Fete Nationale de l’Acadie

A lovely tree lined walk, named the Promenade des Acadiens, sits in the heart of Quebec City. The far end of the walk rises to meet the Monument aux Acadiens, accented from across the street by several flags of Quebec that stand proud along the “Promenade des Premiers-Ministres”. The monument in the form of a lighthouse topped by the colours and the star of the Acadian flag is entitled, “Vers la lumiere” (Towards the Light) and is a symbol and reminder of the important role and contributions of Acadians and their descendants in the history of Quebec.

The history of the Acadians is one of great pride for the descendants of the French colony even today in much of Eastern Canada and doesn’t come without some strife. Le Grand Dérangement is a period of history where nearly 12,000 of the 14,000 Acadians were forceably removed by the British to the Thirteen Colonies.

The devastation to Acadians is equal to that of the Scottish people who were removed from their land during the Highland Clearances in the late 18th-early 19th centuries and certainly to that of the Indian Removal signed into law in the US by President Andrew Jackson in 1830 that forceably removed the indigenous peoples of the US from ancestral lands they rightfully owned. Thousands of the 12,000 Acadians forceably removed died along the way, suffering disease and often ending up on boats to the colonies that were lost at sea. A remaining few settled along the eastern seabord and finally in Louisiana where they reestablished their culture, became part of the southern culture, and slowly “Acadien” became “Cajun”, a beautifully rich morphing of an already distinct French culture.

August 15 is known as the Fete Nationale de l’Acadie and is an important reminder of a vital part of Canada’s history and a chapter of Quebec’s history, and indeed North American history, that deserves to be taught and shared more prominently. And its food, music, and culture are something every Canadian should feel proud of.

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The real outcome of the 2017 French election

Regardless of what happens in France today (and the numbers appear to show a victory for Liberal-Centrist En Marche’s Macron), tomorrow is the dawn of a new reality in France. That awakening isn’t that there is an Extreme Nationalist party in France with significant followers, it’s that people are going to acknowledge it. Regardless of what the final numbers show, the Front National is a very real part of France today and tomorrow.

The fact that 26% of French voters, the lowest since 1969, have abstained from voting and that the second place party in the country, even if it’s by a large margin, is an Extreme Conservative Nationalist party speaks volumes about what France is today. If the exit polls are correct and Macron is to win 65%-35%, then that means Le Pen got 17 million people in France to vote for her. That’s 35% of the people who voted, but still an impressive 25%, a quarter of the country that voted for her. Le Pen doesn’t need to win, she just needs to exist. For all the joking and mockery of the Tea Party movement in the US of the last ten years, it undeniably shifted the political thermometer of the United States. It created a world where the traditional left and right parties faded in relevance to the majority of voters and where someone like Trump could win if they just produced their show properly.

Second place for Le Pen and the Front National is actually a victory because it means the political landscape of France is different than what people were willing to accept or believe. Beginning tomorrow, with the massive support they gained, things will happen in France with input from the Front National whether people like it or not.

Incidentally… on racism in the bleachers.

Major League Baseball outfielder Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles received an apology from the Boston Red Sox today after he was subjected to racist abuse and had objects thrown at him from the crowd at Fenway Park in Boston on Monday night.
This can not be permitted to happen in Baseball, where Jackie Robinson Day is celebrated every year. The Red Sox and Major League Baseball must find these racist stadium attendees (I won’t call them fans) and make examples of them. Why?…
In 1959, the Red Sox were the last team to integrate and permit black players. In 1945, they actually passed on signing Jackie Robinson after giving him a tryout. Even during this tryout, with only management present, Robinson still endure racist comments on the field. It took the NAACP getting involved and charges being pressed for the Red Sox to eventually call up infielder Pumpsie Green from their farm club. But, what matters is that they did and helped change the face of baseball. Literally.

As is so often the case in so many instances, history is why we need to act today. A step forward that never moves again, is just a change of position and not something that leads to progress. Progress is understanding that the first strained and efforted step forward only counts if it is followed by continued and effortless steps in the same direction. Intolerance, if ignored and disregarded as an isolated incident, runs the very real and dangerous risk of multiplying silently in dark corners of society thriving among the daily goings-on of life and becoming acceptable by disguising itself as innocent ignorance and the protection of traditional values.

Zero tolerance means zero tolerance. So when the Boston Red Sox find these racists, they must ban them from Fenway for life. THAT is how you deal with this. Anything less is complacency.
The story on the incident…
Follow-up: Bizarrely, the original link I had to the New York Times story on the incident was changed to redirect to a story about how the Red Sox fans gave Jones a standing ovation. The New York Times has wiped any reference to the original story and what Jones experienced on Monday. I had to put in the BleacherReport story instead to have the original facts be readable, something the NY Times edit now impedes.

Incidentally… on athletes being self-righteous.

Tennis player Eugenie Bouchard hit the courts today to talk about Maria Sharapova being a cheater and that she shouldn’t be allowed to play tennis again. Oh, Ms. Bouchard… I don’t say this often because to me it’s chastising someone for their age, which is unfair because it’s something they can’t control, but you are being a child.

I know that right now, since you have the ear and eye of the media, you think it’s fashionable to express contentious re-tweetable statements, and think that you have the right to make analytic assessments about the state of tennis having spent a whopping four years on the pro tour. PR people have no doubt told you, as all celebrity athletes are told, that any camera in front of you is better than no camera which is what you were beginning to achieve through your lacklustre play this past year. You clearly haven’t looked into or read the freely available and incorrect ruling on Maria Sharapova or the reversal by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that found Sharapova “could not be considered to be an intentional doper” demonstrating “less than significant fault”.

But none of that is what makes you a child. Your statement is, after all, just an opinion. What makes you a child, is the inability to consider the long term effects that your statement might have for you in your career in the very, very small and tight knit tennis community with promoters, and sponsors, and organisers, because the press you’re getting today, a month before the French Open (what a coincidence), is more valuable to you.

I’ll quote one of my favourite playwrites, David Mamet, who’s economy of language puts all this into words far better than me:
“You wanna learn the first rule you’d know if you ever spent a day in your life? You never open your mouth until you know what the shot is.”

The fight to save Northern England’s historic mills

Interior of Dalton Mills in Keighley, Bradford — ©Historic England

The history of the textile mills of the north of England is one that must not be lost. It is a story too precious to forget. It is the story of industrial revolution, of a way of life that defined and indeed oppressed many people, it highlighted the disparity between privilege and poverty which led to the some of the most important reform of the last few centuries. The poor were given a voice, the privileged few demonstrated their gluttony and the resulting legislation is the reason why today we see injustice and say, “this isn’t right, they can’t do that”. It’s because someone once spoke up and said, “I’m going to speak up now so that people don’t have to in the future” and died hoping they were right and that future generations would continue demanding that their rights be honoured.

As always, with history, this isn’t just an old building. It represents, like a toy from your youth, like a family heirloom, like a recipe, a part of who we are — all of us — why we are what we are today and where we can look for answers about how to change tomorrow. Letting these relics get erased is a sure way to insult the advancements of previous generations and doom ourselves to face the same challenges again, ignorant of our past. Tyrants never forget history. In fact, they use history to see how much farther they can push the envelope. Tragically, the rest of us never seem to care to remember the fight of those that came before. Because we think we’re unique. We think everything happens to us and has never happened before. We think ‘this is different’. We think we’re modern and ‘those people, well those people lived in the past’. Except it’s not different. At it’s core, the human experience is the same. Time and time again. And you live in the present, knowing far more and with more at your disposal than they in the past had, which begs the question: what’s your excuse for forgetting the past?

Textile mills and other such historic relics aren’t just old buildings that cost money to maintain. They are tombstones that mark something and someone important. Their effects and their stories offer lessons that stretch far beyond England and matter to us all. And any effort to let them stand proudly and command their skyline should be applauded and supported.

For more information on what can be done to help save the mills of the north of England, visit:
https://www.historicengland.org.uk/get-involved/protect/mills-of-the-north/

Bowlly. Two years later.

It was two years ago this week that we brought Bowlly home. Just weeks before, he had been rescued from living on the street in Paris near Palais Garnier, chained to a chair, helping beg for money that was probably never used to feed him or care for him properly. If the terrified and defensive emotional state we received him in is any indication, he was surely, as the woman who rescued him described, living life as a function and an object, not as an animal.

And yet, given the right behavioural nurturing and healthy food, one of the benefits animals have over us is that they can be rehabilitated to a point where they don’t retain the memory of their past in the same way that humans do. Removing the conditions that have caused pain and fear in the past is usually enough to make an animal regain confidence. Though Bowlly isn’t, of course, capable of this level of introspection, I do think where he is today is a way of remembering to remain positive. And so this song posted below, sung by the man he was named after (due to both of them having light, trilled voices and a similar sharply parted ‘hairstyle’) has come to be for us a sort of anthem for him and his way of being so rambunctiously joyful today despite having spent his first three years in such deplorably horrible circumstances. Historically, the song is an anthem of its era. A 1930s popular song from a musical of the same name expressing a commonly felt sentiment of its British Depression times and while generally upbeat, there’s a bitter sweetness to its tender longing. But that’s for another blog post…

It was a relatively difficult few months last summer in the events leading up to us leaving France and all its associated annoyances and challenges, some of which still linger today like a crackle in one’s breathing from a weeks old chest infection. Bowlly in our lives helps us in ways he’ll never understand, keeping us positive by remembering that nothing we’ve gone through is as bad as what he went through and to remember that one can not change what has happened, nor can one always design the options one is given. But one can choose how one reacts.

Now when we hear this song we think of our Bowlly and how despite what he went through, he’s happy today nevertheless due to our efforts and the efforts of friends in two countries who have met him who probably don’t realise how much their understanding and gentle touch have helped him come out of his shell. The only way we can thank him for what we’ve learned observing him over the last two years is to make sure he lives like a star. A small in stature, unassuming star, like his namesake.

“I’m looking on the bright side, though today’s all care and strife.
I can wear a grin, keeping up my chin, looking on the bright side of life.”

The Ramses II Discovery and Colossal Egos

In what might be one of the most fascinating historical discoveries in the world since the British discovery of Bronze Age settlements in East Anglia last year, an artifact was unearthed this week in Cairo. The Colossus or large statue of Ramses II who ruled 3000 years ago was found near where his temple once stood. He was one of the most powerful rulers in Egypt, reigning for 66 years. Needless to say, they didn’t talk about term limits in those days.

Ignoring for a moment the fact that this statue is likely older than anything around you at this very moment wherever you happen to be sitting, it’s fascinating if a bit challenging to get one’s head around the fact that this statue was buried all this time without being spotted. Buried, in fact, in roughly the same spot as the entire world that belonged to those people 3000 years ago, known today only to Ancient Egyptian History enthusiasts, historians, and archaeologists. What exactly of whatever that man thought of himself, of his prominence, of his importance, or indeed of his reign of power, matters today other than as a period in history?

Ramses II, to the Greeks, was known as Ozymandias. In romantic English poet Percy Shelley’s poem of the same name, a man finds a statue of the famed pharaoh, and sees a pedestal on the statue that reads,

‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

However, the man says in response to this boastful declaration,

“Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Timely, I thought, that this statue of the powerful ruler immortalised in Shelley’s poem should be unearthed from relative obscurity despite all his prowess and magnitude, at our current moment in history when we seem surrounded by several leaders (apparent or actual) claiming their eminence, and yet seemingly oblivious to their own arrogance in thinking they’ll ever matter to anyone in the future. They might consider, if they’re not too enamoured by their self-proclaimed brilliance, whether they’ll leave behind anything more than a failed attempt to transcend and a pile of rubble.

Incidentally… on Brexit (again), and changing the channel.

People online are losing their marbles because of the shocking revelation (to them) that Brexit might not happen.
Again. British Parliament…does not…have to act…in accordance…with any referendum voting in England, such as Brexit.
They’ve never had to. Yes, really. Wikipedia could have told you that. I told you that in a previous post, not that I’m Edward R Murrow or anything.
“So, like, if that’s true, then why was everyone freaking out?..”
Because ignorance and fear mongering, when taken in equal doses, can move mountains.
Here’s a real doozy for you to keep in your back pocket for a rainy day…
The President of the US has…no…legislative…power. He or she can suggest and proclaim things all he or she wants but Congress calls the shots, makes the shots, approves the shots and even determines what shots get taken and when. As a related side-note, there are a lot of people in this world that need to watch “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”. It should be curriculum in all public schools in the US.
Follow Obama’s presidency. I don’t mean follow him on Twitter ‘liking’ things his PR people post pretending to be him or sharing cool pictures of him with fun celebrities, I mean really look over his 8 year presidency, you know, the job he was actually elected for. The total tonnage of things he proposed that got rejected or flat out ignored (ignorantly, in my opinion) could stop a team of wild horses in its tracks.
“Wait..so, like, why don’t we have more [insert your political party of preference] in Congress??…”
I don’t know, you’d have to ask the staggering sixty — six-zero — percent of Americans that don’t bother turning up to vote during the mid-term elections for their Representatives or Senators or in most cases bother even learning their names.
“Then why does the media obsess over the Presidential election?”
Now, that is a perfectly good question… The answer is: they do so for the same reason everyone obsessively takes pictures (and shares pictures) of a toddler who doesn’t even know he’s the son of a completely powerless Prince of England, it sells like hotcakes and makes shitloads of money in advertising and media sales.
Read. We all do it when we’re little, we read everything put in front of us without bias. We learn what the Very Hungry Caterpillar does, what the letter ‘P’ stands for, which animal roars and which one barks, what stuff is soft and which is prickly. But then when we’re adults we stop reading and just look for things that agree with how we already think. A child never said, “well I think the Very Hungry Caterpillar is just extremely greedy and proof that if you give people things for free, they take advantage of the system and become leeches sucking the government out of every penny its worth.” The child is just happy knowing that the caterpillar one day turns into a butterfly. Sorry for the spoiler.
Question things. The internet is there, practically free. Inform yourself, and not just with sources that are in line with your own political views.
Listen. Truly listen to what the people on all the other sides are saying (well, if you’re in the US, what the only other side are saying). I promise you, they love their country as much as you do. You will have that, at least, in common. You do not have to agree on how that love is expressed. And that is good.
All of this to simply say, you can react to the things that happen the way you want to react, and not how the media is coaxing you to react if you learn some basic facts about what’s going on in a given story. But you have to read. Read the news like the Very Hungry Caterpillar, directly and for nothing more than what it’s worth. And ignore all those people giving you opinion packaged as “news”. They want to tell you why they think the caterpillar’s eating, what it’s motivations are, and always — always — miss the point of the story because they don’t care whether you know the point, they just want you to not change the channel.
Change the channel.

Change of season and of place

Without some kind of explanation, some fragment of information, the sudden onslaught of photos and talk coming from me about places, history, food and culture of a different city will seem bizarre, so without taking too much of your time, I simply wanted to communicate that we’ve moved from Paris to Quebec City. I requested a renewal for the visa many of you know I was in Paris on and after ten months of deliberation which involved us renewing our extension four times, the Prefecture de Police in Paris decided not to grant me three more years. The details of why, what they said, what their reasoning was and so forth are quite frankly things I am, at least for the time being, done with talking about. We’ve been living this and the leaving France part (which we were given only thirty days to do) for two months now and its weight physically and emotionally have more than overstayed their welcome.

I’ve moved more than once before from one place to another place farther away and the logistics and planning are something I’m ok with, and that my wife and I are quite good at. As long as we get to choose where we’re going, we can be happy enjoying that place together with our feline companion. What I’m not as good at, despite my efforts, is accepting someone telling me I can no longer have the privilege, the honour, and the sincere joy of sitting next to and enjoying the company of people who mean a great deal to me. As it is best expressed in French, “ca me manquera”, which suggests literally “that will be missing from me”. There will perhaps be a blog post at some point reflecting on this partly forced, partly desired move but there are an extraordinary number of things I wanted to start sharing daily as I did in Paris without having to stop and explain what I was doing in Canada repeatedly. So I thought this rather self-indulgent, possibly self-important post was the best way to start. If, which I’d completely understand, Paris related posts were your reason for following me to begin with, don’t feel bad about clicking unfollow or unlike on whatever social media platform you follow me on. It happened with people when I left New York, I expect it to again.

Will the French government’s decision about the visa renewal stop me from completing the screenplay I had started writing in Paris? Not even for one fraction of a second. Can I tell the story I was going to tell in Paris here in Quebec City? As with every other place I’ve filmed and written in, the place will surely find its way into the film as a central character and anyway, as one of my favourite filmmakers David Lean said, “I’m first and foremost interested in the story, the characters”. Except that in my case, not being David Lean or even a passable imitation or shadow of him, I’ll just keep writing the only thing I know how which is characters and making things happen to them and hoping that I stumble across an unintentionally interesting story. The new film will simply be in Canada, where the journey began. Or perhaps, more appropriately in several ways, in la Nouvelle France.

Thanks for reading and following along. A bientot.

Why I’m leaving my Facebook Page and where to find me…

If social media isn’t..social, then I don’t know what the point is. A few years ago, everyone doing some kind of creative work was told they needed a Facebook Page to be taken seriously. The problem with Facebook’s Pages is that if you don’t pay for exposure, if you don’t post several times a day in order to increase your visibility, and if you don’t do things to engage your audience to come back to your page, your posts simply disappear into a void and don’t show up even on your followers’ feeds. Buying your audience is great if you’re Coca Cola… but let’s say you’re not. Let’s say you’re just a writer and independent filmmaker and you don’t want to be a brand. Let’s say you want to be human and connect with people who are interesting contacts and with others that you already know that want to be supportive of you and your work. Unless you already have several hundred or thousand followers, Facebook’s algorithms make your posts invisible unless you’re willing to be constantly selling yourself.

By using my Facebook Page, I’ve had people who know me miss out on blog posts I’ve written, important news I’ve shared, and videos I’ve shot. I’ve had people who don’t know me but who I’ve met once or twice try to share something with me, invite me to interesting events, or even just share my work with others and not be able to find me because I have a Facebook Page and not a profile. I don’t maintain a constant outpouring of automatically released “content” online to keep my readers “engaged” because I write and shoot blog posts and videos when I feel like it. And if you know me, you know that that’s why I do it, because it’s when I want. I don’t do it at a steady rate to collect followers. Plus, there’s life. But I don’t want the things I shoot and write and share to fall on deaf ears just because I’m not promoting myself the way Facebook wants me to. While I don’t have any interest in sharing my personal life on Facebook, there are too many interesting people online to not be connecting with and sharing what I do with even if I don’t make a film every year or write a blog post every month. So, from now on you’ll find me over on my personal profile. While I will be using it to share writing and videos, I won’t spam you repeatedly with updates, I promise. But I think it’s a more genuine place to follow what I’m doing and communicate with you rather than AT you, if you’re interested in joining me. I’ve seen several other people in various fields with far larger communities than mine doing the same. My profile is here.

A bientot, see you soon.

Phil

Do you have a Facebook Page for your creative endeavours? Has your use of it changed over the years and if you keep both a personal profile AND a Page, how do you differentiate the things you post on either?