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I’ve just arrived in Boston, riding the Greyhound bus from Montreal, Quebec to Portland, Maine with a couple of hours to kill in the bus terminal. I’m too cheap to pay $10 to store my bags and they are too heavy to be carrying around on a walking tour of downtown Boston…aah, the value of traveling light. You’d think an experienced traveler like me would know better, but when you have written a book and then need to haul copies of it everywhere you go, the weight of those pages really messes with your better baggage sense.

I arrived back in Canada a couple of weeks ago at the perfect time. Summer was just settling in after what people complained was a very wet spring. Fortunately the sky has quit its crying and happy sunshine has been the new norm. The migratory birds got here long before me, the gardens are in full bloom, and even sweet Ontario strawberries are in the markets! In the short time I was in Hamilton before hitting the road again, I squeezed in as much visiting as I could along with the inevitable springtime visit to the taxman – one must take the bad with the good.

The folks who are renting my house are happy there, thank goodness, and I’m happy they are there. For the first time in years, I didn’t return to an overwhelming jungle of a backyard in need of serious machete work. Instead I stayed at my friend Jeff’s beautiful home overlooking the marina in Hamilton Bay, facing west for perfect sunsets. It took me a couple of days just to leave this retreat and head out into Canada, the bayside balcony providing a very nice transition between tropical paradise and northern bustle.



Although I’m very good at living in the moment – meaning that I don’t usually pine for the friends, food and forests that I’ve left behind in “the other place” – I do arrive ready and excited to see my pals, taste familiar flavors and wander through different shades of green.

The very wet rainy season and the very sunny dry season in Costa Rica yielded a bumper crop of mangoes that never seemed to end – it seems we were eating juicy locally grown fruit for months and seeing millions more wasting on the ground. I arrived to piles more mangoes here in the northern markets, but resist them, as I am making the switch to local foods – those strawberries, rhubarb, fresh asparagus, salmon. My Canadian palette squeals with delight. Eating locally is not difficult at this time of the year – resisting exotic species, which I love, is a simple question of political will. I am one of the lucky ones who gets to return to the land of local mangoes, papaya, and bananas soon enough.

As always, the biggest changes I see are in the faces of my friends’ children. There are new babies to meet, children who can now ta-ta-ta-talk, others graduating from the innocent years to the hormonal ones. More and more of my friends are becoming grandparents, a role that brings a light to their eyes, unencumbered by the responsibility they felt when their own children were born. I’ve gone from Auntie K to Great Auntie K, a name I can only try to live up to.

I’ve taken the opportunity to catch live music and switch up my dancing from calypso and salsa to rock ‘n roll. Our buddy, Kevin, another music lover, came up from New Brunswick and we were the flops at Jeff’s flophouse. Our friend Randy holds house parties and one night had smokin’ guitarist James Anthony along with a band called Pop Cherry which does covers of the Stones, the Doors and Aerosmith. The singer, who I call Steven Mick Tyler, has the look and the moves of those tall lanky frontmen. It was a great night for dancing.

I also finally made it to an Island Party on Ward Island in Toronto (yes, for those of you who don’t know, Toronto has islands), where old friends Pat Allcock and Tim Bovaconti played their unique selection of covers to a raging dance floor. Tim, who has been on tour with Burton Cummings (Guess Who), plays guitar and sings harmony with the best of them but also is a ukulele king. Love versatile musicians especially when they are also real nice guys.

I managed to return to the Hammer in time for the James Street North Art Crawl (second Friday of each month) which keeps getting bigger and wilder each time I’m in town. I spent most of the time at Blackbird Studios, visiting with the gals, Lynn and Kerry, who create beautiful clothes for rock ‘n roller chicks (and dress Roller Derby Teams around the world). We stepped next door into Dan Medakovic’s studio to catch some of the great local musicians – Dan, Mike Trebilcock, Linda Duemo and the lovely Lori Yates – jamming and having fun. I have given up trying to do everything there is on an Art Crawl night, it’s impossible – better to just stay where you’re having fun and move on when you must.


There is no shortage of music, art, theatre or fashion in the Hammer, only a shortage of time to catch it all. But we try…

I also had a number of book orders to fill, but was hampered by the lock-out of the Canadian Postal Corp (thus the books in my bag which I will be mailing while here in the US at a much cheaper rate). There is a conservative corporate mentality raging in Canada that should be scaring my fellow country-folk to death – instead, enough of them voted last month to give the right-wing Conservatives even more power to deplete workers’ rights, diminish environmental protections, and continue to shift our beautiful country to a less progressive, less inclusive, less caring agenda that favors the wealthy and powerful.

We need Michael Moore to come to Canada and do an exposé on our bewildering society which he has idolized in his documentaries. What is going on? The media machine and corporate controllers have managed to get stronger despite all signs pointing to a diminishing social intelligence that is going to lead us into dark years. The amount of mis-or-dis-information about the postal situation in the media is a prime example. I think most people believe that Canada Post is still a tax-funded department of the federal government which is wasting our tax dollars paying overpaid workers who went on strike when it is actually a profit-earning distinct corporation that locked out its workers rather than negotiate fairly. The government, with their union-busting mentality, forced them back to work and the contract, when ratified, is going to take the workers backwards, not forwards. As I read somewhere, it is interesting that the work of the posties is not considered important enough for a proper negotiation of a progressive contract, but is essential enough to demand back-to-work legislation.

On my way to Maine, I passed through Montreal and stayed with my friend Donna and her partner Cem. Donna worked for the Canada Post Corp for years (when she wasn’t creating and teaching art). Cem and our friend Matt are still lugging mail up and down the twisting staircases of downtown Montreal. Like other posties I have known throughout my life, their bodies suffer from the years of hauling heavy bags of mail to homes and businesses, clocking close to 15 kilometers each day. And despite the use of the internet for personal mail, their bags are no lighter as businesses flood our psyches and mailboxes with propaganda. Not just with free flyers that we can refuse to receive, but the addressed commercial stuff that must be delivered to the person, bringing us the information that inundates our lives and begs us to consume. So knowing all this, I went out in solidarity with my friends and the other posties for their last morning on the picket line before they were forced back to work.

Not everything is as it appears. As can often be seen with the public perception of working conditions, such as happens with the teaching profession, people don’t have a clue as to how difficult the job is – for example the accumulative wear and tear on the posties’ bodies (through sleet and hail and snow…etc.) Some just see it as unimportant, overpaid union work. We now have a government in Canada who is working hard at removing the rights of workers to strike for better conditions as well as the rights of activists to assemble and protest. It comes from the same mentality that considers our health and our environment as expendable in the pursuit of more outlandish profits for the wealthy upper tier of society.

What are Canadians thinking? Exactly who is voting for Stephen Harper, a man known for his contempt of the democratic parliamentary process, his life-long commitment to reducing the taxes of the wealthy as well as lowering environmental and safety standards? He believes in and supports the economy of war, including the War on Drugs, even as experts speak against it. The WOD keeps a lot of people, including the narco-traffickers, the security forces, the courts, and the arms dealers, rolling in money while its customers roll expensive joints until they find out that crack is a much cheaper high.And they say that marijuana smoking leads to harder drugs? maybe it is just politico-economic manipulation.

Wake up! Even the United States is rethinking some of this stuff. Just as happened last year at this time, during the days of the G8/20 fiasco in Toronto, I return home and feel sick about what I see happening. Is it that people will sell their souls today, along with their children’s future, for the possibility that one day they too will be part of the elite class? Good luck with that! Is it apathy? Is it greed? Is it stupidity? All of the above?

                                           Happy Birthday Canada!  I hope you grow up to be a kinder, gentler nation. I always thought that it was your destiny, but lately I fear that you’ve been smoking a corporate crack pipe and the profits are all in the hands of the dealers. It is hard to stand on guard for a system that is exploiting everything I believe in.

walking the road

I spend much of my time in Costa Rica. When I’m there I have very little exposure to North American news and culture. The big scandals and important world events show up in the newspapers and on cable TV, but I have to make a real effort to see them and without any context I often don’t understand what’s going on. In Costa Rica, if we walk into Cahuita from the jungle to watch an important soccer match or to get groceries, Roberto always gets a couple of newspapers to consume till the next town trip. If we stay in a hotel in San Jose with television, we devour lots of news and movies. In Monteverde it’s the radio. The world comes to me in fits and starts.

big city

When I’m in Canada, I’m constantly on the internet, listening to CBC on the radio, watching TVs that are mounted everywhere it would seem, talking about it all with friends – I’m full of what’s going on,  listening to the buzz of pop-culture and politics, and caught up in the latest media diet.

And so – how nuts  is this world? There are the horrid images of crimes and tragedies that bombard us, played over and over again until a new one replaces them. Just as disturbing are the outrageous lives that we are voyeurs of, the excess of wealth and celebrity that plays in stark contrast to the devastation of war and poverty. 

hmmmm

 

 

After awhile a person can lose their perspective and  get real confused about what is of real importance or not, and whose lives seem to be of more value or interest. Television obscures reality from both ends – for those of us consuming the edited fodder, and for those who live their lives feeding us what they think we should know.

 

water peace

When I get away from the media, I feel myself slow down and my breathing changes. My exasperation builds when I’m paying too much attention. I’m aware that the extreme stuff is still happening when I’m oblivious, but I don’t have to think about it when the images aren’t in my face. I can concentrate on choosing what I think are more valuable issues to fill my brain with.  I feel a very different sense of tranquility when I’m living in the jungle or the bush, and it’s not just because of the beauty, power and peace of my natural surroundings.

Because I’m savvy to this huge media cloud that threatens my own truth-o-meter while telling me the-way-it-supposedly-is, and my awareness is peaked when I return to my North American life after chilling in my less-hooked-up life in the tropics, I admit that I react more to what I hear, see or read. For a brief while upon my reintroduction to North American culture, I am still thinking straight before I become blurry once again. It makes me worry for children who consume massive amounts of television, much more than we were allowed in our day – and really, we only watched nice shows like Red Skelton and Ed Sullivan.

tv watching

 

 

What is considered important, normal and reasonable, that is, what is reality in the developing brains of children today?

 

 

 

Lately there have been a few conversations on television  that have blown my mind, some by celebrities who I basically respect. Is it my imagination or are the wealthy celebrities having a little backlash to the New Order for the Common Good as suggested (if not yet implemented) by Obama (and in the new documentary by Michael Moore.) In the last week I heard Oprah and Barbra Streisand sit together and talk about just being poor girls at heart – “if you are raised poor, you’ll always be a poor girl at heart”. And in the next breath, Barbra declared how Oprah needed to go to Spain and join her at a restaurant which I happen to know is considered one of the most expensive in the world. I appreciate that they may cherish memories of the simple life and insecurities might follow them from their humble beginnings, but these women are so beyond not even just rich anymore, it is staggering. I don’t understand how they can’t just shake their heads in disbelief at how ridiculously wealthy they are rather than claiming to still think in terms of food stamps. Maybe they could start a new fad – instead of adopting children from the third world, they could adopt whole countries and share their wealth that way since they have more money than many countries’ GNP. I know I know, Oprah does lotsa good I’m sure, probably Barbra too, but there is also a disconnect going on that grates me.

vintage motel

A year or two ago, I remember catching a moment of Oprah on a roadtrip with her sidekick Gayle and they had to stay in a regular motel – the family-run kind that my family certainly would be staying in (with great excitement) on the one night of the holiday when my parents let us stay in a motel instead of camping. The kind that millions use gracefully and billions more would be happy for the opportunity of visiting one day.  Oprah whined and fussed about having to be there so much that I remember feeling embarrassed for the motel owners. She almost kissed the tiled floor in the lobby of the Ramada or Hyatt  or whatever upscale hotel she was in the following night. I guess it was honest of her producers to keep these scenes in her show, but anyone I know who saw this bit came away shaking their heads.

oprah fav things

My personal biggest beef with Oprah is her love of “stuff” and her desire to share “her favourite things” with the world. I guess with all the thousands of shows she’s done and the experts she’s met, she hasn’t figured out that consumerism is one of the biggest threats to the planet. Promoting more and more stuff and sharing the satisfaction she feels in accumulation of it also grates me.

I guess she won’t be putting Walking with Wolf on her bookclub list any time soon!

whoopi

Another day, I saw Whoopi defending wealthy folks who do good work with their cash, not wanting to be lumped in with the wealthy folk who don’t. This was in reaction to Michael Moore’s  Capitalism: A Love Story. There were many things she could have said about the doc, and the issues it raised, but that was her reaction.  Of course it was only a day or two later that she defended the convicted-rapist-escapist Roman Polanski – it wasn’t really “rape-rape” (read the court transcript and decide). How would she look at the case if he wasn’t a fellow celebrity? I’ve always really liked Whoopi as both an entertainer and a smart out-spoken woman, but I’m questioning if she and I are on the same planet these days.

can you blame them

Then there’s the foofarah of David Letterman’s admitted trysts with female employees. Does anyone really think this stuff DOESN’T go on? If we hear that there was actual harassment as opposed to mutual consent or jobs lost because of refusing to partake – well, that is different. At this point, doesn’t one expect to hear these stories about celebrities (that alone your neighbours?)…and if you were going to marry one, would you truly be surprised if this happened? And in a celebrity-driven-universe, don’t you expect underlings to want to have their moment with the great ones? Perhaps personal morals aren’t what they used to be, but certainly in moments of idol worship, what else do you expect. I’m sure Cleopatra had the pick-of-her-groupies too.

flood line

My favorite response to Letterman’s situation was Craig Ferguson, the recovering alcoholic Scots-funny man who’s show follows Letterman’s, saying, “If we are now holding our late-night talk show hosts  to the same moral accountability as our politicians and clergymen, I’m out. I’m gone.” Those standards obviously aren’t always being met by the latter gang  but don’t we have more reason to be concerned about their behaviour and how it affects our daily lives?  Some things are just more important than others.

oscar and rebound

I seldom write about this stuff, but it has been in my face these last couple weeks as autumn comes on. I’ve been in my house, writing, staying warm, trying not to spend money.  I’m letting myself be distracted from my work to see what is going on out there on the glamorous side of the world (while tsunamis, earthquakes and wars continue to terrorize those in other hemispheres). My head is spinning from the absurdity of what I hear, my heart breaks for those who suffer in this lop-sided world, my body reminds me to leave all this behind, go outside and breathe before I’m grated raw.

kath & K

I really appreciate the wonderful, down-to-earth, thoughtful people I’m lucky enough to have as friends and the time I spend with them reminds me that there is still something in the middle, a “normal” class, that crosses economic lines but is based on humane notions of accountability.  I thank my friends for making it through life with kindness and humour even when we struggle (and I thank them for providing the photo-track to this blog.)

freda & mike

peace trevor

 

 

And then  Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. May he get the support he needs to live up to the challenge of making this world a better place, starting in Washington.

I can turn off the TV now… I’ll go grate some cheese instead.

Last night I went to a screening of Michael Moore’s latest tell-em-like-it-is (but don’t bore em and do make em laugh) documentary called Capitalism: A Love Story. As happens with each film MM produces, I got riled by the audacity of the greedy and pissed by the injustice that exists around us, but encouraged by the fact that truth is being spoken in a way that makes it accessible to millions. I also laughed to tears cuz in the end you just have to laugh or you’ll die disgusted and that’s no way to go.

capitalism_a_love_story_m[1]I’m so thankful that there is someone out there making documentaries like this, explaining how complicated our politico-social systems are and how deliberate is every motion by the powers-that-be to protect their interests. Mike examines why the “little people” fall into line rather than fight back. He explores all this in films that are entertaining yet shocking, which will keep the raised-on-TV-n-fast-food-nation watching when they otherwise might have given up at the first dialogue over 45 seconds and gone to get a chili dog. People pay more attention and learn easier when they are happy and endorphin-filled (Hello Sesame Street).

From the opening montage of images comparing the fall of the Roman Empire with the present state of the American Empire – bound to follow the way of all beasts that went before – you know you are in for a Moore-a-coaster ride through the good, the bad and the ugly.  I obviously agree with Mike’s politics and gleefully watch him presenting ideas I have understood all my adult life. I love that he calls greed what it is and takes on that hallowed, perverted system of Capitalism. Although I would venture that the Religious Right and the Tea Party gang would defend to the death the right to make money and bear arms for all, they often seem to leave their compassion on the donation plate at their church. Mike interviews his Catholic “moral superiors” and they didn’t pull punches – they all agree that the basic creed of capitalism does not bless the poor but instead feeds the rich, is immoral and radically evil, at least the way it has been practiced in the last thirty years since Wall Street took over Washington with the help of that all-American cowboy, Ronald Reagan. 

mike moore

There are so many great moments in the film that all I can do is say go see it. Michael wrapping crime scene tape around the headquarters of Goldman Sachs in New York City and calling the corporate criminals out to face their punishment is priceless. In his films Mike runs around America like an overweight but tireless referee, blowing his whistle, trying to get the teams to follow the rules, play nice and be fair. When I met him briefly a couple of years ago in Traverse City Michigan, I told him “take care of yourself”. I still worry about his health. We need him.

I was real moved by the family in Miami who returned to their home after the bank had tossed them out – made me want to get a ticket and go to Florida and meet these warriors. According to the text at the end of the film, they are still there. They managed to rage against the machine by gaining the strength and support of their neighbors who can see their own fragile futures in this one family’s crisis. That’s the message – that the 99% of the nation who aren’t part of the 1% who are basically controlling the economics, politics, media and future of the country needs to stay together and fight the fight for and with each other. Here in Canada, ditto.

2 little leaves Two lonely isolated Canadian souls

multi-leafed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The beauty of diversity and what happens when individuals join forcesorange trees

lake trees

 

And we all work together for the common good…

 

 

 

close gang

Spent a perfect few days in Mattawa with great friends last week. The kind of people you know would be there for you whenever you needed them. Smart folks, generally outraged like me by the injustices of the world but who self-medicate with love and laughter.

leo at fire

 

We spent a beautiful afternoon on Carney Lake where not a wisp of breeze rippled the water or rattled a leaf. We couldn’t get ourselves to make a move and leave until dark. We ate too much of course. And, a group of game-players all, we indulged in our new addiction, Quiddler.

 

quiddler

My sister sent me this card game for my birthday – for Scrabble players it satisfies the need to madly arrange letters into words, for card players it has a rummy-kind of feel to it. It was extremely flexible as the group ebbed and flowed in numbers and you could get distracted yet not miss anything. Our little crowd of Quiddlers gave it 18 thumbs up.

liily eyes

The time is flying by and I’ve got lots of writing to do as well as a couple of book presentations. I just booked my flight to Costa Rica for November 23. In Capitalism: A Love Story, there are some interviews with airplane pilots, those professionals whose hands we put our lives in when we head into the skies. The ones Michael talked with were making less than $20,000 a year – a paltry sum for people with such a responsibility. Turns out that many are nourishing themselves with food stamps and donating plasma to make extra dollars. Gives a new slant to the dangers of flying – I hope I won’t have images of hungry, light-headed, disgruntled captains driving my airship south. Perhaps I’ll pack a lunch bag to give to them – oh right, won’t get that past security. IMG_4271

It has been a very busy couple of weeks since I last wrote a post. If people are going to keep reading, I feel a responsibility to keep writing. And, as the title of this post hints at, I’ve witnessed first hand the power of putting information out on the internet. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

The next two weeks promise to be crazy as I leave on December 15 and won’t be back till the end of March.  I’m headed to Lake Atitlan in Guatemala to spend Christmas with my friends Treesa and Rick at their winter home in the community of San Pedro.  I’ve wanted to go to this enchanting country as long as I can remember,  specifically to this lake since my sister went there in the mid 70s. I saw the pictures and heard the stories and am already  captivated by its beauty. So in my quest to go to the places I’ve been putting off over the years of working on Walking with Wolf, and despite the economic downturn – my view is I better spend money while I have it because I could be working at Tim Hortons splashing coffee down people by next year – I am making a stop in Guatemala on my way to Costa Rica. 

bromelia-fire

I will be in Monteverde for New Year’s Eve when the locals put on a big Beatles show which I’ve heard about but have yet to experience. That is just the beginning of the evening and I know that the night will be filled with more music, dancing and mayhem.  One of the best New Year’s I spent was the year of the millenium when we started the night under a starry sky around the firepit at Bromelias, my friend Patricia’s home and business in Monteverde. If the weather cooperates, I like to think that’s where I’ll be on December 31st.

 

four-beatles

I spent a night last weekend listening to a variety of local musicians here in Hamilton, organized by the stupendous Christopher Clause, performing the Beatles White Album. They raise money for a shelter for the homeless in the basement of the church where the concert is held. Many of their covers of the songs from this great album were truly inspired. The energy that Saint Clause must put out to organize all of these evenings (he’s pulled together many musicians to do other Beatles albums in the past) is remarkable along with his own enthusiastic singing and skill on the guitar. The Beatles night in Monteverde will have a lot to live up to – the bar has been set high.

Here in Canada we are in the middle of a very wild ride in our parliament.  You’d think that we had enough excitement this fall with the American election of Barack Obama…the huge collective sigh of relief that went around the world the day after his victory was palpable.  Here in Canada we had our own federal election about a month before where nothing really changed. We had a minority government with the Conservative party in control and they were returned to office with only slightly altered numbers. Following the election, the buzzword was “cooperation” – as in there was a new air of a cooperative spirit in Ottawa and the four parties with elected members would work together and get on with running the country. This of course means dealing with the economic crisis that has basically smothered us with its dire predictions, pocketbook panic, and totally inconceivable amounts of cash buckets that are bailing out the barely floating ship of commerce (protected by the ever-bouyant corporate powers-that-be).

Well, how things change…

As the Conservatives launched their economic package last week, they seemed to leave out their version of a bailing bucket except for the part where they removed the funding to the other political parties. This sent the other three parties to the backrooms to make a deal to bring down the government and organize themselves to step in as a coalition government.  Our constitution and parliamentary system allows for this – when the Prime Minister loses the support of the majority of the House, he can be defeated. The politics involved in all of this seems very schmarmy, the strategy is polarizing, the result is extreme.  We are now sitting listening to the pundits and party purveyors – trying to figure out the constitutional aspects of what is going on, the hidden agendas – but the speed in which we fell into this only serves to point out how fragile this new government was and how truly uncooperative the air was in Ottawa between the Conservatives and the others. Basically the opposition has had enough of dealing with the very right-wing agenda of the minority Conservatives who proceeded like they had a majority.

I’d be thrilled to see Stephen Harper and the Conservatives go – I’m obviously not a C/conservative, never have been, never will be (one of the few times I would let myself utter “never”) – and I rarely agree with any of their policies concerning taxes, social programs, the environment or war.  I was saddened when they got in again, although the way our election system works there was as much support for the other parties collectively as there was for them – which only goes to support the argument for proportional representation where the numbers of elected members in parliament would truly reflect the voting numbers.  I heard Michael Moore say the other day on a radio show that after all these years of telling Americans to try and think more like Canadians, it is funny that when they finally took the step in a new direction with Obama, we Canadians supported (or half of us did) the more conservative agenda here.  

I have no problem with the idea of a coalition government.  Canada is this huge country with so many different cultures, climates, histories and social requirements, that it only makes sense to me that our government needs to reflect all of those diversities and give them all a voice. There is this huge cry over the fact that the party that represents the majority of Quebecois, the Bloq, known for its sovereignty plan for Quebec, is now in the position of being part of the sitting government (if the coalition goes through). Which I don’t think is true – they are not actually part of this coalition, they just support it.  I think the only way we can continue in this country is by having representatives of all sectors of our huge country represented.  And the Bloq is voted in and represents much of Quebec.  Perhaps the scariest and saddest part of this is the polarization that will likely rear its ugly head again (having only been a big napping ostrich) between the west and east of Canada, the French and English, and the left and right.  Spirit of cooperation indeed!

canadian_bacon1

 

 

 

The amount of anger on the airwaves is reflecting how unhappy and unhomogenous we truly can be in our big land of bacon and beavers. At a time of the year already fraught with darkness, coldness and pre-holiday stress, I don’t know if this political adventure is a good distraction or a bad omen.

 

 

brent

 

Speaking of across-Canada-cooperation, a few days ago I took part in a CBC radio show.  This is our national public radio and the GO show airs across the country on Saturday mornings.  The GO crew, with host Brent Brambury, taped the live show here in Hamilton at the famous-on-my-blog Pearl Company. I got free tickets and went with my friend David.

 

brent-k-2

The theme of the show was “If Hamilton were a country song…” and the musical guests were Garnet Rogers, Kim and Frank Koren (who I have written about before), Thomas Wilson (not the original Hammerhead, but an import from Winnipeg who must tire of having to share his name with the larger-than-life native son Tom Wilson), and Tiny Bill Cody. The challenge was for the songwriters to write a country song about the Hammer.  The songs were truly brilliant, incorporating local legends and features of the city, and hilarious. We put out a lot of energy in laughter in that room for so early on a Saturday morning.  I was asked prior to the show to be the audience plant who they would call on to be part of their trivia challenge and of course I said yes.  So here I am at the mic, answering the silly questions that Brent threw at me though I had to correct him on my name (he called me Faye, I said, “That would be K! Brent”.)

The question that stumbled me was about Michael Moore’s film – Canadian Bacon – which was filmed here in Hamilton but I remember many of the scenes were in Niagara Falls – unless one of Hamilton’s 100+ waterfalls subbed for the big one.  And Brent talked on the phone with Michael Moore (this is where I heard him say that thing about Canadians/Americans – somehow this blog just keeps tying it all together, no?) who has a love for the Hammer too!

tiny-bill

 

A couple of days after that, Barbara Milne (who I thank for a couple of these photos) and Gary Santucci, who own the Pearl Company, won a Hamilton Arts Lifetime Achievement Award – which they totally deserve for years of supporting the arts community, as the boundless energy behind the Pearl Company as well as the Art Bus – and Tiny BIll Cody (aka Tor Lukassik Foss), a brilliant songwriter, musician and visual artist, also won a Hamilton Arts Award.  (This is a wonky pic of Tiny Tor waiting to sing his song about our notorious Sheila Copps)

Now I want to tell another tale, one that began on this blog back in July.  In the post “East Coast Pleasures”, I wrote about my friend, Roberto Levey, who lives in the steamy tropical forest near Cahuita on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica – okay, if you want to go and read that now, I’ll wait for you…..or you can pick up the story here…

 jungle1

About mid-August, when I was back in Canada, I received a comment on this blog from a woman in Perth, Australia.  She wrote how she and her daughter, Gabriella, had read with interest the story about Roberto (and his father Bato) as Gaby was Roberto’s daughter.  Debra and Roberto had been together for awhile eighteen years ago and she had returned home to Australia to find that she was pregnant.  Debra decided to stay in Australia, always imagining that she would return to Costa Rica one day.  Roberto had stayed in touch for many years, offering to do his share of parenting if Gaby was to return to Cahuita.  But father and daughter never met and as the years went by, Debra eventually lost contact with Roberto.

As Gabriella is now at an age when her interest in knowing her father and visiting her Tico roots on the Caribbean is intense, Debra had plans to take her, along with her younger sister Angelique, to Cahuita.  However, despite her attempts to contact him, Debra was unable to get any news about Roberto. Perhaps he wasn’t picking up his mail – I know he had gone through a rough period following a collapsed relationship a few years back. I had seen him in that period, but then had seen him again in July and he was more like the man I have known for fourteen years.

Debra had tried to get information about Roberto’s whereabouts from the police, the school, a variety of hotels in Cahuita – but either she was contacting new people who didn’t know Roberto (who has lived there almost all his life) or those who did know him were keeping their information close.  People aren’t quick to give out information to foreigners in Cahuita – it can get you in more trouble than it is worth. So even as Debra went ahead and booked their tickets and proceeded with the plan to make this big trip via the United States to Costa Rica with her two daughters, she truly had no idea what they would find – thinking that it was even possible that Roberto was dead since he hadn’t returned any of her letters in a long while.

Then in August, a couple months before the proposed trip, she googled Roberto Levey’s name one more time – and this time it kicked to my blog.  She wrote me that she and her daughter had cried reading my descriptions of both Roberto and his father – Gaby’s grandfather – and filled with relief knowing that Roberto was truly still alive. Debra and I began a correspondence then that continues today. I put her in touch with a friend in Cahuita, Inger, who actually uses her email once in awhile and was able to help Debra  contact Roberto and tell him that he was about to meet his daughter after eighteen years.  roberto-gaby

In October, father and daughter met. Debra, Gabriella and Angel spent two wonderful weeks in Cahuita.  Father and daughter got to know and love each other and all of Roberto’s family welcomed them as well.  And, of course, Debra and Roberto’s own love was re-ignited, not a surprise at all to me. Roberto is easy to fall in love with, it was bound to happen.  At the end of the two weeks, Debra, bit by both the coastal mosquitos and the bug of love, returned to Australia, a long long way from Costa Rica.  I’m sure Roberto was also suffering in Cahuita with his heart stirred up again. Debra wrote me that she couldn’t decide what to do about the situation. Should she return to Costa Rica – where she really didn’t have any interest in living except for being with Roberto – or did she help him to go to Australia and be part of his daughter’s life there? Everything sounds good in the short term, but would he really be happy, this beach and bushman living in the suburbs of Western Australia? He had lived elsewhere before and always returned to his home, where his roots run much deeper than the shallow root systems of the tropical trees. Debra was letting herself take some time to figure out what to do, weighing her options, seeing if her feelings are strong enough for such a big commitment, looking for a sign.

roberto-letter

 

 

Debra and I continue exchanging letters. She appreciates that I understand her feelings and the great dilemma she finds herself in. I have been in love at a distance and know how it feels to leave it behind. Because I know Roberto, I share her feeling that he is a good man but I also have watched international relationships fail quite regularly. I find myself in this very personal conversation with a woman I have never met, though have grown fond of, about a man that we both love. (They have permitted me to share this story with y’all by the way.)

 

 

robertos-shack

Then, about two weeks ago, the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica was hit hard by torrential rains from a near cyclonic condition that moved in and just sat over the area, causing serious flooding with extreme damage to thousands of people’s homes.  Roberto, who lives just outside of town in a little shack nestled in the elbow of a stream, was at home when a huge head of water came down the creekbed without warning.  His home was taken away in an instant and he had a struggle just to get himself across the now raging river. He was lucky to not be washed away himself, hit by floating debris, or drowned. He lost everything he had, taken by watery force down the creekbed and out to the sea.

The last thing I heard from Debra was that they were trying to get him a visa to go to Australia.  Roberto has had his little world rocked several times these last few months. I’m sure at this point he’s just grateful to be alive. The opportunity to spend time with his daughter and Debra came just when his waters were seriously shifting. I don’t know how long the visa process will take but I selfishly hope that he will still be in Costa Rica in January so I can visit him before he goes down under. Roberto would survive just fine somewhere around Cahuita – people begin again after these disastrous storms and carry on – but if Debra was looking for a sign that they should try to be together, this was it.

I was astounded when I read that first letter Debra sent me, amazed at what a small world cyberspace encompasses. I wonder if I hadn’t gone to see Roberto in July and written about him on this blog, how differently things may have happened. I’m happy that I was able to bring joy and relief to Debra and Gaby, this teenager who was wondering if her father was even alive so she could one day meet him. Through the miracle of google-dust, my blog helped the women in the suburbs of Western Australia connect with the rasta who lives his very simple life in the Caribbean jungle. Love endures despite distance, time and really bad weather.  It makes me feel like … Kupid!

I just finished watching Michael Moore’s new film, Slacker Uprising.  As of today, September 23, 2008, you can go online and download it for free at http://slackeruprising.com  I intended on working on a couple of articles today for publications in England, but I got sidetracked by Mike – again. I always find his movies interesting and moving. And again I marvel at his prowess in making captivating documentaries with a message – you can call it propaganda, but that’s okay. As is part of his message, we are inundated with propaganda daily in a media that supports the powers that be, making sure their message is being spread far and wide. One of the first things he talks about in Slacker Uprising is the responsibility of the media to investigate beyond the walls of controlled information, ask the difficult questions, dig up the facts, and disseminate truth. Which is exactly what wasn’t done in the months leading up to the second invasion of Iraq (or probably in the build up to any military performance) – instead the mass media supported the United States heading into a war based on lies. And further to Mike’s message is that this work of seeking and supporting the spread of truth should always be protected by the famous First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States – the freedom of religion, expression, the press, and speech .

 

Mike started a movement in the weeks prior to the 2004 presidential election when he saw John Kerry and the Democrats’ campaign floundering. This film records the Slacker Uprising Tour that he embarked on, organizing events in sixty cities to see that the truth about the war in Iraq and the antics of the Bush administration would be heard. The slackers referred to are the youths of America who are uninterested in politics and can’t be bothered putting down their playstations and ipods long enough to vote – with reason they have lost faith in government and fail to understand that their vote can still count in making real change. On his mission to get them up, reinspired, and moving to the ballot box, Mike was joined along the way by musicians, actors, politicians, parents of fallen soldiers, and war veterans opposed to the insanity of this war. He has now released this new film, without a doubt timed so that its message will be seen and heard far and wide before the coming presidential election amd hopefully rile up the masses to get out the vote. It is the first full-length film to be made available for free on the internet. Mike has become a master at editing film clips into a powerful, flowing instructional video for an angry society and giving the public the alternative facts from what they are being fed on CNN and Fox. He is equally as skilled at getting publicity, both by his own actions (free download throughout North America? – the attention he’ll get just for doing the download will serve his purpose) and by the ensuing media reaction to his documented outcry. 

 

Slacker Uprising shows the opposition to the war that is omnipresent, as well as the outrage from both sides of the issue, including those who believe that he, Michael, is the devil, not Bush.  To me you don’t need to see mothers crying about their children who died in Iraq to be against war, but obviously those are powerful images. Mike employs them. As the father of a soldier says in SU, people would be “supporting our troops” more by bringing them home then sending more into Iraq. To be against the war is not to be abandoning the young men and women who are fighting for corporate and entrenched political interests in Iraq or Afghanistan, it would be demanding a saner approach to solving conflicts than throwing usually young, usually poor citizens into that so often deadly arena. There are people who continue to make huge amounts of money as war rages on, and it generally isn’t their sons and daughters who are dying. 

 

Of course much of Mike’s films are edits taken out of context and he pieces together each film in a very deliberate way. But every newscast that we digest is prepared in just the same way, night after night, deliberate information sent streaming into each home in the country. Here in Canada we are only marginally ahead in the fairness and non-partisanship of our media. Mike isn’t looking to be president, he is simply asking that people think and seek and stand and vote. As Joan Baez says in SU, she believes his best quality is his compassion. I have found that the people who spend their lives doing difficult but important work on behalf of the less fortunate or powerless or voiceless, must be driven by compassion – as well as a sense of outrage. And hopefully are blessed with a big sense of humour for their own sakes. Michael Moore obviously has all of this. As Michael Moore states so eloquently in Slackers Uprising, it is not what we look like or what we own that we should be judged by, but by how we treat the poor, the less-able, the disadvantaged.

 

I am one of those with believes that war is not the answer. Perhaps peace takes more work, but war is generally waged at the price to the poor and for the benefit of the rich. Wolf Guindon is one of those who stood up for his conscience as a young man at nineteen years of age and went to jail for refusing to register for the draft. He took this action in peace time, in 1948 and 49 when the US was between wars, but he did not believe in what the military was standing for and therefore would not support it.  As he says in Walking with Wolf, it was reasonable to believe that American taxes and its military should be used for promoting peace and helping the poor and hungry in the world, but not preparing to enter into and raise the level of armed conflicts outside of the border of their own country. Wolf, along with three young Quaker men from the Rockwell family in Fairhope, Alabama, spent four months of a one-year sentence in prison. Their incarceration was followed by their move from the U.S. to Costa Rica, a country which had just abolished its army following its own internal conflicts. Pacifism is a central tenet of Quakerism. It is one of the beliefs that draws me to the Friends.

 

I happened to meet Michael Moore last year. I was in Traverse City, Michigan with my friend Cocky.  We went to visit her brother but also to attend the film festival there.  Mike started and supports that festival and was present at the various screenings. On a beautiful warm summer’s evening, Cocky and I went to the opening party of the festival, mingling with the pretty people of Traverse City. Mike arrived himself half way through the evening, obviously exhausted, and I have to say, not looking well but pale, short of breath, and obviously too overweight.  One of the men we were with went over and asked him if he’d like a plate of food as he collapsed into a chair. He said that he would and soon a plate was put in front of him which he tried to eat while being smothered by the pressing crowd. A couple of hours later, we were walking by his car just as Michael Moore was coming to get into it.  Cocky spoke up and thanked him for making the great films he does. I piped up, “And take care of yourself Mike”, as I’m quite convinced this man is going to drop over dead if he doesn’t look after his own health. We need him as few manage to get done what he does in spreading the truth to the masses – but he is just a mortal like the rest of us, moving into a time of his life when health issues become serious, and I truly fear for him.

 

He thanked us and then noticed the man with us, the one who had brought him that plate of food. Somehow, in the crush of fans and media and film buffs all wanting to get near him, he had actually noticed this man who had quietly brought the food to him. He stepped back as he was entering the car, and walked over to the guy, saying, “Thanks man for bringing me that food. That was real kind of you.” He shook his hand warmly and then got in his car. That moment cemented for me the image of Michael Moore as a real human being who speaks the truth with compassion, who is paying attention, and who believes in doing the right thing and taking the moment, or lifetime, to just do it.

 

In Slacker Uprising there are performances or speeches by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Eddie Vendor, Rosanne Barr (never my favorite but her sarcasm here was priceless), Viggo Mortensen (who mentioned Canada in a positive light), and another of my great heroes, Steve Earle (see my blog post Steve and the Hammer). Steve sang Rich Man’s War, another in a long line of anti-war, anti-insanity songs that he has written. When he sings, or even talks, it gives me shivers, because he poetically and musically always speaks the truth. All of these people, along with the thousands who filled the arenas on the Slacker Uprising Tour, are committed to the future, dedicated to finding better ways to solve conflicts that don’t involve killing young people and destroying environments, speaking up against the powers who control and profit by the military mentality. I sure hope that in both the American election in November and the Canadian federal election in October, that the compassionate ones will win – those who care for the poor, who don’t support sending them to war against other poor people to do some rich man’s dirty work, who believe in demanding that politicians and corporate barons take care of the world not use it as a playground for profit and power games…and who believe that speaking the truth is the only way we will ever really begin to solve anything.

 

    

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