Thursday, June 26, 2014

Third Person; Short Independent Film Review by Payman Akhlaghi (2014)

"Third Person" (2014), A Short Film Review
Review by Payman Akhlaghi (2014, Draft 5)

(*) First published on June 26th, 2014 on under "A Short Review of "Third Person" (2014).

"Third Person", written and directed by Paul Haggis, begins -- and ends -- with a man writing at a desk, who hears the echo of a child from the behind, "Watch me". An unmistakable air of tragic love, loss, grief, remorse, and loneliness has filled the quiet of the hotel room. With little pause, the scene gives way to a tapestry of sophisticated variations on a singular theme: the love for, and the loss of, a child.

Whether the seed idea is thought of as an actual event in the life of the author, or it's meant to be a mere figment of his imagination,it's diffracted, reassembled and evolved into three salient character complexes each reflecting an aspect of it: the author, his wife, his young lover, and her lover-dad; an American businessman, his estranged wife, a Roma woman, her thuggish man; a young distracted woman, her boy taken away from her, her ex-husband, and her ex's new woman. Each relationship pair suffers in one way or another the very present absence of a child. Besides their essential thematic relation, the three complexes have enough overlap -- locations, incidents -- combined with convergent arcs to produce necessary cohesion and avoid an episodic feel.

The ensemble cast, including Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Adrien Brody, Moran Atias, Mila Kunis, and James Franco, bring as much contrast and intensity that the story could afford to their respective roles. The music by Dario Marianelli, performed by the Symphony Orchestra of Belgium, with himself at the piano, mirrors and underscores the organic crescendo of the screenplay with a quasi-minimalistic circularity, an increasingly layered orchestration, and a lively texture. The cinematography and edit hide their evident skills masterfully in the service of the narrative.

The thrust of this creative delight of a film, however, may be seen as its utter trust in the humanity of its characters, even those with the worst of flaws. The empathic attachment builds successfully toward a witty ending, as each characters fades out of the life of the author, one by one, away from each other, emphasizing their fictional existence in the actual plain of the world of the author.

(*) This is an original note by Payman Akhlaghi, a musician by inclination and education.
(*) was briefly consulted for artists' credits.

© 2014, Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.

(*) Payman Akhlaghi is a composer, pianist and piano teacher based in Los Angeles. His repertoire covers Classical music, as well as Persian (Iranian) Music, Pop Music, and Film Music. For information on the lessons in the Greater Los Angeles area, including Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Encino, Brentwood, etc. please call: 310-208-2927. Thank you.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

On The Gun Issue: Some Preliminary Practical Thoughts; An Opinion by Payman Akhlaghi (2014)

Opinion: The Gun Issue; Some Preliminary Practical Thoughts
An Original Essay By Payman Akhlaghi (Draft 4)
NB: The following is a layman's view.

(*) Originally published on June 12, 2014, at under Opinion: The Gun Issue; Some Preliminary Practical Thoughts. 

We've been right on dreaming of a country, and a world, free of gun violence. We've been right on asking for sensible laws on access to guns. We've been wrong so far on the categories of the criteria for any such limiting regulations.

Conspicuously, the current anti-gun position aims to limit access to guns based on psychological competence. But instead, to decide on the right of access -- or rather, the privilege of access-- it's more reasonable to first concentrate on the "necessity to own"; second, the "merit to own", i.e. the ethics of ownership; third, the predictable "intent of use"; fourth, "aptitude to operate"; fourth, evolving "competence for operation"; fifth, the permitted "boundaries of the types of protective devices" to be available at all; sixth, the "minimum prescription" needed for the type of permitted intent; seventh,"verifiable preparation for proper use"; eighth, chronic "monitoring".

A need-based approach to gun ownership will have to consider the following factors, among many:
1) Population density of the area of ownership;
2) The natural hazards of the environment;
3) Maximum potential degree and efficiency of protection delegated to the officials;
4) The demographics of the area;
5) The stated and predictable intent of use;
6) The potential applications of the devices;
5) Any peaceful intents to own, other than protection.

A need-based approach to access will assign priority to "protective needs", and confine any "recreational intents" to sports arenas, and any "professional intents" such as various forms of research to the physical boundaries of the respective institutions. In basic terms, it would mean to ban gun ownership perhaps for all people but the peace officers in most urban areas; allow extremely restricted access in very low density suburban areas; appreciate the increased need to access in rural areas; confine access for fun or research, or other such secondary and peaceful intents, to within proper facilities.

To ban and/or restrict gun access to such degree will reduce violence first, by the evident decrease in availability; second by the extreme widespread increase in communal and internalized responsibility; third, by rising the bar on the expectation of civility and non-violence in the overall culture; fourth, by bringing down substantively the expectation of violence, its degrees and forms, even within criminal communities; fifth, by reinforcing and enhancing a culture of life and dignity. If so, "gun" would become a taboo concept, and even at times of aggression, the last word or thing to pop up in the minds of people.

To seek limiting regulations based on "psychological profiling" is a misdirected attempt. Even if successful, it's bound almost certainly to generate arbitrary discrimination against large categories of innocent people; whereas an innocent harmless person, merely labeled with one of the many ever-changing psychological classifications in circulation, ought to have as much right to her life as the crowds of "sane" people who might plan and pilfer her farm in the daylight. Contrary to our best of intents, such laws might turn into de facto acts of lynching by consensus and with impunity before our own baffled eyes. To my knowledge, violent crimes have not been necessarily committed by people diagnosable with a variety of serious psychological labels; but I can easily imagine that many victims of such heinous crimes have indeed been carrying such stigmas.

Psychology today is an admirable field, precisely because of its many dedicated,  intelligent, and humble professionals, engaged in heated debates, trying to overcome its badly flawed history, to compensate for the biases afflicting its methodologies and methods, to deal with its imprecise nature relative to many other sciences, and to try to arrive at ever-elusive consensus on narrow topics. Psychology would thus serve best in general if applied with humility and modesty. As such, it would certainly become a consideration in the current discourse on gun ownership, but hardly the first, let alone the sole, criteria in our considerations.

Needless to say, for any of this to start, America has to interpret the "right to carry arms" as "the privilege to carry arms". That would require a separate essay by legal experts.

(*) The author is a musician, by inclination and education.
(*) The author has had a strong and consistent position against in particular physical violence.
(*) The author has not owned, does not own, and does not plan to own, guns. However, after many years of contemplation, observation, and conversation with erudite friends, he has tried to see the other side of the story, as well.
(*) Naturally, the author reserves his rights and privileges as a human being, and as a citizen. Nothing in this essay was meant to limit any such rights and/or privileges.
(*) This essay and the footnotes are some works in progress; as such, the stated points and conclusions may be changed in the face of emerging facts and understandings.

© 2014, Payman Akhlaghi. All rights reserved.

(*) Payman Akhlaghi is a composer, pianist and piano teacher based in Los Angeles. His repertoire covers Classical music, as well as Persian (Iranian) Music, Pop Music, and Film Music. For information on the lessons in the Greater Los Angeles area, including Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Encino, Brentwood, etc. please call: 310-208-2927. Thank you.