Nomadland: A Review

This Blog is a review of the above named movie. There is a piece of writing that I am currently struggling to thoroughly unravel and find the blog’s tap root. I offer the review of Nomadland as a way to break ground. The aim, find a way to engage with an idea that adds to the psychological plethora I have been toiling with for the past few weeks. I say this as much to myself as I do to you, I will get there!

Dawn Dance
I was not enthused to watch Nomadland. Asked by my brother-in-law KW to attend a weekend afternoon’s showing at The Westdale a small independent Cinema in Hamilton, Ontario. I held misgivings about what I was invited to see. I felt confused as I watched Fern (Frances McDormand) travel North America in her van. We join her, at the start of the film, in a packing plant for Amazon. Fern’s life does not resemble mine in many ways. Single, White, no dependents, a retiree, a home on the road, no family or discernible sense of belonging. Fern dances a line. Watching her ‘slow shoe shuffle’ is what begins to draw me in.

Slow Ride
I spent a few moments discussing the movie with my friend Anne Willoughby. Who helped me fashion a few of my thoughts that this piece of writing springs from. The movie feels like a meditation on modern living. Asking questions about the pasts we have forgotten or sailed past. Chasing after the next big shiny offering. Pretending to give us chance to step outside of the speed of time passing so quickly. I often take a look around me whilst watching a movie. To note art’s impact on others. Fern’s demographic looked on, unaware of my watching of them, watching her.

Sense From This
Nomadland is beautifully shot. The sense of space, peace, human loss, tragedy and connection are all minced together within an unfamiliar story arc. The movie invites us to imagine a life on the road. What would it be like meeting people in chance encounters and wondering about them and about ourselves. The sparseness of Fern’s experience with the landscape, appears cold, beyond touch, are somehow vaguely familiar. A reminder of the distance we also have traversed with the pandemic. Just like us, Fern is not finding a happy median in which to settle down inside of and curl up and go to sleep. No, life is much more complex and rich when shaken as hers has been. As ours continually are being. When I think about Nomadland a little more, I relate to a life outside of the ordinary. The movie does not offer us a resolve of the wanderlust or the need to settle and peer bond. There is only the vastness of space, a pressing need to experience life and make some sense out of existence.

Nearly
What Anne helped me realise is that we are all in many ways struggling with self concepts given to us from family, life scripts that we discern are either worth having or spilling away from, and societal ideas of how we ought to behave. With Fern, she has found a way to live her own life, in as honest and as complex a way as she finds fitting. One moment of the film shreds my understanding. The unquestioning of what I have held up as a life goal. That of settling. Finding a place, a person, an experience that one calls mine, ours and is home. Fern veers near experiences that could have been capable of containing, constraining or holding her. Her Sister, the friend, her old home with the distant hills. Yet all were of naught compared to the unknown of the open road and the next experience.

Mountainous

Fluid
If we could remain continually aware or open to the experience of the unknown, being unstuck, unsettled, often with a beginners outlook on life, forgetful of life’s bitterness and disappointments, we would have the potential to be as flexible, as released as Fern. The sense of freedom could be fear provoking. Stalling many from peering over the horizon to what is to happen in the beyond. Fern was willing to make what she could out of her experience of life on the road. Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and The Famished Road by Ben Okri, offer a loose frame for me to unpack Fern’s opening up to the encounters a Nomadic life bring.

Memories
I appreciate the movie’s sparseness. The harsh reality of not knowing what tomorrow may deliver, the random encounters the land showers her with, and the friends and acquaintances that are hewn from the occasional meetings and separations travel can present a lone nomad with. I initially thought the movie was going to be a total waste of time. I am glad that my initial ideas were thoroughly uprooted and tossed! I sat engaged with a simple premise yet challenging perspective to fully appreciate. Nothing is pre-determined. We are all making it up as we go along and very little can be controlled. Nomadland will be a film that stays lodged in my memory as a gentle reminder of firsts – A courageous move to Canada during a Pandemic by my family and I, connecting with a vibrant community of Black Mental Health practitioners in Ontario, Canada, experiencing snow fall, like I was lost in the mountains. To be experienced next for us is, a North American Halloween, Winter, Thanks Giving, and New Years.

An Open Road: Fall

Everywhere
The last line of the movie the one that haunts me still, is an interpretation of Maya Angelou’s famous quote ‘If you are from no where you belong everywhere’. It is the truth, the honesty and the realness of the quote, Maya’s wisdom, Fern’s onwards journey and the road we are all now on. With ever present threats of new world crises. All that we are, ultimately, are our experiences…

Resources
Jason Wilson speaks at length with Joe Rogan on his podcast about growing up. Learning how to be a man who is able to express and talk about his feelings and not cower from them no matter how frightening or terrific they may be. Jason talks about his new book Battle Cry and the journey within, we all could take.
The Trailer for Nomadland offers a brief window into Fern’s simple and yet complicated life.
Sharing Brené Brown’s interviews with her guests is a wonderful interpretive experience for me. Both Dare to Lead and Unlocking Us provide chance to listen to leaders who engage in thought that shapes and change worlds. Amy Cuddy coined the phrase Pandemic Flux Syndrome which I feel fits with some of what Nomadland explodes.
I read Ryan Holiday’s ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’ a few years ago. I was facing an ongoing set of challenges both professionally and personally. Listening to Tim Ferris go in deep with Ryan on his podcast, I picked up on the strongly suggested idea that I read his work on living stoically. The Book has helped to make meaning from misadventure.
Joe Rogan Experience with Jason Wilson Battle Cry
Nomadland Trailer
Brené Brown with Amy Cuddy on Dare to Lead Podcast
Ryan Holiday 4000 mile Road Trip

Images
Cover photo City by Night by Abdullah Konte on Unsplash
Open Road photo by Marcelo Quinan on Unsplash
Road and Mountains photo by Mark Basarab on Unsplash
Fall leaves photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Shepherds Pie

On Writing

Obsession
This writing thing has become an important part of my self-expression and sharing these thoughts with you has been a commitment to the art of crafting something from nothing.

Feint wisps of ideas.

Gossamer on air.

Insecto
I use my notepad on my phone to catch a fly through thought, before it completely disappears. There’s something wild about these fresh new ideas, like capturing a butterfly or firefly.

Net it
There have been many I miss. Usually I am driving to one of the prisons I work at listening to a podcast. A new idea will arrive with what I am listening to. Most of the time when I park the car and get out, the thought has left me. Foolishly I think the thought much like that butterfly will return.

Sometimes
Like that delicate insect, the idea sort of does and sort of doesn’t. It twists and is lost in the turbulence of other thoughts. Then returns changed adapted and disguised with a cacophony of close and distant cousin ideas. There are times when I fret that Thursday mornings will arrive and at 08:30am BST I will have nothing to say, share or display. There have been close calls where I am honing and shaping unruly paragraphs or hyperlinks in before my weekly deadline of Thursday 08:30.

Real Artists
Then there are those weeks when the butterfly returns with friends. I find that I cannot keep my hands still or supple enough to capture all that my mind is whizzing through. Much like my *inspirator Jeff Goins. I feel that art is in each and everyone of us.

Capturing Moments

Scribble
Like the Islamic Calligrapher friend that I know. Who’s artistic talent of putting brush to paper I am ardently waiting to see, or the chef, the poet, stand up comedian, the teacher, the rapper, presentation maker, film producer, coach and fellow writers – their craft all waiting for daylight to see what they release.

Schedule
Generally I don’t have a regular pattern to my time of writing. I just do. Some write every morning. Some in the evening. For me it’s as often as I can and when I do, I am searching for diamonds or gold amongst acres of untilled soil. Currently this paragraph is being written whilst the last touches to a shepherd’s pie are added. I stand in the kitchen watching, so that just enough of everything including spice is introduced. My job was to mash the potatoes add milk, butter and then add freshly grated nutmeg.

Authoring Trumpets
The episode of Broken Record exemplifies my experience of writing. What Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers says about the experience of writing in the podcast, resonates with me.

Flea raises what my day to day battles, triumphs and failures, with writing are like and largely lie unknown. The failures get deleted before they are released. I try hard to polish these pieces before they are let loose.

Some blogs land like damp dish sponges. Others I feel stand out like jewels. Acid For the Children from Broken Record with Rick Rubin, Malcolm Gladwell, Bruce Headlam and Justin Richmond is a great portrayal of a person willing to find their riddle.

Inherent
With just over 100 pieces of sprawling thought. Filling time and air and web space the goal is to get to 200 and then see:

  • Have these blogs provided value
  • Are they worth reading
  • What would Thursday’s or Fridays look like without these musings

I value what 2 years of consistent insistent and persistent practice have taught and helped me to unearth. I can only hope that you have appreciated what 1 – 3 hours of processed thoughts do.

Cavernous
In 2015 when I began writing I did not realise what I had started. How much I would gain from putting pen to paper – Now more type to screen.

I am surprised by the amount of learning I would gather. Be a willing contributor to a sharing economy with these pages. A highlight for me is when speaking with others knowing that there are tunnel’s worth of processed thought and impressions. Waiting to be discovered at the push of a button. These embossed ideas lay behind and underneath me. I have used my blogs to illustrate a point that reference other’s words and ideas too. Like a labyrinth with no Minotaur I am curious about everything and what lies at the tunnel’s ending.


Resources
Broken Record Acid for the children – a conversation with Flea
2 Guys on Your Head – on Writing
Everything is Alive – Sharpie Pen

Images
Cover photo by Michael Opoku-Forfieh
Inlay photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash

How to

To read and make use of the blogs I write.

View them as poems in long form. The hyperlinks are a gateway. Click and follow the pebbles – new awareni* awaits.

Read with an aim to deep dive into topics and subjects that are as interesting as they are exhumations about difference, about life lived at the boundaries: criminal justice, education, therapy, art, Multiple Sclerosis and being othered by society.

The blogs are:

A point of reference.

A placeholder for thought and reflection about oneself, about another, about us.

Read for perspective making.

Read for evaluation and test taking.

Explore for tips and learning and for ideas about baking.

They are slices of condensation, concentrations and at times my consternation’s – for living is a complex choice. An activity of thinking, doing, breathing, resting and being bored. Often…

Be perplexed and curious.

Ask for clarity if you dare!

Comment and be prepared for answers and yet more questioning.

Let us open up dialogues just because.

It could all be oh so much better.

Even these,

Blogs…

Togethered Learning

Educational Misses

Frank Morrison’s Art I have long admired. This work is titled as Arithmetic. The pose of both students is emblematic

The state of education

My eldest son aged 11, came home from school recently and shared that he had concerns about his experiences that have troubled and alarmed me. As his father I want nothing more than to protect and shield him from the shadier elements of London living. I realise however the contradiction as I write, because I have worked in prisons for over four years. I have also worked with vulnerable people on the margins of society and that live in the shade for over 8 years. Deepening and grading my perspective considerably.

Working for almost 4 years with Together a National charity that supported service users and probation officers and courts in London. Together’s highly skilled team of practitioners provide mental health support and psycho education to service users involved within London’s criminal Justice System. 

‘*Shade is a factor of life, it precedes and follows light.’

An Event Horizon
Shade and Light – Event Horizon

Transfer

My son has moved from a well-resourced primary school with a committed PTA (Parent Teacher Association) with middle class values and expectations to a secondary school that whilst being in the same neighborhood seems to not be as well supported. The commitment the school has appears geared to raising it’s educational achievements as a secondary school. The social and emotional development of it’s pupils seems to have been overlooked. The documentary called School emphasises what the lack of investment and resources has meant for secondary schools across the country.

Aggress

My son reports that nearly every day there are playground fights and his year group are involved with something called “violating” other pupils. A form of engaging negatively with another pupil that shames them and makes them either react aggressively or retreat from social engagements. Which can have a huge social impact on students – limiting the scope of making firm social connections and friends and bearing witness to the challenges of inner city life.

John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons on Netflix is a phenomenal expose on growing up ‘Othered’ within a country that does not want to accept it’s involvement with the systematic destruction and demonisation of several groups of people and their cultures. Ghetto Rage is a topic of interest John mentioned that I will further investigate and write about soon. 

Refuse

As a 40 something year old man I don’t understand the culture of school being a site for malevolence and cruelty committed by pupils as vulnerable as peers of my son’s against fellow pupils. Being assertive is a factor of living learning and growing. Bullying as part of systemic form of disorganised peer oppression troubles me.

My son simply does not want to go to his school or participate in any of the senseless acts of pseudo violence, passive and active forms of aggression
as a result, or other acts of hyper masculinity that seem to have besieged his year group. What is going wrong I wonder with state education? Why are young women and young men acting in harmful ways to other children and themselves and what can we all do about it?

Switch

I doubt I will be able to find the answers in this piece of writing however I can raise my concerns and offer ideas of possible ways forward. I wonder if a member of parliament’s child were attending my son’s state school what they would think/see/feel?

I am disappointed that the choices we are left to think through are: exiting the school, non-attendance and living with a sense of anxiety that has grown in my son and through our family. The social development versus academic achievement focus appears to have been the split that this school has made.

The thinking I have is that the school has grossly under estimated the effect that the focus and pressure toward academia could have on it’s key stage 3 and 4 progression results and overall exam achievements. A
socially and emotionally balanced pupil could perform 
academically better. Not just at exams but in life also. 

Something Else

Perhaps another way is to be found with education that invites collaboration, communication and creativity. Few children my son included are without the curiosity to look for answers or create story’s that make sense of the worlds that they inhabit. For their, our children’s, worlds are different to ours. They face challenges that are new for the planet, maybe we should be teaching all differently…  

Resources

Akala and Education

TES Small Schools Work