Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Hidden Figures - review

This is a review for the book by Margot Lee Shetterly that the recent film is based on.

What do you do when you have to wait 4h for your delayed flight? You go to WH Smith, of course! This book wasn't in their top 20 Business Bestsellers - but really it should have been. All the things that can be achieved with dedication, grace, talent and intelligence! Inspiring stuff.

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But wait it's about more than those personal stories. There weren't just 3 black women working for NACA/NASA. There were hundreds. There were hundreds of bright women (of all races) who joined because all the men had left to war, basically. That was their break into their amazing careers (digression: interesting to think what would have happened for women's working life had WWII not occurred!)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

C'est intéressant w/c 13 Feb 2017

Francaises, Francais: et vous qu'est qui vous preocuppe? (Le Monde)
As we gear for a presidential election, Le Monde is meeting and interviewing lots of regular French people across the country. Tellingly, the opening question is "What worries out at the moment?" - giving you a sense of the level of optimism filling up the country! What I also noticed in the interviews is that all the people who live in the countryside are talking about their villages emptying and businesses closing, with a feeling of powerlessness. What's to be done about that?

Nazis: A Warning from History (BBC4)
The 1997 documentary series is being shown again. It includes many interviews with eyewitnesses and people who lived through the 1920s, 30s and the rise of Hitler. "You swan with the tide", said one. "In 1933, it was impossible to predict 1945", said another. It seems insane now that France annexed Germany's most productive region, the Rhur, as reparation for WWI; that the Nazis had their own paramilitary troops (the brown shirts) and the army and police didn't try and quash them; that the two most popular parties in 1930s Germany (the Nazis and Communists) aimed to destroy democracy and each other (the documentary includes recordings of songs from both groups telling how they would fight to the death to defeat the other!). We would be utterly aghast at this today. Chilling stuff.

Film: Patriots Day
I was fortunate enough to get an invite to a pre-screening of Patriots Day, the new film telling the story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. It's tight, tense, with amazing set pieces (the actual explosion is shown as though you are in it, flying through the air and crashing to the ground). It's very American. It's very patriotic. But it's very well done.

Film: Moonlight
What a special film this is. I don't really know how to do it justice in words. Incredible performances - so direct and moving, beautiful frames and editing - particularly the opening that made me dizzy, and the scene in the ocean. A friend thought the characters were cliches (the good-hearted drug dealer, the crackhead mom, the bully) but the original play is partly autobiographical: these are real African-American lives and experiences, and they can't be dismissed. I'm still processing them and reflecting on them. I think what touched me most was how lonely the main character has been all his life, always on guard - we are shown some moments of connections with others, but they seem so few and far between. I found it heartbreaking.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Pina Bausch - Masurca Fogo

A woman wearing lots of fur.
Goodbye! Are you from London?
How do you say leg in Portuguese? Perrrrna.
A man launching himself onto a group of other dancers.
Large video projections - of cows (the sertao?), Latin/Carribean ballroom dancers, the sea, blooming flowers.
A woman wearing balloons and telling the story of her primary school teacher everyone hated ('how pretty am I today, she would ask'). She walks around the stage giving and lighting cigarettes to men. They burst her balloons.
A couple pretending to pass dentures to one another so they can eat. Every time they chink their champagne glasses, the man's loses its bottom. They laugh.

Music used in Masurca Fogo
Bau - Raquel
K.D Lang - Smoke Rings
Amalia Rodrigues - Naufragio
Alfredo Marceneiro - Nos tempos em que eu cantava

Saturday, February 04, 2017

C'est intéressant w/c 30 Jan 2017

Emel Mathlouthi: Kelmti Horra
Kelmti Horra became one of the anthems of the Arab Spring, particularly in Tunisia, where protest singer Emel Mathlouthi is from. I just heard it this song yesterday doing some research at work. She has an incredible voice - its power reminds me of Mariza's, though hers is clearer.

I am those who are free and never fear
I am the secrets that will never die
I am the voice of those who would not give in
I am free and my word is free

Bargaining with Silicon Valley (Dissent Magazine)
Some choice quotes in here, to make you wonder what the rich dudes of Silicon Valley have in their heads:
- certainly a sense of power: "[They] are preternaturally gifted with powers of prediction. (...) Of course, predicting the future is easier when you have the money and power to determine it."
- a somehow disingenuous ignorance of what their ideas could bring about. Think about their lofty goals of transforming the future of work: "The defining feature of the gig economy isn’t really that workers accept jobs through an app on their phone: it’s that they work with no benefits, no job security, and no unions."

The article reminded me that actually this is not the future of work. It is what work used to be like, and still is for some people: "Designating employees as independent contractors is an old trick that tech companies have merely taken to new extremes. Long before Uber and company, this kind of misclassification was pervasive in the transportation industry, as well as construction, agricultural work, and many other sectors."

The final paragraph is a call to arms: "If there’s a cue that labor could take from Silicon Valley, it’s that it pays to envision a bolder future. Rather than genuflecting in hopes of being dealt a kinder fate, labor could focus on making its own destiny—one where all workers have collective bargaining rights and access to universal public benefits. That’s no more outlandish, after all, than the idea that a handful of tech magnates ought to decide what society will look like in years to come."

I joined a union this year.

Love and Black Lives, in Pictures found on a Brooklyn St (New York Times)
A beautiful dive into the life of a black couple through their photo album, from pre-WWII to the 1970s. The writer found the photo album next to a pile of rubbish on a Crown Heights street, and slowly pieced their life together by talking to neighbours, finding family members, going through archives. From the Great Migration to segregation in the armed forces, to the jitterbug and social clubs, and community life, it's a moving account of a life of great changes.