What to Watch; What to Read…

I think nothing much can hold a candle to Succession, a two season series on HBO. Even if you have to pay an 4 month introductory subscription, then cancel – do it just for Succession. As I’ve said here before it’s about a Rupert Murdoch-type family in New York City. These people are the most rapacious, and amoral types you’ll ever see on the screen. Basically no redeeming qualities, except their devotion to their dear old dad who is incredibly rich and incredibly vengeful especially against his own grown up kids. The acting’s great, the board room scenes are wince-worthy. succession2Still, the greatest scenes are the ones with the “family” dining always in sumptuous venues – from their private jets, to their yachts, to their Ponderosa style ranch. The truth, I bet not one of the family has ever read a book, about these people’s nastiness is unvarnished. And oddly delightful to watch.

On Netflix, the British series Line of Duty, about cops who investigate cops has new episode. Well done, well acted, great script, but still the message is that we should respect and show deference to cops.Line-of-Duty

On CBC GEM, I’ve been watching The Nature of Things. I still think it’s the best documentary series ever. Last night I watched an episode about Jumbo, the elephant. In the mid-1800s Jumbo, rumoured to be the largest elephant in captivity, was eventually sold to the PT Barnum and Bailey circus, accompanied by its keeper. Biologists and scientists have recently examined the bones of Jumbo to try to figure out if the elephant suffered from TB which could have contributed to its erratic behaviour. Apparently, no one knew elephants needed the roughage of tree branches and shrubs, and kept Jumbo on a “soft” diet which added to his misery – his teeth never wore down and it turns out elephants have SIX sets of molars, so as they were coming in, others weren’t falling out or making room for them. Serious pain is what Jumbo lived with.


Interestingly he died in a train crash (!) in St Thomas, Ont. Spoiler alert.

Don’t bother with  Fortunate Son, fortunateon GEM (also every Wed. at 9 pm on CBC-TV). Production values are high, scenery is good, some of the acting isn’t bad, but all in all it’s disappointing. Dialogue and plot are conventional, and you can spot Viet Nam war protest trouble, and police agents from miles off. It’s an oater-eater. One more thing, how can a BC town of what looks to have a population of  1000 on a good day,  a few kilometers from the US border  have a top-flight nuclear research facility—where the show’s scientist dad works? How can this town have so many cops? Not just one or two hard-drinking RCMP cops but what looks like a cop shop of a dozen?

Recently finished The Likeness by Tana French. I often write about her mysteries/thrillers. She’s an American author whose books are set in and around present-day Dublin. This novel is one of a series about 30 somethings and the 30 something police. In this novel, a 30 year old woman cop who has been shunted into the domestic violence (DV) squad resents her job and her boss. frenchShe’s recruited to be an under-cover operative in the murder case of a woman PhD student. Unlikely though it seems, the cop is a double for the victim. Deftly drawn, and surprisingly believable the book weaves a great story. As the reader I cared nothing about the murder or who did it. I cared about the people who covered up the crime and why. I cared about the petty rivalry among the cops; I cared about the myopia inherent in most police work. Well worth reading. It’s a big book, so I read it as an e-book on my iphone.

Just finishing Sid Ryan’s autobiography, A Grander Vision: My Life in the Labour Movement. Born in Dublin in 1952, Ryan emigrated to Toronto in the early 1980s. He was a plumber and maintenance man at Ontario Hydro, and by the late ‘80s he was elected the Ontario president of CUPE, the public service union. Eventually he became the president of the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL).  grandervisionHis early life was full of hardship as he and his six siblings were raised in a two bedroom house,  by essentially a single mother. His dad was forced to move to Birmingham, England to work at unskilled labouring jobs just to send a bit money home. It was only in Ryan’s his later teens, that his dad got a job in Dublin and was able to stay home. Though Sid Ryan was clever and keen to go on to college, the family couldn’t afford to send him.  His mother thought it was wrong to spend money to send one son to university, if the other kids never had the chance.  Ryan’s left-wing radicalism comes through in every chapter. His criticism of Bob Rae and his government; his disputes with CUPE’s national president Judy Darcy and his militancy on the picket lines are fascinating. He has a temper for the right things, and that’s refreshing.  Looking at many union officials today, it’s interesting to see that Sid Ryan seems to have   moved to the left over the years. In 2019, he was running for the federal NDP nomination in Oshawa, Ont., but he suddenly stepped away from the nomination race. He condemned the NDP’s the vetting process –insisting, “the entire process is a shambles and has all the hallmarks of an unfair and rigged nomination meeting.”

In the last 20 years, in three provincial elections when Ryan was Oshawa’s NDP candidate, he placed second or third. He ran a close second to the Tories who won the last two federal elections in that riding. In the 2004 federal election, Ryan lost to the Tory candidate by fewer than 500 votes.sid

For years Ryan was involved in the Irish peace process, and is a friend of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. Adams wrote the introduction to A Grander Vision. Ryan is also supports the international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. In 2007, the Canadian Arab Federation awarded him the Social Justice Award.   He supported CUPE Resolution 50 which asks union members to support BDS.

The book is well worth reading for anyone interested in politics – and criticism of the union movement and the NDP from the left.

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