The Romney Boys at Work

Just in case you missed the video of Matt Romney, one of Willard’s (Mitt) four sons, bringing up Obama’s birth certificate [doesn’t he know that has been thoroughly and completely hashed? (sigh) ], here it is.


Catching Up at TIFF (Toronto Int’l Film Festival)

Here are a few films that I saw in the first few days of the festival that I didn’t get organized and posted as soon as I should have. More to come.

Snow — Bosnia

The story of a village of women and girls (except for one old man and one young boy) coping with living and coming to terms with death in the aftermath of the Bosnian/Serb conflict. The emotional feel of this film is like a barely scabbed wound that will begin bleeding again at the slightest touch. Each person in the village has a different story, and faces the realities in her own, deeply personal way. Deceptively still, the film moves them and the audience toward a cleansing climax.


The Sky Watchers — Japanese

Do human beings need war in order to justify peace? Is war for us being corporatized? The Sky Watchers leads us toward these questions as we follow a squadron of kildren, genetically engineered youth who never grow old, they just continue battling it out with the other corporation until they are killed. This supposedly fills the need of the normal humans to be at war, to see the exercise of power on the news at night but also protects them from being threatened personally. Normal humans don’t have to sacrifice in any way for an ideology, it is a ‘virtual war” kind of like “reality” tv. The film’s mesage is subtle at first but builds to a not-so-subtle monologue that spells it all out for us in a somewhat preachy way. Maybe that was necessary – at least it gets the attention! This is a Japanese anime that is again, not for children. Themes of death and sex – the proof of living, I guess – weave throughout. The sky battles are done very well but when the characters are on the ground they are pretty stiff, reminding me of the early Myst graphics. I think it is worth a watch and in our current world setting seems particularly relevant. What really is the purpose of war?


Adela — Philippines

There were visual problems with this film, seemed overexposed and hazy much of the time but perhaps that was the intent of the director. That’s quite often how families feel – overexposed and hazy. This is a story of family, motherhood, aging and loneliness set in a slum built on a huge garbage dump in the Philippines. Adela is the grandmother, lives alone, and is kind to and mindful of the needs of all in her sphere – family and neighbors. She continually tries to draw people to her, help, support all around her but is more often rewarded with disregard and being forgotten. The final scene takes her to a windy, isolated beach where she lays down a cloth and has a solitary picnic originally planned and prepared for her entire family as the sun sets. A prod to remembrance of those who love us and are alone. Call your Grandmother!


The Art of Listening

I recently posted a review of the book The Art of Listening (Back, Les. 2007. Berg Publishers) on Goodreads but wanted to talk about it here as well. I have recommended this book to almost everyone I know, have my copy conspicuously placed on my desk at work. The cover photo (by Nicola Evans, Antonio Genco and Gerard Mitchell) traps the eye, demanding closer study. An entire course on human expression could be taught using this image alone. The book, however, is full of similarly captivating images with their accompanying stories.

Les Back, professor of sociology at Goldsmith’s College in London, ties the images and stories together, fusing interpretation of scholarship and humanity in an easily read and understood style.

“If a writer’s experience and subjectivity is useful we need to think why? Here I am suggesting that these experiences are of little use if they are not put to work in service of reaching out to others. (Back, 160).”

A writer’s experience and subjectivity are obviously highly relevant to readers. The writer completes his/her work and the experiences transfer to the reader who must now make a choice: either leave the words undisturbed on the page, quietly slip the book back on the shelf and tiptoe out of the writer’s room, or drink from the well that will allow our seeds of humanity to germinate, grow and ultimately feed others. Back believes in and paints a pointillistic style of humanity in The Art of Listening; each individual human being has value– is necessary in fact– in the whole. If we accept and truly believe this hypothesis, we must learn to listen to those beings whose lives touch ours on this canvas of life. Their stories enhance our own but only through listening can we learn those stories.

This book has changed my life. I am a better person for having read it. If a reader selects this book solely to learn about Donna, the woman on the cover, her story alone has the potential to cause a life-change. The reader, however, who reads Back’s entire message can learn of the human impact of bias and prejudice, inequity and segregation, and emotional isolation. These destroy hope. Back proposes, on the other hand, that true listening to our fellow human beings builds hope. “This kind of hope is established in the accumulation of small acts that defy division, hatred and mutual misunderstanding . . . . (Back, 167).”

I choose hope.

What are They Really Saying?

This is an email I received recently:

“The truth hurts…”

This is supposed to be a joke…but it’s too true to be funny!!!


A Somali arrives in Minneapolis as a new immigrant to the United States.
He stops the first person he sees walking down the street and says, “Thank you, Mr. American, for letting me in this country, giving me housing, food stamps, free medical care, and free education!”

The passerby says, “You are mistaken. I am Mexican.”

The man goes on and encounters another passerby. “Thank you for having such a beautiful country here in America!” The person says, “I not American; I Vietnamese.”

The new arrival walks further, and the next person he sees he stops, shakes his hand and says, “Thank you for the wonderful America!”
That person puts up his hand and says, “I am from Middle East; I am not American!”

He finally sees a nice lady and asks, “Are you an American?”
She says, “No, I am from Africa!”

Puzzled, he asks her, “Where are all the Americans?”

The African lady checks her watch and says…”Probably at work.”

We all get this kind of message, just forwarded with little thought. It was probably intended to be, as it says, “a joke…” but the truth that I saw in it was definitely not funny and not in the way that either the writer or the sender(s) meant. Immigration is a “hot” problem right now that will not be easily solved. It will require serious compassion, compromise and character. My family discussed the email and then my son, Jonathan, who speaks here for all of us, wrote the following response. Note: He refers to “Mormonism” because we and the person who sent the original are Mormon. I also edited the final sentence. Jonathan’s original comment was essentially ‘don’t send us any more of this crap!’

Response to
“The truth hurts…”:

I recently read an email entitled ‘the truth hurts…’ that was sent to my mom. The comment made preceding the actual message read: ‘This is supposed to be a joke…but it’s too true to be funny!!!’ A joke? I did not find myself laughing, but then I guess it’s too true to be funny, right? But then I thought of my next-door neighbor from Tonga who often works more than forty hours a week running his own cement business. Then across the street to my neighbors from Thailand who also spend much of the day running their own Thai restaurant. Down the road from them are a husband and wife from Mexico who also run their own restaurant. I think of co-workers of mine at the library who come from Brazil, El Salvador, Jordan, and Latvia; all of them putting in the same number of hours as I do. Now, with all these people I was thinking of I couldn’t see the truth in this email.

Perhaps the issue is not so much with working or not working. Perhaps it has more to do with people of color (Somali, Mexican, Middle East -like it’s just one big country-, Vietnamese, and African – again, one big country). Maybe it is that they are not Americans? They are not Americans, but immigrants; nothing more than free-loaders, as implied by the Somali’s initial comments. Or is it perhaps a combination of all of the above? It seems to me that what this email is doing is taking shots at all the above. Meaning: if you are not white and American, you do not work, but rather only leech off white Americans.

If this is meant as a joke, it is a racist joke. If it is meant to be a true statement, then it is a racist statement. It presumes that Americans have the corner on hard work. It presumes that foreign people of color cannot speak English properly, do not work, and have no desire to work. It puts white America on a superior level to non-white foreigners, especially those who immigrate to America. It embodies Americanism rather than Mormonism. Such an email has no place in our society or our religion, because neither America nor Christianity should support such racist thinking. We should have by now moved beyond such thought, having learned that such ignorant and hasty generalizations only promote misunderstanding, intolerance and cruelty.

This email made me feel sad indeed about what we, as Americans regardless of our religion, are becoming.