What to Read, What to Watch, What to Listen to…

“I can’t breathe.” The words make us shudder in anticipation of what we know is about to happen to a black man. Eric Garner, a 43 year old family man, was killed by police six years ago this summer, in broad daylight on a street on Staten Island, New York City. The victim of a chokehold by two policemen, Garner’s crime was to sell single cigarettes on the street in his neighbourhood.   What exactly happened that day is the subject of an excellent book I Can’t Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street (2017) by Rolling Stone investigative journalist Matt Taibbi. The book is far more than a true crime story perpetrated by the police. Taibbi delves into who Garner was, his family and the life of a black man that is defined by race,  health inequality, bad housing, joblessness and a  justified concern for the future of his family.


One province we don’t read much about is Manitoba.  “Great Manitoba” by Owen Toews is published in the May-June 2020 issue of Briarpatch magazine.  It calls itself a “fiercely independent” left-wing publication out of Saskatchewan.  Toews’ article is subtitled  “A story of racial capitalism, protest, corruption and murder in post-war northern Manitoba.”  If that isn’t enough to hook you, I don’t know what is.  You can subscribe to Briarpatch and get it delivered to your door by a courteous CanadaPost letter carrier.  I’m a proud monthly donor.  A regular Sub costs under $30 a year.


Art by Tremé Manning-Céré

Two articles grabbed me in the March 2020 issue of The Walrus, which is a Canadian general interest magazine, published in Toronto.  My subscription cost under $30 for 10 issues, and I get it in the mail!  Annie Hylton’s article Searching for Mackie is about a young Indigenous mother who disappeared after attending a party in Tache, BC.  Then I read The End of Grocery Shopping by Corey Mintz.  It reads very like sci-fi as it was published just before the true end of shopping  –as we know it — due to the Pandemic.


Want to see a movie about the grinding and repetitive work of a female office clerk in today’s “hip” entertainment industry? Then watch The Assistant. The lead actor is Julia Garner, who has become famous for her role as Ruth in the hit Netflix series Ozark. Garner plays Jane, a recent university graduate who is an aspiring film producer. Her day starts with filling the office fridge with bottled water, picking up mail, intercepting couriers, paying invoices, and fielding angry calls from the boss’s wife who suspects that he’s having an affair. What we see about women’s work is the emotional labour that Jane has to put into the job.  We see the competitive young men who work in the same office who will get lucky breaks and climb the ladder faster than Jane. At the same time, they dare to call her to attention by snapping their fingers.  This is the best film about women and work that I’ve seen.  Here’s the trailer;  we rented it from Youtube at a cost of about $5.00.

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A Hollywood film made 13 years ago has also impressed me. I recommend watching Margot at the Wedding. I watched it on Kanopy, which you can access for free with your public library card.  Just go onto the Halifax Public Libraries site and click on Kanopy.  The film stars Nicole Kidman as a published yet frustrated writer.  She is an over-protective mother and the passive-aggressive member of her family. She and her young teenage son go to a small town to attend her sister Pauline’s wedding. We see little jarring and venomous interactions and,  on an emotional level, we experience a lot more. There’s a bit of wit, a touch of humour and there is the many (ultimately failed) attempts by the upper middle class white family to pose as a perfect family.  Here’s the trailer.


As for podcasts, don’t miss downloading The Guardian’s Audio Long Reads. These are longer articles published in The Guardian, that are read aloud.  I thought that this podcast From the Archives: Gary Younge: Farewell to America was brilliant. For about 12 years, until 2015, Younge was the Guardian’s reporter in the US. Younge, who is from near London and is Black, paints a frightening and very real picture of what it was like for him – a well paid professional living in Washington, DC, then in Chicago, and finally in New York City—to live and work in the US.  He captures the the micro-aggressions he encountered, as well as shows us what US-style “democracy” really boils down to. The sometimes scary –and always nasty– incidents are crystal-clear, as their double meanings are stripped bare for us listeners.  Here’s a good 11 minute film of Younge speaking recently about Black Lives Matter and the Question of Violence.

Gary Younge has now become a professor and journalist and has returned to London, UK. Photo Credit: Jonas Mortensen.  Right:  Recent demonstration in Atlanta, Ga. Photo Credit: Mike Stewart/AP

Another one in the Guardian Long Read series “From the Archives” is The Death and life of the Great British Pub. Do you know there are nearly 60,000 pubs left in the UK but 80% will likely close before 2040? Do you know who owns and runs the pubs? Have you heard of the real estate scams the developers are running to put pubs out of business? The developers are closing the pubs, grabbing the buildings to advance gentrification, and renovate for high end housing.    Get The Guardian Audio Long Read  wherever you download your podcasts.


photo credit:  BigNewsNetwork.com


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