Monday, November 6, 2017

My Log 561 Nov 6 2017: Trudeau and his rich friends, wallowing in it: and, for a writer who needs only an audience of one, a portrait of an old man on film

The big story today, from a Canadian point of view, is that the so-called Paradise Papers, the latest issue of information about off-store tax havens emanating from a company in Bermuda,  appears to deeply implicate, to quote The Guardian, “the chief fundraiser and senior adviser to the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, (a man called Stephen Bronfman, heir to the Seagram fortune,) who played a critical role in the rise to power of the charismatic politician, (and who) was involved in the movement of millions of dollars to offshore havens.”
Also interesting is that although the online Guardian had many details about these transactions, the morning issue of the Globe and Mail, reporting the news about the Paradise Papers only in a single-column story on page six, failed even to mention the involvement of our Prime Minister’s bosom chum.
The story says two wealthy families were involved, and both appear to be Liberal Party insiders. The second family was that of Leo Kolbar, who was made a Senator by Justin Trudeau’s father in the last days of his years in office.
The closeness of Trudeau to these two families is revealed in the following para in The Guardian article: “The tight triangle between Kolber, Bronfman and Trudeau was on display last December when a Liberal party fundraiser, at $1,500 a ticket, was held at Kolber’s Montreal home with Bronfman as co-host and Trudeau as its prize draw.”
Ironically enough, on an earlier page in the same issue of the Globe and Mail, a commentator on the trouble the federal Liberals seem to be having with ethical questions recalled these $1,500-a-ticket fundraisers, which the Liberals have previously skated over as perfectly within the rules covering unethical behaviour.
I suppose none of this directly implicates Justin Trudeau in illegal or unethical deals, but it certainly does implicate Liberal party insiders, and people who can be described as his close friends.
I am quite grateful that I found this newsworthy story today, because I was about to resume my blog after a fairly long interregnum of seven weeks, even though I had no particular issue to write about.  I cannot remember why I have been so long away, except that, as I have grown older, my contributions on the state of the world have begun to seem to me more and more irrelevant, especially since in these last months, following the incomprehensible election of Donald Trump, world events appear to have been spiralling more or less out of control, with every day the constant threat of a major disaster being unleashed on us all.
When I started this blog in 1996 it was simply as a sounding- off board for me. I began thinking I could sound off almost every day, but a wise person suggested maybe I should aim at once a week.  In recent years even that has seemed beyond my grasp (or my energies, perhaps I should say). But this week a friend of mine told me he has a friend who checks on my blog regularly, and whenever I have been silent, appears asking if my friend could inquire as to my health.  Also, my friend said, his mother (who is an old friend of mine) regularly reads me, and wants to know if I am okay when I seem to have fallen silent.
This has totally surprised me. I always operate on the assumption that I have about three readers, and these two reports suggest that I might have as many as six people who expect me to utter from time to time.  I have elevated the number to six because recently I heard from an old friend in Vancouver whom I have not seen or heard from in 40 years, and she told me she enjoys my ramblings whenever they occur.
Well, I always say --- quoting, I think it was Simone de Beauvoir --- that a writer needs only an audience of one, and I certainly agree with that.
So, if I can leave Justin Trudeau and his rich friends aside for the moment, perhaps I can report on a really memorable film I saw this week, starring the superb old actor, Harry Dean Stanton. The film is called Lucky, and it is about a 90-year-old guy living out his life in a small town somewhere in the south-western United States. I am almost of that age, so it is not surprising that there was much in the picture of his life that I found familiar. Especially familiar was his habit of doing the same thing every morning (A few years ago I realized with a shock that I had become a creature of habit, and that I quite enjoyed the feel of that, picking up the same cup and plate every morning, boiling the same tea, eating the same dish of granola, covered with fruit and irrigated by ten-per-cent cream.) So it was with Lucky.  He would wash and shave himself, dress in usually the same rough old clothes, go off to walk the same route to the same local diner, where he was a regular, and where he would have the same thing for breakfast among people who knew and understood him. (This last thing I do not have the luxury of: I live in a huge city, where, unlike Lucky, I am unknown and unrecognized.)
Lucky was a grumpy old sod, with little to say for himself. And when he did get into discussions he had a tendency to become rather obstreperous, on one occasion challenging one of his friends to come on outside so they could settle the disagreement with fisticuffs.  Of course, anyone could have knocked him over with a feather, so no one ever accepted this ridiculous challenge.
One morning he collapsed to the floor, which caused him to go to his doctor, who examined him thoroughly, then said, there seemed to be nothing wrong with him. In fact, for a man who had always been a heavy smoker, he was in ridiculously good health for his age, which didn’t satisfy Lucky, because, he said, he had fainted, so there must be something wrong with him.
The remarkable thing about this film is that almost nothing happens of any dramatic significance.  He was outside of his place  one morning, in his underwear, and his hat, when a black woman who had been in the habit of serving him in the diner arrived, just to check that he was all right. He was rather reluctant to admit to her presence, but he went inside to put on some clothes, and when he looked up, she was standing there watching him. “How did you get in?” he asked querulously, and she said, “the door was open.”  She asked if he ever smoked grass, and then they sat for a time on his sofa smoking away, Lucky eventually offering the unsolicited information that “I can hardly get it up any more,” before his visitor  left him. On another occasion, one of the diner regulars complained that President Roosevelt had run away.  This happened to be his pet tortoise, the only member of his family left to him, and his disappearance occasioned quite a bit of dialogue with Lucky who eventually brought the fellow around to accepting the disappearance of his only friend.
Another day, a man came into the diner to order a takeaway, and Lucky, spotting him for a veteran, broke the habit of solitude so far as to ask the guy if he would mind if Lucky joined him at his table. They then discovered they had both served on the same island in the Pacific, and Lucky revealed that he had himself  been a cook, which was where he got his name Lucky.
The beauty of the film came from the extreme sensitivity with which the meaning of the film was changed from just a portrait of an old geezer, into a sort of staccato philosophical consideration of the great questions about life and  death and the meaning of being alive, without these questions ever being directly addressed.
The film ends with Lucky walking into the countryside, where he stands before a tall cactus, looking up at it, contemplating it, finally allowing himself a suggestion of a smile, and then turning on his heel to walk back into town, the last shot catching his tiny figure alone in this vast, empty landscape.
Harry Dean Stanton, who was the lead actor in Wim Wenders’s memorable film Paris, Texas, made 30 years ago, died soon after making Lucky. He was 91, and this last film is a wonderful testament to a remarkable actor.

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