Posted by: billpurdue | August 8, 2012

How Michael Moore got started

Michael Moore must be one of the bravest or the most foolhardy (depending on how you look at it) people in the world, when he takes on governments or multi-national companies to expose injustice, racism, discrimination, greed and so on. The fact that he often achieves at least a degree of success no doubt spurs him on to greater endeavours. To understand how it all started, a good place to begin is by reading his book Here Comes Trouble: stories from my life.

 

This is a collection of episodes from his early life leading up to the launch of his first film , “Roger and Me”. Michael Moore was to go on to produce several more documentaries such as “Bowling for Columbine” and “Sicko”. This book however shows how his escapades and editorship of a local newspaper that specialised in exposing wrongdoing led up to the career in films. The stories in the book start with growing up in his home town of Flint, Michigan and how he became fascinated with history and politics, fostered in part by his mother’s love of country, government and political institutions.

 

The stories include the time he confronted an armed man who had broken into the offices of the newspaper, the “Flint Voice”, expecting to gun down several people. Michael was the only one there and managed to talk him out of it and they parted amicably. Then there was the time when Michael agreed to accompany a Jewish friend to Germany: his friend’s parents had survived the holocaust, but the rest of his relatives had not. It appeared that President Reagan had agreed to lay a wreath on the graves of some prominent Nazis at Bitburg and Michael’s friend Gary wanted to unveil a banner in front of the President’s car as it passed. In another chapter, during the Vietnam war, Michael and his friends were nearing the age at which they could be called up to fight: Moore tells how they investigated how easy or how difficult it would be to emigrate to Canada to avoid the draft. Then there was the day he met Bobby Kennedy – and he was only 11 years old at the time.

 

Michael Moore seems to have been born with a mission to confront injustice and discrimination. These episodes from his early life show how brave – or brazen – he can be and you only need to see the films to prove it. I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy the book, but I needn’t have worried – I couldn’t put it down.

[Allen Lane £20 9780713997109. Contains strong language. The paperback edition is expected in September]

 

E-readers – is someone watching you?

 

I heard on the BBC Radio 4 programme “You and yours” on Monday last week (July 30th) that Amazon gathered data about what Kindle users were reading, presumably so they could recommend similar books to the user. But it’s apparently more than that: according to the interviewees on the programme, information on the most frequently read passages was also being logged. It is possible to opt out of this, but it’s not easy to find out how. Kobo users can also have their reading habits monitored and make comments on what they read, but here it’s a case of opting in. So, if you use a Kindle, are you concerned that Amazon is making a note of everything you read? Of course they already keep track of people’s searches in the Amazon website, so is it any worse than that?

At the time of posting the programme was still available on the BBC iplayer.

 


Responses

  1. The film critic Richard Schickel once described Michael Moore as “the very definition of the unreliable narrator”. That phrase haunts these stories of Moore’s early life in Flint, Michigan, his political awakening as a teenager, and his early years as a radical, campaigning journalist. Nor does the admission at the beginning of the book that “Many of the names and circumstances have been changed to protect the innocent, and sometimes the guilty” do much to increase confidence in the veracity of what’s being told.

  2. It was announced on March 13, 2002 his book “Stupid White Men…and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation”, had reached #1 on the New York Times non-fiction list.


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