Sunday, July 22, 2007

Films For Peace

So, tonight was the third installment in the Peace Reel Film Festival, organized by Artists Against War in Christie Pits Park, here in Toronto. It's been a great event, nothing quite like watching movies under the stars (or the barely visible spots in the sky that pass for stars in the city). There's no doubt that the event was a great success by all accounts (except that most elusive of accounts - money. We're not allowed to charge, only ask for donations).
The first screening in the series was the Canadian premiere of an incredible film about the Israeli Occupation of Palestine, Occupation 101. Things looked dreary on the day, to be honest, with a major downpour and looming black clouds into the evening. Not the kind of thing which brings people out to an outdoor event. But still the people came - nearly 200 of of them, which is a sure sign of how important this issue is to people, and to the buzz around the film. AAW flew one of the filmmakers up from LA - Sufyan Omeish - to introduce the film and take questions. He was extremely articulate on the issues (not surprising since he and his brother spent 6 years making the film).
The next week the crowd wasn't as large but still respectable at 80 people for Kanehsatake: 270 years of resistance. This film is now more than 10 years old so the fact that it can still draw people speaks to its power and to the issue. It's about the Indigenous occupation of a planned construction site on indigenous land at Oka in Quebec. With the recent national day of action for land rights, this film still has lots of relevance. It was preceded by a short film called Mohawk Smokes - about how the Mohawk community at Tyendinaga, in Ontario, have been selling tobacco to raise money for a traditional longhouse and for community services. One of the directors, Audrey Huntley, along with Doreen Silversmith, an indigenous representative from Six Nations, spoke to the films and the issues within them.
Back to tonight... It was bigger than last week with over 100 showing up to see the screening of The Prisoner: or How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair - a film about a journalist in Iraq who was arrested by US troops and held for 9 months, including in the notorious Abu Ghraib. He was told that he was involved in a plot to kill British Prime Minister Tony Blair. If it weren't for the very real horror that Yunus, the subject of the film, and his brothers suffered it would be a comedy.
Anyway, there's just one more week to go in the Film Festival - which I believe to be Canada's only outdoor film festival. Next week will be the classic anti-colonial film, The Battle of Algiers. If you're in Toronto, you don't want to miss it. It's an incredible movie, so sharp on the issues and reality of foreign occupation that the Pentagon screened it for some of its officers as a lesson in what not to do. Apparently they weren't paying attention.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What do you mean I'm not immortal?

I've always suffered from the pathological belief in my own immortality. I can remember clearly as a thinking to myself: "I won't grow old. I won't die." A part of me has never really believed that a time would come when I would be feeble, or even more, that my consciousness would cease to exist. I can only assume that this feeling of mine isn't THAT out of the ordinary. That other people find it hard to believe their day will come. Assuming you aren't the first in your family and personal circle to bite the dust, the deaths of growing numbers of those around you as you grow older probably helps drive the point home.
But now here I am suddenly faced the possibility that I won't live forever, that I am, after all, only a mortal. Fuck. This Alzheimer's thing is fucking with my head.
I did some research online tonight about Early Onset Alzheimer's. It seems that where it runs in a family - as it seems to with my family: my father and uncle both suffer from Alzheimer's - the children of sufferers have a 50-50 chance of contracting the disease. It's a dominant gene on the 14th chromosome, so if you got it, well, baby, you got it. Fuck.
And the scary part of this is that it can develop any time between your mid-30s and 65, though it most commonly strikes people in their 50s. I'm 40. Am I shitting my pants? Yep.
What's more it's making me think about all the things in life I wanted to achieve. Stuff I wanted to spend the next 40-50 years experiencing. We want to have a child next year and I wanted to see them graduate university some day. My wife, who I love more and more every day, is 12 years younger than me. I wanted the opportunity to grow old with her - not to have her have to wipe my ass for me before she's even 50 years old.
My writing. I just got into the Canadian Film Centre's writing program. It's taken me close to ten years of focused development of my craft to reach the point where I could get some professional recognition. I can see my lifelong dream of a writing career - FINALLY! - opening up before me. And now I can see it's end as well. The brutal, amoral unfairness of it all is almost too much to bear. I feel a great anger, not at my father for his faulty genes, but at nature and even more so at the shameful waste of resources that could otherwise be spent trying to find a cure for diseases such as Alzheimer's. Instead a billions of dollars every week is spent bombing and shooting people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Countries and drug corporations compete with one another rather than collaborating and sharing resources. It's madness.
And I'm angry that the very last of my childhood illusions has been utterly shattered. Does age spare us nothing?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Losing my mind

I've always knows that I was a little bit crazy, not playing with a full deck - all those metaphors that indicate my mental faculties are somewhat less than has been apportioned to
my fellow humans. But I didn't know precisely what that meant. Well, now I do.
Last year my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. His brother also has the same condition. From what I have read the medical community knows somewhat more than fuck all about Alzheimer's - but not much.
They do know that there are roughly two categories. One is the random distribution of the condition throughout the population - your typical, garden variety Alzheimer's. The other variety, affecting perhaps 10% of Alzheimer's sufferers - I forget the exact number (ha ha) - is called early onset Alzheimer's. This generally sets in between the 40s to late 50s. It is highly hereditary.
Guess what? Yup, it turns out, based upon the latest tests, that my old man has been suffering from the condition for perhaps 10 years. He's about 65 now. That means he started to develop it in his 50s. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to figure out what that means.
So, now it seems I have been given my best before date and it is somewhere in the range of 10-15 years from now. That puts my shelf life somewhere between a bag of milk and a tv dinner.
Nothing is ever certain of course. I'm a red head and I'm left-handed. That makes me the kind of person who beats the odds, I suppose. We - my brother and I - still have to see a genetics counsellor, or whatever his title is. I think he will basically work the odds, like a bookie at the race track. Good thing I've got private health insurance. Good thing I don't live in the USA.
Not that I'll care when the time comes that I can't wipe my own ass.
In the meantime it infuriates me that our government - and even more so the US government - is spending billions and billions of dollars killing people in Afghanistan (and Iraq) - never mind Haiti, while there isn't enough funding for conditions like this, for cancer research. The truth is, the people who make the decisions in our society - they just don't fucking care. That's all there is to it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Who needs a blog?

Not a fucking soul. No one. The world is filled with blogs. Smart blogs, dumb blogs, political blogs, cultural blogs, blogs by assholes, blogs by really, really, nice people (the kind that make you want to throw rocks through their windows). WE DON'T NEED ANOTHER BLOG.
So, why am I writing one then?
I dunno. I guess coz I'm a writer and I think I've got something to say. And maybe to just ever so slightly to shift the blogosphere a teensy, weensy little bit further to the Left.
I admit I'm not a blog expert. I don't surf the net looking for them. I really only read one blog with any regularity: Lenin's Tomb ( So, my decision about what I'll focus on is made on the basis of complete ignorance and utterly arbitrary. In fact, who knows if I'll even still be writing on here one week from now. If I may give you one piece of of advice - only one - in your whole stinking life, it is this: don't bet on it.
So, on that happy and fortuitous note, I look forward to providing commentary on world events (or not), review and cultural critiques - particularly semiotic analyses of the more interesting bits of fucked-up-ness in our overwhelmingly fucked-up culture.
howzat sound to you? Meaty?
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