Category Archives: Media

1619

My son recommended the podcast 1619 to me. It was an excellent place to start my quest to learn more about systemic racism.  The series aired in August of last year and won a 2020 Pulitzer Prize, the first podcast to ever be given the coveted award.

1619 is narrated by Nikole Hannah-Jones and I loved the way she interspersed incidents and people from her own life with the information she presented in each episode.  One of the stories she told was about a favourite uncle who dressed in red from head to toe for Nikole’s university graduation.  He was SO proud of her. He died of cancer at age 50 because of systemic racism in the American health care system. 

The podcast’s name comes from the fact that the first slaves were brought to America in 1619.  In an article in the Michigan Daily  Nikole talks about how every American schoolchild knows the name of The Mayflower the ship that brought the first Pilgrim settlers to North America in 1620 but few know the name of The White Lion which was the ship that brought slaves there a year before. 

Although you learn lots of history from listening to 1619 the thing I liked most about the podcast was the fascinating people I got to know. 

Angie and June Provost

People like June and Angie Provost, sugar cane farmers from Louisianna who lost their family farm because of systemic racism against Black farmers in the banking industry. They are fighting back and taking their case to the public so other farmers won’t have to experience what they did. 

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

People like Rebecca Lee Crumpler the first Black woman to graduate from medical college and become a physician in the United States. She had a practice for poor women and children in Boston but after the Civil War, she moved to the south to provide medical care to freed slaves. She was subjected to intense racism and sexism but remained dedicated to her profession. 

I can highly recommend 1619 as an engaging and eye-opening experience on the road to learning more about systemic racism.  You can listen to the episodes here.

Other posts………. 

Are You A Performance Ally?

Racism -Pure and Simple

A Possible Alternative to Tearing Down Statues

 

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Filed under History, Media

After Life and American Son

We just finished watching the first season of the Netflix series After Life.  It has received both critical acclaim and a resounding thumbs down from various viewers.  It made me laugh and cry and truth be told get angry, very angry at the main character sometimes.  

Starring Ricky Gervais as Tony Johnson it tells the story of a man whose wife has died and as a result, he has lost his will to live. Tony keeps watching videos of his wife and longing for the life they had together.  He really doesn’t want to go on without her.  Tony works as a reporter for a small local newspaper and the stories he covers had me laughing out loud they were so bizarre.  

But be forewarned Tony is caustic, foul-mouthed, insulting and downright horrible to other people. He simply doesn’t care, engages in all kinds of self-destructive behaviour and makes questionable ethical choices.

Tony is well down the path of utter callousness and impeding suicide but……….. the kindness of the people around him who genuinely care about him, finally breaks through in heartwarming fashion.  In fact, so heartwarming that my husband and I were compelled to give each other a huge hug during the season finale.

Actor Ricky Gervais with actress Penelope Wilton playing a character who helps Tony regain his will to live

There is a second season of After Life which we haven’t started watching yet and in a way season one ends things so well I hardly think there is a need for another season.  After Life reminded me a lot of the book A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. We also recently watched the movie, American Son.  It stars the luminous Kerry Washington who I so enjoyed in the series Little Fires Everywhere.  The story revolves around a couple who know their son has been involved in some kind of incident with the police.  They are at the police station waiting to hear what has happened. Their brilliant talented son has been admitted to a first-class college.  He is black and they are terrified that like many other young black men he may have been the victim of police brutality.

But be forewarned that American Son is based on a Broadway play and has been filmed like a play. All the action takes place in the police station and consists of dialogues between just a handful of different characters.  In 2019 when the film came out it was criticized for being too heavy-handed when it came to the subject of racism.  In the current political and social climate I don’t think it would be considered over the top at all. 

Other posts………..

10 Observations after seeing the movie Parasite

Just Mercy- Not An Easy Movie To Watch

I Cry Ever Episode- Chef’s Table

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Filed under Media, Movies

Has Fox News Made the Pandemic Worse?

On Thursday the top six stories on the front page of my electronic version of the New York Times were about the coronavirus and its continued wild spread through the United States. In addition, there were four links to op-eds about the virus in the sidebar.  

I checked the Fox News web site immediately after that.  Of the thirty-some stories featured on their main page, only one was about the virus and it was about Joe Biden making a gaffe when quoting the number of coronavirus cases in the United States. 

Sean Hannity

New research is showing that the tendency of Fox News to downplay the severity of the pandemic might be impacting the spread of the disease and the deaths it has caused.  A writer in the Washington Post says infection and mortality rates are higher in places where Fox News commentator Sean Hannity is the most popular. Hannity continually dismisses the severity of COVID-19. 

In an oped in the New York Times, Kara Swisher says some people have suggested possible legal action against Fox News because particularly at the start of the crisis they dished out dangerous misinformation about COVID-19 that might have caused their loved ones to die. 

In his commentary for the Boston public radio station WGBH, Dan Kennedy writes about what he saw one April evening while watching three of the top Fox News personalities do their shows.  Each reported on the pandemic in a variety of ways. 

Tucker Carlson

Tucker Carlson had Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick as his guest.  Patrick had suggested that the United States re-open its economy and that seniors would be willing to die for a better future for their children and grandchildren.

Hannity was into China-bashing that night and praising President Trump’s travel ban on China, even though we have since learned that the ban was largely ineffective because it came too late.

Laura Ingraham

Laura Ingraham scorned the government’s COVID-19 bailout saying there were people who might make more money than they did before the pandemic and playing numerous clips from physicians claiming COVID-19 wasn’t that dangerous. 

I am not sure if you could win a court case claiming that Fox News has made the pandemic worse because of course people have the freedom to watch or not watch it and to make their own decisions about whether they believe what they hear. 

I check the Fox News website every day because I think it is important to know what a variety of news sources from a variety of points of view are saying but sometimes the experience is more than a little scary.  

Other posts…………

Countering Conspiracy, Thinking About Bali and Fox News Surprises Me

Who Writes History?

Like Father Like Daughter?

 

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Filed under Media, Politics

BIPOC, Discrimination, A Great Team and Little Fires

I learned what the term BIPOC means this week.  My son is the host of a weekly radio music show and this Thursday he featured music by black artists and gave specific suggestions from members of the BIPOC community about ways we can support them.

Mural on the wall of one of the schools I visit in my job as an education student mentor

The term BIPOC was new to me so I did a little research. The letters stand for Black, Indigenous People of Color.   According to writer Mahreen Ansari the term is a replacement for the phrase people of colour, which in turn replaced coloured people.  People of colour was a better term than coloured people because the people or human part came first.

Mural of children on Broadway Avenue in Saskatoon

The problem with the term people of colour was that it put all non-white people into one category when often the discrimination they were experiencing was very different and was specific to their particular race. The term Black, Indigenous People of Color is considered more specific but also more inclusive because it brings together people of multiracial backgrounds in a way that doesn’t erase their specific identity. 

The events that have unfolded since the death of George Floyd on May 25th make it clear white people like me have lots to learn when it comes to understanding what it means to be BIPOC in North American society. 

I visited one of the young women from this advisory group in Georgia

This week I have been thinking about a student of mine I visited in Savannah Georgia.  I was holidaying there and got together with a young woman who had been in several of my classes as well as my advisory cohort when I taught in Hong Kong. She was studying art at a college in Savannah.  She told me how challenging it was to adjust to life in the American south because growing up in Hong Kong she had never experienced prejudice and discrimination because of the colour of her skin like she did in Georgia.  It was a rude awakening for her. 

For some reason, a photo of me with my colleagues in the English department of the high school in Hong Kong where I taught has resurfaced on Facebook this past week.  People have been commenting on the photo and reposting it.  It reminded me of how incredibly privileged I was to work with these four strong, intelligent and gifted women.  We all came from different countries, had many different life experiences and were different ages, but we were such a good team and I learned so much from each one of them.   What a perfect way to end my teaching career. 

Dave and I just finished watching the new television series Little Fires Everywhere based on the novel of the same name by Celeste Ng.   I found the story thought-provoking and timely. The setting for the story is an Ohio town called Shaker Heights which prides itself on its racial integration. But as the story progresses we realize that racism is still all too real in the community.  The acting performances of  Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington are masterful. They play two mothers who have made very different choices about how to live their lives and raise their children and the reasons for their choices raise some important moral and ethical questions.  I’d like to read the book now. 

Other posts…………….

A Black and White Religion

Learning a New Word

What’s a Bonus Family?

 

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Filed under Hong Kong, Media

Good News and Good People-Not Good Parents

Photo from Niigaan Sinclair’s Twitter page

I faithfully read Niigaan Sinclair’s columns in the Winnipeg Free Press and think it is important the paper has an indigenous columnist who can help facilitate the journey toward reconciliation in our province. Most of the time I find Mr Sinclair’s columns troubling and difficult to read.  They can make me sad, force me to ask hard questions and inspire frustration.  

As I scroll through the comments readers post about Mr Sinclair’s columns I am often shocked and startled by their tone of venom, exasperation and brusqueness. Those feelings are directed both towards Mr Sinclair in particular and indigenous people in general.  It only points out why it is so necessary to have Mr Sinclair’s columns in the paper.

 Today’s column, however, is the kind I wish could be written more often.  It is full of good news. Mr Sinclair writes about non-indigenous and indigenous people working together to help provide shelter for homeless folks during the pandemic, about indigenous filmmakers being celebrated and the positive impact a Metis educator has had on the lives of thousands of students. I wish Mr Sinclair could write those kinds of columns more often but I understand why he can’t. 

Felix has a pet gerbil named Horatio and he sorely misses his beloved Grandma who has died. He has two bright and interesting best friends and they work on the newspaper staff at his French immersion school in Vancouver together. Both of Felix’s parents are artists.  He lives with his Mom and sees his Dad a couple of times a year. He’s a whiz at answering questions on a television quiz program he loves to watch. He has amazing powers of observation, has developed ingenous categories for different kinds of lies and……………..he’s homeless. Felix and his mom live in a van they have “borrowed” from his Mom’s old boyfriend.  

I just finished reading the novel No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen. She introduces the issue of homelessness and mental health to her middle-grade readers with an endearing main character.  It’s simply impossible not to like Felix who is kind, resourceful, intelligent and perceptive. Felix’s mother Astrid struggles with serious mental health issues and while I felt sympathy for her, I just kept getting angrier at her as I read the book.  Astrid LOVES her son but she constantly makes choices that place him in jeopardy. She refuses to get help and manages to alienate most people who offer assistance. 

There is a line in the book that made me really think and ask lots of questions. Felix has just had lunch with his Dad and comes to the realization that while both his mother and father are “really great people they are not great parents.” How many children have that experience?   

Felix keeps track of the items his Mom has stolen in the hopes that someday he will have enough money to pay back the stores she has robbed.

I enjoyed No Fixed Address but did wonder if some of the lifestyle choices it describes including theft and sex for money might not make the book better suited for an audience that is just a little older. I had read Susin Nielsen’s book Word Nerd previously.  It was published in 2004.  As I turned the pages of No Fixed Address the similarities between the two books were uncanny.  Both have been very popular, so Susin Nielsen obviously knows a winning formula when she finds one. 

My book club read No Fixed Address and so I can assure you that not just kids but adults find the book a good read and a good discussion starter. 

Other posts………

Why So Many Dysfunctional Parents? 

Living Beings Just Like Us

The Great Statue Debate

 

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Filed under Books, COVID-19 Diary, Media

Two Diverse Points of View, Saturday Morning Breakfast and Freedom From Fear

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Visits Mexico City

Three-quarters of Canadians think their prime minister is doing a good job right now

On Thursday there were two different points of view expressed on the editorial page of The Carillon, the regional newspaper I work for as a columnist. A regularly featured writer was outrightly critical of the Canadian government’s response to COVID-19. Unlike the 74% of Canadians who think Justin Trudeau is doing a good job of handling the pandemic this writer made fairly scathing comments about the prime minister and urged Trudeau to return to economic normalcy in Canada as soon as possible if he doesn’t want to lose his job in the next election.

Protesters rally in Kentucky against COVID-19 restrictions

The Carillon editor feels some of the American protestors advocating for reopening businesses are misguided- Photo by Bryan Woolston for Reuters

An editorial on the same page presented another opinion.  It asked people who are advocating for a return to normalcy to think honestly about what they are requesting. Encouraging the prime minister to ease isolation directives and open the economy essentially means you are asking for the right to expose yourself and your loved ones to the virus. You are saying your right to work supersedes others’ right to live.  The editor encouraged people to use their common sense and follow government restrictions based on science.  

It was interesting to see the diverse opinions of Manitobans in the southeast region of the province displayed side by side.  As I write my own column this weekend for the Carillon’s next issue I will be thinking about that. 
freedom from fear norman rockwell
I was talking to a friend yesterday about a Winston Churchill biography she’s been reading. The book describes the horrific bombings London endured during World War II.  It brought to mind this painting by Norman Rockwell Freedom From Fear. Loving parents in the 1940s are checking on their children before going to bed themselves. Dad is holding a newspaper where the front-page story is about the Battle of Britain. The glasses in his hand indicate he’s probably already read the alarming news.  The children sleep peacefully however, free from fear and untroubled about what is going on in the world.  

Our current times are much like that. Parents are tasked with keeping their children happy and calm even while the adults themselves are reading so much troubling news in the media. It’s a daunting task but I know many parents are doing a great job making sure their kids feel safe and free from fear even with so many fearful things going on. 

jay and sue and me

With my friend Sue and our sailboat captain during a trip together in Florida

We are finding it is important to establish rituals during this time of physical distancing.  One we practice is having a gin and tonic at four-thirty each weekday while we watch Jeopardy.  Happy hour gin and tonics is a ritual we learned from our friends Rudy and Sue Nikkel. When we travelled or holidayed together as we often did, Sue made the most marvellous gin and tonics for our happy hours. She was a master at this.

bacon and eggs on Saturday

Last Saturday’s bacon and eggs at our house

Another ritual we learned from Rudy and Sue was having bacon and eggs for breakfast on Saturday morning. 

lunch rudy and sue hecla island

Getting ready to order our Saturday morning bacon and eggs at the Hecla island resort on a golfing weekend with Rudy and Sue

When we travelled with the Nikkels or holidayed with them, Saturday breakfast was always bacon and eggs, cooked by Sue if possible but if necessary ordered in a restaurant. 

See you tomorrow.  I am off now to eat my bacon and eggs. 

Other posts……..

Must We Live in Fear  

Sue

I’ve Been a Newspaper Columnist for Decades

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Media, Politics

Countering Conspiracy, Thinking About Bali and Fox News Surprises Me

 I took this photo in a school I visited on one of my two trips to Bali. I wondered what was happening in Bali right now. I discovered the country has been exhibiting some kind of strange immunity to the coronavirus. An article in The Asia Times yesterday reports only 86 cases and two deaths.  In fact, the medical community in Bali is more concerned about a dengue fever outbreak than about COVID-19.

With my golf caddy in Bali

Of course, tourism has slowed to a trickle and this is devastating for the economy in Bali which relies heavily on the 5 million tourists who visit each year. 

I read about a high school teacher who tasked her students with finding an article in the newspaper that wasn’t about the coronavirus to share with their classmates. The assignment proved difficult if not impossible.   I decided to take on the challenge with today’s Winnipeg Free Press.  The only features I could find that didn’t refer to the pandemic in some way were the obituaries, the comics, the horoscopes, one recipe and the letters to Miss Lonely Hearts. 

This cartoon in the South China Morning Post accompanies a good article about the dangers of spreading misinformation about the virus

I really appreciated a segment Adrienne Arsenault did on The National last night about talking to family and friends who you believe are spreading conspiracy theories or fake news via social media. Some may be prone to making claims about the virus based on their own armchair expertise or that of unqualified commentators.  Adrienne provided some helpful tips about how to respond without making the other person double down on their claims because they get upset with you.

This cartoon by Shadi Ghanim is a reminder of the importance of being careful about what kind of news coverage about the pandemic we expose ourselves to, believe and share with others. 

I have started seeing some of these questionable, conspiracy theory types of posts on Twitter and Facebook from people I know and I’ve already learned that reacting indignantly isn’t helpful. Apparently, neither is unfriending or blocking them.  We need to respond in a kind, measured way perhaps providing links to alternate sites that provide more reliable information from scientific experts. We have a responsibility to do our part to combat the spread of misinformation. 

Visiting the United Nations meeting room. The United Nations is concerned about the spread of misinformation during the pandemic

The United Nations is so concerned about the spread of false ideas they are mounting a massive campaign to flood social media with the best information experienced scientists can provide.  The UN has added a myth buster section to their website where they respond to ideas that are most certainly false.  They remind us that while some people spreading misinformation on the internet are doing it for political or monetary advantage most are just fearful and well-intentioned. We need to keep that in mind when we respond to them. Yesterday when Donald Trump made his decision to cut funding to the World Health Organization I was reminded of a sculpture we saw at the United Nations called Sphere Within a Sphere by Arnold Pomodoro. It was a gift from Italy a country that has been hit extremely hard by the coronavirus. The sculpture shows the split outer core of the world but inside the cogs that keep it going are still running. The sculpture reminds me that healing the world and keeping it running is going to need to be a global effort. The seriousness and foolishness of what President Trump has done were perhaps most clearly illustrated by the fact that even Fox News, a media outlet whose support of the President has been almost unconditional ran an article yesterday that ended with these words “The World Health Organization is essential to turning the tide against COVID-19. There is no path out of the epidemic on our own. We need other countries. The WHO has its challenges, but for now, it’s our best hope of ending this crisis quickly.” 

Other posts…………

De Ja Vu At the United Nations

Biking in Bali

Things That Are True

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Filed under Bali, COVID-19 Diary, Media

Mobituaries

While driving down to Arizona we listened to a number of episodes of a podcast called Mobituaries. The host is Mo Rocca, who many people know as a correspondent for the Sunday Morning show on CBS. Mo has long been fascinated with obituaries and each podcast is dedicated to telling listeners about a person of interest who has passed away. Mo and his staff have done their research and you learn the most fascinating things about each person. Mo’s natural charm and sense of humour add lots of interest and spice to each episode. 

Dave and I listened to a mobituary about the very colourful Billy Carter, brother of President Jimmy Carter. We found out he had been a recovering alcoholic who dedicated the last years of his life to helping people with a similar addiction.  

Mo has an episode about Lawrence Welk the bandleader whose television program of music and dance was on the airwaves for over thirty years. I had no idea he had dropped out of school in grade four and became a musician by learning to play a mail-order accordion.

I was surprised to hear about the traumatic childhood of the famous actress Audrey Hepburn. Her family nearly starved to death during World War II.  

We also learned some startling things about Neanderthals from their mobituary. Did you know we almost all have some Neanderthal genes? 

I had written a blog post about the success of Christina Baker Cline’s book Orphan Train so I was interested to hear interviews with some of the orphans on a Mobituary podcast.  Mo believes almost all of the more than 200,000 children who were transported en masse out of eastern American cities to rural midwest communities between 1854 and 1929 have died. He digs out interviews with some of the orphans from radio and television archives. 

As some of you know my word for 2020 is LISTEN and one thing I want to do is listen to a variety of podcasts.  Mobituaries is one I have tried that I can highly recommend. 

Other posts…………

Lives Lived- Anne Enns Driedger

What is Your Heavy Weight? 

Good-Bye John

 

 

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What is Your Heavy Weight?

The word I have chosen for 2020 is listen. One of my resolutions is to listen to interesting and educational podcasts this year. I have rarely listened to podcasts in the past and I wanted to find some good ones I could follow regularly.  My son recommended Heavy Weight and I have really enjoyed the episodes I have listened to so far. 

Series host Jonathan Goldstein introduces you to a guest each week who is struggling with a heavy weight, something from their past that is placing a burden on their life. Jonathan attempts to help them lift that burden.

The first episode I listened to was about a recovering drug addict named Scott who wants to return a valuable family heirloom he stole from his father and sold to buy drugs. It takes quite the detective work to figure out what has happened to the antique and when Scott finally returns it to his Dad he is surprised by his reaction. 

In another episode, a woman who has always hated math has to pass a math exam in order to get her real estate licence.  The fact that she isn’t good at math has been a troubling weight on her life and prevented her from doing all kinds of things.  Now she wants to become a real estate agent to support her daughters and be a role model for them.  Jonathan listens to her story and finds unique ways to provide encouragement during her journey towards the exam day.  

I’ve also listened to episodes where a family wants to find a child their mother put up for adoption forty years before and an episode where a young woman wants to connect with her father who just disappeared from her life one day. 

Illustration by Venezuelan artist Maria Guadarrama

Heavy Weight is a weekly podcast in its fourth season so there are plenty of old shows to listen to.  I was telling my brother about the podcast and he asked what might be a heavy weight in my own life. What burden from my past would I want to work at having lifted?  I can think of a couple and when I listen to Heavy Weight I wonder whether I would be brave enough to ask host Jonathan Goldstein to help me confront them. 

Other posts……….

Your One Wild and Precious Life

A Rememberer

Utah Massacre Remembered

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Celebrity Sighting at Breakfast

“That’s Better Call Saul”  my husband Dave whispered as we stopped on the steps on our way out of the Winnipeg restaurant Clementines where we had breakfast yesterday with our friends. Dave was sure he had spotted actor Bob Odenkirk. 

 “I thought he looked familiar when we walked past him,” I said. I had watched the whole Breaking Bad series in which actor Bob Odenkirk plays smooth-talking lawyer Saul Goodman. His series Better Call Saul which my husband Dave watches, is a prequel to Breaking Bad and will debut its fifth season in February of 2020. 

Bob Odenkirk – Photo by Gage Skidmore

When we got home I looked up whether Bob Odenkirk was in Winnipeg making a film or television series.  Sure enough, a CTV article said Odenkirk would be in Winnipeg from October 15 to November 29th shooting an action thriller movie for Universal Pictures set to be released in August of 2020 called Nobody. It is about a suburban father named Hutch Mansell out to get revenge on thieves who break into his home.  

This is not the first time however that Winnipeg has had a connection with the Better Call Saul television series. The Winnipeg Free Press reports that during the 2018 season of the series, a character called Nacho is getting ready to skip town and opens a safe containing cash and a fake ID that has Wolver Avenue in Winnipeg listed as the address of the owner of the identity card. 

When we passed Odenkirk in the restaurant I overheard him telling his breakfast companion about the things he liked on the menu so obviously, this wasn’t the first time he had eaten at Clementine’s. Both Dave and I thought Bob looked a lot younger in person than he does on television. I am looking forward to seeing Bob Odenkirk in the movie Little Women which opens during the holiday season this year. 

When you live in the Exchange District of Winnipeg you get used to seeing actors, props and scenery and film crews on the streets regularly. But it is still always a little bit of a thrill when you spot a celebrity.  I sometimes say living in the Exchange District of Winnipeg is a bit like living in a movie set. 

Other posts……..

I Live in a Movie Set

Movie Shot in Our Building

Winnipeg in the Movies

 

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Filed under Media, Movies