Friday, November 25, 2016

Edward O Wilson tackles "The Meaning of Human Existence"

After completing a trilogy of Edward O Wilson books I would like to quote from the last paragraph of the final book.  "...we are the mind and stewards of the living world.  Our own ultimate future depends upon that understanding."

Edward O. Wilson is a scientist who has specialized in the study of ants.  Might seem an almost insignificant start for universal truths, but in reality it is as good as any other study.  Previously I blogged on "The Social Conquest of Earth" which in layman's terms outlined our evolution in physical and cultural terms.  It explores our past and future and gives thought to our purpose.  Some might be put off by comparisons with ants and termites, but they are apt. http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/11/the-social-conquest-of-earth.html

"The Meaning of Human Existence" seems like a meaty title and it is.  Near the beginning he writes that meaning implies intention, intention implies design and in turn implies a designer, but he doesn't see it that way.  He feels the accidents of history, not the intentions of a designer are the source of meaning.  Each event is random, but alters the probability of later events.  A key to human evolution was to reach a stage he called "eusociality" that involves child rearing and sacrificing self interest for the good of others.  A very few other species have reached this stage such as ants and termites.

Altruistic individuals will almost always lose to selfish individuals, but altruistic groups can beat selfish groups.  Science is a continuum and we are not at the centre.  He deals with the big question of free will and I believe reaches a practical compromise.  Science tries to explain the known and religion tries to explain the unknown.  Wilson suggests we are becoming designers.

For such a high level scientist he has a great deal of respect for the humanities seeing them as another side of the same coin.  In the earlier book he quotes Picasso; "Art is the lie that shows us the truth."

"Half Earth" just published in 2016 is the culmination of the trilogy.  His main contention is that earth is threatened by diminishing bio-diversity.  The title comes from his belief that mankind in order to survive must reserve half of the earth as natural conservations areas.

Approximately 65 millions ago the earth was hit by a meteorite with such ferocity that 70% of all species disappeared after attacks of volcanoes, earthquakes, acid rain, heavy waves and blocking sunshine to stop photosynthesis.  Altogether scientist have determined there have been 5 periods of mass extinction and they are anticipating a 6th, but this one man made.

Some of the forces include habitat destruction, invasive species, pollution, population growth and over-hunting.  Global warming/climate change is accelerating pressures.  Life has survived in a Goldilocks equilibrium (not too close or too far from the sun) for millions of years but is now facing new man made challenges.

The inter-relation of species is little understood.  Starting with the human body millions of microbes help us function while others fight invaders.  Bacteria breaks down and secretes organic material, cleans toxic waste and captures and collects energy from the sun.  We have much to discover within our own bodies, but just as much about the environment that has nurtured the earth for eons of time.

At present there is a little less than 15% of land and 2.8% of ocean set aside to protect bio-diversity and that is not enough to halt the acceleration of species extinction.

Wilson has a few suggestions to turn the situation around.  He feels we would appreciate nature more if in the protected areas were placed cameras whose views could be accessed easily by computers.  He also sees synthetic biology as a solution which may frighten many, but he thinks is mostly positive.  Wilson also regards artificial intelligence quite differently than depicted by Hollywood.  The only purpose of artificial intelligence is to extend human capability.  The human brain has been thought to be the most complex system in the universe, but Wilson thinks the individual natural eco system and the collectivity of eco systems comprising Earth's species-level biodiversity are more complex.

Taking a philosophical look at evolution the author notes that groups with individuals willing to sacrifice for the group were favoured.  Groups naturally get bigger, starting with the family, the tribe, nation , humankind and beyond to the biosphere.  What we need more of he calls biophilia, love of the living process.  Earlier he quoted a French writer Jean Bruller before WWII, "all of mankind's troubles are due to the fact that we do not know what we are and cannot agree on what to become."

It is difficult to explain his concepts in a relatively short blog, but his books are well worth exploring. As he implies before you can better deal with the future you need to better understand the past and present reality.  Keep up to date with his thinking at http://eowilsonfoundation.org

Thursday, November 17, 2016

RATIONALIZING TRUMP'S VICTORY

Using words of Mr Trump himself, his election is a "disaster" and "a catastrophe," but there is not much short of an armed rebellion that can be done.  A few days ago on Facebook I read a post that defended the electoral college that allowed Trump to win the election, even though Hilary Clinton actually won the popular vote by a number approaching one million and expected to go higher.

Every voting system helps determine a political strategy.  Here in Canada we are wrestling with a new system that could be either ranked or proportional.  Both are superior to the electoral college.

Some of the arguments made on the electoral system had some sense, but the more I think on it there are serious problems with the electoral college.  Whenever the number of voters is barely over 50% the election itself lacks credibility and it would be unfair to say anyone has a mandate.  The reasons people chose not to vote are many:  suppression, inconvenience, apathy, poor choices, distrust and I would add the feeling that your vote doesn't make any difference.

A voice on the radio pointed out that the electoral college can negate two million votes.  That means a lot of upset people who made the effort to vote.  The politicians knew the rules and one of them played them better, but the losers were the voters.  The way the electoral college works many votes are wasted meaning they have no impact on the final results.  If your party gets 0.5% less than the winner, by definition in most states your vote doesn't count and the other party gets all the electoral votes.  For many that would be a reason where the odds are further apart to not bother.

One of the arguments was that politicians would ignore the small population centres and to some extent that is true, but right now they ignore the states that have a tradition of voting one party consistently.  But if each vote is equal politicians will go anywhere where they feel they can make a difference.

Another argument was that the founders, those who negotiated the original Constitution did not favour a pure majority.  That is true.  What I understand is that at the time many of the politicians were slave holders and were very concerned that they could be out voted by the industrial north.  Also bear in mind that only propertied males of a certain age were eligible to vote.  There are people who think that was a better arrangement, but most of us would disagree and have been successful in expanding the number of voters.  Many of the early presidents were slave holders including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

It is true that rural residents do have a different set of priorities that should be respected.  I have lived in a rural area at a young age, but have spent most of my life in urban centres and each has influenced my thinking.  The rural voice is much needed and it doesn't mean much if they don't have some power, but neither should they dominate the majority of the population.  An earlier blog on this issue:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/10/the-rural-urban-divide.html

Since the twentieth century only two elections have been decided by the electoral college when the popularity vote was different.  In both cases the Democrats lost.  I think most Americans would agree that George Bush was not a successful president and I would venture that most Americans (and most of the rest of the world) do not feel good about the Trump presidency.

There have been Supreme Court judges who felt that their job is to determine the original founder's intention before they rule on new laws.  It appears that more judges who think that way are apt to be appointed.

Any Constitution is prone to flaws because they are made by humans with vested interests.  One flaw that draws attention is the practice of gerrymandering.  In Canada the task of deciding voting district boundaries is formally non partisan.  In America that task is given to partisans.

In elections since 2010 with one exception the Republicans have been able to win more House of Representatives seats with fewer votes than have the Democrats   Since 2012 they have been able to obstruct which is ironic.  Many of the things they obstructed are what voters complained that the Democrats didn't do.  Ironically (or perhaps not) the Republicans did win the majority of House votes and retained the majority of seats in 2016.

Voting systems can be very complicated, but I believe an important question is why didn't more people vote.  A winning politician has more credibility when they can claim they represent all the people.  A country benefits when every voter feels their vote counted.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

7 Anos

7 Anos is Spanish for 7 years.  Why would you want to spend 7 years in prison?  That is what this movie seen on Netflix, focuses on.  Netflix which has been in operation in Spain for a little over a year agreed to distribute this Spanish shot and produced film.

It is a very interesting exercise in mediation.  Mediation only happens when there is a conflict and the participants seek an outsider to help resolve the issues.  Each conflict is unique, but they share some commonalities.

The conflict is established fairly quickly.  A firm with four founding partners is being investigated and they have reason to believe that within a few days they will be charged and since they are guilty they all could spend 7 years in prison.  They learn that it is possible for one of them to take a fall so that the business could carry on.  They cannot agree which one of them it should be and invite a mediator to help.

At first the mediator is presented with a contract for a period of years and he sees that the amount is far above his normal pay.  They have no long term problems for him, but next promise if he can mediate successfully their urgent problem he will get the job.

The mediator explains 3 rules:  everyone must be willing and if not can walk out at any time; they must listen to each other; and the mediator is not to take sides.

The mediator after hearing a brief account of their problem started by explaining a case.  Basically two men wanted an orange.  The challenge was how could they please both men.  The answer was to find out why each man wanted the orange.  In the example it was decided one man wanted the skin for a cake and the other wanted  the pulp for juice.  The point was that everyone is in a different situation and they should try to find the differences to decide.

The rationalization for the crime was they were working something close to 100 hours a week and the accountant realized she was being taxed at 56%.  And they further reasoned that the government wasted their money.

What follows is that grudges are brought out between the four.  They all recognize that each is important to the company.  One invented the product.  Another acts as managing director.  The third is a salesman who brings clients to them.  The fourth, a woman handles their money and is the one who initiated a tax evasion process that they all grabbed and is the reason for the investigation.  The viewer is never told anything about the product.

They discussed who would suffer the least.  One of the men pointed out that it is common for white collar workers to get raped by hardened criminals.  The one woman pointed out there was a limited number of female prisons in Spain all of them too far for her relatives to visit and that women are easily raped by the prison staff.  Some of them tried to claim they had more family responsibilities.

They discussed who was most needed at the company and for their families.  Some personal details came out including who was slacking off, an affair and another and an abortion.  At one time one partner slugs another and draws blood upon which the mediator gets up to leave.  The man who threw the punch apologized and promised it wouldn't happen again.  The mediator was only persuaded to return after all four asked him to.  At one point one of the partners recalled when all four were in Las Vegas for a critical presentation and after a problem they all contributed to the success that got them launched.

The resolution had many ups and downs and finally reached a conclusion at which time there was a twist.  I won't spoil it as for me what made the movie so enjoyable was the process.  The acting, writing and direction was excellent so you could feel the tension in the room.  All the action took place in one moderate sized room with a sink and terrace.

Spain is supposed to be a strong anti-smoking nation and a few times it was pointed out all smoking had to be done on the terrace.  Later one of the partners broke that rule and ironically used the cigarette package warning to make the point that he wished there were more warnings.

The director Roger Gual had won a Goya award (like a Spanish Oscar).  Married to Marta Torné who provided a telephone voice near the end.  Roger also contributed to the writing along with Julia Fontana (the main writer), Jose Cabreza and producer Christian Conti.  Conti also produced a Peruvian/Columbian movie, "Undertow," a most unusual film I enjoyed a few years back.

Federico Justid, from Argentina wrote the music for this movie and for the Academy award winner "The Secret in their Eyes."

The viewer sees only five actors and they each play off one another very well.  Alex Brendemuhl had played Josef Mengele in the Argentine movie, "The German Doctor."  He also played with Ricardo Darin in "Truman" that I hope to see.  He has also appeared in German movies.  Juan Pablo Raba originally born in Colombia, but raised in Spain got started in Colombian television.  He can be seen in "The 33" and "Narcos," two I have not yet seen.  Manuel Morón who played the mediator was also in the prison drama, "Cell 211," and "Dark Blue Almost Black."  Juana Acosta is also from Colombia appeared in "The Liberator," one of my favourites from last year and has also been in at least one French movie.  Paco Leon had been a popular Spanish television star and has directed films and television series.

The Spanish speaking film industry is rich and diverse.  One of my most popular film blogs covers the topic in more detail including some more details of referred movies.  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2015/07/hispanic-cinema-spans-globe.html  Hopefully Netflix will make more of them available in Canada and the United States.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Pandemic


Sitting in North America we usually think of pandemics as something in horror movies or news from across the ocean.  They are a natural phenomena made more critical by modern life.  "Pandemic" could have been a very boring recital of scientific data, but Sonia Shah has made it very interesting, like a detective novel uncovering a variety of factors for past pandemics and predicting likely future configurations.

The pathogens that lead to epidemics and pandemics have always been in our midst, but modernization has provided new opportunities.  Mixing of animals with humans and poor waste management.  As transportation improved such as the developmnet of steam boats allowed spread of diseases that might previously have died a natural death.

It is not just humans that are effected, but animals can have their own episodes as well as cross contamination between species.  Amphibians were decimated in 1998.  Wild birds are not normally able to infect humans, however an overlapping with domestic birds and pigs sped up new variations that could and did infect humans.  Bats were another carrier of disease.

In Egypt in 2009 to combat a contagious disease over 300,000 pigs were killed.  They had been raised by the Christian minority and were responsible for dealing with about 60% of citizen trash, thus their demise led to other serious problems.

Political decisions play an important role.  One of the richest banks in the world, J.P. Morgan was connected to a cholera epidemic.  A more logical source of clean water for the city of New York was the Bronx, but using it was blocked to give one banking group an edge.  Cholera occurred with the less healthy water supply.

In south Florida during the 2008 financial problems, large numbers of foreclosures led to abandoned swimming pools which proved to be breeding grounds for mosquitoes.  In 2009 there was an outbreak of dengue.  As sea level rises due to climate change salt water mixes with fresh water complicating the situation.

Science establishment, like other establishments will ridicule new conceptions.  Some individuals had discovered the source of specific diseases and even cures, but they were not always taken seriously.

Quarantines were used effectively as early as 1374 in Venice, but efforts conflicted with trade interests.  Political authorities have too often tried to suppress information about infectious diseases for fear of hurting business.  Examples were given for Italy (1911), China (2002), Cuba (2010 and 2012), Saudi Arabia in 2010.  Poor communications compounded the spread of disease.

The Canadian discoverer of penicillin, Dr Alexander Fleming cautioned the medical establishment of the dangers of over dosing.  Microbes develop resistance to drugs.  Humans often imbibe antibiotics eating farm animals that have been injected to promote growth.

In Haiti after their earthquake disasters, the UN called in troops from Nepal (that were cheaper than alternatives) that had been in cholera infected areas.  The conditions in Haiti were ripe for a cholera outbreak.  Driving into work today heard that Haiti is trying to organize a vaccination campaign for 800,000 people and recognize that will not eradicate cholera, but will help control it.

Vaccinations to prevent spread of some diseases has proved to be very effective, but when resisted has less impact.  There had been a history of forced vaccinations in Asia and more recently a campaign to uncover Osama bin Laden with its success hurt other efforts for vaccination.  In North America and other parts of the world some people have falsely linked vaccination to autism.  With high levels of vaccination a  herd immunity develops that gives some protection even to those not vaccinated.

Contagious diseases have played a key role in history.  Malaria kept Europeans out of the African interior for many years.  Europeans brought smallpox to North America and significantly weakened native resistance.

Climate change is having an impact as warmer temperatures allow a variety of pathogens to spread further.  A scary possibility is presented by fungi that can carry some threatening diseases is limited by temperature.  They infect cold blooded animals much more than warm blooded animals.  But as temperatures rise and the environment gets more compromised,fungi could represent a future danger for humans and other warm blooded animals.

It is very common for the general population and often politicians to look for scapegoats.  Among them may be immigrants, poor people, pigs and Asians.  Sonia gives an example of the  SARS scare of 2003 in Toronto that found many Asians shunned as it was thought to have originated in China.   One of my favourite movies, the Bollywood production of "Kal Ho Na Ho" started filming in Toronto, but overlapped with SCARS arriving in the same city.  Before too long the film crew was transferred to New York and the script revised.  You can still see bits of Toronto in the finished product as they had already invested a good part of their resources.

The author uncovered in her research a link between sexual reproduction and pathogen immunity.  Originally all reproduction was asexual such as simply splitting cells  Asexual reproduction had most of the advantages against our favourite recreational activity, but sexual reproduction would not have survived if it did not offer some protection against pathogens as bio diversity is critical.  This history was due to studies by William Hamilton in the 1970's.  It was suggested that even in human mating activities that an underlying factor is pathogen fighting complementaries.

Read more about the author:  http://soniashah.com

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Post Mortem

There is a lot of anger today.  Ignorance and bigotry have triumphed.  Perhaps I am just part of the intellectual elite (definitely not part of the economic elite).  The whole process may well have been illusionary and perhaps Donald Trump as I suspect will govern a little differently than his rhetoric.  He cannot be restrained by the Democrats, but perhaps some Republicans and big money will steer him to a less harsh course.

A few months back I blogged about the election being an IQ test:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2016/06/the-american-iq-test.html  Anything less than a decisive rejection of Donald Trump's Republicans is a very disappointing result.  The taxes on the rich will be lowered significantly which in the end results in less money to be spent for the good of the people.   That in turn means more inequality.  The Supreme Court will be dominated  by those favouring the Citizens United decision as well as more restrictions on freedom (except for those with money).  Who can predict how someone sympathetic to Russian desires and spews divisive hatred will impact the Mid East and the rest of the world.

There is legitimate anger, but I believe it has been misplaced.  Inequality has been encouraged by Republican policies and that will not change.  Donald Trump walked away from several bankruptcies with millions of dollars.  Trade deals have taken away high paying jobs while replacing some elsewhere, but a bigger culprit has been and will be automation.

As a foreign observer my views do not count for much and maybe miss some insight only available to those inside the situation.  Donald Trump out and out lied and although his followers didn't believe them all, they all saw something they really identified with.  For some it was bigotry and an explanation for their own poor status.  For others they were drawn to a conservative social agenda including anti-abortion,  anti-LGBT.  Others heard a drop in taxes for the rich and an emphasis on de regulation and smelled more profit for themselves.  Some admired his toughness from his reality show.  Still others it was good enough that he was a Republican and not a dreaded Democrat.  The combination was more than enough.

Republicans have succeeded in attracting voters who lose under their economic agenda by catering to social conservative agendas and besmirching their opposition.  It still works.  Donald Trump has gone this far by appealing to baser instincts as opposed to a set of  reasoned policies that would actually solve or mitigate problems they are so angry about.

It has not been difficult to learn facts that would disqualify anyone else.  His business dealings have not been friendly to the little guy, in fact he is often pictured as a con man.  His racism has been blatant--strongly insulting Mexicans, denigrating Black Lives Matter, painting Muslims as terrorists.  He has been very misogynist  in very vocal manner.  His blustering about knowing more than all the generals.  Climate change did not project as much as it should have, but he appeared very ignorant about it.  His Russian ties are mostly speculative but there have been Russian friendly policies introduced to the official Republican program.

How could it have happened? There is no one cause, but many to examine.

One culprit is the corporate media.  They recognized Donald Trump as a big boost to their ratings and gave him a lot of free time often on very trivial matters.  Admittedly he can draw a crowd.  The focus was mostly on the horse race aspects rather than which policies offered the best value or had the most credibility.  Bernie Sanders offered reasoned solutions to the problems that angered so many working class people, but he was pretty much ignored and dismissed until it was too late.

The corporate media was very harsh on Hilary Clilnton who being human (an ambitious one) was less than perfect.  But she was most definitely not the monster projected by the Republicans and carried forth by too much of the media.  So many of the accusations hurled against her were very trivial, but repetition created an unfair image, compounded by her defensiveness.  The email issue was a course chosen by many others and in fact fairly logical at the time.  The critics overlooked serious non found emails from the George W. Bush who was caught off guard at 9-11, later decided he had a case to invade Iraq and still later involved in a scandal involving the firing of district attorneys who apparently failed to live up to conservative expectations.  Benghazi was another made up controversy overlooking far more deaths at embassies during George Bush's time, not to mention the thousands who died in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Ironically Obama appointed James Comey, a Republican to head the FBI.  An investigation failed to uncover anything they felt could be prosecuted, but he added that she was very careless.  After that died down a bit (but with much sniping) they apparently found something through another investigation that they felt was relevant.  Normal policy is you do not announce investigations until after some concrete evidence is found.  A bit later, after saying it was unlikely there was enough time to give a conclusion they finally did declare there was no evidence.  Meanwhile they decided not to announce about uncovering evidence of Russian hacking as it was too sensitive before an election.

Democrats have to accept some of the blame.  Several years ago they realized they had to compete against Republicans to get money for election campaigns and like the opposition they found nothing comes for free.  During Obama's time as President he was mostly faced with opposition determined to block anything, even if it was normally acceptable to them.  Personally I was disappointed they didn't seem to vocalize what they were up against.

Trade agreements are difficult things to negotiate.  You want access to another market, but they want access to your market.  They want jobs as well.  Investors want to get cheap labour and fewer regulations.  Theoretically consumers get better pricing for goods and have more cash to spare to spend on things and services that provide jobs.  Fair trade sounds better than free trade, but you need willing partners and some leverage.  Republicans like the access to other markets, to cheaper goods and profits from exploiting third world countries.  Protecting American jobs and retraining displaced workers need to be a high priority.

We all are ignorant, but few of us are aware of it.  Too many voters relied on media celebrity and simple solutions to complex problems.  Others were resentful of minorities or even repulsed to the point it clouded their judgment.  Education needs to be a higher priority.  It has been a strength of Americans, but lately has become controversial and expensive.

I cannot predict which of Donald Trump's many promises will be kept, but a few seem very likely.

The Supreme Court will soon get a new conservative judge to be followed by possibly two or three more.  This means Campaign Finance Reform will not happen.  Minorities will lose out.
Obamacare as it is known will diminish and not likely to be replaced with anything better or cheaper.
Relations with many countries will cool off a bit and possibly others will heat up a bit.  De-regulation will increase dramatically in all fields including energy, finance, and manufacturing.  Gun control will further loosen with untold consequences.  Climate change will become more noticeable, but it will be quite some time before the denialists get on board, even when the public demands it.

Thank you for letting me vent.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

"HOPE," A GUT WRENCHING FILM FROM KOREA

The sort of tragedy or test depicted in "Hope" is the sort we read about and forget so we can move on.  Unless of course it hits closer to home. and we have to make adjustments that seem impossible.  The English title "Hope" refers to the name of the young protagonist and not the emotional state.  An alternative title is "Wish."

A young 8 year old girl, Hope is severely raped so that not only is she traumatized, but she is suffering from unimaginable injuries.  The movie begins with her as a young student with two busy, but caring parents.

On a rainy day, late for school she is stopped by a man who seems to sweet talk her.  We do not see the actual rape, but afterwards as she is carted on a stretcher to a hospital.  The injuries include facial cuts, but more critically her bowels need to be partially replaced.  She will be wearing a colostomy bag for the rest of her life and we are given discrete glimpses of it.  For awhile we see stitches on her face that only gradually fade away

The parents are very upset and demanding action against the perpetrator who is soon identified.  They and some of their friends are very stressed.  The mother was five months pregnant at the time and her husband only discovered it because she fainted at the hospital during all the turmoil.

A therapist in a wheelchair seems to be sympathetic, but the girl's mother emphatically rejects her.  Later there is a change of heart and we learn the therapist had been through a very similar story with her daughter raped while young and later committing suicide.  The therapist herself was so upset she tried to kill herself but instead lost her legs.  She recognizes a problem beyond Hope and treats the whole family.

Hope is embarrassed, but encouraged to go back to school.  One young boy started crying because he had not walked with her the day of her attack.  The father comforted him.  Hope is supported by her teachers and fellow students and seems to be making an adjustment to live normally.

Testifying scares her parents, but they are told if she doesn't the accused might escape punishment or get a short sentence.  The father confronts the accused in prison and loses his composure  His daughter overhears him saying he would take care of the accused if the trial does not go right.  She does testify behind a partial screen.  The defendant still claims not to remember as he was too drunk (with Hope admitting he smelled of alcohol) and is sentenced to only 12 years.  The audience in the court is very offended realizing when Hope will barely be 20 when her rapist will be released.  The father actually tries to physically attack the accused in court, but his daughter stops him  by clinging to him while her mother collapses.

I have seen a few dozen Korean movies and have found many of them are very good and some even exceptional.  Many of them are very violent, but "Hope" is a little different.  The violence is hidden, and the core is a very compelling family drama.

The little girl, Lee Re is very good as Hope and Hae-suk Kim played her mother and had been in "The Thieves," (something like "Ocean 11, only more exciting).  The women who played the girl's fathers' s boss's wife, Mi-Ran Ra won awards as best supporting actress. A supporting actor, Song-ho Kim (who plays the father's boss and friend) appeared in one of the enjoyable ones I remember, "The Happy Life" where he was a drummer who with two other friends revived his high school band twenty years later.  "Hope" was directed by Joon-ik Lee who had done "The Happy Life" previously.

The music is in the background, but occasionally intriguing.  The composer, Jun-seok Bang has done a number of scores for movies I enjoyed including "The Thieves."  Part of the film was shot in Busan.

"Hope" is available on Netflix, and although it is one of those things you should do, it will be very difficult.  Most of you will appreciate that you are luckier than you imagined.  It does have a happy ending of sorts and we can all take some comfort.  A child rape has repercussions that effect many people for a long period of time.

My earlier experiences with Korean movies are mostly captured in http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2014/04/a-slice-of-korean-cinema.html  I still find some new good ones and feel South Korea is a major film producer.

Friday, November 4, 2016

"PINK" A SENSITIVE FILM DEALING WITH SEXUAL CONSENT

Many regard India as old fashioned, maybe even backward.  Gender attitudes are not considered modern in a Western sense.  "Pink" is a mind opening event for those of us who think we are "modern."  The movie drew a lot of attention being given a special screening for the Mumbai Police Department and has been used by politicians wanting to strengthen a new law. protecting women's rights.  This movie offers a lot of reasons to watch as it unravels mysteriously and dramatically, but it really is noteworthy for its message.

"Pink" is not so much about sexual assault, but more sexual harassment and gender equality.  The movie starts off with three women in the back seat of a car and three men in another car, one of whom has a bandage over his eye.  Later we learn that one of the women had broken a bottle over the head of the man and the men felt entitled to revenge.  As the men are well connected they turn the tables claiming the girls had propositioned them and got violent when the men refused to pay.  The one woman, Minal is charged with attempted murder.

Some of the surrounding events were witnessed by a neighbour who it turns out is a retired lawyer on medication for a bi-polar condition.  His wife is in the hospital.  He gives some advice to the women and later decides despite being on medication will represent them in court.  His first responses in court seem pathetic and we guess he must be too drugged.  However the court case becomes more intense with both prosecution and defense putting forth well prepared cases.

In a clever manner the defense lawyer strips away claims of provocation commonly used to defend sexual assaults:  the clothes she wore, her previous sexual experience, drinking alcohol and smiling in a friendly manner.

Amitabh Bachchan plays the retired lawyer.  My interest in Bollywood came after his hey day and he seemed to play a lot of unlikeable characters, but I have since come to appreciate he is a great versatile actor who is always looking for good roles.  Amitabh in his 70's wants to keep active and appears in many movies and tv shows, but they aren't all masterpieces.  He is excellent in this role and helps boost the credibility of this film.

As senior well established actor and with the initials A. B., Amitabh would normally be credited first, but in the interests of gender equality at his suggestion the three main actresses are listed first.  They were all believable in difficult roles.  They were accused of being prostitutes and gold diggers, but in their words they were really "normal."  Tapsee Pannu was slightly more prominent and has been in a number of Bollywood movies and one Tamil film I had seen, but hadn't really noted her name.  Kirti Kulhari had a prominent role in a movie I enjoyed, "Shaitan."  Andrea Tariang was in her first movie.

Dhritimin Chatterjee plays the judge. He acted with Amitabh in still another excellent movie, "Black," and one of my favourites, "Kahaani."  Anglophones can see him in "The Man Who Knew Infinity"which is on my list to see.

Piyush Mishra plays a stern and tough prosecutor.  He is mostly a supporting actor and is very good.  I was surprised to learn he has also been a lyricist, a composer and a playback singer.  In an earlier favourite this year he played a storyteller in "Tamasha"  an excellent movie about storytelling.  See http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2016/02/tamasha-wonderful-story.html

Directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdbury who mostly has been involved with Bengali films and helped write the script.  Ritesh Shah also helped write the script and had contributed to "Airlift", " Kahaani" and "Te3n"  He will be writing dialogue for "Kahanni 2," another movie on my list of movies that must be seen.

A very key person in developing this film and promoting it is Shoojit Sircar, listed as creative producer.  He was involved with the story line, costumes and arranging special screenings.  Earlier he directed two favourite movies of mine, "Vicky Donor" and "Piku."

The music from Shanatu Moitra is in the background.  I have come to love much of the music in Indian movies, but realize most Westerners think song and dance is not realistic.  India has cultivated a lot of excellent composers and musicians and for decades they focused on song and dance routines that to outsiders seem an intrusion for a story.  To some extent most sense that music enhances emotional feelings.  This movie has no song and dance routines, but music plays a role in setting a mood.  I have enjoyed movies with Shanatu Moitra  ("3 Idiots" is a classic as is "PK") actually bought one song from iTunes and remember a few other tunes.  Read about "PK" http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2015/03/pk.html

New Delhi is the setting and it appears a stately city, but a strong criticism is implied.  Amitabh, himself suggested he wear a face mask in many scenes to direct attention to the pollution.

During the end credits, the filmmakers elected to show us what really happened at the critical moments.  No surprises, but the point was the exact details didn't matter.  The women should have had their word respected.  The timing was appropriate as the plot unravelled gradually while the message was being felt more directly.

*SPOILER ALERT*

At the end of the trial the defense lawyer is asked if he has a closing statement and he hesitates for awhile and you imagine he is under medication after all the stress, but finally he says "no" and then after another long pause goes on to say "No is a complete sentence" and 'No' means no."  He comments that any one who says "no" whether a girl friend, a wife or a sex worker should be respected.  In this version the accused is let off from a charge of attempted murder and the three men are charged with mischief.  It seems poetic justice and hopefully will be accepted by all society, whether in India, Canada, United States or elsewhere.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

METAPHORS ARE MORE PERVASIVE AND EXPLANATORY THAN YOU REALIZE!

Words are tools.  Choose the right ones in the right sequence and you may seem smarter than you really are, but be sloppy in choice of words and people may think you are a sloppy thinker.  Metaphors were supposed to be clever ways of expressing yourself.  Of course they can be that, but they are also much more.

Recently finished reading "I is an Other" by James Geary in my quest to understand how to use words better or at least fathom the process.  The title phrase comes from an aspiring young poet, Arthur Rimbaud who went onto a wide variety of accomplishments. such as a financier, arms dealer, explorer, anarchist.  It is supposed to embody the key to a metaphor.

Definition:  A metaphor is a figure of speech which makes an implicit, implied or hidden comparison between two things that are unrelated, but share some common characteristics.  They are used often unconsciously to make sense of something new or confusing.

Metaphors are basically combining a target with a source.  Comparisons to make the meaning more clear, although sometimes the connection is difficult.  A modern example is "email"--taking something without a name and comparing it to something we are familiar with.   An older one comes from Robert Hook after using primitive microscopes studying plants was the first to note the small pieces which reminded him of monk's cells and they became known as cells for no other reason.  C.S. Lewis points out the unknown can only be made known through metaphor and analogy.

Metaphors are human inventions that help us figure things out, i.e. advance civilization.  It is not restricted to any one language, but rather is universal.  Giambattista Vico from the 1700s in Naples noted that different languages described inanimate objects with human attributes such as lip of a pitcher, neck of a bottle, mouth of a river.  The effectiveness of a metaphor is not on the truth of the association, but on their easy accessibility

A metaphor can be like a joke with an unexpected twist and violated expectations

An identifier of an autistic person is they take words literally so often metaphors are frustrating for them.

In the U.S., football is often used metaphorically even by non fans.  Fumble an opportunity, kick-off, huddle, throw a Hail Mary.

An effective metaphor was used by Obama, "if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fists they will find an extended hand from us."

Judith Williamson pointed out that ads create objective correlations for mass consumption linking product to status, sex, wealth, intimacy and security.  Image trumps information.

Metaphors can be poor if the comparison is not apt--accused of being misleading (such as by sales people).  Or if they are too novel they can pass over the head of the recipient.

The author changes a common translation of the most famous philosophical statement by Descartes--"Cogito ergo sum" from "I think therefore I am" to "I shake things up therefore I am."  Cogito originally meant to shake things up and can be considered a metaphor.

Read the book to get a fuller feel for metaphors or if you are a bit impatient try this 9 minute video of James Geary where he uses the great philosopher, Elvis Presley to make a few points.  https://www.ted.com/talks/james_geary_metaphorically_speaking?language=en