Friday, July 31, 2009

Movie: "Seraphine"

a movie about Seraphine Louis, an expressionist painter 100 yrs ago, who lived in poverty while painting in her off time. She is self taught, or a "primativist" and is not discovered until after her death. The film looks really good, about love and squalor. I am not familiar with her work, but attached is one of her paintings, really beautiful. I always thought that the great impressionist masters were students of art, but their success was their ability to go beyond what they were taught. So a self taught painter, is by nature, someone not influenced by mainstream art styles. Right? Or am i missing something.

BTW, I presume to appreciate art, but i like what i like, am not an expert. But I can distinguish between low art (you buy it because the color fits your wall, or the size fits your bathroom wall) and art art that you can't stop looking at. I still remember being in National Gallery, in the room with Cubist paintings, I stood in the middle and turned 360 degrees, of all the paintings, one stood out. I walked up to it and.... Picasso. What a coincidence that in a room of cubist art, one painting is so distinctive. (!?) I'll type more about the movie when i see it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rev. Ike dead ! He knows how to bribe St. Peter at the Gate

Rev. Ike died, 74 yrs old. I havent heard much about him, he was big in the 1970's appearing on UHF tv stations (there was VHF for very high frequency, the standard antenna, and then UHF for ultra high freq which was a smaller round antenna on the back of the set). He was a showman, with his ornate gowns, his slicked back hair, his makeup face. He preached self help, God is within you, to a black audience. His message of getting rich, believing in yourself, made him rich, I am not so sure about his congregants. The photo is of his rolls royce, car, and his church was in a theater that was built like a palace back in the 1930's, a real historical landmark. here is inside the church some pictures and description of his ministry.

Movie, "Silent Light"

This is a movie about a Mennonite community in northern Mexico. Mennonite's are a protestant christian religion and they believe they owe allegiance to God and not to any one nation. They have been persecuted in Europe (Anabaptists) and from there they have had a diaspora across the globe. This film is in low German, and spanish. Johan has a wonderful family, six children, a wonderful wife Marianne. However, he has fallen in love with a single woman, Esther. They are all members of this religious community. Johan has told his wife about Esther from the very beginning. This affair is making everyone sad, and Esther tells Johan it must stop. Johan confesses to his wife about his latest intimate moment with Esther (he had prayed that he could stop) while they are driving, and she becomes sick, jumps out of car. runs off in a rain storm, weeps, and presumably dies. At her funeral, Johan realizes how much he loved her, and how wrong his affairs with Esther was. Without spoiling the film, Johan is given a second chance to make things right.

The film is filmed with great beauty, from the opening scene watching the sun come up, to the closing scene, watching the sun set, and the night sky become brilliant.

This family (and Johan's parents, the "family" is the whole community) has something wrong with it. Instead of being harmonious, Johan's affair has introduced much sorrow and unhappiness in the family. At the beginning of the movie, Johan stops a clock from ticking, at the end of the film, Johan's father restarts the clock. Johan's affair demands that time "stop" so that the family can be healed.

The film depicts the timelessness of the land, of the lives of this community. Happiness is the well being of the community, and family, and individual happiness (gratification) is subordinated to the happiness of the community. Its as though the film is saying, we are not here on earth for our own happiness, but for the good of our community.

The scenes of farm life are so beautiful, and the soundtrack is amazing, I could hear birds, crickets throughout the film. as though these life forms are just as important as the humans, or at least they all are inhabiting the same space, share a common function. What a film! i think a masterpiece. I might buy this when it comes out on DVD so I can share it with others.

Here is the only utube trailer I could find. Oops, one more in german.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Woody Allen on the meaning of life - Hannah and her Sisters

nothing on tv last night, and I am tired of reading the book "On Killing, by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, (a tough subject). So I saw woody allen's Hannah and her Sisters, on dvd. I really love that movie, especially the scene where he tries to kill himself with a rifle, misses, and then goes to see a Marx brothers movie which makes him believe that life is too much fun to end abruptly. I have been battling depression lately, and the movie really helped my outlook on life.

The picture of the Marx brothers includes their distant relative, Karl. Once while I was a teaching assistant at the Univ of Georgia, I remarked in class that there is a book published on the daughters of Karl Marx, he had no sons, and who they married and what happened to them and so forth. A student asked for the name of the book, and I couldnt remember it, so I said, without thinking, "The Marx Sisters" or something like that....and i paused, thought about what i just said, and started laughing uncontrollably. The class didnt get it, I guess these 19 yr olds never saw a marx brother movie.

More on Hannah and her Sisters: it has an amazing cast, including Max von Sydow, the famous actor from Igmar Bergman films. Woody is a fan of Bergman films, "Deconstructing Harry" is similar to Bergman's Wild Strawberries, "Love and Death" copies scenes from "the Seventh Seal." Anyway, there is a long scene with Barbara Hershey and Max and Barb go through it once, to practice where woody wants them to stand, walk and so forth. then they shoot it once, all the way through, and a second shoot, and woody says "wrap." Max is incredulous, a wrap after two takes? woody says he wants it fresh, with minimal rehersal, it makes the acting raw and more realistic. Max is impressed. what woody didnt explain is that his films make a very little profit, from low viewership, and that the only way to get the studios to back him is to keep his cost of making the film as low as possible. For example, "Sleeper" I think cost the most of the early woody films (i might be wrong), and the studios tried to keep his costs down after that. He never has had a "hit" with the exception of Annie Hall (Hannah comes in 3rd place in revenue of all his films). Also there are great scenes in Hannah, he takes the viewer on a tour of landmark buildings in manhattan (sam waterstan plays an architect), central park (he has mickey and holly walk left to right in front of stationery camera) and of course the last scene, at thanksgiving, with mickey and holly kissing, candles in the background, minimal lighting (there is a Scandanavian group of filmmakers who make movies with only natural lighting, or candles, but no "lights," I am sure woody knows of this group and borrowed their technique for the final scene.

The appearance of the punk rock band "39 Steps" (an Alfred Hitchcock film- woody picks a punk group with a name taken from a famous film and film director!) is followed by Mickey taking Holly to see Bobby Short at the Cafe Carlyle (Mr. Short died before I was able to see him at the Carlyle, one of the missed opportunities of my life) and they hear Mr. Short play "I'm in Love Again," a great rendition of the Cole Porter song, but I cant find it on Youtube, so here is Bobby sining "I happen to like New York," which is a song that woody put in the beginning of his film Manhattan Murder Mystery.

BTW, Woody used to play clarinet in a new orleans type jazz band at the Cafe Carlyle. I dont know if he still does it. BTW, a room at the Carlyle will cost you $395 for one night, summer rate, and apartments are available for purchase starting at $1.5 million (which might be a bargain in today's market). There is a $85 cover charge to see jazz bands at the Cafe Carlyle, supposedly woody plays there monday nights. I assume you need a reservation well in advance.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Hybrids versus my 4 door Yaris

My Yaris gets 42 mpg mixed, and 44 highway. that is comparable, even better, than some hybrids.

But the Yaris has little power. I accelerate by using the transmission (5 speed manual) but on expressway, to get some power, I downshift into 2nd gear, revving up the engine so when I let clutch out I have high rpm. That is the downside to great mpg, the engine is not powerful, but if I drive defensively and pass on a straight away or downhill, the car is ok. I like the car a great deal, just there are a few times when the lack of power takes me by surprise.

F22 Raptor funding ended.

The senate voted to end production of the F22 Raptor. Reasons? The cost and the mission. Pres Obama and Def Sec Gates thinks the Raptor does not help fight the wars we are in today, such as Iraq or Afghanistan. The Raptor was designed for the cold war - war. Also, the expense cannot be justified given the deficit. My work on policy termination suggests that "cost" is usually not the reason why a program is terminated: usually, termination costs more than continuing the policy. However, a change in ideology is often a reason for termination. In this case, the Raptor does not give our troops an edge in the wars we are fighting - we are fighting a war on terror and insurgency, and what we need is the tools for counter-insurgency, how to eliminate the reasons and the support for terrorists and insurgents.

I have decided to look into the F22 termination as well as other terminated military equipment. Why was the F22 terminated but not the Osprey? Both were costly. Does the Osprey help fight our current wars better than the F22? Perhaps. I am going to look into this further, maybe write a conference paper on it. I havent done anything with policy termination since my book came out in 1997, other than one paper on terminating military bases (which was rejected by two journals at which point i threw it away, literally).

Louis Bleriot - the brave man who first flew the English Channel

Today is the 100th anniversary of Louis Bleriot's flight across the english channel. I guess i have to read more than I have about who had the "first flight" in an airplane. Wikipedia says wright brothers in 1903. But I suspect that the french had flyable aircraft before that. Most parts of an airplane have french names so the french obviously had much to do with inventing airplane parts. Anyway, I think the above picture is of Louis just prior to his takeoff, minutes before he departed for England. Look at his face - fear, dread. But he took off anyway, which is called "bravery." I really admire this guy. His plane was little more than an ultrlight. see a reproduction here (I think its a reproduction - let me research this more). UPDATE: Not a reproduction, it is a restored Bleriot identical to the one Louis flew. Here is another video of this guy flying a restored Bleriot.

Otto Lilienthal is listed as the first person to fly an aircraft in the 1890's - he made hundreds of flights. He also invented a steam engine that was light weight, weighing less than the gas-piston engines of the time. Were his flights powered? I dont know, Otto is known as the inventor of glider planes. How far were his flights? I dont know if they were as far as the wright brothers. How fast were his planes? I dont know. I guess the identity of the first flight depends on how you define aircraft, flight, and so forth.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

"The forgotten Soldier" by Guy Sajer

What an incredible book. Its supposedly a autobiography of a young frenchman whose mother is german but father is french, from Alsace. He gets drafted by german army in 1942, is 17yrs old, and because of his age gets put in a supply company. He drives trucks, and just about anything else as it turns out (half tracks too). He is sent to the East front, just about at the time Stalingrad (Volgograd) was winding down. After Stalingrad fell and the German army under Field Marshall Paulus surrendered, Sajer was trained as an infantry soldier in the Gross Deutschland division. He experienced just about every major battle in Russia, and ended up surrendering to the British after escaping from Danzig by ship and landing in Kiel. He was handed over to Americans, and when it was discovered his father was french, was sent back home. He passed his mother on the street and she didnt recognize him: he called to her, she walked to him, looked at his face in disbelief, and fainted. He carried his mother home and his brother saw him approaching and wondered, who is the strange man carrying my mother?

His descriptions of battle were amazing. how he survived is a miracle. He was proud to serve in the Gross Deutschland division, had an insignia on the right arm of his coat, an elite division. he couldnt get over that the british didnt shoot him when he surrendered.

There is a movie based on the book, here is trailer from Youtube. I cant find it on IMDB. On someone's blog they describe it as amateurish movie, suggested that you watch it drunk (?) That bad?

The book describes the equipment of the german army, like the Zundapp-Russland sidecar - it was fun looking up the equipment to see it on the web. Here is a restored Tiger Tank. Germany outtanked the Russians as far as design goes, but the Tiger appeared too late in the war, and by then the number of Russian tanks overwhelmed the German army. The panzer tank was more numerous but lacked the firepower of the Tiger.

Here is the ME 110 airplane that Sajer talks about during the battle of Kursk (the battle that destroyed the German army, after that it was steady retreat.

Incredible book. It took me to youtube and i discovered some really crazy stuff there, memorials to the Waffen SS and stuff. Here is a decent video of Waffen SS in Russia, objective.

Prof Louis Gates (and his European DNA) arrested

Prof. Louis Gates of Harvard was arrested for disorderly conduct, after police were called to his house because a neighbor thought "two black men" were breaking into his house. It was Prof. Gates, entering his house after flying back from China, and being locked out - the limo driver was helping him get in. the front door was stuck, so Gates entered the back door, and was trying to unstick the front door with help from the limo driver outside. The police wanted Gates to show identification that he lived there. Gates became angry ("I have to prove I live here?") on top of probably his exhaustion from flying half way around the world. He started yelling about how this is racial profiling, because he is a black man, told police they were stupid, and that is when he was arrested. One of the police officers was black himself. Could the police have handled this better? yeah. Did Prof Gates probably need a good nights sleep? Yeah. But here is the irony:

Gates had his DNA analyzed, and the majority of his DNA can be traced to Europe.
Here is the link to his PBS series, African American Lives. One more time: Prof Gates has more "white" DNA than African DNA. On African American Lives, he interviews many black celebrities and asks about their heritage, then traces their DNA - the results often surprise the celebrities. Gates' results surprised him, to say the least. Despite the headline for this blog, Gates isnt considered "white" - racial identify is self identified in the USA (a precedent set by the US Census). If you think you are black, they you are black. This can be very confusing, esp for some of Thomas Jefferson's children with his slave and "common law"wife Sally Hemmings, who looked white and passed themselves off as white while working in Baltimore and Washington DC. Gates has expanded his original series, and now is analyzing DNA from ordinary (non celebrity) black men and women.

My favorite celebrity DNA participant was Chris Tucker - I like him, he is funny, great when paired with Jackie Chan. Anyway, Chris's ancestry was traced back to the Mbundu ethnic group of Angola and one line of his mother's to the Bamileke of Cameroon - PBS flew him to africa to the Mbundu village his DNA most resembled, and the village greated him by singing and dancing - he cried and cried, a lost son returned home - you can imagine the stories told over generations of a young black man kidnapped from the village, disappeared, and now his ancester has returned, home again. Absolutely incredible series.

So who is black? Pres Obama decided as a child that he was black - he could have just as well decided he was white. But as a student once told me, who was Puerto Rican, black, and white, if you are the least % black, then you are treated by others as black. If you have brown skin, no matter how slight, then she said you are treated like you are black. So if you are discriminated against, profiled, because you look black, even if your DNA is majority White, then you better see yourself as black, because I guess you have no choice.

Pres Obama discussed this during his press conference, and the reporters, and police associations across the country, didnt get it. When we lived in Germantown TN, the only cars we saw stopped by Police were driven by black people. If you are black, and drive through Germantown TN, you will be stopped. We had a Xmas party at a Professor's house in Germantown, and yes, one of our black students was stopped - she was driving her daddy's Mercedes sports car and the police stopped her because they had a report about a stolen Mercedes sports car that matched her description. Yeah, right. If a black woman is driving a mercedes through Germantown TN, it must be stolen. The Press didnt understand what Obama was trying to tell them, because the press at the press conference was almost all white.

"Can't we all just get along?" (A quote from the philosopher Rodney King, whose beating and arrest triggered the LA riots). But seriously, Can't we all just get along?

Tony Soprano's friends get arrested

Those who follow The Sopranos on HBO know how Tony conspired with a state assembly man to fraud HUD by buying, getting phoney appraisals, and then flipping HUD houses. It made him hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was one reason he and Johnny Sack parted ways (I cant believe I am writing about this as though it were real). But below is real story about corruption, real estate and politicians and the mob in Jersey. I like the part about farming kidneys for sale.

The mayors of three New Jersey cities, two state legislators and several rabbis were among more than 40 people arrested Thursday in a sweeping corruption investigation that began as a probe into an international money laundering ring that trafficked in goods as diverse as human organs and fake designer handbags.

Among 44 people arrested Thursday were Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano III, Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, state Assemblyman President L. Harvey Smith and state Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt.

Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez, who is also an attorney, is charged with agreeing to accept an illegal $10,000 cash payment for his legal defense fund.

Gov. Jon Corzine reacted to the corruption probe Thursday morning by saying, "any corruption is unacceptable — anywhere, anytime, by anybody. The scale of corruption we're seeing as this unfolds is simply outrageous and cannot be tolerated."

In separate money laundering complaints, several rabbis from Brooklyn and New Jersey were charged with offenses ranging from the trafficking of kidneys from Israeli donors to laundering proceeds from selling fake Gucci and Prada bags.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Asians doing Christopher Walken impersonations

Here is a clip of asians doing christopher walken impersonations - like it says, if you have to ask what this is, then there is no point watching it. Check out Tosh.O videos, and his cable tv show. funny. of course last at night most things are funny, but this guy really is funny.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Latest plane crash in Iran

I understand the economic sanctions against Iran as far as intent, but the actual impact is on the people of Iran and not on its leaders. Here is the latest plane crash. Iran cannot buy Boeing aircraft; instead, they buy used russian planes that are crappy and crash. This plane supposedly blew up or disintegrated in midair, and landed straight down and created a crash "crater" - I think the economic sanctions should be replaced by political sanctions. Economic sanctions do not work: consider Cuba, Iraq, iran.....they only hurt people, no the regime.

Judge Sotomayor, Al Franken and Perry Mason

For those who do not remember the TV series, Perry Mason, here is the opening. Al Franken ended his questioning of Judge Sotomayor today by asking her about Perry Mason's only case he lost. She mentioned watching Perry Mason as a child and wanting to be a lawyer. Turns out, Judge Sotomayor and Al both did not know that episode. the episode is "The Case of the Deadly Verdict" and the plot is here.

Al Franken's dry humor came out, despite his trying to be very very serious and Senatorial. It should be fun having him in the Senate. Talk about the Liberal consciousness of the Senate, now that Ed Kennedy is about to depart, Franken and Sen. Leahy will be the most liberal.

I also like having a conservative consciousness in the Senate too, its just that people like Lindsey Graham, though conservative, are just so friggin stupid...ya na?

"The Heart of the Matter" by Graham Greene

Just finished The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene. Known for his espionage novels, Greene received recent notoriety in the movie Donnie Darko, when the class was assigned his short story The Destructors. Kitty Farmer, the bitch who taught the Jim Cunningham "Fear" curriculum, thought the short story contributed to the vandalism at the high school . When Rose Darko asks her if she even knows who Graham Greene was, Kitty answers, "Well, I think we've all seen Bonanza."

Anyway, I enjoy Graham Greene novels, but this was really different. He really brings the reader into the mind of Major Scobie, the Asst Superindendant for some west african country during WW2. Scobie is honest in a graft and fraud corruption colony. He loves his wife, and god. But he has doubts. he doubts his own goodness, and he doubts god's existence, or at least god's grace. he borrows money from a Syrian smuggler to send his wife to South Africa, where she will be happy - he loves her that much. He has now compromised himself with the smuggler, but is intent on remaining honest and paying off the debt without any kickbacks or favors. But he falls in love with a widowed young woman, Helen, who lost her husband in a U boat attack. His wife returns home refreshed. He now realizes he cant love both women and be good to both of them. he cant bear the thought of being without Helen. His letter to Helen professing his love ends up in the hands of the smuggler - he has to do a favor for the smuggler to get it back. Now he is compromised big time. he is convinced his "boy" (black servant) is a double agent for the smuggler - the boy turns up dead and he feels responsible. He is convinced now that god is impossible for him to approach or receive forgiveness from. He decides to kill himself, make it look like a heart attack (get, the "heart" of the matter) and leave life insurance money for his wife. That's his solution to his conflict of love and obligation to both women. His death is almost christ like, dying for his sins, the sins of the miserable colony he has lived in for too long. After his death, his wife concludes that his death was in fact a suicide even though it is officially natural causes. she gets the insurance. She is convinced that he did not love her, that he borrowed money from the smuggler for other purposes, that he did not love Helen, that he was corrupt, and that he was not capable of loving god. So she got it wrong: Scobie was a man who did love, who tried hard to meet his obligations, who suffered because of his extramarital sin, who loved Helen, who tried hard to be the one honest person in this miserable colony, and who took very seriously god's love or lack of it. Scobie was all heart, and his heart killed him figuratively - he did not live his life as shallowly as those around him, and this killed him.

Great book. His writing is amazing, his vocabulary, his sentence structure, his exploration of the interior of Scobie's soul - outstanding.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

woody allen movies come to cable TV

Cable tv has been showing lots of woody allen movies lately. Manhattan was on yesterday, surfing channels, saw it and had to sit for whole movie (I was having my morning coffee, about to go to the office, or orifice as I sometimes say). There is brilliant dialogue in the film, classic woody allen: Why is life worth living? It's a very good question. Um... Well, There are certain things I guess that make it worthwhile. uh... Like what... okay... um... For me, uh... ooh... I would say... what, Groucho Marx, to name one thing... uh... um... and Wilie Mays... and um... the 2nd movement of the Jupiter Symphony... and um... Louis Armstrong, recording of Potato Head Blues... um... Swedish movies, naturally... Sentimental Education by Flaubert... uh... Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra... um... those incredible Apples and Pears by Cezanne... uh... the crabs at Sam Wo's... uh... Tracy's face... and my favorite: Years ago I wrote this short story about my Mother called "The Castrating Zionist"

Then today was Everyone Says I Love You, woody's tribute to the romantic mixed up comedy musicals of the 1930's. the Soundtrack was amazing. I enjoyed the singing, even Julia Roberts sang, her own voice, beautiful scene with her sitting next to canal in Venice. And the dance sequence with Goldy Hawn was great, the cinematography was superb. And on top of that, there was the Groucho Marx dance number, the funeral dance number, - I loved it. What I enjoyed most was woody sharing his love for the 1930's musicals with a new audience. he is an amazing artist.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Waltzing with Bashir: Post Traumatic Stress and Lebanon War

This is a film I have waited months to see. I am not sure if it played in pittsburgh, I am surprised if it didnt. Here is the internet link, with explanation of film and clips.

The film is a black and white anime, with an ending that is color photographs.

The main character (the actual director of film, Ari Folman) of the film is in therapy, he has bad dreams of 26 dogs chasing and attacking him. This dream is from when he was 19 yrs old, and a member of the Israeli Defense Forces, invading Lebanon in 1982 to eliminate palestinian terror missle attacks on israel. Unknown to the troops and the Israeli citizens, there was a secret plan authorized by Arik Sharon, Minister of Defense, to drive all the way to Beirut and install Bashir Gemayal as leader of Lebanon. Bashir was a Lebanonize Christian, he agreed to be allied with Israel, in opposition of Syria and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). As the IDF forces converged on Beirut, Bashir was assassinated by a large bomb, probably orchestrated by Syria through the PLO. Bashir's militia, the Phalangist Militia, was out for revenge: under cover by IDF, the Phalangist troops entered Shabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps and apprehended PLO terrorists. But Israeli troops could see civilians being executed. Genocide. Radio and phone calls were made. Sharon knew about it. Finally, IDF troops on the scene order the Phalangists to stop. They stopped, probably due to exhaustion (lining up women and children and executing them does take an emotional toll on soldiers). now, 25 yrs later, our main character is told to talk to other soldiers, his comrades, about the war. He searches and tracks down others in his unit. They too have little memory of events. But as they talk, suppressed memories come back. In heartbreaking scenes, we see the scared IDF troops entering Lebanon, firing constantly, finally being pinned down by snipers. There is much death and destruction. These are memories of events that the young IDF soldiers have repressed for many years, and for good reason: sane people find it difficult to confront such memories. But it all comes out. the ending is overwhelming.

The film is controversial, because the genocide of the Sabra and Shatila camps cannot be separated, for some, by the threat posed by Israel of the PLO on its norther border. It was war, IDF soldiers were being killed. some feel, so single out the genocide of these two campus without keeping it in perspective with the larger war against terror Israel was fighting is to not do justice to the IDF troops. Afterall, they didnt do the shooting. they followed orders, they covered the Phalangist militia.

Are there rules to war? I have had officers as students, and they tell me yes, there are rules, morality guidelines. At least they say so in class. Out of class, they are skeptical : rules? in war? come ever been in war? you wouldn't ask......

How far does one go to protect the security of one's countrymen? Kill all the enemy and let god sort them out? Killing civilians has lots of precedent, just start reading the bible starting with book of Joshua - the bible is full of genocide, civilians being massacred, surrending armies being massacred, entire people disappearing from history (like the Ammonites). So how is this different? Isn't genocide just part of being human? How often has it happened in our lifetimes?

Very controversial movie. Absolutely unforgetable. Outstanding. Disturbing. Sad.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Millionaire Jackpot lottery - I lost

This is Gus the Groundhog, the official mascot of the Pennsylvania lottery.
So I am breaking even with the lotto cards I buy at the Giant Eagle grocery store. That's because I buy alot of cards, play the odds. It is set up so you break even at best, or lose just a little - that keeps you coming back. But over the 4th was the Millionaire lotto game, only 500,000 tickets sold. I bought 6 for $20 each. My odds of winning SOMETHING were 1:3, meaning I had a one out of three chance of winning a prize (the best odds were winning $100, 5,990 prizes were awarded. That would mean I would lost $20 if I won $100. But still, for a lotto, I had a 1:4000 chance of winning a million dollars. Thats good odds, given the $120 price to wager. How did I do? I won nothing. not even $100. Were the odds bad? No, I just didnt win. But I did have a chance of 1:4000 to become a millionaire (or 560,000 after taxes). Is this consistent with the Buddhist middle path to happiness? I guess not.

I am cashing in my $20 Diamond lotto ticket today, buying another. The odds of winning a million bucks playing Diamond card lotto? Like being hit by an asteroid !

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Bhutan's Middle Path: Happiness

Public television has a great program on Bhutan which I am buying to show to my american government students this fall. It is called Bhutan: the Middle Road to Happiness. My film students have had to put up with the Bhutan film "Travellers and Magicians: The Bitter and Sweet of Temporary Things." A film that shows the beauty of Bhutan, and also carries a Buddhist message. We desire so much, we want our dreamworld, be it jobs, cars, marriage partners, whatever. But desire detracts us from the beauty of our lives. It makes us unhappy. Take a middle road, live simply, find happiness. In Bhutan, the government has a Gross National Happiness indicator, just like Gross Domestic Product or Gross National Product. It is the only country that measures its people's happiness. Being happy is the whole point of life (according to Aristotle). Happiness comes from a spiritual life for the Bhutanese. Anyway, great program. And finally, what IS the bitter and sweet of temporary things???? Life. Life is temporary. It is bitter and also sweet. We need to let go of physical desire, accept our temporary lives, and live peacefully. Be happy. (Easy to write about, much harder to actually accomplish). The program shows the new King of Bhutan explaining that the global economy opens up the nation to the consumer culture of the west, and that is a threat to their happiness. Also, Bhutan is now a parliamentary democracy, and that is also a challenge to their culture. anyway, great movie, less than an hour long.

Away we Go

Great movie with a great soundtrack (see the songs here).
Great independent film, very ambitious, shot in numerous locations. Its about a young couple, well not so young, early 30's, who are expecting a child and travel around to relatives and friends to see where they want to settle. Its more than that. The pregnant mom thinks they are flops, she is 34, they live in a run down house, drive a beat up Volvo, and I think they wonder if they couldnt have been "more" than they are. They are not married, but they have a wonderful relationship. I think the movie is really about the parents they want to become, and in their travels they meet relatives and friends but its really about observing the parenting styles that others have. Its funny, laught out loud, but also sad, I mean tears, esp when they visit friends from college in Montreal, who have adopted 4 children, but mourn the loss of their miscarried babies. They observe that some people have children easily and are awful parents, but some people who are great parents have such heartbreak conceiving children of their own. the end is great, beautiful. the soundtrack really lovely. No violence. And you get to travel all over the country with them. Overall, a great movie, enjoyable.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Lori Drew - nightmare killer mother

This is a picture of Lori Drew, the mother who impersonated a 13 yr old boy on the internet so she could flirt and then hurt a 13 yr old girl, a school mate of her daughter. Supposedly, the girl passed a rumor about Lori's daughter at school, that her daugher was gay. Soooooo, mom decided to get even. She became a boy on the internet, flirted with the girl, told the girl she was beautiful, wonderful, love, and then wrote a nasty note insulting her and telling her she was ugly, terrible, and should kill herself. The girl committed suicide. There are no laws about pretending to be someone else, telling a 13 yr old girl you love her, and then drop her in a mean message designed to hurt her. Lori the nightmare mother was charged in federal court with using the internet for fraud, maximum penalty something like 2 yrs in jail, almost a middemeanor. Judge threw it out. This doesnt mean that Lori is innocent, just that the law doesnt exist to put her in jail for the rest of her life, which is where she belongs. I am 57 yrs old, and still amazed, stunned, at how mean people can be - call me naive. Lori Drew is a nightmare of a human being - I urge her entire community to shun her, treat her as a non person. I feel sorry for her daughter, having a mother like Lori.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Al Franken as a US Senator

First of all, he is from Minnesota, and you have to say that with a Minnesota accent. yah sure. Second, he has been married to the same woman his entire adult life. Third, he is fiscally conservative, did not support Pres. Obama's bailout (he though GM should sink, likewise AIG, the whole rotten mess). He supports our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (has entertained them on numerous occasions). He wants to be a voice to replace Sen. Wellstone, who was a liberal. But Franken is not predictable, will vote with Democrats, but has publically said he will keep low profile, seen but not heard since he has the least seniority of any senator (he is last senator from 2008 election to be inaugurated). He says he has a lot to learn. He needs to prove he is intelligent, solid Democrat to his own party, and prove that he can work with Republicans (even though he wrote a book entitled "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot," which he is, and the book was very funny).

"Public Enemies" Johnny Depp as John Dillinger

Great scene from movie "Public Enemies," Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, in a movie theater, "and John Dillinger, public enemy number one, they might be among you, look to your left, look to your right..." and Johnny depp is loving this scene, the mischievous grin that comes on his face, funny ! He is a great actor, really knows how to milk that scene, it was great.

Nature Center Fort Lee - Bird Watching

Noah and I went for a trail walk in the Flat Rock Brook nature center near his apartment in Fort Lee NJ. It is walking distance from his apt. and here is the link. It has miles of trails, and is very quiet, considering it is jogging distance from the George Washington Bridge and the whole NYC greater metropolitan area phenomenon. We saw a Great Egret in the pond, he was stalking frogs for lunch. He almost caught one. it was fascinating to watch him. We saw many other birds too, including a woodpecker. Bird watching is a great hobby, very peaceful, quiet. It made me aware of small things around me, like the tiny mole moving under the leaves. Very Zen. Its a form of meditation I think. I plan to go out to Morraine park near my house and see if i can replicate the experience. I used to jog on the bike trail but I was usually deep in thought and not paying attention to my surroundings. I remember that great movie from Bhutan, "Travellers and Magicians" (also entitled, "The Bitter and Sweet of Temporary Things") and how the main character is not conscious of the beauty surrounding him. Maybe that's true for all of us ? !

Yaris gets great mileage

My 4 door Yaris is getting anywhere from 42-44 mpg, depending on how fast i drive. The 105 hp means having to plan passing other cars on expressway (I dont evey attempt it up hill) but apart from that the car is great. I would like less road noise, but more insullation means more weight, less mileage and so forth. It has every air bag imaginable, but still has average scores on crash worthiness - again, the weight is an issue, it weighs little, so crashes only average. Solution? Drive carefully, defensively, obey speed limit, get great mpg, and avoid a crash.