What to Watch, What to Read and What to Listen to — in March 2022

Let’s start with a little levity. We all need it. But those of us in Nova Scotia need a bit more because NS Power (a privately owned corporation that supplies power to most people in the province) has just applied for a big rate increase. The company is asking the Utility and Review Board for permission to hike rates by 10% over the next 3 years. NS Power is also asking for a “storm recovery charge” of an extra 2% over and above Nova Scotian householders’ power bills. NS Power says the latter 2% yearly increase would cover storm preparation, storm clean up and restoration of service after a weather event. It gets worse (and I don’t mean the weather) see this in the Halifax Examiner.

Here are the top reasons for NS Power outages (outrages) in NS in 2022 (credit Facebook):

  1. NS Power
  2. Crow
  3. Salty Crow
  4. fog
  5. crow fog
  6. salty fog crow
  7. crow-nado
  8. Steven Seagull
  9. Raccoon With Nothing to Lose
  10. Sunny Day
  11. God
  12. NSP Raccoon

What to Watch

I’m hooked on Ferry. This short series is the backstory about the key drug kingpin, Ferry Bouman, in the Belgian series, Undercover, I wrote about last month … Good –if a bit brutal. Worth watching. On Netflix.

There is a yet to be made film about the influence of the pro-Israel lobby on the British Labour Party. The 14 min. fundraiser trailer for Labour- The Big Lie is a fascinating go at reactionary MPs and bureaucrats- and highlights the man at the centre of the witch hunt, Sir Keith Starmer, who is now Labour leader. Readers will recall that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was suspended in 2020 for being an antisemite, and hundreds of ordinary, and not so ordinary, Labour Party members – including Jewish ones! – were unceremoniously thrown out of the party. Watch the trailer for this forthcoming film here.

Also expelled was well-respected filmmaker Ken Loach (who won the Palme d’Or for I, Daniel Blake and Sorry We Missed You—both are excellent and worth watching. (Trailer for I Daniel Blake is here; and for Sorry We Missed you is here). Wrote Ken Loach, aged 85, on Twitter:

“Labour HQ finally decided I’m not fit to be a member of their party, as I will not disown those already expelled. Well… I am proud to stand with the good friends and comrades victimised by the purge.”

Armed Jewish settler accompanies IDF to throw Palestinians off their land. Photo taken at a-tuwani, in the S Hebron Hills, take by B’tselem filmmaker in Nov. 2021.

Israel’s Channel 12 presents a TV news item, Settler Violence in the South Hebron Hills. It is an excellent 15-minute documentary. The newscast, made in July 2021, shows the physical dangers and harassment five Palestinian children face on their way to school. It’s a two kilometre walk from their tiny village of Tuba to school in a bigger village called a-Tuwani. Five children under 12, all neatly turned out in their school uniforms and backpacks walk along a rocky path for one kilometer. At a crossroad with an isolated outcropping they must wait for the IDF jeep, with Israeli flags waving, which will escort them the second kilometre to school. The jeep stays about 20 metres behind the children as they walk over rough terrain to their school. There are English subtitles, but nothing can mask the sheer hatred and violence the Jewish settlers unleash on the children – at the halfway point – just before the IDF shows up to escort them. This is a must-watch.

Hi, This is My Penis is a Québec documentary about men and why they send dick pics. What is behind their dick pics? What do these photos mean? To find out, the documentary tries to elicit answers from the male and female points of view..
You can watch it on Crave. My French is just about good enough to watch the trailer here. The doc itself has English subtitles. It’s 45 minutes long. Charming.

Dick pics, by Laura Dodsworth in The Guardian

Shetland, on Netflix, is three seasons long. The scenery is great, if the acting is a bit wooden. But if you like murder, mayhem, a guilty university professor and bar scenes, Shetland is for you. Here’s the trailer.

I’m watching the sequel to The Good Wife, which was a great series launched in 2009. This new series is called The Good Fight which was released in 2017. And I like it far more than the initial series! It features refugees (I mean some of the actors) from first series, The Good Wife, in a new law office. Partner-lawyer Diane Lockhart becomes the diversity hire – she’s white and nearly ready for retirement – in an all-Black Chicago law firm. The firm deals with thorny and even political cases. Hurrah– finally. It takes not so subtle aim at Trump, and the trampling of civil liberties in the US. The episodes moves quickly, the writing is fresh and clean, and there is a wry touch of humour. I’m watching it on Amazon Prime. Here is the trailer.

Two young Saulteaux sisters from the Keeseekoose First Nation were jailed for a 1993 murder they say they did not commit. For years, there has been evidence that their male cousin (aged 14 at the time) killed Joe Dolff, a retired maintenance man from near Kamsack, Sask. In this APTN Investigates’ short documentary, A Life Sentence, one expert points out that Saskatchewan has the most racist justice system in Canada. The program has all the hallmarks of wrongdoing – including the fact that the Quewezance sisters were 19 and 21 years old at the time and had attended the now defunct Lebret Residential School —where Dolff used to work in the boiler room. The young women pleaded “not guilty” but were convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. David Milgaard figures into this case as he suggested a private investigator –Jolene Johnson –who uncovered the fact that no physical evidence connected the sisters to the murder.

” Johnson said the racially divided community where the murder happened didn’t help and there were no Indigenous people on the jury.”

Prince Albert Daily Herald, Sept. 19, 2021

You can watch A Life Sentence here.

Though it seems like ancient news, Kim Pate and Pam Palmater have a great Youtube video about the Trucker Convoy. Pate is a Canadian senator and prison rights activist; Palmater is a professor, Indigenous and also a prison rights advocate. Well worth watching and 30 minutes long: Watch Kim and Pam on the Trucker Convoy here

W5: How non-disclosure agreements morphed into a tool to silence survivors is a good 24 minute investigation into non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and their misuse against women who have been sexually abused and assaulted in Canada. Equity Watch has a campaign against NDAs which was launched after PEI became the first Canadian province to seriously limit their use. Watch the W5 program here.

Watch Equity Watch for an interview with Dr Julie Mcfarlane and Zelda Perkins—the woman who broke her NDA to expose Harvey Weinstein – it’s here .

NDAs should not protect predators (credit Unsplash)

Broadchurch, season 3 is probably its best season. That’s because someone new is writing it, and there is a strong feminist thread throughout – even the brittle Scottish cop, Alec Hardy, has to listen to feminist arguments and talk about murderers and their victims through a feminist lens. It’s a cliffhanger all right. It’s on Britbox, or Amazon Prime. Here’s the trailer.

El Abogado is an 11 minute film on Kanopy. It is about a kidnapper in Spain who wants to sleep with a clear conscience he goes to a button-down lawyer for advice. Droll and witty. Kanopy films are free with your Halifax Public Library card. Here’s the 35 second trailer!

What to Read

The Trial of Julian Assange is a bit of a plod –but I learned a lot from this book. Written by Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. He does make some astonishing comments. He confesses he had been influenced by the media headlines and at first believed that Assange was a

“cowardly rapist refusing to turn himself in to the Swedish authorities. Assange, the hacker and spy evading justice in the Ecuadorian embassy. Assange, the ruthless narcissist, traitor and bastard. And so forth.”

Nils Melzer in his book The Trial of Julian Assange (2022)

But after a request from Assange’s lawyers to investigate his case of torture, Melzer began to think again. “Only later did I realize how much my perception had been distorted by prejudice. Years of exposure to scandalous headlines and biased reporting…had formed an opinion deeply anchored in my emotions. …The official narrative had the desired effect on public opinion—myself included.”

From left: Trial of Julian Assange book cover; Chinese dissident artist Al Wei Wei stands up for Assange; Assange, holding the expose in the Guardian years ago (CNN); credit: International Federation of Journalists

The book is full of twists and turns and is well worth reading. I got it as an e-book from Amazon; it was just published in February.

“My perception had been distorted by prejudice. Years of exposure to scandalous headlines and biased reporting…had formed an opinion deeply anchored in my emotions.

Nils Melzer in The Trial of Julian Assange (2022)

They Said This Would Be Fun

They Said This Would Be Fun: Race, Campus Life and Growing Up is by Eternity Martis – a young writer, and now a professor in the Journalism school at X University [aka: Ryerson University]. Martis, who is of Black and South Asian descent, graduated from a Toronto high school. She decided to move to London, Ontario to attend Western University. Western is (arguably) a “party” school, and she tries to participate but racism stalls her making friends and fully participating in university life in that city. Two nasty incidents happen ten years apart, as Martis recounts them in her book—I’ve drawn up a chart –you can see their similarity:

2002: after leaving club on King St. London2012: just outside Jack’s a club in London
A Black female student noticed a white man standing in front of the bar as she tried to hail a cab. She was intrigued by his shirt, decorated with skulls…Taz and I (a woman friend and the author) were outside Jack’s after a night out, looking for a cab.
Curious, she approached him, “What does your shirt say?” she asked. His friend, another white man, came over and got in her face.Two white men were standing at the side of the building smoking… when they started hitting on her, following us as we walked away. … Taz tried to turn them down politely.
“What the fuck are you talking to him for?” he yelled…“We just want to talk to you, what’s wrong with that? One of the men, muscular… said as he grabbed her arm. … I stepped in, “Can you leave her alone? She’s not interested.”
They grabbed her; the man in the skull shirt punched her in the face.“No one’s talking to you. We’re talking to your friend,” he said harshly in his Eastern European accent.
They walked away from her, as she bled. The man in the shirt turned back… “And the shirt says, ‘I hate mother-fucking niggers.’”He let go of her arm and turned  toward me, inches from my face. “Why don’t you go back to your third-world country bitch?” he yelled at me.
 I yelled back about the irony of a white man with an accent telling me to go back..when I was born here. “I should beat you up for even daring to speak to me.” [was his reply]

I took these words directly from Martis’ book. It’s a firsthand look at racism in the dating and social scene in a mid-size Canadian city. She was also considered a “token” Black in her undergraduate classes and on campus. She is expected to step aside when a gaggle of white kids are on the sidewalk, but she refuses. Early on in her narrative, she was sexually assaulted and traumatized by boyfriend in her first year. This book tells you a lot about Canadians, and their nasty underbellies.

Below: Eternity Martis, photo by Corey Misquita; Martis’ book cover.

What to Listen to

I’ve heard two podcasts lately that have zeroed in on the issue of police Mr Big operations. (Please note I’ve written about the author of this hyperlinked Mr Big article, Mark Stobbe in What to Listen to last year, here; he was charged with murdering his wife and was acquitted). Mr Big operations are often hundreds of dollars’ set-ups to entrap a supposed criminal, or a ‘target’.

The police forge these scenarios in which they act as gangsters, led by a crime boss (that’s the Mr Big). Through befriending the target, allowing him to feel he is part of a group of buddies, doing light crime (such as stealing cars or moving cars from city to city) the gangsters buddies take in the targeted person. They befriend him, go out to bars, strip joints, or social events with him. Finally Mr Big calls upon the target to come clean – to confess to having done the prior crime – so he can get the full protection of the gang.

This Mr Big situation is dangerous as it can lead to false confessions, or take away a target’s right to silence or to any legal help. Mr Big is illegal in the UK and the US – but in Canada it is nearly standard operating procedure when there is a tough crime to be solved.

This is a studio shot of Mr. Big candy bar made by Cadbury isolated on a white background.”

On CBC Podcasts, you might want to listen to The Pit which is a multi-part series about the disappearance and murder of a 53-year old woman who worked at a gravel pit in rural Saskatchewan. The series gets interesting after Episode 4. Mr Big plays a prominent role in the arrest of the woman’s ex. Listen to the CBC Podcast here.

On Canadian True Crime, the case of Karen and Krista Hart is very much worth listening to. Three-year olds (twin girls) drowned in Gander Lake, Newfoundland in August of 2002. The only suspect was the girls’ father, Nelson Hart, a man who was a depressive, with serious cognitive disabilities and unable to hold down a job. The Mr Big operation cost half a million dollars. The question is – was the culprit really the father? Listen here.

This short story, So Late in the Day, is wonderful – especially when it’s read aloud by the author Claire Keegan. It’s about the relationship between an Irish man and his fiancée—in the lead-up to the wedding day. Very little happens – yet everything bad happens. Listen here.

The new Tate, in 2016. Walk around it with Nicholas Serota — watch this 1 min. video.

This Guardian Long Read “How Nicholas Serota’s Tate changed Britain” is about the transformation of art in the UK – from something for the wealthy and privileged to something everyone can access. The Tate Gallery in London is what has been pivotal in this transformation. Delightful, interesting and here.

Gary Younge, who used to be a journalist at The Guardian, is Black. Today he is an academic and a harsh critic of capitalism. His Long Read “What Covid taught us about racism – and what we need to do now”, is a must listen. Here.

And a fun, even uplifting, 20 minutes can be spent listening to “Why strip clubs are essential to finish Canada’s vaccine campaign”. It’s on The Big Story here.

Featured image: Canuck the Crow, Vancouver, BC., by Kathrine Churchill. Part of an art exhibit on crows at ROAM gallery in 2016.

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