19 April 2022
22 August 2021
John Grisham's explosive novel is brought to the screen by Joel Schumacher. Carl Lee (Samuel L. Jackson) seeks violent revenge after his 10-year-old daughter is brutally assaulted. Lawyer Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) has to save him from Death Row, against mounting pressure from both the Ku Klux Klan and the Civil Rights Movement. Sandra Bullock stars as Brigance's student lawyer aide, while Kevin Spacey appears as the ruthless prosecutor, Rufus Buckley.
07 August 2021
Before he departs, he privately orders his Japanese interpreter, Takahashi, to locate his Japanese girlfriend, Aya Shimada.
After arresting Tojo, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur asks Fellers, whom he recognizes as a Japan expert, for advice about whether Emperor Hirohito can't be tried as a war criminal. Doing so could lead to a revolt, but the American people want the Emperor to stand trial for Japan's actions. MacArthur gives Fellers ten days to investigate the Emperor. When Takahashi informs Fellers that Aya's Tokyo apartment was bombed, he orders him to investigate her hometown, Shizuoka.
|MacArthur and Hirohito|
A well constructed historical drama, very close to actual events, interwoven with a love story that probably is not so realistic but serves the purpose of this film. The film does not answer the million-dollar question, was the Emperor responsible for the war? But it does help to understand he deserves some credit for Japan's decision to surrender and therefore end the war.
31 July 2021
Musical comedy starring John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer. Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) is an overweight teenager with all the right moves who is obsessed with the Corny Collins Show.
Every day after school, she and her best friend Penny (Amanda Bynes) run home to watch the show and drool over the hot Link Larkin (Zac Efron), much to Tracy's mother Edna's (Travolta) dismay.
After one of the stars of the show leaves, Corny Collins holds auditions to see who will be the next person on the Corny Collins show. With the help of her friend Seaweed (Elijah Kelly), Tracy makes it on the show, angering the evil dance queen Amber Von Tussle (Brittany Snow) and her mother Velma (Pfeiffer). Tracy then decides that it's not fair that the black kids can only dance on the Corny Collins Show once a month, and with the help of Seaweed, Link, Penny, Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah), her father (Christopher Walken) and Edna, she decides to take action.
A fun and instructive move about racism in America just as the Civil Rights movement was taking off and how it permeated daily life and culture, including music. In the end it is a feel-good movie about positive change. Funny to see John Travolta playing a woman!
28 July 2021
Lalu (Rosalind Chao) is a young Chinese woman who is sold by her impoverished family and transported against her will to the American West in 1880. Upon her arrival in California, she meets Jim (Dennis Dun), a Chinese "wife trader" who sells her to Hong King (Michael Paul Chan), a successful Chinese merchant who lives in an Idaho mining town. The two set off on the long journey to Idaho and eventually strike up a friendship along the way.
When they finally arrive in the rough, isolated town, she is distraught to discover that she is not going to be Hong King's wife. Instead, she is to work in his saloon as his newest prostitute under a new name, "China Polly". She is further dismayed when Jim abruptly disappears, leaving her to fend for herself.
The following night, when Hong King tries to sell her virtue to the highest bidder, Lalu violently refuses to submit to her would-be suitors and successfully avoids becoming a prostitute, thanks in part to the intervention of a kind stranger, Charlie Bemis (Chris Cooper), who turns out to be Hong King's Caucasian partner. She placates a furious Hong King and convinces him to allow her to be his servant and saloon maid in order to repay the cost of her purchase. Hong King agrees to let her buy her freedom for the impossible sum of a thousand pieces of gold.
Polly, as Lalu comes to be known, endures great hardship. At one point, she is sexually assaulted by Hong King. However, she refuses to give up. She works hard and makes friends with the local townspeople. She also grows closer to Charlie, who begins to fall deeply in love with her. Meanwhile, Hong King is beset with financial problems and decides to sell Polly to the highest bidder. In a rare stroke of luck, Charlie wins her in a game of poker. She moves in with him but insists they remain platonic and keep separate quarters.
Jim comes back and wants her to be with him but he then leaves her again when he finds out that she is living with Charlie. The "white demons" begin to run out the Chinese people from their town so it will be a purely white town and the Chinese will stop getting all of the gold.
Polly works in many jobs and saves money to go back to China and her family, but ultimately ends up falling in love with Charlie. She marries him and lives the rest of her life with him in a different area so she will not be harassed by the white demons anymore. (Wikipedia)
A brilliant film set up as a love story but in fact a telling history of racism in America. Right after the end of the Civil War, when blacks became free, it was the Chinese who were discriminated against in California, where many had come in search of fortune.
The film in itself is not the best structured one you will ever see, but it is a most interesting historical novel about a part of American history many forgot.
01 July 2021
Historical drama directed by Lee Daniels and starring Forest Whitaker. The film tells the story of Cecil Gaines (his real name was Eugene Allen)'s 34-year career working as head butler at the White House.
Beginning his tenure under President Eisenhower (Robin Williams), Cecil would see another seven presidents come and go throughout his career and was present at the highest level of the state during some of the most tumultuous periods in the 20th century including the American Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. The ensemble cast includes John Cusack, James Marsden, Liev Schreiber, Alan Rickman and Oprah Winfrey.
An incredible story, though not completely a real one, about racism in America during the XX century. One African American boy, born a near slave in Virginia, rises to win the respect of successive presidents. He even lives long enough to see a black person become president for the first time. Much progress has been made, but it is not yet enough.
21 May 2021
The #1 New York Times bestseller by Kathryn Stockett comes to vivid life through the powerful performances of a phenomenal ensemble cast. Led by Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help is an inspirational, courageous and empowering story about very different, extraordinary women in the 1960s South who build an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project — one that breaks society’s rules and puts them all at risk.
Filled with poignancy, humor and hope — and complete with compelling, never-before-seen bonus features — The Help is a timeless, universal and triumphant story about the ability to create change.
We are taken by our hand into the southern USA in the 1960s, when the civil rights movement was reaching its peak. Black helpers at home are treated little better than their slaves grandparents, but in their small way these ladies begin to change things.
Unfortunately the problem just won't go away, and there is still much racism in the southern US fifty years after Martin Luther King, even after a black American has been elected president.
You an also buy the book.
02 April 2021
- Hi I am from Indochina. I'd like to think what you think of China.
- Hi I'm from Europe, I'd be interested in your views too, wanna start?
- China has traded with Indochina for thousands of years. Several times over those centuries, it was the world’s most powerful empire. Never once they sent troops to take our land. Admiral Zhenghe came to Malacca five times, in gigantic fleets, and a flagship eight times the size of Christopher Columbus’ flagship, Santa Maria. He could have seized Malacca easily, but he did not.
- True he did not, but not because he was an especially nice guy, it was not his order from the emperor. He was to explore. Many Chinese emperors did not want much contact with the outside world. They wanted isolation.
- In 1511, the Portuguese came. In 1642, the Dutch came. In the 18th century, the British came. We were colonized by each, one after another. When China wanted spices from India, it traded with the Indians. When they wanted gems, they traded with the Persians. They didn’t take lands.
- True they didn't invade India or Persia but they did at various times invade parts of Siberia (later lost to Russia), Korea, Vietnam, Turkish central Asia, and of course Tibet. The last two they are still holding on to.
- The only time China expanded beyond its current borders was during the Yuan dynasty, when Genghis and his descendants Ogedei Khan, Guyuk Khan & Kublai Khan conquered China, Mid Asia and Eastern Europe. But Yuan Dynasty, although being based in China, was actually a part of the Mongol Empire.
- I'm glad you brought up Mongolia. Here either you argue Mongolians are really Chinese, then "China" invaded central Asia and eastern Europe. Or you argue Mongolians are not Chinese, then China is now occupying half the country, which explains why the other half (the independent Republic of Mongolia, called in China "outer Mongolia") is always staunchly pro Russian, whether it's the Soviet Union or capitalist Russia. They want Russian protection against a potential Chinese threat. You can't have your Mongolian cake and eat it too!
You also forget that The Chinese empire under the Mongols tried to conquer Japan, but failed because their fleet was destroyed by typhoons, the "kamikaze" or divine winds. That saved Japan, but China did try to invade, a couple of times actually.
And now China is slowly occupying the South China Sea on no internationally recognized legal basis.
- Then came the "Century of Humiliation". Britain smuggled opium into China to dope the population, a strategy to turn the trade deficit around after the British could not find enough silver to pay the Qing Dynasty in their tea and porcelain trades. After the opium warehouses were burned down and ports were closed by the Chinese in ordered to curb opium, the British started the Opium War I, which China lost. Hong Kong was forced to be surrendered to the British in a peace talk (Nanjing Treaty in 1842). The British owned 90% of the opium market in China, during that time, Queen Victoria was the world’s biggest drug baron. The remaining 10% was owned by American merchants from Boston. Many of Boston’s institutions were built with profit from opium.
- I agree with you on this point completely. The British conquest of Hong Kong and its opium trade was disgraceful and ought to be remembered as such.
- Eighteen years after the Nanjing Treaty, in 1860, the West started getting really really greedy. The British expected the Qing government: 1. To open the borders of China to allow goods coming in and out freely, and tax-free. 2. To make opium legal in China.
Insane requests, the Qing government said no. The British and French, started Opium War II with China, which again, China lost. The Anglo-French military threatened to burn down the Imperial Palace, the Qing government was forced to pay with ports, free business zones, 300,000 kilograms of silver, and Kowloon was taken. Since then, China’s resources flowed out freely through these business zones and ports. In the subsequent amendment to the treaties, Chinese people were sold overseas to serve as labor.
- Sadly this is true as well, shame on the French as well as on the British.
- In 1900, China suffered attacks by the 8-National Alliance(Japan, Russia, Britain, France, USA, Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary). Innocent Chinese civilians in Peking (Beijing now) were murdered, buildings were destroyed & women were raped. The Imperial Palace was raided, and treasures ended up in museums like the British Museum in London and the Louvre in Paris.
- Again I agree and am ashamed my country was part of this shameful attack.
- In the late 1930s China was occupied by the Japanese. Millions of Chinese died during the occupation. 300,000 Chinese died in Nanjing Massacre alone.
- Japan's horrific occupation is well known and should be remembered as such. The Nanjing massacre too, though the numbers you mention are probably too high. One sad problem is that Mao and Chiang were too busy fighting each other instead of joining forces against Japan.
- Mao brought China together again from the shambles. There were peace and unity for some time. But Mao’s later reign saw sufferings and deaths from famine and power struggles.
- Be serious: yes Mao won the civil war, but then he brought unprecedented misery to China. More innocent people died at his hand than did in Nazi camps and Soviet gulags combined. Mao destroyed the economy, the cultural revolution destroyed more of the country's cultural heritage than all foreign invasions. Luckily Chiang, for all his crimes and corruption, took Some 7000 crates of artifacts to Taiwan, now preserved in a museum in Taipei.
- Then came Deng Xiaoping and his famous “black-cat and white-cat” story. His preference for pragmatism over ideology has transformed China. This thinking allowed China to evolve all the time to adapt to the actual needs in the country, instead of rigidly bound to ideologies. It also signified the death of Communism in actual practice in China. The current Socialism + Meritocracy + Market Economy model fits the Chinese like gloves, and it propels the rise of China.
- There is no socialism in China except for one-party rule. Education is not free nor is housing or health care. As for meritocracy, yes there are many opportunities for capable people to emerge, but still, China is very corrupted, ask any Chinese in private (they won't say it in public or post it online).
- Singapore has a similar model and has been arguably more successful than Hong Kong because Hong Kong is the gateway to China, was riding on the economic boom in China, while Singapore had no one to gain from.
- To compare Hong Kong and Singapore is difficult, too many differences. Both have been successful, but Singapore has been free for half a century, Hong Kong was never free: not under the British, not under China.
A comparison of China and Singapore is even more of a far-fetched proposition. There is minimal corruption in Singapore and much more meritocracy. Hong Kong was successful because of its market economy and free trade, both of which are now in question.
- In just 30 years, the CCP has moved 800 million people out of poverty. The rate of growth is unprecedented in human history. They have built the biggest mobile network, by far the biggest high-speed rail network in the world, and they have become a behemoth in infrastructure.
- Indeed, when China jettisoned socialism in all but name and embraced capitalism the economy predictably took off.
- They made a fishing village called Shenzhen into the world’s second-largest technological center after the Silicon Valley. They are growing into a technological powerhouse. It has the most elaborate e-commerce and cashless payment system in the world. They have launched exploration to Mars.
- Indeed huge progress in all of this, though Shenzhen was more than a fishing village, and I am not sure about the second-in-the-world, still, it is now an amazing XXI century city.
- The Chinese are living a good life and China has become one of the safest countries in the world. The level of patriotism in the country has reached an unprecedented height.
- Sadly not all Chinese have a good life, far from it, much the countryside is still poor, inequalities are huge and many workers have no holidays, no pension plan, no insurance, in other words: no rights.
- For all of the achievements, the West has nothing good to say about it. China suffers from intense anti-China propaganda from the West. Western Media used the keyword “Communist” to instill fear and hatred towards China. Everything China does is negatively reported.
- Obviously, there are different views about China in the west, this is the nature of democracies. Many, like me, admire China's achievements and think we can all learn from them, but that does not hide its faults and shortcomings.
- Westerners claimed China used slave labor in making iPhones. The truth was, Apple was the most profitable company in the world, it took most of the profit, leaving some to Foxconn (a Taiwanese company) and little for the workers.
- Indeed it is not difficult to find many western companies which profited from China's labor laws, which give little protection to workers. That western companies make money in China does not make these laws good. I believe things are changing, as Chinese workers claim more rights, the way their colleagues in the west did decades ago.
They claimed China was inhuman with the one-child policy. At the same time, they accused China of polluting the earth with its huge population. The fact is the Chinese consume just 30% of energy per capita compared to the US.
- The one-child policy was Deng Xiaoping's overreacting response to Mao's push to have as many children as possible. Both policies were wrong. Now China has a demographic time bomb waiting to go off as not enough young people will be there to support an aging population.
- Western countries claim China underwent ethnic cleansing in Xinjiang. The fact is China has a policy that prioritizes ethnic minorities. For a long time, the ethnic minorities were allowed to have two children and the majority Han only allowed one. The minorities are allowed a lower score for university intakes.
- True indeed that minorities have enjoyed some privileges for a long time, but again that does not mean they are not repressing the Xingjian culture. Some in the West claim it is genocide, which it is not, but it is still a massive form of human rights violation.
- There are 39,000 mosques in China, and 2100 in the US. China has about 3 times more mosques per Muslim than the US.
- I don't know where you got that number. The point is that in China all religions must submit to the central government, which is why the Vatican still does not recognize Beijing. China argues that its minorities are Chinese and is working to sinify them.
- When terrorist attacks happened in Xinjiang, China had two choices: 1. Re-educate the Uighur extremists before they turned terrorists. 2. Let them be, after they launch attacks and killed innocent people, bomb their homes. China chose 1 to solve problem from the root and not to do killing. How the US solve terrorism? Fire missiles from battleships, drop bombs from the sky.
- I agree the American response to Islamic fundamentalism has long been flawed and has failed. But China is trying to erase Turkic culture, not just Islamic extremism.
- During the pandemic, when China took extreme measures to lock down the people, they were accused of being inhuman. When China recovered swiftly because of the extreme measures, they were accused of lying about the actual numbers. When China’s cases became so low that they could provide medical support to other countries, they were accused of politically motivated.
- China initially denied there was a virus and repressed whistle-blowing doctors who flagged the problem back in late 2019. Time was lost and the problem got worse before they started doing something about it.
- Western Media always have reasons to bash China.
-I agree with you, it is always easier to blame others for one own mistakes.
- Just like any country, there are irresponsible individuals from China who do bad and dirty things, but the China government overall has done very well. But I hear this comment over and over by people from the West: I like Chinese people, but the CCP is evil. What they really want is the Chinese to change the government, because the current one is too good.
Fortunately, China is not a multi-party democratic country, otherwise, the opposition party in China will be supported by notorious NGOs (Non-Government Organization) of the USA, like the NED (National Endowment for Democracy), to topple the ruling party. The US and the British couldn’t crack Mainland China, so they work in Hong Kong. Of all the ex-British colonial countries, only the Hong Kongers were offered BNOs by the British.
- Indeed it is hypocritical of the British to offer BNO just to Hong Kong, but any county is free to offer its citizenship to whoever they want.
Because the UK would like the Hong Kongers to think they are British citizens, not Chinese. A divide-and-conquer strategy, which they often used in Color Revolutions around the world.
They resort to low dirty tricks like detaining Huawei’s CFO & banning Huawei. They raised a silly trade war which benefits no one. Trade deficit always exist between a developing and a developed country. USA is like a luxury car seller who asks a farmer: why am I always buying your vegetables and you haven’t bought any of my cars?
-I agree China is beating the old capitalist world at its own game though there are serious issues with intellectual property theft, cheating on licences, fakes etc. On the other hand I sympathize with China when it is requesting technology transfer from investors. Too many times in the past western multinationals made money in the developing world by localizing only cheap labor-intensive activities there while keeping all the high-tech for themselves.
When the Chinese were making socks for the world 30 years ago, the world let it be. But when the Chinese started to make high technology products, like Huawei and DJI, it caused red-alert. Because when Western and Japanese products are equal to Chinese in technologies, they could never match the Chinese in prices. First-world countries want China to continue in making socks. Instead of stepping up themselves, they want to pull China down.
The recent movement by the US against China has a very important background. When Libya, Iran, and China decided to ditch the US dollar in oil trades, Gaddafi was killed by the US, Iran was being sanctioned by the US, and now it’s China’s turn. The US has been printing money out of nothing. The only reason why the US Dollar is still widely accepted is that it’s the only currency with which oil is allowed to be traded with. Without the petrol-dollar status, the US dollars will sink, and America will fall. China will soon use a gold-backed crypto-currency, the alarm in the White House go off like mad.
- China is playing this game as I understand it it is the largest holder of USD bonds in the world. Gold-backed cryptocurrency is a joke. But they could make the Renminbi convertible, it would be a strong currency, but the government in Beijing would lose control which is likely not acceptable. Also, China is developing electronic money, not cryptocurrency, just e-Renminbi, this is a good model for others.
China’s achievement has been by hard work. Not by raiding other countries.
- I would agree with you and admire post-Mao China a lot because of this.
I have deep sympathy for China for all the suffering, but now I feel happy for them. China is not rising, they are going back to where they belong. Good luck China.
- Yes China was a world leader several times in the past and it looks poised to become one again soon. Indeed good luck to China, it's going to need it. And the world needs a strong stable China integrated into the world economy.
31 December 2020
ENGLISH TEXT BELOW
Siccome di messaggi con insulti al povero anno 2020 ne abbiamo sentiti troppi (ma non si chiama COVID-19?) ho pensato di raccogliere qualche pensiero in positivo sull'anno che si sta per concludere. Non per minimizzare, ma per guardare avanti con realismo, ottimismo e determinazione.
1. Chi mi sta leggendo è ancora vivo. Un buon primo risultato. Tanti ci hanno lasciato nel 2020, forse anche qualcuno che conosciamo, qualche persona cara. Io ho perso una cugina ed il padre di un amico per il Covid-19. Molti altri se ne sono andati per una serie infinita di altri motivi: incidenti, età, altre malattie, guerre, ecc. Noi invece siamo qui.
2. Abbiamo viaggiato di meno, e questo pesa particolarmente per quelli come me che vivono in vari paesi e del viaggio hanno fatto uno stile di vita. Però la prossima volta che partiremo il viaggio avrà un gusto speciale. Ce lo godremo di più, magari lo prepareremo meglio, lo ricorderemo più a lungo. Forse faremo più viaggi, che ci cambiano dentro, e meno vacanze, che nel migliore dei casi ci fanno solo riposare.
3. Siamo andati meno al ristorante, ma quando torneremo a farlo con tranquillità sceglieremo meglio il ristorante, la cucina, ed ogni boccone, ogni sorso di vino ci sembreranno più buoni.
4. Non siamo potuti andare a cinema, teatro, concerti. Ancora una volta, torneremo a farlo perché la cultura non si ferma. La prossima volta saremo più attenti ad ogni scena del film, ad ogni movimento della sinfonia, ad ogni aria dell'opera, ad ogni particolare della scena.
5. Siamo stati costretti a stare di più a casa, ma abbiamo passato più tempo con i nostri cari, fianco a fianco, giorno dopo giorno, ora dopo ora, come forse non facevamo da tanto tempo. Se siamo stati attenti, abbiamo imparato a conoscerci meglio, a rispettarci. Abbiamo capito che stare insieme non vuol dire solo avere interessi in comune o divertirsi, ma parlarsi (e ascoltarsi!), guardarsi, accarezzarsi.
6. Abbiamo riscoperto il significato della solidarietà, o almeno avremmo dovuto farlo, le occasioni non sono mancate. E dell'apprezzamento per il lavoro di chi si è impegnato per superare l'emergenza. Non ce lo dimentichiamo quando la pandemia non sarà più in prima pagina, loro saranno ancora in prima linea.
7. Abbiamo recuperato un po' della nostra identità, anzi delle identità, al plurale. Ci siamo sentiti un po’ più italiani, come forse non capita spesso tranne quando c'è la coppa del mondo di calcio. E, almeno per me, anche più europei. L'Europa si è mossa con ritardo, ma si è mossa, insieme, e visto come sono andate le cose negli altri principali paesi del mondo forse non ci possiamo lamentare. E questo nonostante la pandemia abbia messo da una parte a nudo le meschinità di tanti politici polemici, e dall'altra in risalto la mancanza di grossi calibri tra i leader della politica mondiale.
8. Abbiamo riscoperto il valore della scienza, anche di quella inesatta come la medicina. I chiacchieroni e i millantatori, i negazionisti, gli alternativi, i naturopati, gli anti-vaccinisti, quelli del "sono morti con il COVID e non di COVID" sono, mi pare, o forse lo spero soltanto, meno ascoltati di un anno fa. Abbiamo anche imparato qualche regola di igiene, di buon senso, che avremmo dovuto applicare comunque, da sempre.
9. Abbiamo capito un po' meglio il significato della disciplina. Non abbastanza e non tutti, ma ci farà bene interiorizzare perché ci sarà utile in tante altre occasioni. Prendiamo esempio da quelle società orientali che in questa circostanza hanno dato dimostrazione di grande disciplina ed hanno ottenuto risultati di conseguenza. Ho notato con dispiacere che i giovani, che hanno più da perdere, sono spesso meno consapevoli di questo degli anziani.
10. Abbiamo avuto tempo di riflettere su noi stessi, sugli errori commessi e sui traguardi raggiunti. Soprattutto su cosa vogliamo fare con il tempo che ci resta da vivere. Sapendo, mai come oggi, che potrebbe essere molto meno lungo di quanto speriamo. Riflessioni che dovremmo fare sempre, ovvio, ma quest'anno ci siamo stati quasi obbligati. Confucio scrisse che abbiamo due vite: la seconda comincia quando ci rendiamo conto di averne solo una. Mi auguro che molti abbiano cominciato la propria seconda vita nel corso del 2020.
11. Abbiamo scoperto tanta tecnologia che ci ha permesso di attutire l'urto della pandemia e che continueremo ad usare dopo di essa. Abbiamo inquinato di meno lavorando da casa e comprando online. Ci si può spostare di meno: meno traffico, meno inquinamento, meno energia sprecata. Molti continueranno a farlo anche dopo la pandemia. Viaggeremo ancora, certo, per lavoro, per piacere e per incontrare i nostri cari, ma auspicabilmente non per comprare una cipolla oppure per andare a timbrare un cartellino in ufficio e poi stare davanti ad uno schermo uguale a quello che abbiamo a casa.
12. Per molti è stato un anno drammatico sul lavoro, ed è stato importante l'intervento dei governi e delle banche centrali. Ma guardiamo avanti facendo tesoro dell'esperienza del 2020. Guardiamo al lavoro non come una punizione biblica che ci è cascata addosso perché abbiamo mangiato la mela dell'albero proibito, ma come realizzazione delle nostre aspirazioni. Tanti giovani in occidente hanno tutto ma non più aspirazioni, sogni. Sognando un po', lavoreremo serenamente, a prescindere dal guadagno, e invecchieremo meglio.
Since we have all heard too many messages with insults to the poor year 2020 (but isn't it called COVID-19?) I thought I'd collect some positive thoughts on the year that is about to end. Not to minimize the troubles we went through, but to look forward with realism, optimism and determination.
1. Whoever is reading me is still alive. A good first result. Many have left us in 2020, perhaps even someone we know, some loved ones. I lost a cousin and a friend's father to Covid-19. Many others have left for an infinite number of other reasons: accidents, age, other diseases, wars, etc. We are still here.
2. We have traveled less, and this weighs heavily on those like me who live in various countries and have made travel our lifestyle. But next time we leave home our trip will have a special taste. We will enjoy it more, hopefully we will prepare it better, maybe we will remember it for longer. Perhaps we will undertake more real "travels", which change us inside, and fewer "vacations", which in the best of circumstances only provide rest.
3. We went out to eat much less frequently, but when we return to do it we will take more care to choose the restaurant, ouru dishes, and every bite, every sip of wine will taste better.
4. We could not go to the cinema, theater, or concerts. Once again, we'll go back to doing it because culture doesn't die of any virus. Next time we will be more attentive to every scene of the film, to every movement of the symphony, to every aria of the opera, to every detail of the scene.
5. We have been forced to stay at home more, but we have spent more time with our loved ones, side by side, day after day, hour after hour, as perhaps we hadn't done in a long time. If we have been careful, we will have learned to know each other better, to respect each other. We understood that being together does not just mean having common interests or having fun, but talking (and listening) to each other, looking at each other, caressing each other.
6. We have rediscovered the meaning of solidarity, or at least we should have, we had plenty of opportunities. And we should appreciate the work of those who are fighting hard to overcome the emergency. Let's not forget that when the pandemic is no longer on the front page, they will still be at the front lines.
7. We have recovered a bit of our identity, indeed our identities. I felt a little more Italian, as perhaps does not often happen to me except every four years for the world cup. And even more European. Europe has moved with some delay, but it has moved, and given how things have gone in some of the other main countries of the world such as the US and the UK, perhaps we cannot complain. And this despite the fact that the pandemic has exposed, on the one hand, the pettiness of so many polemical politicians, and on the other the lack of heavy caliber guns among the leaders of world politics.
8. We have rediscovered the value of science, even of inexact science such as medicine. The deniers, the anti-vaccine activists, those who said someone "died with COVID and not because of COVID" are, it seems to me, or perhaps I only hope, less listened to than a year ago. We also learned some rules of hygiene, common sense, which we should have always applied anyway.
9. We have understood the meaning of discipline a little better. It will do us good to keep it in mind for future reference. Let us take an example from those countries in East Asia that in this circumstance have shown great discipline and got results accordingly. I have noted with regret that our youngsters, who have got more to lose for the future, are often less aware of this than the elderly.
10. We had time to reflect on ourselves, on the mistakes we made and on the goals we achieved. Above all we have had a chance to think about what we want to do with the time we have left to live. It could be much shorter than we hope. Reflections like this we should always do, of course, but this year we were almost forced to. Confucius wrote that we have two lives: the second begins when we realize we only have one. I think I did a long while ago. I hope that many more have started their second lives in the course of 2020.
11. We have discovered so much technology that has allowed us to soften the brunt of the pandemic and that we will continue to use after it is over. We polluted less by working from home and shopping online. You can and should move less: less traffic, less pollution, less wasted energy. Many will continue to do so even after the pandemic. We will still travel, of course, for work, for pleasure and to meet our loved ones, but hopefully not to buy an onion or to go and badge in the office and then spend our day in front of a screen identical to the one we have at home.
12. For many it was a dramatic year at work, and monetary and fiscal intervention of governments and central banks was important. But let's look ahead, drawing on the experience of 2020. We should look at work not as a biblical punishment that fell upon us for eating the apple of the forbidden tree, but as the fulfillment of our aspirations. Many young people in the West have everything but aspirations, dreams. Let us dream a little more, and we will work peacefully, regardless of how much money we make, and we will grow old better.
25 November 2020
09 November 2020
03 April 2020
A film sponsored by Château Lagarette, a biodynamic producer in Bordeaux.
A dozen or so biodynamic wine-growers express their vision of the present and make proposals for the future.
They ask eminently social and even political questions: What food? How Could humanity restore the ideal of living together?
Through their stories, practices, and the accumulation of knowledge from their experiences, the producers of the film and a group of farmers, biodynamic wine-growers, try to open a path. They want to show how the spirit of bio-dynamics could provide answers to these questions.
This film is an all-out passionate defense of biodynamic viticulture. I say defense because most of the interviewees talk as if they are under siege, as if the evil forces of modernity are out to extinguish the feeble flame of tradition. No alternative point of view is presented in the film. If you want to hear alternative voices, skeptical or critical of biodynamic wine, you have to look elsewhere.
Clearly, the growers interviewed are very passionate about their wine, but often they get carried away. Just a few pearls from their statements. A basic theme of the film is a high level of hostility toward "technology": there is "technological" wine, which is artificial and then there is biodynamic wine, which is natural. Oddly, little attention is paid to organic wines, although biodynamic certification requires a wine to be organic to begin with.
A couple of speakers identify "technological" wines as the result of American influence and specifically the work of Robert Parker, while, on the contrary, "Europe" is the custodian of genuine winemaking. Well, Parker has nothing against biodynamic wines and actually promotes it. And, of course, there are lots of American biodynamic producers and in fact the USA is the biggest biodynamic farming producer in the world.
One speaker argues that biodynamic vineyards are better equipped to resist the negative radioactive impact of Chernobyl, thus lumping together as if it was a dogmatic truth a whole host of questionable assumptions.
A major problem for me is when, as several speakers repeat in this film, the argument is put forward that what is important in biodynamic wine is NOT the result, but the relationship between man and nature, a new philosophy of daily life. Assuming the latter is somehow better served in biodynamic farming, for me the end result, ie good and healthy wine, IS WHAT MATTERS.
Technology, a word that is often repeated with a grimace by many interviewees, destroys the relationship man and nature, farmer and vineyard. Biodynamic preparations restore the correct energy flows! A corollary of this argument is the open hostility of one speaker to established wine associations such as the Masters of Wine. In his view, these associations have been created to serve technology against the natural traditions of wine.
One speaker is very honest when he says biodynamic farming is like a religion: you can not demonstrate it, you can only believe it. Another one compares it to acupuncture: not scientifically proven, but many believe it anyway. Not surprising that biodynamic farmers also accept homeopathic principles, as they use extremely diluted solutions in some of their preparations.
A quirky claim toward the end of the film is that biodynamic wine is especially appreciated by women! Maybe so, as a woman grower claims to have produced a "concert wine" in her biodynamic vineyard because both wine and music share a spirituality for people to appreciate.
If you already believe in biodynamic farming this film will make you feel really good. If you are trying to understand more, it will give you only half the picture.
For a wise and cool view of the subject, read Jancis Robinson, one of the world's most respected authorities.
You can watch the film reviewed here on Youtube.
You can buy the DVD (in French as well as English) here on Amazon. Hard to come by and very expensive, however!
01 March 2020
Scott Hicks' screen adaptation of David Guterson's best-selling novel. On San Pietro Island, shortly after the end of World War Two, local fisherman Kazuo (Rick Yune) is on trial for the murder of another fisherman. The hearings are attended by Ishmael (Ethan Hawke), a local reporter who was also the childhood sweetheart of Kazuo's wife, Hatsue. As the hearings progress, Ishmael gradually begins to realize the extent of anti-Japanese feelings which still remains, and suspects that it could affect the course of the trial.
A gripping historical novel about a lesser-known (unless you are a Japanese-American) aspect of domestic politics in the USA during and after World War II. A dark page in American democracy but a message of hope at the end. Also, it shows how immigrants in the American melting pot do not always, well, melt in the pot but keep cultural, if not political, affiliations to their country of origin.
You can buy the book here
Compra la versione italiana qui
31 December 2019
04 February 2019
29 January 2019
The "Iro" was not a "maru", like most wrecks in the Chuuk lagoon, ie it was not a merchant transport converted to military uses. It was an oil tanker built in 1921-22 expressly for the imperial Japanese navy. Funny she was powered by coal, was a steamer, even though she carried oil for the engines of other ships. One of only 9 oilers in the Japanese navy in WWII, a major weakness.
It participated in most major WWII operations, except Pearl Harbor. During the course of the war, it was hit many times but survived.
It was finally hit by a torpedo in her bow near the Philippines which chopped off a whole bite of the hull at the very front edge. In March 1944 it was limping on her way to Chuuk to be repaired when she learned of operation Desecrate, the American attack on Palau, and she was ordered to Palau, the next maritime line of defense for the imperial navy.
There she was again attacked and finally sunk.
It was salvaged in the 1950s, the Japanese recuperated the bodies and valuable metals but... the boat bringing the remains of the Iro's sailors and any valuables back to Japan sink en route!
The Iro now rests upright, stern sank first and is deep under the sand with prop and rudder clearly visible. A most interesting set of dives.
26 July 2018
The Judgement of Paris was a blind tasting that pitched American wines from California against French reds from Bordeaux and whites from Burgundy. The name is a play on the "Judgement of Paris" in Greek mythology.
The author was the only reporter present at the mythic Paris Tasting of 1976—a blind tasting where a panel of esteemed French judges chose upstart California wines over France’s best—for the first time introduces the eccentric American winemakers and records the tremendous aftershocks of this historic event that changed forever the world of wine.
The Paris Tasting of 1976 will forever be remembered as the landmark event that transformed the wine industry. At this legendary contest—a blind tasting—a panel of top French wine experts shocked the industry by choosing unknown California wines over France’s best.
George M. Taber, the only reporter present, recounts this seminal contest and its far-reaching effects, focusing on three gifted unknowns behind the winning wines: a college lecturer, a real estate lawyer, and a Yugoslavian immigrant. With unique access to the main players and a contagious passion for his subject, Taber renders this historic event and its tremendous aftershocks—repositioning the industry and sparking a golden age for viticulture across the globe. With an eclectic cast of characters and magnificent settings, Judgment of Paris is an illuminating tale and a story of the entrepreneurial spirit of the new world conquering the old.
The definitive book on this historical event. French wine had been the uncontested world leader until that day, and maybe continued to be the leader, overall, but it was now hotly contested!
Spurrier put Bordeaux vs similar blend Californians, and Burgundy vs Californian Chardonnays. It was initially intended to be a tasting to introduce Californian wines to sceptical French experts, but once everyone was around the table Spurrier told them the real plan: a challenge.
The test was not scientifically exact: more American wines (6) than French wines (4) were included in the sample. And yet, take the whites: every single French judge scored an American chard first.
Another charge was that French wines were too young and would give their best later on in life. But several rematches years later saw the Americans prevail again.
A very detailed book about a pivotal point in wine history.
11 December 2016
Academy Award winners Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood confront each other from opposite sides of the law in A Perfect World, an acclaimed, multilayered manhunt saga (directed by Eastwood) that rumbles down Texas backroads toward a harrowing collision with fate. Costner plays Butch Haynes, a hardened prison escapee on the lam with a young hostage (T.J. Lowther in a remarkable film debut) who sees in Butch the father figure he never had. Eastwood is wily Texas Ranger Red Garnett, leading deputies and a criminologist (Laura Dern) on a statewide pursuit. Red knows every road and pothole in the Panhandle. What's more, he knows the elusive Haynes – because their paths have crossed before.
A film about America's south in the 1960s, its gun culture and trigger-happy police. The story unfolds against the background of pre-civil rights movement racial relations. A culture that is still to a large extent there, half a century after the time when this movie is set and despite eight years of a black American president.
Clint is his usual hard-nosed expression-less man, and Costner plays very well the role of an equally tough criminal who reveals his inner kindness, even to the child he loves and who eventually contributes to his death.
The movie is a succession of apparently casual events that decide the life or death of people, seemingly by fortuitous coincidences. In a perfect world, there would have been a happy ending, or rather this story would not have started at all!
Choose your favorite Clint Eastwood movies here.
In the US buy it here
Buy other movies by Clint Eastwood here.
10 December 2014
The story of an Indian family who after always having lived in Uganda, Africa, are forced to leave under the orders of dictator Idi Amin when he declares that Africa belongs only to 'black' Africans. The lawyer, his wife and little girl Mina, move to Mississippi where again, years later, racism presents problems. This time between the Indian and American/African community, coming to a head when the now 24-year-old Mina falls in love with a black carpet cleaner. 'Masala' in the film means a 'mixture of hot spices' which is how Mina sees herself through having come from such a rich mixture of cultural backgrounds.
This is a film about globalization that was shot before people started talking about the term. Indians from Africa move to America to meet descendants of slaves and contribute to the melting pot that makes America great. The plot may not be super original (boy loves girl, girl loves boy, girl's parents are not happy) but the context is. It made me feel of "Guess who is coming to dinner" and it could almost be considered a remake. of course, in a different context and twenty-five years later. But the romance drama intermixed with the racial friction makes it very current and as I watch it in 2014 it is ever so relevant!
See my other reviews of films about India in this blog.
23 November 2014
After returning home from the war, Sutton (Keanu Reeves) accepts that his wife has no interest in him or his plans for the future, and sets out in search of a new life on his own. He soon meets up with a vineyard owner's daughter (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón), but she finds out she is pregnant and fears for her life when it comes to telling her father. Sutton then agrees to help her by pretending to be her new husband, a decision which will change both of their lives forever.
A film about love: love for a family, a woman (you can see more men loving women, in their own way, than the other way around in this film) but especially love for the land and its wine. Catch the moment, life will offer unexpected treasures if one has the mental predisposition to catch them on the fly! Be ready to change what you planned, don't wait until you must.
Tornato dalla guerra, Paul Sutton, dopo aver riabbracciato la moglie Betty, che per la verità non sembra aver trepidato per lui, visto che non ha letto una sola delle molte lettere inviatele, riprende l'attività di rappresentante di cioccolatini. Una serie di contrattempi fa sì che si ritrovi a "fare" da marito ad una giovane di origine messicana, Victoria Aragon, figlia di un ricco viticoltore delle valle di Napa, che possiede il vigneto modello "Le Nuvole". La giovane, che frequenta l'università in città, aspetta un figlio illegittimo dal suo professore e teme che il padre, Alberto, la uccida.
Accettato il ruolo solo per breve tempo essendo deciso il giorno dopo ad andarsene con una lettera d'addio, Paul incontra subito l'aperta ostilità di Alberto, geloso della figlia e irritato per non essere stato avvertito, ma la simpatia della madre Marie José e soprattutto del nonno, Don Pedro, ritardano la sua partenza. Il rito della vendernmia poi, con il clima bacchico e solare della pigiatura dell'uva, fa perdere quasi la testa a Paul, che decide di rispettare Victoria, pur essendone attratto e ricambiato. Orfano, Paul trova nella famiglia della giovane un rifugio dagli orrori della guerra che ancora lo traumatizzano. Il fatto che i due non dormano insieme insospettisce Alberto che, colpito dalle manifestazioni d'affetto del finto genero per la figlia, decide di farli sposare con rito religioso.
A questo punto Victoria è costretta a dire la verità al padre, mentre Paul a malincuore si allontana per tornare dalla moglie che però, nel frattempo, ha provveduto ad annullare il matrimonio. Libero, il giovane fa ritorno al vigneto, ma trova Alberto ubriaco che si scaglia contro di lui e roteando una lampada a petrolio per colpirlo la lancia nel vigneto, incendiandolo. Vani sono i tentativi per domare le fiamme, poi Paul estirpa la radice, che ha resistito al fuoco, della pianta madre del vigneto, che rivivrà. Alberto fa pace con la figlia e Paul può sposarla accettando di essere un buon padre per il nascituro.
Un film sull'amore. Amore per propria famiglia, la propria donna ma soprattutto per la terra ed il vino. Carpe diem, la vita può offrire inaspettate opportunità a chi ha la disposizione mentale per cogliere l'attimo. Bisogna essere pronti a cambiare i programmi per i quali si è lavorato, anche per anni, quando cambiano le condizioni. Meglio non aspettare di essere obbligati a farlo!