What to Listen to, What to Read and What to Watch


These days, you can’t do better than listen to Pandemic which is a spin-off of Canadaland’s “Commons” series. Arshy Mann, the producer is an excellent investigative journalist. All the episodes are treasures. The ones that focus on nursing homes in Ontario and Quebec are full of facts I never heard before. The most recent one


“Northwood” has gut-wrenching detail about Northwood in Halifax. I signed up to give $5 a month to Commons to make sure these excellent and provocative podcasts keep going. https://www.canadalandshow.com/shows/commons/.



To take your mind off what’s going on during the Pandemic, I recommend you read John Cheever’s short story, The Five-Forty-Eight. Despite it having been published more than 60 years ago, the story is incredibly prescient as it’s about women’s under-employment, male power and revenge. You can read it here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1954/04/10/the-five-forty-eight

Murder and Mayhem…

I just finished the final book in a string of books by Tana French, the Irish-American writer of crime and social commentary. I’ve reviewed most of them. Her book The Trespasser is part of the Dublin murders series. This one is unique as it’s about cops themselves. At first I didn’t like it, because I don’t care much for cops. But this book explores the hierarchy, the bosses, the small corruptions, and the soul-destroying life of detectives. Though detectives are at the top of the police ‘food chain’, they must always compete for the best “solves” rate. If they work as a team to figure out a murder, it’s a come-down and it does not add as much to their solve scores or recognition by their superiors. The sexism, the nastiness, the tunnel-vision and the grind of the job is worth reading about.

Lately I’ve watch one interesting documentary on PBS. Called “Tutwiler” you can view it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWv66yLetI4. It begins with a white woman guard from Alabama’s Julia Tutwiler prison driving a very pregnant prisoner, who’s also white and age 35, to a pre-natal hospital appointment. The prisoner answers most of the guard’s questions with a deferential “no-ma’am” or “yes-ma’am” – which is nearly cringeworthy. Then the guard then asks the woman if it’s her first child. She says no, she has a 10 year old son.

Woman: He’s getting into trouble at school. He’s going through some stuff.

Guard: Don’t pity him to the point you just spoil him.

Woman: I know I can’t do that. My husband passed away four years ago, and I let him get away with a bunch. That’s where I messed up at.

The advice from the guard – wow it says everything. This doc is great, and tells a lot about women’s prisons, and how women prisoners are treated in what is the oldest most tumble-down prison for women in the American south.  And worse, some of the women become pregnant in the jail — figure that one out.   Here’s the 1 minute trailer: https://youtu.be/ltgrboSvNbE

Nature at its best…

Before the Pandemic, I can’t remember ever watching an episode of The Nature of Things (CBC- GEM). Now I watch them frequently. They are brilliant. I really liked “Takaya, the Lone Wolf”– a fascinating look at (literally) a lone wolf who lives on an island almost howling distance from Victoria, BC. Why would a wolf – whose brethren live in packs – opt to live alone for years on a tiny island. He’s a swim away from living with a pack, yet he won’t. Here it is: https://gem.cbc.ca/media/the-nature-of-things/season-59/episode-3/38e815a-011bbb402da

photo credits:  Toronto Star, and Victoria News

Just before “spring” I watched “A Bee’s Diary” which is also amazing. Scientists have found bees have personalities! There are honey bees and nectar bees. The bees, in pursuit of nectar, fly hundreds of kilometres a week and manage to get back to the hive without getting lost. By the end of the summer, their wings are frayed and they die from exhaustion. https://gem.cbc.ca/media/the-nature-of-things/season-59/episode-19/38e815a-0126b298cd0

My Name is Doris, is a cute film on Netflix. A 60+ year old woman accounting clerk at an advertising company bumps into a man in the elevator at her office. Immediately we see she is interested in him, though he’s 25 years her junior. Of course, he’s also a recently hired manager. Sally Field is a great actor, and she’s a marvel in this film. If you want something light, and clever, watch it.

Class Warfare

Of course any day I prefer the to watch a film by veteran left-wing British filmmaker Ken Loach. He’s released all but his latest couple of films on Youtube, so feel free to watch my favourite – and his first film Cathy Come Home (1966). Cathy Come Home features a young mother, who becomes a homeless single parent, doing battle against the tyranny of social workers who try to order her life, and to take her children away from her.   You can watch it here and you’ll never forget it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=82&v=IGL4b25AJpM&feature=emb_logo



As the trailer says, it changed the way people thought about homelessness. Here’s a trailer: https://youtu.be/LedLYkDLYuc

Then I watched The Rank and File, a 1970 film by Loach, here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1bk8ziutmk&list=PLbQwAe1xQ1TfyBJcxmWXM8xnpGp-pSWTx This feature length film is great. It’s about workers at the Wilkinson Glass Factory in a town in Lancashire, England. The workers decide to go on strike. Their union’s paid representatives,  along with managementdo pretty much whatever they can to end it. This is a film which seethes with class conflict, anger and bits of humour. I recommend watching.









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