Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Miss Sloane, an under-rated movie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"The Red Army" and Russian hockey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A more recent experience with two libraries:

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

"FREE STATE OF JONES"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 4, 2017

U. S. AND CHINA MAY BE HEADED TOWARDS THE THUCYDIDES' TRAP

The Thucydides trap was first noted by the famed ancient Greek historian who noted that a ruling power feels threatened by a rising power making war almost inevitable.

The author studied 16 instances  since the 15th century of a rising power challenging a dominant power with all but four of them resulting in war.  Today it seems obvious that China is rising and is already challenging the United States on many fronts.

Like all ruling powers United States is happy with the previous status quo and most of its citizens have difficulty in accepting they may not be the ruling power in the near future.  The ruling power has always been associated with military might, but Lee Kuan Yew, former prime minister of Singapore feels the next time will involve economic power with military power playing a lesser role.

China's economic growth in a historical context is mind boggling.  It is the major trading partner for over 130 countries and in the absence of the TPP agreement their dominance is likely to increase.  After the 2008 economic problem it maintained a strong growth and is likely to overtake the American economy (it already has in some aspects) in the very near future.  Its dominance is apparent in Asia.  They are demanding more respect and to a large extent do not feel they are treated fairly.

America would do well to ponder how they got to be the dominant force in the world.  They obliterated large numbers of humans who were already settled in North America.   Manifest Destiny was a political philosophy that pushed Americans west.  When Teddy Roosevelt entered politics he welcomed an opportunity to chase the Spaniards out of Cuba and in the process take possession of Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam.  He also forced Britain to back off an issue in Venezuela and engineered re drawing the Alaskan border to the detriment of Canada.  Teddy Roosevelt helped instigate a rebellion in Colombia that allowed the building of the Panama Canal under American control.  Americans interfered in Latin American affairs until Franklin Roosevelt ended it.  A good part of their economic growth came from slavery:  http://www.johnfdavidson.com/2016/12/the-half-has-never-been-told.html

The Chinese are proud.  Their civilization has outlasted all others. Humiliated  they saw themselves as the only civilization at one time with everyone else barbarians.  The British humiliated China including forcing them to accept opium.  Other Europeans, Americans and Japanese added more shame.  Xi Jinping underwent his own humiliation as his father had been imprisoned.  Xi is investing in science, technology and innovation.  He identified and supported Jack Ma, the owner of Ali Baba, one of the largest firms in the world.  Perhaps because of their long history the Chinese are patient, avoid unnecessary confrontations, but have bitten back on occasion.  They are demanding respect and are very sensitive to what they consider slights. Xi Jinipeng's mission can be stated as to make China great again.

There are lots of potential triggers.  Taiwan has historically been defended by the United States while China considers it part of their country.  Japan has a history of abusing the Chinese.  North Korea has been isolated and seems paranoid.  China may well be alarmed at the North Koreans, but they also are concerned about Americans coming closer to their border and with refugees overflowing.  A trade mis-understanding could escalate as many Americans feel threatened by outsourcing.

To look for hope and guidance Graham examines the instances that did not result in war.  The Portuguese and Spaniards sought guidance from the papacy and accepted it, although at first Portugal thought they got the short end of the stick.  Later it was realized Brazil would be under their jurisdiction.  Britain the world's first global superpower noted United States, and perhaps because they had serious rivals nearby, they accepted the new status quo, rationalizing their culture (language, legal, etc.) was being carried on.

MAD  (mutually assured destruction) ironically restrained the Soviet Union and the United States from directly confronting each other.  The author points out that China and United States have economies that are intimately intertwined and could be in a form of MAED (mutually assured economic destruction.

Germany and Britain resolved their sometimes violent relationship with Germany being pulled in to uniting Europe.

There are factors that mitigate the danger.  There are hundreds of thousands of Chinese studying in American and European universities most of whom go back home.  One Harvard graduate was Xi Jinping's daughter.  Globalization has exacerbated tensions in some ways, but in other ways has made us more interdependent than ever in history.

The author offers four strategies.  First might be to accommodate as Britain did with the United States. A second might be to undermine the regime.  A third could be to negotiate long term peace as American worked with Russia regarding such things as arms limitations.  A fourth strategy might be to re define their relationship.

Ronald Reagan was noted as having suggested to Gorbachev that if Martians are to invade earth, the Russians and Americans would have to unite to fight the common foe.  The author suggested that there are a number of common foes requiring united action.  A nuclear Armageddon is very possible and requires international attention.  Another variation is a possible nuclear anarchy with more nations having a finger on the trigger.  Terrorists are an international concern, but would be even more so if they got their hands on nuclear or biological weapons.  And climate change which is becoming more and more entrenched.  All of these possibilities are threatening civilization and cannot be dealt with by any one country or even a small group.

First step is to clarify vital national interests.  Don't need to be too inclusive for example does everyone in Asia threaten America?   Second understand what China really wants realizing that it is not a mirror of what Americans want.  Third, develop a strategy that is deeper that aspirational political statements that are not realistic.  Fourth, the author feels Americans need to focus on domestic concerns including dealing with endemic "corruption," a "poorly educated and attention deficit driven electorate," a lack of "civic responsibility," and a "gotcha press" amongst other concerns.

Graham also feels the Chinese need to be concerned about being too centralized and too stuck in their ways.  He implies if each nation concentrated on their own deficiencies they would realize their highest priority should not be how they share influence in Asia.  They would both do well to read, "History of the Peloponessian War" by Thucydides who had a pretty good diagnosis on the problem.

This is a book that in detail points to a lack of understanding and potential harm to everyone. The dangers and opportunities outlined here are well amplified in the book.  I hope that it gets the attention it urgently deserves.  It was written after the election of Donald Trump.  The issues raised in this book are of the most serious nature and give this blogger concern for the future of mankind.  It is not just that Donald Trump is so inappropriate for his role in these and other delicate matters, but the people who put him in power have been reckless in their decision and priorities.

For more details check out http://www.belfercenter.org/thucydides-trap/overview-thucydides-trap