Friday, May 29, 2009

"New Muslim cool" - pittsburgh movie

A film from pittsburgh, New Muslim Cool. Hamsa Perez was an ex con, from Connecticut, who decided to move to pittsburgh with his brother and a few close friends. he converted to Islam in prison. his neighborhood crew did also. they set up a mosque in the burgh. he and his friend also are rap artists. he also works with inmates giving programs on spirituality - the Pres. Bush spiritual faith based prison programs. he finds a woman online with a muslim dating service and they marry. she has children from former marriage, as does he. They form a beautiful family. he is a devote muslim man; doesnt drink, smoke, swear, responsible to his wife, children, community. But the FBI wonders what these muslims are doing in the burgh, they set up a raid of their mosque. No one is arrested, but the mosque is damaged. Hamsa is Puerto rican, so he is a Puerto Rican, ex con muslim. Who raps. And counsels inmates at the Allegheny Prison. this film is about him, and his wife and children, his friends, and his mosque. is there a difference between Muslim americans, and Arab Muslims? You bet ! Hamsa shows how American muslims are different, culturally, politically, from Arab muslims. Hamsa explained (in an extensive question answer session after the movie) that America is young, 300 yrs old, is evolving, that Islam is old, thousands of years, so Muslim America is emerging, its different, but its uniquely american. here is a you tube trailer. And here is another video location trailer. the reception before the film was great, great food, they had a bean, onion, parsley salad which was to die for, really great. the reception was great. Wonderful people. Two children came up to me, little boy and smaller girl, and they said "Salam Aleikum" and shook my hand. So beautiful. Priceless.

We live in such irrational fear, the FBI doesnt know what to make of a Puerto Rican, ex con, Muslim rapper who counsels prison inmates - i think there is a cynicism that overtakes police and FBI, they dont believe this guy is real, sincere. Thats understandable, given the con artists they have dealt with. But Hamsa is real, sincere, wonderful man, husband, father, artist. wow ! so many unique wonderful people in Pittsburgh. this was a great evening, first peter max reception, then this reception, great food, great movie, wonderful people.

Peter Max exhibition Squirrel hill, pittsburgh

So Peter max has an exhibition in squirrel hill at a gallery on Forbes. Is this art? I dont know. I like some of his acrylic on canvas paintings, but his mixed media on paper confuses me. Paper? How does he color the paper? Am i right that he sketches with a marker? then finishes with acrylic? Is this art? Or poster pop art? None of his work is less than $3995, the mixed media on paper. but how many of those does he turn out a day? like an assembly line? Is the asking price because of his name, notoriety, or because of the quality of art? he will be there next weekend, he will sign back of artwork, "To Mark, best wishes, Max" - is this one step away from selling paintings to tourists on a street in NYC? I liked some of his work, esp the large canvas with acrylic - bold strokes, unusual color combinations, vivid. but $59,000? I looked close: I think I could copy some of them. Would that then be art? I just spent an afternoon at the National Gallery in DC, so you can understand my confusion. Is Max in the National Gallery? If not, should he be? But I enjoyed the exhibition, the champagne and veggie dip was good.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

craig ferguson and why I can't sleep at night

I can't sleep at night - why? I watch Craig Ferguson on the late late show, i need my shot of Craig before sleep, and when he does his puppets i think its the most entertaining show on TV. here is an example. Here is an even more absurd example. Here is his shark week intro: "do these teeth make me look fat?" "usually, when people see me, they say, Aghhhhhhh!"

Sugar : Film about Dominican Republic and MLB

Great movie! Sugar is from DR, good pitcher. he gets drafted by kansas city farm team, travels to Iowa and plays in Class A minors. he sees how latino hispanic players are treated, like race horses, only worse. they get injured, hurt, they dont perform, they are sent down. they have limited education - nothing other than baseball. Most dont make it. Sugar decides to keep his life under his control, and escapes to NYC. This is a beautiful film, the actor who plays Sugar is amazing. the contrast between DR and USA cultures is good, on many levels. Its about immigrants, discrimination, prejudice, courage, and in the end, about baseball: its about having fun, its a game, dont ruin it. the metaphor is for life: life is supposedly to be fun, find a way of enjoying it (I am still working on that). Must see movie. Esp if you like baseball.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lemon Tree (Etz Limon)

Salma owns a lemon grove on the west bank in palestine, but the defense minister of Israel Navon builds a house adjoining the grove. His security forces decided the grove is a threat and must be torn up. there is precedent - Olive groves have been torn up, used presumably by terrorists to infiltrate into Israel or launch rocket attacks. Salma is a strong woman and hires a poor young lawyer, Ziad. Minister Navon's wife, Mira, has sympathy for Salma, but is torn between her loyalty toward her husband and her sympathy for Salma. The reviews of this movie I think miss the complexity of the film. Mira admires her husband, who has protected her family over the years, and who has protected Israel. But she also recognizes that the protection has a price: their new home is like a prison. the end of the movie is anything but simplistic: families are destroyed, Jews and Arabs live in a man made prison of their own creation, no one is happy. Sound familiar ? And of course there are plenty of opportunists who benefit from this stand off. Sound familiar? The film itself had some good camera angles, good scenes, captured the land of the west bank, captured the faces of the people (I suspect most of the Arab actors were actually jewish...I will check this out - update; I checked it out, a few were israelis playing arabs, but Salma is a palestinian arab who has appeared in many films including Munich, some others are arab-christians) But the copy of the film I saw had some bad edits, I am sure some scenes were cut out by a sloppy copy of the film. i dont know how the film was delivered - I didnt here the projector going, so this must have been a disc or some kind. I think the film transfer process to the disc cut some of the film. Who knows. anyway, I enjoyed it. it is much better than the reviews. Would provide lots of discussion for a class on middle east politics.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Tokyo Sonata - great film

yes, a great film but you have to have patience, because it is slow, and foreign. it is about a changing japanese society and culture, influenced by heartless ruthless American capitalism and jingoism, and emasculation of japanese men. it is also about beauty, and hope. I was almost bored at one point, but concentrated on the scenery, the shots of Tokyo. then the ending came, and I was blown away - wow ! beautiful. hopeful. This was directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and you can see his other films here.

Snow Angels - the movie

Wow ! Depressing film. However, great acting, great location, and great script. the dialogue is fantastic. I really enjoyed the movie. yes, it is hard to watch. it is about relationships, at various stages. the ending is hard, metaphoric in a very religious sense, but the film does offer hope. I will take any hope i can get.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

here is the video where Eric Clapton shows his tone settings, and his basic riffs

of course he explains his "sound" and then demonstrates it (3:20 into clip) and it is amazing. and here is Buddy Guy explaining where jimi hendix and eric got their sound.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bush and Bible stories

This is almost unbelievable, I would suspect this is a conspiracy theory of the left, however it is true. read about Bush and the Rumsfeld bible briefings on Iraq here.

Assuming this is not some kinda practical joke, if this is truthful, then Rumsfeld read Bush's superficial brain - this is just way over the top. Old Testament quotations mixed with Iraq briefings? ! After 8 years of lutheran schooling, including many theology classes, and forced chapel attendance (I was once given detention for not singing during chapel, some medieval song about the plague and how christians are safe behind the walls of the castle - really relevant to a teenager in high school in the '60's) the old testament is jewish, the new testament is christian. Christians do not consider themselves jewish, or the chosen people, christianity is a gentile religion. So the old testament I dont think gives guidance to christians to begin with. But this old testament advice on the war in Iraq is just way over the top.

The whole world now hears about this. What do they think of us? We actually re elected this guy for another 4 years.

I shouldnt post this - It speaks for itself I guess and doesn't need my commentary.

Tough, Cool and Rational

Obama is our Spock. After having 8 years of Klingons in the White House, we finally have someone tough, cool and rational.


Coming of age movie about 1970's Connecticut suburbia. Mickey Bartlett is an architect who wants more, more, more. Played by Alex Baldwin he is great - Alex can play comedy very well (like his SNL hostings) but he is also a strong dramatic actor. This movie is a dracomedy, intense scenes, but also knee slapping funny scenes. Great cast. The end is ambiguous, or multibiguous - we dont know the ending, it could go one of several directions. This is an independent film, shot for $1.5 million in 22 days - that is amazing. the sets were great, the interior shots of houses definitely 1970's - the film gets the setting and costuming correct. Absolutely great film - it really drew me in, the characters were very well developed, you couldnt help but care about them. Excellent film.

Kabuli Kid

Khalid is a cab driver, and a woman in full veil (burga) leaves behind a child in his cab. The movie is about Khalid's attempts to find the mother. He has a wife and 3 daughters, cannot afford another child (or another wife for that matter). He and his wife do not have a son, the baby is male, and this creates a crisis between khalid and his wife. Most of the movie is about Khalid driving around Kabul arranging for a radio announcement to give a $100 reward for the mother to come to Radio Kabul offices and pick up child. Everything gets sorted out in the end. Not much of a plot, but the setting is amazing. We get to see Kabul and its neighborhoods, we meet Khalid's cabbie friends, is wife and children, his father, and we learn about the fate of women ( they get married at a young age, some must deal with mulitiple wives, a child out of wedlock is a life damning event). Khalid is a good muslim man, his wife and family wonderful people, and the film gives faces and identity to the Afghan people we read about (civilian deaths and so forth in the paper).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ting Che (Parking) movie from Taiwan

great movie here is trailer.
On Mother's Day in Taipei, Chen Mo makes a date for dinner with his wife, hoping to bring their estranged relationship back together. While buying a cake on his way home, a car unexpectedly double parks next to his car, preventing his exit. For the entire night, Chen Mo searches the floors of a nearby apartment building for the owner of the illegally parked car, and encounters a succession of strange events and eccentric characters: an old couple living with their precocious granddaughter who have lost their only son, a one-armed barbershop owner cooking fish head soup, a mainland Chinese prostitute trying to escape her pimp's cruel clutches, and a Hong Kong tailor embroiled in debt and captured by underground loan sharks. After many hardships, Chen Mo finally gets his car out of the parking space, and, with new friends riding beside him, advances toward a new horizon in life.

What a great movie ! Flashbacks tell the story of many characters, and somehow they all intersect. I can't remember the quote at the end, but its something like "there are turning points in your life, then everything disappears." something like that. and the millipede, slowly making forward progress. What is great about the film is its ability to bring everything together at the end. the film broke about 15 min from end, and many people left ! WTF ?! You go to a film festival, $9 on the weeknight, great movie, and you leave because the film breaks almost at the end? The film brings it all together in last few minutes. Awesome soundtrack, the last song with the credits is amazing. Wow! great movie.

Providence RI mayor wants to tax students

The mayor of Providence wants to slap a $150-per-semester tax on the 25,000 full-time students at Brown University and three other private colleges in the city, saying they use resources and should help ease the burden on struggling taxpayers.

Mayor David Cicilline (sis-ah-LEEN-ee) said the fee would raise between $6 million and $8 million a year for the city, which is facing a $17 million deficit.

If enacted, it would apparently be the first time a U.S. city has directly taxed students just for being enrolled.

The proposal is still in its early stages. But it has riled some students, who say it would unfairly saddle them with the city's financial woes and overlook their volunteer work and other contributions, including money spent in restaurants, bars and stores.

"We want to support the city as best we can, but financially is not really what we can afford to give," said Heather Lee, president of the Brown Graduate Student Council. "We're more able to provide labor, we're more able to apply the things that we're learning in the classroom, than we are to write a $300 check."

Cities often look for revenue from universities to compensate for their tax-exempt status, and many schools already make voluntary payments to local governments. Providence's four private schools — Brown, Providence College, Johnson & Wales University and the Rhode Island School of Design — agreed in 2003 to pay the city nearly $50 million over 20 years.

This is so lame - students buy all sorts of stuff in providence, pay sales tax. The mayor is clueless.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Israel's strike on alleged Syrian Nuclear reactor

Here are some before and after pics. I just dont get it. It doesnt look like a nuclear reactor. where is the water supply? Supposedly there are water pipes shown, but any building needs a water supply, that doesnt make it a reactor. Also, the damage appears to be cleaned up quickly. If you blow up a fortified building, wouldnt there be a mess left behind? And why would Syria build it within striking distance of Israel? Wouldnt it have been located further away from border? Wouldnt Syria have radar to detect incoming planes? surface to air missles hidden underground? I mean, middle school students can see the holes in this story. So (1) what was Syria building (2) why did Israeli planes get in and out without losses and (3) why is the site cleaned up so neatly? Other pics I have seen dont even look like the same location - i mean check it yourself, google Sryian Nuclear Reactor and you can see lots of pics, and the after pics sometimes do not resemble the before pics at all, there are physical characteristics of the ground that dont line up.

BTW I am not a grassy knoll person who sees conspiracies in everything, but this story is so full of holes i wonder what is going on.

world's smallest car !

Noah sent me this clip of the world's smallest car. This is an amazing story. I thought my MR2 was the smallest car, but it looks like I'm wrong. Here is yet another small car. And here is the Nano, the Indian car.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Denmark Happiest Country

The list of happiest countries is out and the US doesnt even make the top ten. Here is the list: Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland, Norway, New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland, Belgian.

Some sample questions: Did you enjoy something you did yesterday? Were you proud of something you did yesterday? Did you learn something yesterday? Were you treated with respect yesterday? In each country, a representative sample of no more than 1,000 people, age 15 or older, were surveyed. The poll was scored numerically on a scale of 1-100. The average score was 62.4.

Economic indicators explain part of happiness. Those countries in the top ten have been least affected by the world wide recession. But wealthy US didnt come in the top ten, and New Zealand, poorer than the other top ten nations, came in 7th in happiness. so money doesnt explain happiness.

Balance between work and leisure is also important, with the scandinavian countries coming in top with balance: work week in Norway is only about 37 hrs. then again, the French work about 35 hrs a week, and they werent in top ten.

Low unemployment is also a factor: Norway's unemployment is about 2%, while the US is 9% and rising.

According to a 2005 editorial, published in the British Medical Journal and written by Dr. Tony Delamothe, research done in Mexico, Ghana, Sweden, the U.S. and the U.K. shows that individuals typically get richer during their lifetimes, but not happier. It is family, social and community networks that bring joy to one's life, according to Delamothe.

That happiness is not connected with wealth gives me some consolation: I have accepted that I will not be a wealthy person by Sen. John McCain's standard (he said you need to have at least $5 million to be considered wealthy) but I still have a shot at happiness.

Che Part 2

Che Part 2 was similar to Part 1. Part I showed the guerilla movement in Cuba, and Part 2 was about Bolivia. I am reading a book about Che so I know a bit more now than I did when I saw Part 2. In 1965 Che disguised himself and ended up in the Congo by way of Moscow. Part 2 starts with Che in disguise, only after the Congo misadventure, and at the beginning of his Bolivian adventure. Che wrote a diary of his Bolivia experience and Part 2 is very close to the diary itself.

Problems Che had in Bolivia: 1) the Bolivian Communist Party didnt support the guerilla movement, thinking that it would only end in bitter reprisals from the dictatorship 2) the Guerillas were not supported by the local peasants, the peasants were afraid of reprisals from the dictatorship 3) Bolivian army received training from US Army Rangers, and the CIA 4) unlike Cuba or even Congo, the CIA knew Che was behind the Bolivian guerilla movement, and were one step ahead of him in tactics.

The end of Part 2 was described as "depressing" from my colleague Dan, who met me at the theater. Dan is one of the few people who actually meets me to see movies in Pittsburgh - he is a true colleague. "Depressing?" I guess so. I think Che was right in his analysis of the exploitation of 3rd world countries. So much of the pain and suffering in Africa and latin america is still left over from colonial periods, and post colonial imperialist periods.

Che expected to be killed in action. He knew he was taking on dangerous enemies - not just opposing government armies, but international economic interests (mining and diamonds) and owners of these industries relied on dictatorships to keep the money rolling in. In Africa he knew he was up against racist South Africa and Rhodesia.

Today there are democratic mass movements of national socialism in Venezuela and Ecuador and I think Che would be pleased with this result. The elected socialist governments of Latin America have many enemies, with the US at the top of the list. I fail to see how a socialist Venezuela is a threat to US security. It is a threat to US capitalist interest I guess. Then again, I failed to see how Iraq was a threat to our national security.

The fear by the US government of Che and his movements was part of the Domino Theory of the 1960's, that one by one the spread of communism would occur and disrupt the peace of nuclear coexistence. Even Russia wanted Che to go slow - the Russian communists were afraid of provoking the west into global war. The Chinese seemed more supportive of Che's movements.

The movie didnt go into the trials and executions that took place after the cuban revolution, and over which Che presided. Most books i have browsed so far seem very critical of Che, criticizing what the authors perceive as bloodthirsty part of Che's personality, at odds with his profession of medicine, or the affection he showed to his wives and children. I want to find a book that isnt biased to begin with.

I really liked this movie, I think i liked Part 2 better than Part 1, because it showed Che for what he was: a global revolutionary, misunderstood by just about everyone except his close comrades from the cuban revolution.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Che Part 1

I just saw part 1 of Che, the two part film produced by Benicio del Toro and directed by Steven Soderbergh. Lots of hand held cameras. Almost documentary but really is a drama film. Skips back and forth from Cuban revolution to early 1960's and UN appearances. Che is part 1 is very Idealistic, honest, has incredible insight into popular revolutionary movements. We will see what happens in part 2, when he becomes Che the executioner. I havent read much about Che, and he is very controversial, either demonized (american writers) or idealized (latin writers). The site is full of messages about Che as Hitler and so forth. Part 2 is tomorrow.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Video of Air Force One flyover NYC

Here is Air Force one photo shoot over the Statue of Liberty, with a fighter jet chasing it. Listen to the panic. See the people running. WTF ? What were they thinking of to do this, and to do this without notifying the public? Didn't they ever here of Photoshop? You can put a picture of Air Force One anywhere, just cut and paste.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Rep. Joe Barton proves you don't have to have brains to be in Congress

Of course most of us already know you dont have to have brains to be in congress, but Joe Barton takes a special prize. he asked Nobel Prize winner and Sec of Energy, Steve Chu, where oil comes from that is above artic circle. Chu had to take some time to understand the question. He responded by explaining plates that move in the earth, how these plates moved and the oil/coal created by dead dinosaurs ended up north. Barton's reason for asking the question, is that Barton doesnt believe in global warming, and even if there is such a thing, Barton thinks its normal. In other words, the world was warmer once, so much so that dinosaurs lived in the north pole. Unspoken might have been his opinion that humans also lived near the north pole, when it was warm, along with the dinosaurs. He is on you tube here.
Not only that, but even when Chu explained the continental plates to him, he still didnt get it. On top of that (yes, there is more) in response to Pres Obama opinion that there should be a national playoff series for college DI football, Barton said the current system is "communism." he meant that you can't fix it so you need another model. He is pissed that his college, Texas A&M, doesnt have the vote power that the big seven conferences have (he is right). so, the current system benefits the big seven conferences, the elite teams that make alot of money out of the bowl system, and hurts the other teams. Most of these teams are subsidized with state and federal tax dollars, only the elite teams turn a profit at football. So Barton is right, the BCS system should be called the BS system (he said that) but his comment about communism is....WTF?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

physical therapy

After suffering from a bad neck for 5 weeks, I finally did it: threw the neck and shoulders out completely. I have survived, mostly from physical therapy, chiropractor and drugs. I somehow got some work done today, mostly grading papers. I am home in a drug induced stupor and plan to take it easy.