More Watching, and Less Reading

I love older British “kitchen sink” films which show class struggles and family tragedy.  Here you’ll see some DVDs you can borrow from  the public library, or download somewhere.

In this category are two by leftist Ken Loach that stand out

Kes is about a working class boy who trains falcons.  Brilliant.  It’s a Free World is about a shady job agency which hires immigrant Poles who live in London.

sat-niteJust watched this excellent film with Albert Finney.  Tells you a lot about Nottingham in the ’60s, and the miles of factories, pubs and industry in the postwar WWII industrial boom.  .. L-shapedI have a soft spot for the L-Shaped Room.  The novel is by Lynne Reid Banks.  As a child she was shipped  to Saskatoon Sk for a couple of years to escape the bombing of London during WWII. Also her  series of novels (The Indian in the Cupboard)  for young people gave me the name for my son, Omri.

I think I liked reading John Osborne’s  book, Look Back in Anger, slightly more than I liked the film but of course here are movie stars Richard Burton and Claire Bloom acting up a storm. Mary Ure is very good too.

look-back-in-anger And while I’m still on the British jag, here’s a new book worth reading 6mosundercoverThe author takes a number of working class jobs in England and Wales of today. The most interesting chapters are the first three about the Amazon warehouse in Staffordshire and how mind-numbing and depressing being a ‘picker’ really is.  Lots of facts and figures about employment, unemployment and  under employment — A good read.



48 hrs in Ottawa–

I am in Ottawa for two days, and here’s a rather typical streetscape downtown. Glass street walls — something ugly and gargantuan and to be avoided. But not only in Ottawa. Street walls mean building come right up to the sidewalk and and glass and concrete rim to the street. Not a tree or green verge to see.   I walked out of the public library on Metcalfe St. at closing time Saturday. This  couple with shopping bags and wearing packs walked out ahead of me;  clearly they live on the streets.  At 5 pm Saturday, it was 33 degrees Celsius outside.  Clearly not a day for a parka and winter boots



A wonderful visit to the brand new Ottawa Art Gallery  — it’s lovely, human size and free.  Open to all 9 to 9!!! And a nice cafe and tapas bar. Perfect. Just opened weeks ago. Delightful.  Above:  Maurice Cullen on the left, and on the right the prairie scene is by  Winnipeg artist LL Fitzgerald. sculptureThis brilliant culpture hangs from the ceiling.  It reveals all the countries which belong to the UN — the biggest geographically (Russia) at the top and it goes down from there.  Made of mixed media! Artist: Jason St-Laurent from Moncton!

holgateNice painting a farm landscape by Holgate.  Here is a life size canoe made out of cereal boxes! canoe

CLACThe Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC)– a right-wing union centre based in Ontario,  advertised on the back of several city buses. Sign says Better Workers, Better Lives: Join a Modern Union.  See for more info.


The new Holocaust memorial in Ottawa == too much concrete, too many angles but good photos on concrete by Ed Burtynsky. The sign ‘Christians only’ was from the ’30s, in Toronto.


Closet in the Lord Elgin hotel. Between the ironing board and my red dress, just above my shoes is the decal that shows where to place boots and skates. How Canadian!

Here I am with Jane Maxwell a good friend and activist who lives in Ottawa. We’re having a drink at the Chateau Laurier bar.

More to read, and one to avoid

Craig Murray was an experienced British diplomat.  Around the time of 9/11 he was sent to Uzbekistan — not a great posting. But he learned Russian, studied business and was all set for an adventure — but what he got was more than he had bargained for.  First he didn’t need Russian because Uzbekistan was being “uzbekistanised” by then President Karimov.  Karimov ruled for 25 years and one day.  Karimov decreed everyone had to speak and read in Uzbek — though as Murray points out there were fewer than 200 books ever written in the language.  Karimov was infamous for boiling his enemies to death and other forms of torture.  Almost everyone was considered an enemy. Murray exposed many of the evils of the regime and in so doing fell afoul of the Brits and the Americans who saw Uzbekistan as a bulwark against Islamic “terror”.  This book is clever and even humorous (in bits).  Well worth reading as Murray has a great sense of humour and also refuses to sit on a pedestal.   murder-samar

no country for jewishLarry Derfner was a rather a-political writer who pushed and pulled his way through journalism school in California.  In his 30s– in the mid-80s –he decided to go to Israel for an adventure — and stayed. This book told me a lot about Israel, its right wing (and vaguely left) politicians and the situation leftists in Israel are in.  Derfner (who also writes for the blog 972) is no hero, and he’s no activist.  But the book is very much worth reading– if only because he started out hostile to Palestinians and Palestine and he’s been forced to do  a 180. 

extraordinaryI’m not sure if I ever reviewed Gilmour’s book Extraordinary.  It’s a short novel.  It’s brilliant.  It is a gem. I can’t tell you the story, except that it is in the first person and the feelings and knowledge imparted will unsettle and not leave you. 

assymetryI should have put Lisa Halliday first in this list.  She’s a young  American novelist who at one point had an affair with the late Philip Roth. In the first half of the novel, the protagonist becomes the muse of an older and successful American novelist. The second half of the novel takes off — with politics, race relations, and a wonderful plot which seems to have nothing to do with the first half.  But you must read it and see for yourself.

I don’t like to diss Canadian writers but I’d stay far away from Will Ferguson’s 419.  It won the Giller in 2012 but don’t let that influence you. Here’s an author who never set foot in Africa, let alone Nigeria — yet this thriller is about scammers  in Nigeria.  These are men who post pleading internet messages about how if you only send them a small fortune they will repay with a larger fortune.  I found the book racist, supercilious and totally unknowing.  The cover says it all 419

The dust has settled: now the truth about John McCain…

Journalists around the western world have praised the late John McCain for his gentlemanly ways, his support for democracy and –most recently– his support for “enduring American principles.” 

Really? Let’s have a look. 

Do those principles include his spouting a hawkish rhyme “Bomb bomb bomb– bomb bomb Iran.”  McCain pushed for the total bombing and destruction of Iran.  In the 70s, he was captured during  his 23rd mission of dropping bombs on North Viet Nam.  Hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were killed, maimed, napalmed or terrorized by bombings  which were  part of the US’s  immoral and illegal war. 

mccainMcCain backed then-President Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia, plus the more recent US bombings of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Pakistan.  He also supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq.  McCain was a good friend of the Saudi royal family; he lauded the current Saudi bombing of Yemen—which we see today has created a humanitarian disaster.  

In 2015, McCain called people who protested war, specifically Henry Kissinger’s role in bombing Laos and Cambodia, “low-life scum” and vowed to remove them from a public meeting.  

According to Mehdi Hasan, a British journalist and reporter for The Intercept, McCain  “mocked Chelsea Clinton as ugly. He made jokes about rape and spousal abuse. He famously called his Vietnamese captors “gooks” and said, “I won’t apologize for that.” He used the C-word against his wife in public.” 

And what of the fact that since January 2017, McCain voted 83% of the time in line with Trump’s positions?

If you would like sources for any of these facts, or to know more — please contact me.

Equity Watch at Halifax Labour Day!

We had a great contingent for today’s Labour Day, we leafleted and sold lots of EW t-shirts. Thanks to all — we make a difference and thanks esp to Liane Tessier who gave a great speech today. EW-lbr-day-best

What to Read, and Watch

Where to start? I’d recommend Canadian Joyce Wayne’s brilliant novel Last Night of the World.  It’s about a Soviet spy — a very talented woman –in Ottawa in the ’30s and ’40s. The book is magic and weaves a spell which examines details and intimacies of members of the Communist Party and also Canadian politicians — I could not put the book down. A must read for anyone on the serious left. wayne

Vox;  a novel.  Suddenly it all makes sense: Bible belt politicians led by a Trump-clone decree that women and girls of all ages can only speak 100 words a day. A counter, worn as a watch, is the enforcer. If they speak more than 100 words, there’s electric shock, and worse…Women can never own or read a book or magazine, and never use a computer without their husbands’ indulgence. There’s more– but it rattles me as deeply as did  Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, 35 years ago.  The best parts of the book are when the protagonist (a former scientist who like all other woman is not allowed to work)  is home with her family — where she can neither speak, nor ask, nor discipline the kids, nor finger-spell, nor write a note with a pencil or pen.  Her only tool is a tube of lipstick and a mirror. vox2And that form of communication only can happen once. Scares the pants off me.

Skirt Day (translated from French) is a must-see dvd from Halifax Library.  A woman high school teacher in a rough neighbourhood turns the tables on her students and her school in this clever and penetrating look at race, poverty and status.  English Subtitles.jupe

Squeezed is far better than I first thought.  This new nonfiction book talks about the disappearing middle class in the US– and there are many things I didn’t know. The author, a researcher in The Economic Hardship Reporting Project which was founded in part by brilliant author & mud-slinger Barbara Ehrenreich.  Well worth reading. I couldn’t stop reading even while I was on the boat whale watching near Brier Island. squeezed

Neither a kind word, nor a free coffee…FireDelorey&Knox

Not a kind word, not a cup of vending machine coffee, not even a hug. And don’t get us started on why the young woman was not privileged enough to see a doctor or a nurse.  This is what happened to a rape victim who walked into the Colchester East Hants Health Centre hospital in Truro last week.

Oh yes on her way out, staff gave the woman a few pamphlets on where to go for help. Really.

colchestColchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro. 

As journalist Jim Vibert in the Heraldwrites: “Health care professionals are human and make mistakes but turning the victim of a sexual assault out on the street, on her own, seems to be beyond an error in judgment. It hints at an unhealthy culture within the system Delorey oversees and Knox runs.”  delorey and knox

Randy Delorey: NS Min. of Health                Janet Knox; CEO of NS Health Authority


But Delorey and Knox still won’t own this problem. To that end there has been a Facebook event started called FireDelorey&Knox.  Maybe that will get someone’s attention.