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Premature opinionation and three considerations on how to deal with it by Misha Lyuve

Feb 15, 2014

Woody Allen glases

This posting is not about Woody Allen’s child molestation accusations. It is about me. And maybe you.

I liked some of the Woody Allen’s movies. After reading the recent letter of his adoptive daughter accusing him of sexual abuse, without much questioning I silently joined the public outrage. I “liked” scornful Facebook commentary and vowed to never watch another Allen’s movie again. The guilty verdict was irreversibly apparent.

Then I read “Woody Allen’s Allegations – Not So Fast” by Robert Wiede, who produced and directed a documentary about Allen. Not only did I not know much about the man, but even what I thought I knew was not true. For instance, I was sure that Allen had married his adoptive daughter, and that made me cringe profusely (especially now as a father of two adoptive daughters), while in reality Soon-Yi was adopted by Mia Farrow and one of her previous husbands. Among other facts the article shed light on aspects of Mia and Woody relationship as well as the investigation that came out from the original accusations back in the 90′s.

After having read the article I became very clear about one and only one thing: I had no idea what Woody Allen did and what he didn’t do. And as I mentioned earlier, this posting is not about Woody Allen. The disturbing behavior that I had to face is my own.

There was a moment, literally a point in time, when without much deliberation I jumped into a judgement (see also A judgmental jerk) and formed an opinion about the matter. Let’s call this phenomenon premature opinionation. I didn’t have much information about the topic; I didn’t do any investigation on it nor was I going to research it in the future. Moreover, I didn’t plan to take a single action based on my opinion (e.g. counsel sex abuse victims or bring peace to Allen-Farrow family). In other words, my opinion was for the sake of the opinion, purely.

The humanly natural process of creating opinions, even premature ones, would be merely entertaining, if we didn’t relate to our opinions as the Truth. And should one person fall into a trap of premature opinionation, it would be a non-event, but imagine what kind of a mess we end up in when this happens with hundreds, thousands of people, including TV hosts, radio personalities, celebrities and maybe even you.

So before you ever become a victim of premature opinionation, here are three considerations to keep in mind:

1. Before forming an opinion, pause and ask yourself: “What if I don’t come up with an opinion now?” If you think that the world order will stay intact, just give yourself time

2. If you feel utterly compelled to form an opinion right now, allow yourself to do it. But if there is more than 1% chance that it is premature, keep it to yourself for now – do more research, sleep on it, give it time

3. If you consider sharing your opinion, a good questions to ask: “Who really cares about what I think about this topic?” Just be honest here. Remember that even those who get into a dialogue with you about your opinion most likely care about their opinion way more than about yours

Amour by Michael Haneke by Misha Lyuve

Feb 8, 2013

Beautiful, intense, confronting life and death, love.

Rooted and Unbendable Ai Weiwei by Misha Lyuve

Aug 19, 2012

Every society has constraints that offer opportunity for vision, freedom and courage. “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” by Alison Klayman is a documentary about a man who appreciates the possibilities and challenges of this opportunity in China. Ai Weiwei is an artist who turned his vision and success into an effective and audacious tool for challenging the Chinese government to promote freedom and individual rights.

In one of my interactions with the government, I was stopped by police in the U.S. for speeding and I was so scared that my back went numb. Ai Weiwei has been arrested, followed and harassed by the Chinese government for years. I am fascinated by people who by virtue of their values and beliefs overcome their fears and give up conveniences of their lives to forward causes they are committed to. Being a master communicator, Ai Weiwei is doing it with a particular grace that created a following for him in China and abroad – and it is that following that makes it so much harder for Chinese government to shut him up.

Here are a few things to know about Ai Weiwei (check out Who inspires: Ai Weiwei and Ai Weiwei: The Evolution of a Dissident)

- Ai Weiwei was one of the designers of the Bird’s Nest, the Beijing Olympics stadium. He later publicly denounced the project and his participation in it because the government turned the Olympics games into a massive propaganda for the ruling party.

- During the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province poorly built schools collapsed killing a large number of students. As Chinese government refused to acknowledge issues with the school construction or release the number of children who died during the earthquake, Ai Weiwei and his volunteers identified 5,335 names and pictures of those kids who died. His supporters recorded their names and Ai Weiwei dedicated an exhibition in Munich “So sorry” to this event while Chinese government shut down his blog and threatened him and his family.

- In 2010 Ai Weiwei had 100,000,000 handmade porcelain sunflower seeds created for his exhibition in Tate Modern contrasting the mass-production reality of China, centuries of Chinese porcelain art tradition and a sunflower as an accepted symbol of Chinese propaganda art.

In “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” will tell you a story of one man’s life and leave you with the questions about yours.

The Artist is indeed Present by Misha Lyuve

Jul 15, 2012


“I test the limits of myself in order to transform myself, but I also take the energy from the audience and transform it. A powerful performance will transform everyone in the room” – Marina Abramovic 

Marina Abramovic is a performance artist that in over 40 years of her career ruthlessly pushed boundaries of physical and mental limitations in her work such that during her performances she was cut, burnt and even almost died once. Just to give you an idea, in one of her performances she prepared 72 objects (e.g. scissors, a gun, a rose, a feather, a scalpel) for audience to use in whichever way they wished while she stayed still for 6 hours (Rhythm 0). And if you were following the past few of my posts, coincidentally, Marina played out her own funeral in a play Life and Death of Marina Abramovic.

The Matthew Akers’ documentary “The Artist is Present”, that recently came out, is about Marina’s life and work. It is named after Marina’s 2010 project at MoMA. 3-month, 736-hour performance involved people sitting with Marina in publicly displayed one-on-one sessions in silence. This eye-gazing exercise overwhelmed participants with emotions, made them cry (this is a fascinating set of pictures from her performance “Marina Abramovic Made Me Cry”), created several-block long lines and drew about 700K visitors to MOMA, like no other exhibition.

I can only imagine the depth of being with Marina one-on-one, but even through watching her in the movie, I was left with an experience that I know this person very intimately. This drawing openness of Marina is no coincidence – I think it is attributed to her working-out her emotional knots and exploring so much of her inner self through her art.

Marina says that unlike theater, in performance “knife is real, the blood is real, and the emotions are real”. There is no place to hide and she made it very clear in all her work. “The Artist is Present” was just the next stepping stone in how much she could push herself to open.

I am much fascinated by the boundaries of consciousness and our physicality and I make my small steps in exploring my inner self. But I am way too terrified of pain and judgments of others to take it to Marina’s scale. I am grateful that someone is showing the way.

In case it didn’t come across – I highly recommend watching “The Artist is Present.”

Please don’t miss Pina by Misha Lyuve

Apr 17, 2012

There are many languages of expression. For example watch this.

Pina”, a visually stunning and thought provoking documentary by Win Wenders, shows the medium of dance as language. Not just in a perfection of movements, coordination and balance – but the language that comes out of the deep humanness, alive as a conversation. It will evoke in you many feelings: from loneliness to longing, disgust to aliveness, humor to fear. This all might inspire or disturb you, bother or move you – but it won’t leave you indifferent. This documentary will keep you on the edge of your seat as a thriller, touch you as a love story and spin you as a drama.

Some say that this move is about Pina, a legendary German choreographer. Not really. It’s dedicated to her. Pina passed away just as this movie started being made by her friend director Win Wenders. The unexpected de-tour the film had to take in its own journey made it into more than just a movie “about” somebody or something. It is a celebration of the form of expression.

This celebration is woven of love, gratitude and accomplishments of Pina’s students. They came from all over the world and cover all age groups – and they all speak about Pina allowed them to open up their unique essence, feeling and talent. “Pina gave me language.” Pina taught them to dance with their eyes closed. You will be blown away by what a teacher can give.

This film had me wonder: what else is hidden inside of my gift box? What else is hidden inside of yours?

To Kony – or Not to Kony 2012? – Now it’s Your problem by Misha Lyuve

Mar 11, 2012

In a week the Kony 2012 project swirled the world into madness. The sleek, inspirational, easy-to-action campaign ignited interest of many people really fast and brought back as strong of a wave of criticism.

The question now is not whether Kony 2012 campaign is good or bad – but how to translate what it stirred into a real possibility. At the end of the day, it has started a very important conversation about Uganda and Africa and the spotlight of this conversation creates a world of opportunities.

Whether you are a Kony 2012 supporter, its critic or someone who is in between – there is an action to consider.

If you believe that the movie oversimplified the story of the war in Uganda or that the work of local organizations wasn’t properly represented: for once the world is listening, tell the story. People are dying to get educated and to understand how they can make a difference.

If you think that Jason Russel is self-centered ego driven narcissist manipulated by the hidden agenda of U.S. Christian right – don’t support his organization. Create your own and make it as clean and pure as you can – but don’t forget that most impactful things in the world, both good and bad, are accomplished by people with strong passion, egos and beliefs.

Some criticize Invisible Children for spending more than 60% of their funds on promoting awareness and only a third on directly contributing to Ugandans – keep in mind that for an organization with a big vision, whether it is a business or a non-profit, it’s a very reasonable strategy at the time of expansion and in this case the one that probably paid off. But if you really appalled by that, contribute and volunteer with other organizations.

The sensationalism of nowadays journalism and not always rational outcomes of social media campaigns – is the reality of today. Not everything will be aligned with your vision, but there is always an opportunity. In other words: Don’t be just a critic – offer alternatives. Don’t be paralyzed by contradictory opinions, find what works.

After all, Kony might actually be caught this year. And there is still tons of things to be done in the world. #getoffyourass2012

“The Artist” – confronting the Death by Sensory Overload by Misha Lyuve

Feb 24, 2012

Do you want to watch a movie? A black-and-white movie? A black-and-white silent movie?

No! No! No! No!

I want color! I want 3-D! I want surround sound! I want effects! I want action! I want sexy good looking cast! And while watching, I want to eat buttery popcorn and sip on super-sized coke (not diet)! Please entertain me!

No wonder real life might seem like a bore. In fact, I wonder how with all this massive overstimulation we are still capable of feeling anything.

Michel Hazanavicius, the director of “The Artist”, somehow dared to take on a mission impossible: to create a movie out of a pretty unexciting story, not so famous cast, not a single spoken dialogue and in black-and-white. I guess the dude really wanted to make a point. I am just curious about his motivations: was it a profound hope for humanity or prudent distaste of current cinema culture or just a drunken bet?

So I recommend you go and surprise yourself with how little you need in a movie to get handsomely entertained – you won’t miss human voices or special effects or famous faces – all that with one caveat, which leads me to the last point I wanted to make. I was puzzled for a while why the movie was called “The Artist”. Probably not because George Valentin, the main character, said it once about himself nor because his doggie (by the way, you can follow her on Twitter now @Uggie_TheArtist) played out wonderful artistic tricks. Was Hazanvicius really referring to himself? – What do you think?

You don’t know Jack by Misha Lyuve

Aug 7, 2011

Can one loathe euthanasia and, at the same time, admire Jack Kevorkian , its most prominent advocate, for the strength of his convictions and commitment? In other words, what would it take to separate a person from a cause he represents?

As if our support of gay marriage, women’s choice, or assisted suicide turns us into fair open-minded people; and our opposition makes us good Christians, or whatever good we are aspiring to be. Or as if one could really judge intentions and talent of our politicians based on their yes-no answers in the scorecard of controversial issues.

Watching “You don’t know Jack”, a movie about the life of late Dr. Jack Kevorkian and assisted suicide, made me think about how our society deals with controversy. There are plenty of reasonable arguments about personal choice, freedom, god, sanctity of life and a role of a government in our lives. Controversy starts when contradictions among these arguments lead to moral and philosophical dilemmas. A myriad of positions on a controversial issue are based merely on which arguments are more important to different people.

Let’s take Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who performed 130 assisted suicides, challenging legal and social orders and became synonymous with the cause itself. For his supporters he is a hero. His opponents blame him for being negligent and consider him a serial killer . But outside of the labels, who is Jack Kevorkian? His interviews and art give a lot of material to start answering this question, and in my opinion, “You don’t know Jack” is a great attempt to understand his motivations, struggles, and the character.

As for my life and death, I have a clear point of view how I think those should go. However, as for everyone else’s, I’m the first to admit, I don’t know jack. In fact, I think the most productive way to start participation in a debate on a controversial topic is with “I don’t know.” This would allow some real dialogues and could lead to finding much more effective solutions for controversial issues, leaving us much less divided and more compassionate and accepting.

Nearer my god to thee by Jack Kevorkian

Nearer my god to thee by Jack Kevorkian

About the painting in artist’s words:
This depicts how most human beings feel about dying — at least about their own deaths. Despite the solace of hypocritical religiosity and its seductive promise of an after-life of heavenly bliss, most of us will do anything to thwart the inevitable victory of biological death. We contemplate and face it with great apprehension, profound fear, and terror. Sparing no financial or physical sacrifice, pleading wantonly and unashamedly, clutching any hope of salvation through medicine or prayer. How forbidding that dark abyss! How stupendous the yearning to dodge its gaping orifice. How inexorable the engulfment. Yet, below are the disintegrating hulks of those who have gone before; they have made the insensible transition and wonder what the fuss is all about. After all, how excruciating can nothingness be?

“Howl”: a lesson in unrestrained creativity and freedom of speech by Misha Lyuve

Jan 17, 2011

I planned to finally see “Social Network” at Crosby hotel’s Sunday movie night, but all of a sudden they changed it to “HOWL”, a movie about Allen Ginsberg, an esoteric American poet that I knew little about. From one extreme to another, I thought, and went along. I couldn’t even expect what a treat I was offered.

I discovered passionate verses of Ginsberg that rhythmically flow like a song, their expressiveness sounds like a dance, and their aliveness refreshes you as a mountain waterfall. I was given a lesson in losing boundaries in self-expression, extracting inspiration from everything and staying true to oneself.

The movie itself is word-to-word based on Ginsberg’s interviews, his poetry and transcripts from the legal proceedings against the publisher of “HOWL” (after publishing “HOWL” Lawrence Ferlinghetti  was arrested and charged with publication of obscenity in 1957 in San Francisco) – every word is history. The combination of the original footage, black-and-white shots as well as animation to take us in the depths of Ginsburg’s vision created an excellent medium to present “Howl” and its story.

I was blown away, inspired and grateful that I got to see something I would unlikely to stumble upon on my own.

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by

      madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn

      looking for an angry fix,

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly

      connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-

      ery of night,

who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat

      up smoking in the supernatural darkness of

      cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities

      contemplating jazz...

     --"HOWL" by Alan Ginsberg