30.5.06

entourage



a lifestyle is a terrible thing to waste

- entourage

entourage is the brainchild of doug ellin, and it is loosely based on the hollywood life of mark walberg. at its heart, entourage is a show about an up and coming hollywood star, vincent chase (adrian grenier) and his friends essentially trying to live and enjoy the hollywood lifestyle. there's eric (kevin connelly), his best friend and default manager, turtle (jerry ferrara), who is always looking for ways to benefit from vincent's fame, and johnny "drama" chase (kevin dillon), vincent's much older half-brother. vincent relies on his friends to help him watch his back, while his friends rely on him to get women, money, and generally enjoy the perks of being famous without really having to do anything. the great part about the show is that while his friends are benefiting from being around him, they genuinely do care a great deal about vincent.

entourage is basically like sex in the city, but for guys. it has the requisite airbrushed, hard-body women, the fancy cars, the big hollywood parties with the famous guest stars. but what entourage has, besides the fashion and the glitz, is this great friendship between these four guys who stuck together before coming to hollywood, and who still stick together, relying on each other for support and friendship.

the first and second seasons are already out on dvd, and the third season is coming out on hbo on june 11th. the first season focused primarily on vincent's buzz as the "it boy," while the second season focused on vincent's immenent rise to stardom as he tries to clinch the lead role in the new aquaman superhero movie that is being directed by james cameron.

the real prize in entourage is ubber-agent, ari gold played by jeremy piven, who is really amazing in the role. he plays a fast talking, hard-balling hollywood agent who has pockets of immorality to go with his giant ego.

entourage is never short on celebrities and name dropping, and the show really does imitate life. (kevin connelly who plays eric, is actually a part of a real entourage. he is dating nicky hilton, and he's best friends with tobey maguire and leonardo dicaprio).

bottom line, entourage has some of the best writing on television going for it right now. the characters are so incredibly well fleshed out, and the acting is great, which helps to bring the characters together to make it seem like they'd been friends since childhood.

below is a couple of clips. the first is of eric hooking up with a model. the second clip is of ari at a marriage counceling session with his wife when he finds out that james cameron is directing aquaman.




15.5.06

cooler than the millions: excerpt

so, i have finally started to write some substantial stuff for my next book, cooler than the millions. this piece is basically the first thing i've written in about four months. (bear in mind that i haven't edited any of this. this is all just first impressions):

- - -

To be free. It’s as much a state of love and trust as anything ever was. Sean stares out the window of the cab as she’s propelled through the larger-than-life metal cage of the bridge. She can hear the repeated thumping of the taxi’s rubber tires hitting each metal ridge of the bridge. Window down in the back seat, Sean feels the cool breeze hit her skin. Too young to die, too old to de-evolve, too smart to fantasize, too tired to digress, Sean sits back in her chair and watches the sun sparkle off the water’s malleable skin that rolls and stretches and comes back together again. The cab driver glances up at her image in the rearview mirror ever once in a while. Eyes darting from her to the road. Like schizo. Only less dramatic and more curious. She watches the faces passing by the other way, in and out of her life just like that. Faces, one of a kind, never to be seen again. And it’s all she can do but think about flight. The word flight, every syllable, every letter. To be free. And it’s then that she catches the driver’s eye. And he says something to her in his thick, indiscernible accent. At first she doesn’t respond. He repeats it. Echoes.

- What? Excuse me?

- Where are you?

- I don’t…

- Where are you go? Where are you?

- Oh. You mean, where do I want to go?

- Yes. Where are you?

- Anywhere from here, mister.



She checks her phone and puts it on silent mode before plopping it back into her purse. Norm sits across the table from her, his sunglasses glued to his face. He puts his beer down and asks her who it was and Sean just shrugs. She pokes at her salad with her fork. When he asks again, Sean groans.

- What? It’s rude to answer the phone at a restaurant. So all of a sudden I’m getting demerits for having manners? It’s not like my phone is necessary.

- Okay, don’t spazz out. I was just curious. Don’t kill the cat.

- It was John. Again.

- And you didn’t want to answer it?

- He’s like a puppy.

- So tell me what it’s like where you are.

- What do you mean?

- To be in a place where there’s someone who loves you so fully and completely.

- God!

- You don’t like it?

- I never asked for it.

- People die for it.

- Fuck off, Norm. I never asked for it. I never asked for it.

- How’d you meet him anyway?

- I woke up in his bed.

-

- God, it’s not like that. We didn’t do anything.

- Uh-huh.

- I honestly don’t know how I got there.

Norm smirks and brings his beer to his mouth. When Sean asks him why they couldn’t go sit out on the porch, he says,

- You know I have sensitive skin, baby.

- Still… the sun is good for you. You look pale.

- White is the new black. Take a good look, cause a hundred years from now, we’ll all be canola oil. They’ll be bottling this shit.

- Do you mind if we stop at the mall? I want to get the new Death Cab CD.

- Sure. Whatever.

He looks out the window and absently starts gnawing on the back of his fist. Sean sighs and stabs some more salad before putting the utensil down. She drinks some water and Norm waves at a waiter for the bill and then mentions to her something about how she shouldn’t dress so conservatively.

- You look like a fucking debutant.

Sean unbuttons the top few buttons of her blouse and glares at him.

13.5.06

the 1 second film

the 1 second film is a short film comprised of 24 frames of artwork in one second of film. then, there is a 90 minute long list of credits of all those who helped make the film come to life, as well as a making-of documentary. this is ubsurd, of course, but awesome. you can actually become an associate producer of the movie if you send them $1. you'll get your name in the credits and everything. this is basically, the most elaborate get-rich-quick scam in the world, or the best idea ever.

all kidding aside, proceeds go to the global fund for women. once they add your name to the list of producers, you can then get your name up on imdb.com, which is swell.

i've already put my $1 in, so i'll get to see my name up on the big screen finally! my 2 minute life-long goal will be realized! i also asked them to add my publishing company, conquered nation press to it as a weblink, which will be cool.

below is a short clip of the film's creators hitting up celebrities for $1 donations.


11.5.06

itmfa = impeach the motherfucker already!

The Case for Impeachment

Why we can no longer afford George W. Bush

Posted on Monday, February 27, 2006. An excerpt from an essay in the March 2006 Harper's Magazine. By Lewis H. Lapham.

A country is not only what it does—it is also what it puts up with, what it tolerates. —Kurt Tucholsky

On December 18 of last year, Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D., Mich.) introduced into the House of Representatives a resolution inviting it to form “a select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment.” Although buttressed two days previously by the news of the National Security Agency's illegal surveillance of the American citizenry, the request attracted little or no attention in the press—nothing on television or in the major papers, some scattered applause from the left-wing blogs, heavy sarcasm on the websites flying the flags of the militant right. The nearly complete silence raised the question as to what it was the congressman had in mind, and to whom did he think he was speaking? In time of war few propositions would seem as futile as the attempt to impeach a president whose political party controls the Congress; as the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee stationed on Capitol Hill for the last forty years, Representative Conyers presumably knew that to expect the Republican caucus in the House to take note of his invitation, much less arm it with the power of subpoena, was to expect a miracle of democratic transformation and rebirth not unlike the one looked for by President Bush under the prayer rugs in Baghdad. Unless the congressman intended some sort of symbolic gesture, self-serving and harmless, what did he hope to prove or to gain? He answered the question in early January, on the phone from Detroit during the congressional winter recess.

“To take away the excuse,” he said, “that we didn't know.” So that two or four or ten years from now, if somebody should ask, “Where were you, Conyers, and where was the United States Congress?” when the Bush Administration declared the Constitution inoperative and revoked the license of parliamentary government, none of the company now present can plead ignorance or temporary insanity, can say that “somehow it escaped our notice” that the President was setting himself up as a supreme leader exempt from the rule of law.

A reason with which it was hard to argue but one that didn't account for the congressman's impatience. Why not wait for a showing of supportive public opinion, delay the motion to impeach until after next November's elections? Assuming that further investigation of the President's addiction to the uses of domestic espionage finds him nullifying the Fourth Amendment rights of a large number of his fellow Americans, the Democrats possibly could come up with enough votes, their own and a quorum of disenchanted Republicans, to send the man home to Texas. Conyers said:

“I don't think enough people know how much damage this administration can do to their civil liberties in a very short time. What would you have me do? Grumble and complain? Make cynical jokes? Throw up my hands and say that under the circumstances nothing can be done? At least I can muster the facts, establish a record, tell the story that ought to be front-page news.”

Which turned out to be the purpose of his House Resolution 635—not a high-minded tilting at windmills but the production of a report, 182 pages, 1,022 footnotes, assembled by Conyers's staff during the six months prior to its presentation to Congress, that describes the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq as the perpetration of a crime against the American people. It is a fair description. Drawing on evidence furnished over the last four years by a sizable crowd of credible witnesses—government officials both extant and former, journalists, military officers, politicians, diplomats domestic and foreign—the authors of the report find a conspiracy to commit fraud, the administration talking out of all sides of its lying mouth, secretly planning a frivolous and unnecessary war while at the same time pretending in its public statements that nothing was further from the truth.[1] The result has proved tragic, but on reading through the report's corroborating testimony I sometimes could counter its inducements to mute rage with the thought that if the would-be lords of the flies weren't in the business of killing people, they would be seen as a troupe of off-Broadway comedians in a third-rate theater of the absurd. Entitled “The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War,” the Conyers report examines the administration's chronic abuse of power from more angles than can be explored within the compass of a single essay. The nature of the administration's criminal DNA and modus operandi, however, shows up in a usefully robust specimen of its characteristic dishonesty.

* * *

That President George W. Bush comes to power with the intention of invading Iraq is a fact not open to dispute. Pleased with the image of himself as a military hero, and having spoken, more than once, about seeking revenge on Saddam Hussein for the tyrant's alleged attempt to “kill my Dad,” he appoints to high office in his administration a cadre of warrior intellectuals, chief among them Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, known to be eager for the glories of imperial conquest.[2] At the first meeting of the new National Security Council on January 30, 2001, most of the people in the room discuss the possibility of preemptive blitzkrieg against Baghdad.[3] In March the Pentagon circulates a document entitled “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oil Field Contracts”; the supporting maps indicate the properties of interest to various European governments and American corporations. Six months later, early in the afternoon of September 11, the smoke still rising from the Pentagon's western facade, Secretary Rumsfeld tells his staff to fetch intelligence briefings (the “best info fast...go massive; sweep it all up; things related and not”) that will justify an attack on Iraq. By chance the next day in the White House basement, Richard A. Clarke, national coordinator for security and counterterrorism, encounters President Bush, who tells him to “see if Saddam did this.” Nine days later, at a private dinner upstairs in the White House, the President informs his guest, the British prime minister, Tony Blair, that “when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq.”

By November 13, 2001, the Taliban have been rousted out of Kabul in Afghanistan, but our intelligence agencies have yet to discover proofs of Saddam Hussein's acquaintance with Al Qaeda.[4] President Bush isn't convinced. On November 21, at the end of a National Security Council meeting, he says to Secretary Rumsfeld, “What have you got in terms of plans for Iraq?...I want you to get on it. I want you to keep it secret.”

The Conyers report doesn't return to the President's focus on Iraq until March 2002, when it finds him peering into the office of Condoleezza Rice, the national security advisor, to say, “Fuck Saddam. We're taking him out.” At a Senate Republican Policy lunch that same month on Capitol Hill, Vice President Dick Cheney informs the assembled company that it is no longer a question of if the United States will attack Iraq, it's only a question of when. The vice president doesn't bring up the question of why, the answer to which is a work in progress. By now the administration knows, or at least has reason to know, that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, that Iraq doesn't possess weapons of mass destruction sufficiently ominous to warrant concern, that the regime destined to be changed poses no imminent threat, certainly not to the United States, probably not to any country defended by more than four batteries of light artillery. Such at least is the conclusion of the British intelligence agencies that can find no credible evidence to support the theory of Saddam's connection to Al Qaeda or international terrorism; “even the best survey of WMD programs will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile and CW/BW weapons fronts...” A series of notes and memoranda passing back and forth between the British Cabinet Office in London and its correspondents in Washington during the spring and summer of 2002 address the problem of inventing a pretext for a war so fondly desired by the Bush Administration that Sir Richard Dearlove, head of Britain's MI-6, finds the interested parties in Washington fixing “the intelligence and the facts...around the policy.” The American enthusiasm for regime change, “undimmed” in the mind of Condoleezza Rice, presents complications.

Although Blair has told Bush, probably in the autumn of 2001, that Britain will join the American military putsch in Iraq, he needs “legal justification” for the maneuver—something noble and inspiring to say to Parliament and the British public. No justification “currently exists.” Neither Britain nor the United States is being attacked by Iraq, which eliminates the excuse of self-defense; nor is the Iraqi government currently sponsoring a program of genocide. Which leaves as the only option the “wrong-footing” of Saddam. If under the auspices of the United Nations he can be presented with an ultimatum requiring him to show that Iraq possesses weapons that don't exist, his refusal to comply can be taken as proof that he does, in fact, possess such weapons.[5]

Over the next few months, while the British government continues to look for ways to “wrong-foot” Saddam and suborn the U.N., various operatives loyal to Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld bend to the task of fixing the facts, distributing alms to dubious Iraqi informants in return for map coordinates of Saddam's monstrous weapons, proofs of stored poisons, of mobile chemical laboratories, of unmanned vehicles capable of bringing missiles to Jerusalem.[6]

By early August the Bush Administration has sufficient confidence in its doomsday story to sell it to the American public. Instructed to come up with awesome text and shocking images, the White House Iraq Group hits upon the phrase “mushroom cloud” and prepares a White Paper describing the “grave and gathering danger” posed by Iraq's nuclear arsenal.[7] The objective is three-fold—to magnify the fear of Saddam Hussein, to present President Bush as the Christian savior of the American people, a man of conscience who never in life would lead the country into an unjust war, and to provide a platform of star-spangled patriotism for Republican candidates in the November congressional elections.[8]

* * *

The Conyers report doesn't lack for further instances of the administration's misconduct, all of them noted in the press over the last three years—misuse of government funds, violation of the Geneva Conventions, holding without trial and subjecting to torture individuals arbitrarily designated as “enemy combatants,” etc.—but conspiracy to commit fraud would seem reason enough to warrant the President's impeachment. Before reading the report, I wouldn't have expected to find myself thinking that such a course of action was either likely or possible; after reading the report, I don't know why we would run the risk of not impeaching the man. We have before us in the White House a thief who steals the country's good name and reputation for his private interest and personal use; a liar who seeks to instill in the American people a state of fear; a televangelist who engages the United States in a never-ending crusade against all the world's evil, a wastrel who squanders a vast sum of the nation's wealth on what turns out to be a recruiting drive certain to multiply the host of our enemies. In a word, a criminal—known to be armed and shown to be dangerous. Under the three-strike rule available to the courts in California, judges sentence people to life in jail for having stolen from Wal-Mart a set of golf clubs or a child's tricycle. Who then calls strikes on President Bush, and how many more does he get before being sent down on waivers to one of the Texas Prison Leagues?

* * *

The above is a brief excerpt from the complete essay, available in the March 2006 issue of Harper's Magazine.
Notes

1. The report borrows from hundreds of open sources that have become a matter of public record—newspaper accounts, television broadcasts (Frontline, Meet the Press, Larry King Live, 60 Minutes, etc.), magazine articles (in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The New York Review of Books), sworn testimony in both the Senate and House of Representatives, books written by, among others, Bob Woodward, George Packer, Richard A. Clarke, James Mann, Mark Danner, Seymour Hersh, David Corn, James Bamford, Hans Blix, James Risen, Ron Suskind, Joseph Wilson. As the congressman had said, “Everything in plain sight; it isn't as if we don't know.”

2. In January of 1998 the neoconservative Washington think tank The Project for the New American Century (which counts among its founding members Dick Cheney) sent a letter to Bill Clinton demanding “the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power” with a strong-minded “willingness to undertake military action.” Together with Rumsfeld, six of the other seventeen signatories became members of the Bush's first administration—Elliott Abrams (now George W. Bush's deputy national security advisor), Richard Armitage (deputy secretary of state from 2001 to 2005), John Bolton (now U.S. ambassador to the U.N.), Richard Perle (chairman of the Defense Policy Board from 2001 to 2003), Paul Wolfowitz (deputy secretary of defense from 2001 to 2005), Robert Zoellick (now deputy secretary of state). President Clinton responded to the request by signing the Iraq Liberation Act, for which Congress appropriated $97 million for various clandestine operations inside the borders of Iraq. Two years later, in September 2000, The Project for the New American Century issued a document noting that the “unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification” for the presence of the substantial American force in the Persian Gulf.

3. In a subsequent interview on 60 Minutes, Paul O'Neill, present in the meeting as the newly appointed secretary of the treasury, remembered being surprised by the degree of certainty: “From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go.... It was all about finding a way to do it.”

4. As early as September 20, Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, drafted a memo suggesting that in retaliation for the September 11 attacks the United States should consider hitting terrorists outside the Middle East in the initial offensive, or perhaps deliberately selecting a non-Al Qaeda target like Iraq.

5. Abstracts of the notes and memoranda, known collectively as “The Downing Street Minutes,” were published in the Sunday Times (London) in May 2005; their authenticity was undisputed by the British government.

6. The work didn't go unnoticed by people in the CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department accustomed to making distinctions between a well-dressed rumor and a naked lie. In the spring of 2004, talking to a reporter from Vanity Fair, Greg Thielmann, the State Department officer responsible for assessing the threats of nuclear proliferation, said, “The American public was seriously misled. The Administration twisted, distorted and simplified intelligence in a way that led Americans to seriously misunderstand the nature of the Iraq threat. I'm not sure I can think of a worse act against the people in a democracy than a President distorting critical classified information.”

7. The Group counted among its copywriters Karl Rove, senior political strategist, Andrew Card, White House chief of staff, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff.

8. Card later told the New York Times that “from a marketing point of view...you don't introduce new products in August.”

This is The Case for Impeachment by Lewis H. Lapham, published Monday, February 27, 2006. It is part of Features, which is part of Harpers.org.

(source)

9.5.06

prostitution

something i read on saba's site, bahrain and beyond, about north korean sex slaves allowing refuge in the united states got me thinking about prostitution in general.
prostitution is the pariah of society. really, the hours are lousy, the clientel can be disgusting, and there is no dental coverage. all kidding aside, prostitution is a social issue that will not go away, despite the most righteous attempts by religious crusaders. prostitution has been around since, well, forever. i'm betting there was a caveperson somewhere who was willing to trade a little nookie for berries or animal skins or fire. let's face it, there will always be prostitutes, because there will always be johns. what we can prevent, however, is the unnecessary violence and abuse garnered against the women (and sometimes men) who work in the prostitution industry.
the robert pickton case is a prime example of what prostitutes face. robert pickton is accused of being canada's worst serial killer, and is currently on trial facing 27 counts of murder. most of his alleged victims were sex trade workers or missing women who are suspected of having worked in the sex industry. there are accusations against the police, claiming that they ignored key evidence and basically just didn't care enough to find out who was preying on these women, allowing the killer to hunt freely for years. it it had been 27 middleclass white women, guaranteed the killer would have been caught sooner.
no one cares about prostitutes. at least the majority of society doesn't really seem to so long as prostitutes don't work in their neighborhoods. i have always felt that prostitution should be legalized, because it is never going to go away. the only thing holding back the legalization of prostitution is our own moral stance towards it. is prostitution bad? yes. but can it be made into something better? yes.

by legalizing prostitution, you can do it so that the workers are set to work in designated brothels in specific parts of town (away from residences, schools, etc). you can have them regularly checked for sexually transmitted diseases, they can earn a bi-weekly paycheck that gets taxed, which gives them the benefit of paying into the system, thereby becoming a productive member of society and eligible for all the health benefits our struggling universal health care system will allow. on top of this, the government can then apply extra taxes to johns, like a "sin" tax, sort of like on cigarrettes and alcohol, and thus make a profit from it. The police then can focus on the illegal prostitution and the under-aged prostitution. prostitution can then be safer and cleaner and in the end, it would end up as just another profession that you would discourage your kids from going into, like stripping or porn.

to sum up, you can make sure the prostitutes are protected, you can track std's and drug use, you can tax them and they can contribute to society, and the government can take something off the top like any good pimp.

of course, there are major problems still. such as how do you limit sizes of brothels, is there an interview process for prostitutes or do you just accept anyone that wants to, or how do we deal with the bigger problem of people resorting to prostitution out of problems within their homes and families... and i know the registration of workers and monthly health checkups reaks of government interference into women's bodies... i haven't thought this through at all. that's for the policy makers. maybe legalization is completely the wrong way to go. maybe increased funding into family programs and rehabilitation centers for prostitutes to help them get back on their feet is the answer. i don't know, i guess legalization of prostitution seems so orwellian and controversial, which makes it fun to ponder. still, something has to be done to protect these people. it's just a thought.
UPDATE: an alberta man has been charged with the death of a sex-trade worker. police have been investigating a series of killings in the edmonton area. they believe it may be the work of a serial killer. well! looks like perhaps the police are actually starting to care.

8.5.06

the mechanics of writing, part 3

here is the third entry to my "mechanics of writing" series. the first two can be found here and here.
i am always surprised at how much personal experience tends to shape the way a novel comes out. i know i shouldn't be surprised by now, considering i'm now working on my 6th novel, cooler than the millions. but it is always pleasantly surprising how you start out with an idea, you start to plot out the book, but when the writing starts, it really is pretty much up in the air as to how the book will turn out.

i find that things that happen to me while i'm writing the book really impacts the writing in an almost real-time sort of way. meaning, if i'm going through a rough period, the writing tends to be more fractured and vicious. but if i'm going to a relatively bright period, the writing tends to reflect that also. and i know some writers try to fight that sort of thing, because really, that could mess up the whole novel, but i for one don't - to a point. i usually feed off whatever emotions i'm feeling at the time. yes, sometimes the writing comes out all disjointed and doesn' t make emotional sense from one page to the next, sometimes within the same sentance, but that's what editing is for afterwards.

the other effect real-time personal events have on my writing is to really effect the mood and plot of the book. i find the better i feel, the more light hearted the writing is, including deciding on the ending. happier endings are always more appealing to me when i'm happy then when i'm miserable or angry. i also find myself entering in plot elements that i would not have normally considered, depending on my mood. for example, if i've had a good week, the harsher plot elements get softened. it works the other way too though, and if i have had a shitty week, i will kill off a character. but that's the extreme side.

another major effect is on the characters. i usually start out with characters modelled after someone in my life. sometimes though, as i'm writing, a character may change from being based on one person, to someone completely different. for example, the character of sean, the only female character in cttm was originally based on an amalgamation of a couple female friends. however, i found the character changed dramatically during the last four or five months as a particular woman came into my life and subsequently drove me crazy. suddenly, sean is not the two-dimensional throw-away love interest (not that any of my friends are throw-away types by any means, but sean was meant to be a side character). instead, sean has morphed into the emotional center of the story, which drives the motivations of every other character in the book. and the amazing thing, is that cttm was supposed to be a cold, calculating, emotionless story. the changes happened so subtly over the last couple of weeks since i started to start writing novels again.

the danger you face when you let current life events effect your writing so dramatically, is that you run the risk of having the story run away from you, to develop into something you never intended. sometimes this is a good thing, and can produce something wonderful, but other times you might find that you totally fucked it up. you might have a situation where the book, emotionally, is sporadic and spastic and really doesn't make much sense in the whole scheme of things.

i have been taking a different method this time around, because of the fact that the book seems like it is running away from me. i have been taking aims to go back and re-edit portions of the book as i write. this means that half a page takes me a whole day to write now, instead of just letting it flow like my previous works. something like desert sessions and this is hardcore were both written as almost long streams of thought. this definitely showed in the style of writing, especially in tih where dense, block prose would flow from one scene to the next seemingly, sometimes in mid sentance.

with cttm, i am taking a very control approach to the writing, double checking every single word i write, because while these spontaneous changes are nice, i do want to execute a very precice piece of writing with a precice message, because my other books have sort of been all over the place in terms of themes and ideas and messages. i also want to portray a specifc emotion to the book. the first half of cttm i've tentatively labeled as "blue" while the second half is labeled as "red." pretention aside, this just means the first half the book will be emotionally cool and almost stunted, cold... while the latter half will be nothing but emotion and drama.

the bottom line, i suppose, is to embrace spontaneity, to allow your life to influence the writing, but up to a certain point. if you want to write a book where the message is sound and the emotions consistent, edit, edit, edit and then edit some more. but if you want to write something that is more of a stream of thought, a sort of grab bag of emotions, then doing less editing is the way to go, because when you edit, i find you tend to second guess. and i'm not saying a book written in the latter style wouldn't be great; far from it. i'm just saying that there is value to running with emotions, but also keeping some control when writing anything.

5.5.06

journalism - death to the press

74 journalists have been killed in iraq since 2003, according to freedom forum, a nonpartisan foundation dedicated to freedom of the press. this is more than than the numbers of journalists that have died in vietnam or world war 2.

i really don't know why this is such a surprise to anybody. iraq is a completely different type of war where you're dealing with a different type of enemy that has different motives. this isn't the viet cong or the nazis or the japanese. we're not talking about establishing an arian nation or even the freedom of a country. sure, there are insurgents that are fighting for what they percieve to be the liberation of iraq from a hostile united states army, but this insurgency isn't united under one big happy family of freedom fighters. there are scores of independent mercenaries that are taking advantage of the disorder to make money. hence, all the kidnappings and hostage takings.

but of course it's not all about money. it's also about, probably more so, politics in general. you have a situation where there is total, all-out assymetrical guerilla warfare. yes, there was guerilla warefare in vietnam, but the vc weren't targeting reporters to hold for ransom, whether it was the expulsion of american troops or simple cash. many of the insurgents in iraq know they can't defeat the u.s. army head on, so they go for weak points. parts where they can exploit to their advantage. that's a huge part of what assymetrical warefare is about. when you're opponent has all the technology, you have to find a means to beat them a different way. the vc did it through guerilla warefare. the insurgents are also doing that, but they've also incorporated fear as a weapon. by targeting civilians, by targeting aid workers, by targeting reporters... they kidnap these people, hold them for ransom, and when the ransom isn't met, more often then not, they kill them. and they will continue to do so until enough fear and doubt is placed in the hearts and minds of the people living at home who's governments are the ones involved with what is, basically, a military occupation.

the insurgent are smart; they know their enemy. they know that these western democratic governments have to face regular elections, and they know that eventually, popular support will erode as time goes on and as enough deaths pile up, whether they are soldier deaths or civilian deaths. they also know that in the 21st century, a war can be won or lost through television and the internet, by weighing on public opinion. they broadcast their kidnappings and beheadings, they take every opportunity to take claim for attacks, because they know people are watching them. they know the average joe is sitting in his home, watching the nightly knews and hearing of all the slaughter thinking, "these are the people we're supposed to help?"

the insurgents have been fighting for a very, very long time in one battle or another; it's almost a way of life for them. some of them were fighting against the iranians, some against the kurds, some against the united states in the gulf war... some may have faught in all of them. they're fierce, determined, politically set with their god on their side. it's too bad we don't know enough about our enemies.


i suppose a lesser reason for the increase in journalist deaths is the willingness of journalists to put themselves on the line for the story, or the truth. they know the situation they're in, yet they continue to do their jobs at risk of life and limb. or, perhaps, it's just a simple matter of numbers. maybe there are more journalists in iraq than there were in vietnam and world war 2. maybe just by the numbers, it may seem high, but in terms of percentages of alive to dead journalists, it might be more even. but i feel bad talking about these reporters, or anyone for that matter, as just a number. sometimes statistics can be a gruesome job if you think too much about it.

(source)

peace mom visits canada


"I'm just here begging the people of Canada to force your government, because your government works for you … because your government does not work for war profiteers, to allow our soldiers to have sanctuary up here."

- cindy sheehan.

cindy sheehan, american anti-war activist, wants the canadian government to grant sanctuary to u.s. military deserters:

sheehan, who's son die in iraq just five days after serving in 2004, wants the federal government to create a provision that allows for american military deserters to flee to canada without having to apply for refugee status on an individual basis. before he left for war, her son had told her he disagreed with the war. she says the u.s. government lied to soldiers by telling them they wouldn't be forced to participate in war if they signed up.

so far, two military deserters, jeremy hunzman and brandon hughey, were died refugee status in canada in 2004. they tried to argue that the occupation of iraq violates international human rights and is illegal. hunzman's case is under review by the federal court. there are currently 20 active refugee claims by american military deserters, with about 150 known deserters living in canada, with numbers as high as 1,500.

i personally don't have a problem with soldiers deserting to canada, because in this case, the u.s. government lied. they lied to their soldiers, they lied to their parents, and they lied to the american people when they made their false claims of weapons of mass destruction (remember those? it wasn't human rights or the freedom of the iraqi people that they were arguing for. they only took those up as reasons when they failed to find the wmd's that the united nations inspectors had said didn't exist in the first place.)

however, i think these claims will lose in court. 1) the fact that the war violates international human rights and is illegal have yet to be proven in court. in the court of public opinion, the whole world believes the war is wrong except for the 51 perent of voters that turned out to vote for george w. bush, but the world also thinks michael jackson is a pedaphile. just because we think it, and that it is probably true, doesn't make it so in the courts. opinion is not cause enough for conviction, and in the case of the courts, they are not in the business of making precedent or changing history. precedence has to have already been set in most cases, which makes it some sort of bizarre legal logic that only really makes sense if you're a lawyer. or if you own all seasons of law & order on dvd.

2) military laws don't allow for dodging of any kind. not draft dodging or deserting in the middle of a war. this goes for the u.s. military, as well as the canadian military, as well as any other military ever created by man. i have a feeling the canadian military brass isn't too impressed with these american deserters, even if the war is wrong. keeping the integrity of the military is incredibly important, and since a unified, strong military is the backbone to any sovereign nation, i have a feeling even the politicians for the most part don't really want to move on this. i hate to say it, but it needs to be said: a military is a military. it's unfortunate, but they have their own rules, and you can't ditch the military, especially when they're involved in a war. more specifically, a war they may lose.

like i said, i personally don't have any problems with their claims. i just wish the pressure wasn't placed on our government to allow deserters, but rather, on the government to blame, which is the bush administration. they sent american sons and daughters to fight and die in an unnecessary war built on false pretenses. impeach the bastards already.

(source)

darfur: success?

the world's worst humanitarian crisis has shed some light. well, it's a dim light, but at least there's a bit of hope for the resolution to all the violence and bloodshed.

the government of sudan and the main rebel force reached a peace agreement aimed at ending a three year civil war that has killed more than 180,000, and displaced millions. this conflict started in 2003 when rebels took up arms over what they saw as neglect by the arab-dominated central government. khartoum then used militias, drawn from arab tribes, to crush the rebellion. the result was a humanitarian catastrophe in darfur, where killing, looting, and rape were an every day occurance.

as part of the deal, khartoum has agreed to disarm the janjaweed arab militia, which has been accused of some of the worst crimes against humanity. we're not talking about the systematic rape campaigns launched against ethnic albanians during the kosovo war, but we are talking about rape being used as a weapon, to instil fear into the hearts of women. there is no other psychological weapon more powerful when it comes to rooting a population out of a territory. women, no matter what culture, are the heart of any community, because they represent the future. in the most basic terms, they can have babies. when the women leave, when communities start to move out, you start to loose your hold on the land, on your posessions, on any sort of hope of returning.

two of the three rebel groups rejected the deal, objecting to large portions of it, but the largest of the three is on side, and that's a good sign. sure, making deals is great and all, and it looks great on diplomatic paper, but the real test will come when the policies are put to the people. we'll see if the government disarms, we'll see if the rebels stop their attacks. we'll also see if the khartoum government finally follows through with acceptance of united nations troops into the region. in the past, they have said they'd only accept a u.n. presence if a peace deal was reached. well, one was reached, so it remains to be seen if the 7,000 strong african union force is replaced by a proper u.n. force with the appropriate mandate to not only monitor the application of the peace plan, but also stop any additional violence that may crop up.

the following is an old video i've posted before, but it sums up the darfur situation quite nicely.



(source)

4.5.06

census 2006

i just completed my first ever census. exciting. no, not really. the questions were pretty boring. i've filled out questionaires at the doctor's office that were more exciting. they didn't even ask me if i were religious or if i were gay. that's too bad. i wanted to lie. they asked me bizarre questions like if i ever was a farm operator and if i ever produced an agricultural product. the best question was at the end of the census when they asked for permission to release the information i just provided to them 92 years from the date of this 2006 census. at first i was against it, but then i realized, 92 years later, i'll be dust and ash so really, what do i care?

seriously though, i answered the questions truthfully. i feel like such a good canadian citizen. i guess i'm a typical canadian that way: i get excited over being law biding.

3.5.06

promos

more pearl jam. you can't have too much.

here's a promo video which includes interviews and clips from four different songs off the new album. the second video is of the band playing life wasted in its entirety.

damn that mr. mccreedy can really dish out a lick, can't he?

quote of the day: "it feels like it's the end of the world and we've all got a good seat." - eddie



2.5.06

PEARL JAM! PEARL JAM! PEARL JAM!


pearl jam. this is the album i've been waiting for. this is the album they should have made three albums ago. it' short, it's raw, it's pretty darned near perfect. there is not one false move on this amazing album. from the searing guitar riffs of world wide suicide to the organs at the end of marker in the sand to the very who-like unemployable, to the tender come back, to finally the astounding, seven minute inside job which boasts a nice piano touch, probably the clearest and most soulful singing eddie has done in ages, and results in a complete homerun to end the album.

there is so much less wandering on this album than the two previous ones. it fits much better together as an album, with the fast, harsh first half and the slower, softer second half. it's like they had a better idea of where they wanted to be on this album. more focus.

finally! they rock out! sure, some of it might be a calling back to the good old days of vs and vitalogy, but the band is showing that they've matured so much, yet still remember where their roots are. this is also probably their most politicized album to date, which is exciting. rock music that has something to say. however, at this point in time, i must say that it is all about the music, the riffs, the energy. it's like these guys are ten years younger. leaner and meaner. can't wait to see these songs performed in concert.

my only beef with the album is the inside art design. i mean, wtf? there's a picture on the inside where there's a shot of severed heads in a pile. it's like somehow rammstein's promo shots got mixed in with pearl jam's cd print. but i'm fussing over nothing. pearl jam is the most track-to-track listenable album from the band since no code.

here's a clip of the band performing world wide suicide in studio. i don't know who's idea it was to splice the performance with images of some guy dancing with a ball, but there you have it. enjoy. then buy the damned album.

1.5.06

who's got balls?


stephen colbert has balls. here are some clips of him at the whitehouse correspondents' association dinner. he even compares bush to rocky. it takes a special kind of person to roast the president to his face.



click here for the second part.

click here for the finale.