Hollywood’s history of aiding in the role of Intelligence – Argo

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The real players

Following the SOTU address last night by President Barack Obama, many feel that we have had a magnificent President all along, working without beating his chest like “Tarzan” or pitting people or countries against each other, or religions against each other – but just doing what has to be done and must be done, with the brave men and women willing to and trained to do it.   Even the Republican response to the address from Nikki Haley agreed with the President’s call for unity  and warned of the dangers of following a town-crying, truth-defying and egotistical Donald Trump who seeks to destroy any civility in  this great United States.  His arguments call for those in this Administration to drop diplomacy and adopt outright hate of everyone who does not look like him – which, in itself would be difficult.  Not many orange people lately, with flying-saucer hair showing up on…

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Hothouse Children

So very astute, while the privileged go about business as usual without a thought to their children’s sense of self-empowerment or survival. Challenges are essential for little ones, in my opinion, forging the Self in fire for the sake of living with freedom, confidence and true sight. What happens when the play-date mommy cannot fix things for her young one? A recent photo of Kendall Jenner in Kim K’s “mom-jeans”, a throwback to Chris Jenner, makes me wonder about this family and how they will make their way psychologically in this world. Do they see their path as their own, or as an increasingly tangled Cat’s Cradle of familial entanglement? While navigating the dangers of the Corporate jungle, have these not so little spirits learned to navigate their interior with their natural compass blurred by the controlling memes of celebrity? I once met a professor at Mayfield, a preparation Elementary School to Caltech (think NASA/JPL) who started a program to accept a number of students from public schools. Why? Because, he told me, he felt that privilege was a setback for these kids, who in his opinion, needed to learn from Public School kids. Whenever I attended any of their functions to observe, he always sought me out like a secret confidante. I hope that his program went well, noting here that my brother is now an Engineer at NASA/JPL, not from being inherently privileged, but having shepherded his fellow school mates with compassion and a third-eye view to life.
Thank you for this thoughtful, insightful blog which may serve to free many from the Cat’s Cradle of installed buttons and electric fences. Let’s see how well we learn to be excellent trackers of our own destiny. (See Rabbit Proof Fence) https://youtu.be/Lbnk8wSVMaM

The Gaily Planet

Nearly 20 years have passed since my drive-by with a Maasai shepherd in southern Kenya, but I can still visualize the intensity of his gaze as if it happened yesterday.
I was literally driving by– scouting the next location for a fashion photo-shoot with our intrepid fixer,Masjid, at the wheel of an open air Land Rover and me in the back seat– when I locked eyes with the shepherd for just a few seconds. And while I have no empirical evidence to back up my theory, somehow I instinctively understood that if the shepherd and I were to find ourselves stranded on the savannah with a lion chasing us– no harm would come to me if I just followed his steady lead.
If you subscribe to the myth that every young Maasai must kill a lion before he can be circumcised– a rite of passage that happens once the child…

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A Life Based on a Great Vow Is Unshakable

A Life Based on a Great Vow Is


mandela with kids

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

He was South Africa’s first black chief executive, and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election.

His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation.

A Xhosa born to the Thembu royal family, Mandela attended the best universities where he studied law. Living in Johannesburg, he became involved in anti-colonial politics, joining the ANC and becoming a founding member of its Youth League.

He rose to prominence in the ANC’s 1952 Defiance Campaign.

Working as a lawyer, he was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and, with the ANC leadership, was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the Treason Trial from 1956 to 1961.

There’s no doubt that with the passing of Nelson Mandela, Madiba to those who loved him, a hole is left in the fabric of global society and its few but intrepid Heroes.  Or is there? Surely we all have the ability and most likely the innate mission to leave this world a better place than we found it.

But how?

In a lecture given by  Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, he states that one must “make a great vow,” based on ones profound awareness that in doing so, one will have the strength to win over the fierce obstacles that naturally arise when advancing kosen rufu.”

He elaborates, “We cannot bring forth the strength to withstand great hardships or persecution unless we make our ultimate goal the attainment of Enlightenment in this lifetime and dedicate our lives from the depths of our being.”

The Daishonin uses the Dragon Gate as a metaphor: According to Chinese legend, a carp that can climb the Dragon Gate will turn into a dragon, with the ability to control the rain and thunderclouds. However, the path to the top of the waterfall is fraught with unending perils. Nichiren describes the falls as rising 100 feet and spanning more than half a mile in width. In addition to the roaring currents, fishermen and birds of prey lie in wait. Only when a carp can overcome all these difficulties and reach the top of the waterfall can it become a dragon.

climbing_the_dragon_gate_iii_by_puimun-d4rvi13Nichiren urges his disciples to “make a great vow,” that it will give them the strength to win over the fierce obstacles that naturally arise when advancing world peace;  make a masterpiece of personal human revolution sparking the light of courage in others simultaneously to do the same thereby gaining unshakeable happiness together!

Nichiren Buddhism regards happiness not as a private possession, but rather a virtue that increases the more it is shared.

President Ikeda met with Nelson Mandela on a number of occasions. They shared ideas on advancing peace and especially on protecting and empowering our youth.

In an interview Mandela recounts a number of stories on how he dealt with this 27-year challenge.

The low, scrubby oval of Robben Island, a few miles offshore from Cape Town was a kind of Purgatory in plain sight for those the white regime feared most, a place forbidden to all but the inmates and their jailers.

South Africans called it simply “The Island”, and speculated fearfully as to what went on there. Yet when Nelson Mandela was asked how his 27 years in prison, most of them on Robben Island, had affected him, his answer was unexpected. “I came out mature,” he said.

N.Mandela in his cell on Robben Island (revisit} 1994

Mandela disappeared from the world with the reputation of a charismatic but often boastful lawyer, a keen boxer and ladies’ man who did not have the temperament to remain undetected for long when he went underground.

He returned a dignified old man who had won the respect of his captors, so much so that they were anxious to negotiate the hand-over of power to him. Thanks to Mandela’s imprisonment there, Robben Island is now a World Heritage Site, but when visitors see the conditions in which he was held, few find it easy to imagine how he retained his sanity, let alone triumphed over his oppression.

ikeda madibaDisembarking from their jetfoils after crossing the often turbulent waters of Table Bay, tourists see the same sight that greeted every prisoner on Robben Island: a concrete gateway with the emblem of the apartheid prison service and the motto, “We Serve With Pride”.

As they roam the concrete blocks, they are shown the bleak cell, barely 6ft square, where prisoner number 46664 spent years with nothing but a bedroll on the floor, a tiny stool and a ceramic pot.

“Journeying to Robben Island was like going to another country,” Mandela wrote in his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. “Its isolation made it not simply another prison, but a world of its own.”

After another trial in Pretoria for treason, he stayed to the island from June 1964 until March 1982, when he was moved to the mainland. He did not walk to freedom until February 1990.

Mandela recalls his first arrival on the island in his book: “We were met by a group of burly white warders shouting [in Afrikaans]: ‘Dis die Eiland! Hier gaan julle vrek!’ (This is the Island! Here you will die!)” Immediately he showed the spirit of resistance that helped to carry him through, telling his fellow inmates to walk when the warders were shouting at them to run, and threatening legal action against one notoriously brutal figure who seemed about to hit him.

While Mandela was never assaulted during his prison term, everything about the regime was designed to punish and humiliate black leaders who had had the temerity to demand equality with whites.

Category D political prisoners like him were allowed one 30-minute visit and one letter every six months. Anything deemed “political” in the letters would be cut out, so that often the prisoner received nothing but a tattered, indecipherable remnant of paper.

Africans also had a worse diet than any other race. Removing these inequalities was among the first of many issues on which Mandela and his fellow political prisoners mounted campaigns of passive resistance during their years on Robben Island.

Despite poor food, inadequate clothing in the wet and windswept Cape winter, and heavy labour in the island’s lime quarry, where  Mandela’s sight was damaged by the blinding glare of the sun on the quarry’s blanched walls, he remained unbroken.

mandelas-return-to-his-cell-on-robben-island-1994 robben_island

“The challenge for every prisoner, particularly every political prisoner,” he wrote, “is how to survive prison intact, how to emerge from prison undiminished, how to conserve and even replenish one’s beliefs… The authorities’ greatest mistake was to keep us together, for together our determination was reinforced. We supported each other and gained strength from each other.”

The bullying, poorly educated white  warders were uncertain how to deal with these articulate, determined political prisoners, who seemed confident that they would one day  prevail, no matter how long their sentences or how complete the white regime’s apparent domination. By the early 1970s, Mandela had tamed the prison authorities to the point where they would frequently consult him. Occasional attempts to revert to the old brutal regime were transformed, and concessions, such as the right to study, were won.

But Robben Island remained deeply isolated – Rather like Alcatraz in San Francisco, a city to which Cape Town has often been compared for its scenic beauty and hedonistic tendencies- Robben Island served as a constant reminder to those on the mainland of the privations being suffered by some.

Above all, Nelson Mandela had to fill the endless years without ever knowing how long his imprisonment would last. He had been sentenced to life, and until the late 1980s apartheid’s masters insisted that he would die behind bars.

“To survive in prison,” he wrote, “one must develop ways to take satisfaction in one’s daily life. One can feel fulfilled by washing one’s clothes so that they are particularly clean, by sweeping a corridor so that it is free of dust, by organizing one’s cell to conserve as much space as possible. The same pride one takes in more consequential tasks outside prison, one can find in doing small things inside prison.”

Mandela took pains to remain physically fit, and was one of the few who did not complain when the authorities made the prisoners walk to the quarry rather than being taken by truck. He saw it as an opportunity to view the island’s wildlife, much of it descended from animals released for hunting, such as various types of buck, and the swarms of rabbits originally intended to feed passing ships.

South Africa’s future president said he first heard about the island as a child, because a hero of his Xhosa tribe, who led a 19th-century uprising against the British, was incarcerated there.

But Robben Island was used as a political prison & later served as a leper colony, a lunatic asylum and as a naval base, where his father was stationed during the Second World War. On his daily trek to the quarry, Mandela would have seen the largest of several naval gun emplacements on the island.

“During the harsh days of the early 1970s,” Mandela wrote, “ the ANC seemed to sink into the  shadows … In many ways we had miscalculated; we had thought that by the 1970s we would be living in a democratic, non-racial South Africa.”  In 1975, he turned 57, and two of his closest comrades suggested he write his autobiography. It cost him study privileges for four years when part of the manuscript was discovered, but even after it was smuggled out, the ANC in exile decided not to publish it.

The following year, a new generation appeared on Robben Island: militants jailed after the Soweto uprising. “These young men were a different breed,” said Mandela. “They were brave, hostile and aggressive; they would not take orders.” They were almost as skeptical of the older prisoners as of the authorities: after so many years of being branded a radical revolutionary, Mandela found that “to be perceived as a moderate was a novel and not altogether pleasant feeling”. It reinforced the fears of the long-term inmates that “we had become frozen in time”.

This was the greatest challenge of the ANC leader’s years in prison, and Mandela rose to it. He refused the pleas of the prison authorities to intervene with the younger inmates, instead seeking to mediate among the political factions represented on the island. The new prisoners were predominantly supporters of Black Consciousness, which had little respect for the ANC or the rival Pan Africanist Congress, but in time most came under the ANC banner.

The influx also brought unexpected benefits. So busy were the warders with the young firebrands that the older prisoners were practically left to themselves.

In 1977, the political prisoners succeeded in having manual labour halted, giving them more time for reading, studying and political debate. Mandela cultivated his garden and kept fit by playing tennis, the yard of his cell block having been converted into a court.

But those held on Robben Island were still subject to the whim of the authorities, as Mandela discovered in March 1982, when he was abruptly told that he was to be transferred to Pollsmoor prison on the mainland. The reason, it later emerged, was that the apartheid government thought he might prove more pliant in negotiations if he was kept apart from his comrades. They soon discovered they were wrong, but, for Mandela, who had spent the best part of two decades on Robben Island, it was a wrench.

“A man can get used to anything, and I had grown used to Robben Island,” he wrote. “It had become a place where I felt comfortable.”  More than that: as he himself said, his ordeal there was the making of him.

Nelson Mandela, like others before him had not only survived prison, but mastered it. He did not resent his predicament but learned how to use it to his benefit, and on his release sought not revenge, but peace for all mankind.

Daisaku Ikeda reminds us how valuable it is to have a philosophy that enables us to constantly tap and manifest fresh, vibrant life force from within, as well as a network of friends with like minds that offers mutual encouragement and support as we strive to overcome each obstacle and move forward one step at a time!

If you fall down, pick yourself up again. Every time you do, you will become stronger. There is no trial that you cannot overcome through invoking the Mystic  Law.

His own mentor Josei Toda:who was also imprisoned for his beliefs stated:

“As Bodhisattvas of the Earth, our lives contain the power of the Mystic Law, which can transform and move all things in the universe. We have to make full use of that power. Youth, firmly resolve to achieve your goals without fail! Open the way; blaze a trail! Transform every challenge into a story of victory!”

Today, for the first time in history, America has an African American President who faces his own challenges, but with a hero like Madiba and a Country he loves, he also remains undaunted in his quest to stand up for those who need it most.  The poor, the sick, the elderly — our kids, the future.  What will each of us do?


Time and Space

dior 3Many writers seem tongue-tied in natural situations — like story-meetings or worse, board meetings. It’s the same reason  why we writers are able to arrive at a point in time with the same stories, themes and premises — why studios have five versions of the same themed-stories. As I just discussed with my friend and co-writer who is gifted with opulent, fast-paced, vibrant dreams,  we do appear on the scene of other worlds seemingly as spies, silent witnesses to other-worldly places and worlds.  Who is to say that time exists outside our man-made device to keep track of human, earthly progress — our ‘being here’.

In that space ‘in-between’ there is no such thing, and dropping in on a particular scene at a particular “time” becomes as natural as if by remote. As easily as brushing one veil away displaying before our senses the viewing of another world.  I suppose we are fortunate to be able to view the ordinarily ‘unviewable’ – an exhilarating silent witnessing of energy arranged in pictures, scenes, sounds, activity — all in wildly vibrant technicolor. It is necessary for what we contribute in the here and now.

So if you are one of those who feel awkward in the here and now of meetings, budgets and structured boxes, feel comfortable in knowing that without that awkwardness, one may not have that specially gifted makeup of being able to slip between worlds when the rest of this one is at sleep.

Game of Thrones Recap: Wedded Diss

Truly faithful to the book in horror, as Red Weddings go.


Game of Thrones Season 3 RecapNed Stark’s beheading in Game of Thronesfirst season was brutal. This week’s episode makes that murder look like a gentle mercy killing.

If you’re among what some fans of the series refer to as the “unsullied” – aka those who haven’t read George R. R. Martin’s book series and are therefore unspoiled about what’s likely to happen in the TV series – the hour probably put you into a catatonic state. I am decidedly sullied… and it was still a really sad, grossly violent, hard-to-watch episode.

Let’s all get through this together, shall we? Here’s what happened in “The Rains of Castamere.”

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HOUSE TARGARYEN| We’ll start far away from The Twins – how about outside of Yunkai, where Daario Naharis is advising Daenerys on the best way to take the city? His plan…

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