Paul Wilson

 

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Monday, December 19, 2021

 
MORE BAD MANNERS

Iím so dreadfully sorry, but I have to take back some of my criticism of Lynne Trussís new book, Talk to the Hand, on the "utter bloody rudeness of the world today." I thought Canadians were, by and large, mannerly to a fault, but I realize Ė and please, do forgive me for not pointing this out sooner Ė that in one regard, weíre as bad as the rest. Iím talking about the bad manners that seem to come, or go, with technological advance, the kind Truss discusses in the chapter on internet rudeness and other digital nightmares, entitled "Why Am I The One Doing This?" Technology always promises to save us time and labour, and it always takes more of it than we bargained for. Is that ill-mannered? You bet.
For instance, Iíve just spent the last three days trying to reconfigure my computer, rescue lost data, and reinstall things that used to work, all because Ė or so Iím told when I brave the automated phone hell called "the help line" Ė the operating system has been superseded, and the software it runs is "obsolete" (though it works just fine for me) and is no longer "serviced" by the company that developed it. I know an eight-year-old could sort out my problem in an hour, but to me, it feels like a costly betrayal. Itís as if Detroit suddenly said, "As of the end of this year, we are no longer putting internal combustion engines in cars, and we wonít be providing service or spare parts to the cars that still have them. Sorry Ė youíll just have to buy our new models. They run on environmentally friendly single-malt Scotch and you have to grease the wheels with virgin olive oil, but hey, they look really cool, and youíll be able to drive them up the side of a mountain." But I only need it to go to the store, I protest. "I hear what youíre saying, sir, but I canít help you." (I hear what heís saying too: it ainít his problem.) But what about the old engine? "No problem, sir Ė just hit 'Delete,' or drag it to the Trash. Now, which credit card will you be using?"
The word that best describes how I feel about all this comes from an older, less evolved technology: "Railroaded."

 
LOW FIDELITY ON THE DOC CHANNEL
If I were the kind of person who cancelled my subscription every time I read or see something didnít like, Iíd have dumped the Documentary Channel from my Bell ExpressVu package like a hot potato last night, after seeing Estela Bravoís documentary on Fidel Castro.
Far from being "the untold story" of the worldís most loveable and longest-standing dictator, Bravoís film is a dreary, dated montage of photo-ops, jubliant crowd scenes, and soft-ball interviews with the avuncular El Jefe himself, interspersed with familiar historical footage from the revolution, and commentary, complete with plenty of gee-what-a-guy anecdotes, from a roster of talking heads ranging from Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Alice Walker, to Angela Davis and former US attorney general Ramsay Clarke. And there are the oft-seen clips of American celebs eager to bask in the glow of Fidelís presence: the two Jacks, Nicholson and Lemmon, Ted Turner, Muhammed Ali, not to mention the Pope, the only human being in the film whose charisma trumps Fidelís and in whose presence Fidel actually seems deferential, and certainly uncomfortable. Perhaps it was because the crowds who came out to see John Paul were not whipped up by Castroís Committees to Defend the Revolution, but were truly spontaneous.
But the movie was mostly shot about a decade ago and first released in 2001, that is, before tens of thousands of Cubans signed a petition demanding more democratic rights, before Castro started throwing his dissidents in prison wholesale, before he had three alleged hijackers summarily executed, before revealing that he was an ordinary mortal when he stumbled and fell in public. The kindest thing to be said about the movie is that its worshipful, uncritical tone seems hopelessly out of date, and unworthy of serious journalism.
Of course, we're surrounded by propaganda all the time. What I want to know is, whatever possessed the Documentary Channel not just to show this travesty, but to show it in prime time, and to bill it as a "premiere" presentation? Maybe they need to devise a warning: "This film may contain scenes of fawning sycophancy. Viewer discretion is advised."

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