Dell's Canadian Tails

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dell on Ender's Game

Rainy day here in northern Ontario: spent it reading. Went online to check a fellow blogger's site for the latest news on the making of the movie, Ender's Game.
Even if you had never read any science fiction before, Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, would have you hooked. Based on a short story by Card, an American author, this 1985 book is classic hero tale on the level of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings or the Harry Potter movies; all big money makers. So why isn't Ender's Game making it to film?

We're not talking box office risk on the level of Kevin Costner's Waterworld, purported to cost $175 million dollars. Ender's Game is a work with a solid following, including myself. Other than Stephen King's The Stand, I cannot remember a movie, based on a book, I  have so eagerly awaited. Not even Lord of the Rings, which was a terrific movie with a sound track I listen to over and over again, was able to inspire my movie release mania at this level. So why is the film  industry reluctant to bring Ender's Game to film?

The only reason, I believe, for delaying this film's production and release is this: the current social climate is wrong. A movie story that deals with manipulation, control and misrepresentation by those in charge during a war, is bound to get people thinking...parallels between Ender's Game and current social reality will be inescapable.

If you wanted people to keep funding a war and sending their young people to die, would you show them the film Ender's Game? The cost of a population catching on to the games being played on their backs is apparently too dear, no matter how great the possible pay-off at the box office.

Dell on Being a Shit Heap

How do I reconcile to you the dear old gentleman, Dell, today, with the Dell who was a shit heap. No one uses that phrase much anymore, but you get the general meaning, I'm sure.

When I spend my time speaking to my grand-daughter's friends, or make a post online, I feel I have in some way put back the love in the world that I spent the better part of my life taking out, with little or no regard for those around me.

It wasn't that I was selfish in the sense that I kept material things to myself. Rather it was the motivation behind almost every decision: do what's good for Dell.

I believed I was the person I had been told I was as a child: Dell always followed the rules [religious, social and the like, at least outwardly] while making sure that as many of Dell's wants were served as possible. A delicate balance that required an enormous amount of energy: nice face: self serving.

It wasn't until fourteen-year-old Shelley arrived to live with me,when I was newly retired and turning sixty, that I accidentally saw who I really was and just what the price had been in maintaining this fictitious nonsense. Many of my contemporaries say, "He thinks too hard on life." It is some comfort to realize these are generally the ones who are sure there is a heavenly reward. They have their own sort of bliss, I guess, but miss the opportunity to be fully alive and truly know themselves in the one lifetime they are given.

This is why Eckhart Tolle's spiritual writing is hugely popular: it provides a new context, formerly generally acquired within institutionalized religion, by which one is able to experience his unique spiritual identity: his own mythology, if you will. Tolle's books and website provide enough materials to guide anybody through the bewildering rethinking of their lives. Many of you will have heard of  The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment and A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose

For as long as man has endured, some men have experienced life in this manner, as reflected in the words of wisdom from numerous spiritual cultures. Eckhart Tolle has taken the breadth of that spiritual wisdom, laid it at the feet of the this and the next generation, proferring a framework whereby a man may reveal to himself his unique spiritual identity. An inspiring vision: A New Earth !

I almost missed life entirely until eleven years ago. My now is given to living in truth and loving those put in my path. Whatever time I have left will be directed toward love. There is nothing else.

Dell on Poverty

This past weekend was just about as perfect an introduction to summer as one could ask for. Kevin and Shelley arrived Friday night along with Corey and his girlfriend Amy [first time in the bush]. Wade and Jake were here for Saturday and spent a good deal of time on the lake, fishing and out in the canoe.

After twenty-four hours of sunshine and revelry, Saturday evening's bon fire chat led to a discussion on poverty. The subject probably wouldn't have come up, but Corey's friend, Amy, mentioned she had received a call that there was an opening in a geared-to-income building in town and it turned out that's where Jack is living. Amy was so excited to finally have decent housing after years of sharing a less than desirable apartment. Jake pays full rent based on his income and there was some joking about how Jake would be paying Amy's rent, yet everyone agreed finding affordable rental housing is a real problem.

I asked them if they had seen the National Film Board documentary, The Things I Cannot Change, (1967) by Tanya Ballantyne: the story of a large family dealing with unemployment with only meager social supports . No one knew the film, so I explained that the title was a line spoken by the father in the film, quoting part of the Serenity Prayer.

The kicker, I pointed out, is that acceptance is exactly the problem behind poverty. Despite over forty years of incredible wealth, many here in Ontario, and throughout Canada, still live in poverty: women, children, the elderly and the sick. This is accepted by the vast majority of taxpayers. They pay taxes to provide the supports that were lacking in 1967, only to find the poor are still suffering.

Frankly, whenever I read a statistic about how generously Canadians give to the poor, my reaction is, "That's nice, but when are they going to use their vote to reform social welfare policies?"

Here's the reality: if you are unable to work, you are eligible for general welfare [a temporary payment never meant to assist in the long term], while you apply for a Disability Support pension [glorified welfare]. In many provinces, either monthly cheque is insufficient to cover rent, adequate groceries, clothing and life's necessities, for singles or families. While prescriptions are usually covered, as well as eye care, only emergency dental care is covered for adults; this despite evidence a mouth full of teeth is essential to one's health. Welfare payments continue while the applicant waits for approval of the provincial disability pension. For many this means they will be sick and struggle along on welfare, sometimes for several years, before their pension is approved.

Retroactive pension payments are made once the pension is granted. Sounds good? It isn't. There is a pattern policy of denying disabilty pension claims: the retroactive difference is only paid from the date of the most recently approved application. Under the Harris government, Ontario had huge changes and cuts to social programs. Cuts included discretionary retroactive payments: some got it and others did not. Those who were short-changed have never been granted these retroactive payments.
The death of Kimberly Rogers in 2001 was a wake-up call for social assistance reform that has yet to be heeded, despite the hard work of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. Adequate housing, sufficient income to eat properly and society's indifference, were the focus of Ballantyne's film; forty years later they remain matters of grave concern. Recent cuts to fund building upgrades have added to a housing crisis of epidemic proportions. This year's bank changes requiring larger down payments for investment housing will surely only aggravate matters.

Did you know that in Ontario, the Disability Support program allows recipients to receive up to $200.00 a month in assistance from friends or family without penalty? There is no tax benefit in doing so and I've only met one person whose family assisted in this way. Why?

Canadians simply accept that having paid taxes for social programs, the needs of the poor are being met. That they still have to give generously to feed those same poor should be a good indicator present social supports are not working. The housing crisis could be addressed almost immediately if disability pensioners could qualify for a home ownership loan. Why doesn't it happen? The biggest, quick investment money is made in slum landlording, which depends on the poor not being able to own a home. Essentially, social welfare programs provide just enough money for a lousy apartment when that same amount could easily cover a mortgage; but the poor don't qualify. Over twenty years, a disabled pensioner will pay roughly $450.00 for each month's rent. You do the math:  it's clear the situation will continue as long as someone is making money on the backs of the poor. Who makes up the difference financially in this situation? the taxpayer: first in taxes and then giving generously.

It is difficult to motivate those who have life's necessities to make poverty a voting issue, but I suspect that this may change as a larger aging population feels the bite of poverty. Certainly, while legislation allows business creditors to get ahead of pensions in cases of bankruptcy or collapse, there is a good chance that those who didn't think poverty a voting issue, will some day live in the very poverty they ignored while affluent. Acceptance is not the answer: reform is.