Sunday, August 31, 2014

100 Ways to Motivate yourself

If you got past the title you demonstrated one of author Steve Chandler's contentions that most of us already have some motivation, but would like to be able to generate a little bit more.

Like almost all self improvement books there is a lot you have already heard or read, but it does help keep the momentum going with some new perspectives and the reminders of what you already have been told (and even believed a little bit).  This is a third edition and in fact he has more than 100 suggestions (110).

As you read it much will seem familiar and perhaps even corny.  But somewhere in there you should be able to find something that hits a nerve and just might spark a small change in attitude or behaviour that will be positive.

We too often avoid doing things because we feel we can't give it justice, but in fact once we start generally we improve. G K Chesterton once said, "If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing badly."

Some tips were intended to be easy to get you in the right direction.  Singing helps put you in a good mood.  Reading mystery books sharpens your brain.   Simplifying your life by removing clutter helps you focus on what is important.  Learning to say no helps cut the clutter.

Conversely listing what you don't want in your life encourages you to think what must be done to avoid these unwanted things and tasks.  For instance if you don't want to be fat and unfit you should consider an exercise strategy and a change in diet.

Problems can be discouraging, but turn your thinking to the idea that without problems there are no solutions.  Rituals are those things you usually do before the action you are focused on, for instance a few warmups before running or cycling.  They can help build momentum and help you get really moving.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Power of Sad Movies

Earlier inspired by a Thom Ernst topic on Fresh Air with Mary Ito to do a post on the joyous topic of kissing, the topic of sad movies brought up recently by the same team seems worth pursuing.  I have watched some of the movies referred to and was able to check out some I hadn't.  Memory can play tricks on you and what each person gets out of a movie is often very different.

I can appreciate why Thom Ernst named "Imitation of Life" as his saddest movie.  An element adding to the sadness is that it was just after a personal scandal of Lana Turner's daughter knifing her mother's boyfriend to death.  In this movie Lana portrays an ambitious actress pushing aside personal relationships (her daughter and her true love), but in the end there does seem to be a reconciliation and a realization of what she had done.  An earlier version of the movie in 1934 probably hit a racial nerve.  In the 1959 version we are never told any explanation why a daughter is much whiter than her mother, but know that it was common for an owner to rape or otherwise have sexual relationships with female slaves.  That is the real tension.  Racial attitudes caused such a rift between mother and daughter that literally drove them apart.  What a tragedy that society attitudes, horrible in themselves could cause this further anguish.

As a youngster I watched "Old Yeller" and coming from a dog loving family was upset, but it was an early favorite and taught me to enjoy sad movies. It seemed ironic and unfair that the dog who protected the family paid the price.  The nobleness of the dog also struck a chord.  "Bambi," the classic was also a heart breaker.  A family friend, Bob Morley used to hate that movie as he loved hunting.

Thom mentioned Burgess Meredith's role in "Rocky" that had a very sad scene, but I remember that movie as one of the very few I actually stood up in the theatre (with many others) and clapped because it made me feel good.  I do remember Burgess in a much older film "Of Mice and Men" that rates as one of the sadder movies when Burgess shot his very kind and vulnerable friend played by Lon Chaney who he had tried to protect throughout the narrative.

"The Pride of the Yankees" contains the triumphs and romance of Lou Gehrig, but that just sets up the end.  ALS is now known as Lou Gehrig's disease and is more memorable because of his consecutive game record.  Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright and Walter Brennan help you like the hero. The writers and director were right to end the movie at his farewell speech about what a lucky man he was.


The saddest movie I recall is "Kal Ho Na Ho' near the beginning of my interest in Bollywood.  When I picked up my reserve copy at the local library the young girl checking out warned me it is very sad.  In truth it is classic manipulation.  In the first part of the movie it appears typically juvenile humour and from time to time the protagonist helps patch up some human relations problems but mostly the hero (this was a critical to my preference for Shah Rukh Khan) is cracking corny jokes many in poor taste.  At one point you realize that he loves the heroinne, Preity Zinta and before too long she is ready to reciprocate.  Surprisingly he lies to her and tells her he is already married. Then he works hard to set up her immature school friend which eventually succeeds.  Bollywood music is sometimes a distraction, but here under the guidance of Shankar Ehsaan Loy is used brilliantly.  The title song is first sung around mid point and basically seems philosophical--you don't know what will happen tomorrow.  In the second half you understand he has a dangerous heart condition.  It comes to a climax when he is hospitalized and the heroinne realizes she has been lied to and her new husband feels his happiness had been manipulated.  Rest of the family and some friends gather around and the viewer realizes everyone present from a young girl to a bitter grandmother owes him gratitude.  Shah Rukh Khan admits to over acting and this is probably a good example, but fits right in.  I felt guilty for thinking the hero was so juvenile.  The music is the same title song, but now officially labelled "sad version" and it is impossible not to sob.  It has had that effect on me every time and when I hear the beautiful song it is also very affecting.

While still on Bollywood (I promise this won't just be Indian promotion) another movie that induces sadness is "Paa."  In it the producers have cast the famous 64 year old Amitabh Bachchan as a 12 year old and his actual son, Abischek  to play his father.  Near the beginning it seems like a romance and a comedy.  The twelve year old has a disease, Progeria and you are warned that it is fatal, but there is so much action with young children that you are more concerned about how the boy and the father will realize their relationship.  It goes in stages.  The background story is that a romance that seemed so promising was disrupted by a pregnancy and a desire not to abort.  The new mother who is studying to be a doctor gets support from her mother and the two of them raise the boy who is badly deformed, but very intelligent and give him an atmosphere of love.  The father,  the son of a wealthy man who is kept out, in the meantime, becomes an idealistic politician trying to do good things, but is being attacked by crooked media and other politicians.  He encounters the young boy who wins a contest and they start to bond.  My first movie seeing Vidya Balan who plays the boy's mother and later becomes a favorite..  The last words of the dying boy hit hard.

While I was researching this project through a flukey set of circumstances I watched a Finnish movie, "Mother of Mine."  It had another source of sadness.  Two mothers loving the same boy, but each having to give him up with the ups and downs of war.  A boy's love for his mother is perhaps the most natural thing in the world, but some unnatural things like war can disrupt the natural course of events.  Circumstances during the Russian assault on Finland during World War II  and neutral Sweden's offer to help whipsaw personal lives.  Most North Americans are unaware of these historical events.  Well done movie in a lot of technical details helps add to the impact.

Sometimes the greatest impact comes from the unexpected, but we usually watch movies for expected feelings. I apologize for the spoilers, but you did realize these were all sad movies! Tragic sad movies do fill a role at different times of our lives and if you are looking for a good cry bring along some kleenex and check out some of the movies mentioned.  If you would rather read about the joys of movie kisses check out http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2013/02/kissing-bollywood-vs-hollywood.html

Friday, August 22, 2014

"The End of Power"

At a Toastmaster's meeting one speaker suggested you don't actually need to read a book to be able to talk about it in a social setting.  He felt that reading the reviews in the New York Times Book Review allows the reader to project a knowledgeable sophisticated image to those he wanted to impress.  We all want to leave good impressions, but sometimes a real deep understanding can only come through serious study.

"The End of Power," originally brought to my attention by Fareed Zakaria is such a book that helps explain why the world is different in so many critical ways than a few generations ago.  The explanation deals with a lot of simple beliefs, but goes deeper.

Power is defined as the ability to direct or prevent the current or future actions of others groups and individuals.   It can manifest itself as force or the threat of force, a moral code, persuasiveness, or rewards.  All of these means are weakening.

Moises believes there are three revolutions in progress that have liberated people and removed barriers to power.  One he calls the More Revolution which stems from there being more of everything, especially people, making them harder to control.  The Mobile Revolution adds to the dynamic with people and money and ideas flowing much easier offering more options for people not satisfied with their lot in life.  The Mentality Revolution refers to expectations and education being higher than ever so that those with power find it more difficult to satisfy.  He concedes that social media plays a role, but the three revolutions are more critical.

What we see is the emergence of micro powers.  They were always there, but so many barriers that mostly they have not had much impact.  American politicians are more apt to have to go through a primary to reach power and many factions have a say.  Businesses now have access to other sources of financing.  One interesting example occurred when the Soviet Union collapsed Russia had a television vacuum that would be filled with movies and programs from other countries including novellas from Columbia.  Huge armies still have an impact but most military action is more like guerilla.

A few weeks ago I reviewed "Selected" about how leaders are selected.  In pre historic times leaders were literally selected and to a significant degree also controlled by followers.  Then the Agriculture Revolution and later the Industrial Revolution allowed for a system where leaders were not chosen by the masses, but by elites.  Now, as Moises explains times are changing in a different direction.

There have always been barriers to power and those who have power have been able to take advantage of the barriers to create more barriers. The three revolutions are all contributing to breaking down the barriers and most of us would agree that there are a lot of benefits.  There are still many powerful people and groups that seem well entrenched, but cracks are showing everywhere.

There are dangers when power is diffused. "Terrible simplifiers," becoming more common offering simple solutions that in the end only worsen the problems.  Moises offers little in the way of concrete suggestions, but points out that while NGO's (i.e. non government organizations) have increased in popularity and trust, political parties are trusted less and less.  He gave Obama's campaigns in 2008 as an exception and hoped that other political movements could capture the enthusiasm of large numbers of people who might otherwise become single issue people.  The world needs to solve problems.   Balance between totalitarianism and anarchy is difficult, but intelligent people with power should be able to work towards one.

Moises is confident that as in almost all other fields our political processes will be subjected to innovations that will assure both individual freedom and intelligent collective decisions.   In some ways this review is a platform for my beliefs, and can be a small springboard for solutions.

My feeling is that this will have to involve education and giving people real voting choices.   By education it is necessary that our youngest citizens need to be aware of how the politcal process works (along with alternatives), history, science, logic and the arts.  Too many politicians are able to twist logic to attract voters.

Politicians have also been able to strategize around splitting opposition or able to drown out logical alternatives with massive spending.  We are often bribed with our own money and have our natural selfish interests used against us.  To me proportional voting helps alleviate some of this abuse.   The American practice of gerrymandering (with similar practices elsewhere) should be minimized.

There is a lot of food for thought at his website, http://moisesnaim.com/books/the-end-of-power/

Update:  I watched Moises being interviewed by Steve Paikin and learned a few things.  I had forgotten that Moises speaks from experience--a cabinet minister in Venezuela he was upset at the lack of real power he had.  Steve asked what should be done.  Moises pointed out that our lives have been changing with the internet and he anticipates there will be political innovations within a few years because the people will have the power and will demand change.  June 2, 2015

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why blame the Middle East problems on Obama?

Americans or at least some prominent ones are quick to criticize Obama's handling of the various Middle Eastern problems.  He is too soft, too indecisive and just plain wrong.

It is easy to fault any one action, but one should realize the choices are not all that clear.  People tend to forget the background to the decisions and overlook some of the critical details.

Where to start?  Palestine might be one logical place.  The Palestinians are continually pictured as less civilized and controlled by terrorists.  Why do they seem so ungrateful and hateful?  If you realize the fight is for land and for freedom you might understand why.  They too were promised things, but either they weren't forceful or clever enough and they have been effectively stifled.

Israel has an ancient history and we Westerners rightly consider it one of the essential sources of our culture.  Jews gave the world a monotheistic view.  They were forced out of their land and spread mostly across Europe and later around the globe.  By hard work, intelligence and focused behaviour they were successful to the point of stirring resentment some of which was expressed as anti-Semitism.  The Nazis took it to a new level of hate and after World War II the world realized six million were killed under horrifying circumstances.  Jews did not feel safe in Europe and worried about anti-Semitism wherever they located.  Political movements, mainly Zionism sought out a permanent home and the most logical was Palestine.  The only problem was that other people already were living there.

The world felt guilty and ironically anti-Semitism also played in role in agreeing to set aside land for the Jews in Palestine.  The newly formed United Nations had a vote which declared specific land for the Jews, but also land for the Palestinians.  An article by William R Polk reminds me that the British presided over the independence of India including partitioning off Pakistan that resulted in millions dying.  The British also controlled Palestine when it was divided and literally thousands also died and many others relocated.  Through a series of events (some self inflicted by the Palestinians) the Jewish territory expanded and the Palestinians never did get their promised share. Although oil rich Arabs surrounding the area did invest some of their money and lot of their rhetoric to support the Palestinian cause they never got the support that the Jews did from America, Europe and the rest of the world.    There is a mix of resentment and fear also mixed with some Biblical self-rightiousness.  Some of the significant support for the Jews actually comes from American Evangelicals who await the second coming of Christ and believe that for that to happen the Jews have to control the Holy Land.

An obvious source of distrust is that the Israelis persist in making Jewish settlements in occupied territory although they have been told (it is hard to believe they would need to be told) this is very offensive.  They restrict Palestinians in countless ways at the borders not only for crossing, but for business.  Yes Israeli Arabs are better off.

The Palestinians have been ignored and abused for many decades and they are pictured in our media as uneducated with an insane desire to kill Jews.  There very definitely are a lot of fanatics who hate Jews and unfortunately this number is probably increasing. They have their own version of the situation, but it doesn't get much credence in the American mainstream media.  But if you think about it there are some grounds for their resentment.  Other Muslims around the world use what they see as very unfair treatment of their co-religionists by Westerners in their fight against us.

Syria and Iraq.  Let's go back a few years.  Both countries had their borders defined after World War I to the convenience of the wheeling and dealing winning powers.  Ethnic and religious concerns were not considered as important as oil and European maneuverings for colonial power.   The western powers felt dealing with relatively secular dictators superior to fairness to the teeming masses.  It seemed likely that any alternative to the dictators might be religious fanatics who would be much more difficult to deal with.

George Bush Sr was confronted by a problem and was able to organize a coalition to force Iraq to give up Kuwait.  He stopped short of conquering Iraq and replacing Saddam Hussein and that upset some right wingers in the United States.  It was a very delicate situation.  The American government had received United Nations authorization and had negotiated a coalition of many nations with differing perspectives.  Saddam Hussein proved himself adept at taking advantage of the situation to restore himself to full dictatorial power.

9-11 caught a lot of people off guard.  Why would anyone want to do such a horrible thing?  There really is no justification for killing so many innocent people.  Ignorance, resentment and hate played a role.  Quickly it was realized that the deed had been organized in Afghanistan (a story in itself) and Americans planned to attack in order to root out the terrorists.  Nobody much quarreled with that decision, but others saw it as an opportunity to get back at Saddam Hussein who they felt had suckered Americans in their last conflict.  Saddam had more reason to fear Al Qaeda than did Americans, but nonetheless some political factions claimed there was a tie-in.

The Iraq invasion proved to be an expensive distraction that has hurt America immeasurably.   They had not captured Osama bin Ladin and although they had greatly diminished the Taliban, they had not replaced it with anything solid.  On one side the Taliban (with help from Pakistan, a supposed ally) rebuilt itself and became a major factor again.  On the other side where Iraq had not harboured Al Qaeda  now became a recruiting base for them.  Religious and ethnic factions became unbottled and in effect a civil war resulted.  The Americans made at least two big mistakes--they had been advised to go in with a much larger number of ground troops, but authorities ridiculed that notion.  They were never able to clamp down enough to control the situation.  The second big mistake was to get rid of the bureaucratic and military infrastructure, men and women with necessary skills and knowledge to get things done.  Underlying these game changing errors was a basic ignorance of the country.

Iran is another country often depicted as uncivilized.  Americans forget they engineered a coup d'etat of a democratically elected Iranian ruler.  If this is brought up, the right wing points out that the Iranians were planning to nationalize their own oil as if the Westerners should have total control over it.  The Western powers favoured the Shah of Iran who with their help set up a harsh secret police force to control the masses.  As the Pope helped bring down Communist dictators so Ayatollah Khomeini helped bring down the Shah.  The Americans were delighted when the Iraquis  decided to invade Iran and supported them with amongst others things poisonous gas.  We, in the West  looked at them as fanatics who stormed and controlled the American Embassy for 444 days.  So each side blames the other, but they had begun to work together for mutual concerns.  Although they had received some Iranian help in the fight against terrorists, the Americans thought to frame Iran as one of the "Axis of Evil."  Now Iran is trying to assert itself to become a nuclear power causing fear in the rest of the world.

The so-called "Arab Spring" opened up another big can of worms.  Many factors were involved such as food prices, youthful unemployment and political agitation.  The results are very mixed and again a lot of factions have seized the opportunity to force their ideas on others.  Americans could probably had been more helpful if their credibility and resources had not been depleted by mistakes before.  From a conservative point of view Egypt, Libya and Syria were all better off before, except even conservatives wouldn't accept dictatorships in their own country.

Obama has a very complicated mess and limited resources.  It is very easy to offend a faction who feels Israel should be the focus of American foreign policy or those who feel fanatics should be killed at every opportunity  or our energy needs ought to be protected.

Conservative Americans think we ought to forget George Bush Jr's mistakes as if they have no impact on today's circumstances, but how could they not?  Obama has to work with the little credibility we have and try to develop more trust.  He has to balance a lot of domestic (unemployment, inequality, immigration, climate change) and other foreign (Ukraine, North Korea) concerns when his party can easily be blocked by the Republicans in the House of Representatives.

The biggest problem is ignorance and it is on most sides.  Most Middle Easterners and Muslims around the world have many higher priorities than killing Jews or Americans.  Most Westerners have many higher priorities than killing Muslims.  Unfortunately most of us let those with an agenda dictate our agenda.  There are some bridges between cultures, but not nearly enough.  Shed enough light on the situation and you will realize we have more in common than we differ on.

Documentaries are thought provoking

For years I have forced myself to read more non fiction books as a self improvement project and find fiction books very distracting.  When it comes to movies I have put the emphasis on entertainment.  However at the library one time Art Dyck told me of his preference for documentaries and thinking about it I decided to check them out.

My favored ones are all about corporate conspiracies.  I like to see progress, but recognize that other people are content the way things are and still others prefer the system to optimize their personal comfort.  It may seem noble to fight these conspiracies, but at one level I admit it is entertaining.

"Who killed the Electric car" (corporate conspiracy protecting fossil fuels).  Electric cars seemed like a significant breakthrough to alleviate pollution and global warming.  Rich people with a social conscience were anxious to buy, but they were forced to lease which gave the lessor more control than a seller.  At one point they were all recalled and trashed.  Most of the leassees were reasonably satisfied, but were given no choice.  The situation has progressed since then.   It leads to the conclusion, that powerful people are able to protect their economic interests at the expense of the rest of us.

Eliot Spitzer is a name I had encountered in the news, but first realized his significance in a documentary, "Inside Job" trying to explain the 2008 financial crisis.  While we were told a lot about foul deeds towards the end we learned Eliot was one of the most effective corruption fighters.  He was brought down as his weakness for paid sex was discovered and exploited.  More details came out with "Client 9" both about his efforts and his fall.  It was fairly clear that those who attacked him included those who were just as guilty as Eliot.  His problem was that he was seen as a knight in shining armor who rubbed too many people the wrong way and they found a way  to bring him down.  He is one of my heroes.

"An Inconvenient Truth" was ridiculed by climate denialists, but hits hard.  Dramatic touches have more impact to make the point.  We need to address climate change.  Al Gore and the Americans were done a grave disservice when the Supreme Court chose the wrong man.


"Why we Fight"  Wars are not always the result of cold military and political calculations as some have vested interest in industrial products (weapons). Politicians are protecting jobs, while lobbyists are protecting opportunities for profit.

"The Smartest Man in the Room" outlined the Enron scandal.  It seems there will always be a few people who use their brainpower to profit at the expense of the rest of us.

"Trials of Henry Kissinger' tells us how a very gifted and realistic political figure maneuvered circumstances to the advantage of American conservatives.

"Half the Sky" was devoted to the status of women that is still evolving.

"Food at the Table" shows us the corporate powers and how their preferences impact the rest of the country.

Michael Moore is the commercial champion of conspiracy documentaries.  Roger and Me was one of the first I saw about General Motors and his home town of Flint (my birth home was Oshawa and my two children took part in the Canusa Games held between Hamilton and Flint).  "Sicko" pointed out the American health care weaknesses that should have offended all Americans instead of the bickering we hear today.  "Capitalism;  A Love Affair" was pointing out many criticisms of the way business operates in the U.S.

"Maya Lin:  A Strong Clear Vision" was a simple film mostly about the Vietnam War memorial.  Maya Lin went through a lengthy competition and then was subjected to some very strong criticism some of which was sexist and racist.  Eventually her vision was accepted and it has generated strong supportive emotion response to and from the veterans.  Maya also did a memorial in Montgomery, Alabama to commemorate Civil Rights.

"Red Reign" was a shocking film about human organ harvesting in China.  According to this documentary the Gulan Fang members were targeted.  I had seen "Inhale" a fictionalized account about illegal organ transplants set in Mexico.  It is a world wide phenomenon that tests our feelings of ethics and equality.

"The Iran Job"got my attention because it was at least on  the surface about basketball.  It did go well below the surface to high light the life of an American basketball player, Kevin Sheppard for a year in Iran.  It was done with one cinematographer/writer/director, Till Schauder (assisted by wife Sara Nodjoumi) with very restricted access.  The key thing was that Iranian people are like us, but government is restrictive and discriminatory with women. 

There are plenty of documentaries that are not primarily political and I enjoy watching some of them as well.  David Attenborough has made a number of remarkable nature films and inspired others.

"The Horse Boy" was experimental and one could easily imagine it might not have succeeded.  Rupert Isaacson had some film background and loved horses.  He learned his autistic son Rowan had some response to horses and searched for a place where he could combine horses and native medicine and fixed on Mongolia.  There was opposition from wife and friends, but he persisted.  In Mongolia things did not progress as he envisioned, but with a lot of effort there was a big breakthrough.  Part of my income is dependent on horses and I like anything that demonstrates that horses can play a significant role in our future.   If Rupert had failed in his quest we would never have known as much about the power of horses to heal and he wouldn't have set up a ranch to help autistic people.

Documentaries don't get the attention of commercial fictional movies.  They are more available on tv.  Hopefully they can generate enough money or support that we can have access to realities our commercial film makers don't have time or other resources for.  I will be watching for more.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Chinese Cinema is a peek into their culture

Many people seem to feel that China is taking over the world.  At one time they were indeed the most sophisticated culture in the world.  With their diaspora, the Chinese have spread much of their culture to most corners of the world and in one way or another seem likely to have a dominant economy and culture.  Chinese food, fireworks, martial arts, cheap goods and movies.  Although we think of the Chinese as monolithic there are many elements such as language that differentiate them.


When one talks of Chinese movies we should include Hong Kong (which although legally part of China has a distinct history) and Taiwan.  Cantonese and Mandarin are the two main languages you will encounter, but there are other languages and dialects.  Chinese directors, actors and others have performed in the rest of the world. 

One wonders if it is all just propaganda any more so than what we subject ourselves in front of screens already.  Any country wants to represent itself in a positive manner.  In watching a wide range of movies I was struck by two things.  The Chinese deal with the same issues and concerns of the rest of us such as love, war, cheating, grief, etc.  Secondly there are many elements of self examination to be found in their movies.  We can enjoy their movies for entertainment, but also learn something of their perspective.

Ang Lee seems a good place to start.   His family came to Taiwan fleeing the Maoists that killed off most of his father's family.  After graduating from local school came to America to study film making.  He was an assistant director for Spike Lee's master thesis.  For six years he was a stay at home parent supported by his wife.  Much of his fame rides on Hollywood films, but he did a number of Mandarin films.  "The Wedding Banquet"  in 1993 portrayed a Taiwanese homosexual man marrying to satisfy his traditional parents.   "Eat Drink, Man, Woman" of 1994 with one of the best food preparation sequences at the beginning is set in Taipei.  A DVD special feature gave a lot of personal history.  His fame was established with "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" starring Yun-fat Chow and Michelle Yeoh as a Mandarin martial arts film which became the highest grossing foreign film released in United States.  Another Mandarin language film was "Lust! Caution" (with Tony Chiu Wai Leung) which was sexually very explicit as Ang felt it was necessary for a desired dramatic effect.  World War II intrigue in China.

He has made a name for himself in Hollywood with such movies as "Sense and Sensibility", "Brokeback Mountain" and "Life of Pi".  He helped persuade Ann Hathaway to except a role as Jane Austen in another film.   Although probably best known as a director he has also written scripts and produced films.


Another well recognized Chinese film personality is Jackie Chan.  Born in Hong Kong, Jackie speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, English and English sign language.  He developed a reputation for martial arts, choreographing and doing his own stunts.  He has a very deft sense of humour that endears him to people like me who are not fond of martial arts.   He did his first American film in 1980, but his first blockbuster American success was "Rush Hour" in 1998.  He has done numerous martial art films in the Hong Kong Cantonese market.

Another director who caught my attention was Wai-Keung Lau who in 2002 did "Infernal Affairs" a very interesting movie starring Tony Chiu Wai Leung and Andy Lau and was later adapted by Hollywood as "Departed" which won an Oscar.   "Beautiful Life" in  2011 was a beautiful love story.

John Woo, has had an impact in China and Hollywood.  After directing a few films he developed a niche in violent action films.  "The Killer'"with Yun-Fat Chow attracted Americans where he now makes most of his films.   John has been affected by the Tianemen Square massacre and was able to make a few references to it in his films.  One brutal film produced by John that I thought was excellent was "Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale" set in Taiwan dealing with how the indigenous natives dealt with Japanese rulers before World War II.  In the U.S he directed "Face/Off", and" Windtalkers."  Recently he has been involved with "The Crossing" which tells a story of the exodus from China to Taiwan. which is something to look forward to.

Yun-Fat Chow is a Chinese actor with influence in China and Hollywood.  Known for action films such as "The Replacement Killers"  he nonetheless starred in "Anna and the King" with Jodie Foster and "The Children of Huang Shi" and "Shanghai" with John Cusack and Li Gong,   "Confucius" made in 2011 seemed a good fit.  China has almost always had great respect for Confucius, but there was a time when the Communist regime tried to bury him.  Mai Hu, a woman director also wrote the script for this blockbuster movie.

"House of Flying Daggers" released in 2006 with Ziyi Zhang, Andy Lau and Takeshi  Kaneshiro and "Curse of the Golden Flower" directed by Yimou Zhang with Yun-Fat Chow  and Li Gong doing martial arts in a gravity defying artistic manner. Li Gong has also appeared in "Shanghai" and "Memoirs of a Geisha".

"Chungking Express" released in 1994 directed by Kar Wai Wong and starring Tony Chiu  Wai Leung  and Takeshi Kaneshiro .  The cinematography was very unique.  You will recognize a popular American song, "California Dreaming" played repeatedly.

"Sophies Revenge" released in 2009 disappointed me a little, but ok.  Like everyone else the Chinese (at least some of them which means hundreds of millions) like romance and a few laughs.  Li Gong played lead character.  I am aware there are many more and reportedly better examples.

"Iron Road", televised in 2008 brought home the awareness that one of our most proud achievements (the national railroad) was accomplished on the backs of Chinese workers who were treated poorly.  Brought over Sun Li for the lead role and Tony Leung Ka Fai for a supporting role.


"Balzac and the Little Chinese seamstress"  released in 2002 deals with re-education in Maoist times.  Amongst those being re-educated, Western literature in translation is a strong lure for some people.

Dubbed films were tempting me as Chinese dialects unlike some European dialects have almost no resonance with me.  The cadence of each is distinctively different.  Subtitles, sometimes are confusing, but still give understanding and seem more natural.

China has been hit with criticisms for such as censorship, political repression, currency manipulations, worker exploitation.  Any culture is subject to criticism and it seems developing into a world power requires some dirty tricks.  I hope that as China matures we can all benefit from the many good things that have come from them.

In the end whether we like it or not the Chinese are likely to have even more impact on our lives.  Reading books and watching movies are two ways to boost your understanding.  For me there are a few more Chinese films on my reserve list I look forward to, but at some point this blog needs to be finished (and read).