The Salt of the Earth


Another great recommendation from the Skokie Public Library’s Fall Movie Challenge, The Salt of the Earth introduced me to the photographer Sebastião Salgado, who traveled the world capturing beautiful images of cultures in every corner of the world.

The beginning covers Salgado’s early life when he left economics and became a photographer, a risky career change for a married man with a young son. His photos are breathtaking and his books show events like the famine in Ethiopia and the war in Bosnia. This Wim Wenders film, contains lots of Salgado’s images as well as his observations.

The last third of the film presents Salgado’s efforts to take his father’s drought-ridden farm and restore it to a forest. The land was parched and most plants and trees had died from poor management. Salgado’s wife, Leila suggested they return the land to how it had been before the farm existed. As wild an idea as that was, knowing little about forestry, the pair began to plant trees. Decades later it’s a rain forest with waterfalls and creeks. This land had looked like Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. Astounding.

All in all, The Salt of the Earth is a change of pace. There were times when I couldn’t take much more of the photos of famine victims, but there’s plenty of captivating photos that aren’t of such dire situations. So I do recommend The Salt of the Earth.

Weekend Coffee Share

wordswag_15073188796611453091488Weekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!

Grab a cup of coffee and share with us! What’s been going on in your life? What are your weekend plans? Is there a topic you’ve just been ruminating on that you want to talk about?

If we were having coffee, I’d urge you to see The Babushkas of Chernobyl. Talk about a movie about strong women! It’s truly unique.

I’d mention that I had a nice birthday starting with dinner at a favorite restaurant when my sister was in town. Then I had jury duty on my birthday, but got the afternoon free.

I’d tell you I’m reading C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra, the second book in his Space Trilogy. It’s grabbed me from the start as we have a new narrator, who’s likable, and who’s telling Dr. Ransom’s story. I wonder why . . . .

Our weather is getting a bit colder, which makes me shudder, but it’s been so sunny and clear that I’m remembering that autumn does have its charms.

I attended my Great Books discussion where we discussed a selection of Marx’s early writings on workers’ alienation. The reading was dense and it bothered me that Marx never explained how he came by his conclusions. Some explanation of how observations or survey data would have been nice, though I understand that it wasn’t common in 1844 to collect quantitative data the way. A major study on poverty was done street by street in London in the 1890s. While people approached Marx with an open mind, I was glad that I wasn’t the only one who found the reading a slog.

I haven’t heard from the library where I interviewed. I hoped to hear early last week, but didn’t. My guess is that I won’t get an offer, which is how things go. The waiting part of job hunting is trying.

Yesterday I met one of former students from China. We went to the Museum Day sponsored by the Smithsonian. After brunch we went to the Adler Planetarium, which I hadn’t been to in years. It was fun to see Melody who’s preparing for the CPA exam. She’s passed 3 of the 4 sections already. I wish her well.

The Wolfpack

Thanks to Sharon for bringing this unique documentary to my attention. Directed by Crystal Moselle, The Wolfpack (2015)shows a family consisting of six brothers, their parents and their sister who live in New York. The parents met when the mother went backpacking in South America. She shared his dislike for materialism and were married.

The sad and curious thing about this family is that the father became a control freak and would lock the wife and children in the apartment. He believed it was for security, but actually I saw it as a form of control. They could only go outside when the father permitted it and he apparently went with them so no one could escape. One year they were allowed out 9 years and another they weren’t taken outside at all.

The film focuses on the older brothers. The mother was certified by the state to homeschool the kids and they all spoke articulately and politely. The father had wanted 10 children as his dream of heading a tribe, but seven was the limit (biologically) for the mother. The father didn’t work; the father explained that he didn’t believe in work. I wondered what he did when he was out of the house for hours and hours. They family lived on welfare. The father dreamt of moving to Scandinavia, where the welfare was even better, but that never materialized.

The compelling thing about the documentary is how creative the boys were. To stave off boredom and keep sane, they watched the 5000+ DVDs that their dad had collected and then they’d copy the scripts and act out the films. They made clever props. It’s a good thing there were so many kids or they wouldn’t have enough actors.

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Death by China

This video should be required viewing. It shows how since joining the WTO, China has uses currency manipulation, protectionism, lack of ethics vis-a-vis workers’ rights and pollution to gain economic dominance. It proves, as the book Poorly Made in China does, that China is outmaneuvering the world when it comes to business competition.

Narrated by Martin Sheen and based on Peter Narravo’s book by the same title, the documentary clearly explains how China’s strategy to decimate its environment costing thousands of lives by allowing rampant pollution, how its currency manipulation works as a tariff, and how they have no plan to open their markets to foreign companies. Instead their game is to steal as much intellectual property they can so that they can just make their own cars, machines, electronics, etc. using the know-how of other countries to move forward.

The experts interviewed have great credentials and their insights line up with what I saw and heard when living in China. The pollution and lack of ethics are not exaggerated. Yes, most of the people I knew were nice, but there is a glaring lack of ethics and the good people were afraid of standing up for what is right. And it’s true that the government’s philosophy is completely contrary to Enlightenment principles.

Once they are on top there will be no catching them. The film shines like on what we should do now.

Homeless in Japan

The creator of Life Where I’m From has put together an enlightening video series of videos on homelessness in Japan. You don’t expect to see much homelessness in Japan, but if you visit any city you’re sure to see men sleeping in subway stations or parks.

I remember bringing this up when I lived in Japan and most Japanese told me that these people just like living outdoors as it was like camping. I never quite bought that.