Friday, February 27, 2015

The Sea Is My Brother

So I like Kerouac a lot, a lot--that's two "a lots."
I some time ago while hunting through the remainder bins of Book City on the Danforth came across JK's first written, last published novel The Sea Is My Brother. I noted from a bit of a web hunt a few snottily dismissive reviews of it as clunky and amateurish.
Didn't care. I read it, with open arms, mind and heart. I just finished it.
And I loved it, some part of that pure sentimentality out of my two "a lots" for Kerouac but a bigger part out the interest its descriptions, themes and characters evoked for me and by its stretches of really good, concrete writing, especially at the end when the sea voyage gets underway, and Everhart's conflicts get some resolution and Wesley Martin is affirmed in his love of the sea and both the solitude and the brotherhood sailing it as a merchant mariner offer him.
It also struck home with a few of my own experiences:
for example, encountering and working alongside working men in my working my way through school in a saw mill and then as a dishwasher, assistant cook and waiter on the trains, getting shocked into seeing what vital and diverse life went on beyond the puny, coddled precincts of my own experience;
or for example, encountering the sheer monotony of endless, boring, repetitive manual labour and seeing myself as miraculously blessed to have my ongoing education as a pathway from that--while admittedly Everhart is on balance thankful for his monotonous work as part of real experience that shows up the limits and thinness of his academic life at Columbia;
or for example, engaging in vigorous talks about all kinds of ideas with vigorous, engaging guys of all kinds outside any academic setting; 
or for a last example, feeling in miniature the cleansing involved in leaving day to day life behind when starting on 4-5 day runs on the trains from Vancouver to Winnipeg and back, during which the flashing-by mountains, forests and prairies had some of the vast cosmic magic and purification the sea and the lengthy sailing of it have for Everhart and Martin.
I can't stop talking about Kerouac without quoting one of my favourite sentences in all literature and surely a match for any novel ending sentence in all literature except maybe Ulysses
Love it, just love it:
...So in America when the sun goes down and I sit on the old broken-down river pier watching the long, long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land that rolls in one unbelievable huge bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it, and in Iowa I know by now the children must be crying in the land where they let the children cry, and tonight the stars'll be out, and don't you know that God is Pooh Bear? the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers, cups the peaks and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what's going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old, I think of Dean Moriarty, I even think of Old Dean Moriarty the father we never found, I think of Dean Moriarty....

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Mr. Turner: Short Commendatoy Note

We just saw more or less all 150' of Mr. Turner ("more or less" because I cop to having missed about 20' in its first third, due to something apparently called "nodding off.") It moves slowly, all in all a mite too slowly, its only weakness; but once you get into its rhythm, especially if you're well rested, and once you get in tune with the initially off-putting, frog-like, croaking unloveliness of Mr. T., you are into, literally, "a heartbreaking work of staggering genius." Once in that rhythm, the movie, like Boyhood--a totally different movie, to be sure--not at all plot driven, simply absorbs you scene by scene, each with its own nuances and complexity, till they build into a whole, into a full representation of a complicated, many sided man, all genius, personally prosaic and warts, of a marvellously depicted society, of the paradoxical relation between man and artist, and, generally, as the best, most unsentimental film representation of an artist, in any of the arts, that I think I've ever seen. 

I can't recommend it highly enough. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hollywood History?

What *is* the case for Hollywood history? 

I find the argument in the below comment hard to pin precisely down.

Francine Prose's sort of saying distortion doesn't matter; and she's sort of saying it does.

She says at one point, on having taken her eight year old granddaughter to see Selma, (itself a questionable choice):

...And though the violence made the film painful to sit through, to underplay what the activists—and ordinary people—had endured would have been much worse than misrepresenting the part played by Lyndon Johnson. Later, I thought, my granddaughter and I can deal with the film’s historical mistakes.

But then she says:

...As a member of a generation that, because of Johnson’s stand on Vietnam, underestimated or ignored his admirable record on domestic issues, I was sorry to see him cast as the villain of a story in which his actual involvement was much less obstructive..


....Were I a director, I would want to avoid the sort of errors and exaggerations that make reasonably knowledgeable audiences so dubious and uneasy about what they’re being shown that it ruins their pleasure in watching...

Prose earlier in her piece (seems to defend?) defends distortion in historical films in the interest of drama. But, while the distortion of LBJ in Selma didn't bother me, maybe it should've, there was no great dramatic heightening that I could see from the distortion of his involvement with King. There seems to me in that a general answer to the attempt at rendering the story in history. There seems to me no need seriously to sacrifice accuracy in the interest of drama. There ought be, well and creatively done, drama enough in the raw source of actuality.

I'd make two distinctions here: one, between an imaginative representation of a set of events or a person, where imaginative distortion is of the essence of the art, as against the effort to get the story right; and, two, in the latter, between some minor licence and embellishment--say writing King's speeches (because the actual speeches weren't made available by King's estate) as against outright distortion that materially falsifies a material event or events or a particular historical actor.  

Hamilton Health Services Corporation v D.H. et. al.

The introduction to a lousy decision by a Judge Edward of the Ontario the Court of Justice:



[1]                       The applicant hospital has brought an application under subsection 40(4) of the Child and Family Services Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C-11, as amended, against the respondent children’s aid society.  It is an unusual request brought about by a very sad circumstance.  The subject child of this application is an 11-year-old girl from The Six Nations of the Grand River, named J.J.
[2]                       In August of this year, J.J was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (A.L.L.).  A.L.L. is a form of cancer in the bone marrow.  The applicant hospital’s position is that it is treated with chemotherapy delivered in a number of phases.  In J.J.’s case, the applicant’s initial testing indicated she had a 90 to 95% chance of being cured.  The specialists at the applicant hospital are not aware of any survivor of A.L.L. without chemotherapy treatments.
[3]                       Although J.J. had commenced chemotherapy treatment, it was discontinued in August of this year.....
The Conclusion: 
[81]                  It is this court’s conclusion, therefore, that D.H.’s decision to pursue traditional medicine for her daughter J.J. is her aboriginal right.  Further, such a right cannot be qualified as a right only if it is proven to work by employing the western medical paradigm.  To do so would be to leave open the opportunity to perpetually erode aboriginal rights....


[83]                  In applying the foregoing reasons to the applicant’s subsection 40(4) application, I cannot find that J.J. is a child in need of protection when her substitute decision-maker has chosen to exercise her constitutionally protected right to pursue their traditional medicine over the applicant’s stated course of treatment of chemotherapy...
It's (unfortunate) worth noting that the judge is aboriginal. 

The mother took the kid for some worthless alternative treatment in Florida from a highly questionable practitioner--I don't know if he's a doctor. I understand the child died.

In trying to think off the top of my head for the legal frailty in this decision, which supports the proposition that law can be an ass, the following occurs to me, which involves keeping the judge's premises in tact, (that keeping intact a questionable proposition in itself but beyond my immediate knowledge and resources.)

I'd have thought that the mother would have to have shown the court what specific traditional medicine she proposed and in complete specifics especially considering:

...the applicant’s initial testing indicated she had a 90 to 95% chance of being cured.  The specialists at the applicant hospital are not aware of any survivor of A.L.L. without chemotherapy treatments...

The Florida alternative "treatment," which failed, couldn't have been part of traditional native medicine. So the judge conflated the practice of traditional native medicine with simply withdrawing J.J. from chemotherapy. It's amazing to me and a dark hole in the judge's reasoning that there's not a scrap of evidence of what the traditional practice was to be. If the answer to that was the alternative Florida treatment, then the mother's position should have failed.

It's tragic and incredibly thick headed that this little 11 hear old girl's life was sacrificed on the altar of ....the opportunity to perpetually erode aboriginal rights.... since as this judge quotes another judge for the point that...

....64]                  But before delving into defining what an aboriginal right is, Chief Justice Lamer made what I consider to be an incredibly important statement as to why aboriginal rights exist at all.  At paragraph [30], he reminds us all of the following:

In my view, the doctrine of aboriginal rights exists, and is recognized and affirmed by s. 35(1), because of one simple fact: when Europeans arrived in North America, aboriginal peoples were already here, living in communities on the land, and participating in distinctive cultures, as they had done for centuries.  It is this fact, and this fact above all others, which separates aboriginal peoples from all other minority groups in Canadian society and which mandates their special legal, and now constitutional, status.

In my view a life has been snuffed out by the misapplication of an abstraction and by bad legal reasoning that can't sustain scrutiny, at a minimum, by references to its own premises.