THE SAN DIEGO PARTICIPANT OBSERVER Participant Observation is the Process of Learning by Observing and Participating in Cultural Life
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October, 2020 - (Click Here for Previous Issues)
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April 24, 2020


Things to Do Whilst Homebound:
Some interesting, helpful and fun activities from our staff and friends (if you know of any others, please send them along!).
Music for Your Soul:
More Museums to Virtually Meander Through
Food Stuff:
International TV

Kim's Convenience (Canada) Netflix

Kim's Convenience is a sitcom about a convenience store owned and operated by an immigrant Korean family in Toronto, Canada. The writing is wonderfully clever and the acting is generally spot-on. Janet, the college student in the family, is trying her hardest to be a properly "woke" person, but ends up realizing how maddeningly difficult that can be with even the best of intentions. Her brother Jung is the black sheep of the family who is estranged from his father Mr. Kim (Appa, “Father”). For the first part of the series, Janet suffers as the go-between between Jung and his dad. Janet is also driven crazy with Appa's constant chiding (dads and daughters everywhere will understand!). One of the best comic portrayals is turned in by "Mrs. Kim" (aka Umma), who is earnest and kind but just can't help meddling with the lives of'"not just her family members'"but everyone she encounters. Jung and his partner-in-past-crimes (which landed Jung in Juvie despite being innocent) work at Handy Car Rental. The flighty and funny Shannon is their boss. She's got the hots for Jung, but as you know, these things get complicated! Really one of the most genuinely funny programs streaming.

Servant of the People (Ukraine) Netflix

This is art imitating life imitating art. In this comedy a surreptitious phone video of a high school history teacher's profanity-laced tirade about corrupt Ukrainian leaders goes viral and, without his knowledge. he is placed on the presidential ballot and wins! Now its put up or shut up as the teacher populates his cabinet with folks he thinks are ethical (sometimes regardless of their particular expertise) and they go to battle with the corrupt oligarchy. After the series was completed, Volodymyr Zelensky, the comedian who plays the corruption-fighting teacher who becomes president, ran for the actual presidency of the Ukraine won! The whole world learned about him when the President of the United States "encouraged" (I could use a stronger word here) Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son's actions regarding Ukraine leading to the impeachment of the U.S. President. I watched the series before these real world events took place and I highly recommend it as unique peek into another political culture. I'm sure in real life, the situation is not so funny, but this series is a blast!


International Movies

Shoplifters (Japan) Hulu
Shoplifters is a film that challenges conventional wisdom and norms regarding what constitutes "a family" and healty familial relations. Set in Tokyo, the film centers on the experience of a family living on the outskirts of society who subsist not just on shoplifting but a number of economic pursuits that are generally considered improper. It is almost impossible to relate anything about the film's actual events without revealing the plot or doing the film an injustice. The film is, in turns, sweet, beautiful, melancholic and heartbreaking. The acting (by everyone in the family) and direction (by the prolific Hirokazu Kore-eda) is sublime and beautifully crafted. The film won the 2018 Cannes film festival Palm d'Or (the highest award). The film is paradoxically both powerful and gentle a welcome antidote in a cinematic universe that too often favors shocking spectacle over embraceable art.

A Special Day (Italy) for rent at YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime and iTunes
With her husband and six kids out at the fascist rally for Hitler's visit to Rome, the overworked and unappreciated housewife Antonietta (Sophia Loren) goes about her daily chores. Also at home in the towering but drab apartment complex is Gabriele (Marcello Mastroianni), a radio announcer who recently was fired because he is homosexual. The two meet when Antonietta's family's mynah bird escapes, and in her search for the bird, she meets Gabriele who is methodically and calmly closing his affairs before his planned suicide. He stops his fateful preparations to help Antonietta and the two end up spending the rest of the day together. They are'"in almost every way'"polar opposites, but the relationship that evolves over the course of the day is moving, thought-provoking, and bittersweet. They both lead lives of desperation and humiliation, but very differently. They both seek some sort of solace and a more gentle touch in each other. Loren and Mastroianni are bigger-than-life stars that deftly tune down their performances and play against their normal typecasting, delivering sensitive and performances that will linger in your heart for some time. If you like quietly subversive films, this is one of the best. Two notes: The background sound for most of the movie is the live broadcast of the Hitler/Mussolini rally creating constant counterpoint to the tenderness that Antonietta and Gabriele share. Film geeks will discover a bit of cinema magic in the very first and last scenes in which Sofia Loren appears. In a world turning towards intolerance, the film's message has renewed significance
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