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?

Incidentally… on the aftermath of the referendum.

brexit
In Baseball, from time to time, a pitcher and catcher can’t understand each other’s non verbal communication through all the hand signals and the crowd noise and they take a time-out, a relatively common request to the umpire, and have a mini-conference on the field. Every time the visiting team does it, the home team’s supporters boo them for taking the relatively insignificant pause. The booing doesn’t bother most sports fans and it’s taken as regular heckling but I’ve always found it extremely unsportsmanlike and childish. It’s interesting to note, that baseball fans, the kind that really get into the game and boo at these moments tout “the human element” as being one of the most beautiful parts of the game. There’s not a lot that’s more human than two people taking a minute to clarify themselves to each other. The umpire asks them to finish up their chat and the game resumes. But then the very next inning, if the same happens to the home team’s pitcher and catcher, and they have trouble communicating and have a mini-conference, no one says a word and it’s perfectly acceptable for them to do so. The number of ways in which baseball, both the game and the spectator sport, mirrors social behaviour in society could fill a multi volume book series, but that is for another day. It’s quite common in sports and in life for people to be appalled by what the other side is doing when it’s very likely they’d not complain about their side doing the same.

 

I totally support everyone who is upset with the UK ‘Leave’ vote. I would have voted ‘Remain’ if I was English, let me make that clear in no uncertain terms. The internet has been swamped with talk of the final vote’s narrow margin of victory as a reason to not accept it and indeed in some  cases even as reason to reverse it. But I have to say, I do wonder if ‘Remain’ supporters would be as appalled by the 4 per cent difference in the final vote if the result had gone in their favour and the ‘Remain’ side had won. I think they’d have taken it (wishing surely that it had been higher) but I think they’d be very good about ignoring their 4 per cent margin of victory and would be silencing any attempt by the ‘Leave’ supporters to argue the percentage.

 

When two sides agree to the rules of a certain “game” and nobody offers any conditional rules and the game goes ahead as planned, isn’t it too late for people to come back later and discredit what the final score was? Didn’t everyone involved know that it could have ultimately gone even as close as 51% to 49%, or surely even 50.2% to 49.8% which is still a majority outcome? Like the home baseball team supporters that boo when the opposing team has a time-out, but not when their own team does, shouldn’t the rules of the game be accepted as the rules of the game for everyone and if you want that conditional rule applied that the visitors can’t take a timeout or the final vote needs to be by a minimum amount to count, shouldn’t that be established beforehand? Does the loser of a vote by 4 per cent care that it was 4 per cent only because they lost and isn’t that just down to the rules of the game? The legislation behind the referendum didn’t say that the winning side needed to get a minimum percentage. Perhaps more importantly, neither did it say that Parliament, the only governing body allowed to set laws in the United Kingdom, had to act in accordance with the final vote. The referendum just asked the question and Parliament is within its rights to ignore the answer; no matter what the answer and no matter what the margin of victory. Right now, this is truly much ado about nothing.

 

However, something that is not at all nothing, but rather a very frightening something, is the horrifying and unspeakable racism that has reared its ugly head since the ‘Leave’ side won. And that is the real issue in all this that is not getting enough attention. Not where Boris Johnson is, not what Angela Merkel thinks, not what the promises were. What matters is not how much the ‘Leave’ side won by but the unimaginably ugly intolerance and ignorance that has slowly emerged from under the surface of a nation not many people expected it from. The behaviour of people in supposedly civilised society has been disgusting and the discussion over the political and economic repercussions of the vote seem shallow compared to the discussion that isn’t being had about how a nation that was bombed by the most extreme forces of intolerance 75 years ago can possibly have citizens demonstrating today the same kind of anger towards its own fellow citizens rather than at the politicians who created this situation in the first place.

The stars have lost their glitter…

I was just talking to friends last night over dinner about how much the New York we loved was dying when we lived there, how that inspired my short film, how the city isn’t even capable of acknowledging its own declining culture and then someone I know told me today that the Ziegfeld Theatre, late 20th century New York movie history at its most luxurious, is closing. To which I can only sigh in sadness.
ziegfeld_theatre
Again, another movie venue that can’t pay its rent in Manhattan. I’d say “end of an era”, but the sad truth is that era died a long time ago. As I did last night with these friends, I continue to remind Parisians who think Paris has lost too much of what it once was that it’s all perspective and that old Paris is very much alive and well, albeit a bit beaten up in places. Old New York has practically vanished, and that truly is an enormous shame.
As is often the case, Ira Gershwin can be counted on for having the best words for most situations:
“The night is bitter,
The stars have lost their glitter”

Sweet Sue

SusieSusie, you’ve rendered your otherwise long-winded, annoyingly talky owner rather silent with an achingly heavy heart and a tightly knotted throat.

We gave you perches on windows and beyond those windows we gave you Manhattan and Paris and inside those windows all the things worth living for (…namely prosciutto, comté, and Cumberland sausage). Funny how many people knew you over your 18 years, especially those you met in your short time here in Paris.

So long, ma petite puce. I’ll play the song for you, once again…

Incidentally… on animal conservation

bears

Being from Canada, it embarrasses me and frankly sickens me that a Canadian conservation officer was just suspended without pay for NOT killing two healthy, harmless, and still nursing bear cubs because the Ministry of Environment allowed their mother to be killed (and not tranquilized) for repeatedly eating out of someone’s fridge. That’s right, Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant was suspended because he chose NOT to kill the eight week old cubs, but rather to take them to a vet and Wildlife Recover Centre. You’ve replaced THEIR natural habitat with a house, noise, a giant white box full of fresh food and enticed them with smelly, rotting garbage outside in metal cans and then you get mad because these bears show up on your front porch? And for trying to get food for their young because they’ve got nowhere left to hunt anymore, you kill them instead of relocating them? And we’re supposed to be the country that takes animal rights seriously? You know what, you don’t like bears going through your garbage and your fridge?.. don’t live in a forest!

The Oxford English Dictionary (I think we can all agree that they know a thing or two about language) defines conservation as: “Preservation, protection, or restoration of the natural environment and of wildlife”, not “destruction of any wildlife that comes near my frozen pizza”. Preserving wildlife. Protecting wildlife. Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant deserves a medal, not a suspension. And the philistine cretins who suspended him should be smacked with animal cruelty charges. As for those people who got their fridge broken into, you wanna get that “nice house in the woods” and “live surrounded by nature” away from the big city and from all that crime and pollution, well then accept what that entails. These baby bears are now motherless and if you know anything about raising wildlife in captivity (which you should quite frankly, just a little, it’s the least we can do for systematically destroying our planet’s wildlife) you’ll know that it will be a long, difficult road being nursed by humans in the slight hope that maybe they can one day be released to survive on their own in the wild and continue to populate the species. All because someone’s fridge got raided by a bear for crying out loud. We’re pathetic creatures and my country should know better, because yeah, we do nature better than pretty much anyone else. At least I was raised to think we did.

There is a petition to have the officer reinstated, if you’re interested in signing: https://www.change.org/p/ministry-of-environment-mary-polak-reinstate-conservation-officer-bryce-casavant

The link to the story: http://t.co/mpzZldrowU

A new home for a new friend…

There is a new addition to our home who only recently became officially ours. He is a rescue cat that had been living on the streets in Paris, we don’t know for how long but it’s safe to assume that it had been for some time.

We found out about him online when we came across a post on an animal rescue forum from a woman who acts as an independent rescue shelter and was trying to find him a home. This cat and another cat he was with had been used on the street by a homeless man, as happens often in Paris, and had been chained (to not get away, I imagine). These are not often loving companions, but rather a means to get people’s sympathy. As this woman went to her full time day job every day and passed this man she began to see this cat in a state of declining health to the point where one day she even had to check to see if the cat was breathing because he was so lifeless. She began befriending the homeless man in the hopes of convincing him to give up the two cats. She told him that if he ever got tired of having them to let her know. One day, he told her he was leaving Paris and asked whether she wanted to take the two cats and she agreed. The two first went to stay in a veterinary office. The other cat, a gorgeous long haired persian was adopted very quickly. But this guy went so long without being adopted that he needed new lodgings because it was taking too long to find him a home. I can’t imagine why nobody was interested in him for several months. Perhaps people thought he looked too common, perhaps people are afraid of a cat that’s been on the street having problems of some kind. If you know us, we have a bit of a mission to find shelter cats or those with difficulties in finding a home because several cats over several years have turned us into rather well versed cat behaviourists. That’s the part in the story where we came along. We spoke with this woman, followed a very professional adoption process and after a one month trial period (in truth, after about an hour) we decided this cat would be fine with our current cat and just this past week we became his official owners.

This cat needed a home that knew how to address his fear issues, his high sensitivity to people, and his slightly defensive behaviour. In our experience with cats, we don’t think he was abused but he was clearly treated as an object and very roughly physically. It is at once a particularly alarming and heart breaking thing to see a cat react so abruptly and so full of fear upon just seeing a hand move. He definitely was never given anything resembling affection or care or proper food. What’s most important today is that he and Susie, our current cat, are fine together. This of course was after a strict and detailed process of proper cat introduction to which they both responded well. He adapts more each day and we hope he continues to do so. What we can promise him is that he’ll never sleep on sidewalks night after night, he’ll not feel weak from a lack of food, he’ll not hide during rainstorms and cower from thunder, he’ll not fear hundreds of noisy footsteps and buses as he tries to sleep through the day outdoors. The cat in him will be nurtured so he can be who he’s really meant to be and not who a human is forcing him to be.

While I’ve had cats in my life since childhood, there haven’t been that many. Learning how to properly care for them and give them what they need to be happy and balanced has afforded me the privileged company of three cats who lived well into their late teens, with the exception of my first who died at 14. Susie, our current cat, turns 18 this summer. My life has been accompanied at all times by cats and wherever I’ve gone they’ve gone with me. They’ve all been very lucky to have such a caring home but ironically it’s we that feel lucky to have had their company as late-night study partners and screenwriting partners, sous-chefs (albeit only observing and never helping), and all around companions. There isn’t a part of our lives our cats haven’t touched; lying on instructions while building Ikea furniture, diving into boxes while packing for a move, coyly commanding the attention of all our friends during dinner parties, watching as video game worlds are explored, sleeping and waking and then sleeping again through countless films, living not only through the agony of defeat during sports events (this is, after all, a Toronto Maple Leafs household) but also through the thrill of victory and the excitement of being raised in the air like trophies for what to them must seem absolutely ridiculous. Even if you were to have a momentary lapse and think your existence was little more than survival to them, it is in the moments when you wake in the middle of the night to turn over or adjust your pillow and find one of your cats joined as if magnetically to your body that you realise that the completely exposed and vulnerable belly, the limp paws, and the slightly ajar mouth with dangling tongue are all signs that you are, in terms any animal would understand, trusted. And that ability of an animal (be it feline, canine, or ‘otherwise-ine’) to sleep so defenselessly and deeply next to you is, even mid-sleep, capable of touching a part of you that few things know how to even reach.

Because of the little marking on his head that we immediately thought looked like a hairstyle with a strong part on one side from the 1930s and because of the delicately high-pitched voice that he has, we named him ‘Bowlly’ after one of our favourite singers from the ’30s, Al Bowlly, who possessed the same hairstyle and a similarly high-pitched tenor voice and strong vibrato. Al Bowlly was English and grew up in South Africa but spent the majority of his life in London. Though he’s not widely known today, if you study the development of popular music vocalists,  he is essentially the first real solo ‘crooner’ or singer in the world. I’ve always loved his music and as you may have noticed from my film work and other social media ramblings I’m particularly obsessed with music from the 20s, 30s, and 40s. In our home, we’ve always thought of him as someone truly special. Guys like Bing Crosby and Rudy Vallée started out by singing as part of a band or vocal group, but Al Bowlly was the first to be just a solo artist and found bands to sing in front of and record with. He was one of the first artists to have his records sold around the world and often found as he toured early in his career that people already knew the songs because of his records. While this is something that’s normal today, that degree of distribution was rarely heard of 100 years ago. It’s shocking when you know his music, that he’s only known today by scholars and aficionados but one reason is surely because he didn’t live long. Al Bowlly died tragically in 1941 in his sleep during a Nazi raid on London, when a parachute mine detonated outside his flat in the middle of the night. He was only in his forties. Time hasn’t been kind to the pioneers of what we today call popular music so I like to pay tribute when and how I can. Bowlly, the cat, has a grand name and we’ll see that he gets an equally grand life. I’ll be sharing some of his moments online in addition to those I already share of Susie with those of you who are kind enough to keep in touch via social media. Welcome, Bowlly!

For those of you that are curious, here’s a recording of Al Bowlly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bw5h-WPYBQ

Bowlly.. (you’re moving along quite nicely, pal)
WP_20150331_003

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and Al Bowlly.
al_bowlly

Incidentally… News coverage of recent events in the US

It’s a bit depressing as a Canadian to say this, but the people handling the Twitter account for the CBC have been exhibiting for months now, on a weekly basis, a carelessness one doesn’t associate with their fine network. I grew up with the CBC, it taught me how to spell, how to play, everything about hockey, and made me feel like I was part of a community of people that stretched from coast to coast even if I had never gone to other parts of the country. Unfortunately, there is often a blatant disregard for grammar that goes from being comical to at times even bordering on insulting on CBC’s Twitter feed. And yes, grammar does matter. Particularly by the press. And no it doesn’t matter that it’s “only Twitter”, a pathetic excuse I’ve often heard when talking about news outlets on Twitter.  Whether you like them or not, a news organisation with the pedigree and standards that the CBC has should not be making mistakes as often as it does, even on social media.

I’ve started retweeting these tweets, calling them the “CBC Ridiculous Grammar and Photo Tweet of the Week”. For the most part they demonstrate a shocking, stupefying lack of even the basics of elementary school grammar which result in unintentionally comical tweets that are fun to share. But today’s tweet felt different because if you’re aware of what’s been going on in the United States, and I have to assume that the CBC is, you’d have to be quite frankly not very bright (ok, a bumbling idiot) or intentionally and unsuccesfully trying to be witty to not notice their error. I can tell you as someone who lived in the US for a long time and still has family and friends there that this recent tweet’s bad grammar and horribly insensitive photo are insulting. I’ve posted it below. Not because bad grammar in and of itself is insulting (although I do personally think it can be extraordinarily depressing) but because in this case, the failure to notice the grammatical error has painted the title of this article and its tweet as potentially comical which could be taken as inappropriate at a time when this particular wound in American society is very much unhealed, I’d say even exposed, untreated, raw and getting infected to be more precise. It causes a –…laugh…oops, I shouldn’t be laughing at this — reaction and several replies to the tweet mocking the grammar prove that a lot of people have seen the same thing. And then, what exactly is the point of THAT photo with THIS story? That black people are mean and confrontational and white people are innocently just trying to stay out of their way with a smart-ass smirk on their faces? Is there anyone that photo doesn’t offend when tied to this particular story? What may seem like just a dangling modifier speaks to a larger problem by the network of not realising the sensitivity required to properly address this unfortunate news item from yesterday, especially in the midst of recent events in the United States. I don’t care if the story came from Reuters, you’ve got editors. Change that headline.

Come on, CBC News and CBC Social, wake up.cbc

Thinking of March 2nd instead of Rosa Parks and December 1st…

On March 2, 1955 a young black resident of Montgomery, Alabama got on a bus and refused to move to allow a white woman to sit down when no more ‘white seats’ were free. She was spending a lot of time learning about the civil rights movement and it must have been from there that she summoned the strength to say out loud on that bus with enough white people to take up all the ‘white seats’ that “it’s my constitutional right” to stay seated. She continued to shout the same thing as she was handcuffed, arrested, and forcibly removed from the bus.

Three other women had the same experience that year. The fourth one, on December 1st, was Rosa Parks. And yet the name Rosa Parks is probably more familiar to most people than that of the first person from March, Claudette Colvin. In fact, another bus incident isn’t even something people usually know about, much less the four other incidents before Ms. Parks’. Why don’t we talk about Claudette Colvin? Rosa Parks was a woman in her 40s, a seamstress, and had the appearance of a middle-class person. Claudette Colvin was 15, unmarried and pregnant. In the end, while building a case against bus segregation, the NAACP and other organisations they were working with felt Parks was a better face for the cause ignoring entirely Colvin’s heroic first act.

For her bold and daring actions standing for the rights her country claimed to empower her with, Ms. Colvin, clearly a remarkable child, was convicted in juvenile court for disturbing the peace on the bus where she defended those rights. There is nothing unheroic about Ms. Parks’ actions. She, along with several others, helped hold a microphone up to the muffled whispers of people suffering in silence. But in a world where we often champion the pioneer and the ground breaker, Ms. Colvin’s omission from our collective consciousness seems an unjust and insulting tribute.

Miss Colvin lives in New York today, more than 50 years on from her historic albeit forgotten moment. In an interview when describing having been nudged to the side at the time and only having gotten a little credit several years later, she simply said, “I feel like I am getting my Christmas in January rather than the 25th…”

Claudette Colvin, at age 15, around the same time as her arrest.

Claudette Colvin, at age 15, around the same time as her arrest.