Wednesday, September 30, 2020


Planet Earth, hot mess. Image via The Guardian

Siberia is burning with unheard of temperatures over 38˚C. Baghdad is scorching, hitting 52˚C during a heatwave this year. Phoenix is steaming, at almost 46˚C. California is on fire, including a recent record 49.5˚C in Los Angeles. Toronto has had at least one heatwave but lately has had temperate weekdays pockmarked with cooling rain. I’m not here to make the case that incredibly hot summers are proof of climate change, mostly because weather isn’t climate, but you have to admit, Siberian fires are pretty weird. The climate crisis is happening but I’m not sure I’m up to convince anyone who denies it. I’m here to talk about temperature.

Once the summer arrived, I was reminded how different the reported temperature is to the experienced temperature. Environment Canada reports the temperature recorded in the shade. In the shade is so lovely. In the sun, our life giving star could scorch you. On some of our hot days, there wasn’t even a rumour of a cloud in the sky. Living in the city core, surrounded by tall buildings, the air can be still and stagnant while heat radiates off the brick, concrete and asphalt like hot embers. On those days I could barely survive the fifteen or less minutes of putting laundry on the line. I thought I would become like a vampire, waiting for the dark of night to emerge. Then we’d have an equally hot day, with clouds and a breeze, and the experience was entirely different.

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Monday, September 21, 2020

Seen in August 

Perry Mason. Image via The Movie DB

When you can't escape where you live due to work, commitments or some kind of global epidemic, you find ways to travel through your television to South America, Japan and or in time. You may even travel back to a time when spending time hanging out in a bookstore was normal and comforting.

Lost in the jungle, looking for lost cities. Image via The Movie DB

The Lost City of Z
Amazon Prime
A sort of early 20th century story of Heart of Darkness journey to the darkest, least known areas of the Amazon. Sir Percy Fawcett initially travels to the Amazon to survey a border, but on that trip finds pieces of advanced pottery. With that little bit of evidence he is driven to find what locals have rumoured to be a great lost city. He then spends the rest of his life exploring the jungle looking for the site. This is a mostly romantic view of one of the world’s most dogged explorers who fought to overcome the biases of his colleagues and yet another cinematic ode to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. There were also many scenes of the real dangers and toughness of these men that pushed through the forest and their fear to discover the unknown. This isn’t simply a story of colonialism’s relentless drive into indigenous lands but of the desire of certain people to quench their unending curiosity, no matter what the risk. What was that risk? Fawcett disappeared in the jungle with his son and another man perhaps after encountering an unfriendly tribe. Sometimes you eat the bear. Sometimes the bear eats you.

It's Carnivale in Rio in Black Orpheus. Image via The Movie DB

Black Orpheus
The title could not be more obvious. This is a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth set in 1959 during Rio’s Carnivale with a cast of almost entirely black actors and performers. In its time, this film was seen as an exotic trip to world unknown to most Europeans and Americans. From one angle, it’s a view of an incredibly vibrant and unique culture. From another, it’s easy to see how Americans could see this film as a vision of the lustful, exotic and charming folks of Rio. Harmless and simple. At least, that was Barack Obama’s perception particularly given how much his white mother enjoyed the film. The gap between his frustration and his mother’s enjoyment is probably the place where the truth lies. I don’t think for a minute the film makers had any ill intention in making this movie which does have some moments which don’t age well, but for the most part, this story of doomed lovers gives agency to the poorest residents of Rio and shows them living lives full of passion, art, anguish, classism, bias, triumphs and loss.

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