What to Read, What to Watch and What to Listen to…in November 2021


What to Read…

Something rather amusing to read, but with quite an edge, is How Three Weeks in Azerbaijan Almost Turned Me into a Zionist. Aspir Eyyabov, a 20-something Israeli writer, decided to travel with her parents on their annual trip to visit relatives in the capital Baku, and then in Shahriyar, a village more than an hour away from the city of Ganja. Shahriyar is Eyyabov’s father’s birthplace, where he was once a shepherd. Though her parents visit annually, this was Eyyabov’s first trip. She writes that her experience felt like an “endless Borat movie”. She describes the rural life of her dad’s eleven siblings, and the fact that they must boil water to drink. Her father’s parents are buried near the village. She quips,

“In Israel, graves are now in multiple concrete tiers, in the village the dead are burried on a cliff and have a mountain view. That’s how it is when the deceased don’t have to pay for their real estate.”

Aspir Ayyabov, in Haaretz.


The political restrictions in Azerbaijan can be severe, and some criminals (especially political enemies) are punished by torture and worse. Eyyabov notes that Azerbaijan scores 168 out of 180 countries on the Press Freedom Index. Actually, in 2020 it rose to 167 out of 180. Azerbaijan’s president , Ilham Aliyeva, assumed the presidency shortly after his father Heydar Aliyev died in 2003. Ilham’s wife Mehriban Aliyeva is the vice-president of the country. Fascinating you can read it here.

Power couple: The Aliyevas (credit EPA)

Identical…

For a court room drama, you could read Identical, by Scott Turow. Two identical twin brothers, one a lawyer, and one jailed for murder are the subjects of a renewed call to investigate the murder of a Greek American socialite thirty years previous. Not bad. The genetic markers and scientific discussion in the book are interesting, but the cat and mouse of murder and mayhem is rather predictable.

Yves Engler’s excellent piece in Canadian Dimension here starts to unravel the mystery around Green Party leader Annamie Paul. There was suggestion by some that she was given a hard time – and found it impossible to lead the party — because of her race, and secondarily her religion (Jewish). Engler sees it very differently. He sees her big error was to hire Noah Zatzman who famously and publicly vowed to rid the party of those critical of Israel. He said that NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, and former Green leadership Dimitri Lascaris and “many Liberal NDP and sadly Green MPs” were bigots and against Israel. At that time, Zatzman said about two sitting Green MPs, Paul Manly and Jenica Atwin he said “We will work to defeat you…”

He stated, “We will not accept an apology after you realize what you’ve done. We will work to defeat you and bring in progressive climate champions who are antifa and pro LGBT and pro indigenous sovereignty and Zionists!!!!!”
Annamie Paul never disavowed her loyalty to Zatzman, nor to his views. As a result the party fractured along lines including support for Israel. The Greens were the first party to pass a resolution condemning illegal Israeli settlement expansion here. This took place just before Paul joined and became Green leader.

Below: Children on the beach in Gaza (Khalil Hamra, AP) and bathers on Tel Aviv beach (Oded Balilty, AP); also Noah Zatzman (left), and Green leader Annamie Paul (right).

The CBC has a wonderful illustrated docproject item about a riot at an Edmonton residential school for Indigenous children 60 years ago. The children, desperately hungry, some ill, deprived of warm clothes and food rebelled. They held the school’s principal and administrators at bay, till the police came. What happened at the Edmonton school tells us a lot more about what really took place at residential schools where children were regularly beaten, deprived of decent food, warm clothes and frankly quality education. A cartoonist illustrated the project and it’s a great “read”.

I recommend APTN’s Indigenous Tool-kit for breaking free of colonialism, there is a 23 minute video and it’s a good article Unlocking the indigenous toolkit for breaking free from colonialism which shows what Indigenous people can do – and their allies – about colonization

Clockwise, from top: protest on behalf of Joyce Echaquan (credit: Time Magazine); housing on reserve where median income is below the poverty line (Globalnews.ca); Notice from Indian Affairs; boil water advisory (MacDonald-Laurier); federal government notice.

Canadian Dimension has a good article about Skyler Williams, an Indigenous activist who was arrested for little more than “being”. A Haudenosaunee organizer for the 1492 Landback Lane, Williams was leaving a press conference in downtown Toronto when he was arrested for “failure to comply with recognizance”. According to police, he broke the conditions of his bail and was framed by police as a dangerous and violent criminal. Williams, who lives in Brantford, had just spoken to the media about the need for charges to be dropped against the people whose three homeless camps were destroyed by Toronto police in July. Williams himself was hit by police who used a baton and then pepper sprayed when he was arrested. However the writer and professor Megan Ross in her article here shows that he was trapped by a law very similar to the restrictions dating to the mid-1880s known as the Pass System which did not allow Indigenous people to leave the reserve without permission of the Indian Agent. Ross also cites the Criminal Code which, in 1892, prohibited any person

…prohibits any person “who induces, incites, or stirs up any three or more Indians, non-treaty Indians or half-breeds” to do anything “calculated to cause a breach of the peace.”

Canadian Criminal Code, 1892

Ross says this is further evidence of discrimination against Indigenous Indigenous activists. Read the article here.

Indigenous activist Skyler Williams speaks during the Sept. 16 “Stop the Evictions, Drop the Charges, Roll Out Not-for-Profit Housing for all” press conference outside Mayor John Tory’s condo. – Credit: Joanna Lavoie/Metroland

The Walrus festival

The Walrus has three good pieces this month. The first I recommend is The RCMP Revisited –The Dark Side of the RCMP author and podcaster Jane Gerster has written a new book critical history of the RCMP due to be released in the next few months. What interests me in her article is her listing of wrongdoings by the RCMP over the last couple of years, which included We’suwet’en arrests, arrests and harassment of anti-shale gas protesters in 2013 in New Brunswick, the RCMP’s apathy in investigating hundreds of cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, plus the Mounties’ secretive response to the RCMP inaction during the weekend Portapique NS massacre,

There is also an article Citizen of Nowhere by Adnan Khan which is rather depressing but not as uncommon as we imagine. A 32-year-old man Deepan Budlakoti was born in Canada to Indian parents who had been cooks at the Indian High Commission in Ottawa. Turns out, when Buklakoti was born, his parents had moved on and were working for a private employer also in Ottawa. Still he was stateless and didn’t know it until he got into trouble with the law and joined the list of those to be deported. He thought he was a Canadian citizen. However when police discovered a semi-automatic handgun, $3,000 in cash and almost 150 grams of cocaine in his apartment, Buklakoti was jailed. As he says, he is a product of this great country – now what is to be done with him, and whose responsibility is he? Read it here.

Third in this month’s The Walrus is a useful tale about mental health and university students, The Campus Mental Health Crisis. For anyone who scoffs that students should grow up or get real, or that today’s students are mere ‘snowflakes’ this article is a reality check. Any parent shudders when reading this account. It’s here.

It’s wonderful to read almost anything by Douglas Coupland, but his three short-short stories in The Walrus, are a delight. Urban, witty and even funny they are here:

In particular, November’s issue of The Walrus is first rate. I subscribe, and so should you. It keeps writers writing and paid for it. It’s only $29.75 a year – click here to subscribe.

The New Yorker has an interesting look at women and Islam in this article The Inconsistency of American Feminism in the Muslim World – which illustrates the deep prejudice many of have — our prejudice. Read it here:

What to Watch…

Netflix is offering more than a 30 Palestinian films this fall. I just watched Pomegranates and Myrrh which is excellent. It’s understated, believable and the lead actor is luminescent. A young man is arrested by the Israelis just after his wedding, and his wife does everything she can to support him and try to get him out of jail. It’s clear there is a fight with the Israelis over the land and the olive groves the family owns near Jerusalem. The husband faces a serious but trumped up charge of assaulting a member of the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces). The family is Christian, not Muslim, something we don’t see in every Palestinian film. The wife decides to continue with her career as a dancer in a West Bank theatre troupe—and is tested by a situation she confronts there. Here is a trailer.

I really liked the Argentinian series The Kingdom. Watching the first season (it’s on Netflix) we see a wealthy evangelical family which fronts a born-again empire start to unravel. The series has corruption, political interference, “sacred money” and the threat of violence is ever-present. I loved the family, the rather passive big-wig pastor, his scheming wife and her assistants. A CIA operative figures into it!! Part of the complexity of the story is a boys’ orphanage the family and church run and the shenanigans that go on there. It’s wild and wonderful! Here’s a trailer.

Below, scenes from The Kingdom. I especially like them praying over money!

Bosch, and A Very British Coup

Season 7 of Bosch is not too bad. I find Bosch, wooden, right-wing and mono-syllabic. That said, his teenaged daughter is rather too perfect, and too knowing. But if you like to see bad asses get caught by police, and you like to see the seamy side of Los Angeles, this series is for you. It’s on Amazon Prime. Here’s the trailer for Season 7.

Though the series is 33 years old, I re-watched A Very British Coup and highly recommend it. The acting, the writing, staging and the rather shocking interventions of MI5 and the British security apparatus is believable. A left-wing socialist, and a former miner, Harry Perkins, is elected Prime Minister of the UK. He steers a majority Labour government. He has to deal with a toxic cabinet, some of whom are his boosters, and some are snakes who want to sell him out. Perkins has to contend with a nation-wide power workers’ strike and other serious provocations—most of which are in the “dirty tricks” category. Of course Perkins has to be destroyed politically by the right and their security service. I cannot help thinking about the demise of Jeremy Corbyn as the former Labour Party leader and the outrageous smear-job he had to contend with. The late Canadian political scientist Leo Panitch wrote this about Corbyn when he was wrongly accused of antisemitism. weather. You can watch A Very British Coup, there are three parts to it each less than an hour – It’s free here on Youtube and the trailer is here.

The Netflix series Maid is very much worth watching. A young woman who barely finished high school and has a three year old daughter tries to leave her partner. She tries to scrape together even $5 for gas, and has to work for a maid service, which we see pays so little she can’t afford a place to live, or her subsidized daycare. Where the film could get maudlin, it does not. Where the film could be preachy, it does not. This is an unusual and “big picture” film which takes place in the US Pacific northwest. Well worth watching. Here’s the trailer.

I just watched The Architect on Kanopy. It’s amazing. This 2006 Hollywood film is about a middle-aged Chicago based architect with lofty ideas about decent housing for everyone. He believes he knits together communities with his great buildings. The architect presides over a family with “issues.” His wife is a mass of resentment as she’s been relegated to cooking gourmet meals for him and maintaining the decorous home garden. His son – for reasons we must guess – couldn’t manage university and had to return home. The 15-year-old daughter is daddy’s girl, but also has a secret rather dangerous life. Into the architect’s rather staid and controlled world enters a black woman who is a firebrand. She organized families in her high rise, gang-ridden building to demand it be torn down. His building simply does not work, she insists. How the architect’s and the agitator’s lives intersect makes the film fast-paced and very good. Here’s the trailer.

Clockwise from the top, the first three images are from Maid; the second two are from The Architect.

The pleasure of films on Omeleto…

Short films on Omeleto are always a joy because they have to manage a solid plot and everything else in 9 to 14 minutes.

In the beautiful English countryside, a young woman stops a man in his car. She needs him to take her photograph at the spot where her parents years ago died in an accident. This is a witty and humorous short film called What in the World.

Favourites is about a teenage girl who tries to hitchhike from Germany to Italy to visit her estranged father. All the dangers of hitch hiking leave the viewer apprehensive, and the end is quite a bit better and different than you expect.

And

Teardrop is about two young men, a white and a black man –strangers — who end up in the same apartment late one night. It’s well done. And not too scary.

What to Listen to….

The two following podcasts are juxtaposed: Jesse Brown’s Canadaland featured the very real issue of younger people who choose to die via MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying). The episode “I die when I run out of money,” focuses on the the fact some people elect to die because they can no longer pay their rent, pay for medication or pay for personal assistance and care at home. Their health is going down and they can see no way out – since support services including homhttps://www.murdermiletours.com/blog/murder-mile-uk-true-crime-podcast-145-a-desperate-lockdown-for-olga-freemanecare and transportation that they’ve relied on has all but been restricted or disappeared in the last two years of the Pandemic. This is a harrowing but urgent matter. You want to listen here.

Another podcast goes hand in glove with this one. The British series Murder Mile UK True-Crime Podcast, episode 145 features the recent true story of Olga Freeman. Freeman, a London lawyer, is sole parent to her 10 year old son, Dylan. Olga and her husband had long been divorced; her family lives in Russia – from where she’d emigrated years before. Dylan was born with a rare genetic disorder which meant he could barely see, could not walk and could not talk or communicate. He howled when he wanted something; Olga had to carry him everywhere as he could not walk; he was developmentally impaired. Still, all agreed Olga was a kind and loving mother; she treated Dylan well; he lacked for nothing. Olga moved to be near her son’s special school; she tried to work while he was at school but often she fell asleep as Dylan stayed up screaming at night. When Covid-19 hit the UK, first his school shut, then her respite caregivers stopped coming, then the occasional home care for Dylan ended. All day and all night she was on her own – essentially locked in their two bedroom flat with a child with whom even she could barely communicate. Here’s an article from the Guardian. Listen here. The podcast reveals a lot about the lack of home care and community support during Covid – which reinforced what the Canadaland podcast exposes about those at risk in our own country.

I highly recommend listening to both podcasts Canadaland and Murder Mile UK.

Canadaland Commons features the first two episodes of Mining. Hearing the story of Asbestos, Quebec – now pleasantly renamed Val-des-Sources is gut-wrenching. Mining promises to be another dynamite investigative series (pardon the puns) on Commons. Listen here.

This photo taken on July 21 2020, shows what’s left of the Jeffrey mine in Asbestos, Quebec, Canada. – The Quebec city of Asbestos wanted to get rid of the negative connotation of its name, which means asbestos in English: it will now be called Val-des-Sources, announced on October 19, 2020 the mayor of the city, as he revealed the results of a referendum, which he called “historic”. (Photo by Eric THOMAS / AFP) (Photo by ERIC THOMAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Today, Nov. 1, Songwriter, singer and musician Billy Bragg was interviewed on Q on CBC Radio 1. It’s here for you to listen to— his socialist and political songs and his anti-capitalist chat. He’s great, and I actually MET him in 2004 when I attended the 20th Anniversary of the Miners’ Strike in Durham, UK. Here is a trophy picture of me with him.

Left: Billy Bragg, Nipper MacLeod a member of Cape Breton’s Men of the Deeps choir, me, my husband Larry Haiven.

Duly Noted ~


My then 12-year-old son, Omri, and I attended the NS Human Rights Hearing on Kirk Johnson’s complaint, back in 2003. I remember taking him out of the first days of school in September for his “life tutorial”. The teacher warned that he could miss important lessons – I said –no he had to learn a main life lesson that “cops lie”. And so they did, in the witness stand, one after the other. Johnson won his case against the police who discriminated against him on the basis of his race. They stopped him dozens of times for driving a nice car while black. His case paved the way for an end to stop checks, as you can read here.

As board of inquiry chair Philip Girard wrote in his decision 17 years ago,

…Halifax Regional Police Services apologized during the course of the inquiry for the error in seizing the car, without however admitting any discriminatory aspect to that error. I suggest that a sincere apology acknowledging the discriminatory aspects of this incident, in a form acceptable to the complainant, might go some way towards putting relations between the police as a whole and the black community on a better footing.”

Professor Philip Girard, in his decision.

So it’s with great excitement that Equity Watch is bringing the community an interview and discussion with Kirk Johnson — 17 years after his human rights victory. Mt St Vincent University professor and activist El Jones will also speak at the webinar. Please sign up here –and all are welcome! Of course there is no charge.

and today on the Eastern Shore I photographed these! Wonderful…

Featured Image above: Unity Print by timi kakandar (Nigeria). Credit: Saatchiart

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