Tuesday, September 27, 2016

FACE TO FACE HILARY VS THE DONALD

So many people are commenting on the big debate--first time face to face in front of millions.  Some of my observations are really second hand as with so many eyeballs and ears focused there are bound to be different perspective and interpretations.

The election has mostly been reported as a horse race.  How each candidate is doing with various voter niches.  The consequences are monumental, but the focus is on relatively inconsequential items.

During the primaries Hilary found herself modifying some of her positions such as on the TPP and post secondary education.  Trump really created attention by a steady stream of insults and few policy statements.  Hilary has had to endure petty mistatements while most of Trump's outrageous claims slid over his base support.  There are many people who have not fared well in the last few years looking for someone to blame.  Trump can name the disaster providers and present simple solutions.

Who won the debate?  Many would say Hilary Clinton, but others felt Trump did pretty good--after all he made a lot of points that some people agree with.  One of the problems was that many of his statements were fabrications and/or misleading.

There are too many examples of Trump's misstatements and missteps, but people do need reminding.

To make his points he made over 25 interruptions including against the moderator, Lester Holt plus talking over Hilary who acted flabbergasted at many of his claims.  Trump tends to talk in hyperbolic generalizations and not worry too much if he has already been disproved.  He also prefers changing the topic to answering the question at hand.  Lester did call Trump on some of his mis-statements, but generally let him run freely which was just as well.

Trump criticized Clinton for not being on the road the past week like he was.  She said she was getting prepared for the debate.  To me it signalled a better sense of priorities.   Later he bragged about his superior temperament (which drew laughter) while he commented he didn't feel he had to be prepared.  Stamina was really counter productive (again).   He said earlier he didn't think she looked "presidential," but really laid into the idea that she didn't have the necessary stamina.  She pointed out after he traveled as much as she had or endured 11 hours in a Congressional enquiry he could talk about "stamina."

At one point defending his non disclosure of his income taxes he ended up bragging about being smart to not pay income tax.  He also boasted he was a good business man anticipating a downside to business as a housing crisis approached.  His bankruptcies and stiffing contractual employees were signs of his smart business.

Racism became a topic to which Hilary made a few suggestions, but Trump completely misread the opportunity.  Instead of trying to reconcile with blacks his first point was we need "law and order."  Discussing the birther controversy he twisted it so it was good that he forced Barack Obama to produce his birth certificate.  Most blacks realize this was meant to discredit and humiliate the first black President.

Climate change poked into the debate a little.  He denied what he had said and misled about the solar panel efforts.  This is an area where the public is starting to get ahead of the right wing.  The right wing seems beholden to oil and coal interests.  This topic needs more time in future debates.

At one point he questioned NATO partners (plus Japan and South Korea) not paying their fair share.  Hilary was quick to reassure that she would honour American commitments.  Trump repeated an earlier suggestion we should have stolen oil from the Iraquis to prevent ISIS.  He criticized the Iranian deal and brought up money paid to Iran, neglecting to mention that it was returning money that had been frozen.  He seemed much readier to find a military solution than a diplomatic one.

At another time he ranted about regulations, but neglected to mention that a lack of enforced regulations was a major factor in the Great Recession of 2008 and of debilitating pollution.  This is another area that needs to be discussed.  Regulations can be abused and hamper business, but they can also facilitate smoother, fairer business.

Trump has supporters who actually believe what he says (and implies).  To many of them the biggest disappointments were the things he didn't say.  Off the stage he apparently implied he could have said some more pointed comments, but he was too decent to say them.  He really wasn't gallant at all--but perhaps was restrained by good advice not to be too provocative or too touchy.

The election looks better for Hilary, but unfortunately she might end up dealing with a very resistant Congress.  The right wing money behind the Republicans has already to a large extent been diverted to Senate and House of Representatives contests.  Most Congress members are distancing themselves as much as practical from Donald, but would continue to be obstructive to a progressive agenda
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Monday, September 26, 2016

NORM FOSTER, BARD OF THE COTTAGE COUNTRY

Norm Foster has been a guarantee of a good theatre experience for my wife and I for several years.

He has been the most produced playwright in Canada for the last 20 years.  He is very prolific, with over 50 scripts to his credit.  You can be sure of finding one of his plays at dozens of locations especially in the summer.

His strength appears to be in cottage country summer theatre, but is creeping into more and more urban centres and on an international scale.  His plays have been performed all over North America as well as such places as Canbera, Australia and Moscow, Russia.

He was born in Newmarket, Feb 14, 1949 and educated in Toronto.  He attended colleges in Toronto and Thunder Bay.  He worked in radio stations for 25 years including stints in Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, Kingston and Fredericton.

While the host of a morning radio program in New Brunswick he went to a theatre audition with a friend and ended up with the role of Elwood P Dowd in "Harvey."  That turned him onto theatre and before too long he wrote his first script, "Sinners" which was performed by Theatre New Brunswick.  His second script,  "The Melville Boys" also debuted at Theatre New Brunswick and won the Los Angeles Drama-Logue award.

In the last play we watched, "Jonas and Barry in the Home" we became aware of a personal friendship Norm had with David Nairn.  Reading about it one could better appreciate that the theatre is a big cosy club where bright minds are attracted to one another.  The two have acted, written and directed supporting each other in different roles.  David has been the artistic director at Theatre Orangeville for going on 18 years and makes it a practice to put on at least one Norm Foster play each season, including some world premieres .

Audiences seems to be at most shows I have attended, above 30 years of age with emphasis on over 50, the theatre crowd.  He seems to know his audience and what will make them laugh and how he can jolt them into a more serious reflection.  I would like to think as one ages one matures or more accurately accumulates more experiences.  You might think some of these experiences are unique, but Norm brings some insight with a startling sense of humour.  We are not all that unique as we all enjoy or suffer  many of the same experiences.

Watched plays in Port Dover, Port Stanley and Hamilton.   I recall  watching "Skin Flick" "Here on the Flight Path," "The Affections of May" and "The Love List"  amongst a few others.  I have been surprised to see Norm acting in his own plays and have to comment that his timing is excellent.  This year  the start of a Norm Foster Theatre Festival in St Catharines promises more opportunities.

To learn more about Norm Foster try his website:  http://www.normfoster.com

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

OLYMPIC IMPRESSIONS FOR 2016

Since a fairly young boy I have always been obsessed with the Olympics.  Thank goodness they only occur every four years (now every two years with alternating summer and winter games).  As a young parent I once took my kids to a three ring circus.  I had heard the expression before and had seen regular circuses, but the three ring concept was mind blowing.  Wild animal act, acrobats and horses and clowns all at the same time meant there was no time to get bored.  The Olympics is like that but only on a much bigger scale.

When I first watched them it was delayed tapes (which had to be flown over), but even then one was aware there was many world sporting things happening at almost the same time).  When the Olympics were held in North America time zones were less of a problem, but technology improved for overseas.  Cash rich Americans could doctor the schedule for their audience and when it didn't suit them go back to taped delays. Now viewers can switch from one event to another at their whim.

Most of the time I enjoy casually following a few local  professional teams and got a little more excited when tournaments (like March Madness) or playoffs raised the intensity  Most of the Olympic sports get my attention only during the Olympics or if they are close by.

As I get older my focus is changing.  The media excitement is mostly around the winners and their stories of how much they and their families sacrificed to provide this opportunity.  Most of us aren't winners in life, at least not in the overblown publicity given to Olympic winners.  The losers also have a story.  Some are just looking for an excuse to take part in the big party.  Others really do sacrifice on a scale very comparable to the eventual winners.  And let's face it we cannot all have the necessary talent, but we can appreciate talent and effort.

What it boils down to is entertainment.  Lots of sports we are unfamiliar with and athletes from exotic places.  We learn a little as we wait for the more familiar.   Brazil has always been a fascinating place and I regret a little bit that I didn't win the lottery so I could go.

Brazil seemed at the selection time to be a worthy host.  South America had never hosted the Olympics before, they were an upcoming economic power (in fact part of the BRICS conglomerate) and with a reasonably stable government.   But now like many other countries they are suffering from the 2008 recession and politically are in the midst of corruption impasse.  To top all that there is the Zika virus that has frightened away many athletes and visitors.  Pollution is another issue (as it was in China) Violent criminal behaviour has reared its ugly head with Brazilians resenting money being spent on the games while ignoring the poor.  Probably all that accounts for what seem to be poor crowds at many of the venues.

As usual there was scandal.  Four US swimmers (including commercial star Ryan Lochte) claimed to have been robbed, but apparently were covering for some vandalism.  People ready to believe police incompetent, but evidence backed the police. Earlier a robbery right in the Athlete's village of Australian athletes.  There was also an IOC executive caught with an illegal ticket scheme.

In the end with few exceptions  it seems the host country mostly loses money.  Some like Russia and China really wanted the games to be a showcase to illustrate their power and modernity.  Some cities like Boston have opted not to be a host.  To me one solution would be give the host nation more of the television/online revenue.  The richer nations could help support rotating hosts or a permanent site.

Another big issue is drugs.  Canadians were stunned when just  a few days after watching Ben Johnson set a new world record winning the 100 metre gold medal, perhaps the most prestigious event it all fell away.  It seems he couldn't pass a drug test.  Years later it appears that many of his competitors including the new gold medal winner had experience with performance enhancing drugs.  The International Olympic Committee took the praiseworthy step of banning the whole Russian track and field team and apparently the whole Paralympic team.  I hadn't realized that drugs were being used for impaired athletes, sometimes as an extension on pain relievers.

Eric Lamaze, a Canadian equestrian hero at one time faced a lifetime ban.  After a positive test he was so discouraged he contemplated suicide and in his despair smoked a cocaine laced cigarette and tested positive again.  However his previous test was over ruled and his second test disregarded.  He has gone on to be a world and Olympic champion including winning a bronze medal in 2016.

Two things stand out to me--drugs give an unfair advantage to some athletes that choose not to play by the same rules as the rest.  More importantly drugs have bad effects on the population that is striving to win medals or to emulate their heroes, not to mention the athletes themselves who may not be fully aware of the danger.  It is an ongoing battle.

The CBC has done a great job.  They have formed partnerships with other networks that allow them to farm out events.  Online live and replay videos ensure more people can see what interest them the most when it suits them.  The Canadian ratings were up while the American ratings were down, supposedly by prioritizing tape delays.  There was less access to Paralympic events, but still much more than in past years.

Tv commercials were tailored for the Games--favorite was an American and a Canadian playing off one another and advocating a quick payment system for VISA--didn't realize they were married with one being an American Deacathlon champion and his Canadian wife a champion Heptathlete and they both went on to win medals.   In the Paralympics Bell stood out by presenting applications for the handicapped.  SportChek did ads pointed directly at the impaired athletes.

As always a few heart warming events.  A New Zealand runner fell and caused an American runner to fall ended up helping her and not finishing the race.  A German coach died with four organ transplants that saved other people.  Canadan walker, Evan Dunfee declined to follow a complaint foregoing a possible bronze medal and later socializing with the Japanese bronze medalist.

Politics does intrude in a variety of ways, but still present a facade of non politics.  The ultimate would be no countries, only individuals.  The problem with that is it takes organization and money to make it work and where would be the motivation for anyone.  I remember in the Mexico Olympics two blacks protesting injustice on the medal podium and were punished for it.  I remember boycotts by both the Americans and Russians.  In this Olympics it was noted that an Egyptian refused to shake hands with an Israeli.  Also an Ethiopian made a protest gesture against his government as he earned a silver for the men's marathon.  On the other hand there was a South Korean taking a selfie with a North Korean.  There will always be politicians and corporations trying to exploit the Olympic spirit, but why throw away the good with the bad.

The Paralympics abandoned by original financing and losing the entire Russian team went on to illustrate a few interesting points.  The local Brazilians came out in greater numbers to watch the competition because it was more affordable and found the competition exciting.

Classification is a key part of the Paralympics.  How to compare the degree of impairment?  Inevitably one athlete is slightly more impaired than others classed the same, but this also paralleled in able bodies where some are taller, have better vision, etc.  The idea is to give competitors a relatively level playing field.  Many competitors were included with non visible handicaps such as intellectual.  It gives more people a chance to focus on a goal and on physical activities.

Four visually impaired runners actually beat the 1500 m gold medal winner from the Olympics.  It is true that with the Olympic version the runners were employing strategic decisions and had run much better personal bests.  Still you can appreciate the standards are creeping up as more impaired athletes take a serious approach.

The medals were adapted for disabled.  Each medal had a unique sound component and had a Braille statement.

Wheelchair basketball and rugby draw big crowds  It is true the large track stadium was only partially filled.

Some heroes.  I missed most of the events, but couldn't help admiring  AurĂ©lie Rivard from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu chosen as flag bearer with a winning smile  Penny Oleksiak a Gold medal winner in the Olympics also had a radiant face when competing.

Both closing ceremonies were full of fireworks, light show and great music.   The single person who impressed me the most was Japanese dancer, Koichi Omae with one leg shortened above the ankle who was a very acrobatic ballet dancer.  Jonathan Bastos, a Brazilian was born with no arms and but learned to play the guitar with his feet.  A minute of silence was given for Iranian cyclist who died in competition the day before.  The guitarist for Nacao Zumbi flashed a sign telling the Brazilian president (who replaced impeached Dilma Rousseff) to get out.

After all my cynicism I will not be able to resist the 2018 and 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.  Brazil exceeded expectations.  Although there is lots to be cynical about the lure of a three ring circus is too much.  The international pageantry gives one some hope for the future of mankind.

Friday, September 16, 2016

DANIEL GOLEMAN'S LOOK AT FOCUS IS RIVETING.

Daniel Goleman helped us become more aware of Emotional Intelligence, even though we always suspected there was something more critical than intelligence to being successful.  Goleman constantly pursues social psychological factors for our success and happiness.

Focus is a problem for me and the author proved it on page 16.  He also wrote about the increasing distractions offered by our internet world that weaken society as a whole.  Multi tasking is not the best way to extract the most out of this book.

Focus is an old concept, but not necessarily fully understood.  Most of us think of it as a substitute for concentration, but you always have a focus, although you might not be conscious of it.  The automatic part of your brain evolved to help you survive.

He starts with what might be called the wandering mind.  You know, where your mind drifts to one idea and then to another seemingly unrelated.  Goleman explains this is normal--your automatic brain has an enormous number of details stored in it.  Creativtiy is the result of linking all these minutiae in unique ways and often these links come with little effort. Many of those with ADD (attention deficit disorder) are in fact more creative.

Goleman differentiates between automatic control and executive control.  Executive control is where you make conscious decisions.  Automatic control requires less energy

Video games are often argued as bad, but in reality they have potential to develop attention.  They become bad when  they encourage obsessive behaviour.  Obsessed youngsters do worse in school and improve when cut off.  Video games can encourage violence or calming.

Everything is part of a bigger system.  While you are focusing on some small (maybe important) detail you will need to be aware of how that detail fits into a greater whole. An example given is the efforts to develop electric cars overlooking the fact that for the most part the energy often still comes from coal utilities and can eventually lead to more road construction.  Looking at the overall energy system can lead to better solutions.  Understanding a system requires enough time for feedback loops to be witnessed.

In a New Zealand study done in Dunedin it was concluded that no mental skills matter as much in life success as executive control  By that they mean the ability to ignore impulses, filter out irrelevant facts and stay focused on goals.  Impulse control can be developed.

In Singapore they have few natural resources and have realized people are critical to economic success.  They have embarked on a program to develop emotional intelligence which they have found also boosts health and reduces crime. The strategies a person develops (or is guided to) can help develop attention.  Mindfulness helps develop attention

Strategy boils down to what should be focused on.  Involves deciding what not to do as well as what to do.  Exploitative strategies focus on established patterns and are focused on improving efficiencies.  Exploratory strategies are aimed at discovering new information and new patterns.

Goleman spends quite a few pages on leadership.  Leaders need to balance focuses on their inner self, the outer circumstances and other people.  Ideally they will be empathic, but have self-control.  Leaders know how to get to the point that needs focus by a group.  One effective method is to tell stories.  A really good book on that is "Tell to Win" and you can learn about it and how I used it to develop a story at:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2011/06/tell-to-win-offers-winning-formula.html

I am also reminded of another blog about a wonderful Bollywood movie that explains how a story teller discovered his talent:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2016/02/tamasha-wonderful-story.html

An interesting quote from Greystone Bakery,"We don't hire people to bake brownies.  We bake brownies to hire people."  They are noted for hiring ex convicts and believe in giving people a chance.

The author concludes "We must ask ourselves in the service of why exactly are we using whatever talents we might have."

Daniel Goleman has lots of interesting perspectives on psychology you might find beneficial.  Check his website:  http://www.danielgoleman.info

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

FREE INFORMATION FREE OPINION

Guilty as charged.  I am not better than the mobs of ignorant people wanting to get something for nothing.  Television became available to me when I was in the elementary grades.  Of course my parents paid for everything at that stage, but I couldn't see how my family paid for what could be seen on television.

As a newspaper carrier from about age 10 I knew people paid for the newspaper because I collected the money.  Many years later as a circulation manager I learned that the subscription payments were not as crucial as advertising revenues. Later in my newspaper career I worked for free distribution papers which went for the advertising dollar.  For my newspaper career you can start a 3 part blog at:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2012/08/my-career-in-newspaper-circulation-part.html

Advertising is also information, but unless we are looking for something (or something catches our eye) we find it annoying.  Still the marriage between information being a platform with those trying to sell a product or service has a long history.  If an advertiser can't lure enough consumers to buy their products they will go out of business.  They realize that most of the readers (or viewers or listeners) are not ready to buy whatever they are selling, but hope that in the myriad of those exposed to the ad are enough buyers.  Those of us who seek money are part of this struggle.  No buyers, no jobs.

"Page One:  Inside the New York Times" a DVD helped me regurgitate my thinking on this topic.  The New York Times has watched smaller papers go out of business.  Like many they have wrestled with the notion of charging for online content.  So far I have mostly kept under their limit although a few times I suffered near the end of the month.

A big part of my respect for the New York Times comes from television.  A number of New York Times columnists, notably Paul Krugman and reporters have appeared on talk shows and usually make the most sense.   I read a lot of criticism and can see some validity to it, but somehow they attract talent.

You Tube puts ads on many of their videos.  I believe these video ads are tailored to what they know about you.  And that comes from everything else you do on the inter-net.  More recently watched "Citizenfour"  about Edward Snowden where it was pointed out each keystroke is recorded somewhere and can be analyzed.  Google and Facebook have a pretty good idea of your preferences and attempt to meet them with their paid advertisers.  Sometimes it works, but other times you wonder where they ever got the idea you would be interested in something so off the wall.

"The Shallows" by Nicholas Carr was an diagnosis of a common trend.  With so much information I find myself skimming through a variety of online information..  The real talent is to be able to skim and get the important facts understood.  I used to literally spend hours each day reading newspapers which helped motivated me to work for a newspaper.  Now I spend hours each day on the internet picking up all sorts of tidbits, some of which are useful.  Some is thought provoking.  Some of it is numbing.

What has always been free was neighbour to neighbour gossip.  Only thing was that it wasn't always accurate and more often, not fair.  Of course paid for information wasn't always accurate or fair.

Whoever controls information has power.  Right now there is  lot of competition and I would say the bad guys are more than holding their own.  By that I mean the information is often very distorted and some news is hard to find.  Still corporate powers are trying to restrict access to the internet.

A good part of my life has been selling advertisements, so it is concerning when I am told that my prospect can get "free" advertising on the net.  It would be foolish to ignore these opportunities, but there are consequences.  Newspapers have used advertising revenue to provide news coverage.  Investigative reporting takes time, talent and money.  There are Ads only newspapers and channels which serve a purpose, but lacking editorial support.

I am used to getting free information.  Of course it is not really free.  Sometimes it is just an opinion or a slanted perspective on news.  We all love to be in the know.  What do you think of all this "free" information?