Monday, August 21, 2017

A letter from Nobel Prize nominee Ashok Malhotra

August 15, 2017

Dear Friends:

Dr. Steve Keeler, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor, SUNY Cayuga Community College, created a video of “Ashoka Yoga: Gentle Yoga for Everyone” It is a simplified version of physical postures as well as breathing and meditation exercises along with systematic relaxation of 12 bodily muscles leading to total calmness. A carefree gentle yoga for all the stressed out/overworked students, faculty and other members of your community.  This video is the culmination of my fifty years of teaching yoga to people of all ages including school children from first grade to high school to college students as well as to adults of all ages.

I have been offering week-long or weekend workshop all over the USA, Europe and India to “time starved” busy people who are experiencing “time famine.” This is my way of helping them and at the same time raising funds for the Ninash Foundation (www.ninash.org) that has built 7 schools for 1700 female and minority children in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat in India.
If you are interested, I could mail you copy of the video (for $15 or more donation to Ninash Foundation) to watch with your family and friends.

Let me  also know if you would like me to come over and give a workshop at your university or rotary or organization.

I would love to come over for a weekend or a week to run a workshop for the stressed-out ones in order to rejuvenate them.

Hope to hear from you regarding my offer to help the “time starved” dear friends of yours.

In gratitude,

Dr. Ashok Kumar Malhotra

Emeritus SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor (http://employees.oneonta.edu/malhotak/)
Founder, SUNY Oneonta Philosophy Department
Founder, The Ninash Foundation (www.ninash.org)
Founder/Chair Yoga Society (http://external.oneonta.edu/yoga/)
Distinguished Alumni Award University of Hawaii
Distinguished Alumni Award East West Center
Gulland’s Excellence NRI Award
Spiritual leadership Award, SIUE
Consultant for Warner Brothers Kung Fu: legend Continues Series (1992)
Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize
16 Published Books on Asian and Western Philosophy and Yoga and Meditation
Yoga Life Columns (60 plus since July 2011), The Daily Star (Newspaper)


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

new publication from Evy Johanne Haland

Dear all,

I attach some information about a new publication.

Greek Festivals, Modern and Ancient: A Comparison of Female and Male Values (2 vols). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017, see  http://www.cambridgescholars.com/greek-festivals-modern-and-ancient-2.

All the best,
Evy Johanne Håland
Dr/PhD History

Website: http://uoa.academia.edu/EvyJohanneHaland
http://www.inth.ugent.be/?page_id=2368

Monday, May 15, 2017

Ashok Kumar, Nobel Prize nominee

Ninash Foundation: INDIA Visit

Linda and I had an exciting time visiting more than 1700 children, teachers, principals and administrators at the Ninash's seven schools in Kuran, Sagbara, Mahapura and Dundlod from December 31, 2016 to Jan 18, 2017.

1. The children of each school presented entertainment through dances and skits in various languages with social, moral and national message.  We went to all the classes in each school, chatting with children and teachers emphasizing the importance of showing compassion through helpfulness and kindness to each other, being respectful to teachers and other children as well as the importance of learning and speaking English along with regional languages of Gujarati and Rajasthani, national language of Hindi and international language of English. We emphasized that speaking regional languages is important but limited to their specific region; whereas speaking Hindi is very important for conversing with people of India; however, learning and speaking English would open up the entire world to them. I learned Punjabi, Urdu and Hindi but it was only when I learned English that I could travel to USA and get a PhD and become a professor in the USA to teach American students about the philosophy of India in their own language.
These chit chat sessions helped inspire the children and teachers and were gratifying to us.

2.  First Highlight: Visiting the Newly Adopted Waymade School in Sagbara (7th School)
We met with 280 tribal children of the newly inaugurated Waymade School in the Village of Sagbara that borders the remote areas of Maharashtra and Gujarat. Children entertained us by singing, performing dances and enacting skits in diverse languages. Linda and I interacted with the children by making short speeches to the entire group and congratulating them for learning Hindi, Gujarati and English as well as computers. We met with the teachers and talked to them about their duties toward these underprivileged children, teaching them subjects along with character building and being courteous to each other and the same was applicable to the teachers.

3. Another highlight of the visit: We brought together the Ninash Team of principals and administrators from Kuran, Dundlod and Mahapura the first time to open a dialogue among them at the Mahapura School. The entire team of Ganga Singh, A.V. George and Sangeeta from Dundlod; Ramgusai from Kuran; Pushpendra, Yatan, Mahavir and Rashmi Rathore from Mahapura along with Sandeep Gupta, Linda and I visited the Indo-International Culture School in Mahapura where we watched entertainment and the science fair presented by the children. The Ninash Team spent two hours discussing issues pertaining to the running of the schools, dealing with the government, FCRA permission, road work, computers and library as well as fundraising for various projects essential to modernizing the schools. The group decided to set up ways to communicate with each other through telephone, email and other means available on the internet.

4.  We were much impressed by the achievements made in each school in terms of the well-behaved children, who were excelling in their speaking abilities, getting high marks in the board exam, singing songs, reciting poems as well as performing on the stage various skits and dances. It was all due to the hard work of the teachers and principals in each school along with the children who listened and followed the teachers' instructions. Bravo to teachers, principals and administrators for doing such an excellent job! We were touched by their performance, achievement and behavior.
To continue with this admirable educational experience being offered to this neglected minority of children so that they could become aware of and assert their rightful place in the developing economy of India, the Ninash Foundation (www.ninash.org) requests funding for the following projects through the generous support of our compassionate donors:
List of projects and estimated budget for each:

1.       Playground set (Cost: $1000)
2.       White boards for each classroom notebooks (Cost $500 per school)
3.       Tee shirts and shoes for each child and teacher (Cost: $500 per school)
4.       Solar panels (Cost: $7000 each for Mahapura, Kuran and Sagbara Schools)
5.       Generator for electricity for the school (Cost: $5000 for each school in Sagbara and Kuran)
6.       State of the art WIFI/Internet (Cost: $500 for a year for each school)
7.       Rain Harvesting Material, pond, pipes, roofs, gutters etc.  (Cost; $4000 per school)
8.      College scholarships for children, who after graduation would like to go to college
(Cost per student per year $650 times 4=$2500 for four years; Immediate goal is to send at least four children to colleges of their choice)
9.      Art lessons for the children and community (Cost to hire an Art Teacher= $3000 a year)
10.   State of the art smart classrooms (Cost: $3000 for each school)
11.   New Computers (Cost: $400 per computer times 20=$8,000)
12.   A New School Building for 250 tribal Children of Sagbara, Gujarat (Cost: $80,000)
13.   Toilets for 80 families (Cost: $500 times 80= $40,000)

NOTE: Please go to Ninash website at www.ninash.org and donate through PayPal or write a check to the Ninash Foundation, 17 Center Street, Oneonta, NY 13820, USA.

In Gratitude,

Dr. Ashok Kumar Malhotra, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor
(http://employees.oneonta.edu/malhotak/)
Founder/Chair Yoga Society (http://external.oneonta.edu/yoga/)
Founder, The Ninash Foundation (www.ninash.org)
Distinguished Alumni Award University of Hawaii
Distinguished Alumni Award East West Center
Nominated for the 2010-2017 Nobel Peace Prize

Friday, May 5, 2017

America's Long Religious Heritage

Laina Farhat-Holzman
May 6, 2017

Unlike the rest of the developed world, which is either tepid on religion or is fiercely secular (France) or actively hostile (China), the United States can still be called a religious country. What is different about our religious history is that we have never had a state religion and we try to protect religious freedom (freedom to practice without government intrusion). Furthermore, our lack of a formal state religion has given rise to some very original new religions, such as Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and Christian Science. We also have many fringe religions that borrow from the Sufis, Yogis, or cults.

It is important to define what a religion usually is: an organized system of belief and behavior that is deemed to have its origin with God or gods. The belief is based on faith, not on reason. The behavior aspect is sustained by group support and practice. The range of belief runs from benign (reverent awe and traditional community support) to poisonous ideology, a belief so passionate that its adherents are willing to kill or die for it. American religion is usually benign because it is voluntary, not enforced by government. However, when religions become ideologies, they can become very dangerous indeed.

The definition of a religious ideology also applies to doctrinaire Communists, whose deities were Marx and Lenin and, in the case of China, Mao. True believers in these ideologies were certainly willing to kill or die for them at one time. Nazism replaced God with Hitler, who was worshipped and obeyed as such. Our most poisonous cults, such as the Jim Jones cult and the Branch Davidians, worshipped their leaders and went to their deaths because of them. The Japanese, usually not a religious people, also had a cult that was willing to use Sarin gas in a Tokyo subway to carry out their ideology of ending the world.

But there is also danger today that blind support of religious tolerance fails to distinguish between benign and ideological religions. Christianity today is a generally benign faith, but it was not always so. The Crusades from the 11th to 13th centuries and the Spanish Inquisition (16th Century) were ideological Christianity. Followers believed that they would be rewarded in heaven for killing and dying for the faith (the Crusades) or be rewarded in heaven for torturing and killing “false” or “insincere” Christians (Inquisition).
These twisted forms of Christianity were in response to the great enemy of the day, Militant Islam, which swept through Africa and South Asia, in its most ideological form. Islam enforced conversions, executed apostates (people who converted to other faiths), and believed with ideological fervor that they were behaving as God ordained. The Crusades were a response in kind to Islam, and the Inquisition came after five centuries of Muslim rule in Spain. Ideologies are inclined to invoke counter-ideologies.

Today, our concept of religious tolerance needs to be revisited. Both the United States and Europe are faced by a real dilemma. Even Christianity has some fringe ideological cults today, those who have taken up the cause of being White American Christians, ready to kill or die for the faith. The mixture of Aryan Nazism and White Christianity is deadly.

But more dangerous is the flood of Muslims fleeing their failed states, failing because of a history of corrupt governance and the emergence of an ideological form of Islam. The entire Muslim world is being threatened by the conflict between dictatorial and corrupt rulers and violent ideological Muslim cults, out to kill or die for their belief. We must be able to distinguish between benign Islam and its murderous cousin. They are not the same.

While fighting the global conflict with militant Islam (ISIS, al Qaeda, and lone wolf terrorists), we must assist the benign Muslims among us to accept the secular culture that has made Western Civilization flourish. Muslims who are practicing their religion benignly (no compulsion, no ideological poisoning) can become good citizens of the Western world. This must be part of the immigration processing, both here and in Europe. Benign neglect could be deadly.

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.    

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

America Has 250 Years of Consistent Foreign Policy

Laina Farhat-Holzman
April 22, 2017

The majority of Americans, furious over the Assad regime using poison gas on his own Syrian people, expressed approval of President Trump's attack on the Syrian airfield that launched the gas attack. When one sees such horrors, such as when American soldiers first entered the Nazi death camps, the desire for revenge is powerful. But knee-jerk revenge is not policy. What is American policy about assaults on helpless civilians? Do we have a consistent policy? Do we always react by punishing the perpetrator? Of course not.

Defense of helpless victims of violence outside of our own borders is not a policy; it is, however, an occasional reaction. The problem here is that we react inconsistently and nobody outside of our country knows when or why we will lash out.

However, this country does have some universal policy mandates that have been with us from our origins as a country, and it is important to know them. We have five geopolitical goals that drive our grand strategy. (See George Friedman's wonderful book, The Next 100 Years, for the best analysis and predictions based on them.) All of these policies involve national security.

1. The complete domination of North America by the United States Army. We absorbed every bit of land from coast to coast over the 19th century through purchase, wars that we won, and settlement. This gave us an amazing geographic benefit enjoyed by no other major country: two oceans, many protected ports for trade, river systems that water and permit transport of goods covering half our country. Natural resources and human resourcefulness second to none.

2.  The elimination of any threat to the United States by any power in the Western Hemisphere. The Monroe Doctrine was declared even before we could defend it. We have defended it. We worry about Latin America only when we see a threat from another power at times of war. Cuba and the Soviets were the last such challenge.

3.  Complete control of the maritime approaches to the United States by the Navy in order to preclude any possibility of invasion.  Like the British, we discovered early how essential the navy is, much more important than any land army. Nobody has succeeded in invading us.

4.   Complete domination of the world's oceans to further secure U.S. physical safety and guarantee control over the international trading system. The Bretton Woods conference gave this gift to the world, which resulted in 70 years of unprecedented wealth and the spread of improved governance worldwide.

5.  The prevention of any other nation from challenging U.S. global naval power. Since the end of World War II, no other nation has had, or needed, the sort of naval power we have today. Even during the Cold War, the Russians could not rival our naval power. Geography is against them.

Friedman says that contrary to the notion that the U.S. has not won a war since the end of World War II (Korea truce, Vietnam retreat, Afghanistan and Iraq stalemates), we have to look at what our policy was. Part of U.S. policy is to prevent things from happening, to hinder our long-term enemies. The assault from Militant Islam, for example, greatly alarmed us on 9/11. However, our policy has resulted in the ultimate failure of this movement. Islamist attacks are largely in Muslim countries rather than here; and so long as Muslims are fighting each other, the United States has won its war. Islamist ideology produces individual martyrs willing to die, but they cannot win this way.

The Korean War ended in a truce, North Korea still threatening, but South Korea is prospering. North Korea, despite its noisy dictator, is not prospering, nor will it until his inner circle removes him.

We mistakenly thought Vietnam was an arm of Communist China. They were not, and although we withdrew, they are now on friendly terms with us and are starting to thrive.

And yes, we are an adolescent sort of country with a short attention span, but the grownups who usually lead us have done well. That's why I am an optimist.

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.    

Russia's New Global Aims


Laina Farhat-Holzman
April 29, 2017

The Cold War is back, but it is a different Cold War because it is a different Russia. It is important to know who the Russians are and what has shaped their worldview, including their sometimes justified suspicion and hostility toward the US.

Some features of Russian government go back to their beginnings as a country in the 10th century. Their geography places them very far north, which means that food, particularly grain harvests, are uncertain. The country has experienced more famine than feast. This is one reason for aggressively moving in on neighbors with better geography and better harvests (Ukraine and Belarus).

Their geography also places them amid several thousand miles of flat, open plains, leaving them vulnerable to attack from enemies. The only protection from this danger is to occupy neighbors and hold them as buffers against more distant invaders. This is how the Russian Empire grew, ultimately absorbing lands in 11 time zones.

Because of this geography and always imminent danger, they need stability in their governance, even when that stability is provided by a monster. Even under Ivan the Terrible or Stalin, better the devil they knew than the devil they didn't know. This explains their preference for dictators such as Assad or Ghadaffi than anarchy without them.

Unlike the way in which western Europe developed, with a basis in Roman and Church law, with charters of semi-independence given to cities and universities, with powerful guilds such as the merchants, Russia had none of these.

Because of Western Europe's geography, once Rome fell, no one country could conquer the rest. There were always multiple power centers that came and went among these countries. They warred among themselves, but one winner never prevailed.

Russia was converted in the 10th century from paganism to Byzantine Christianity (Russian Orthodox), and from the start, this religion and the Russian rulers (Tsars) functioned in unity. There was no Protestant Reformation in Russia. In the Kremlin museum, I recall seeing, side by side, the hundreds of jeweled dressed of Catherine the Great and the jeweled robes and treasures of the Orthodox Church, a troubling show of extravagance in a country where peasants froze and starved. During the Communist period, this reality was condemned and the first effort was made to create a more equal citizenry. At least, this was the theory that made Communism so appealing to idealists who never caught on until the USSR collapsed, that this was a cruel hoax.

What is perennial in today's Russia is an autocratic ruler (Vladimir Putin); seizure or domination of neighboring countries as buffers (Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus); a vicious security system that does not hesitate to use assassination; rabid propaganda system (fake news is not new; remember the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”); and distaste for western democracy. Like the late Russian Empire, the USSR, and Putin today, there is paranoia about the press, about spies, and distrust of “intellectuals.”

Russia actually had a brief taste of democracy upon the fall of the USSR, but it morphed into anarchy and criminal chaos. They want no more of that. There is little difference in the way Putin rules from the rule of the Communists before him and the Tsars before them. Although monarchy has not returned, the Orthodox Church, banned during the Marxist period, has returned and is promoted.

But Putin's Russia is not a revival of the USSR. For one thing, its population has shrunk in half since the beginning of World War II and shows no signs of reviving. The fertility rate is as low as that of Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and Greece---all of them having experienced fascism or communism in the near past.

And Putin's Russia has only a poisonous nationalism going for it, not as persuasive an ideology as Marxist-Leninist Communism. Ideologies are ideas with teeth: ideas that people can live for, or willingly die for. Today's Russia does not have that, other than greed, corruption, and efforts to destabilize their enemies. Their tenure as a major power may well melt down before this century is out.


Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at Lfarhat102@aol.com or www.globalthink.net.    

Laina At the Movies

By Laina Farhat-Holzman
April 2017

Ghost in the Box

When I saw this title, I thought of the Roman Deus ex Machina (god out of the box), which meant a hard to believe rescue in a play, a superhuman intervention.
Perhaps this is what this film had in mind.

The story is based on a popular Japanese manga (a comic book) which tells the story of a young woman who is the first of her kind, her brain housed in a completely artificially manufactured body (think about the computers now that can produce body parts). She has been designed to be a superhero who fights terrorism. She comes to life on her creator's table, taking her first breath. Everything works in her brain except for her memory of her past life as a human being, which is very vague.

I really like science fiction films, especially when they explore issues that are beyond our current capabilities. These films also give me a window on the current public psyche. Every summer, sci-fi films come out with the same paranoid visions: there is always a mad scientist (science going amok), danger to the world posed by human arrogance, and intervention by heroic opponents. For me, this is a reading of some subliminal public fears.

This film, unfortunately, ran into trouble because its star, Scarlett Johansson, who plays the human-robotic heroine, Major, is not Japanese, or not Japanese enough. She did look, perhaps, exotic if not Asian, but considering the story, her face and body were artificially created and were neutral. Her brain might be Japanese, but her human robotic form might not be.  I had no trouble with this, but the “identity politics” folks complained bitterly about a White woman playing a Japanese. Considering that this is a science fiction film, I find that silly.

Of course the very idea that a human brain could exist in an artificial body gives in to a very bad western notion: that mind and body are separate. They are not. The brain is affected by hormones, health, blood flow, and many other elements of our physical makeup. But setting that scientific reality aside, if such a thing were possible, this is a very interesting heroine. These very ideas are based on the increasing use of computer-generated aids to the body, with the concern that in the future we will all be both human and robot.
Despite its box office failure, if you can find this film somewhere, I really recommend it. Ghost, in Japanese terms, means Soul in ours. She is a soul in a shell.

Although better than many sci-fi films that come in the summer, this one still shares the fear of the future, a Tokyo that is so robotized that it is freaky, yet the beautiful Tokyo Bay reminding us of our earthly home. There is the heartless mad scientist, of course, the motherly scientist who creates the beautiful “Major,” Juliette Binache (Dr. Ouelet), and the fascinating CEO of the robotics factory, Takeshi Kitano, who speaks Japanese throughout the film while everyone else speaks English. The film is very cosmopolitan (world of the future), but recognizably Japanese. I think it was fun and I don't care that Scarlett Johansson is not Japanese. She was Japanese-ish, and that is fine with me.

The Zookeeper's Wife

This is the true story of a couple in World War II Warsaw who owned a private zoo where they hid a number of Jews fleeing Nazi massacre. The film is based on a book that I have not yet read, but knowing the story, I really wanted to like this movie. The filmmaker's intentions were good, but the results were less than credible.

Why the film only mention's the zookeeper's wife and not her husband, Dr. Jan Zabinski played by Johan Heldenbergh (who was equally involved in the rescues) is puzzling. Perhaps this was supposed to be a corrective on the idea that only men can endeavor dangerous and brave things, which we already know is not so.

The wife, Dr. Antonina Zabinski, was played by Jessica Chastain. The character was a refugee from the Russian Revolution herself, which explains why she was so particularly sympathetic to the plight of the Warsaw Jews, a sympathy not widely shared among Poles, unfortunately. In hiding Jews, she was indeed risking her life and that of her husband and young son, and could well have been betrayed by anybody working in or around the zoo.

The war began on September 1, 1939, when the Nazis bombed Warsaw and shortly thereafter occupied the country. The animals in the zoo were terrified by the air raids and quite a few were killed. In the film, Antonina is shown hugging, kissing, and nuzzling, calling each by name, every creature in her zoo. I find it difficult to believe that any zoologist would treat wild animals that way and expose them to the public with so little protection, but the filmmaker wanted to make the point that she was very kind-hearted, despite keeping animals imprisoned.

After the German occupation, it was obvious that the family's business would not be able to support them. With the occupying force comes a German zoologist, Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl) who presents himself to the Zablinskis as a “fellow scientist” who offers to rescue the more valuable animals not killed by the air raid. He promises to keep the creatures safe in Berlin during the war which, he says, Germany will quickly win, and then return them to her. (Unknown to her, this zoologist was a devoted Nazi who wanted to conduct experiments to try to bring back the prehistoric auric, a giant buffalo-like beast.) But in return for surrendering the animals, he offers to keep them in business raising pigs in the now empty cages since meat will be much needed by the occupying army.

Meanwhile, Dr. Zabinski witnesses what is happening in Warsaw where a ghetto is set up to imprison all the city's Jews, until they can all be taken to concentration camps to be exterminated. The Ghetto is a nightmare place where during the first winter and thereafter, people froze, starved, and died of diseases, their bodies lying on the streets. The Zabinskis had Jewish friends, whom they initially hid in the caves beneath their home, but then as the numbers rose, used the caves as a way station while forged documents were created for them to use in escaping the country.

I am sure that reading the book would better allow me to believe the details of this story: the horrors of the ghetto, the problems of feeding so many people at a time of war when food was scarce and rationed.  Antonina asks her cook to double the beet soup because she is really hungry (not convincing!).

The German zoologist turns out to be a high-ranking Nazi officer and he takes the opportunity to visit the Zabinskis at will, particularly hoping to get sexual acquiescence from Antonina. She flirts with him, only to keep him at bay and unaware of their illicit activities, but her flirtation upsets her husband (and this moviegoer).

The Jews, people who had been deprived of any property, changes of clothes, opportunities to bathe, little food, looked far too healthy and pristine in this movie. I just did not believe that they were in the straits they were in. This film was not Schindler's List.

The emotional response to this story was damaged by the way it was filmed. It was well intentioned and poorly executed. Read the book.

Going in Style

I had been less than amused by the trailer, but gave this movie a chance because of the actors in it.  Playing lifelong working class buddies were thee elderly men, Willie (Morgan Freeman), Joe (Michael Caine), and Albert (Alan Arkin). At the film's opening, they are shown, each facing a new and devastating problem. Joe has received a notice from his bank that his mortgage payment is in arrears, and he goes to the bank to discuss this problem, including the mysterious absence of his retirement checks. The banker, an obnoxious snob, tells him that he should have read the small print about his mortgage payment doubling and that the missing retirement funds were not his problem.

Willie is having a medical problem that he has not shared with his buddies: that his kidneys are failing and the treatments he has received are no longer working. There is a hint that money for a kidney transplant, even should he find a donor, is not there. He depends on his retirement money to help support his daughter and much loved granddaughter.

Albert, Willie's housemate, has pretty much given up on longevity but is nonetheless pursued by a beautiful shopkeeper (played by Ann-Margaret), who refuses to give up on seducing him.

All three find out together that the company they had worked for for 40 years was now being acquired by an overseas company and that their pensions would be cancelled.

Joe had shortly before been in the bank when bank robbers came in and left with suitcases full of money and they had gotten away with it. He convinces his pals that this would be the only way out of their problems: go where the money is and take it!

So the rather insulting humor directed at the three old fogies by the film turns into a heist movie, much to its improvement. Everything having to do with the working class people, especially the older ones, had been milked for cheap humor until that point.

This movie is worth seeing for how the heist is carried out, what the three do with the money, and how the entire dark underpinnings of the movie change when money is introduced. Being both old and poor is pretty bad; old and rich is much better.

Watching the credits at the end of the movie, I suddenly saw one name that explained why so much of this film was distasteful:  Stephen Mnuchin! Mnuchin, now Donald Trump's Treasury Secretary, was formerly a very rich hedge fund manager and a Hollywood producer! Suddenly I understood some of the elements of this film: they echoed Trump's election campaign which demonized banks, large corporations, and American institutions that oppressed “the working class.” This otherwise light entertainment was in reality a political illustration of what is wrong with America (disdain for the working class) and the way to get even: rob the bank. Under our now president, the banks are doing very nicely, the restraints on their abusing their unwary customers are being removed, and the swamp of New York and DC moneymen is not only not being drained, but is doing very well indeed.  Bah, humbug.

Frantz

With the centennial of the end of the horrific World War I, there are many books and quite a few films that illuminate that period.  Frantz was one of them.

In this French/German film, Anna (Paula Beer) is a bereft young German woman whose fiancé, Frantz, was killed in the trenches of World War I. Adrian (Pierre Niney), a French veteran of the war, makes a mysterious appearance in her town, placing flowers on Frantz's grave. Adrian's presence is met with resistance by the small community still reeling from Germany's defeat, yet Anna gradually becomes closer to the handsome and melancholy young man, as she learns of his deep friendship with Frantz.

This was the information available about the film, and I was expecting to see a moving romance in which the still bitter enemies find a way to reach out to each other, even to the point of falling in love.

Alas, I found the film very sad indeed; the two young people who might have let their love produce healing, not able to go beyond their own countries' bitterness. The young German woman tried to bring healing by perpetrating a huge lie to the parents of her dead fiancé, a lie that was the initial stance of the young Frenchman as he courted her and her almost in-laws. He finally told Anna the truth, and she, too late, tried to forgive him. Perhaps this was too much reality for me. It was just sad, sad, sad.

What was significant in this movie was the reality that World War I was over, but the poison that caused it was still festering.

Gifted

One significant mystery among human beings is “genius,” the emergence of some extraordinary gift well beyond the norm and something not acquired by hard work alone. Human intelligence is a spectrum that runs from simple to extraordinary.  Furthermore, genius can be directed to numbers (math), science, music, literature, and art.

Sometimes genius emerges early in childhood, such as Mozart's prodigious musicality that was evident when he was three years old.  Math geniuses appear in young adulthood, but sometimes can be seen in young children.

This film is about a seven year old girl (played with unaffected charm by Mary Adler) who is obviously a math prodigy whose gifted mother committed suicide, leaving the child in the care of her brother (Chris Evans in a beautiful performance too), a philosophy professor. The girl's uncle has been home-schooling her, but at seven, he decided that she needed the normal experience of school with children her age. His aim was to see her grow into a happy, well adjusted child, which he believed was his sister's wish too.

Enter the girl's grandmother (Lindsay Duncan), a British mathematician who is set upon providing every opportunity for the child to further ready her for a brilliant career as a math genius. She and her son take the dispute to court, which exposes both arguments to a judge.

This is a lovely film, beautifully and sensitively acted, and it has (for me) a happy outcome.


Thing of interest from Ashok Malhotra

All ISCSC members and Civilitas blog readers are invited to explore Ashok Malhotra's recent accomplishments. Ashok is a loyal member of ISCSC and has been for many years. His efforts have even led to his nomination as a nominees for the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. This short list will enable you to experience Ashok's wisdom for yourself. Enjoy!


1. GRANDPA CHOPRA'S STORIES FOR LIFE'S NOURISHMENT, (English Edition) Vol 1 (40 stories--each with a moral like Aesop’s Fables): Amazon or Google Search
2. WSKG Radio Interview “Grandpa Chopras’s Stories for Life’s Nourishment Retold” By Ashok Kumar Malhotra http://wskg.org/arts/grandpa-choprass-stories-for-lifes-nourishment-retold-by-ashok-kumar-malhotra/
3. The Ashok Malhotra Story: THE NIGHTINGALE & THE FIREFLY, Allotsego.com (A Three-Part Series on Ashok’s Life)
4. Wisdom Stories of Grandpa Chopra - Volume 2, Kindle Edition
by Ashok Malhotra (Second Volume contains 40 new stories--each with a moral like Aesop’s Fables):Go to Amazon or Google Search
5. INTERVIEW WITH DR. ASHOK KUMAR MALHOTRA
Go to: IdeaIndia.com

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Subject: National Integration Week in Pransala, Gujarat


Dear  Compassionate Friends of ISCSC:

How are you?

I just finished six days at Pransala, Gujarat, India (Dec 23-29) where Swami Dharambandhu is running the National Integration week with 15000 children, 2000 security force personnel, 2000 soldiers and 1000 visitors. I met with governors of Bihar and Tripura, Deepka, the Olympic gymnast, a number of philanthropists, political leaders, scientists working to send missions to Mars, cyber security people and other compassionate people. I also gave four lectures to these students from 20 states of India urging them to follow the slogan "each one teach one" to wipe  out illiteracy in India and the world in our life time.



Linda will arrive today and we will start our Journey together to visit all the seven school in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Namaste and best wishes for the New Year.

Ashok