October 10th, 2022 (Canadian Thanksgiving)

Aftershock: Everest and Nepal Earthquake: In 2015 a 7.8 earthquake rocked Kathmandu and surrounding area including Everest surprising all both tourists and locals alike. As you can imagine, there are increasing numbers of people around the world who have Everest as a bucket list destination for them. These days they talk about the unceasing tourism as unsustainable with crowds and crowds of people seeking the ultimate high.

the crowded summit

But in 2015, toursists and locals alike were subject to an event that put millions homeless and cost 9000 people their lives. Strangely, like the story in 13 Lives with the young soccer team trapped under a mountain, I did not remember this event and all the devastation. This documentary addresses those on Everest, others in Kathmandu and the small local town within Langtang Valley. None of these places had construction standards that would be able to withstand any earthquake like this. Imagine being the young woman who had started up Everest from the base camp (a town of tents with various guides, tourists and sherpas) to the first stop in the journey skyward. They left around 3AM. The earthquake hit just before noon.

Typical base camp

What transpires in the aftermath are tales of courage, cowardice, conflict and resilience. It is quite remarkable to see how the people come together, or in some cases fight one another as the locals and tourists clash. Remarkably there is a tale of one tourist who professes to have spent $40,000 who was still looking to climb higher after the earthquake. People can be quite amazing. At a time when money means nothing, they still value this more than their safety or the lives of those around them. In the end, one better understands the power of nature. Scientists predict that more earthquakes are inevitable. For me, I cannot imagine risking my life on a metal step ladder to cross a crevase that is waiting to swallow me whole. No thanks. Adventure is one thing. Life is too valuable to me for such risks, for a reward that seemingly is pride (or a selfie on a mountaintop).

Respect: Apparently Aretha Franklin herself had selected Jennifer Hudson to play her in a movie about her life. This movie from 2021, based on the book of the same name was released on Crave recently. Hudson along with a quality cast including Forrest Whitaker playing her father the preacher, and Mary J Blige shows the early days of the young singer. Even at the age of ten she was being woken up at family parties to sing before the guests. Her father was a well known preacher in Detroit and travelled in circles that included celebrities and political figures like Martin Luther King. King knew the Franklin’s well. This seems to be a glossed over PG version of the life of Aretha. This is a young girl who was pregnant at the age of 12. She had another child soon after. Her parents divorced due to her father’s infidelity (along other challenges).

Aretha is heard by a number of record executives, through the assistance of her father. Her father has specific music that he wishes for her to sing and she is signed up. Everyone can recognize the talent. She has a relationship with a man who her father detests, and they split from her Dad. He has his own musical aspirations and wants his own music sung. After releasing a few records, none of which had any hits, there were conflicts as to what she should be singing. Aretha wanted hits. But she wanted to sing her own brand of music. She was spreading her wings, using her own knowledge of her talents to find the content of her songs.

Naturally her most well known song, is a song that was written by Sam Cooke. Respect was his song, and he had already released it in 1967. It was written for a male singer, and Aretha spent her time making it her own using her own backup singers. Her husband/producer didn’t think that she should work on it. But she was determined and she released it. It became her signature song but an anthem for all women. She followed up with (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. Then Think and Chain of Fools. This was a smash year for her. Just a year later, Martin Luther King is assassinated and this shakes Aretha and her family. Her relationship fell apart. There was abuse. She found alcohol to address her issues. Her performances suffered. Then she looked to release a gospel album, for which the studio was not impressed. They felt that the public wasn’t ready to listen to, and pay for, gospel music.

Say what we will about Jennifer Hudson and her talent, she is no Aretha Franklin. In truth no one can come close to her voice. The Queen of Soul was incomparable. This movie was okay, but not compelling. I learned a few things about her and her life, even in this glossed over version. The music will last forever. I remember her playing the in The Blues Brothers movie, where she sang Think.

The end of this movie shows her singing A Natural Woman, and you realize just how talented she was. Check out if you want to listen to her songs, but as a movie and biopic it is not as strong.