it was a threesome, Shankar Ehsaan Loy.  One was actually a playback singer.  They had formed to do radio jingles until someone gave them the opportunity to do movie music back in 1997.  I have enjoyed their music in "Zindagi Na Milega Dobara" which won a well deserved album award,   "Rock On", "Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna", "Lakshya" (with one military theme very well done), "Karthik Calling Karthik", "Dil Chatha Hai" and others.  One movie that I enjoyed their music more than the movie was "Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic" and admit the clever choreography was an important element.

In India, the hit parade tends to revolve around movie music which is actually released before the movie.  In North America musicals have lost their popularity, but music is still a driving force in India.  I respond more to music in context which is what Bollywood offers.  Of course the content of the movie makes a big difference and there is a big variety.  They are heavily influenced by Western music, but they can also utilize unique Indian rhythms and musical instruments.

A R Rahman is the  most famous Bollywood composer in North America with "Slumdog Millionaire" for which he won two Oscars.  Has scored for a number of American movies. In a list of his top hits there are many more noteworthy songs that hit his most appreciative audiences.  Some of his music I enjoyed includes "Ghaljini", "Lagaan", "Taal".  " A Peck on the Cheek",  "Bombay."  He composed music for 3 Deepa Mehta's (a prominent Canadian film maker) films, "Earth", "Fire" and  "Water".   He also wrote the music for my favorite Bollywood movie, "Swades"  He enjoys being a playback singer (in one famous movie seen singing on top of a moving train).  Admittedly I appreciated a lot of his music when I revisited it after my first listen.

One of Rahman's movies I enjoyed early in my education was  "Jaane tu...ya Janne Na" An interesting link from Jaanne tu...ya Janne Na" is http://ww.raaga.com/channels/hindi/moviedetail.asp?mid=H001264   The first song is very catchy and the second is an interesting novelty song and is partly in English (Pappu can't dance).

Pritam Chakraborty is known for both hard and soft music.  He loves to write Punjabi songs with wild dance rhythms, but also has a reputation for soft romantic tunes.  In "Jab We Met" one of the songs from this movie, "Tum Se Hi"  was voted most romantic song.  click on http://www.hindifilmnews.com/bollywood_buzz/poll-most-romantic-bollywood-song-ever-2/  then follow down to the second video (you might enjoy the first) and press the start sign.  Mohit Chouhan is given a lot of credit for popularizing this song.

Vishal-Shekar have a long list of movies to their credit.  One very popular infectious (to listeners not computers) video from Ra.one sung by American hip hop artist Akon.  Can't recommend the movie otherwise but have a listen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M4EZHGFK-1c  They have written a number of other catchy tunes.

Salim-Sulieman Merchant are two brothers.   They have produced music for a number of movies that I have enjoyed, but can't remember the music which might mean the songs didn't distract from the movie.  I thoroughly enjoyed "Iqbal"'s background music and noticed the main theme repeated in "Ashayein" another enjoyable bit of movie music.  An irony here is that in "Iqbal", the main character played by Shreyas Talpade was a deaf mute who cracked top cricket play and in "Aashayein" he played a bit role, but sang the song.   Two others I remember the music fondly were "Bachna Ae Haseeno" and "Fanaa"  Sometimes the story is more dominant and sometimes the music, but ideally they blend together.

Jatin-Lalit are another two brothers with a lot of movies to their credit, two of which are considered modern classics, "Diwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" and "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.",  amongst my top enjoyable Bollywood movies.

If you tried a few links and weren't impressed I can only suggest the more you listen and the more in context the more likely these songs will start to grow on you.  I didn't appreciate everything the first time I heard it, but came to love a lot of Bollywood music.  If you are not turned on, your effort is appreciated.  Forgive me, but I do love this stuff.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Settlements are an act of defiance

A lot is shaking the Middle East.  Hatred and fear are mixed through misunderstandings.  It does seem that might is right, and both sides seem to understand the role of power.

I am offended by the Canadian government who has decided to take sides.  I would say the wrong side, but there would be an improvement if they at least tried to stay neutral.

I am an outsider who has only a superficial understanding of what has happened in Palestine, but I have read and listened countless hours as various positions are advocated.  It boils down to this.  Palestine is Biblical, the Jews were exiled from their own lands, mostly after the Romans.  They suffered from persecution everywhere they went culminating in the Holocaust.  Europeans and North Americans felt very guilty (partly because they ignored the Jewish plight and even discriminated against them as well).  Jews, mostly in Europe campaigned for a homeland where they would not be persecuted and Israel seemed the most logical. location.  They were successful through the United Nations in being granted their homeland with a few restrictions.  The Arabs were resentful and resisted this incursion on what they thought was their homeland (they too had been promised more independence) and many were either forced, misled or intimidated into leaving.

The Jewish settlers fought back and with help of foreigners actually conquered large amounts of surrounding lands which made them feel a little more secure with a cushion all around them.  A lot of resentment from Palestinians, but not enough support from their Arab and Muslim neighbours, some of whom were quite wealthy.  The Palestinians resorted to violence and picked up the idea of suicide bombs from the Tamil Tigers.  Suicide bombing is perhaps the most frightening weapon of anyone.  Even with the atomic bomb you realize the aggressor is probably concerned about survival.  The outside world looks upon it as a barbaric, inhuman, misguided and pathetic.  Israelis feel justified in harsh, methodical methods to protect themselves.  The Palestinians claim they want their land back and they want their idea of freedom.  They have been looked upon as backward psychopaths.

I am sure both sides can tell me stories of atrocities, stupidities and unsportsmanlike behaviour.  Most of us in the West feel the Palestinians are backward and should be grateful for what they have.  If they don't behave themselves they deserve to suffer.

Fear and hate, a very bad combination.  The problem at this level is simple enough.

Compounding the problem is this feeling of righteousness.  Words were written thousands of years ago that make one side feel they are entitled to even more land.  They think these words supercede any efforts to work things out fairly.  Israel, as part of their resentment of the recent United Nations vote to award Palestine non voting membership have decided to step up their settlement program.

Increasingly more of the world sees the settlements as an act of aggression against the Palestinians with really the intention of grabbing as much land as possible.  Factions of the Palestinians have grown tired of trying to negotiate and being ignored.  Their occupier has decided the only way to deal with the Palestinians is to press down harder and build walls to protect themselves.  They see no reason to negotiate seriously or to take seriously the complaints of the Palestinians.  When negotiations are not practical, practical people look for other means to attain their ends.

The Israelis are understandably afraid, but some are very self righteous.  They are not alone.  European settlers were similar; they conquered large parts of Africa, Asia, North and South America.  There was even a Biblical theme expressed by some that they had a duty to spread the true word of God to the heathens.  They had superior technology, they were more unified and diseases they brought disarmed much of the opposition.  All of these nations or tribes felt they had mythical justification for their existence, although we tend to look at most of them as backward and often can't understand why they aren't more grateful for the civilization we brought to them.

I don't have a solution.  The problem has been very one sided, with Israel having the power so they get to tell their story.  They are bolstered not only by Jews around the world, but by evangelical Christians who see their dominance mandated by the Bible.  Revenge is self perpetuating.  Trust can be very hard to build.  Building settlements in occupied lands  is very counter-productive.