Mark Leiren-Young, The Green Chain

I've had to put up my feet a bit this weekend, so it's been pleasantly productive amid the inconvenience. One person on whose work I've only now been able to lavish some belated attention is Mark Leiren-Young, a BC writer working on environmental subjects in assorted media (journalism, humorous nonfiction, podcasting, theatre, movies, and probably something else I'm missing). This weekend, I've managed to watch his movie The Green Chain as well as to read his interview collection of the same name drawn from his Tyee podcasting series.

But it feels funny to offer a review, in the traditional sense. The book is close to a transcription of the Tyee podcasts, so I get a little stuck in the new media vs. old media conversation when I think about that, and (a) the movie is unconventional in form (seven lengthy monologues, in sequence, by somewhat interlocking characters), plus (b) I'm no movie critic.

So let me just say this. If you have even the slightest need for some perspective on the role trees and forestry play in BC, Canada, or North America, then you need to pick up this collection of interviews. OK, fine, if you listen to podcasts on your iPhone or MP3 player or whatever, fine, download those from The Tyee, but the book gives it some heft, some texture. And because many of the questions are similar, it's a treat to be able to flip back and forth to check the assorted responses to questions about how the BC forestry system should be reimagined. (Hint: "appurtenancy" comes up more than once, and it's a word that every BCer needs to understand.)

As for the movie, well, hmm. I liked it a lot, but I had a hard time thinking of who else in my assorted circles might like it. Leiren-Young has seven characters offer lengthy monologues about trees and forests and forestry, each of them a character type but all of them overlapping in one way or another (teasers are available on YouTube). For me the Firefighter and the Waitress were the most impressive, almost mesmerizing, but there wasn't a weak link in the batch. But you know, I couldn't figure out why there wasn't the Reporter as an eighth speaker. The book's interviews occasionally talk about the need to connect with media, and more than one of the film's speakers brushed up against that topic as well (especially the Star, played by Tricia Helfer of the new Battlestar Galactica), so it would have been fascinating to see the nuances to that particular character.

In sum: buy the book and share it; watch the movie's trailers and take a chance on it!


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