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Archive for April, 2014

A mysterious and great photographer: Vivian Maier

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
Maier in one of several self-portraits she too...

Maier in one of several self-portraits she took on the streets of Chicago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I watched the documentary film Finding Vivian Maier at the Landmark Century Cinema last week and was mesmerized by the mystery and talent of Vivian Maier.

Maier was a nanny who took more than 100,000 photographs, including many self-portraits, in her life. She was born in New York in 1926 and settled in Chicago in the 1950s until her death in 2009, alone and unknown, even to those who knew her. In the film (directed by Charlie Siskel and John Maloof), we followed the footsteps of the filmmaker to find who she was and through the interviews with those who hired her or were taken care of by her, we came to know her as someone who was eccentric, faked a French accent, and remained single and secretive all her life. No one seemed to know her background or the reason why she took so many photos yet didn’t get them out, or even develop them. Her works were hidden in storage lockers.

John Maloof, doing research on Chicago history, bought a box of her negatives at an auction, was intrigued by her works, therefore, started the search journey and eventually helped “discover” Maier as one of the 20th century’s greatest photographers, yet as an individual, she remained a mystery to us all.

Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows

Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows (Photo credit: wordsnpix)

There is another documentary on Maier titled The Vivian Maier Mystery, which will be shown in the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium at the Harold Washington Library Center on Thursday, April 24, at 6 p.m. If you can attend the screening, arrive earlier to take a look at an exhibition of Maier’s work in the Special Collection Exhibition Hall on the 9th floor. I went there last week and was pleased to see some of her work in print. The exhibition puts the photos in “the context of her life” from the 1950s through the 1970s, featuring a selection of her recognized street photography. Click link here for more information.

In addition, the Chicago History Museum is also having an exhibition, Vivian Maier’s Chicago, through the summer.

Maiser is an amazing street photography. Check out the films and exhibitions—well worthy of your time.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Golden Globe Winner Jacqueline Bisset. Visit for more information.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Golden Globe Winner Jacqueline Bisset. Visit for more information.

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US Democracy. For Sale to the Highest Bidder

Monday, April 14th, 2014

McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission


The Citizens United, Supreme Court ruling in 2010, created the Super PACs, and their financiers who are using hundreds of millions of dollars in funding mainly negative TV ad campaigns, to promote their own political agenda for the future of the US, and further corrupt our political system by threatening Senators and Congressmen alike with the withdrawal of campaign donations and the support of candidates whenever they choose.

Now however the Supreme Court has passed a ruling in the McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission which will eliminate long-established contribution limits to the Federal political campaigns, and add additional hundreds of millions of dollars to the corruption of our system. Amazingly, Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. wrote that in his opinion, “There is no right more basic in our democracy.” To my mind, these rulings are killing democracy in this country. Our legislators spend most of their time fundraising from the day they get elected, in order to build a war chest to pound any opponent that might dare to run against them at some future election. Once they become an incumbent, statistics show, that they are likely to raise four times the amount of money, than any challenger.  It is thus clear, that money wins elections. Not policy, not a vision, not a desire to improve conditions in this country for the majority of the people, but the quest for re-election and maintaining their seat at any cost.

The combination of the legal corruption of our legislative process, with Super PACs, lobbyists, wealthy campaign donors, and of course redistricting constituencies, and the outrageous disenfranchisement of thousands of voters, have already led to the elimination of true democracy in the United States. Hundreds of millions of dollars are now spent by outside interests, special or political, mainly in negative television advertising. Apparently “the American people” to whom our legislators often refer in warm and almost tearful respect, are just there to be manipulated and pounded with negative messages which if shouted long enough they believe.

Money-Dollars 050

Does all this money mean that Washington will actually tackle some of our true and important issues? Highly unlikely. Immigration, education, tax reform, tort reform, the environment, climate change, reducing the U.S. reliance on fossil fuels, the deficit, bank reform, and of course campaign financing will receive NO attention in the next couple of years. What we will hear about is an ongoing battle to repeal Obamacare, and replace it with nothing apparently, and continue the battle on abortion, and that other earthshattering issue affecting the future of our country, same-sex marriage. I’m sure we will hear endless speeches and heart pounding over these issues while the true problems are ignored.

Where will this all end? How long is it going to be before we elect a handsome puppet, empty-headed, inexperienced, naive president, who will be managed by a billionaire non-tax paying casino owner, or a couple of billionaire non-tax paying oil and gas tycoons. Do not believe this could not happen. This latest Supreme Court decision shows that we’re well on our way.


Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:

Can China rise peacefully?

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

John Mearsheimer, Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, gave a talk on China last week at an event organized by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He predicts that China’s economic growth will lead to its military growth, which in turn, will result in conflicts between the U.S. and China in the future, be it 20 or 30 years from now.

“It’s a myth that many China scholars and policy makers think China is different from the U.S. and other European great powers,” said Mearsheimer.

He argued that when China grows more powerful economically, it will translate that economic might into military might and will try to dominate Asia, and meanwhile, the U.S., the hegemony in the West Hemisphere, “will go great length to prevent China from becoming a regional hegemony in Asia.”

Mearsheimer said his theory on the power of states in international politics is based on the following five assumptions:

  • principal actors in international politics are states;
  • all states have military offensive capacity;
  • the intentions of the states are hard to predict and measure;
  • principal goal for every state is to survive; and
  • states will maximize their chance for survival.

He said these assumptions lead states to three forms of behavior, namely

  • states fear each other;
  • the best way for a state to survive is to protect itself; and
  • the best way to do the prection is to be very powerful.

“China has been a highly aggressive country in history, just like other great powers in the world,” Mearsheimer said.

The international forum is an anarchy system, he emphasized, citing that the fittest survives.

“When China was weak, the other great powers took advantage of it,” he said. “It’s that experience of humiliation that makes it perfectly clear to China that it can’t let it happen again.”

He said the best way to ensure that is for China to be very powerful.

“To put it in slightly different terms, it’s for China to dominate Asia.”

But the U.S. and other countries in Asia will try to prevent China from dominating Asia, he said.

He stated that in its effort to maintain its hegemony, the U.S. succeeded in dismantling other great powers in history, including the Imperial Germany, the Nazi Germany, the Imperial Japan and Russia. It will try to contain China as well.

As China continues to grow and become stronger, the competition between the U.S. and China will be more intense. It will eventually escalate to conflicts, he concluded.

“Anything the U.S. does to defend itself will be offensive to China, and vice versa,” he said.

Mearsheimer disputed the theories of co-relation balancing, the importance of economic ties, and the “myth” that Confucian ideology deems China a peace loving country. He said at time of conflicts, politics trumpets everything.

“I’m not anti China or anti America,” he declared. “If I were an advisor of national security to the President of China, I would tell him to get the U.S. out of Asia. By the same token, if I were an advisor to the President of the United States, I would advise him to keep China out as well.”

He warned that “If China continues to grow as it did in the past 30 years and becomes a giant Hong Kong, it’s going to be unstoppable.”

“I hope China will stop growing,” he said to me when I interviewed him, and several times during his speech.  That sounded quite anti China to me.

For more information on his theories, check out his book The Tragedy of Great Power Politics.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Golden Globe Winner Jacqueline Bisset. Visit for more information.

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Getting Ready For The Big One

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
San Andreas Fault in the Carrizo Plain, aerial...

San Andreas Fault in the Carrizo Plain, aerial view from 8500 feet altitude (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


My wife and I are snow birds. We have a home in Southern California in the Desert, where we flee from the Chicago winters. This year we believe we have been particularly fortunate. We have enjoyed one of the warmest and driest winters in Southern California for many, many years, while Chicago has suffered through one of the most brutal winters in its history. Southern California is suffering from the worst drought in decades while Chicago has suffered the most snow and brutal cold in decades. We believe that climate change has arrived and these extremes may well be the norm in the future.

We live on the San Andreas Fault line, and so little rumbles and earthquakes are quite common. In our area there has been a push recently to make sure that the population are prepared for the “big one,” which could happen within the next 30 years or in the next 300 years. My wife and I have not given much thought to this possibility, but recently went to a meeting about “being prepared.” Of course when you get down to it the prospect of a major quake in our area is pretty scary. We found out that in the recent Northridge earthquake in LA a few years back, most of the deaths were as a result of fire, caused by flying electricity cables and ruptured gas mains. We were told about the dangers of flying crockery pots, pans, knives and forks in our kitchen, blocked doors, fire hazards, contaminated water, and the perils of broken glass. We were convinced, that it would be stupid not to have some sort of preparedness within our home in the event of the “big one” coming along.

Emergency Kit for Earthquakes

Accordingly, we purchased a three-day emergency kit which includes food bars, 18 water pouches, emergency blankets and ponchos with hoods, a deluxe medical kit, two sets of light sticks, a flashlight, whistle, waterproof matches AM/ FM radio with battery, a multipurpose tool for turning off the gas and electricity, and breaking down doors. A pair of work gloves, dust masks and hygiene and sanitation sets completed the package. We also purchased a dozen 24oz cans of drinking water with a 30 year life, and some water purification tablets.

We were also instructed to place next to our beds sweat suits, some old sneakers and a warm sweater in case an emergency did not allow us to get to our normal clothes. Finally we decided to purchase a fire extinguisher, which currently we don’t have in our house.

A few days after making this decision and purchasing the basic kit, there was a 5.1 earthquake in our area. Not particular frightening, but we were in a restaurant, and the chandeliers were swinging, the plants jumping up and down and some people got quite nervous.

Just a gentle reminder of the power of nature.  There can be no real argument about being prepared.


Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:

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