Saturday, October 31, 2009

Vermont International Film Festival

Today I attended the Vermont International Film Festival at the Palace 9 in South Burlington. I watched two great documentaries and missed the third because I was listening to the directors speak about the second film. Finding one thing to blog about after all that I was exposed to today is difficult so I tried to stick to one thing for each film.

Afghan Star is about Afghanistan's version of American Idol where singers compete to be #1. The film follows 4 of the contestants as they compete. Some of the contestants in the Afghan version risk their lives to compete, particularly the women. What was really cool about the film was that the last three contestants in the competition were from three distinct ethnic groups (Pashtun, Tajik and Hazara). In decades past, these groups had engaged in civil war, but on the show they competed peacefully. The show not only seems to unite the citizens but has created a productive boom in their economy boosting sales in televisions, batteries and CDs.

RFK in the Land of Apartheid: A Ripple of Hope is about Robert F. Kennedy's five day trip to South Africa in 1966. We had the pleasure of having a question and answer session after the film was over by the directors Tami Gold and Larry Shore. The Junior Senator from New York visited white colleges, black colleges, the shanties in Soweto and banned activists and leaders like Chief Albert Luthuli. It was an inspiring film. I learned a lot from this film, the most interesting things I learned were about Apartheid in South Africa.

I always knew in the Apartheid system, every person had a racial designation (black, white, coloured, or Indian/Asian). Depending on a person's distinction, they were granted different rights and had to abide by different rules. It determined everything from where they could live, shop, sit and which bus you could take. Madness! What I didn't know was that children were designated by the racial distinction of their father. The film shows an interview with a woman that was considered "coloured" because of her Malaysian background when her Indian husband died she was forced to move from her home because she was coloured. She could live there when her husband was alive because of his Indian status. After he died, she had to move but the children could stay. She had to go to court to have herself reclassified.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Al Gore and the Internet

I was listening to a Podcast today and I heard some right wing jerk mention, sarcastically, how Al Gore invented the internet. This is one of those things that Bush and other right wingers like to say to bring down this man. It occurred to me that I had never seen the speech where this occurred. So I looked it up on YouTube.

When you watch please note that he doesn't use the word "invented" but "created." So if you were watching President Eisenhower claim that he "created" the US Interstate Highway System ... would you assume that he was claiming to be one of the construction workers at the site or would you assume that he meant that he assisted politically or economically? I think the latter, but this didn't stop Bush from claiming otherwise during the general election. Bush wasn't really trying to appeal to the intelligence of voters, was he? Clearly, in this political environment Gore should have used a better choice of words. Maybe he should have said that he "helped" create the internet or assisted in the creation of the internet. Regardless, you still hear people throwing this into conversations when Al Gore is mentioned.

What was Gore talking about? In the early 90's I was at an IBM convention in New Orleans where he spoke. Environmentalism and technology have always been an obsession of his. I am not a techie and I was young at the time so some of what he was talking about was over my head. I'd love to hear that speech today. I was impressed with him. As a Senator, Gore created the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991. This created the national research and education network (NREN) which, among other things, helps create standards for the net around the world. The World Wide Web (WWW) was born when this act was enacted. It was signed into law by President George Bush, Senior. So in 1991, the net already existed but the World Wide Web did not because there were no standards. Gore could claim that he contributed to the creation of the WWW, but not the net because it existed for two decades before this. Again, he misspoke ... something that just about anyone does the more a person talks and politicians talk a lot.

This also lead to creation of the Mosaic browser (the first I ever used at the Dedham public library) which is the first browser ever. It was later renamed Netscape. The creation of standards allowed software to be developed in a reasonably static environment. Before Mosaic, we had navigate around the net via the DOS prompt. One of the creators of Mosaic, Marc Andreesen, said that without Al Gore the internet "would not be where it is today."

The ironic thing is that this right wing jerk of a Podcaster, I mentioned earlier, owes homage to Gore. For if not for Gore, the Podcast would not exist.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Rant About Football

I am not a huge football fan. Since Friday Night Lights went off the air, you can safely say that I have cut my consumption of anything football related in half. Perhaps it is down to nothing since I haven't yet watched a game this year. It is not just that the NFL (the No Fun League) is made up of a bunch of felons and apologists for those felons ... it is not just that American ex-football players, aged 30 to 49, are 19 times more likely to have memory loss than the general population... it is not just that Michael Vick disgusts me ... it is mostly because I am bored with football. I see the athleticism, strategy and analogies to warfare in the game, I get it. I understand the game. Again it bores me and makes me uncomfortable watching it. I much rather watch a good tennis match, a baseball game or even walk around a golf course watching my niece play. Golf is very boring too but at least I get a walk in. Football just looks painful and watching people in pain, just is not very interesting to me. I've never enjoyed watching fights either so that's where I'm at.

I once saw a graphic of what happens to the brain when a person's body slams up against another. It looked like jello in a Tupperware bowl being thrown against the wall. I keep thinking of jello brains whenever I see a game. Not an image I want to hold onto.

I recently created a group in Facebook called "Boycott Michael Vick." This is obviously a very easy thing for me to do since I don't watch a lot of football. Not watching Philadelphia Eagles is pretty easy to do. I don't even have television reception in my home. But I do like to go out to pubs for a micro-brew and a burger and watch whatever is on. I guess I will have to schedule this around Eagles games. I am not so naive that I think boycotting this monster is going to accomplish anything other making me feel better. Also, I don't think his crime is any worse than many of the other felons in the NFL (domesticate abuse, rape, etc). I just think that if you train a bunch of beautiful creatures (in Vicks' case pit bulls) to kill each other for your entertainment, you rescind your right to be called a hero. His jail time is done but it is the NFL that I hold accountable for bringing him into people's living rooms and bars.

I bring this up today because I learned of a situation at the Philadelphia Eagles game a couple of weeks ago that pissed me off. A woman name Kori Martin entered their stadium with a t-shirt with the words "Losers fight pit bulls" on the front with Vicks' name and number scratched out. On the back were the words "you don't deserve a second chance." The officials at the stadium told her she could not wear the shirt. As a compromise, she could go to the game but only with the shirt turned inside out. This is maddening because I am a life long sports fan and I have witnessed some pretty atrocious things on t-shirta directed at players. Most of them have been worse than this. A t-shirt saying "Arod sucks and Jeter swallows" comes to mind. Once when I was a kid at Fenway (pre-Political Correctness), my dad and I listened to a drunk yell at Yastremski calling him a "dumb Pollock" for the whole game. But Phillie officials didn't allow a shirt that criticized a heinous crime like dog fighting. This is pretty outrageous to me. I'm about ready to boycott pretty much anything Phillie related at this point. Go Dodgers! It's Always Sunny in Los Angeles!