Archive for January, 2020

I was scrolling thru my writing posts from ten years ago, when Ma and Pa were still alive. I came across the following pointers from Alzheimer’s Playbook for caregivers. Seems like good advice for living for all of us! The complete book should still be available thru http://www.alzheimersplaybook.com if you are in a situation of caregiving for a friend/family.

– get away from the house
– go out for a walk
– meet friends for lunch
– go to a prayer meeting
– listen to music
– work in your garden
– read a book
– take a nap
– keep your sense of humor
– take one day at a time
– pat yourself on the back for the good job you are doing
– get enough rest and eat right
– make time for the things you like to do
– talk about how you feel with others
– listen to your friends

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I’ve been jaded over the years about Nazi movies. It became a worn theme, frayed and without originality. A kind of movie genre that made me sympathetic to the German people and how history had been locked around their necks like a heavy stone, weighing down a culture and blaming it forever for sins of the past. I was frankly tired of the genre, the absence of new screenwriting that might provide freshness and a desire to open new synaptic connections. Then along came JoJo Rabbit. It takes WW II and Nazism, and explores the theme from a blindingly new perspective. By showing a child’s point of view on the horrors of Nazism, the terror of persecution, the molding of Hitler Youth. Director Taika Waititi (who also plays the role of Adolf Hitler) took Christine Leunens’s book ‘Caging Skies’ and created an entirely different Nazi movie. It transcends the faded genre and opens a new chapter. How did the horror of this world shaking philosophy affect children, how were they manipulated during the reign of terror? Do not think this movie is simply a buffoonery of Adolf Hitler. It would be easy to leave the theater and dismiss the movie as a simple absurdist comedy without substance. JoJo Rabbit captures a child’s reality during war time. Young actor Roman Griffin Davis excels in the role. There is a scene about a third of the way in, where our young protagonist JoJo finds himself recovering from a grenade injury. And the cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr films completely out of focus for what seemed like two screen minutes. It was such a powerful strategy, we see the world exactly as a young concussion sufferer would see it. The soundtrack resonates the young lad’s accelerated heart rate and breathing, the fear that he must be experiencing wondering if he will see normally ever again. His head still ringing from the blast, vision compromised. That’s when I decided this could very well be a very good war movie! New. Challenging.
JoJo Rabbit confronts the absurdity of war, in particular the absurdity of Nazism in its hatred of all things Jewish. Adolf Hitler as JoJo’s mentor and guide, always tearing him away from a sensitive child’s humanity to the jaggedness and fury of Nazism. Adolf’s manipulation of the young JoJo becomes more tangible and creepy as the movie progresses. There is a violence to Hitler’s reactions that Waititi admirably ensares. And When the girl in the attic, quite obviously a reference to Anne Frank, is first introduced the immediate reaction is disappointment about this cliché. That it is almost too much. But no. The girl in the attic, Thomasin McKenzie, develops into a most likeable foil to the craziness that has enveloped young JoJo. She gradually moves him to see the “real” reality, to grasp the madness of Nazism. Scarlett Johansson and Sam Rockwell round out the cast and fill their roles with panache and genuineness. Go see JoJo Rabbit and keep your mind open, this movie will both entertain you as very good cinema and challenge you to never forget the horror of Nazism.

The words in the final frame perfectly wrap it up, an excerpt from Austrian poet Rainer Marie Rilke’s poem ‘Go to the Limits of Your Longing’.

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final.”

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Just when you think the world can’t get any weirder, you read something like this. Eddie Chau of the Toronto Sun wrote this one, it is too weird to comprehend. And yet it is true. No wonder many in the Middle East and Asian and Oriental world think we in the west are debauched. I must say though, it is hilarious!

Simon Cowell knows a thing or two about what talent is. And creating art with your penis is apparently not one of them. According to the UK Mirror, Cowell walked out of an audition for Britain’s Got Talent after an artist named “Pricasso” used his manhood to create a work of art on stage. Britain’s Got Talent is currently in the middle of filming auditions for its upcoming season and 70-year-old artist Tim Patch tried to wow the judges – Cowell, Amanda Holden, David Walliams and Alesha Dixon – with his penis painting skills. Decked out in a cowboy hat and pink g-string, Patch produced a photo of Cowell and Walliams which was to be the subject of his audition painting. Pricasso then whipped out his wang and began to create his art. Cowell reportedly wanted no part of the audition as he hit his buzzer and walked off set to his dressing room. Walliams remained while Holden and Dixon walked onstage to get a closer look at the painting process. A native of the land down under, Patch has also auditioned for Australia’s Got Talent last year, where he painted a portrait of judge Shane Jacobson. For those who want to know: Patch also utilizes his scrotum and butt as painting instruments.

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The Lighthouse. Do not go see this movie unless you are prepared for a disturbing and troubling cinema experience. The Lighthouse is as far from a stereotypical Hollywood movie as I could imagine. It follows two lighthouse keepers as they sink into a psychotic and depressed existence on a barren rock. Willem Dafoe plays the keeper of the light, obsessively guarding entry to his sanctum at the top of the tower. Robert Pattinson is his lackey, the grunt who has been hired to serve Dafoe and do all the dirty physical work required to keep the lighthouse functioning. And Pattinson becomes increasingly driven to find out what Dafoe is guarding, why he is not allowed to enter the space at the top of the tower. The light becomes a kind of mythic creature, worshiped by Dafoe and relentlessly sought by Pattinson. Repressed sexuality. The consequences of isolation. Abuse of alcohol. This film explores several themes, none of which are positive human experiences. There are brief moments of happiness, but they are quickly extinguished and only exist in the haze of drunkenness. The movie is filmed in black and white, which adds to the uncomfortable aura that grips each scene. The acting is superb, both Dafoe and Pattinson project a nihilistic Kafkaesque blackness, and deftly move closer and closer to the edge of madness as the movie progresses. Pattinson gradually reveals his troubled and checkered past as the film edges toward an inexorably dangerous conclusion. There is tension throughout, and director Robert Eggers and cinematographer Jarin Blaschke collaborate deftly to make sure we feel uncomfortable and mesmerized. It is reassuring to know that niche movies such as The Lighthouse can still be presented for our viewing experience. But, be forewarned it is not a good idea to view this film if you are in a troubled state of mind. You will leave the theater even more disturbed and depressed.

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I don’t know if it is the reading I am doing these days, or if it is just a state of mind. Perhaps it is the troubled world and selfishness of its leaders that presents little hope. But I seem to be crafting more poetry that explores dark themes than light. Maybe it is just that time of year, with long cold winter days and nights that extend beyond the palliative capacity of vitamin D to lighten the darkness. Spring time seems so far away. In any event, here is the latest rhyme.

There’s a fading light when love is lost
Like a boat on the ocean you are tossed
Wave to wave, hill to hill
When love is lost, you’ve lost the thrill

You look behind, the past is gone
And what’s ahead is dark, no dawn
All light recedes, no sun does shine
You’re living in a black coal mine

Ending up in lifeless bars
Watching endless parades of cars
People coming, staying a while
Everybody with too much style

Will there be someone to engage with me
Some words to exchange, some thoughts to see
Or is the scribble that I write
The only thing that sets me right

It’s a phantasy, the edge of night
Road markers have all lost the light
With every turn comes another hill
When love is lost, you’ve lost the thrill

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What hypocrisy President Bolsonaro presents! The President of Brazil fires his Secretary of Culture for appearing to copy a speech from Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels when announcing a national prize to revitalize the arts. In a statement Bolsonaro justifies his termination of said minister’s tenure:

“I reiterate our rejection of totalitarian and genocidal ideologies.”

And in the next breath Bolsonaro pledges to force agriculture and mining onto the indigenous lands of first nations that have occupied the Amazonian rainforest for a millennium. In a stunning display of patronizing ‘we know what’s good for you’ justification, Bolsonaro says this development will lift the indigenous peoples out of poverty. How dare he project his western ideology and definition of poverty onto peoples who have lived just fine for thousands of years in their jungle! Who are we to force a way of life onto others in wholesale refutation of their existence and way of life? Is poverty solely to be measured in financial terms? What ethical and moral argument makes it justifiable to define one’s existence and happiness solely in monetary terms? It is as if Bolsonaro has unleashed a Panzer division into the Amazon, burning and pillaging his way further into cultures that have survived and prospered through history. His myopic pursuit of money and complete ignorance of its impact on the present lives and futures of peoples who have existed long before he and his contemporaries came to office is itself a “genocidal ideology”. Do not invoke horrific examples from a shameful history when you are yourself forging the same path and writing a similar narrative. History will judge you as a “totalitarian and genocidal” ideologist who destroyed unique and thriving civilizations with complete contempt and utter disregard for their culture and way of life. And this is just one facet of the gross mistake you are making in the Amazon, the ecological destruction and impacts on the rest of humanity is a complete separate chapter! Shame on you Jair Bolsonaro.

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“If there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families.”

These words spoken by our Prime Minister in a recent interview. What a pathetic display by the leader of our great nation. In effect, he is blaming our greatest ally the USA and its leader Donald Trump for the murder of innocents on board Ukraine Flight 752. I do believe that the rest of the world is cognizant of the fact that Iran’s IRGC terrorist army fired the missile that took down this jet! As reported by Brian Lilley in the Toronto Sun; “More than a year ago, in June 2018, Liberal and Conservative MPs joined together behind a motion from Conservative MP Garnett Genuis calling for the IRGC to be labelled a terrorist group. It still hasn’t happened.” And our Prime Minister, instead of placing the blame for this terrorist incident directly where it should lay at the feet of Khomeini and his terrorist army, instead refuses to directly answer questions about why and how the passenger flight was destroyed. He makes thinly veiled comments blaming the United States for this incident. One can only hope that the other parties in Ottawa will soon band together to vote a non-confidence motion and toss him out of office. Justin Trudeau demonstrates once again that he is simply a high school drama teacher in way over his head. I rarely agree with the actions taken by the current President of the United States but at least he is direct and committed to making his nation great again. And to stamping out terrorism throughout the world. His counterpart to the north of the 49th parallel is unfortunately the exact opposite. His vacillation and weakness will only embolden terrorists and drive our great nation into irrelevancy. Yes, he is demonstrating appropriate sympathy toward the families of the survivors. But he should also be directing anger in the appropriate direction. Iranian leadership will no doubt conduct a show trial and the unfortunate souls who commanded the missile battery and gave the launch signal will take the fall. Iran’s ‘supreme leader’ and the leadership of the IRGC will continue to export their terrorist brand throughout the world. And life will go on until the next explosion. Dangerous times indeed.

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The events of the past week serve to illustrate that it is the small and insignificant nations of the world (Canada and Ukraine in this case) that end up being pawns in a geo political chess game between super powers. Likewise, the leaders of the big powers won’t take a fall for this most recent disaster. The scapegoats will be found way down the daisy chain at the bottom of the ladder. Let’s review what happened.

Iran launches several ballistic missiles targeting a US base in Iraq but are careful to not kill any servicemen. They basically blow up a few equipment storage sheds. It was not luck that saved the ground soldiers. These missiles can be programmed to hit their targets within a meter from hundreds of kilometers away. And as we now know, Iran alerted Iraq in advance of the ballistic missile strike. In turn you can be sure that Iraq notified the USA, thus any soldiers that were in vicinity of the strike targets were evacuated. Iran avoids further enraging the unpredictable US President while still seeming to strike a blow in revenge for the killing of their top general. But in a remarkable display of incompetence, the airport authority in Tehran continues to allow international passenger flights to leave, even while the ballistic missiles are raining on the Aid Al Assad base in Iraq! It seems inconceivable in retrospect to think this could have happened, but happen it did.

And then comes the unimaginable error made by some over caffeinated, zealous air to surface missile battery commander. At first I thought this could be an intended target, but it boggles the mind to think Iran would target a passenger flight carrying almost 100 of its own citizens! Do terrorist regimes think of cause and effect? Are open air market bombings by terrorists designed to do anything other than sow chaos and terror? Look what the dictatorial regime in Iran does to protesters who engage in any public protest. They are routinely beaten down or simply disappear. But it is the rational conclusion, that someone in charge of that air to surface missile got caught up in the heightened panic of the moment, and actually mistook a Boeing 737 for a US cruise missile. It happened to the US servicemen on board the Vincennes decades ago. The USS Vincennes navy ship made a similarly grievous mistake and shot down an Iranian passenger jet towards the end of the Iran-Iraq war. More than 250 innocents lost their lives in that “mistake”. So the benefit of doubt must be extended to Iran as well.

I still submit that Trump was right to eliminate a general who has stoked civil war in Yemen, supported Assad’s butchering of his own Syrian people and funded and armed Hezbollah in Lebanon. Think how many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people around the world have died because of Soleimani. Yes it is a contravention of international law to target another nation’s leader on foreign soil, but when you consider Soleimani’s history and the dead he has left in his wake, I am willing to concede this point of law to the US and say the world is a safer place with Soleimani gone. You have eliminated a dangerous man. Would the innocents aboard flight 752 be alive today were it not for Trump’s assassination of Soleimani? Very likely yes. But, how many other innocents have been saved because this Iranian general can no longer strategize for the benefit of the majority Shia Muslims in Iran and export the Islamic revolution beyond the middle east? Difficult questions with no right or wrong answers. One can argue that the USA has been similarly guilty of exporting its own brand throughout the world.

Whoever was in charge of that missile battery grievously erred in thinking this was an enemy airplane or missile. To make such an astonishing mistake overwhelms the senses. The plane was cleared to take off from Tehran airport. It followed the correct flight path. It was still climbing, not descending. That there seems to have been no coordination between the missile battery and Tehran airport is a display of negligence and incompetence that is daft! But, the minor players will eventually be scapegoated just like the Saudis in the Istanbul embassy where the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered. Somebody way down the chain of command will pay and the accepted story will be how it was a grave error to give the launch signal. A completely unfortunate and tragic turn of events. Things will quiet down, we shall go back to our usual routines. Until the next time. What next? It is safe to predict that such “accidents” will happen again. We live in dangerous times.

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When asked how often he writes, Martin Amis responded during a Paris Review interview (vol III) as follows;

“Every weekday. I have an office where I work. I leave the house and I’m absent for the average working day. I drive my powerful Audi three quarters of a mile across London to my flat. And there, unless I’ve got something else I have to do, I will sit down and write fiction for as long as I can. As I said earlier, it never remotely feels like a full day’s work, although it can be. A lot of the time seems to be spent making coffee or trolling around, or throwing darts, or playing pinball, or picking your nose, trimming your fingernails, or staring at the ceiling.”

Now that is refreshing to read!

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In this age of social media it is interesting to note that radio requests still live on. How is it that DJ’s can still get callers to request a favorite tune, when it is so easy to spotify or carry your own thousand tune library in your phone/ipod? Sabrina Maddeaux, a writer for ‘The Intelligencer’ had this to say.

More than mere narcissism, song requests can also foster a sense of community. Psychologists find music can produce an effect known as “emotional contagion”. This means that music can trigger psychological processes that reflect emotion, going so far as to trigger the muscles responsible for smiling and affecting breathing rate. A requester feels like they’re sharing more than a song with others; they’re sharing a feeling.

While there are seemingly more ways than ever to connect with others, according to the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health, “mental health problems and social isolation are at epidemic levels among young adults.” This is largely attributed to social media, which has the potential to bring us closer to millions of people, but often lacks meaningful connection.

Requesting a song, and sharing it with others, can feel like reaching out on a less superficial plane – and yet, it also offers the requester a sense of security that might not exist in a one-on-one interaction. One isn’t sharing a beauty cream or artisanal latte, but an emotion.

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