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Art Threat: From Exposé to Opacity: With The Migrant Image, T.J Demos Rethinks Documentary Aesthetics

Though often situated at the centre of grandiose political and activist projects, tasked time and again with capturing visible evidence of exploitation, violence, deprivation, and inequality, documentary, as both a genre and a practice, rests on a fundamental paradox: that of being perpetually too early and too late. If, as T.J. Demos writes near the end of The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary during Global Crisis (2013, Duke University Press, 368 pages), the thrust of the “classical documentary project” has conventionally been “to engender a compassion for the struggling and disadvantaged” through film, video, and photography, (Read more…)

staffroom confidential: Badass Book Review: The Future of our Schools, Teachers Unions and Social Justice by Lois Weiner

Badass Book Review: The Future of our Schools, Teachers Unions and Social Justice by Lois Weiner

Since the massive public sector upsurge in the 60′s and 70′s, teachers unions in the US have been in a long steady decline in power. Only very recently, with the 2012 Chicago teachers strike, have we seen any resurgence in teacher union power. Why is this?

Weiner presents an overview of the pitfalls of teacher unionism and what teachers can do to revive their organizations. For any teacher anywhere, frustrated by the untenable working and teaching conditions we now face, this book is essential (Read more…)

staffroom confidential: Badass Book Review: Raising Expectations & Raising Hell, by Jane McAlevey

Book Review: Raising expectations (and Raising hell): My Decade Fighting for the Labor Movement, by Jane McAlevey

It’s been a tough couple of decades to be a trade unionist. Since the early nineties, with Paul Martin’s cuts to transfer payments, through the Mike Harris’s assaults, to the BC Liberal’s ripping up contracts and the Harper Tories legislating them, it seems increasingly hard to find strategies that win.

Yet paradoxically, since about 2011, there has been a notable upsurge in progressive movements: teachers in Wisconsin, the squares of Egypt and Turkey, the world wide Occupy movement, the Maple Spring, Ferguson, and (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: A review of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything

I have another piece up at Ricochet: a review of Naomi Klein’s big book on climate change, This Changes Everything. It’s friendly but critical, looking at what the book’s themes of austerity, the local and extractivism mean for how we build politics against climate change. I’ve included it in full below…

Naomi Klein’s big book on climate change, This Changes Everything, is at once an extensive catalogue of climate change failures and a passionate defence of budding shoots of resistance. Much more than just an up-to-date account of where we are and how we got here, it is also a meditation on (Read more…)

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: Memoir of Mourning: Journey Through Grief and Loss to Renewal (Book Review)

Perhaps you fear losing the parent you care for.  Or maybe, you fear your own death as you care for your dying relative.  Maybe you just don’t know who you will be when your loved one passes and leaves you alone in the world, without the identity of caregiver.

Claudia Chowaniec has wrestled all these demons to the grounds and lucky for us, has imparted her experience in “Memoir of Mourning:  Journey Through Grief and Loss to Renewal.”

This is a book about an intense and co-dependent caregiving experience – one that lasted many years.  As a teenager, (Read more…)

THE CAREGIVERS' LIVING ROOM A Blog by Donna Thomson: No Saints Around Here (Book Review): Do I Hate It or Do I Love It?

About 20 pages into Susan Allen Toth’s caregiving memoir, “No Saints Around Here”, I decided I didn’t like the author.  Not one bit.  ”How can a wife sigh loudly in front of her Parkinson’s disease-suffering husband just because she can’t have a second cup of tea in the morning?!” I fumed.  I kept picking up this book, reading a little, getting annoyed and then slamming it down.

This book really got under my skin.  So one day and about a third of the way through the book, I was helping my dear friend and caregiving mentor Kathleen Jordan (Read more…)

Canadian Soapbox: Struggling financially? Read ‘The Wealthy Barber Returns’

I’m 47 years old, and if you’re around my age or older you’ve probably heard of or read David Chilton’s book ‘The Wealthy Barber’.  I’m certain that Mr. Chilton is at least partly responsible for the boon in mutual fund investing that occurred during the nineties and early into this century.  ”The Wealthy Barber” (TWB) was written in 1989 and it was a monster success selling somewhere around two million copies. But TWB was written in a different era, before the internet, before TFSAs, before the great financial crisis and before Canadians went from a nation of savers to a (Read more…)

Scripturient: Blog & Commentary: We are Stardust… and Viral Genes

In her classic song, Woodstock, Joni Mitchell ended with the chorus: We are stardust Billion-year-old carbon We are golden Caught in the devil’s bargain And we’ve got to get ourselves Back to the garden Which most people assume is merely poetic licence. Well, Joni wasn’t wrong: we – and every living thing on our planet […]

Sketchy Thoughts: Progress and Poverty: a response to Krul, Post and Hamerquist from Noel Ignatiev

i often disagree with Noel Ignatiev – and the following essay is certainly no exception in that regard – however his reasoning is often provocative, which though a bit maddening is also not a bad thing. As such, it should not be assumed that the views in the following guest contribution are those of yours truly. However, it is worth reading in the context of the ongoing discussion of Zak Cope’s book Divided World Divided Class. The other essays referenced here are by Charlie Post, Matthijs Krul, and Don Hamerquist. (Note that Krul also posted a further response

. . . → Read More: Sketchy Thoughts: Progress and Poverty: a response to Krul, Post and Hamerquist from Noel Ignatiev

Art Threat: London Triptych traces queer desire across the centuries

Owing in large part to Hollywood’s discovery of its infinite star vehicle potential, the “intersecting lives” narrative has become, in recent years, something of a cop out. When the A-story isn’t strong enough, simply prop it up with parallel stories B through F and have them all fatefully (and conveniently) collide about a third of the way through the final act. It’s a trite and often tiresome trick that, with few exceptions, sacrifices meaningful narrative at the altar of novelty.

In riffing on this form with his debut novel London Triptych (Arsenal Pulp, 2013), Jonathan Kemp is playing with fire. (Read more…)

Sketchy Thoughts: Divided World Divided Class Reviewed and Discussed by Matthijs Krul and others

Divided World Divided Class: Global Political Economy and the Stratification of Labour Under Capitalism is a book published by Kersplebedeb (and available from leftwingbooks.net) back in September of last year.Divided World Divided Class charts the history of the ‘labour aristocracy’ in the capitalist world system, from its roots in colonialism to its birth and eventual maturation into a full-fledged middle class in the age of imperialism. It argues that pervasive national, racial and cultural chauvinism in the core capitalist countries is not primarily attributable to ‘false class consciousness’, ideological indoctrination or ignorance as much left and liberal thinking

. . . → Read More: Sketchy Thoughts: Divided World Divided Class Reviewed and Discussed by Matthijs Krul and others

The HB-Log : Book Review: The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King

I enjoyed reading Thomas King’s new book “The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America.” I’ll stop short of saying “it’s something everyone should read,” but if you regularly comment on native issues, and have a weak grasp of the history, this is a great way to familiarize yourself.

This is why I read it, and in this sense I was satisfied, if ultimately disappointed. What the book lacks in structure it makes up for in style. Indeed, this is less an “account” and more an extended rant. King’s frustration and passion burns through the (Read more…)

. . . → Read More: The HB-Log : Book Review: The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King

The HB-Log : Care about equality? Suck up the tall buildings

Over the holidays I read Matt Yglesias fantastic book “The rent is too damn high,” which deals with urban policy in the United States and its effect on housing prices. But really, the book is about equality. Yglesias argues cities in the U.S. have too many regulations for the construction of tall buildings. As a result developers cannot respond to housing demand properly, and prices rise.

This forces the middle and lower classes away from neighborhoods that would otherwise be economically beneficial to live in. The creates sprawl, increases congestion and GHG emissions through commuting and ultimately lowers the productivity of the whole city but not letting the (Read more…)

Art Threat: Femininity, fantasy, and fever dreams – Book review: The Lava in My Bones by Barry Webster

In a delirious, hallucinogenic voice, author Barry Webster turns directly toward the place and experience of femininity in a queer life dominated by masculine desires. . . . → Read More: Art Threat: Femininity, fantasy, and fever dreams – Book review: The Lava in My Bones by Barry Webster

Canadian Soapbox: Beyond The Power of Your Subconscious Mind – Book Review

Before undertaking to read and review C. James Jensen’s book, ‘Beyond The Power of Your Subconscious Mind‘, I had already read many books of a similar nature, titles like ‘The Magic of Believing‘ and ‘The Secret‘. I had already formed the opinion that people are very much like ice bergs, that what we perceive as our potential is but a fraction of the power that lies below the service.  In human beings that potential rests within the subconscious, and whether its used actively or passively, its power is immense. We’re all using it every (Read more…)

Canadian Soapbox: Leading or aspiring to lead? Invest in ‘The Power of Communication’ – (Book Review)

Author Helio Fred Garcia, Executive Director of Logos Institute for Crisis Management and Executive Leadership has written an important book for individuals who are in positions of leadership, and for those aspiring to leadership roles.   This excellent work has already received some pretty hefty endorsements and positive reviews from business leaders and luminaries such as: Jeffrey Bleustein – Retired Chairman and CEO, Harley Davidson Inc and Amy C. Edmondson – Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management, Harvard Business School…among numerous others.   I hardly think the opinion of Canadian Soapbox warrants comparison, but regardless I am more than . . . → Read More: Canadian Soapbox: Leading or aspiring to lead? Invest in ‘The Power of Communication’ – (Book Review)

Sketchy Thoughts: MLM Mayhem Reviews Zak Cope’s Divided World Divided Class

My comrade Josh recently wrote a review of Zak Cope’s Divided World Divided Class on his excellent MLM Mayhem blog. You can read it here, but i am also reposting it on Sketchy Thoughts here:

These days, at the centres of capitalism, it is en vogue for leftists to attack Lenin’s theory of the labour aristocracy.  Some marxist critics, feeling like they know better than the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution, would like to remind us that Lenin’s theorization of a term bandied about by Engels showed no understanding of what Engels meant in the first place––indeed, the

. . . → Read More: Sketchy Thoughts: MLM Mayhem Reviews Zak Cope’s Divided World Divided Class

Sketchy Thoughts: The Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement Interviews Dr Zak Cope

The following interview appeared recently on anti-imperialism.com, the blog of the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement (RAIM), with Zak Cope, about his book recently published by Kersplebedeb,  Divided World Divided Class: Global Political Economy and the Stratification of Labour Under Capitalism.

Zak Cope is the author of Divided World Divided Class: Global Political Economy and the Stratification of Labour Under Capitalism, which was just published this past August by Kersplebedeb Press as part of their recently launched Kalikot series. The book “charts the history of the ‘labour aristocracy’ in the capitalist world system, from its roots in colonialism to its

. . . → Read More: Sketchy Thoughts: The Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement Interviews Dr Zak Cope

Canadian Soapbox: Rising from the ashes – Don’t let life’s setbacks define you

This dusty little corner of cyberspace attracts its fair share of email. I get all manner of messages suggesting topics to write on, causes wanting some promotion and books looking for reviews. I read every message in my inbox, and though I usually ignore them, I have reviewed one book. A recent email asked me to review a book that isn’t yet published. Jan Reuter and Dr. William Borgen are writing a book called ‘Recession Proof Your Career‘. Their PR firm contacted Canadian Soapbox asking for assistance in finding success stories to be featured in the book. “It . . . → Read More: Canadian Soapbox: Rising from the ashes – Don’t let life’s setbacks define you

Art Threat: Growing up in the muck-stream of America – The poetics of defiance in Rodney DeCroo’s "Allegheny, BC"

“Factories By the River” by Aaron Henry Gorson, Pittsburgh, PA

“Allegheny, BC” is Rodney DeCroo’s first published book of poetry. It follows a body of musical work that has received international acclaim. His albums—there have been six so far—have earned considerable respect from reviewers on several continents for the power of his lyrics and the haunting quality of his music.

The river that both his book and his poem “The Allegheny” are named for runs through DeCroo’s hometown of Pittsburgh. Though he has lived in Vancouver, BC, for most of his adult life, his mind has been swimming in that

. . . → Read More: Art Threat: Growing up in the muck-stream of America – The poetics of defiance in Rodney DeCroo’s "Allegheny, BC"

Art Threat: Invocation of the Queer Spirits – Book review: Queer Spirits by AA Bronson and Peter Hobbs

Invocation of the Queer Spirits (Governor’s Island) – AA Bronson

There is always a certain magic to be found in the moment of queering. As bodies are opened to unsanctioned desires and sensations, tense moments of wonder unfold before them. Static charges crackle and spark as genders and sexualities are peeled away from the sticky fabric of the everyday.

Such moments and times pulse with magic; they ask us to overreach ourselves, to live in other bodies, to step outside of axiomatic truths and ways of being. To be queer, or to queer, is, in this sense, a kind of

. . . → Read More: Art Threat: Invocation of the Queer Spirits – Book review: Queer Spirits by AA Bronson and Peter Hobbs

Sketchy Thoughts: Workers Dreadnought Reviews David Gilbert’s, “Love and Struggle: My Life in SDS, the Weather Underground, and Beyond”.

I must admit that it is difficult for me to write an honest review about Com. David Gilbert’s “Love and Struggle” (you can purchase your personal copy here), especially because of the enormous respect that I have for him and the sacrifices that he has made for the revolutionary cause, and a fear that any criticism of his work will be regarded as unfair, un-comradely and disrespectful. However, simultaneously I believe that such a review is absolutely necessary because Com. David’s life and politics have often intersected at key points in my own development as an activist, although completely unbeknownst

. . . → Read More: Sketchy Thoughts: Workers Dreadnought Reviews David Gilbert’s, “Love and Struggle: My Life in SDS, the Weather Underground, and Beyond”.

Sketchy Thoughts: Anti-Capitalism and Violence: Gord Hill Interviewed by Kersplebedeb

The opening graphic in The Anti-Capitalist Resistance Comic Book is striking, showing a Black Bloc member squaring off against a cop, each as representatives of the clash between Empire and free peoples from centuries past. To what degree do you feel that the clashes at today’s summits represent a continuity with the history of anti-colonial resistance?

To start with, I wouldn’t limit the concept of anti-colonial resistance simply to counter summit mobilizations. But in general, I do think there’s a connection in that free, autonomous societies have always resisted the rule of civilization and its empires, which the graphic you

. . . → Read More: Sketchy Thoughts: Anti-Capitalism and Violence: Gord Hill Interviewed by Kersplebedeb

Sketchy Thoughts: Fire and Flames, Black Blocs, and Militant Resistance

On KPFA’s Letters and Politics show featured an interview with Gabriel Kuhn, on the subject of the West German Autonomen, and the book Fire and Flames (which Kuhn translated into english). i have mirrored the interview here; it is well worth listening to. i found his comments on the evolution of the Black Bloc to be of particular interest, and so i have transcribed the relative passages here:

GK: The history of militant resistance is a long one; i think the particular form that the Black Bloc took on in Germany during the 1980s was determined by the

. . . → Read More: Sketchy Thoughts: Fire and Flames, Black Blocs, and Militant Resistance

Sketchy Thoughts: Decolonizing Anarchism: An Anticolonial Critique

There was an “anti-colonial Victoria Day” book launch in Montreal on May 21, where Maia Ramnath presented her new book Decolonizing Anarchism, published by AK Press and the Institute for Anarchist Studies (and available from leftwingbooks.net). What made this launch special, and different from most such events, was that the Ramnath spoke on a panel with Ponni, a radical activist from India, who used her intervention to level a detailed and outstanding critique of the book, from an anti-authoritarian and anticolonial perspective.Given the strength of this critique, i asked Ponni if i could upload the transcript here

. . . → Read More: Sketchy Thoughts: Decolonizing Anarchism: An Anticolonial Critique