Lyn Jensen's Blog: Manga, Music, and Politics

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Location: Anaheim, California, United States

Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Friday, September 30, 2016

DVD Review: Last Cab to Darwin

Note, for photos and art:

By Lyn Jensen

California’s controversial right-to-die law recently went into effect, and the 2015 Australian film Last Cab to Darwin, which becomes available on DVD Oct. 4, questions through narrative just what the right to die means. A cab driver with a terminal illness faces a monumental choice. He can travel to a doctor who advocates for her patients’ right to die, or he can live what’s left of his life in his longtime home with someone close to him—but that comes with a different set of baggage.

The movie is based on the 2003 play of the same name by Reg Cribb, who co-wrote the script with the director Jeremy Sims. The plot hinges on a right-to-die law in the Australian city of Darwin, one that was in effect at the time the story is set, but has since been invalidated. At present there is no right-to-die law anywhere in Australia. It’s said to be inspired by the experience of an actual Australian cab driver, but is heavily fictionalized.

Last Cab is a different kind of road-trip movie. Rex (Michael Caton), cab driver in the small town of Broken Hill in the Australian Outback, gets the news his cancer is terminal. Nothing and no one can stop him from driving 3,000 kilometers to Darwin—even if it kills him—as his symptoms keep worsening. He’s absolutely determined to become the first patient that a doctor (Jackie Weaver) is seeking, so she may test her new computerized method for allowing a terminal patient to commit suicide.

Complications ensue, both on the trip and at the destination, with the doctor’s end-of-life solution proving not so simple. Supporting characters muddle the issue, and the life Rex left behind takes on new importance. There’s his caring if sharp-tongued Aborigine neighbor (Ningali Lawford-Wolf) who Rex deeded his house to before he left on his last cab drive to Darwin. They could’ve had something—maybe—but the Australian Outback is where “We don’t serve blacks,” as the Native Australians are labeled, is a legal and commonly accepted business practice. The Australia portrayed in Last Cab dictates what rights the terminally ill have, and what rights are allowed to what color of skin, too.

In the end Rex makes a choice that allows him dignity, but it may not be what right-to-die advocates make a catchphrase of. If you want to see how Rex’s last cab drive ends, you’ll need seek out a screening or get the DVD.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Book Review: Ron Kovic Remembers 1974 Protest for Veterans' Rights

By Lyn Jensen
"You can't really respect and honor [America's Vietnam] veterans without acknowledging they were leaders of the antiwar movement." -- Tom Hayden
Ron Kovic remains perhaps the most famous face of the movement for veterans’ rights. In the early seventies he galvanized the peace movement, both as an anti-Vietnam activist and as the author of Born on the Fourth of July. That book, a searing account of one paralyzed veteran’s shattered illusions turning to activism, has become an American classic. It was even turned into an Oscar-nominated film in 1989, starring Tom Cruise as Kovic.
Today veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are complaining about the level of care they receive, and that makes Kovic’s experience freshly relevant. In particular what fueled Kovic’s transformation were the conditions he and many other disabled veterans encountered at the Long Beach Veterans Administration. Believing that the level of care amounted to patient abuse, Kovic organized more than a dozen of his fellow patients. Unable to create change within the system, they resorted to what might now be called “occupy tactics.”
On Feb. 12, 1974, Kovic and fourteen other disabled veterans (along with some supporters including two women) arrived for a meeting at then-senator Alan Cranston’s office at the Westwood Federal Building. Finding the senator absent, they refused to leave, or even eat, until the head of the VA (at the time, Donald Johnson) met with them personally and heard their grievances. The occupation of Cranston’s office ended on March 2, 1974, after then-president Richard Nixon sent Johnson to meet with them.
Now Kovic has written a book, Hurricane Street, about the protest and its aftermath. Like its author, the book was born on the fourth of July, published by Akashic Books on that date this year.
Hurricane describes how Kovic originally planned the protest to be the first action of a new American Veterans Movement, which he organized from his residence on Hurricane Street in Marina Del Rey. The next step was to be a veterans’ march on Washington on July 4, 1974, envisioned to rival or surpass both the 1964 King March and the protests that vets staged in Washington during the Depression.
The planned march on Washington ended in failure when other veterans’ groups refused to participate. Days later, Kovic was kicked out of his own organization (he suspects outside influences) and the movement disbanded.

At the age of 70 and still living in the South Bay, Kovic remains a patient of the Long Beach VA, where the reforms he demanded in 1974 have resulted in much higher standards of patient care.