Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mismanagement, Misconduct, and Spills

The fifteen month delay between the end of Bush Administration and the BP oil spill may allow those already despising Obama to suggest the systemic forces that led to the spill had something to do with his administration, but the evidence is overwhelming that the culture of the Minerals Management Service (MMS – now Mismanagement, Misconduct, and Spills) is a solid byproduct of the Bush administration energy policies and Dick Cheney's secret Energy Task Force. Remember the secret meetings?

CNN has a good piece providing a fair overview and some details of the MMS fiasco, which includes outrageous behavior like having the companies fill out the inspection forms in pencil that government inspectors would then overwrite in pen, oversight officials receiving tickets to ball games, restaurants, and yes, the happy bunch literally doing drugs and having sex with each other.

In what is beyond infuriating, BP officials now say it will be August before they can stop the flow, at the earliest. As this outrage starts hitting the beaches in earnest (like it hasn't already, but that said, this is nothing compared to what's coming), as the entire coastlines of multiple states including Florida become grotesque, the outrage will approach hysteria and the awareness of the MMS orgy will go mainstream. It will be interesting to see how Obama's adversaries try to obscure the inconvenient fact that the MMS culture of hanky panky was put in place years before he took office.

The Exxon Valdez oil spill was about 10.8 million gallons. This spill does that about every ten days, so we're looking at a good 10 to 15 Valdez size spills dumped into the Gulf over three to four months. The math points to over 150 million gallons, perhaps 200 million, which would make it the 2nd worst oil spill in history worldwide, surpassed only by the intentional holocaust perpetrated by the Iraqi military during the first gulf war. The 5 worst oil spills so far:

1.Arabian Gulf/Kuwait - January 19, 1991
Location: Persian Gulf, Kuwait. Oil Spilled: 380-520 million gallons
Iraqi forces, attempting to thwart a potential landing of American soldiers, opened the valves at an offshore oil terminal and released enough oil to cover the entire state of Rhode Island one foot deep in oil.

2. Ixtoc 1 Oil Spill - June 3, 1979 - March 23, 1980
Location: Bay off Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico. Oil Spilled: 140 million gallons
Pemex, a state-owned Mexican petroleum company was drilling an oil well when a blowout occurred. The oil ignited causing the drilling rig to collapse. Oil began gushing out of the well into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 10,000 to 30,000 barrels a day for almost an entire year before workers were finally able to cap the well and stop the leak.

3. Atlantic Empress Oil Spill - July 19, 1979
Location: Off the coast of Trinidad and Tobago. Oil Spilled: 90 million gallons
This Greek oil tanker was caught in a tropical storm and collided with another ship, the Aegean Captain. The damaged ship continued to lose oil before finally sinking on August 3, 1979.

4. Kolva River Oil Spill - September 8, 1994
Location: Kolva River, Russia. Oil Spilled: 84 million gallons
A ruptured pipeline caused this enormous oil spill. The pipeline had been leaking for eight months, but the oil was contained by a dike. When the dike collapsed, it sent millions of gallons of oil into the Russian Arctic.

5. Nowruz Oil Field Spill - February 10 to September 18, 1983
Location: Persian Gulf, Iran. Oil Spilled: 80 million gallons
This spill was the result of a tanker collision with an oil platform. The platform tilted and was closed, but the weakened platform collapsed sending oil spewing into the Persian Gulf. Delays in getting the leak capped were caused by the ongoing Iran-Iraq War.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Framing the Professional

Most have probably seen The Professional from the perspective of watching a movie. I invite you to see the film again from the perspective that this is Natalie Portman's first film at the age of thirteen. This picture offers a deeply compelling example of how a development at its time has no idea of the context that can be created for it in the future.

To understand what I am saying requires a true understanding of context. At the time the film was produced, Portman was completely, totally, utterly unknown. This was six years before her leading role in Star Wars, her further advancement in V for Vendetta, her escalating career as an advocate for animal and human rights.

Yes, you've already seen the film, but I invite you to watch again through the lens that the film is totally about Natalie Portman. Learn about Portman, her roles in pictures that include the above as well as Closer, Cold Mountain, and Heat, and then see this gem again. At thirteen, she plays a twelve year old going up against the likes of Gary Oldman and Danny Aiello in a creative and completely original piece of not only must see cinema, but must see again cinema.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Speaking Out

Certain astute individuals such as David Frum have noted that the GOP is going to have a difficult time meeting expectations in the upcoming elections if it remains the The Party of No. Recognizing this, the party is attempting to find talking points for a 2010 version of its successful 1994 Contract With America. Dana Milbank has a hilarious piece on the recently launched Republican website, America Speaking Out, designed to solicit ideas for its agenda. Many have known and written about the sheer bankruptcy of the GOP regarding what it stands for. The answer is coming soon, as suggested by these real submissions posted at the site. I did not make any of these up.

1. End Child Labor Laws
2. Congress should show that Obama’s birth certificate is fake.
3. We need traditional values in education. A teacher told my child that dolphins were mammals and not a fish. If it swims, it is a FISH.
4. Build a castle style wall along the border.
5. Repeal all amendments to the Constitution.
6. Don’t let the illegals run out of Arizona…I think we should identify them in case they try to come back over. Like maybe tattoo a big scarlet "I" on their chests – for "illegal."
7. I oppose the Hispanicization of America. These are not patriotic people.
8. Liberals constantly whine about how government $ is needed for roads, libraries, etc. Once you back down on that front, everything else follows! I own a Dodge Baby Ram that can pretty much cover any terrain in America. Let's end taxes completely, let the roads go bad and see who comes out on top.
9. Require therapy for gay parents before they can be allowed near their children.
10. Everyone knows Americans are above average, so let's show it. I propose a Constitutional amendment so that only Americans with an IQ above 146 can vote.
11. The United States is a Constitutional Republic, not a Socialist Republic, founded on the free enterprise concepts embodied in the New Testament and enunciated by Our Lord Jesus Christ. As a Constitutional Republic it is imperative that all trappings of socialism be abolished forthwith. Therefore, all government-owned highways, schools, national forests and national parks are to be sold to private enterprise as soon as possible. Further, all "social" programs such as Social Security and Medicare are to be phased out within five (5) years. Finally, restrictions on private property and free enterprise such as those encompassed in Title II of the Civil Rights Act (so-called public accommodations) must be abolished.
12. Enough is enough! Let law-abiding minors carry handguns to promote personal responsibility.
13. The government should get out of the way and respect our freedom. They should lift all bans on smoking, guns, hunting, and food. At the same time, they should strengthen the moral fiber by making it illegal to take drugs, teach evolution in schools, and gamble.
14. No more apologizing to ANY country! We ARE the best country in the world and we have every right to say so. Many of our own have died for the right to say this. Build the country and it's citizens up!!! WE CAN DO ANYTHING!!!
15. STOP STEALING OUR WATER! I was watering my plant the other day and I noticed all the water disappeared! WHAT has the state of LIBERAL politics gotten to when your water is vanishing from everywhere!! Sometimes I go to the bathroom and there's no toilet paper either, they should FIX that!

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Emerging Truth

The Republican nomination of Rand Paul for the US Senate in Kentucky may have been just what the doctor ordered in terms of illuminating the dystopian nightmare for which the Tea crowd truly stands. Paul has the purity to say what most in the tea crowd prefer to obfuscate (except the various signs, racial slurs, spitting on Congress..). We already knew that tea sentiments are racist as hell, but Paul will come out with it on record and repeatedly. The media now have it everywhere that he thinks your local Circle K or Denny’s should have the right to refuse admittance to the spics and jigaboos. Matt’s Dry Cleaning can tell the colored folk to take their suits elsewhere.

On the catastrophe in the gulf, a disaster with repercussions lasting decades inflicting incalculable and yet to be understood damage, criticism of the Obama administration is mounting for not being more aggressive. The "Obama’s fault no matter what" crowd is starting to label the atrocity as "Obama’s Katrina." In light of this, and I promise I’m not making it up, Rand Paul is saying that Obama's criticism of BP's woeful mismanagement is Un-American.

Uh, say again? Perhaps in the America he wants to see. Most (self-included) would like to see a stronger response from the White House. Paul makes no mention of the lack of inspections (violating law), the failure to follow safety procedures (violation of law), allowing broken back up systems to remain in disrepair (violation of law), the deliberate use of risky procedures, and now that the catastrophe has occurred, the intentional misrepresentation of the size of the spill. Paul speaks of the spill almost dismissively, "Accidents happen."

BP is being mistreated?

I’m delighted that the GOP nominated Rand Paul for the Senate. We have five more months of his clarifying and illustrating the distilled ignorance made possible when a small gang of monsters reap billions entertaining the most base elements of society. Disband the FDA. The meat and pills are safe because that's good business. Disband the EPA. Union Carbide, Dow, and Dupont would never pollute the water or air. That thing in Bhopal? Hey, accidents happen. Our banks and financial institutions don't need regulation. They would never put our economy at risk.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kentucky and Arizona Flirt with New York

The Kentucky Republican primary contest between establishment Trey Grayson and tea's Rand Paul closely mirrors the Arizona Republican primary between establishment John McCain and tea's JD Hayworth. Grayson and McCain have huge big name support but have been targeted for defeat by the tea party elements in their states.

In Kentucky, US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has endorsed Grayson, and Grayson is a well connected and approved part of the Kentucky GOP machine, which thinks little of the recalcitrant dentist known by close associates as arrogant and, well, not particularly nice. Make no mistake, Grayson is the superior human being, but Rand Paul will win in the primary.

In Arizona, Jan Brewer, John Kyl, Sarah Palin, Grover Norquist, Trent Franks, Jeff Flake, John Shadegg (the list goes on) have endorsed John McCain. McCain probably wishes Arizona's primary were this week like Kentucky's because he is probably still ahead (barely), as his incumbency and name recognition give him a formidable edge unavailable to non-incumbent Grayson. However, all developments point to a deteriorating situation for McCain. Three more months at the current rate of decay puts McCain on the chopping block against any adversary, even JD Hayworth.

In both races, the Democrats are salivating. In Kentucky, Democrat Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo will be delighted to face Rand Paul, who is on record saying some rather crazy things. In Arizona, few would be happier than Democrat Rodney Glassman to see a JD Hayworth nomination in August. Hayworth, of course, has never said or done anything problematic for a general election to the US Senate.

Both Kentucky and Arizona are flirting with New York, as in New York's House CD-23 election last year where a tea takeover ousted an established GOP candidate. Tea baggers squealed and howled with delight (while Democrats smiled in silence) about taking their country back, and then the Democrats won a seat held by Republicans for decades.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Deja Vu All Over Again

In Bhopal, India in December 1984 a pesticide plant operated by Union Carbide released enough methyl isocyanate (i.e. cyanide) to expose over 500,000 people and kill over 15,000. The ground water in the region is still contaminated. No one has been prosecuted. The investigation found:

--Staffing at the plant had been cut to save money. Workers who complained about codified safety violations were reprimanded, and occasionally fired.
--No plan existed for coping with a disaster of this magnitude.
--Tank alarms that would have alerted personnel to the leak hadn't functioned for at least four years.
--Other backup systems were either not functioning or nonexistent.
--The plant was equipped with a single back-up system, unlike the four-stage system typically found in American plants.
--Tank 610 held 42 tons of MIC, well above the prescribed capacity. (It is believed that 27 tons escaped in the leak.)
--Water sprays designed to dilute escaping gas were poorly installed and proved ineffective.
--Damage known to exist, such as to piping and valves, had not been repaired or replaced because the cost was considered too high. Warnings from U.S. and Indian experts about other shortcomings at the plant were similarly ignored.


In the fifties The Hooker Chemical Company sold land to the government (for one dollar) with the secret objective of escaping environmental responsibility. Over 100 homes were built at The Love Canal. Cancer and birth defects ravaged the community and it had to be evacuated.

We can and do make double hulled tankers, but they cost more, and a double hulled Valdez would impact executive bonuses. Corporations have their priorities, as shown by the locked doors that incinerated over 200 girls in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. One would think we might have learned from the Savings and Loan fiasco, Enron, or Worldcomm. Yeah, these guys do the right thing.

Just this week we've learned about a Tylenol plant where drugs were manufactured without the ability to inspect the chemicals used, resulting in super potent batches of infant's Tylenol that had to be recalled. Inspectors found filthy conditions including incubators covered with dust and debris and filters designed to clean the air that were saturated with dust. Drums used to transport raw materials to plant were contaminated with a bacteria identified as B. cepacia.

The 17 page inspection report

The gutting of regulation and oversight started by the Reagan administration and taken to levels of collusion if not outright incest during the Bush atrocity has fostered the woeful neglect and grotesque irresponsibility that occurs when the insatiable greed of corporations goes unchecked. Unless stopped, oil companies trash the environment, banks produce financial meltdown, and drug manufacturers poison us. They will take every shortcut, cut every corner, bend every law, and laugh at possible disaster with reckless abandon for as long as they can. What do they care, and why should they? When it comes to The Corporation, we can spend what it takes to regulate, or we can spend what it takes to clean up the catastrophe.

To truly wake us up, perhaps it will take an Armageddon like event, say a complete financial meltdown that throws the country into a deep recession and costs over a TRILLION to fix. If not that, then perhaps an environmental disaster equal to ten Valdez spills that takes out the entire gulf of Mexico for three decades.

Oh, wait.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Trucker (2008)

James Mottern wrote and directed his first film, Trucker (2008), a surprisingly sharp, street smart, and touching story of young woman who ekes out a living as a truck driver. Still living a life of meaningless one night stands, she must face a son she had eleven years earlier now that the father is dying. The film provides one of the most powerful examples of cinema rooted in reality that I have seen in a long time. It is so real, so grounded, so solid, that it almost occurs as a documentary diving into the real interactions of actual people.

The performances are top of the line with Benjamin Bratt perfect as the dying father and Jimmy Bennett as a very compelling child. Michelle Monaghan won a Best Actress Award from the San Diego Film Critics Society, and the movie won several awards at the Festivals. As a first time director, Mottern's work already surpasses that of most established Hollywood hot shots.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Coloring Arizona

9500 Liberty



Some in Arizona might want to consider learning from the mistakes of others.

Brookings Institute rigorous treatment of the factors at work.

I took note of the lady suggesting this issue is responsible for 911. In the video, note the crowds and the nature of the bifurcation. Familiar?

The Tea Party movement has nothing to do with race. Uh-huh.

Liza, Nav, myself, and others have been discussing the GOP dance with this snake for quite some time. Well, the snake's on a mission now. Ironically, after turning NY CD-23 blue their next casualty was a Utah Republican.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Poll Thickens Plot

An interesting Arizona poll this week shows Senator John McCain soundly trouncing challenger JD Hayworth in the August primary. In spite of McCain's making confusing statements ("A maverick, moi?") and looking 400 years old, the poll supports conventional wisdom that McCain's name recognition and incumbency provide huge resiliency. Apparently the decades and decades of time in office give McCain an edge Hayworth has yet to erase. Tick tock.

More interesting is what the poll suggests about a general election contest between former Tucson Councilman Rodney Glassman and Hayworth. Not surprisingly, against McCain Glassman faces the virtually impossible. However, against Hayworth the name recognition gap is much smaller, and I would not underestimate Glassman's ability to address this should Hayworth win the nomination. Showing Glassman and Hayworth in a virtual dead heat if they face each other, the poll points to a very real possibility of a NY CD-23 result. The hard right will cheer and howl in August over the ouster of a GOP establishment candidate. Then after the general election an established red seat has turned blue. AZ Republicans have an August dilemma here. Is a Hayworth vote in August a Glassman vote in November?

Quite possibly. I don't think the GOP nor its Tea component fully grasp what they have done in terms of the minority vote. In a McCain/Glassman general election Hispanics were 10% for McCain vs. 58% Glassman. African Americans were 3% and 67%. In a Hayworth/Glassman general election Hispanics were 6% for Hayworth and 60% for Glassman, with African Americans at 2% and 65%. By demonizing Obama with shrill hysteria if not outright hatred, Republicans have all but abandoned the African American vote. Now, the racist rhetoric seen at tea gatherings and the Arizona immigration fiasco have riled up Latinos. Arizona's minority population now exceeds 42% (African Americans-5%, Native Americans-5%, Asians-2.5%, and Latinos now surpassing 30%) with whites at 57.5%.

Utah ousted GOP establishment Senator Robert Bennett Saturday. In my neck of the woods, Rand Paul is looking strong against establishment candidate (and Mitch McConnell endorsed) Trey Grayson. Still, in several cases establishment candidates have held off tea challengers, which I think McCain will manage to do. However, if McCain continues to make embarrassing moves attempting to display a present profile different from his past profile, if McCain slips to Hayworth, we may have a reprise of NY CD-23 where a GOP shift right hands the Democrats a seat that has been Republican for over four decades.

Now wouldn't that be something?

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Nine Terrific Bad Movies

One Million Years BC (1966) Having no dialog other than some grunts and semi-words, this movie is really bad, but 27 year old Rachel Welch running from dinosaurs, ferocious beasts, and beastly men, climbing over rocks and through crevices wearing a little piece of fur is not to be missed. The creature features in this classic – now that's entertainment. This film is a pleasure to watch.

Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) This film is seriously, truly BAD. I mean just awful, "I don't like hearin' noises, especially when there ain't sposed to be any." As if made for Mystery Science Theater, it has classic Bela Legosi chasing the lady in the white nightgown through the cemetery. The aliens send a message which includes, “You didn't actually think you were the only inhabitants of the universe? How could any race be so stupid?” Also, at the Pentagon, “We have reports of saucers flying so low the exhaust knocked people to the ground.”

At one point the alien shouts at the human, “You're stupid! Stupid! STUPID!!”

Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity (1987) is just butt awful bad. It's terrible, but virtually naked voluptuous babes expose copious amounts of eye candy as they run around with big ray guns in a fierce battle with fully clothed men and ugly mechanical robots. North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms condemned the film as "indecent" on the floor of the U.S. Senate in 1992. Uh, Jesse, how do you know? Watch it for the plot.

Bride of the Monster (1955) Bela Legosi plays the standard mad scientist out to conquer the world by using radioactivity to create an army of monsters that will do his bidding. He keeps an octopus in a large tank beside his laboratory, and as the hungry beast occasionally devours passers by, both police and a cute newspaper reporter start investigating. The lines, the acting, and the scenes are consistently bad enough to provoke almost continuous laughter.

J-Men Forever (1979). This film became popular on late night television's Night Flight and is not a film, per se, but a collection of stock footage assembled from hundreds of films. The evil disk jockey known as The Lightning Bug seeks to rule the world by brainwashing it with marijuana and rock and roll music. Fortunately, our J-Men heroes respond to the threat to humanity and save the day. Almost non-stop laughter.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978) This hysterical film has jokes embedded inside of jokes saturating its reeking badness. Prepare to laugh until it hurts. Tomatoes go on the rampage until it is discovered that the song “Puberty Love” played at sufficient volume destroys all of the tomatoes. To defeat the one killer tomato protecting itself with ear muffins, our hero gets sufficiently close to the beast holding up the song's equally fatal sheet music. How do people think of stuff like this?

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). Not much need for comment here. If you think this was actually a good movie, uh, yes, good, but good as bad. If you haven't seen it, you are missing a lot. My daughter did the whole routine at the theater. I watched at home.

Teenagers from Outer Space (1959) features the memorable scene where the bad teenager "skeletonizes" an innocent doggie and then rips the flesh off the bones of a woman in a swimming pool. What adds to the film's electricity is the teenager perspective where teens both know and matter more than the old folks. The need to destroy a giant lobster and the dramatic music are a hoot.

Billy Jack (1971) Some might argue that this is not a bad movie, and it really is worth seeing. Still, it's bad, but the alternative school and the exercises and discourse that occurs there provides a stirring if not longing for that brief period in history, entirely unlike today, where people actually did ask questions and listen when others replied.

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Monday, May 03, 2010

One Juicy Cloth Thread


The Tucson Choices blog recently featured an excellent Wake Up Tucson radio show conversation with University of Texas Professor Haywood Sanders (Curriculum Vitae), a political scientist who looked at urban politics during his graduate studies with an emphasis in public investment in large scale development activities. During his research into infrastructure investments and maintenance, he saw that cities facing serious infrastructure issues with sewer, water, roads, bridges, and others were deferring solutions to spend lots of money on convention centers, stadiums, and major hotels. His research resulted in the publication of Field of Schemes.

So why is this happening?

Briefly, cities perceive themselves as competing – for conventions, sports teams, trade shows, visitors, and tourists. Remember, Cloth is all about bilking communities out of millions of dollars without having to deliver results. What is the best way to organize for this? Consulting! Become a consultant who charges a ton of money to prepare a forecast. Number two in the racket are the construction contractors who rake in fortunes building the ball fields in Iowa. They get theirs whether anyone shows up or not. Dr. Sanders work finds that when you build it, they don't come, and that project after project woefully fails to fulfill on the forecasts provided. Further, he finds that the cast of characters cashing in at the trough is a rather fixed bunch (imagine that). A hilarious conversation educates Chris and Joe that HVS Consulting provides the economic analysis for projects all over the country, including the proposed Tucson convention center and hotel, which will generate "hundreds of permanent jobs and over 100,000 visitors every year."

CLOTH!


No it won't. Contractor Garfield Traub touts projects like a hotel in Lubbock, Texas and a convention center in Portland. Neither have been built. Who did the forecast telling Portland their center would attract the teaming masses of humanity? HVS. How about the publicly funded hotel in Myrtle Beach (a city known for its horrible shortage of lodging accommodations)? HVS. The one in Austin (desperate need for hotels there)? HVS. The Doubletree in Bay City, Michigan is going broke. Who did that forecast? HVS. The one in Phoenix? HVS. Wichita? HVS. The Emperors have no clothes.

What Sanders adds to the cloth conversation is that virtually the same thing is happening in city after city across the country, with consultants telling elected officials and eager contractors the benefits of building convention centers and hotels. In a sweet gig, the consultants say the same thing to each city. They just do find/replace with the city and hotel names in their report. How it works.

After studying in detail the strategic misrepresentation of numbers for a Dallas street car project, Don Pickrell at MIT published A Desire Named Streetcar about the deliberate fudging of numbers to justify its construction (Policy Analysis). The projects get built based on empty rhetoric and fictitious projections, and then rhetoric masks the woeful lack of results. Once built, public money continues to flow to subsidize the ongoing fiasco. Familiar?

This is exactly what I've been talking about for over three years, and it applies to more than hotels and street cars. It also applies to training programs for "impossible to saturate" positions. What I never would have guessed and had to learn the hard way is that scoring the funding is everything and delivering the projected results is irrelevant.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Elements Trilogy

Deepa Mehta’s Elements Trilogy consists of three extraordinary films, Fire (1996), Earth (1998), and Water (2005).

Fire is the first Indian film with an explicit depiction of homosexual relations, somehow managing to squeak through India’s censor board untouched. After a few weeks of screening before sold out audiences in November 1998, word got around, and homophobes, usually religiously affiliated, started storming and vandalizing the theaters. Beautifully, brilliantly, and powerfully illustrating the escalating electricity between two neglected wives, erupting into passionate female sexuality uncontrolled by men, the film provoked quite the ruckus, with all sorts of screaming, mayhem, arrests, trials, and noise before things settled down and people could watch it (still uncensored) without incident.

Earth: In 1947 Lahore, India a small crippled Parsee girl, Lenny, smashes a plate on the floor and asks her puzzled mother, "Can you break a country?"

The answer is yes, and this masterpiece unfolds the ensuing brutality through the eyes of Lenny, her beautiful nanny Shasta, and Shasta’s suitors, the Muslim “Ice Candy Man” Dil Navaz, the Hindu Hasan, and his Sikh friend. Lahore, in the Punjab, was an ancient cosmopolitan city where Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Parsee lived side by side in reasonable harmony until the partition, when unspeakable violence broke out, as it did in many other parts of India. Over a million people died in the sub-continent and perhaps 12 million people fled their homes.

Based on the autobiographical novel Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa, the film explores how civil turmoil affects personal relationships. Politics brings out the worst in everyone; submerged resentments and trivial jealousies fuel shocking atrocities. The film’s ending is gut wrenching, profoundly disturbing, and utterly unforgettable.

Water captures conservative India's brutal oppression of women who are expected to set themselves on fire when their husbands die. Blamed for their husbands' deaths, surviving wives have to enter "widow houses," often forced to turn to prostitution in order to survive. Mehta chose the holy city of Varanasi as the location of her film because widow houses still exist there. By this time, however, her reputation for making extraordinary, powerful, and influential films was well established. Now, adversaries truly feared her work.

Before production could begin, two thousand protesters stormed the ghats, destroying the main film set, burning and throwing it into the holy river. Three main political/religious parties led the angry mob: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHU), and the Kashi Sanskrit Raksha Sangharsh Samiti (KSRSS). Considering themselves the guardians of the culture of Varanasi, protesters burned effigies of Mehta and sent her death threats. Following the protests, the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee intervened and allowed the filming to continue. The filming was moved to West Bengal in Sri Lanka.

The Prime Minister intervened. Think about that. Hard to imagine in the United States, but this work is not about making money. This is the work of a soul that isn't for sale, serious cinema the likes of which almost never gets made in America. By this time, the world of cinema had discovered Mehta's work. Water received 10 awards and 11 nominations including the Oscar for Best Picture in a Foreign Language.

Deepa Mehta is a brilliant filmmaker who uses a feminist perspective and 20th century India to address the human condition applicable to everyone. Individuals outraged by the injustice of oppression, be it on account of gender, of race, or of status, will find her work a moving and compelling voice for the dignity of all people. Each film in the trilogy is a solid Five (out of Five) star gem. Bring the brain, the heart and the soul. You will need all three. Expect to be stirred in places Hollywood couldn't reach even if it had the courage to try.

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SOMETHING ELSE