This weekend, a tragedy took the lives of many and it was the direct result of misogyny – an act of gendered violence. There is no question about this. A young man (who I refuse to name and give focus to) took it upon himself to kill people because of something he thought he was entitled to – to get laid. Because he was ‘friendzoned’ by women, as the term goes, he felt it was totally acceptable to murder people because he was rejected. And the wave of support he’s gotten from Men’s Rights Activists is sickening.
This is 2014, and this is happening. Every day, misogyny and hatred and violence affects women everywhere. As a result of this awful thing that happened, a wave of responses came out over social media thanks to the hashtag #YesAllWomen – in response to many men who often come out with the comment “Not all men..” when faced with the brutal truth of how terrible misogyny and sexism can be. Because yes, all women have been affected by the misogyny of men, even if it’s not all men. It’s not about you, men. And that’s what strikes me most of all. On Saturday evening, I was reading over some of the overwhelming number of #YesAllWomen tweets. I did not have a particular moment or story to share, but I did want to get this message out there.
It struck a chord with people, and I’m glad. If you’re trying to help the cause, then don’t make it because of what a woman is to you – make it because all women deserve that love and respect. I know there have been a lot of trolls and assholes responding to the #YesAllWomen trend (I wasn’t a target, thankfully) – but at the same time there has been an incredible amount of sharing, and a fantastic amount of guys listening to it and understanding, and signal boosting and taking part in the conversation without it all coming back to “but not all men are like that, i’m not!” – because that is passing the buck. I think this says it best:
I’d like to share some more of the powerful, positive and inspiring things I’ve seen shared coming out of this weekend, in hopes that you will read and learn and also be inspired – or if you’ve gone through the same sorts of things, that you could feel a connection and know you’re not alone. I’ll try to alternate embedding tweets with links to make it not such a giant wall of text.
Link: Son, It’s Okay If You Don’t Get Laid Tonight – a very smart mom who raises her son teaching him not to rape, but is frustrated that because the world at large doesn’t do this as well, that her son still has in him the capacity to rape. Her smart and common sense tips at the end for ensuring safety and consent when hooking up should be everywhere in high schools. (Although I’m still not fond of “treat a girl with the respect you’d treat your sister” sort of commentary, as it should be a blanket “treat this woman, and every woman, with respect.) If only every son had this guidance in their life, we wouldn’t be living in such a rape culture.
Link: Not All Men Are Dangerous, But Yes, All Women Live With The Fear Of [Shooter’s Name]’s Fury… (title truncated to remove the shooter’s name for). This XO Jane article does speak a lot about the shooter, but it’s done in a very sensible and not sensationalized way. It looks at the background of his attitudes, and shows that they’re not isolated – the very end of the article is especially troubling in this regard.
Link: a series of tweets by Imran Siddiquee, Director of Communications for The Representation Project, the organization behind Miss Representation all about street harassment/cat calling and its implications for women.
Link: tongue in cheek but angry post about how equating mental illness and violence is not only unfair, but being used to excuse the actions of a killer.
Link: Not All Men! An angry response to this term, including this excellent point: “It’s gotten so bad that we have to be afraid of even telling you we are afraid. We can’t ask that you please stop talking to us. Because if we do we run the risk of being labeled a “stuck up bitch” and blamed for murders and rapes in which we are the victims.”
Link: a few tweets that really hit home how selfish and disrespectful it is to have the “not all men” attitude.
There are so many more things I could share – which is at once both heartening and disappointing. It’s fantastic women are speaking out about their experiences and their anger; it’s sad to know that there is so much of that to share. If you are a male-identified person who truly believes women deserve respect and to be safe, start calling out others who don’t believe that. It’s the only way we can move forward. “Not all men” will leave all women where they are right now. I’ll leave you with this Jackson Katz video which I think is more appropriate than ever – about how it’s the responsibility of men to stop violence against women. Teach men not to catcall, harass, rape, murder – don’t expect women to be the ones who avoid it.
The time has rolled around again for the German award for Game of the Year, or “Spiel des Jahres” – a highly regarded award in the industry. I wrote a little about last year’s nominees here, and more of an introduction to the concept / influence of the award, as well. This year I’ve played almost all of the nominees, just missing one in the Kennerspiel category (more advanced). I tried all of them at the Gathering of Friends game convention, so I’ll link to my recaps of them for more of my thoughts.
Camel Up: When I tried this at the Gathering of Friends back in April, I had fun with it (you can read more of a review here). This is most definitely a family friendly game – the concepts aren’t hard to grasp, and there’s enough randomness with dice and card playing to ensure nobody can sweep to victory with strategy. Unlike something like Libertalia, for instance, I felt like the randomness was still able to be mitigated and you could look at possible outcomes to make educated guesses to make choices. I still feel like this is a little light and the replay value is low enough, that it might not inch past the other nominees.
Splendor: The only game I tried multiple times at GOF (read my review) – I got this to the table again on the weekend and was happy to discover it was still enjoyable after the first handful of plays. This really hits all the sweet spots as far as a perfest SdJ winner (except the theme is fairly thin), and I’d say this will be the front runner to win: it’s simple, variable enough that you can replay it without getting sick of it (similar to 7 wonders, although not asymmetrical), and quick to learn and play. Even I can teach it! But i haven’t won it yet.. and there’s where I think it has a nice appeal for hobby gamers and not just families – you come back for the challenge. The only downfall is the low player interaction.. where the next nominee strides ahead.
Concept: It’s so great to see Concept nominated! (And again, more of my thoughts in this recap).What I love most about this game is how it has injected life and excitement into a party guessing game. I can’t really name another party game with charades/guessing aspects I’d choose to play other than Time’s Up. Well, except now Concept’s come along – the genius fun of trying to explain things/phrases/ideas by combining images will draw me in time and again. It’s family friendly, and with a reasonably broad appeal outside that market.. but not without its troubles for accessibility due to its wholly visual nature (however that is good for language neutrality..). I look forward to getting a copy of this game – I’m not sure that it’ll win the category, but I hope the exposure it gets at least from the nomination will have an affect.
Istanbul: This surprised me – after my play at GOF, I wouldn’t have picked it for either category of SdJ, maybe somewhere in between. It’s definitely on the lighter side of strategy. I really enjoyed the unique movement of pieces and how it affected strategy. There was definitely some challenge in working to get resources and onward to gain rewards, so for that it falls into the Kennerspiel camp for sure. I have yet to play this again, so I hesitate to judge, but I don’t know if this will be the top pick (although it would be nice to see it win, for what it’s worth).
Concordia: Now this is Kennerspiel material. This was the last game that hit the table for me at GOF, and I was fairly over-gamed and exhausted by that point. But I still saw the draw in Concordia. A delicate balance of deck building and hand management, plus ensuring you have the resources and placement around the board to amass a decent amount of points – plus thinking about the bonuses your deck will give you at game’s end – my brain swims! But it was terrific, and a fresh take on strategy for me. I would be surprised if this wasn’t the category’s winner.
Rococo: The only of the nominees in these two categories I haven’t played! Which is daft, considering we now own the game (Adam won it at GOF taking part in the Rococo tournament). It seems very weighty and lengthy, and a little fiddly – not something I would expect from a game with a theme such as it has – working towards putting on a world-class ball during the reign of Louis XV.
I can’t wait to see who wins! It’s awesome having tried almost all of the nominees this time around.
On May 20th, 2009, I hopped on a plane from Heathrow in London and got off here in Toronto at Pearson International Airport. I went through immigration for my 2 year working holiday visa, cleared customs & picked up my bags. Here I was! Expecting to spent two years in Toronto, hanging out in Canada. Haha, two years. Yep.
It’s been really terrific here, obviously. This is getting close to the longest I’ve lived in one place since I was back in Brisbane, too. (Brisbane was 7 years, so we’re getting there.) I can’t claim to have experienced much more of Canada than Toronto, but this city has been wonderful to me. All of its fun, character, quirks and charm. Plus, the coffee and vegan treats don’t hurt. It’s amazing thinking back to a time when I could count the people I knew here on one hand, with a couple of fingers left for scratching. Now there’s just a bounty of wonderful friends in my life, plus my wonderful family of Adam & Jake. It’s nice to call here home.
It’s kinda strange to think 5 whole years have gone by! It’s nice to celebrate this milestone as a permanent resident. I left Australia way back in 2007, and I haven’t yet been back for a visit. I’m well overdue. Until then, I’ll keep on enjoying Toronto and getting out to see as much Canada as I can. I’ve been mostly to cities (Vancouver, Winnipeg, Montreal, Ottawa – in addition to Toronto) and I’ve seen a little of southern Ontario here and there (it’s lovely!) – but I want to really get out and see more. The Maritimes is next on my list! Until then, you can find me in Toronto, waiting for the time I can apply to become a citizen (exciting because new passport, and also being able to finally vote!).
I know it wasn’t that long ago I TILTed, but it feels like forever. Despite the damp weather out there in Toronto, I shan’t be dissuaded from finding things to be positive about! Like how, despite the rain, it’s been pretty lovely to stroll around as it tries its hardest to Spring here.
My last couple of weeks at my current job are upon me, as my contract ends at the person on mat leave comes back – I’ll be sad to go! But it’s been a terrific place to work. I have a couple of interviews lined up next week (yay!) for places that I am similarly enthused about, so that’s something to love.
While I chug through the last of my organizing and to-do lists here at the office, I’ve been relying on Google Play Music to serve up tunes for me as I work. Despite a couple of holes in very indie Australian music (understandable) and an almost complete lack of Bikini Kill (unaccepable), it’s been fairly good! I’m hoping it will get me listening to more music, I’ve been terrible at it over the last few years. In fact, I rarely listen to a whole album at a time any more. I’m currently spinning Fugazi’s The Argument in the background, and holy smokes I bloody love this album.
Did you know that my favourite TV show is Twin Peaks? You do now! (You may have thought it was Firefly. Close, but no Serenity.) I love that damn show as much as Agent Cooper loves black coffee and cherry pie. I have had not one, but two, viewing parties at which I have ensured there has been either cherry pie or donuts on hand, and a big whopping french press of damn hot coffee. So I’m pretty excited about the upcoming Blu-Ray release of the show (yes, I love both seasons, shut up!) and all the goodies therein. The only issue I can see is the lack of Blu-Ray player once we’re no longer living with someone who owns a PS3.. hmmm…
Last of all, I love people being awesome, especially when it comes to calling bullshit in the world. At a school with a completely shitty and misogynist dress code, a young woman made some terrific signs to hang up that very clearly pointed it out. The best! Keep it awesome, whoever you are!
What are you into today, internet?
This past weekend was the 11th Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF)! Held for free at the Toronto Reference Library (with some off-site events), it’s a veritable cornucopia of incredible talent. In addition to artists and publishers having stalls in the Reference Library, there’s also a buttload of workshops, panels & events to attend if you feel so inclined. I always try to get to some of the events each year just to hear people talk about the awesome stuff they create.
Opening night was “Lynn Johnston and Kate Beaton, In Conversation”, a discussion moderated by Raina Telgemeier. Lynn Johnson created For Better or For Worse – I don’t know if this was ever syndicated in Australia, because I don’t recall reading it growing up. It was interesting to hear Lynn speak about her work, being in newspapers, and of her place in the industry when it was far more male-dominated than now, and the way she just kinda trucked through it dealing with it in a kind of “give as good as you get” mentality. This was in contrast to Kate Beaton’s career now, which is very internet-centric, instant gratification, and not without issues surrounding sexism being a female creator. I really enjoyed hearing the both of them talk about their creative process, their influences, and in particular what from their own lives influences their comics (be it in a roundabout way for Johnson, or a direct autobio way for Beaton). A fantastic and entertaining way to spend an evening listening to two fantastic Canadian creators!
Saturday morning I decided to hit up some panels, as most of the rest of the day’s lineup didn’t interest me so much. First thing was a ‘draw-off’ between comic artists Jeremy Sorese (Little Heart), Liz Prince (Alone Forever), Britt Wilson (The Greatest Book On Earth), Joey Weiser (Mermin), plus two audience volunteers. Pictionary-style, one member of a team drew from a prompt (some kind of movie genre) and their team had to guess what it was. There was a lot of awesome creativity on show considering the 3-minute sketching limit! It’s really fun to watch people sketch on the fly like this. Here’s Britt Wilson & Liz Prince during their rounds (road trip and tearjerker were their prompts):
Next panel (in the same room which became inexplicably hot) was “What Do Women Want? Writing Comics for a Female Audience” – moderated by Chromatic Press’ Editor Lianne Sentar, and with creators Laura Lee Gulledge (Page by Paige), Kate Leth (Adventure Time), Joan Reilly (The Big Feminist BUT), and Noelle Stevenson (LumberJanes) in the spotlight. This panel was full to bursting with amazing ladies from the industry with excellent perspectives. I liked a lot of the input the moderator Lianne had to the conversation, but unfortunately her moderation wasn’t too structured – the discussion flowed naturally, but much of what could have been discussed was covered only briefly or not at all. That’s not to say that the discussion wasn’t interesting, however! Lots of talk about male versus female gaze, females as consumers and a demographic, the portrayal of women characters in comics, and the like. Kate Leth is so smart, and dang articulate and knowledgeable, about this stuff!
There was a bit of discussion towards the end about what drove the people on the panel to create the titles they have, and it was great to hear the varied perspectives, because that means that there’s an enriched diversity of comics out there for female-identified audiences (especially younger ones!). I liked what Noelle Stevenson had to say about content – basically, not to shy away from things that have been typically portrayed as masculine (violence, for instance), but include those as well as more emotive stuff; this came up in a discussion of characters as well, that we need more female characters of all persuasions to balance out the inequity currently in comics. I’m really glad I sat in on this panel – while I haven’t done a great job at recapping it, there was a lot of inspiring stuff being discussed. It made me go in search of The Big Feminist BUT, too! I already read the Adventure Time and Lumberjanes titles & love them to bits. The panelists:
After the panels, I went into the Reference Library to browse. It was overwhelmingly crowded. And, I know how busy it gets, but it was a big mass of people to walk through, gosh… Downstairs it was really tough to get close to a lot of tables (like, three people deep). Luckily in the upstairs section there was a capacity limit, so once you lined up to get into that room it was much more manageable to browse.
Despite the hard work of browsing, I ended up picking up some totally rad stuff, primarily from female creators. I can’t wait to dig into the books! I had a quick flip through the Pugs Guide to Etiquette already and have read Cat People and I LOVE THEM. PS. I also flipped out when I realized the creator of Perry Bible Fellowship was there and had this strip (Unicorn Power) for sale, which is Adam’s most favourite. He even has the shirt.
In the evening was a screening of the Killing, prefaced by a discussion between Ed Brubaker (Criminal, Fatale) and Darwyn Cooke (Parker, Selina’s Big Score), hosted by guest interviewer Cameron Ashley (Crime Factor). They (mostly) discussed the noir genre & their interest in it, especially from a professional standpoint. They went off on tangents an awful lot, but at least it was entertaining. And the movie was really good! A little dated, but an excellent heist movie, and tense. I’d have never guessed it was a Kubrick.
I had to get on with weekend-y stuff on Sunday mostly, but I did meet up with my sweetie to sit in on the Adventure Time panel at the end of the day. Michael DeForge, Becky Driesdadt, Kate Leth, Jesse Moynihan, and Ryan North were all on the panel, a mix of folks who work on the comics and on the show, moderated by Frank Gibson. First of all they had a Pictionary-style draw-off:
Then it was time for audience questions. The perspective between the comics and show folks was an interesting one, especially when talking about creative control, and how much stories are planned out / tie into the other formats. What a lovely bunch of folks, and a nice way to end the festival!
See you again next year, TCAF – may I have more savings to spend, and more energy to navigate crowds/go to all the panels!
Following on from the last couple of reviews, here’s what I saw closing weekend of Hot Docs this year.
This documentary was a look at various forms of civil disobedience and non-violent protest the world over, especially in areas where violence is used against the population and protesters. The scope ranges from the Occupy Wall Street and FEMEN movements, to Syrian and Iranian protesters subverting terrifying regimes, groups like Everything is OK and the Yes Men, and Spanish folks fighting against oppressive banks evicting people. It was very interesting to have such a big sample of movements around the world, but it meant there wasn’t a strong narrative and the run time was much too long (at almost 2 hours) to keep a viewer’s focus – those are really my only complaints, though.
It was inspiring to see how these groups of people are working together, mandated by a need for non-violence, to be a presence (physically or not) in their communities. How many of these people feel so strongly about action that even the threat of violence (especially in Syria & Iran) and death (such as the threats aimed at the FEMEN group’s leader) can not stop their willingness to act on what they feel is important, stop injustices in their communities and countries, and affect change in the world. They also showcased some interview bites/bits of speakers who were talking academically about the move toward non-violent protests around the world as well as people who have been instrumental in some of these movements (such as Serbia & Egypt) in the past.
Watch the trailer:
I guess I really wanted to see documentaries about non-violent direct action this year! What a day for intense projects. Following the story of Women on Waves from its inception to the wider organization (including Women on Web) that it is today, Vessel is equal parts disheartening and uplifting. Disheartening only because of how backwards so many governments around the world still are with their antiquated laws forbidding women to make decisions that involve their own bodies, and in seeing the massive amounts of men protesting the Women on Waves boats as they come into port.
But this project and everything that has come out of it has been most definitely amazing and uplifting to see as someone who personally believes in access to sexual and reproductive health for everyone as a basic human right. The idea of the organization was to create a medical clinic on a boat that could sail into international waters and provide legal medical early stage abortions (under the flagship’s Dutch rights and laws) for women in countries where it wasn’t legal to seek abortions. Because of the high rates of unsafe abortions that happen every year, this was a life-saving project, and still is. It has spawned groups of women in countries around the world manning hotlines to help women seek safe abortions (through the use of a pill in the early stages of pregnancy).
There’s also been an offshoot of the project that can means women can now request abortion pills on the internet and have it sent to them, and then be provided support and help online when taking the medication. I think the point in the documentary where I broke down was when they shared the back and forth communication between Women on the Web volunteers and a woman who was about to take the abortion pill; this woman was all on her own, shamed by her country and family for what she wanted to do – after she took the pill, she wrote “I have never felt more alone”. The volunteers were there for her, responding to her messages and being her support when nobody else would.
That is powerful. The work that these organizations are doing is extremely important. When woman are made to feel like monsters, made to feel ashamed of wanting to decide what is right for them – these organizations are there to make sure these women have someone there for them who can help with what they need. The organizations are worldwide, and I’d say if you can donate, please do. At the very least if you could track down this documentary to see, please watch it (or request a screening!). I am very glad to have seen it, even as someone who was already staunchly pro-choice. (And it was in the audience top 20 picks at this festival.) (Plus they have a section on the film’s website all about access for Canadian women, in the wake of the New Brunswick clinic shut down recently.)
Watch the trailer here.
May really starts to ramp up stuff to do in Toronto – and although the weather hasn’t been as Spring-y as we’ve all expected it was still great to get out to be in the city for things. With TCAF coming up next weekend, and Doors Open later in the month, I don’t think I’ll be having the lazy weekends I’ve been rocking all winter inside much longer.
ROM Revealed! The Royal Ontario Museum is running a lot of excellent programming for its 100 year anniversary. They offered a unique look behind the scenes this past weekend with their free-of-charge “ROM Revealed” tours – you could select their cultural or natural history collections to visit and wander through the back-of-house collection areas. My friends and I had booked tickets nice and early and went pretty much first thing – we had a wee wander around the museum first (admission that weekend was free of charge also) checking out the geology and paleontology galleries. Then we hopped into line for the ‘Epic Civilizations’ tour. It was fascinating for me to see the collection areas as someone who’s worked as a collection manager/assistant before – and the range of things we were able to wander by to see was great! New World Archaeology, the Porcelain & Glass Collections, the Egyptian/Middle Eastern/Asian collections – plus, the conservation labs! They had staff on hand in all sections to chat about the objects being highlighted from the collections, and the conservators were talking about their technique and the objects they are working on right now. (We saw the painting conservator in action, working on a really sooty painting – fascinating stuff.) It was a great experience, even though it made me sad to have fallen out of that type of museum work (it seems to be a tough industry to crack back into if you’ve been out for a number of years like I have).
Bampot Bohemian House of Tea and Board Games! After our wandering, some of us went to this new little cafe at Bathurst and Harboard in the South Annex. It’s charming and lovely! I hope if I move out of the neighbourhood that I can get back here often. It’s a small and cozy tea cafe that also has a decently sized board game collection – but we just decided to sip tea and do some knitting/crafting. (Which one of the owners was enthusiastic about, as they have a knitting night on Mondays!). There are lots of little nooks, and some tables, plus raised up platform seating littered with cushions and rugs. A vegan-friendly menu, too! Looking forward to my next visit, perhaps for games. I wonder if they need a vegan baking / board game nerd on staff.. Hmm.
Vegan Bake Sale day! Star Wars Day! I got up bright and early to whip up some GF vegan cake donuts to contribute to a Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale event coordinated by MeShell & her beau JC. The sale raised over $700 for Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary, and I’m happy I was able to contribute to that. Plus, there was some Star Wars day action – May the Fourth was with all of us.
Hot Docs! I had two screenings on Sunday to finish up my Hot-Doccing (reviews soon!). After the first, and then dropping by very briefly to Adam’s boss’ birthday party, I killed a little time reading in the soon-to-close Chapters at John and Richmond – I found there was a real actual fireplace up on the top floor, so I grabbed a chair & read for a while until heading to see Vessel at the Scotiabank cinema.
Not to mention I totally missed Free Comic Book Day, and the Jane’s Walks! PHEW. So much. Time to gird my loins for TCAF this weekend.
- Tomorrow is Star Wars day. Enjoy these wonderful geometric and abstract Star Wars portraits!
- And while we’re at it, who wants to send me this hoodie? Han and Chewie in one! Yesss.
- Finding inspiration in negative space makes for good art. See?
- Seals love belly rubs – you’ve always guessed it, right? RIGHT? Well, now you can see it in action. (From 0:35 on)
- A pen that 3D prints as you write with it in thin air? No way. This is the future. Check it out!
- Remember that kid playing Space Invaders on the side of a building? Now someone’s done it with Tetris!
- I’m pretty sure these would cripple me, but I do love the look of them!
- This is a genius re-imagining of the houses from the Game of Thrones series as modern brands. All of them are wonderful, but this is the most golden of all:
- How would you like to kick back to a smooth jazz cover of the Game of Thrones theme? Yep.
- Someone went through a lot of painstaking photoshopping to create these images of classic album covers superimposed over real life locations. That is some very specific stuff. One of my personal favourites is..
- Giant machinery playing jenga – no, you didn’t think you needed to see it. But it is thoroughly enjoyable.
- I’m looking for work right now, and I’m beginning to think I need to something creative to sell my Administrative Superstar package just like this amazing Lego Resume! It stands out from the crowd, no lie.
Last night I sat down to the board game Arkadia, and it immediately gave me an earworm. Though the game is related in no way to this cartoon, the word triggered a squishy place in my brain that started singing this tune, the theme song from Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea.
And then because it’s from around the same time in my childhood, I needed to listen to the theme from the Mysterious Cities of Gold. Doot-da doot-da doot, aah-aah-aaaah, doot-da doot-da-doot, Cities of Goooooold!
I’m only a couple of years older than Adam, but he’s not familiar with either of these series! They really stuck in my head from when I was a kid. And I know they didn’t just air in Australia either. I guess they were a little more obscure and less popular. (Considering both had French versions, I’m surprised they weren’t more well known in Canada.) Although Mysterious Cities of Lost Gold carried a fanbase enough to make a sequel series and movie! I can’t wait.
What’s your favourite cheesy/not well known cartoon from your childhood? Reminisce away.
I’m seeing 4 films at this year’s festival (much lower than previous years!). Here’s my reviews of what I saw last weekend – and I have two more coming up this weekend.
Aaron Swartz’s death was huge news last year. I had never heard his name until that point, and reading around after the news broke I was surprised that I hadn’t – Swartz was an instrumental figure in internet circles and Hacktivism, and his influence was far and wide. This doco primes the viewer with a pretty decent look at his history – from a young age he was a bright and articulate kid, and became enthusiastic about programming during his childhood – which led to him taking part in major projects from his early teens (he was one of the authors of RSS at 14! FOURTEEN.) His intelligence and natural abilities meant he enrolled in college early and it brought him into a world of budding possibilities for what could be created for the use of the internet. It was fascinating to see how much he’d taken part in during his very short life – co-creating Reddit, Creative Commons licensing and much more – in addition to becoming heavily involved in internet activism and a leader in the anti-SOPA movement.
Swartz moved from creating products to working on creating positive experiences; for everyone to be able to use the internet and access information freely. He was dogged in his pursuit of this, and unfortunately it contributed to his demise – but by no fault of his own. He created a script that could access the journal archive JSTOR and download articles – he set up a computer at MIT to do this, and was found out and arrested for it. Mind you, there was no sensitive/non-public information stolen, he was not seeking to profit from this – he just wanted the information to be free. The charges brought against him and the surveillance by the FBI wore him down. Eventually after charges were revised to include many felonies and he faced 35 years in prison, he took his own life.
This documentary really set up his story in a powerful way – it would be hard to doubt that, despite his idiosyncrasies and personal difficulties at times, he was well loved by those he interacted with. Colleagues, friends, lovers – everyone admired his spirit and the work he did. (I encourage you to read what Lawrence Lessig and Cory Doctorow wrote about him after his death.) Everyone knew that all Swartz wanted was to make the world a better and fairer place. It was heartwrenching to see overblown and malicious criminal charges – undisputed by MIT (their calling for charges to be lessened or dropped could have ended everything) – bring someone who was so bright with such potential down into such a dark place. It was an emotional documentary at the end, but also overall a fascinating look into Swartz’s life. The interviews and clips used were edited together expertly to tell his story with a very passionate tone; my only gripe is that it could have been more tightly edited to bring it down to 1.5 hours or less. I hope that those he influenced can take up his work and fight for the causes he was working for. I encourage everyone who is interested in technology, the internet and the freedom of information to see this documentary.
The Way of All Flesh 3 / 5 stars
If you aren’t familiar with the story of Henrietta Lacks, I would encourage you to try and track this doco down – it may be online somewhere, as it was made in 1997, and it’s just under an hour long. (I hadn’t realized it was part of a retrospective when I got my ticket, but it was still very interesting!). Putting aside the age of the interviews and quality of the film, the information presented was very interesting. Henrietta Lacks died in hospital in 1951 – before her death, cancerous cells were removed from her cervix and cultivated in a lab (without her family’s knowledge or permission). This cell line became known as HeLa and have been used in labs for cell biology ever since. The way her cells transformed knowledge about cell biology and cancer was instrumental – but certainly the ethics behind how they were procured were not sound; this doc also briefly covers racial issues tied to the use of her cells without permission. Her family was finally notified and Henrietta received recognition, but far too late. A very interesting case of medical ethics – one would wonder what turn medical history might have taken had her cells not be sampled and kept alive to this day. Ultimately, I wish this documentary had delved deeper – but I suppose the timing of interviews etc in the late 90s was right considering when the cells were taken and when the research was taking place.