John Pasmore's Occassional Blog

Indigenous People


home-movieThe new movie Home is not saying a whole lot you haven’t heard about the state of the environment; or mans impact on the planet. But visually it’s something to be seen, and certainly film-maker Yann Arthus-Bertrand is showing us places many have never seen before, whether that’s the sprawl of Lagos, Nigeria or a remote village on the same continent. It’s basically the graphics that Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth could have used.

Home was released on June 5th for free, and can be seen in surprisingly good quality on Youtube. As of this writing some 477,000 people have watched it there. It has also quickly gathered a pretty solid fan faction on Facebook.

Life & Debt; Paradise Revisited…


Admittedly, I am late to this party. Life & Debt came out a while ago, but I just Netflixed it, so I got to see the Stephanie Black directed feature late. Better than never.

The film tells the story of the island nation of Jamaica’s interaction with the International Monetary Fund. And the effects. I polled a friend and Jamaican native in an informal fact-check and more-or-less got the idea she didn’t agree with the film or the presentation. But Jamaica is a pretty partisan place, and the facts as laid out in the film are sad and the presentation pretty compelling. Belinda Becker, who I know as a New York trend-maker, narrates part of the film. Overall the film is riveting because some of the story-lines, the effects of the IMF relationship are so monumentally disastrous and often inhumane, that you’d think it would sit somewhere on the front page of the New York Times. Here is what the New York Times had to say recently about the film:

“The term ”globalization” is so tinged with rosy one-world optimism that it’s easy to assume the essential benignity of an economic philosophy whose name vaguely connotes unity, equality and freedom. But as Stephanie Black’s powerful documentary ”Life and Debt” illustrates with an impressive (and depressing) acuity, globalization can have a devastating impact on third world countries. The movie offers the clearest analysis of globalization and its negative effects that I’ve ever seen on a movie or television screen.”

Whoa. Watch it.

Far North


The movie Far North is far from cheerful. But I am far behind in my movie watching and got round to it this weekend via Netflix (Watch Instantly!). Yeah, my baby boy has kept me far from movie theaters. But even on my small screen the scenery is spectacular. Take a look if you need an outdoor fix. The movie combines realism with perhaps a bit of Far North myth, and you may/may not like the combo. The real winner here are the visuals and the sense of scale you get from the cinematography. The realism or the coarse sometimes brutal life portrayed can be kind of not-so-entertaining to watch as well. Much has been written about the life of these people and from what I’ve read that aspect of the movie is really needed if one wants something of an honest view. This movie, though gritty at times, is still glossy compared to the reality. But, for me, worth watching.

Canada’s New Lumberjacks


The BBC has an interesting/funny/not-so-funny story on Canada’s African lumberjacks. Seems African’s will go a long way for a job.

An employer’s compliment on the ability of his workers can be taken a couple of ways, “Mr Richard believes that his African employees have more stamina, noting that the overwhelming majority tough it out until the end of the season.”

Given the global economy and domestic meltdown a good job is as good as gold. I’m not sure how Canadian’s feel about competing with African’s, but between exporting jobs and importing labor the working folks are getting squeezed vice-like.

Last Places


Greenland. I am reading Gretel Ehrlich’s (pictured) book which takes place in Greenland, “This Cold Heaven.” The first book I remember reading about Greenland was Lawrence Millman’s “Last Places.” That was funny, and Millman is a character in of himself.

Ehrlich’s book is much different. It’s not funny. She wasn’t a tourist in Greenland or even so much a traveler, she was a person living there for whatever time she had there (7 years on and off). So more “of” Greenland than a tourist. I found the book at Housing Works Bookstore on Crosby in Soho, a place as special as some of the books you find there. I was skeptical of “This Cold Heaven” at first and even second glance, but after reading the jacket I was hooked. It’s a very good book.

Ehrlich weaves in so much more than her own experience including that of super-explorer Knud Rasmussen and painter Rockwell Kent. Rasmussen was half Dutch and half Inuit and his search for the history of the place and its people took him from Greenland to Alaska by dogsled in an epic three year journey. And that just scratches the surface of who he was a person and what he contributed.

Like Rasmussen, Ehrlich’s focus is on the people, the Inuit and of course the land itself. Surviving the arctic creates a people who are unique on our planet. Stories of starving hunters and successful hunts follow one another like good weather after bad.

There are old stories told to Rasmussen, stories that make up spiritual life on the Inuit as well as Ehrlich’s own stories. She shares her friendships and experiences with stark and at times startling honesty. There is a certain rugged freedom and a connection to the physical; the weather, the animals, eating, sleeping and staying alive and warm.

The constant is the distance between this civilized yet harsh place and civilization as in Denmark or most anywhere else. Not just physical distance, but the distance of a Last Place, a place where disharmony with elements such as the weather can swiftly bring tragedy as it always has. A place where some people find refuge in the cold, when the streetlights and paved roads of the Great Cities seem too foreign, too unnatural. And it’s a place, if we’re right about the Planet warming, that we’ll hear more and more about.

Pacific Magazine


I love Pacific Magazine. The publication brings the indigenous culture of the region front and center without the subtle condescending tone I see in too much media.

Western culture has become so dominant that it could easily erase any other unless there is a strong effort at preservation. And while the medicine, learning, government, and scientific advances that go hand-in-hand with the Western world are many, the lack of connection to the planet is, for me, a very fundamental flaw. I’ve ranted about Captain Cook in previous posts and won’t do so here. Check out the article in Pacific Magazine and the images as they celebrate their culture in “American” Samoa.