Saturday, July 31, 2021

Vancouver Arthouse return! With specific focus on He Ran All the Way and Mandibles



It wouldn't be a real Vancouver summer for movie-lovers without the Cinematheque's Film Noir series, and lo, it has returned, with a usual mixture of tried and true favourites, including a couple of films that tend to appear on my list of favourite noirs: Gun Crazy, Criss Cross, and In a Lonely Place (yes, basis for that Smithereens song, and one of the saddest noirs ever), a couple of historically important films that I've seen but don't have much to say about (like Kiss Me Deadly, which will forever to me be a footnote in my fandom for Repo Man) and a nice sampling of "deep cuts" that I've never seen, like City That Never Sleeps and The Glass Key, based on a terrific Dashiell Hammett novel (one of the few vintage crime novels I've read twice, and one of the sources for the plot in Miller's Crossing, which mix-and-matches a few Hammett texts in a way that I'm sure they would consider homage, but has always seemed - tho' I like the film a lot - to be borderline plagiarism).

The one that I have never seen that really stands out for me is He Ran All the Way, for a few reasons that have nothing to do with the story itself (which does sound compelling): because, first off, I'm kind of fascinated by young Shelley Winters (who I grew up watching play cranky "broads" in movies like The Poseidon Adventure, The Tenant, Bloody Mama, or Kubrick's Lolita - which seems the turning point between her sex-bomb years and her later mode. Unaware of her early career, I used to find her kind of gross, to be honest, since these characters were often kind of vulgar and none-too-bright. then realized at some point that in fact, that grossness was something she was performing, and suddenly found myself feeling deep respect for her. She went from this, back when she was hanging around with Marilyn Monroe:


To this, in what has become my favourite of her "broad" roles, The Poseidon Adventure:


...And kept working well past her "best-by" date in a system that didn't have much use for real actresses, except as eye candy. Truth is, I still find something kind of nails-on-a-chalkboardish about her later roles (she's just so frumpy and unpleasant, in films like Polanski's The Tenant, for example) but I realize now that she's TRYING to get under your skin there...

Even more of a reason I'm keen on He Ran All the Way: I haven't seen many John Garfield movies, and never this one, though that morphs into another issue that, in fact, cineastes out there can help me with; I am convinced that I have heard reference to He Ran All the Way in some other film, or some other film-related place, like an interview with a director I respect... but I have no idea where. Did a character in a Martin Scorsese film talk about it? That seems like it could be the case; maybe the Harvey Keitel character in Who's That Knocking At My Door, since he's a film buff? That would be pleasing, because the late Bertrand Tavernier, when I interviewed him about the blu-ray release of Death Watch, likened Keitel to Garfield:

I find him very moving, very interesting--totally immature. I love that quality in Harvey. And from the beginning, the moment when he entered the restaurant, when I met him, I said, “this is Roddy!” Especially when he was smiling. And I had seen many of his films, post-Taxi Driver, and in many films he was always tense, never smiling. Sometimes very effectively, like in Fingers, which was a very underrated film. But he was never loosening up, something he could do; he also could express the immaturity of the character, the guilt. I told him, “you remind me of John Garfield.” He had a kind of Garfieldian quality.

...All of which is enough to make me interested to see Garfield's final performance, as is the blacklisting of various people involved in this film (co-written by Dalton Trumbo, who was the subject of a pretty good movie himself a few years ago) but like I say, I've had a "pin" in my memory about this particular film for a long time, long enough to have forgotten where it came from. I should go see it, for sure, but it probably won't help me recall WHY I think I should go see it. Help me scratch my niggling itch!

There's also a return to open for the Vancity Theatre - now and in the future to be called the VIFF Centre, also now boasting a new "studio theatre" on the side. They have a few films that I am very excited to see. I will be seeing Gunda alone, sadly. I described it to Erika, who doesn't resonate with black and white so much, and who is not actually a cinema lover, per se - she likes movies, but, like, that amazing opening sequence of Bela Tarr's The Turin Horse did nothing for her but give her a point of reference to tell me what not to play her in the future ("Is it like the movie about the guy walking the horse up the hill?" ...we didn't even finish it, only got as far as the potato-eating scene, which is to my mind the greatest potato scene in film history, but... you know, I can't entirely blame her; either your scopophilia kicks in and you are compelled beyond reason by such images, or it doesn't and you aren't).

To me, though, Gunda sounds amazing: a gorgeously-photographed black and white Norwegian documentary about the life of a pig.

I haven't seen Quentin Dupieux's Mandibles, but I have seen his telekinetic killer tire movie, Rubber, and that film, if you've missed it, is both insane and very fun to watch. On the strength of that film alone - which I am sure Erika would also enjoy, note - I'd be game to see another Dupieux. Then I read the description from the VIFF website:

The gig couldn’t be more straightforward: Manu is to hotwire a car, pick up a briefcase, deliver it straight away, absolutely no peeking, no diversions, discretion guaranteed. Inviting his best bud Jean-Gab to come along for the ride is not in the remit. But then, who could have foreseen what would turn up in the trunk of the yellow wrecker he chooses at random…? A housefly the size of a dog. Naturally, the two friends are bemused. There must be real money here, if they can only figure it out. Jean-Gab has an idea: tape up its wings, earn its trust, and train it to pull a bank robbery…

Um, what? A giant fly robbing a bank? Um... okay. Not quite sure how Dupieux comes up with his ideas. It feels like they could have begun as one sentence or phrase (which also applies to "telekinetic killer tire"). You get the sense with some of the more outlandish films out there, like Kevin Smith's idiotic but unforgettable Tusk, the film's premise emerges from a contest between very stoned friends to see who can come up with the most batshit ideas for movies; what's remarkable is not that drug-fond filmmakers might have such conversations, but that they actually follow through on the ideas that arise in them when they're sober. In any event - whatever Dupieux's inspirations or intent - Mandibles sounds like a must-see to me. (The title surely is a riff on Jaws, eh?). 

There's lots else to see at the Vancity, coming up - also Annette, a rock opera made with the deep involvement of the Sparks brothers. Sparks - coming soon to Vancouver, and subject of a well-regarded recent documentary - is a cult band I respect but haven't done justice; I do love their song and video for "I Predict." Have not yet heard their soundtrack to Annette (listening to this one song as I type). Bears looking into!


 I'm also very keen to catch La Piscine, an erotic French thriller starring Romy Schneider, whom I loved so much it the aforementioned Death Watch. Udo Kier fans will want, meanwhile, to check out Swan Song. I've missed both these cinemas (and the cinema itself) a great deal, and am excited by the prospect of seeing all of these films in a cinema. The opportunity may not last long, here, so... 

Friday, July 30, 2021

A return to punk rock gigs with Betty Bathory and company

So I've already put this joke on Facebook, but after LanaLou's last night, I have the perfect name for a punk band: Superspreader. It's edgy, vaguely obscene, and probably prophetic, because if I'm ever gonna catch COVID, last night is the night that's gonna do it. 

Allow me to explain. 

Having worn my mask on the bus, the Skytrain, and shopping for records (cheap Guadalcanal Diary stuff at Audiopile - I realized recently that I didn't have Jamboree, and I've never owned Flip Flop, and took care of both for around $5 each), I found myself somewhat daunted, as I walked up Powell, by the dozen or so smokers standing around outside LanaLou's, not one of whom was wearing a mask or practicing anything like social distancing. Is this a preview of what's inside? I wondered. Am I ready for this? The thought occurred to me turn around and go home, but I'd told Bob Hanham I would see him there, and packed some gift vids for him and for Betty Bathory, whose birthday bash it was (I gave Bob two great neo-noirs from the London Drugs sale bins, Small Town Crime and Galveston, a copy of that too-ugly-for-me Lars von Trier serial killer film, and brought Maudie, Revenge, and A Vigilante for Betty - all of which you can probably still find on the cheap at a London Drugs near you, selling for 3/$5 as part of a Mongrel/ Saban video dump). Weighing my options, I straightened up and arrived at resolve: fuckit, let's go inside... I think I mighta flirted with putting on a mask at the door, but quickly realized it would have been complete folly, because no one I could see had one on, and there were plenty of people inside. So there it is: How much do I believe that these vaccines will really work? 

Might as well find out. I mean, by the current plan, I'm going back to work face-to-face with the public five days a week in September, without masks or barriers or social distancing, and only a smidgen of extra cleaning. In terms of restrictions, the province seems, in general, to have fallen flat on its back, spread its legs, and told COVID to give us its best shot - so I might as well, too. It seems pretty obvious that we're going to be going back into lockdown mode at some point, that the vaccines will only ever be partially effective, and that the variants of concern out there are not exactly going away, but it also seems pretty clear that WE ARE NEVER GOING TO ARRIVE AT ZERO COVID, not with the two-step "Open and Close" dance we keep doing. If we were ever going to beat this, we would have by now. Trying to keep myself safe when the majority of the general public and the province are trying to "return to normal" is going to get tired soon, and I don't want to become some reclusive shut-in afraid to go out because there are diseases out there... So what the hell, let's take these vaccines out for a test drive, see what they can do. I'm just flat-out bored of trying to be cautious. I'm bored of being in the minority of people who is wearing a mask on public transit - bored of protecting the people who are NOT wearing masks and thus not trying to protect me; where's the sanity in that? Going back to full on punk gigs might not be safe, but like Tesco Vee says, the best punk shows always have an element of danger in them, anyhow; so once through the door, I stuffed my mask in my pocket, and there it remained until I hadda take transit home. 

And y'know - ask me again if it was worth it when I've lost my sense of smell and taste, had a drop in IQ, got the COVID toes, and been on a ventilator - but from where I sit now, I gotta say, it was a great night. Saw a TON of people I have not seen in well over a year. Sat with Gord McCaw and Bob Hanham, whose photographs of the night are obviously gonna put my shitty cellphone snaps to shame (but I still kept trying). Ate poutine, guzzled three Guinness, and bought Clay Holmes a beer and chatted briefly about plans for the WISE Hall and about his new band, Digression, who have a pretty fuckin' clever album title, but no physical album. (Fun music - I would see this live!).





There were many other people I saw last night, most of whom I have not seen for a year - Hey, Dave! Hey, Talesha! Hey, Nick! Hey, Pete! Hey, Norah! It almost felt like community, again, and the social element would alone have made it a successful night. But it didn't hurt that there were three kickass sets of music - which I don't actually have that much to say about, really (I mean, I'm not tryin' to be insightful here). Steady Teddy was great, with a welcome pinch of rockabilly in their mix and a standup bass. Daddy Issues was great, and Betty is a hell of a performer - I sadly could not get any "chicks with dicks" shots (friends with dildos joined the band  onstage), and I missed her later lapdance (Talesha tells me) from a pro stripper and whatever songs she joined the Gnar Gnars for. Orchard Pinkish, in Betty's band, was one of the only people actually in a mask last night, but it was a Plague Doctor one, and their set included some totally fun covers of "Be My Baby" and "Love Gun" (though I *think* the two songs I recorded were originals...?). The Gnar Gnars, whom I'd never seen previously, had a bit of a Dayglos vibe to their music and their rude-as-fuck lyrics, including a song about fucking vacuum cleaners (not a real thing, please tell  me?). A great punk band, it seems - and if they'd been a visible presence at their merch table (if they even had one?) I would have bought (speaking of clever titles) The Gnarnicles of Chronia for sure (and maybe a t-shirt, because holy shit it was hot in there - it was a fuckin' terrarium - and I could have used a change of clothes at the end of the night). 

Alas, my wife had to work early today, so as I often do, I ducked out before the end of the evening. It was kind of a welcome and necessary relief from a year of near-giglessness, and the only two questions that remain for me is a) whether I am going to go see Crummy on Saturday (or would that count as "pushing my luck?"), and whether Betty is gonna come visit me in the hospital next month, when the COVID has me on a ventilator...

...Actually, given how many people hugged her last night, she'll probably be there too! Happy birthday, Betty! 

Tellin' ya, folks - Superspreader. Yours to take, free!  

(Photos by Allan MacInnis, in reverse order, except for the last two, from the end of the night). 
















Sunday, July 18, 2021

Male midlife crisis thrillers for men and women alike: Nobody, Small Town Crime, and Boss Level

I haven't anything serious to write about at the moment. I mean, not that I can do justice to. I'm beaten. My internet time has been spent going back and forth from videos by Dr. Robert Malone to stories about residential school graves to news of millions of sea creatures cooked alive in their shells during our heatwave to the constantly changing public messaging around the pandemic (NACI says that mix-and-matching is safe, and that's what I ended up doing, shortly before the WHO came out against it...). I'm full of low-key anxiety that our mass reopening might  be precipitous, expecting COVID numbers to open up, and then again wondering if people's fears aren't as overheated as those dead mussels on the beach. Add to that the uncertainties and vicissitudes of daily life and, well folks, I'm beat, and simply cannot muster the strength enough to write something serious at the moment. 

So I'm going to just write about some movies I have enjoyed. Somewhat lowbrow ones. Entertainments, with aging white men as their chosen demographic. Sorry. I am, after all, an aging white man, what can I say?

Actually, it's funny how enduring movies are aimed at that demographic, even still - mostly movies about men who need to "remasculate" themselves (I am sure someone else has used that term before, but I was still impressed when Erika used it tonight, watching one such movie, as it was the first either of us had encountered it - so it had the effect of a clever coinage, regardless of whether it has been done before). You know the type - movies about (apparent) family men who suddenly must summon and re-master past violence to confront and set right a great evil (or better yet, protect an innocent from a threat). There's a long and deep trench of American popular cinema - from Unforgiven and A History of Violence to more trivial formula fare like John Wick - that has been dug by these films, which ultimately seem to reduce to being "male midlife crisis movies" - fantasies to assuage the bruised ego of men who have had to tone down their game to enter family life, who are aware of the vulnerabilities of getting old and need their egos and sense of themselves as "men of action" reassured. Bruce Willis is the poster-boy and patron saint of these films, and Die Hard is perhaps their pinnacle achievement - but has dropped weirdly below visibility lately, making films on a smaller and smaller budget that are about as alluring as the later career of Steven Seagal. He was even effectively replaced by Liam Neeson for awhile, but no matter: as long as your star is a white man aged 35-65, you can make one of these movies; the stars come and go, but the formula abides. They also invariably involve guns and bad guys and shootouts (oh my!). There is often a family that must be protected, that is ill-prepared to face the true nature of the main male character (the transformation of the milquetoast mathematician in Straw Dogs to efficient killer, for example, defending his home). The home is often destroyed along the way, or at least riddled with bullets, but the family is usually saved - essential to our continuing to identify with our hero as a hero... unless it turns out that the family is working with the bad guys to make sure the hero remains less than he can be (Total Recall springs to mind). 

Given how obvious their appeals are to the psychology of male filmgoers - often family men, or at least married men, whose lives are no doubt also less wild than they were in their 20's - it's curious to me that so many women I have known enjoy these sorts of films, too. They seem to have an appeal across gender boundaries. Whatever Carol J. Clover might say about the feminist aspects of the "final girl" in slasher films - whom male audiences seem also to be able to identify with, also crossing the lines of gender - Erika will choose John McClane over even a great final-girl slasher film any day (I actually tried Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 on her, Dr. Clover, I swear, but she's just not that type of girl; I still plan to attempt the Hooper Toolbox Murders with her someday, which is so self-aware it makes me sure Hooper read your book, but I don't have great faith she'll dig it). Maybe there's something about the midlife crisis that appeals to women, too, even if almost all of these films have, somewhere as their subtext, the validation of the law of the father and the principle that father knows best...? Do they enjoy seeing the male ego laid so bare, or do they just identify with the man and get into it?

Mom, come to think of it, would often be yelling "kill him" at the screen during the final showdown of such movies. I think her identification with the hero was pretty complete, at such times... 

Anyhow, you wouldn't necessarily think that women could enjoy these sorta films, but Erika will sit down to such a film any day. They actually are kind of a middle ground we can both enjoy - and while it is sometimes odd to me the films I cannot share with her, the fact that I can lay the occasional Bronson on her is most appreciated. So we've been watching a bunch of these lately, Erika and I, and have caught some really good ones. Anyhow. that's what I sat down to write about... 


Nobody is pretty entertaining, in a silly, somewhat embarrassingly lowbrow, but still kind of witty, way: it knows what it is and approaches things with a smirk. It's great to see Bob Odenkirk as the star of the show, for a role that no doubt was written for him. It is on the more tongue-and-cheek end of the male-midlife-crisis thriller spectrum: A History of Violence by way of John Wick, with a few star turns from people who we might have expected to be retired by now (Michael Ironside, Christopher Lloyd). Erika and I also enjoyed Breaking Bad (another recent high point in the male-midlife-crisis-thriller genre), though we have yet to enter Better Call Saul. I hope the world doesn't end before we get the chance to. 


I also quite liked Small Town Crime, with John Hawkes, an actor I've enjoyed since the days of Benny's World of Blood, and with a small role for Robert Forster. It is also a bit on the lowbrow end of the spectrum - an escapist fantasy, ultimately - but more of a noir, with richer, more compromised, more "human" characters than the other films in this post, and quite a bit more grit (haven't quite figured out how its esthetic works with that of the director's next film, the "Mel Gibson as vengeful Santa thriller," Fatman, which probably also belongs in this genre - Mel's another poster-boy for it, really - but that one is quite a bit stranger than either this film or the average one; I mean, Santa?) Anyone who has missed Small Town Crime, incidentally, should go looking in the cheap bins at London Drugs; at least here in BC, Mongrel, or someone related, has dumped hundreds of underperforming movies to be sold at 3/$5, and Small Town Crime is by far the best of the half-dozen we've looked at so far. (Maudie, which is NOT a male midlife crisis movie, is also in these bins; The Trust and Galveston are also worth a watch, and A Vigilante, Marrowbone, and Revenge all look promising, though not relevant to this entry). 


And speaking of Mel Gibson, he's also in the new Joe Carnahan, Boss Level, which is also very fun, taking in elements of time-loop thrillers like Source Code or Edge of Tomorrow - all of which of course owe something to Groundhog Day - and structuring them like an RPG. It's all quite clever, definitively solidifies the "time loop thriller" as a subgenre of SF, and has a nice lead role for Frank Grillo, though Carnahan-wise, I liked the Grillo film Wheelman far more, which is by far the best new car chase thriller I've seen in years (beats the shit out of Drive and Baby Driver, anyhow; I'm not going to compare it to Ford Vs. Ferrari, though, since that's a different animal). Gibson plays the heavy - a small role, really, which I don't think Mel is particularly suited for (he's a lead actor, and seems to handle anything less with the same sets of mannerisms). Again, it is smartassed and tongue-in-cheek about what it is doing; it's about as serious, ultimately, as Carnahan's A-Team movie (which Erika and I also enjoyed together), but both Boss Level and Wheelman are definitely also male-midlife-crisis movies. Neither of them are as good as The Grey, also by Carnahan, which explicitly amps up the "facing mortality" aspects of the midlife crisis movie - that ultimate emasculation that awaits us all - but... if what you need is a white man of a certain age in trouble, facing mediocrity or irrelevance, needing to prove himself with violence... well, any of these are pretty great, actually...

I am, understand, all for movies that are not about men needing to remasculate themselves, torn between their nostalgia for wild youth on the one hand and their loss of male potency, on the other... I am as puzzled that I myself can still enjoy a good Die Hard movie as that Erika can. Shouldn't cinema be more than this? Don't I miss my own youth, watching arthouse films and reading film criticism? Are these films really in some subtle way about re-asserting white male dominance that come to the fore when exactly that is being threatened? 

Shit, I don't know, we just needed some light entertainment, and Boss Level, Small Town Crime, and Nobody all were a lot of fun. Don't judge us.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Heatwave!

 Awake at 3am, soaked in sweat.

Having given up on finding an air conditioner, Erika and I spent a part of last night shopping for an available hotel room to sleep in, and/or an additional electric fan to help generate extra coolness with. 

No dice. (And no aircon, no extra fan, and no cool room to sleep in - it's all booked up, sold out, TAKEN). 

We've left the cat at Erika's work - there's a room much cooler there than ours and though we have some misgivings about not being there with him, he's going to be soooo much more comfortable there than he would be here (he really wasn't doing too well yesterday - he barfed all over one of his blankets and was just lying there in it, like he didn't much care, just limp and flat and exhausted). We tried to find a vet who could put him up for the night - also nada, no luck, no dice. I spent most of yesterday at MY work, tutoring from the campus, where there is air conditioning, and Erika will be back there at her job in a few hours to hang out with him again. 

I kinda wish he were here, or we were there, but it is soooo hot here... am scheduled to get my second COVID vaccine today, but they've changed locations because the first site was too hot! Not quite sure how that's going to play out, but I sure could use a few more hours before I have to deal with it (and with work - the show must go on, come 9:45AM).

Falling asleep wasn't too bad, but waking up after three hours isn't too good. Gonna go back to bed, but we're up for a bit to pee and hydrate and splash ourselves with cool water. 

Hot as I've ever been. Japan used to have some wicked heat in summer, when I lived there, but this feels worse - fear-for-this-planet worse. 

Arrgh. Stay cool folks. Good luck. 





Friday, June 18, 2021

Vaccines, writing, and MIDSOMMAR DIRECTOR'S CUT AT THE RIO!

Waiting for the pharmacy to call about the second shot - they missed week eight, I guess (which for me finishes today). I'm anxious about what to get now that NACI has actually RECOMMENDED getting Pfizer or Moderna if your first shot was AZ. My doctor's homepage doesn't really weigh in one way or another - it says it is "safe" but resists making claims about it being preferred or more effective, which makes me wonder if NACI knows something my doctor doesn't, or if my doctor is just more cautious (which is what I suspect). Still kinda resent that I have to try to sort out which way to go; getting vaccinated in a pandemic shouldn't be this complicated!

In other news, I did not make it to a record store on Record Store Day to buy Lou Reed's Set the Twilight Reeling on LP. It's a Lou I actually quite like - it is kinda jammy and off-the-cuff compared to, say, Ecstasy or Magic and Loss, but has some real wit on it, and, I mean, "Hookywooky" is idiotically fun - but the one store I asked for a price was asking $46. That's TWO HOURS of work at my day job, for me - I just can't justify it. 

Mostly I'm going to be trying to focus my energies this weekend on transcribing John Wright. I kinda sure don't FEEL like writing right now, though. Erika's away, I'm not at work, and I kinda just want to shake loose a little, take a walk or something - I've been sitting in this chair all week. I couldn't even pick a movie to watch last night, I'm so restless - ended up spending an hour and a half on ContraPoints' video on JK Rowling, which was VERY entertaining and very helpful in confirming stuff I suspected about Rowling but - not being trans, barely knowing anyone trans - had no confidence about asserting. Thanks, Natalie! 

The big excitement this weekend? Midsommar director's cut at the Rio on Sunday. I've only been able to do it previously as an iTunes download. If you liked the theatrical version, the director's cut is longer and richer. As I put it in a FB message, "the central male-female dynamic and its archetypal resonances - a bit more unilinear. The half hour added to this cut fleshes out the academic rivalry between the men and other aspects of the men's narratives, and gets a bit more into the feelings about the female character's re: her sister's suicide, all of which actually widens the space the movie deals with and makes it richer and deeper, and a little less suspect, misogyny-wise." (In its shorter form, while still rich, it seems like it MIGHT just reduce to being a "devouring vagina" movie; it is hard to be that simple about it in the director's cut). Anyhow, that's nice. Which I'd had a double-dose of whatever vaccine they're gonna give me by this point, but fuckit, I'm going to the movie, one dose will do (the last movie I saw theatrically, they didn't even HAVE vaccines yet, so...).

Note - for those who have missed it, this is the richest, most interesting film - even better than Left Bank or Apostle, both of which I loved - to deal with neo-Paganism since The Wicker Man. While it is mostly psychological, artful and slowly-paced, it also has a couple of really upsetting, shocking bits of horror that you should know exist BEFORE you go see the film - it's not for the fragile. Brilliant film, tho'. Good work, Rio - this is an inspired programming choice. (I thought you were a sports bar now?). 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Staying on the topic of unmarked burials and mass graves...

Yet another thing I've posted first on Facebook, but am re-posting here. Not really caring about writing about pop culture lately - have another project in the works, maybe, dealing with this (AFTER I clear John Wright). It was a bit of an ugly week for me on Facebook - I got annoyed with a trivial meme that called for "arresting teachers, priests and nuns" who worked at residential schools - hardly "the next step," here, and not even something that I think should be done. Had a couple of idiots describe me as a Nazi sympathizer because I don't think having been a priest or teacher or nun at one of these schools is ALONE enough to warrant "arresting" people, but whoever wrote the meme - it was posted by Chris Walter - probably wasn't really seriously thinking about what the next step should be; the point was that the next step SHOULDn't be "lowering flags," which is kind of useless symbolism where there is a need for action, and more what you  might think would come of the Liberals. (That part I agree with). 

Anyhow, after some ugliness on FB and one person being unfriended/ blocked, I've posted this - about all I've got right now, but there might be more to come on the topic, once I get John Wright squared away:

(Commence verbatim Facebook post): 

Been accused of being "tone deaf" for a comment on a thread. Going to try to be careful here - not wanting to give offense or hurt anyone. Talking about the 215 children. Mostly I've been reading. Some people might be interested in the following; even if you're not interested in my opinions, there are links to websites I didn't know about that other people might profit from visiting.

What the discovery at Kamloops mostly brings home is that there are apparently THOUSANDS MORE undocumented/ unmarked graves of indigenous children across Canada, on the sites of former residential schools. In 1914, apparently a department official said, "Fifty per cent of the children who passed through these schools did not live to benefit from the education which they had received therein." The Liberal minister quoting that, Gary Merasty, characterized the residential schools as "places of disease, hunger, overcrowding, and despair." That's on page 4 of the Missing Children and Unmarked Burials volume of the TRC report

While not disputing that abuse happened at these schools, some of the burials would seem to be due to large outbreaks of tuberculosis and influenza in the early 20th century. I am still unclear if what was found in Kamloops was a "mass grave" or an "unmarked cemetery;" the two terms have been used interchangeably in the media, but it's a distinction that newspapers don't seem to be being careful about. A mass grave suggests many people dying in a short time and being buried in a very undignified fashion, especially by a church that places a lot of ritual and import on what happens to someone after they die. There is, it turns out, some precedent for this, a mass grave mentioned in the TRC report - as many as 78 bodies in Ft. St. James. From page 119 of the report:

Several of the schools were overwhelmed by the influenza pandemic of 1918–19. All but two of the children and all of the staff were stricken with influenza at the Fort St. James, British Columbia, school and surrounding community in 1918. Seventy-eight people, including students, died. Initially, Father Joseph Allard, the school principal, conducted funeral services at the mission cemetery. But, as he wrote in his diary, the 'others were brought in two or three at a time, but I could not go to the graveyard with all of them. In fact, several bodies were piled up in an empty cabin because there was no grave ready. A large common grave was dug for them.'

There's not many other mentions of common graves in the report - only one other that I can find, again tied to an outbreak of disease, roughly in that same section of the report. That's why the language around mass graves is so disturbing (and the lack of media distinction between mass graves and unmarked burials is so annoying, since the latter suggests people dying over a much longer period, as part of a business-as-usual secret practice; that may actually be the more horrifying scenario, and the one that seems more likely to correlate with deaths from abuse). But whether mass graves or unmarked burials, if there are an estimated 4000-5000 burial sites out there - they need to be found, and there needs to be some urgency around it, because - does anyone out there, at this point, trust Justin Trudeau to do more than SAY the right thing?

That raises the question: what IS being done? The government of Canada, it turns out, has a "Missing children and burial information" page. It lists the Calls to Action in the TRC report around locating these sites. Almost every call to action has the same language in the answer - variations on the following paragraph:

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada has begun discussions with various partners, internal and external to the federal government, towards collaborating on an engagement strategy to gain a better understanding of the range of Indigenous family and community needs and interests and about how best to move forward in a comprehensive manner on all of the calls to actions regarding children who died or went missing while attending Indian residential schools (Calls to Action 72 to 76).

As one expects, the language is vague and prompting of skepticism, suggesting a slow process with many politicians talking, but apparently things ARE being done. Budget 2019 apparently "announced $33.8 million over 3 years, starting in fiscal year 2019 to 2020, to develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Death Register and work with parties to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries." That website is here: https://nctr.ca/memorial/

I am no sort of activist. I don't know what to do to impress upon the federal government how imperative it seems to locate other sites like the one in Kamloops (there are residential school sites all over BC, including one in North Vancouver and one in Mission. There is an interactive map online to see if you live near one: https://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/beyond-94-residential-school-map/ ). I don't really even know how "ground penetrating radar" works, let alone how to pressure the government to make sure every community has the resources to access it. If people have suggestions, I'm all there - mostly all I'm going to be good for is reading and writing, but... there seems some urgency here. It's going to be a tough year or two, though, because - if there are anywhere between 3300 and 5000 other burial sites across Canada... what percentage of that is 215? (Not very good at math, either, but it's not a very large percent).

Monday, May 31, 2021

Mass graves? My Catholic background, the 215 children, and a striking paucity of detail

Last March, when I packed up at my job to come do it at home, I brought a few books with me. One of them is the copy of the Truth and Reconciliation Report summary - the first volume of several, I believe, all of which, I believe, can also be found and accessed for free, online. I've had cause to turn to it this week, as there is ample mention in it of unmarked graves, and calls to action to find these graves, and "work with churches, Aboriginal communities, and former residential school students to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including, where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children." There are calls to action to "develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Death Register" and for "the federal government to  ensure that appropriate measures have been taken to inform families of the fate of their children and to ensure that the children are commemorated in a way that is acceptable to their families" (that last is not one of the numbered "calls to action" but appears on page 260 of the Volume One: Summary segment of the book-form report). There is also discussion of how "the residential school cemeteries and burial sites... are abandoned, disused, and vulnerable to disturbance," that these graves are typically "unmarked," and there is a call to action "for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries... [including] the provision of appropriate memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers to honour the deceased children." (I haven't given the exact location of each quote but the section of the book in question is "The Challenge of Reconciliation," pages 258-263, a section entitled "Missing children, unmarked graves, and residential school cemeteries.") There may be more in the book about graves, but that - and a brief entry on page 19 - are it as for what is indexed.

What there is not mention of, as far as I can see, in said book, is "mass graves." (There is also no mention of mass graves in the original Tk’eml├║ps te Secwépemc press release about the discovery). And there seems to be an important distinction between forgotten cemeteries and unmarked graves, on the one hand, which is what is mentioned in the Summary, and "mass graves." It may not be important to some of you, and if you're already bristling with anger that the distinction troubles me, maybe you just want to skip what I write below. I am not seeking to make anyone angry, or to seem insensitive (I probably will do both). I just want to wrap my head around this story, and I'm having a bit of trouble doing it, because the news stories I've read so far - about half a dozen - are lacking precisely the details I need to feel like I know just how disgusted and outraged I need to be. 

Allow me to backtrack a bit, and give some personal context. I was raised Catholic, with Catholic parents; I went to catechism classes, read Bible stories in children's books, prayed regularly as a boy, and at around age 12, received first communion - the "body of Christ," placed in your open mouth, a kind of taste-free papery wafer that kind of fascinated me (about the only part of Catholic ritual I liked). Shortly after receiving first communion, however, things began to turn for me; I was questioning the idea of an all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing Deity (and remember apologizing in prayer to God for not really believing in him, asking him to forgive me if I was wrong). Mostly, though, I didn't want to have to go to confession, which was seen as part-and-parcel of receiving communion - because, as a pubescent boy, I was sinning pretty regularly back then, sometimes several times a day, and had the wisdom to not want to talk about what I was doing to a priest in a dark booth (this being years before I had heard anything about Catholic priests sexually abusing young boys). Plus I didn't feel the slightest bit contrite about what I was doing with my body; it didn't feel sinful, which got me questioning why the hell I would want to "confess" it in the first place, just because the church thought (presumably) that it was sinful; it was the last thing I wanted to talk about with any adult, something private, about me and my body. So without mentioning that real reason to my parents, I stopped going to church, only going a handful of times after that, to humour Mom and Dad on Christmas, for instance (and once because a Muslim acquaintance of mine asked me if I would be his "guide," because he was curious about what a Catholic service looked like, never having seen one - fun story, but a bit besides the point). I heard, occasionally, of Catholics who I respected - the Berrigan brothers, for example, who embarrassed the church with their committed anti-war activism - but mostly, in terms of culture and literature, it was lapsed Catholics (Robert Stone, Graham Greene, even, uh, Georges Bataille) who spoke to me - to the extent that I thought of Catholicism at all.

What really disgusted me about the church, however - in terms of my personal experiences - was that the parish priest in Maple Ridge, who gave my father the last rites, refused, after Dad died in 2009, to perform a full funeral service for my father unless his body was intact (maybe even present, I forget). My father - a good man not particularly versed in the rules of his faith - had requested there be no coffin, no plot - just a cremation; the thought of his body lying dead underground disturbed him ("no bugs on me," was how he put it in hospital, making various nurses around him chuckle). Rather than a burial plot, he wanted his ashes to be scattered with my mother's, when she should pass (which was also what she wanted). He asked me to choose a place, which I still am hemming and hawing about. But the priest made very clear, as I explained these wishes to him, that this was all objectionable to him - I can't explain why now, exactly, but it was breaking the "rules" of the church, and he told us that if my father's body was cremated, there could be no funeral. He could mention his passing in a service and say a prayer for him - and later did, with Mom and I in attendance, which was the last time I was in a Catholic church - but no full ceremony could be performed without my father's body being intact.

Well, fuck you, buddy: the audacity of standing face-to-face with grieving people, telling them that the rules of your institution are more important than the needs and wishes of the bereaved, angered me (and Mom, too - she stopped going to church after that, though she did continue to pray). Plus, y'know, coffins are expensive (cremations, too, but less so) and we didn't have the money for much more than a cremation, which itself cost around $800 in those days. Doing it the priest's way would have not only been contrary to my Dad's wishes - it would have cost us a few thousand dollars we didn't really have, at that point. Great way to follow the teachings of a man whose primary moral concern was ministering to the poor!   

That's a roundabout way of pointing out that I know from personal experience that the Catholic faith has definite ideas about what should be done with bodies - who can be buried in sanctified ground, what sort of state their body needs to be in, what rituals have to be performed so that the soul may enter heaven, and how important all this stuff is to them. So when the first reports broke a few days ago about 215 children buried in a mass grave outside Kamloops, I was very curious: what was the state of the bodies? Was this an unmarked, forgotten cemetery, with individual plots and signs that the bodies had been, whatever else might be said, "respectfully" entreated to the rituals that Catholics have around death? Or was this basically just - sorry - a pit that bodies had been thrown into? 

That's the definition of "mass grave," by the way. If you go to Google, and type "mass grave definition," what Google comes back with is, "a pit dug in the ground to receive a large number of corpses," giving the example sentence of, "2,800 civilians were massacred and buried in mass graves." 

Facebook friends seem to think I'm weird for caring about this distinction ("does it matter?" one wrote), but in trying to visualize what happened in Kamloops, trying to understand it, and how to react to it (I mean, horror and grief and shame and rage aside), yes, it actually makes a huge difference to me to imagine an unmarked cemetery, where maybe there WAS some Catholic ritual around each burial, showing the priests at least attempting to care for the souls their charges, albeit on their own strange and questionable terms, or a pit with multiple bodies piled inside. Either way, it's wrong and bad, but it's one thing for someone supposedly trying to convert children to the same religion, to treat their body - when they die of the abuse your religion justifies/ facilitates/ permits and/or turns a blind eye on - with the respect that your religion DEMANDS; and quite another to disrespectfully discard of them like garbage. And while the former scenario allows for the practice of burying children to have gone on for a long time, the second (215 people in one grave) suggests a mass wave of death - a massacre, the definition above offers, or perhaps, more likely in this case, an outbreak of disease. Either way, the children are dead, and a great wrong has been done - I am not defending the Catholics or the residential school system or the Indian Act or so forth - but the latter is, to me, a more repugnant scenario, one much harder to fit my mind around, one that is somewhat (to my knowledge) unprecedented in the known history; one requiring much more of an explanation. 

None was provided, that I saw, in those first articles I've read. The first few news reports I saw on the CBC and News1130, made no mention of the nature of the site. They talked about how the bodies were located, but not if we were talking about individual plots. It gave no indication of how the count had been arrived at. It offered no information as to how long the bodies had been buried, or even if any had yet to be excavated. Presumably, some of this is yet to be determined, but it's information I still haven't been able to find online (if you have read an article that has some of these details, please share it. The most informative I've found thus far has been from the National Post, which provides some historical context - it begins a bit glibly, but strikes the right notes by the end). 

But since those first few, cautious, information-scarce stories I read, newspapers everywhere have moved to talking about a "mass grave" in Kamloops - which, if they are using words carefully, is the more troubling scenario by far, by me. Like I say, for a school that operated as long as the Kamloops one did, a cemetery filling slowly over time is one thing, but 215 dead in a short period... is quite another. (As is the idea of throwing bodies in a pit for a long period - like this could somehow have been a normal practice, which no one questioned...?). But these news stories are using the language of a mass grave without explaining it, without it being clear if they are just using the term in a sensationalistic, inaccurate way. It seems to have crept into the journalism around this crime - from not being used to being used routinely - without anyone having gained or offered more information. It raises more questions than answers have been provided for.

I still don't know what the situation was in Kamloops. Like I say, the volume of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee report I have at home makes no mention of mass graves. But volume 4, devoted to missing children, does have a section on burial practices, where we read this, about a different school:

Several of the schools were overwhelmed by the influenza pandemic of 1918–19. All but two of the children and all of the staff were stricken with influenza at the Fort St. James, British Columbia, school and surrounding community in 1918. Seventy-eight people, including students, died. Initially, Father Joseph Allard, the school principal, conducted funeral services at the mission cemetery. But, as he wrote in his diary, the 'others were brought in two or three at a time, but I could not go to the graveyard with all of them. In fact, several bodies were piled up in an empty cabin because there was no grave ready. A large common grave was dug for them.'

This passage appears on page 119. There is mention of another school in Red Deer where, due to lack of funds, children who died in that same flu epidemic were buried "two to a grave." That, however, would appear to be it, all there is on record previously about mass burials at residential schools. I have not read the whole volume yet, but doing a CTRL+F search for incidents of the word "mass grave" together turns up nothing; mass whippings and mass floggings, yes, but no mass graves. "Common grave" turns up only the entry above. It seems quite likely that it could have been the same influenza epidemic that caused a wave of deaths in Kamloops - that could be one explanation for 215 people dying in a short enough time to be buried together - but the sheer number of dead still staggers the imagination, if the largest mass grave previously on record on residential school land contained 78 people. 

Maybe this all seems like weird quibbling, I don't know - like I say, some of my Facebook friends seem to think so. But the details here trouble me, and I want to understand them. I think reading the whole chapter on the report of the TRC about "Missing Children and Unmarked Burials" is pretty essential now, for all Canadians. I hope I haven't offended anyone in my attempts to make sense of this. There's a lot more I need to learn, obviously. There's a lot more I want to understand. 

Whatever the case, it is clear that the Catholic church needs to be held to account here, in particular, and the government of Canada needs to truly devote some resources to finding and documenting any other such graves - mass or not - on residential school land. I don't much trust Justin Trudeau to "do the right thing" here (I do trust he will say the right thing, but that's a different matter). I certainly don't trust the church. But since, as the Globe and Mail says, this is "just the tip of the iceberg," I think it's important to understand exactly what we're talking about here... 

Preparing for my colonscopy (part three)

 Okay, so if anyone is reading this hoping for useful information - helpful tips - for preparing for their own colonscopy, here is the wisdom I have gained, based on things I did wrong (or woulda done differently had I known).

1. You may hear horror stories about how awful the prep fluid tastes - especially Colyte (Peglyte seems like it might be better) - but you may think, after your first few glasses, that it isn't so bad. Wait until you've drunk 3L of it before you decide that - it gets nauseating and very hard to down. It may be a good idea to START THE PREP EARLY - especially the evening prep - because otherwise, you may have major trouble finishing it.

2. You may think that people are exaggerating about getting baby wipes. They are not. They are very welcome as you near the end of the process: your ass will be raw. 

3. Once the prep starts working, do not sneeze, fart, or vomit without your ass being on a toilet. (I have found that pinching my nose shut can help stop a sneeze in its tracks).

4. If you begin to feel nauseated and headachy near the end of the process, and start thinking, "I can't drink any more of this bile," do NOT try to compensate by slugging it back with renewed vigour. That's what I did - followed by slugs of Gatorade Zero and no-sugar-added apple juice for hydration. Big mistake. Do not slug ANYTHING back with vigour near the end of the process, or you will probably find yourself vomiting...

...which is what I was doing, on-and-off, from 11pm to 12:30pm. I ended up not being able to finish the Peglyte. I do not know if they will go ahead with the colonscopy, given that there are about two full glasses of Peglyte still sloshing around in the container (and that maybe as much came out of me as vomit, prior to my stopping). The 811 nurse confirmed my feeling that there was no point drinking the stuff if I was just going to barf it out, but had no idea if they would be able to go ahead with the procedure. (The fluid is supposed to clear all shitty residue off the walls of your colon - since shitty residue can obscure polyps and other such things). 

Anyhow, that's all I have about getting a colonscopy. I don't even know if I WILL be getting one, given the above. Really hope I don't have to repeat this procedure ever again, though. 


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Preparing for my colonoscopy (part two)

It is closing in on 11pm. I am so sick of this Peglyte solution. 3.5 litres consumed over the course of the day, and the not-particularly-objectionable taste has grown nonetheless tiresome; I want no more liquid in my stomach this evening, but there's a half-litre left to go. 

Ugh.

All in all it was an okay day. I sneezed once and had an accident; Erika spilled Thai soup on herself; and Tybalt barfed on his blanket, so there's been a little more running down to the laundry than I'd planned... but I always made it back upstairs in time to get to the toilet (with the exception of that time I sneezed). My evacuations have "gone clear," I believe the term is; the last five trips looked like increasingly thin chicken bullion, maybe with some cloudy dark undissolved bullion powder lurking at the bottom of the bowl. But it is no longer like passing a solid at all; I'm just shooting liquid out my ass (the last blast got surprisingly frothy). All the same, I'm holding up better than some of my friends seem to have. Biggest irritations have been just how much of this "drink" I gotta choke down, a mild headache, and that sneeze. 

Oh, and I've actually gained weight, somehow, having had nothing but liquids and jello all day. Seems unfair - I'm up to 319, last I checked. But I'm sure I'll be down again in the morning. 

There's a bit of nausea settling in - maybe I should call 811. 

Anyhow...

 

Preparing for my colonoscopy (part one)

 Because my father died of colon cancer, I was contacted last year by the Cancer Society to say that I should undergo a screening for the same (I'm not sure they also realized I myself had had cancer, a few years ago - though in my tongue, not my colon). With everyone distracted by COVID, the paperwork sat around long enough that they sent it a second time, suggesting I get my stool tested and included a lab requisition for the same. I actually intended to comply all along, so with the second requisition in hand - I still had the first somewhere - I got a stool kit at LifeLabs, when there on other business - and brought it home.

I didn't really need it. That morning, as happens every now and then, there was visible blood in my stool - actually a puddle of it around the turd that sat on the paper I'd stretched over the toilet bowl, to collect my sample. It seemed purple in that context, which disturbed me a little; bright blood in poop is, I am told, a sign that is coming from the outer realms of your, uh, anal mechanism, while dark blood suggests it is coming from further up the tubes. 

Anyhow, I stuck the stick in the bloody poop, brought it to the lab, and was contacted about a colonoscopy. My doctor - whom I was contacting about my Astra-Zeneca panic, described below - suggested he have - pardon the pun - a hand in things, because he could speed up the process. Soon enough I was lying on a table in his office with my pants around my ankles and my ass sticking out, and he was feeling my opening with lubricated fingers (he checked my prostate while he was at it). He felt nothing (as in, no lumps or bumps or so forth) - but contacted a local doctor (a proctologist, I guess?) and they contacted me, quite promptly, for a colonoscopy. Arrangements were made for mid-June, and then they had a cancellation - and arrangements were made for today, instead.

The prep, everyone tells me, is the hard part: I can't eat at all today, and instead have to plow through four litres of a prep fluid called Peglyte. It's one of the alternate methods; the other, more common one is Colyte, but I have been assured by so many people that it tastes AWFUL that I opted for one of the other brands on the doctor's prep instructions sheet.

I've mixed up the powder with water, and have it in the fridge, cooling. In a couple of hours, I will begin to drink it - I'm supposed to plow through two litres around noon, with the recommendation on the bottle itself being to use a straw, and to put it as far back in my mouth as I can, so as not to taste this stuff. Sometime after that - unclear how much - I will commence to crap, and I will crap all day until I am cleaned out. Apparently. The remaining 2L of the Peglyte will be consumed through the course of today and tomorrow morning, and 11:30 I will go and get as sedated as they will let me get and have a tube with a camera on it stuck up my ass.

This, I gather, is a procedure that can go wrong. Remember Mr. Hands, the guy who died after being fucked by a horse in Enumclaw? (Subject of my first major interview, with Charles Mudede; it appeared in different form in both the Straight and Cineaction, my first time in either publication). He died of perforated colon, which caused internal bleeding. Colonoscopies carry the same risk, apparently; the camera doesn't always go where it is supposed to, and there can be tears and discomfort. I am, actually, pretty curious to see up my own arse - why not? - but have a mild bit of anxiety that, say, I might die, with my big feature on John Wright unwritten, with all other personal business out there unresolved. 

But just like with vaccines and COVID, I deem the risk to be worth taking. My father's death is on the official medical record as being caused by colon cancer, but the reality is, it was caused mostly by a sluggish medical system (and his own willingness to trust it to get round to him eventually). He had severe constipation and pain for weeks before he went into get tested - bad enough that when I found Screamin' Jay Hawkins song "Constipation Blues" and played it for him during one of our family Scrabble games, he was clearly not amused. My father had a pretty good sense of humour, but it just wasn't funny - he realized I was trying, but it didn't work. I read tons of articles online about constipation and its causes, sitting at their computer, and urged him to go to the doctor; when he finally did, the doctor said, "It was probably just polyps," and unlike my doctor, did NOTHING WHATSO-FUCKING-EVER to speed up the process by which my father got tested properly. His colonoscopy took weeks, maybe even months, to get scheduled, and by that time, the "probably just polyps" had grown into full-blown colon cancer and spread into his liver. 

And yes, that was why he died - two gruelling years, a colostomy, and countless chemotherapy side-effects later - but in my mind, I have always held, more than the cancer, that it was that delay that killed him. If the medical system had acted sooner (and if my father had been quicker to enter it - he was always the type to put off going to the doctor, if he could), the polyps could have been removed quickly, and thereafter, when my father announced that he had a "shitty story" to tell, it would have been about something OTHER than a colostomy accident.

And, um, he'd quite possibly still be a live. 

Anyhow, it's my intent to be proactive here. I don't care if I have to refrain from eating all day, and have hours of discomfort in the toilet; it's gotta be worth it, because - while I realize I'm going to die - I don't think I want to go through the two years of humiliation, suffering, anxiety, and dread that my father had to endure. Bring on the Peglyte! Lock me in the toilet! 

I may have some shitty stories of my own, soon. 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

On finally re-visiting Event Horizon

...This is another one I've also posted on Facebook, but want to keep here, as well. (Pardon my laziness but there just isn't time enough to do better at the moment...)

Man, Event Horizon truly is a curious film. I don't know that I've ever seen a film as bad as it is that is nonetheless so full of interesting ideas, that comes so close to greatness and yet somehow fail so utterly. I mean - in a way, while it is not as STRANGE as Battle Royale 2 - that bizarre confection of Taliban-loving Japanese anti-Americanism and masochistic teenage dreams of being slaughtered on the beach like in Saving Private Ryan - it is almost on that level of "boy, this doesn't work." But it's far more thought-provoking than that film - you don't just recoil in horror, wondering, "what were they thinking," but you actually come away wanting to think about it MORE. It raises very interesting questions about science (Sam Neill's character, who is expected to be a voice of authority about what's happening, lies to himself and everyone else because what's happening does not appear to be within the bounds of scientific possibility, because accepting it would actually sabotage his authority) but also morality and narrative, because, in a way, the narrative of the film, like the ship in it, "folds space," by having a ship captain who feels guilty about leaving his crew to die, in the past, redeeming himself by himself being left to die... Sam Neill's trajectory from belief in and dependency on scientific order to his desire to live in a realm of pure chaos is also kind of fascinating and space-folding (or at least mirror-imaging; there's even an image reminiscent of the end of Prince of Darkness where things happen with mirrors). There's ALL SORTS of interesting stuff going on in the film, in fact - and some really striking visuals -
- but in terms of storytelling, in terms of engaging you with its characters AS CHARACTERS (not as ideas or representatives of ideas), getting you emotionally invested in what's happening - which is what my wife likes most about a movie, I think - Event Horizon falls short, even, of the movie we watched LAST night, which, God help us, was Army of the Dead - a film that keeps you happily watching for 2 and a half hours without having a single interesting idea to its name, acknowledging it is bad but still being entertained... (Actually, Erika thought they were both about equally bad, but... they're bad in different ways, I would say... Event Horizon is far less entertaining, but it's WAYYYY smarter). David Thomas of Pere Ubu once called it (or joked about it being?) his favourite film, adding - I approximate from dim memory - something to the effect that it was because it was just good enough that you need to come back to it every few years to see if you can appreciate it THIS time. Having just watched it, I gotta say, I kinda see what he means. I could see myself watching it again, for a similar logic, in fact. Part of me wants to re-watch it right now, with a notepad handy...

Anyhow, there - given that the "movie pitch" has come up in regard Army of the Dead, as well, let ME make an idea pitch to Netflix, here, too: SOMEONE SHOULD REMAKE EVENT HORIZON. People have talked about the potential in a "restored" long cut of the film, despite the fact it probably can never happen; in lieu of that, the next best thing is to do it justice. Develop it as a limited series for Netflix. Get us actually involved in its characters. Keep the same basic storyline, the same basic idea, but make sure that each person's arc works in exactly the same way that the two main characters' arcs do: having to face and embrace your EXACT OPPOSITE in order to redeem yourself. (It's actually a pretty Jungian SF film, I think, based on what little I've read of Jung). Hell, you could even give Sam Neill and Lawrence Fishburne cameos, if you wanted to (I don't really mind either way).

Anyhow, it's the most interesting bad movie I've seen in a long time. Too bad it falls short, as a story, because whew... there's a lot of potential in it.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Second dose Astra-Zeneca anxiety: what the hell is BC doing?

[I just posted this on Facebook, but it seems like a good rant for the blog, as well.]

There must be other people out there in the same boat. I got my first dose of Astra-Zeneca a few weeks ago, and as soon as I heard that it was being removed as a "first dose" choice, started inquiring about whether I could get my second dose moved up - because a) I want to be as protected as possible, because b) I want my second vaccine dose to be the same vaccine as the first, and because c) I trust that AZ is almost completely safe - that the blood clot issue is rare and unlikely and far less of a risk than catching COVID. However, as a result of phoning around trying to get clarity, I have discovered something that has not been reported widely and that is freaking me out: Astra-Zeneca has, apparently, been COMPLETELY REMOVED from the table pending results on a study on mixing vaccines. When government missives on AZ say it is being "held" for second doses, that doesn't mean "reserved," it actually means - two nurses have confirmed this - that it is being "held back." This is apparently being done not because there is any new information about Astra Zeneca - it has not been found to be any more dangerous than it was when I got my first shot, or at least not that anyone is telling us - but for political reasons, as the government waffles and succumbs to people's hesitations and tries to govern as if this is some sort of popularity contest, not an issue of public health and safety.
 
I can understand people's reticence around AZ, actually, but here's the thing: I DON'T WANT TO MIX AND MATCH VACCINES. I am willing, given the circumstances, to be injected with a very new drug, to risk side effects or as-yet-unrevealed long term effects. I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to be worried about these things, but in the circumstances, I much prefer the idea of NOT GETTING COVID, and hastening by whatever means I can the return to "normalcy," or something approximating it, by getting the first vaccine offered to me (which turned out to be AZ). That is exactly what the government of Canada was advising as recently as three weeks ago. What I will NOT do, however - especially when there is a plentiful supply of Astra-Zeneca - is mix the stuff with some other vaccine, and trust that it is going to be safe and effective. It just seems a bad idea! While the BC government has been very quiet about this, this is EXACTLY what they are hoping to do, however - to get us to take not ONE vaccine, but TWO, hoping the combination magically works to protect us. Not one but two 811 nurses have confirmed this horseshit/ chickenshit decision, but if you're skeptical, look on the BC government website linked below, where it reads, in the section on "Information for people who got the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine," that "B.C. is waiting on the full results of the Oxford Vaccine Group's Com-Cov vaccine trial and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) will use the results from the trial to inform second dose recommendations." So not only can I not move UP my second dose, I might not be allowed to get it at all; they might be en route to trying to make us mix-and-match with some other vaccine, which I EMPHATICALLY DO NOT WANT TO DO.

Look, you folks in power: I made an informed decision to get AZ, when you were saying it was ALMOST completely safe, three weeks ago. Were you lying to me then? If the answer is yes, then WHY THE HELL WOULD I TRUST YOU NOW when you say that it is safe to mix-and-match? If the answer is no, then WHY THE HELL WILL YOU NOT HONOUR THE PLAN THAT WAS SET IN MOTION THREE WEEKS AGO when I had AZ shot into my arm? I signed on for two doses of AZ - don't change the plan in the middle of the contract, for no good reason whatsoever. You're moving up Pfizer and Moderna, great, but you've stuck those of us who received one dose of AZ in an anxiety-producing limbo where it is hard to get a straight answer. If this is the result of cowardly bending-to-the-will-of-the-people-so-you-can-get-more-votes - which is sure how it smells - rest assured, YOU ARE HAVING THE OPPOSITE EFFECT ON ME; you're making yourselves look incompetent and/or dishonest (haven't figured out which yet, exactly). Quit fucking around! If you're giving us first dose AZ, let those of us who want it get second dose AZ, and as soon as possible, without this waffly bullshit (unless you have a good reason for this waffly bullshit you're not telling us; I mean, that's the question, isn't it: "Is it safe?")

Unduly anxious and VERY disappointed in our leaders.

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/vaccine/dose-2#az

Sunday, May 23, 2021

A visit back to the Lower Alouette River

One of the places of my childhood was a river within walking distance of the condo I grew up in at 216th and Dewdney. It's an impressive three mile walk, I would guess, but I would make the trek there regularly with friends on weekends, often carrying fishing rods - though there were other things I did there, too, from turning over rocks to catch crayfish and/or catching minnows in baggies (this in my childhood) to meditating from dusk well into the night with a joint, sitting cross-legged on the banks of the river, watching bats skimming the surface of the water (this in my mid-20's). After a month long misadventure in treeplanting in the mid-1990's, I planted a sapling I'd brought home there - sadly, it seemed to get washed away after a periodic freshet-season flood. On one of my final visits, I came without a rod - I never liked killing fish and catching them "for fun" seemed sadistic - and just got in the water, walking several miles up to my crotch, using the river as a road, just for the experience of it - shoes slipping on underwater rocks, glimpses of shimmering trout in patches of sun below the surface, occasional eagles overhead. There were a lot of magic moments, and a few weird ones, along that riverbank, and it meant something to bring Erika there yesterday. Delightfully, a beaver - something I haven't seen in the wild in years, and that Erika has seen far less often than I - swam by at one point. A fisherman coming out said you could still catch fish in the river, which pleased me, and there were visible minnows in the water. It was pretty un-fucked-up, given that almost every other childhood bit of local forest I valued has long since been condo-ized. One clearing wasn't as I remembered it - but it was nearing sunset, so we didn't delve too deeply.

Anyhow, not really up for a big piece of writing at the moment, but here are some photos of our trip. You can see Erika's trepidation about her footwear (inadequate for a dirt trail) as I urge her forward... there's a wee narrative here, I hope!