Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hidden Figures

Having grown up without the distraction of TV, the boredom of Sunday was relieved by Sunday School/church and a trip to the cinema to see a double (two films) in the afternoon, possibly with swimming at Pegasus in between.  With the re-entry of cinemas in Guyana, I reflected that my time must be drawing to a close as I have come back almost to full circle of going to the cinema at weekends.
Hidden Figures was a pun on the coloured female mathematicians who worked on the Space program in the 1950s/60s. While the three black actresses were very believable, I thought the white actors were very good...Kirsten Dunst played the HR person talking down to the women who were her intellectual superiors, to perfection.  Jim Parsons brought his constipated look from The Big Bang Theory as the silently outraged white male whose turf was intruded on but reluctantly acknowledging the genius of Katherine Johnson.  Both characters played were fictional ones - but stuck in as gentle reminders of the Black scientists' grace under fire.  I was disappointed though that the film resorted to imagining that KJ took 40 minutes to go to the coloureds' washroom when in fact she simply used the whites' bathroom-- showing more gumption than the meek character on screen. The director said the film's portrayal was to indicate the help of the decent Whites.  I thought that was subtly done when the astronauts came to NASA and John Glenn made a point of coming over to the coloured women to introduce himself and ask their role; as I was reminded of an American Embassy staffer on duty here, who would acknowledge the help staff like the waiters when she went out, by asking their names and remembering to use said names during whatever event - I was quite impressed with that-- people simply just want to be acknowledged and appreciated.....shame that couldn't translated to American foreign policies!
The film did try to stay close the actual events and I was glad Katherine Johnson is still alive at 90-something to see it and finally be acknowledged on a larger scale-- to NASA's credit they named a building after her. As with Sully, the film ended with pictures of the real people...truly to tap the potential of a large pool of people will lead to things greater than the sum total...if only the Americans can figure THAT out.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Worrying developments

Ironically while sorting out taxes, I happened across a YouTube video by a journalist speaking about aid. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C30bJBcM_0c  Her point was - that countries NEED good governance, particularly poorer countries, not just emergency handouts when the shit hits the fan. Unfortunately, aid doesn't go to less sexy projects such as training inspectors to ensure that buildings respect codes to lessen damage in the event of a natural disaster-- Japan has done remarkable work based on bitter experience so the knowledge is out there...and tax inspectors: doing so would ensure sustainability and lessen the need for aid as countries would learn to be self-sufficient.
With that in mind, observing what the elephant in the World is doing raises flags of concern! The new Trump administration is continuing to target journalists covering stories of groups of people protesting government actions which seemingly support corporate actions by insisting on implementing policies without bothering to consult with the people directly affected.  In effect, suppressing publicity which could garner further support and force said companies/corporations to back down - looks like numbers might be the only effective tool as the thinking class is a under threat and the strategy seems to be to keep them occupied by increasing the struggle to keep their heads above water starting with increasing the cost of living and removing social supports.  Amy Goodman of Democracy Now was charged for giving air-time to the protests against the Dakota pipeline which the Obama administration eventually bowed out of but now Trump, who had/have shares in the company, has repealed said backoff so it looks like the pipelines are back on.   Of course, I am against stupid things such as damaging cars and property that are associated with the protests but it is not unlikely that the opposition put in vandals to give the protesters a bad name.
This upcoming scenario is what Snowden feared could happen....a sizeable proportion of the population are interested enough to educate themselves about an issue but are opposed by the might of  government resources who are representing the interests of a small handful of people benefiting from short-term gains and divesting themselves of Public Bads and long-term losses such as environmental damage and pauperisation of the rest- consciously heading for bad governance by dismantling regulatory checks and balances.
I would shrug my shoulders and say-- well that's their problem but their stupid decisions affect the rest of us- starting with American funds not being given to worldwide programs which offer abortions as an option for some women.  BTW I have no sympathy for the tears being shed by those shaking their hands that their last election was possibly influenced by outside forces as the US  has been tampering in other people's elections a long time now-- karma!  I would say thanks and well done Russia except we all suffer from ignorant policy decisions arising from a greedy, ignorant and corrupt administration most likely to arise from a Trump-led one, or one that put Trump at the head.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Children of the Spider

by Imam Baksh.   I liked very much the beginning of the book..located in Mabaruma - familiar enough to locate in my mind's eye and recognise some markers, but relatively unknown enough to suspend disbelief and follow a science-fiction plot involving Amerindian youths.
I was happily thinking of buying a copy to send to my pre-teen nieces then I hit Chapter 3 with its rather precocious discussion of how far along sexual initiation each teen had gone and my thoughts of sending the book screeched to a halt-- it seemed inappropriate as a pre-teen gift...I figure children should be left in the ignorance of childhood as long as possible..the cruel world will be out to mash them up soon enough!

So the book was fast-paced indeed, side-slipping the daily grind of survival but then I felt it got too complicated and twisted, although it was an easy read.  I particularly enjoyed trying to guess places mentioned and was amused the bother of poor English was bypassed by using a sort of creole dialect. It was interesting about highlighting Dog-Fights in Guyana as I hadn't realised this could be a big thing but clashed a bit with the overall theme of the spiders planning to wipe out the dogs when they got to rule..likewise cloudy was how Daisy, the dog the teens befriended, ended up in the Dog-fight pit.
I felt the writer tried to be innovative...mixing local myths with Greek ones, or rather a Greek one and throwing in a touch of science-fiction for good measure, while locating the story in Guyana.

Monday, January 2, 2017


This was chosen as my Old Year's Night film simply because the video shop had slim pickings ...Queen of Katwe not yet out.  I must have been in a cloud as I had my nose deep in books during the whole hoohah with the Snowden scandal, coming soon after Wikileaks and mixed up in my mind with the abominably-treated Manning youth.  While I appreciate the dangers that operatives would have been exposed to in 'the field'; on the whole I welcome an airing of Big Brother techniques if only so that those on their supposedly high moral horses can see that they are no better than those they are purporting to judge!

I thought the film tried to be fair and give voice to poor Mr Snowden whose life got tumbled up, following his revelations of the extent to which we are all electronically tracked.  I remember seeing a 60 minutes clip about how certain key words can be picked up and investigated but didn't realise the extent of the gross invasion of privacy until being interested enough to follow through with Mr Snowden's interview in Citizenfour on You Tube.  So yes, great to have readily accessible information but bad that at anytime someone can have access to the fact that I viewed it and extrapolate God Knows What from that information.
Mr Snowden was portrayed as someone who believed in his leaders until he got in there and saw it was not subject to rigourous checks and balances - with innocent people as collateral - rather like the policewoman in Whistleblower and his concern was that if it got out of hand, the machinery would be too big to stop.  I came to the conclusion he was a brave, intelligent person and am sorry some view him as a traitor as in the first 40 minutes of Citizenfour, when he handed the documents over to responsible journalists, he did tell them to try and not endanger other people lives with their revelations; and thought what a shame it was that the US could not find a 'slot'/position to use him as part of a check + balance system.  Pretty similar to where we are heading here now- no explicit criticism allowed.
As it was, I was surprised that he managed to hold interviews for several days in a hotel room in Hong Kong, assuming he was still using his passport to travel and check in.

Ironically, today a news item came out that Donald Trump was of the opinion that really important things should be hand-delivered by courier!  We really come to full circles eventually!  I think this must be the first thing that I have read about Trump that indicates he has a smidgen of common sense.

Here is a prescient observation: http://on.msnbc.com/2dEJrrz
There is a part when he comments about the ignorance of  civic knowledge leading to the loss of democracy