writing cooler than the millions

so i have been trying to ease myself back into writing. i have been re-reading what i've written to date for cooler than the millions. the good thing is that i've managed to get rid of a lot of the distractions in my life that prevented me from really sinking my teeth into my writing. the other good news is that my ideas for what i want cooler than the millions to be about still hold up after ignoring them for the last three to four months.

what has really gotten me interested in my own writing again is this lack of political fiction out there. most writing is for an escape. i came to the conclusion that i didn't want my writing to be like that. the books i had written until recently had been very political, with
this is hardcore, the latest book, being more about escapist thriller fiction. there's nothing wrong with that of course, but i am ready to return to my roots. some people had some strong reactions to desert sessions: an anti-corporate love story, and i want to be able to capitalize on that.

that being said,
cooler than the millions will be a better balance of escapist/political/personal writing. it should be my best to date. i don't want to reveal too much, but the escapist elements will involve the search for a missing girl, and the degradation of her character from high society to self humiliation and bottom-feeding vermin. the political aspects will revolve around current issues of human rights abuses, and political justifications for murder and mayhem. and finally, the personal parts will once again involve characters based on real people in my life, particularly one woman who was the cause for all the confusion in my life over the past three months which resulted in me originally giving up on writing for a while.

at any rate, even though i haven't actually written anything substantial yet, it feels good to have finally beaten this writer's block and get those ideas down onto paper - er, word processor. it's funny, because i was supposed to have my first draft for cooler than the millions done by now, with the actual publication of it happening late summer. looks like i've got a lot of work ahead of me...

gus van sant

gus van sant recently completed his trilogy of death. these were a series of movies where he explored death through various means, such as death by another, death from outside, and death from self. these movies were all shot with a very simplistic, roving camera style, that had a very voyereuristic way about it. none of the movies had anything by way of a convenient plot. they were all simply about starting and finishing, with hardly any dialogue. most people will find the movies tiresome and boring, but others may find them to be very interesting.


gerry: how do you think the hike's going so far?
gerry: pretty good.

gerry is the first movie of the trilogy of death. it's about two guys named gerry, who are driving out in the desert one day and decide to stop to go for a bit of a hike. what starts out as a simple hike quickly turns into a nightmare as they both realize that they don't know where the car is. thus begins the aimless wandering for days throughout the desert. during the process, they speak very little, sometimes talking about video games, other times talking about jeopardy, but almost always wandering. this movie is probably the most tiresome of them all, because there are periods, long periods, of up to several minutes at a time, where all you see them do is walk. no talking, no soundtrack, just walking. and they do this a lot. but what's interesting about the movie is the way it is filmed, with a very free-lance sort of wandering style, as well as some incredible visual shots of the desert. in the end, you know it has to end badly, and it does, leaving the viewer wondering what went through the heads of the two gerry's. considering we don't get much insight by way of dialogue, you're forced to just watch the expressions on their faces turn from amusement to hopelessness as they quickly realize the ridiculous nature of their plight.


girl in cafeteria: what are you writing?
alex: uh, this? it's my plan.
girl in cafeteria: for what?
alex: oh, you'll see.

elephant is the second in the series, and most successful. it is a fictional account of a school shooting. there are no professional actors here. every kid is cast from a real school. there is no real plot except that the camera follows these students in what seems like a very ordinary day. the kids go to school, they go to class, they go to lunch... all very mundane. two kids, however, are in the process of planning a school massacre. you watch as they plot out their attack plan throughout the day. you watch as they receive the assault rifle they purchased off the internet with their parents' credit card. you watch as they play video games. you watch as they have sex. and finally, you watch as they go from room to room, shooting everyone they see. the movie is hard to watch sometimes, and it offers no explanations or motives as to why these kids go and shoot up their school. the movie just starts with the shot of the sky as clouds gather, and ends with the final killings. there are no easy answers, and that's the best part of the movie. again, there is a voyeuristic appeal to the movie, and you really can't do anything except watch as children are helplessly mowed down by their peers. it's very much like real life, because you can blame the readily available access to guns, you can blame violent video games, you can blame sexuality, you can blame bullying... but to this date, there are no easy answers as to why children shoot other children.

last days

blake: you know, it's kinda like... success is subjective, you know. it could be an opinion.

last days is a movie about a rock star who isolates himself in his home and how he spends his last days before he kills himself. last days is a fictionalized account of what could have possibly been going through kurt cobain's mind before he shot himself. gus van sant had to change the names because of possible litigation from courtney love. the movie, like the other two, follows the main character through roving, wandering cameras. there isn't much to last days, because pretty much all you see is blake, the rock star and kurt cobain stand-in, wandering around his home and property, mumbling to himself, and hardly being able to string together a single coherent sentence. you don't see any drug use on film, but you know there is. blake pretty much keeps to himself, with some people coming to talk to him every now and then, and you get the feeling that something could have been done to help him, but nothing is done. and in the end, once more, there are no clean answers. like the other two movies, you don't get any direct insight into what the character is feeling. you don't get any giant speaches or heartfelt emotions. all you get is what you see and everything is determined by the actions of the characters; whether it's the hopeless inaction of the two gerry's, to the violent attack by two students, to the final self-inflicted shotgun blast of last days. last days is my least favorite of the three movies, because there isn't the visually stunning images of gerry, or the shocking death of innocence in elephant, but it is still interesting anyhow. still, most people will hate these movies, and i don't blame them. definitely not for your average movie-going public.

i have always been more interested in what people do or don't do, rather than what people say they're going to do. my own writing, when it comes to my novels, have always tried to focus on the aspect of action. at the end of the day, it is what we do or don't do that shapes our lives, and these three movies are great examples of that. you have to admire the decision to ignore contriving back stories. i have always hated back stories, because although they help the viewer or reader figure out what motivates the characters to do the things they do, i feel by now, in 2006, people understand what motivates others to do what they do, so there's no point in dwelling on it. what's important are the actions themselves. are the consequences important? for sure. but you can imagine the consequences, so again, there's no point in dwelling on it.



stephen harper and the conservatives ran on a platform of bringing accountability to the government after the liberal government fell into a mass of corruption, something that is not altogether surprising when a government is in power for so long. the liberals had become arrogant, privy to their own greed, and indifferent because of the lack of any percieved threat from a disjointed, and let's face it, pathetic political right.

but now the conservatives are in power, with everybody's favorite robot, stephen harper in charge. harper could give al gore a run for his artificial intelligence. i swear, they were probably made from the same company. except the conservative model was probably outsourced.

earlier in the year, they started having secret
cabinet meetings and barred reporters from the floor where cabinet meetings are held, saying that essentially, it was nobody's business when cabinet met. now, harper's government has banned reporters from the military base in trenton, ontario, to cover the tuesday evening arrival of the remains of four soldiers who died in a weekend bombing. defence minister gordon o'connor says the return of the remains is a "private and solemn" event to be shared only by the military and relatives of the soldiers.
"there is a time to mourn," he said in a statement monday, "and we want to respect the privacy needs of the grieving families."

apparently, the conservative government is incredibly caring for the feelings of the soldiers' families. more so than any other government ever elected to parliament. i'm calling b.s. on this issue, because taking photos of the returning bodies is nothing new. it's just called journalism. it is becoming increasingly apparent that this government is not interested in being transparent, chosing instead to rip off bush administration strategies. i should say that i understand what they are doing in relation to the whole afghanistan issue, and I understand why they believe it is necessary. the bush administration did the exact same thing, saying that it would erode support from the troops. (actually, support for troops is always strong; it's support for the war they're concerned about). however, i believe that this will not serve the public any good.
war should never be censored. when dealing with war, it is important that people see the images, see the horror. that way they not only understand the gravity of what our men and women overseas are fighting and dying for, but they will also understand the nature of war, and that deciding to go to war is not a decision to be made lightly. the justifications for war have to be legit and worth dying for. the government is starting to look like it has something to hide.
in the end, it should be the families deciding whether they want reporters at the ceremonies. richard leger's son marc was killed in afghanistan four years ago. he says, "i know, in 2002, it was a great thing for us to have the media there... we wanted to show all canadians what the cost of their liberty is." he went on to tell cbc newsworld that people are saying thanks to him for the life of his son. "as a parent," he said, "that's hard to hear, but knowing what's the reason behind it helps us to move on."
stephen harper wants an accountable government. well, it's hard to keep a government accountable if they're unwilling to be open about things.


israel planning to re-take gaza strip

the associated press is reporting that israel is planning to re-take the gaza strip. this, obviously, is yet another escalation to the already tense situation in the middle east. it's a shame, really, that israel is contemplating this, because we are at a point in time where both israelis and palestinians are under new leadership. i don't mean to be rude, just straight: arafat is dead and sharon is in a coma. both sides are without some major figure-heads, which means there is room for new influence, new voices. the problem is, both sides are deciding to go into a decidedly more militant rout.

you have a situation where hamas refuses to give up terrorism, despite becoming the political ruling party for the palestinians. now, when your official party platform is for the destruction of another country, chances are there will be some retribution. just a bit. with hamas refusing to condemn the latest suicide bombing in tel aviv, and failing to stop militant rocket fire from the gaza strip, israel believes it has no choice but to re-take the gaza strip. on top of this, hamas has decided that it will form a new security force commanded by jamal abu samhadana, who heads a group responsible for many of the rocket attacks and is a suspect in a deadly attack on an american convoy. (how they plan on paying this new security force is a mystery to me, considering they are running out of money and are now
relying on god to somehow get salaries paid. not to be too pecimistic, but i figure if god hasn't answered your prayers for peace or victory yet, then chances are asking for money isn't going to happen either.) because of all this, the entire hamas cabinet is on israel's assassination list, which i think is a first for any government cabinet. (is that a guinness record?) palestinian president mahmoud abbas is the only one acting rationally. he has vetoed the appointment of jamal abu samhadana and he has called the possible re-occupation of the gaza strip a "deadly mistake."

at any rate, re-taking the gaza strip is not going to make hamas change, nor is assassinating every single member of their cabinet, because at this point, hamas is more of an idea, maybe even a way of life for some, than specific figureheads. besides, even if you eliminated hamas, another group will crop up in its place. it just seems like neither side really wants peace, or more specifically, israel can see peace but on their terms, and hamas can see peace but only if israel is completely destroyed. i do believe israel wants to end it all, to have peace, but they don't want to give up enough and the palestinians, actually, specifically militant groups like hamas, will never accept any concession short of israel being destroyed. the palestinian people themselves, i believe also want this all to end, that they want some sort of brokered peace, despite having elected an extremist, terrorist organization.

it almost seems that these militant groups don't want peace, because what would they do once peace is established? go to a 9-5 job? start a grocery store? maybe some might, but there is this culture of definition, of manhood (and i say manhood in a general sense) that has been established amongst these militant groups, that will be nearly impossible to break. for some, this is all they know; having their relatives imprisoned by the israeli government or having their homes destroyed by the military, and then subsequently being treated as second class citizens really does a number on a person's psyche. for some, being a part of these groups, is a way to assert their manhood, to be worth something, to do something with their lives, even if it is just to strap on some explosives and blow themselves up. how else do you think these groups recruit? by appealing to their zest for life? these groups give them purpose, so what would happen if peace were established through some sort of settlement agreement? would these militant groups lay down their arms, or would they continue to attack israel? it's an interesting throught. i have a feeling it would be the latter. but maybe that's just my perpetual "the glass is half empty" outlook to humanity.

regardless, it should be noted that doing violence is always a choice. a conscious decision is made, so i don't believe in this whole "no choice" arguement for either side. there is always a choice; sometimes you don't have many options, and sometimes certain choices will hurt and will cost you, but in the end, you can chose to do violence or opt for peace, and in this case, both sides are going for the former.

(source 1)

(source 2)


iran = iraq part 2: iraq's revenge!

so obviously by now everyone knows that iran has gone nuclear. becoming nuclear is always a conscious decision. it's a choice that many countries have decided against doing either because of lack of resources, lack of expertise, or simple lack of desire. usually it's a combination of one or all of these things.

now the united states has been doing some sabre rattling. george w. bush has not ruled out against using a nuclear strike, specifically a tactical nuclear strike, to disable iran's nuclear capabilities. this is, of course, the height of stupidity. if you've taken a cold war class in highschool, you may remember seeing graphs and diagrams of supposed tactical nuclear strike plans that the west had planned to use against the giant soviet threat. the diagram, the map, showed in red where the tactical strikes would occur, and of course, the whole map was covered in red. obviously, the technology is better now, but if the bombing campaigns in kosovo and iraq have shown anything, our aim is less than perfect. and considering the huge numbers of mistakes the u.s. military has made in terms of collateral damage and friendly fire, even though they've tried their hardest to avoid such situations, the reality is that any tactical strike will result in complete devastation. someone's gonna get hurt, to say the least.

at any rate, iran has a right to nuclear energy. under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, countries are allowed their own nuclear programs. however, the difference here is that iran hid key components of their program for 18 years. if it truly was strictly for energy purposes, why all the secrecy? and then there's the little bit about calling for israel to be wiped off the face of the map. in international diplomatic circles, saying such things is a no-no.

there has also been talk of a quick military strike. it would be a shame if the u.s. tried any sort of invasion or strike of iran, because 1) there is no such thing as a quick, military attack. these fights tend to morph into bigger fights that go for longer periods until you finally realize you're stuck in a quagmire of a war that you can't possibly win. just look back on history for all the "short" wars that were waged.

2) the u.s. cannot afford another war front. the u.s. military, pre bush administration, was catered to fighting two seperate wars at the same time. however, since rumsfeld and gang took over, they've been getting all excited about shrinking the military, relying more on special forces and technology. this is why when they went to iraq, they had only about 130,000 soldiers initially, and now they're in for the fight of their lives with a desperate need for more soldiers. technology will only go so far. the way to win wars, short of dropping the bomb, is to have troops on the ground. compare the 130,000 troops to the 500,000 they had in 1991 during the gulf war. the lack of size of the u.s. military makes it hard to take on larger militaries like the north korean one. (ever wonder why the u.s. doesn't try to take on north korea despite all their talk of going nuclear? it's because they have a 1 million strong standing army. you need a heck of a lot of technology to even those odds). the reality is, the u.s. military is overstretched and can barely handle iraq and afghanistan at the same time. why else would they leave all the heavy clean-up of afghanistan to the canadians?

3) finally, iran is in the middle of a cultural shift, at least when you're talking about its younger population, which has been moving for change. They have been moving for more freedom from the strict control of the ayatollahs. there has been an increasing westernization, or influence of ideas amongst the younger populace. any invasion or attack on iran would be easy fodder for the iranian religious leadership to demonize. such an attack would be seen as what it actually is: foreign interference and invasion into iran. this would be the fire to fuel a unionization of iran, a sort of us vs them mentality, which would result in the backfire of any social progress made by the youth of iran. simply put, nothing sells nationalism better than an invasion or an attack from an outside force. just look at the movie
independence day. (just kidding).
i've always felt that the people know what's best for the people. sometimes this takes time to develope, but in the end, the people will move for what they want. (e.g.: the "orange revolution" in ukraine. sure there was help, like outside financial preassure, but in the end, the people took what they wanted). on the other hand, people do succumb to mob mentality frequently, so it can be a double edged sword.


no future

i don't usually do this sort of thing, but i'm going to bitch about something silly. there was a story in the news recently about a 10 year old girl who won a car through tim horton's "roll-up the rim to win" contest. for people who aren't aware of this contest, tim hortons is the canadian equivelant to krispy kreme, the donut chain. they have this contest every year, where if you buy a cup of coffee, you can roll up the rim of the cup and if you're lucky, there will be a prize.
the little girl found a cup in a garbage can but had problems rolling up the rim, so she enlisted the help of a 12 year old girl who rolled up the rim and found that the prize was a brand new car. there has been a dispute for weeks, because the parents of the girl who originally found the cup claim the prize as their own, while the parents of the girl who helped roll up the rim claimed that they deserved half the prize. (i'm assuming they were expecting half of what the car cost. however, it is amusing to think of the CEO of tim hortons pulling a king solomon and chopping the car in half).
on top of this, a man came forward with his lawyer, who wanted a dna test done on the cup to prove that his client was the one who threw out the cup to begin with. so this third guy is now putting a claim into ownership over the car. in the end, tim hortons felt it was a finders keepers sort of deal, and according to the rules of their contest, the 10 year old girl gets the prize.
now why am i writing about this? it's because of shit like this that really just tips the scales for me. with all the problems in the world today, with all the worries, why in hell are people fighting over a car? it's absurd. some people really need to get their priorities straight. go plant a tree. you know, do something useful for once. sometimes i think we all need lessons in sharing, from the two little girls right on up to the most powerful politicians and generals. you really have to ask yourself, whenever you fight over something, is it worth it? is the grief worth it? because if it is, then we probably don't deserve to live as a species. i swear, people and their property.
i know this is just a silly dispute over a car, but this is just indicative of a larger problem with people not being able to share anything and fighting over everything. there is this sense of entitlement that people have: entitled to lower interest rates, entitled to lower fees, entitled to tax exemptions, entitled to land, entitled to oil... it goes on and on. sure, sometimes there's a right to the claim, but seriously, what is this obsession with owning property? whether it's in the form of a car or actual land, it's all property. every war ever fought has been over property, whether for direct control or influence by proxy. i've always said that and i stand by that.



Businessman: I always wanted to be a surgeon. But the boards would not pass me. Can you guess why? You see? So I went into business. But business is so boring. You buy things you sell them, you make money you spend money. What kind of life is that? A surgeon, he holds the very essence of life in his hands - your life. He touches it.

Victim: Please just let me go, please...

Businessman: You want to go? Is that what you want?

- hostel

hostel is out on dvd. hostel was one of those movies where most people saw the gore, but couldn't really appreciate the politics behind it all. sure, the gore is fun. i mean, people getting their fingers cut off and eyes gouged out and run over by cars is fun. but the real meat of the movie lies in eli roth's script, where he had said he'd wanted to incorporate a lot of what was going on in the world today, politically.

the movie, at its core, is about two jackass american tourists, paxton and josh, and their equally obnoxious side-kick, oli. and by jackass, i mean they represent every single annoying, beligerant, misogynistic tourist out there that gives travellers a bad name. they spend all their time boozing and womanizing in amsterdam. if you've managed to travel to another country, you've probably seen these types around at the local hostels. or maybe you were one of these types. i know i have at one point or another, which i am ashamed to say.

anyway, the first forty minutes of the movie is nothing like a horror film. it's like a russ meyers film where there's nothing but naked women and drinking. however, eventually the three men come across a man who tells them of a hostel where anything they want can be theirs for the taking. the three men eventually go to this hostel and run into a pair of women who basically bait them into various horrors. this hostel, it turns out, is a place where if you have enough money, you can do whatever you want to another human being, from torture to mutilation to murder.

so that's the basics. lots of gore, lots of nudity, lots of bizarre moments. but there's more to this movie. eli roth, the director and writer, said in an interview that he had wanted to incorporate what was going on in the world today into his script. he had wanted to turn the tables on his two main characters, who are american. he wanted to show how americans, so used to dominating other countries and other people, would feel if they were suddenly no longer in control. eli wanted to challenge america's superiority complex. (eli, it should be noted, is an american, so this isn't about america bashing, it's more about questioning behaviors and methods that america seems to have adopted over the last fifty years).

consider, for example, how the cost to kill someone varies depending on their nationality. americans, of course, are worth the most to kill, and sought after by these wealthy business men who have experienced everything except killing someone. consider another scene where a man begs for his life, trying to plead with his german torturer, by speaking german. it's sort of twisted to see an american beg for his life in the tongue of the nazis while his torturer stands over him with a chainsaw.

at any rate, the politics may be skin deep at times, but at least eli roth is offering us something more. the best part of the movie, however, is the fact that the protagonist is not a completely helpless victim. usually, in horror movies, the bad guys spend all the time chasing and the good guys spend all their time running. well in hostel, the good guy finally starts to fight back, and it's quite fun to watch. you find yourself sitting there, hoping he'd fight back and just kill the bad guys for once, and amazingly, he does.


flight 93

the following is a transcript taken from the globe and mail. it is of the final few minutes of flight 93 from its voice-recorder on september 11, 2001 right before it slammed into the ground. it depicts a fight between the highjackers and a group of passengers as they struggle to get into the cockpit to overtake the plane. apparently they used a drink cart as a battering ram down the isle, where two highjackers were on the outside of the cockpit and on the inside, one highjacker wielded a fix axe. it's pretty amazing stuff. it will be interesting to see what the new united 93 movie will be like.

- - -

The final minutes of Flight 93.

Combined with air-traffic control records and accounts of cellphone calls from the plane, excerpts of the transcript released yesterday of the recording in the cockpit of United Airlines Flight 93 paint the clearest picture yet of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001


*Note: Bold face around text is translated from Arabic

Terrorists take over

An unidentified member of the flight crew pleads with the hijackers as they take control of the plane
9:28 a.m.: Air traffic controllers hear someone in the cockpit say "Get out of here."
Passenger Tom Burnett calls wife, reports takeover.
Passenger Jeremy Glick calls his wife and describes the hijackers. He is told of the attack on the World Trade Center.
9:31:57: Ladies and gentlemen: Here the captain, please sit down keep remaining seating. We have a bomb on board. So sit.
9:32:10: Don't move. Shut up.
9:32:34: Sit, sit, sit down.
9:33:43: Finish, no more. No more.
9:34:00: Go ahead, lie down. Lie down. Down, down, down.
"There is someone ... Huh?"
9:34:27: Please, please, please ...
9:34:28: Down.
9:34:29: Please, please, don't hurt me ...
9:34:30: Down. No more.
9:34:31: Oh God.
Plane is turned around near Cleveland and pointed toward Washington, D.C.
9:35:40: I don't want to die.
9:35:41: No, no. Down, down.
9:35:42: I don't want to die. I don't want to die.
9:35:44: No, no. Down, down, down, down, down, down.
9:35:47: No, no, please.
"That's it. Go back."
"Everything is fine. I finished."
9:39:11: Ah. Here's the captain. I would like to tell you all to remain seated. We have a bomb aboard, and we are going back to the airport, and we have our demands. So, please remain quiet.
Passenger Marion Britton calls a friend and says two people have been killed.
The passengers fight back.

The hijackers defend the cockpit, threatening attacking passengers by showing them an axe through the window in the cockpit door.

"How about we let them in? We let the guys in now."
"Inform them, and tell him to talk to the pilot. Bring the pilot back."
"In the name of Allah. In the name of Allah. I bear witness that there is no other God, but Allah."
9:48:38: Set course.

Flight attendant Sandra Bradshaw calls her husband and says they're boiling water to use against the hijackers.
"The best thing: The guys will go in, lift up the ... Unintelligible ... and they put the axe into it. So, everyone will be scared."
"The axe."
"No, not the."
"Let him look through the window. Let him look through the window."
"Is there something?"
"A fight?"
9:58:33: Unintelligible. "Let's go guys. Allah is greatest. Allah is greatest. Oh guys. Allah is greatest."
9:58:41: Ugh.
"Oh Allah. Oh Allah. Oh the most gracious."
9:58:52: Stay back.
9:58:55: In the cockpit.
9:58:57: In the cockpit.
"They want to get in here. Hold, hold from the inside. Hold from the inside. Hold."
9:59:04: Hold the door.
9:59:09: Stop him.
"There are some guys. All those guys."
9:59:20: Lets get them.
"Trust in Allah, and in him."
"There is nothing."
The crash.

The hijackers rock the plane to stop attacking passengers before slamming it into the ground.
"Is that it? Shall we finish it off?"
"No. Not yet."
"When they all come, we finish it off."
"There is nothing."
10:00:15:I'm injured.
"Oh Allah. Oh Allah. Oh Gracious."
10:00:25:In the cockpit. If we don't, we'll die.
10:00:29: "Up, down. Up, down, in the" cockpit.
10:00:33: "The" cockpit.
"Up, down. Saeed, up, down."
10:00:42:Roll it.
"Allah is the Greatest. Allah is the Greatest."
"Is that it? I mean, shall we pull it down?"
"Yes, put it in it, and pull it down."
10:01:12:... engine ...
"Cut off the oxygen."
"Cut off the oxygen. Cut off the oxygen. Cut off the oxygen."
"Up, down. Up, down."
"Up, down."
10:01:59: Shut them off.
10:02:03: Shut them off.
10:02:14: Go.
10:02:14: Go.
10:02:15: Move.
10:02:16: Move.
10:02:17: Turn it up.
"Down, down."
"Pull it down. Pull it down."
10:02:25: Down. Push, push, push, push, push.
"Hey. Hey. Give it to me. Give it to me."
"Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me."
"Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it to me."
"Allah is the greatest."
"Allah is the greatest."
"Allah is the greatest."
"Allah is the greatest."
"Allah is the greatest."
"Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest."
"Allah is the greatest. Allah is the greatest."
10:03:11: Plane crashes in a field in Shanksville, Pa.



to live and die in l.a.

ruth: how much do i get for the information i gave you on waxman?

chance: no arrest, no money.
ruth: it's my fault he's dead? it took me six months to get next to him. i got expenses, you know.
chance: guess what? uncle sam don't give a shit about your expenses. you want bread, fuck a baker.

- to live and die in l.a.

to live and die in l.a.is a film that has influenced a lot of the writing for cooler than the millions, what was supposed to be my next novel, but one that i have subsequently shelved along with my writing career in general. it is such a strong influence though, that i feel it's worth talking about here.

to live and die in l.a. is the quintisential 80's crime film. it stars william l. peterson as richard chance, a secret service officer who's partner gets murdered by a counterfeit dealer, eric masters (willem dafoe). the movie is pretty simple as plots go, with chase doing anything he can to get masters, including blackmailing a parolee, stealing evidence and stealing $30,000 in real money in order to get masters and his fake money.

the movie is purely 80's, with everything from the neon green and red font to the music of wang chung, to its awareness of its time and politics (it starts out with a terrorist act by a suicide bomber claiming death to america and israel during a speach by ronald regan).

in this case, the movie's plot is pretty secondary. what makes it so great is the little details, such as a sequence where the director, william friedkin, takes the time to spend five minutes out of the movie to show in detail the process of making counterfeit money. the sequence looks authentic, and it's quite beautiful, with a particular shot of willem dafoe blowing on the sheet metal and having the money imprint come glowing out of the metal like ghost trails. there is another scene where the dafoe character burns a painting of his. it makes no sense. but it looks good, like a music video.

there is also another stunning chase sequence, one of the best at the time. chance and his partner are being chased by the f.b.i. after their attempt to rip off a bunch of real money goes sour. the chase happens on the l.a. freeway system, but only against the traffic, which was a first for movies at the time. then there is, of course, the shock ending, which i don't want to reveal just in case people have yet to see the film. it's a totally gritty, balls-to-the-wall ending which i definitely didn't expect the first time i saw it.

to live and die in l.a. is the ulimate in 80's nihilism, from regan economics to an anti-hero that does anything he can to get his man, including getting another officer killed, to the music video direction to finally one of the most fitting endings ever written to a movie. also, where else can you find daphne from frasier as a lesbian theater performer?


tomato = tomato, potato = potato

watching fox news is always fun. i get a real kick out of it. one of my favorite fox-isms is the term "homicide bomber," which is their designation for the traditional suicide bomber, or martyr, if you like.

the term "homicide bomber" defines exactly the kind of schlock news fox brings to the public. homicide bomber is redundant, because homicide means to kill someone, and a bomber usually kills. it's like saying bush is a dumb idiot, which he's not. he's a greedy republican. (sorry, democrats could be greedy too.) now, martyr, on the other hand, a term preferred by palestinians to describe their suicide bombers, i can understand. because a martyr is someone who makes great sacrifices (such as his/her life) or suffers in order to further a cause, belief or principle. you can call a suicide bomber a martyr. i get that. but in this case, you can also call a martyr a suicide bomber.

a martyr who kills himself with bombs is a suicide bomber. calling a suicide bomber a martyr is just glorifying it. making it special somehow, and i understand why some would see it that way, but for me, a suicide bomber may be a martyr, it may be a homicide bomber (despite how stupid the term is), but in the end, a suicide bomber is just a suicide bomber. or a killer. or a terrorist - any act of violence against a civilian population on political purposes is terrorism. i mean, let's call a spade a spade. by sugar coating it, or by glorifying it, you end up accepting it. maybe i'm talking out of my ass, and maybe it's because i'm an athiest who believes that the only life there is, is the one on this Earth, which means it's the only life worth living, which means spending this life doing things to work for a better one in the afterlife, which may or may not exist, just seems like a waste of time to me. like masturbation. but hey, i live in canada, have a good job, and my family is all alive and healthy, and relatively free of attrocity. so i suppose my views are skewed to the benefits of living in a free and fair country that's got a buffer of two oceans to keep enemies at bay.

but still, i often wonder how different it would be if racists were called "ignorant fucks", or people with post traumatic stress disorder were called "shellshocked" or just simply "fucked in the head", or if we called a troubled kid, a "fuck-up". it's a wonder how bad things could be made to sound okay by just chosing words that are pleasing to the ear and inoffensive to the brain and heart. personally, i like terms like suicide bomber, like murderer, like psychopath, like deviant, like sick-fuck... i prefer them, because i think when you change the words to bad things just to make them inoffensive to people, you risk it becoming normalized and every-day. these horrible things should never be normalized. it should shock you, it should make you feel uncomfortable just by hearing it, because it's a bad thing.

so let me hear about suicide bombers, about massacres, and about blood baths. just don't sugar-coat it, don't glorify it. give me the real thing, precicely because it makes me sick and scares the shit out of me.


the streets

the streets is really just one man from the u.k., mike skinner, who basically tries to add a degree of social commentary to britain's whole garage movement. i wouldn't call it singing, i wouldn't even call it rapping. a lot of the music really just seems to be skinner's take on things from everything like relationships to drugs to getting into fights. and all this, overlaid on top of some pretty simple beats. picture a soliloquy only with beats.

skinner has two albums out, original pirate material and a grand don't come for free. both albums are amazing, with the latter one being quite the masterpiece. he's got a third one coming out this month, called the hardest way to make an easy living. i don't know how well the music and skinner's lyrics translate to the north american audience, because i really do think you had to have experienced at least a sample of the kind of night life and street culture that goes on in europe to really get the music. there's something about the basic, european street life that just doesn't compare with anything else. of course, i don't have tonnes of experience in this, but i've had my share to at least understand and feel a glimpse of what skinner rambles on about.

at any rate, below is a video of the streets' blinded by the lights. the video is just awesome.

running dry

the palestinian authority, led by hamas, has now officially gone broke, having missed the april 1st payroll. this leaves thousands of palestinian public service workers without pay. usually, the palestinian authority would recieve about 1.1 billion dollars a year in foreign aid. money, which is now cut off due to hamas' refusal to give up violence and recognize israel. canada and the united states have already severed ties with the new government, and the european union is set to review their aid policy to the government soon. israel has already frozen tax money it normally collects on behalf of the palestinians. the palestinian authority is still waiting on about $93 million from saudi arabia, kuwait and the united arab emirates, which they're hoping to use to pay off their public service workers by the middle of the month. the problem is, how long can they last going on this route, especially with 44 percent of palestinian people living under the poverty line?

the problem with aid, for the most part, is that no aid is free. just ask all the south american countries under the foot of the world bank and the international monetary fund. in hamas' case, they cannot hope to run a government with a platform that basically endorses violence against israel. that is state sanctioned violence, and let's face it, terrorism. (most of the victims of suicide bombing tend to be civilians, which makes it terrorism.) as much sympathy as i have for the palestinian people and what they've gone through, i don't really feel too bad about foreign aid being pulled until hamas renounces violence. hamas has to understand that the shortest rout to peace is non-violence. really it is. the palestinian people have to ask themselves, are their lives better off today then before? clearly violence isn't working. the same goes for the israeli people. the problem is that it's hard to think straight when you're seeing your friends blown up by suicide bombers or you watch your family home be demolished by israeli tanks. so i empathyse. but i don't have to agree, and i certainly don't have to have my tax money going to support a government that basically commits state sanctioned violence.
the palestinians that voted for hamas had to have known what they were getting into, or if they didn't, they are now paying for their naievity. the problem with democracy is that as a voter, you are somewhat accountable to the actions of the government you voted into office. if the government you voted in does wrong, or intends to do wrong, it is your responsibility as a voter to hold the government accountable (or at least punish them in the next election). if you don't do anything, or even go so far as to re-elect the criminal or corrupt government, then you must bare some of that responsibility. (*cough* *cough* bush! *cough* *cough* iraq war! *cough* *cough* illegal wire taps! *cough* *cough*)


a history of violence

Why don't you ask "Tom" about his older brother Ritchie, ask "Tom" how he tried to rip my eye out with barbed wire, and ask him, Edie, how come he's so good at killing people.

- a history of violence.

let me just preface this whole thing by saying that i'm not the biggest david cronenberg fan. i could never bother to sit through naked lunch, i was bored by crash, and i thought existenz was a waste of time, so much so i never bothered to finish the other half of the movie. now comes a history of violence.

the movie is about a man named tom stall (viggo mortensen) who is living the american dream. he has a wife, two kids, a home, and a flourishing family restaurant. then one day two psychopaths walk into his diner, looking to rob the place, and long story short, he kills them both. he becomes the local hero, with his face plastered all over the local news. tom appears to be a very reluctant hero, who just wants to get back to his normal life. then comes carl fogarty (ed harris) who believes he knows tom. he comes into town, intent on revenge, for what he believes tom did to him years ago, when he was known as "joey." the rest of the movie is pretty much about how tom deals with his past as it comes back to haunt him, as well as how his family could possibly move on.

i really didn't care for the movie. i mean, i understand it; i understand what cronenberg is trying to do, about how people generally feel this perverse desire at seeing a bad person get what they deserve, such as the scene where tom's son is getting bullied at school to the point where he finally lets lose and puts the bully in the hospital. the problem for me was that the whole time, i kept wondering when the violence was going to happen, and when it did, i just shrugged. maybe that's what cronenberg was also trying to do. show us what violence does to people, not only the characters in the movie, but us, the viewing public as well. but i think that's giving him too much credit.

i felt the writing took an odd turn near the end with william hurt's character, who just hits all the wrong notes and almost seems like he's in the wrong movie. throughout the whole movie, there is a seriousness to it, and then hurt's character shows up and he's got lines that belong more to a tarantino movie, as well as some silly slapstick at the end which, while funny, left me wondering if somehow i was watching another movie. ed harris came across as very sinister, setting the tone for the whole movie which was lost with william hurt's comical performance. but really, by then, i had already lost interest. i'm sure the graphic novel of which this is based on is better.

i still think the best piece of work that cronenberg ever did was to get speared in the back by jason in friday 13th part 10: jason x.

jason x, by the way, is the one where jason goes into outer space about five hundred years in the future. just in case you wanted to know.