Archive for November, 2022

Rudolf Nureyev’s spectacular tomb monument — get back, lauretta!

It is well worth visiting Lauretta’s blog site. A wealth of lovely material there.

Honouring a past master of sitar.

Ducks, Two Years in the Oil Sands, by Kate Beaton. Published by Jonathan Cape/Penguin Random House, 2022.
ISBN 978 1 787 33013 9

This is a graphic novel, that stands up there with the best of them in this field, and outside.
It is an immersive, hugely impressive exploration, of the experience of a place, a time, and a shifting collection of people.

The book is an impressive 430 pages of content, plus drawn area maps, and an Afterword. The content consists of… I was going to write black and white, drawn pictures, but the grading is very finely done. She uses shading well. Unlike her pervious books, with this one she has given a fuller graphic to capture place, conditions, and more importantly, responses.
This book differs from her earlier work of short and slightly longer sequences, in that the whole book follows through, and is more text heavy than previously. She has honed her style and presentation, and highlights and downplays superbly.

It opens with an important moral dilemma.
Graduation from college gives a widely-recognised, and now widely-expected, qualification.

It also gives a huge student loan debt.

Kate realised straight away that any attempt to start up in work will be stymied from the outset by having to repay the loan. If it ever gets fully paid.
And East coast Canada’s work outlets did not promise much hope, there.
There was, and had been for many generations of Canadians, the promise of making money.
The Alberta Oil Sands,.
And this is nearly a whole continent away from her home ground.

Two years working in the Oil Sands, could well pay off the loan.
Would you do it?
The Oil Sands?
To go do everything you found most repulsive?

Of course, it is not as the media presents it.
For one, you don’t just walk into well-paid jobs, there. For those you need skills, experience, you have to work the most dangerous, dirty, toxic places.
And it all takes time.

The workforce were mostly displaced men. Men en masse, in horrible conditions, doing ugly work, relentlessly.
Work they despise, and despise themselves for doing, and so everything quickly sours.
My wife now has the house she wants, one man said. Was there surpassed blame, there? A twist or two of embitteredness?
How can a man like that return home to that house, his children, and be normal again?
This is another area she experiences, explores.

The huge strength of this book is how the writer fought to retain a sense of balance, understanding, empathy even, under impossible odds, under conditions that relentlessly degrade, and erode.

The isolated, concentrated, grind of the place, the work, the soured people – I remember all the others here who don’t do this, who act somewhere near normal, I paraphrase – seems to us like a time out time, place out of place.
After a year of increasing degradation she took time out, worked in British Columbia.
The money barely covered expenses; the ‘normal’ world and work also carried its continual subtle personality and gender attacks.
Like a leak-out from the Oil Sands separation ponds, into mainstream society?

She is careful not to draw such crass comparisons.
A journalist contacts her about her article on the Sands. She turns her down because she knows she just wants salacious gossip, sensationalism.
Not the human stories.

This is another strength of the book, how nuanced it all is; there are no judgements, denunciations.

Then afterwards, back in Cape Breton, she encounters someone from the Sands, and the banter. (It’s only banter. Where’s you sense of humour! Yep, only banter, except it’s not.) And she charts the subconscious corrosion of this ‘banter’
Why did you let him talk to you like that? her friend demands.

It doesn’t just end when you leave. There is a legacy.
There is an acquired mind-set; it has to be defused before dismantling.

The legacy – is this book.
And the mental breakdowns of some, cancers of others – the daily dirtball she coughs up at the end of each day; the skin rashes…

Kate Beaton is prize-winning cartoonist. She has published in The New York Times, Time, Washington Post, and others. Her publications are: Hark! A Vagrant!, and Step Aside, Pops!

The ducks?
What was it? 300 of them dead, in an Oil Sands overspill.
Just a detail.

And we were part of it, just by being there….’

I await the awards the book deserves.

Eucharia Nwaichi

Posted: November 4, 2022 in Chat

Our environment.
We all know there is so much to be done.
At times it seems overwhelming.
We must try to fix this, yes, but how?

Media presents us with relentless onslaughts of catastrophes.
It is only rarely it gives us any hope in this.

Here is one such beacon. And it shines from one the worst polluted places.
The oil-ruined lands of the Niger delta.

We stand back appalled at not being able to do anything, but professor Eucharia Nwaichi is in there and making things happen.