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Working for the People

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Watched Netflix’s original documentary, Knock Down the House.

 

But there are things in this film which were left unsaid…or not explicitly said that need to understood.

Ever since Pres. Clinton and the DNC chased big biz and Wall St for donations, the DNC ignored Unions and working families. Policies favored the donors. Now we’re beginning to see a change. Workers from all over the nation are taking back Congress with ideas to return Congress to working people rather than for the plutocrats who’ve held policy sway for the last several decades. These are the New Democrats.

Democrats in the mode of Theodore Roosevelt and FDR who believe in Capitalism but don’t want to see Adam Smith’s version of Capitalism destroyed by a handful of Plutocrats and Oligarchs, determined to increase their own fortunes at the expense of the entire Nation,

Today’s Guilded Age Plutocrats & Oligarchs, as Chrystia Freeland in Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else in 2012 wrote, Plutocrats no longer owe their allegiance to the US. They have enough money to move from one country to another, depending upon where their own interests lie. In other words, they longer owe any allegiance to the US…and Republicans like Mitch McConnell not only help but align with them because his own interest lies in maintaining power. The kind of power that was always behind the throne of repressive regimes.

These new Democrats want to make life better for working families. “(I)t’s time for ordinary Americans to do extraordinary things,” and take America back for all of us, rather than just protecting & caring about plutocrats. By and large, American families are struggling to survive. They don’t have the time to read to newspapers. They don’t have the time to educate themselves about politics. They don’t have time.

Thus, we’ve ended up in the vortex in which the people with money – the plutocrats – own politics. But honestly, do they serve American family interests..or their own? Mitch McConnell believes plutocratic donors have the absolute right to use their excessive money to sway elections…because he believes they will keep him in power.

Power which he consistently uses against working families and in favor of plutocrats who he depends upon upon for donations and upon who he courts most aggressively. After Doidd-Frank passed, he went to Wall St to tell them the he would roll back the new Financial regulations if they donated enough to the GOP. That was less than 2 years after the Fin crisis during which so many working Americans lost everything.

Political pundits and operatives. often for their own financial motives, tend to downplay the movement on the left to return government to the People at large as some kind of radical or socialist ideology. It is anything but. It is a movement to balance the scales of justice and honor. It is a movement to return power to the People at large.

As an old person who’s studied a few different cultures and histories, including our own, I find these New Democrats a refreshing breathe of air. Regardless of how the corrupt Republican Party chooses to define them in order to stay in power, they truly believe that government should be working for working and middle class families rather than just the plutocrats.

American families deserve better than what they’ve endured during the last 40 years of Republican neo-liberal consensus. They deserve a seat at the table…and that is what these New Democrats are fighting to achieve.

Written by Valerie Curl

June 20, 2019 at 6:08 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

No Divine Right of Kings in the USA

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On June 15, 1215, King John, having lost his war against the English nobles, signed the Magna Carta. King John claimed that as King he had the unequivocal right to govern alone every aspect of English society. The nobles disagreed and went to war against him. At Runnymead, the nobles won and forced King John to sign the Magna Carta which, for the first time, gave nobles the right of dissent or agreement on any monarchial decree, essentially meaning they could stop any decree by the King that they beleived was not in their interests. Although King John signed the document, he had no intention of abiding by it (kind of like the signing documents of disagreement Presidents use today). However in 1297, Edward I confirmed the Magna Carta which since has part of England’s statute law.

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In the 1600s, King Charles, influenced by the French belief in the Divine Right of Kings, sought to bend Parliament to his will. Inheriting a depleted treasury and after completing two disastrous wars, he again was forced to go to Parliament which he had twice dissolved because they refused to give him the taxes he wanted. By this time, Parliament had numerous issues in conflict with the King, including religion (Charles was only nominally an Evangelical Anglican), the rights of Parliament, taxes. and Kingship prerogative. By 1640, Civil War broke out between the two factions: those supporting Charles and those opposed. Charles lost his head, and, thus, the Divine Right of Kings ended.

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In the decades following, Parliament gave great sway to the King to determine national policy and his/her requests for funding; yet Parliament remained in ultimate control of al funding issues which inevitably limited what the monarch could do, aside from issuing highly profitable monopolies on trade, for example Queen Elizabeth’s East India Company.  She and her counterparts hoped, by investing in these companies, they would reap rich rewards.

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It was only until George III ascended the throne and the English parliament pushed their right of taxation that American colonists began to revolt. George III’s theory of Devine Right of Kings to determine policy met resistance.

The American War of Independence was the culmination of the civil and political American Revolution resulting from the American Enlightenment. Brought to a head over the lack of American representation in Parliament, which was seen as a denial of their rights as Englishmen and often popularly focused on direct taxes levied by Parliament on the colonies without their consent, the colonists resisted the imposition of direct rule after the Boston Tea Party. Creating self-governing provinces, they circumvented the British ruling apparatus in each colony by 1774. Armed conflict between British regulars and colonial militiamen broke out at the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775. After petitions to the Crown for intervention with Parliament were ignored, the rebel leaders were declared traitors by the Crown and a year of fighting ensued. The colonies declared their independence in July 1776, listing twenty-seven grievances against the British king and legislature while asking the support of the populace. Among George’s other offences, the Declaration charged, “He has abdicated Government here … He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.”

[*As an aside, many American colonists who continued to support King George moved to Canada to avoid being embroiled in the conflict.]

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Meanwhile in Parliament as discussions began regarding the relative virtues of the American Revolution, particularly in light of the French Revolution. Edmund Burke, often considered the father of conservatism, spoke up in favor of the American Revolution. He said, that unlike the French Revolution which destroyed every institution (law, deliberation, non-partisan legal courts, justice, representation, etc), the American revolution sought to retain all of those noteworthy institutions of which Great Britain favored: elected representation of the people, equitable taxation, equal representation…and basically everything he saw as part of the Magna Carta agreement. Moreover, he agreed that change was a necessary part of humanity and the human condition, and while he agreed that change was inevitable (aka the American Revolution), that unlike in France change must be measured and slow so as to bring to bring the greatest numbers of people along and thereby avoid great disruption as seen during the French Revolution. In his view, as we’ve seen, sudden disruptive change leads to a backlash. The public must be prepared.

Skip forward a hundred years.

The British parliament in the 1800s enacted policies similar to modern American GOP supply side economics. Dickens wrote about the harm those policies caused in Great Britain. But even his Christmas tale does not adequately represent the massive horrors of starvation and deaths that resulted from Parliament’s supply side economics policy. Hundreds of thousands of Irish citizens died as a result of starvation & millions in Britian were impoverished because of economic beliefs which absolutely mirror today’s GOP.

So okay, skip forward a couple hundred years to President Trump. For the first time in American history, we have an American president, who unknowingly or not, has chosen to practice the Divine Right of Kings. He, like George III, makes egregious decrees via Executive Orders and expects Congress to submit. I hardly think that Edmund Burke would agree, as someone who himself believed human progress toward human & civil rights was both a necessary and public right. In  truth, Burke argued in Parliament for the Americans, against both the Crown and Parliament. What Burke argued against was radicalism from wherever it sprang but not in methodical, reasoned progress towards a more just and representative government.

For Trump, his uniformed view of democracy and his exceptionally fragile ego that requires constant adoration are similar to that of Charles I and George III and so many CEOs today. Thus, his belief in “I control it all and can do as I please”.

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Like the House of Lords in the 1600 and 1700s, the current Senate repeatedly has bowed to whatever Trump wanted in order to gain what they wanted: lower taxes on the wealthy and extraordinarily conservative…as well as often unqualified…judges on the nation’s highest courts. A bargain made in hell for which Mitch McConnell is entirely responsible. But which will come back to haunt America in the future, as accepted rights, liberties, freedoms and humane progress come under increased pressure from the Courts to turn back the clock. While Buckley said conservatives should say No and stand “athwart history”, I believe Burke would have said let human history move forward carefully.

But let’s again move forward.  Per a NY Times report of last week: Trump is guilty of the same crimes, if not worse, than Nixon was guilty. Think about that for moment: a president who not only considers himself above the law but seeks to subvert justice and the nation’s highest law enforcement agencies in his own favor. Isn’t this exactly what George III did in the Colonies? Is that exactly what led to Nixon’s downfall? What makes him any different than the British Kings who chose their own privilege over the rights of the people?

Then today, we have the WH spokesperson saying the President has the authoity to do whatever he wants. How is that attitude any different than King John’s? How is it any different than King Charles’ belief in the Devine Right of Kings?

After the failure of the Articles of Confederation, the most literate and educated men met in Philadephia to create a new Constitution. In that document are the founding legal principles of the nation. One of which is that Congress – the People’s houses – holds greater authority than any president. They wrote the Constitution specifically this way because they lived through a Monarch who believed he had the right to do whatever he chose, regardless of the People. In their minds, the President, having been voted on by the majority of voters, had the right to veto any measure he beleived was not in the public interest. At the same time, the Constitution gave Congress the mechanism to override that veto if a 2/3s majority beleived strongly enough in the legislation.

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Even though the Founders feared a despotic populist like Trump and tried to guard against it, they knew that the People would ultimately make the final choice as to whether or not the nation’s democracy would survive…and they warned against its lose.

The US has endured two great tragedies that rocked the nation, the Civil War and WWII. Either could have destroyed the Constitution that our Founders spent so many long, hot days arguing to create. But enough people who beleived in democracy and unity and human values came together to fight for justice, equality, liberty and freedom that those fights for our nation’s survival triamphed. I believe this great nation will survive Trump’s authoritarian (dictictorial) tendancies because we are a nation of laws and justice.  For the most part, I beleive most voters agree with the the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Edmund Burke understood exactly what American Colonists were saying. He understood they were expressing the same views that existed in the Magna Carta…and later in British Common Law. But what passes today for conservatism, having been philosophically bent and distorted by many different factions, ranging from corporate personhood (an idea the founders found abhorrant) to preferred religious beliefs to the subservience of the entire government to the unitary executive (aka the unlimited power of the President to control every branch of government, including those set up as poiitically independent branches, as per Dick Cheney – one of Nixon’s greatest defenders).

I doubt that Burke would agree with conservatives today. They certainly don’t seem to espouse his same beliefs.Nor do I beleive that Republicans today believe in our Nation’s fouding principles as well as methodical and rationally planned forward movement on human rights.

Today’s Republicans are proving to be more like King Charles’ defenders…and we know what happened to him…and them…in 1649.

 

 

 

Written by Valerie Curl

March 7, 2019 at 8:19 AM

Film Review: Closer to Heaven

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Just finished watching the 2008 film, Closer to Heaven, starring Ha Ji Won and Kim Myung-Min, The story revolves around a man suffering from Lou Gehig’s Disease and a woman who becomes an undertaker. Meeting early in her career and his disease, they become involved and fall in love and get married. He eventually dies of his disease.

Closer_to_Heaven-p3-engBut what makes this film so intriguing and heart-rending is the acting of the two major performers. Although both actors went on to leading roles in many wonderful dramas and films, their acting in this film exhibits their exquisite talent as actors.

Kim Myung-Min is a young man afflicted with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He’s bright and cheerful, smiling throughout his pain and knowledge of his eminent death. Ha Ji Won is his lover, his wife and his undertaker. She falls in love with him early in his diagnosis and stays with him throughout his illness. Despite his negative diagnosis, she can’t let go of him and his smile.

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It’s a love story that surpasses all hardships, including death..and both actors are superb. Their emotions and actions are so real that you can’t help but feel drawn into them as if the events are happening to you.

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But what really strikes at the heart of the viewer are the final moments of the film when Kim’s character, Jong-Woo, dies. Heartbroken and desperate, Ji-Soo (Ha Ji Won) lovingly cares for him, Those final moments of the film sum up the entire film: love is stronger and more enduring than death.

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As she lovingly applies makeup to his face, you see her enduring love for this man who was her husband, despite her knowing of his deadly disease.

Both lead actors won the 2009 Deajong (Grand Bell) and Blue Dragon Film Awards for their performances in this film for a good reason. Their acting went beyond superior, but without a script that allowed them to highlight their innate acting abilities, they could not have shown the skills that caused their audience to experience every emotion the actors exhibited onscreen.

At the end, I felt myself wanting to cry, even as Ji-Soo held back her tears out of love for Joon-Woo. Love, she shows, is enduring, carrying with it all the happy memories they shared.

In end all that counts is love.

 

Written by Valerie Curl

October 14, 2018 at 8:26 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

Movie Review: 22 July

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No one can forget the horrific slaughter of Norwegian children by an armed nationalist on July 22, 2011, by a White Nationalist.

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Now Netflix has produced a film, 22 July, portraying the slaughter of 68 children and injuring 110 more. For me, personally, it was difficult to watch the film dispassionately, separating script, screen play, acting, and direction from the factual basis of the film.

I admit to my own bias: I find xenophobia abhorrent, anti-Christian, and just plain evil. I keep thinking about what my parents generation fought for in WWII. They fought not only against Nazism & Japanese incursions, but against the whole idea of Ethnic Superiority, whether it was White Superiority in Europe or Japanese Superiority in Asia.

Watching 22 July is a deeply emotional film that lays out, in stark contrast, the difference between those who wish to divide on the basis of race, religion or country of origin, and those who choose to bring everyone together based on a belief in our shared humanity. A belief that inspired the world with this sentence from the American Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Although the United States has never fully accepted this value, as a nation we have progressively worked towards that goal. That is what makes this film so personally emotional for many of us. The slaughtered children were working for a more inclusive world that accepted all people as human beings, deserving of the same rights. But their murderer did not see the world, or humans, in the same way. He saw them as products of his ideological enemies.

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Anders Behring Breivik (Anders Danielsen Lie), like all racial and ethnic Nationalists that came before him, stretching back eons in history, truly believed the rhetoric that the “other” was coming to destroy their world, their way of life, their security. That myth, as documented by historians, perpetuated by tribal leaders or a Chief to drum up support to degrade another tribe’s humanity in order to justify invasion and slaughter or just to shore up the tribe’s support for him, goes back thousands of years to mankind’s early tribes. What better way to cement a leader’s position and popularity than to drum up a war against a supposed enemy? (For reference, in the rhetorical battle in the 12th C. between the two Popes, one of them used this same tactic to win. He created the Crusades by claiming the Muslims were the enemy of Christianity and called on all Christian nations to wage a Holy War against Islam in the name of Jesus Christ. As a result, he won the rhetorical battle for Pope.)

Al that said, it does not excuse what Anders did in murdering and injuring so many innocent children…but it partially explains why he did it. He listened and accepted what those on the radical right were (and still are) preaching. He is the product of their fevered quest for power.

Whether or not those on the far right, in the EU or the US or Middle East or elsewhere in the world, actually believe what the say is up for debate, but what is not debatable is that millions of people, like Anders, believe them.

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But what makes it difficult to review this film is because of the deeply emotional subject matter. Overall, the film deals with the subject of the murders and xenophobia fairly but perhaps too lightly. It is almost too surface skimming rather than in-depth, never going to deeply into the horrors and life or death struggles those children and their families endured. Yet, the story itself, so close in our collective Amemory, certainly yields more than enough emotion.

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After watching this film, however surface-level the subject matter was treated, this is a film that should be watched. Because regardless of the Far Right, Alt-Right, Trumpists, Steve Bannons and Steve Millers, and ISIS groups, we must find a way back to accepting our common humanity. Moreover, America must lead the way as we historically have done for the last 75 years. This film shows us exactly why.

Written by Valerie Curl

October 12, 2018 at 9:12 PM

American Values

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Saudi’s Prince reliably has been accursed of the murder of a Washington Post journalist. The journalist was a Saudi citizen and American resident who was lured into the Saudi Embassy in Turkey and not only murdered but dismembered.

For many Americans, the Saudi’s murder of this journalist is meaningless and unimportant. What happened was a half a world away to someone that many Americans have been carefully taught to hate. His death means nothing to them. He was a foreigner, an alien, not an American in their views.

But what if that scenario was different?

But I want you do something. I want you to suspend your thinking right there. I want to you imagine, instead, that the slaughtered and dismembered journalist was your son or brother or father or cousin or nephew. What if that journalist was a member of your family? How would you feel?

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Trump said America would look into the situation, but he considered the $100 Billion plus arms deals with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) more important. Making money was more important than human lives. Again, imagine your own son or father or cousin or nephew was the object of Trump’s dismissal of your family member in favor of his transactional regard for money and profit?

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How would you feel? What would you think if that journalist was your child or father or brother when Trump said making money was more important?

America must wake up. We have a president who cares nothing about human lives or Christian values. His only concerns are money and his fragile ego. Unfortunately, that plague of greed, which we see personified in Trump, infects much of our country.

Some things, like human lives, are more important than corporate profits. Some things require Americans to stand up and say NO.

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I grew up as a child of the Greatest Generation, the generation that fought the fascism of Hitler and Nazi and the nationalism of Japan. I spent most of my first 20 some years around American soldiers, seeing their commitments to family and country. They didn’t join the military for money or prestige. They joined because they believed in the historic American values of life, liberty and justice for all…not greed-is-good, transactional politics.

Human lives and our freedom to speak our minds, via freedom of the press, and to peacefully protest governments are written into the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. We must put aside our tribalism to remember our founding documents and what this great country has stood for worldwide over 70 years.

If you don’t believe me, read Ernie Pyles’ books on WWII.

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We are better than Trump. We are better than hailing greed and transactionism or historic Chinese style merchantilism first. That is what Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Franklin, Washington believed. We should too.

 

 

 

 

Written by Valerie Curl

October 11, 2018 at 7:49 PM

Netflix’s Korean Drama “Life”: A Review

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“To whom does your soul belong: the wealthy or the people

This is another Korean drama airing on Netflix. Originally produced by JTBC, Life depicts the story of public-spirited doctors and nurses against a corporate machine whose CEO’s sole goal is enormous profits, regardless of the consequences to everyone else, from hospital staff to the public.

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As the story unfolds, a large amount of corruption exists within the university hospital which has been kept out of the public eye. When confronted with this information by their new corporate masters, most fold. Yet, some doctors maintain their the personal ethics and integrity to fight back, believing that the medical profession should put patients’ medical care above profit.

Cho Seung-Woo, most recently of Stranger fame, as Koo Seung-Hyo, plays the part of the new hospital president, recognizing that the hospital is awash in red ink, seeks to turn the hospital finances around while at the same time increase corporate profits through some fairly shady means…while at the same time he becomes increasingly disenchanted by the corporation to which he’s given his allegiance. Bit by bit, over time, he becomes influenced by the doctors’ principled stance.

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Lee Dong Wook becomes one of Koo Seung-Hyo’s primary foes but who throughout remains confused as to what his primary nemesis, the new President, seeks to attain. He doesn’t necessarily appear to see the man as greedy and corrupt, but he’s not quite sure what game the man is playing. One day, he appears to be on the side of the hospital staff; the next on the side of the corporation.

Adding to Koo Seung-Hyo’s confusion is that fact that he learns from his paraplegic younger brother, Ye Sun-Woo, that the previous hospital director, whom Koo loved like a second father, placed government subsidy money into his personal bank account. Koo Seung-Hyo wants to know why that money was siphoned off and to what purpose, which leads him to do his own investigating…only to discover that the director’s death may not have been as reported. As for Ye Sun Woo, he uncovers not only where the embezzled money went but also the medical scam being perpetrated by the assistant hospital director, thus forcing the President, almost against his will, to relieve the man of his position and duties.

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The only person in the hospital capable of standing up to the new President…and figuring him out…is the newly elected hospital director Oh Se-Hwa, played by Moon So-Ri, whom the department heads chose. Although she was perceived the dark horse in the election, no other candidate has her strength of character, spirit and spine. She forces her will on everyone, including the new President, with whom she not only works but often dominates in their confrontations.

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Numerous other characters, with their own motives,are involved in this complex plot that pits corporate profit against human needs…and human love. As the battle rages within the non-profit university hospital, we see the two sides – corporate profits (and greed) versus humanitarianism – in stark relief.

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Few of the hospital’s department heads are innocent of one immoral crime or another, including a suspected murder, which leads the viewer to the obvious belief most of the department heads need to be replaced. But for all the greed that the hospital’s department heads engaged in, they all come together to fight against the greed of the corporation and its somewhat illegal tactics to turn the non-profit hospital into a money-making machine that caters to the wealthy at the expense of everyone else in the community.

This drama series exemplifies why I enjoy Korean dramas so much more than American TV. Unlike American TV, Korean dramas don’t rely upon a Marvel Comic Book hero to come and save everyone from the villain. Instead, Korean dramas rely upon ordinary human beings fighting back against the wrongs, greed and corruption Koreans have long seen within their own society and history. These dramas not only exhibit the multiple forms of greed and corruption that exists, but also the bravery, courage, integrity, and honor of those who fight back to create a better, more fair and decent Korean society for all.

As an aside, these kinds of dramas probably contributed to the massive protests against incompetence and corruption exhibited the Park Administration that led to its downfall. As American history notes, the popularity of early 1930s films in which pitted the average, hardworking, honerable person against the ego-entric wealthy undoubetdly helped FDR pass his legistation.

As Abraham Lincoln famously implied, you can only fool all the people for so long. Once the people’s blinders are lifted, they then will rise up against the greed for money, power and prestige as well as the corruption that they see surrounding them…even in such a seemingly mall place as a public hospital where greed, in all of its multiple forms, and profits are pitted against the public good.

Life is definitely worth watching.

Written by Valerie Curl

September 20, 2018 at 6:09 PM

Mr Sunshine: Review

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Apart from the magnificent acting, grand scenery and cinematography, what is most compelling about Mr Sunshine is the interweaving of a grand love story with so many dimensions of little known historical fact. It’s a story the world should know: how Korea became dominated and overrun by a hostile nation for half a century because the world’s major powers agreed to let it happen.

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When Joseon sought the help from the Hague and the US, to prevent their subjugation by Japan, they were ignored or blocked by Japan, for reasons I have yet to understand completely. The only people who rose to Joseon’s defense were Korean Americans, mainly in the San Francisco area and elsewhere in California. They gave generously to the effort of Joseon to remain an independent nation. They may have left Joseon for a better life, but Joseon never left their hearts.

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The love of three men of similar yet disparate backgrounds for one woman inspired their heroism to fight not only for her but her cause: a free and independent Korea. Plus one more woman who loved both Joseon, becoming both a spy and freedom fighter for the Crown, and the men she learned to love and appreciate as their loyalty towards Joseon grew.

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There is no way anyone watching this drama cannot be moved by the magnificent script and direction by Kim Eun-Sook and Lee Eung-Bok of Descendants of the Sun fame. But this drama far exceeds Descendants in both script and acting. It is simultaneously joyful and heart rending as we watch history unfold in ways we, the audience, wish we could go back and change.

We see through this drama step by step, Japanese soldiers and ministers intrude further and further into Joseon, offering only death to those who refuse to submit until Gojong’s Court becomes dominated and controlled by Japan and their Korean allies…and until finally he is forced to abdicate to prevent further massacres of his people.

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Aside from the horrendous murder of Koreans in their fight to remain free, the plight of the deposed Emperor Gojong and his guardians, the freedom fighters among Gunnar’s troops, forever leaves a lasting impression. Freedom means more than life itself.

Told through the eyes of those who suffered so much injustice at the hands of the Japanese invaders and before, there is both poignancy and a keen sense of love that binds the characters of all different classes together to save something more than own lives: Freedom and Independence. 

Written by Valerie Curl

September 16, 2018 at 5:30 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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