Monday, May 25, 2015

Helping to Understand the Middle East

If you have trouble understanding who's who, and who supports whom in the Middle East, here's an awesome chart from the Economist.

You can interactively mouse over the chart if you go directly to The Economist here. The chart is dated in April, so probably some things have changed, but this certainly gives you a great start.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me

Heartbreaking. Heartwarming. Sad. Uplifting. Poignant. The film Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me was all of those. Just after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Campbell embarks on a farewell tour of over 100 concerts. He may stumble cognitively at home, but when he walks on stage, Campbell is transformed, his brain seems to click into place, and the music comes flowing back. He may need a teleprompter to remember the lyrics of songs he must have sung hundreds of time, yet the melodies are pitch-perfect and his fingers fly confidently over the strings as he and his daughter Ashley launch into duelling banjos (video here). Campbell can't remember what happened a few minutes ago, yet remembers the melody of the last song he wrote and manages to lay down a haunting rendition of his last single I'm Not Gonna Miss You, with its heartfelt and sadly true lyrics.

I'm still here, but yet I'm gone
I don't play guitar or sing my songs
They never defined who I am
The man that loves you 'til the end

You're the last person I will love
You're the last face I will recall
And best of all, I'm not gonna miss you
Not gonna miss you

I'm never gonna hold you like I did
Or say I love you to the kids
You're never gonna see it in my eyes
It's not gonna hurt me when you cry

I'm never gonna know what you go through
All the things I say or do
All the hurt and all the pain
One thing selfishly remains

I'm not gonna miss you
I'm not gonna miss you

This lovely movie, a touching video highlights reel of two years during Campbell's final tour, dramatizes the invidious onslaught of Alzheimer's and its impact on Campbell and his family. It's intended to dramatize and advocate for the Alzheimer community. It succeeds.

P.S. I have another post with a review of the book Still Alice, also about Alzheimer's.

Sunday, April 26, 2015


The movie Danny, a highly affectionate portrait of the ninth premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, the pugnacious Danny Williams, is set against the backdrop of Newfoundland history. When Newfoundland - somewhat reluctantly - joins Confederation at England's urging, it was a resource-rich independent nation. Williams argues vigorously that Canada gained more than Newfoundland from the Union. This was a minority opinion in Canada, where Newfoundland was a 'have-not' province and the recipient of enormous transfer payments from Ottawa. However Williams contends this wouldn't have been the case if Newfoundland had received its fair share from the Churchill hydro project.

Williams isn't going to let that happen again, even if it takes press-conference theatrics like pointing to Canadian flags and vowing they're coming down if Newfoundland doesn't get what it wants. He negotiates a good deal for the lower Churchill hydro project and stares down Paul Martin, then the Prime Minister of Canada, to wrest a hefty share of revenue from Newfoundland's offshore oil. Suddenly, Newfoundland is a 'have' province. William's astute business tactics have changed the fortunes of Newfoundland and the little guy is the most popular premier in 8 out of 10 provinces.

Williams' incandescent pride in Newfoundland illuminates the movie.  And his fierce tactics remind you of an enforcer in hockey, the game he loves.

This movie is an uncritical look at a colourful character and is a rollicking good time.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Welcome to Leith

Leith is a small town in North Dakota where land is cheap, dwellings are modest at best and residents have never heard of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Until the arrival of the repugnant white supremacist Craig Cobb who starts buying lots and rundown buildings with the intention of building an enclave of like-minded people there. Since the town's population is only 24 (including children), it won't take many new arrivals to take over the town's government. Soon a new family joins Cobb, swastika pennants are flying, town council meetings feature nasty confrontations and armed supremacists start patrolling the roads.

The townspeople clearly don't want the new arrivals, and feel deeply threatened by their presence and behaviour. They retaliate by passing an ordinance requiring all dwellings to have running water and safe sewage and indulge in a bit of friendly tire-slashing and harassment. Cobb and his pal are arrested on charges of terrorizing the town and escape long jail terms with a plea bargain.

Meanwhile, the sheriff and townspeople visit Cobbs' house with the health department's condemnation and tear it down and burn it to the ground. Ironically, as despicable as these new arrivals were, this final scene of destruction made me think of Kristallnacht.

Welcome to Leith was made possible by over $60,000 raised on Kickstarter. A disquieting movie worth taking in.