Short Term 12

           

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b8/Short_Term_12.jpg

           Short Term 12 is a movie about a group home for troubled teenagers. Albeit fiction, the writer and director worked in a group home for at-risk kids himself and was inspired to share his experiences. The style, music, and writing of the film is masterful, and I’d like to liken it to another great independent film called Like Crazy. Its screenplay compliments its plot and message, which in turn complements its phenomenal effect on the viewer.

            What makes Short Term 12 so amazing is its ability at realism. The viewer can’t help but see himself right there in the movie, walking alongside Grace (the supervisor) the entire time. The personalities of every character are genuine and their stories are worldly, not too outlandish, and not all that uncommon. The troubled teenagers and even Grace come from backgrounds of violence and abuse that shake the viewer’s pristine vision of the world.

            I personally find the very humanness of the story helpful. What on earth is one to say when a grown man talks about his abusive mother and bursts out crying? How does one look at a man’s eyes and give a few words of comfort, or advice, or disbelief, or whatever seems necessary at that moment with the right emotions transmitted, poise intact, and tensions eased? Or what does one do when a girl spits in one’s face, screams obscenity at the top of her lungs, and throws a tempered fit of garbled emotional discharge? The movie has those wild scenes and the reactions of the various supervisors at the camp, each with their different personalities and backgrounds.

            The film ends abruptly but with a deliberate impact on the viewer. One is left not just pitying the lowdown “underprivileged” children of the movie, but actively thinking about the extraordinary passions of the human experience that have to be dealt with every day. Working with people and their emotions seems to be at the heart of this fantastic film, all the while wrapped in the plight of social work and the angst at-risk teenagers.

The Internationale

A great song…just don’t agree with it!

Stand up, damned of the Earth
Stand up, prisoners of starvation
Reason thunders in its volcano
This is the eruption of the end.
Of the past let us make a clean slate
Enslaved masses, stand up, stand up.
The world is about to change its foundation
We are nothing, let us be all.
|: This is the final struggle
Let us group together, and tomorrow
The Internationale
Will be the human race.

There are no supreme saviours
Neither God, nor Caesar, nor tribune.
Producers, let us save ourselves,
Decree the common salvation.
So that the thief expires,
So that the spirit be pulled from its prison,
Let us fan our forge ourselves
Strike the iron while it is hot.
|: This is the final struggle
Let us group together, and tomorrow
The Internationale
Will be the human race.

The State oppresses and the law cheats.
Tax bleeds the unfortunate.
No duty is imposed on the rich;
The rights of the poor is an empty phrase.
Enough languishing in custody!
Equality wants other laws:
No rights without duties, she says,
Equally, no duties without rights.
|: This is the final struggle
Let us group together, and tomorrow
The Internationale
Will be the human race.

Hideous in their apotheosis
The kings of the mine and of the rail.
Have they ever done anything other
Than steal work?
Inside the safeboxes of the gang,
What work had created melted.
By ordering that they give it back,
The people want only their due.
|: This is the final struggle
Let us group together, and tomorrow
The Internationale
Will be the human race.

The kings made us drunk with fumes,
Peace among us, war to the tyrants!
Let the armies go on strike,
Stocks in the air, and break ranks.
If they insist, these cannibals
On making heroes of us,
They will know soon that our bullets
Are for our own generals.
|: This is the final struggle
Let us group together, and tomorrow
The Internationale
Will be the human race.

Workers, peasants, we are
The great party of labourers.
The earth belongs only to men;
The idle will go to reside elsewhere.
How much of our flesh have they consumed?
But if these ravens, these vultures
Disappear one of these days,
The sun will shine forever.
|: This is the final struggle
Let us group together, and tomorrow
The Internationale
Will be the human race.

An extraordinary video on Syria

A young girl’s life gets turned upside-down in this tragic second a day video. Could this ever happen in the UK? This is what war does to children. Find out more at http://bit.ly/3yearson

Malcolm X died today

(If you’re going to read this, take the time to briefly touch the videos and links- it’s the only way things will make sense, I promise.)

Malcolm X was killed today – 49 years ago at 3:30 p.m. on 165th Street, New York City. He was shot, in front of his family, in front of his friends, in front of over 600 earnest listeners at the Audubon Ballroom. He knew it was going to happen that day, he really did, but he went with it anyway. He was prepared to die.

Malcolm died calling for a “black revolution”.  He distinguished this from a “Negro revolution”, which represented civil rights in the United States. He prophesied a Marx-esque global overturn in society. He wanted “Negroes” to join in on the global revolution that “is world-wide in scope and in nature. The black revolution is sweeping Asia, sweeping Africa, is rearing its head in Latin America. The Cuban Revolution…. They overturned the system”. He foresaw a world of egalitarianism for all people, white, “black, brown, red, or yellow”. At the time of his death, he didn’t see whites as evil at all – he met people “whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white” that he could call brothers (Malcolm X, “A Message to the Grassroots”). And as he called for his global revolution in 1965, for his new vision of equality, he was shot and killed. Don’t listen to any media that tells you otherwise – “read the books” (Maya Angelou, recalling Malcolm).

“It is incorrect to classify the revolt of the Negro as simply a racial conflict of Black against White, or as a purely American problem. Rather, we are today seeing a global rebellion of the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiter.” – Malcolm X

Of course, that’s not the whole story. Malcolm was never a mainstream civil rights leader, and never wanted to be and chose not to be. The most mainstream he got was on his deathbed, still calling for a global revolution. He was not a Martin Luther King, who he called a member of the black bourgeoisie. He didn’t have a white picket fence and didn’t work with white liberals on a daily basis. He was a field negroe, a common man.  He was a radical compared to the other great civil rights leaders of his time (this is not to say he didn’t work with the mainstream; he personally knew James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, Maya Angelou, Sydney Poitier, Adam Clayton Powell, and Shirley Du Bois).

What differentiated Malcolm X from the others was his conception of African Americans. He never saw himself as an American, he saw himself and other blacks as Afro-Americans; namely, people robbed from their ancestral past in Africa, forced to live in America. He called on others to remember that past, to remember that legacy. Because of this honorary sense of African Americans, he “was the only leader out there that taught black people to be proud of being black” (Robert Haggins, Malcolm’s photographer.)

“So we are all black people, so-called Negroes, second-class citizens, ex-slaves. You are nothing but a [sic] ex-slave. You don’t like to be told that. But what else are you? You are ex-slaves. You didn’t come here on the “Mayflower.” You came here on a slave ship — in chains, like a horse, or a cow, or a chicken. And you were brought here by the people who came here on the “Mayflower.” You were brought here by the so-called Pilgrims, or Founding Fathers. They were the ones who brought you here.” – Malcolm X, “A Message to the Grassroots”

A friend asked me once, “What did Malcolm X actually DO?” The simple answer is nothing; he didn’t organize unions like Phillip Randolph, marches like Bayard Rustin, or sit-ins like Martin Luther King. Malcolm X didn’t deal with unjust laws or racial separation per se. He dealt with changing minds and perceptions. In the black South, whether it was Birmingham or Atlanta, the largest issue was Jim Crow: bus segregation, school segregation, church segregation. Malcolm X didn’t have to deal with laws in Detroit, New York City, or Omaha. He dealt with urban ghettos and cyclical poverty. He dealt with people who were lost as to their purpose of living, as to their identity, as to their future. He taught his listeners to love themselves, to love their heritage, to love the world around them. He taught them to identify with oppression everywhere, and to fight for justice anywhere. He didn’t teach full integration – he saw that as whitewash. Instead, he taught embracement, nationalism, self-confidence.

Most civil rights leaders didn’t identify with the urban North. In Boston, Lansing, and Baltimore, it wasn’t about being at the back of the bus, but about being at the bottom of society. It was about institutional racism.

Racism is both overt and covert. It takes two, closely related forms: individual whites acting against individual blacks, and acts by the total white community against the black community. We call these individual racism and institutional racism. The first consists of overt acts by individuals, which cause death, injury or the violent destruction of property. This type can be recorded by television cameras; it can frequently be observed in the process of commission. The second type is less overt, far more subtle, less identifiable in terms of specific individuals committing the acts. But it is no less destructive of human life. The second type originates in the operation of established and respected forces in the society, and thus receives far less public condemnation than the first type. When white terrorists bomb a black church and kill five black children, that is an act of individual racism, widely deplored by most segments of the society. But when in that same city – Birmingham, Alabama – five hundred black babies die each year because of the lack of proper food, shelter and medical facilities, and thousands more are destroyed and maimed physically, emotionally and intellectually because of conditions of poverty and discrimination in the black community, that is a function of institutional racism. When a black family moves into a home in a white neighborhood and is stoned, burned or routed out, they are victims of an overt act of individual racism which many people will condemn – at least in words. But it is institutional racism that keeps black people locked in dilapidated slum tenements, subject to the daily prey of exploitative slumlords, merchants, loan sharks and discriminatory real estate agents. The society either pretends it does not know of this latter situation, or is in fact incapable of doing anything meaningful about it.” —Stokely Carmichael, Honorary Prime Minister of the Black Panther Party.

Institutional racism consisted but runs far deeper than Jim Crow. It penetrated the hearts and minds of those in power – whites. It affected Malcolm’s people in the ghetto and on the bus and everywhere in between. Laws don’t change minds, words change minds. Malcolm dealt with minds, perceptions, and identity. That needs to be clear.

“But as racism leads America up the suicide path, I do believe, from the experiences that I have had with them, that the whites of the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, will see the handwriting on the walls and many of them will turn to the spiritual path of truth – the only way left to America to ward off the disaster that racism inevitably must lead to.” – Malcolm X, “Letter from Mecca”

He did this as a performer. Whether it was as a porter on trains that ran in and out of Detroit or on the podium at Oxford University, he was the same Detroit Red, wooing and playing to the audience. He was there to change minds and to get others to act. He wasn’t there for laws, he was there for minds. He wasn’t there to desegregate schools or buses; he was there to remove the mentality of racism and to create the identity of black conscious. He saw politics as a tool for the benefit the black community, not politics as a tool in itself. His speeches reflected just that. He didn’t DO anything, because he didn’t see DOING as enough. Putting black people in white schools won’t end racism, only changing the minds of whites would. And that was only the first step – because there was a revolution coming for a new global order (let’s be clear, time tells us he was dead wrong on this prophecy).

“We must understand the politics of our community…we must know what role politics play in our lives” — Malcolm X, “Ballot or the Bullet”

Malcolm performed to all sorts of audiences across the world. He met with kings, dictators, and presidents across Africa, with communists in South America, with leaders in Europe, and with lay blacks back home. It was for this reason among others that he is so difficult to understand – at one speech he’d call for integration and capitalism, on the other for segregation and communism. On one stage he’s a Muslim whose faith guides his actions, on another stage he’s a Muslim who has no intention of letting people know. The factor of time causes just as much confusion – he began in Black supremacy and died almost mainstream. To discuss all of that requires a whole book. Here, I am trying to highlight the most powerful continuities of Ossie Davis‘s “black shining prince”.

————————–

When looking at this man in his totality, agreeing with him or not, we find a powerful lesson. We see the story of someone who thought big – civil rights wasn’t just about America. We see the story of someone who never compromised his values, yet was always willing to compromise his style. We find someone who thought deep, to the real issues of the time. And we find someone who taught me to be myself and to love myself and try to be no other than myself. Manning Marable tells it best: “Of the figures who tower over twentieth century American history, perhaps none is more complex, more multifaceted and controversial, than Malcolm X” (Malcolm X: A life of reinvention).

Diane Nyad: Never Give Up

 

I don’t have an earthly idea why someone would want to cross from Cuba to Key West, how someone would do it, or what practical relevance it has at all. Nevertheless, this is a wonderful lecture by a wonderful person.

Se7en

Seven (movie) poster.jpg

Seven (or Se7en) is a movie that is extremely difficult to talk about. The entire movie begins with little characterization, background history, or even a developed story line. Yet, as the movie continues, the viewer suddenly finds it all coming together for an excellent depiction of the stupidity of life.

The movie has two main characters: Morgan Freeman, an experienced detective who is gloomy and “depressed” about reality, and Brad Pitt, who is a pompous new detective who thinks he can crack every case and yell at any superior he wants to. The story kicks into full gear with a murder of a man who must weigh at least 700 pounds, with the word “gluttony” written on the wall in blood. The movie cannot be defined as a detective genre, however; there is very little investigation into this particular movie. Rather, the story continues with a few more murders of the different deadly sins (such as gluttony) and focuses on the various character’s dialogue with each other.

Brad Pitt is overly emotional, has what Ender would call “hot anger”, and doesn’t listen to anyone. This comes to bite him in the back in so many different ways, highlighting the problem of excessive passion. Meanwhile Morgan Freeman appears so dispassionate that he really has no friends, despite having the largest concern for humanity through a rational outlook. This personal emotion vs. rational compassion juxtaposition is one of many fascinating themes.

The use of camera angles and music was equally incredible. The cinematography is absolutely excellent and adds to the incredible drama of the movie. There was a great contrast between lighter scenes and darker scenes, each time with some sort of meaning or the other. The setting was simple and only showed a few houses and locations, which added to the the theme of constant routine: waking up each day at the same time to the same world for the same purpose…living for the next day.

The central premise of the movie, however, is the stupidity of life. In the movie, seven murders are committed, all under the coordination of a single murderer. Each murder is for one of the deadly sins – gluttony, sloth, envy, etc. – and arguably each person deserved it. At the same time, almost all of the police force and general public is apathetic to the deaths, besides a superficial curiosity in what happened. People are horribly lame in the movie – and Morgan Freeman is delighted to tell us. Shockingly, the murderer is equally delighted to tell us. The murderer is extremely rational, well thought, well read, educated, the whole nine yards. He calculated his murders and has developed arguments to justify each one, while expressing little personal emotion but rational compassion for humanity. And as the movie shows, Brad Pitt, being so personally emotional leads to downfall. Rational compassion leads to victory.

Overall, the movie is a fantastic thriller and horribly depressing. It poses questions and demonstrates scenarios, but does not provide answers. If you expect to watch a movie that will make you a more wise person, this is the one. If you expect to watch a movie to enjoy it, I do not recommend. This movie mixes fear, depression, and gloominess altogether for a masterful insight into human sociology when it comes to morality.

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So…it’s Christmas!

I thougt I’d share some quotes from How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, based off of Dr. Seuss’s short story/poem/picture book.

The Grinch: All right, you’re a reindeer [talking to his dog Max]. Here’s your motivation: Your name is Rudolph, you’re a freak with a red nose, and no one likes you. Then, one day, Santa picks you and you save Christmas. No, forget that part. We’ll improvise… just keep it kind of loosey-goosey. You HATE Christmas! You’re gonna steal it. Saving Christmas is a lousy ending, way too commercial. ACTION!

[Max knocks the red nose off]

The Grinch: BRILLIANT! You reject your own nose because it represents the glitter of commercialism. Why didn’t I think of that? Cut, print, check the gate, moving on.

—————

The Grinch: The nerve of those Whos. Inviting me down there – on such short notice! Even if I wanted to go my schedule wouldn’t allow it. 4:00, wallow in self pity; 4:30, stare into the abyss; 5:00, solve world hunger, tell no one; 5:30, jazzercize; 6:30, dinner with me – I can’t cancel that again; 7:00, wrestle with my self-loathing… I’m booked. Of course, if I bump the loathing to 9, I could still be done in time to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness. But what would I wear?

—————

The Grinch: What’s that stench? It’s fantastic.

—————

The Grinch: It’s because I’m green isn’t it?

—————

Lou Lou Who: I’m glad he took our presents. You can’t hurt Christmas, Mr. Mayor, beacuse it isn’t about the… the gifts or the contest or the fancy lights. That’s what Cindy’s been trying to tell everyone… and me. I don’t need anything more for Christmas than this right here: my family.

————–

The Grinch: MAX. HELP ME… I’m FEELING.

————–

The Grinch: Any calls?

Grinch’s Answering Machine: [computer voice] You have no messages.

The Grinch: Odd. Better check the outgoing.

Grinch’s Answering Machine: [Grinch’s voice] If you utter so much as one syllable, I’LL HUNT YOU DOWN AND GUT YOU LIKE A FISH! If you’d like to fax me, press the star key.

The Grinch: Hmm. Hmm.

————–

The Grinch: One man’s toxic sludge is another man’s potpourri.

[Max barks]

The Grinch: I don’t know, it’s some kind of soup.

————–

Cindy Lou Who: Thanks for saving me.

The Grinch: [stops in his tracks] Saving you, is that what you think I was doing? Wrongo. I just noticed that you were improperly packaged, my dear.

[grabs wrapping paper and starts wrapping Cindy up]

The Grinch: Hold still.

[to Max]

The Grinch: Max, pick out a bow.

[to Cindy]

The Grinch: Can I use your finger for a sec?

————–

The Grinch: I am the Grinch that stole Christmas… and I’m sorry.

[long silence]

The Grinch: Aren’t you going to cuff me? Put me in a choke hole? Blind me with pepper spray?

Mayor Augustus Maywho: You heard him, Officer. He admitted it. I’d go with the pepper spray.

Officer Wholihan: Yes, I heard him all right. He said he was sorry.

————–

Martha May Whovier: Did I have a crush on the Grinch? Of COURSE not.

Cindy Lou Who: Uh… I didn’t ask you that.

————–

The Grinch: It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags.

Narrator: The the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

The Grinch: Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…

Narrator: He thought

The Grinch: …means a little bit more.

————–

The Grinch: [messing with peoples mail] Jury duty, jury duty, jury duty, black mail, pink slip, chain letter, eviction notice, jury duty.

————–

The Grinch: Who wants the gizzard?

Drew Lou Who: I do.

The Grinch: Too late. That’ll be mine.

————-

Mayor Augustus Maywho: And if you marry me, you get this new car, which has been generously paid for by the taxpayers of Whoville.

————-

The Grinch: Well, pucker up and kiss it, Whoville.

[puts mistletoe up to his butt and makes a taunting noise as he shakes it around]

————-

The Grinch: Am I just eating because I’m bored?

————-

The Grinch: [singing] Be it ever so heinous, there’s no place like home.

————-

Cindy Lou Who: Santa, what’s the meaning of Christmas?

The Grinch: [bursts through the Christmas tree] VENGEANCE!

The Grinch: [calmly] Er, I mean… presents, I suppose

————-

Cindy Lou Who: Santa?

The Grinch: WHAT?

Cindy Lou Who: Don’t forget the Grinch. I know he’s mean and hairy and smelly. His hands might be cold and clammy, but I think he’s actually kinda… sweet.

The Grinch: SWEET? You think he’s sweet?

Cindy Lou Who: [nods] Merry Christmas, Santa.

[goes upstairs]

The Grinch: Nice kid… baaad judge of character.

————-

The Grinch: Those Whos are hard to frazzle, Max. But, we did our worst, and that’s all that matters.

————-

[Lastly:]

The Grinch: It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags.

Narrator: The the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

The Grinch: Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…

Narrator: He thought

The Grinch: …means a little bit more.

I found those all relevant and rather fantastic.

Indeed, too, some were bombastic.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0170016/quotes

A Radical Expriment in Empathy

A wonderful Ted Talk by Sam Richards at TEDxPSU about empathy.

Cloud Atlas (Part 1): Our Legacy!

Cloud Atlas

I recently saw the movie Cloud Atlas and I was truly astonished and inspired by it. And I highly recommend it. It made me think about my actions, how I have the power to influence the future, and how I have been influenced by the past. Every action I do is so small. Anytime I spend time with my friends and family, I become a part of the lives of only a small fraction of our world of seven billion. Only about 0.0000004% of the world has been influenced by me in some significant way. I imagine this number will increase to about 0.0000012% in the next few years, but only time will tell. I want to do something, I want to be part of something greater than myself, and I want to leave a legacy. But after countless hours of thought, I think it is sadly unlikely that I will be known to my generation; however just like Son-mi 451, I have the potential to be remembered in the future. I have the potential to leave a legacy that will change and inspire future generations. I hope one day to have children, to write a book, and to do something with my life. Every single one of these actions that we commit ourselves to is one that will have an impact on the future. Every small thing we do adds up. My children may never remember my name, but they may read my book. My children may never know of my existence, but their existence and their lives will be my legacy. And that, I think, will be enough.

I would like to ask two things of you: Appreciate the past, and every human being that came before you. Without your past you would not be here today. And imagine how their lives, which were so long ago, have led to yours, and yours, which is right now, will lead to so much more.

“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future” (Cloud Atlas Book).

Stay tuned for part two and thanks for reading! Please post any comments you may have on my thoughts, my writing style, or anything relevant!

Nero Lucifero