iraq in fragments

iraq in fragments is a new documentary coming out that tells the story of present day iraq in three parts. part one, about a fatherless 11 year old child, part two is about sadr followers in two shiite cities trying to enforce islamic law at gun point, and part three follows a family of kurdish farmers who are grateful for the presence of the united states army.

director james longley spent two years filming in iraq to create this film about the war-torn country. what the film shows is iraq through the eyes of its three main ethno-religious groups - sunnis, shiites and kurds. this runs parallel to a lot of recent suggestions that iraq be split into three separate regions based along those ethno-religious lines. the basic concept would allow each section freedom to run its own affairs, with a central government that would take care of any common interests.

splitting iraq up like this is an interesting idea, but it poses some major problems. the first is that historically, whenever an outside power has re-drawn borders, especially ones along ethnic lines, it has usually resulted in violence and revolts, with the lines being adjusted according to victories and loses on the battleground. it may not happen right away, but eventually the groups just never seem to be satisfied living within the borders drawn for them. basically, whenever anyone tries to impose borders, it fails.

the other problem is the fact that when you segregate people by ethnic groups, it only helps to emphasize the differences, and marginalize the many similarities. it would be a step back rather than a step forward in terms of social development.

but some argue, who cares about social development? the primary goal is to stop the violence. you've basically got to learn how to walk before you can run. it is argued that these groups just can't live together, and the violence they're bringing down upon each other is already drawing those lines for us; they're already moving to this sort of solution, each to their own, so the argument is, why not get ahead of the curve for once?

whatever the solution is to iraq - or lack there of, this documentary seems intriguing and worth checking out.

here are some images and the trailer:


bill maher: he's back.

bill maher is back with yet another arresting season of real time with bill maher. the discussions are always interesting because you never get the exact same guests every time, and the topics are always the most current and interesting of political issues. i find the following clip particularly amusing, considering it is regarding religion in politics. the touch off is about a mormon politician, but maher is trying to encompass a broader discussion with regards to religion and rational thought as opposing forces. i don't think he frames the discussion very well, but it's an interesting discussion anyway. late night host craig ferguson is pretty funny in this.

i'm not always on the same page with maher, because sometimes i think he can be completely off the map, so much that sometimes i barely recognize if he's playing the same game as everyone else. but on religion he and i can agree: "they're all crazy." however, i don't have as negative a view of religion as he does, because i believe it can help some people. i mean really, whatever helps you get by.

on a related note: atheists are the least trusted to run for the presidency. (thanks to onegoodmove.org for posting this.) it's as if being an atheist means you're not trustworthy or somehow without morals, which is obviously not true. atheists are just people who have a different set of beliefs, like reason and logic and evolution instead of, let's say, resurrection from the dead or flying spaghetti monsters.


hello sunshine

sometimes the morning after can be a bitch. and sometimes, the morning after can be lucid. it's a bitch when you wake up with a crushing hangover, not realizing how exactly you got home. that's what happened to me this morning. it seems to be a regular occurrence. and as i lay there, the events of the night before came to light.

i remember the loud, obnoxious drunk guys, the hockey game on the television screen, the girls with way too much make up, trading free shots with the bartender who knows me pretty well by now, which is probably disturbing, and the brazilian girl i gave my number to before i left. it all comes back and for the first time in a while, although it was brief, my mind is uncluttered. yes, i have a blistering hangover, yes i may or may not still be drunk, but i am able to enjoy a moment of some semblance of peace, which is not something i've had in quite a while. this here is the lucid part.

i haven't written anything in over two weeks, which is a shame, because i'm so close to finishing the novel. the main problem is the constant barrage of thoughts that go through my head. i am always thinking. and believe it or not, it's not always about sex or food. it is just not possible to turn my brain off, as much as i'd love to do so. i can't seem to be able to manage any of these thoughts either; they just seem to come down like an avalanche, which doesn't help my writing.

maybe it's the fact that i just don't need to write anymore like i used to, but it doesn't seem to really matter anymore. in fact, most things don't matter to me anymore. but what i've been trying to do is get a sense of clarity. i wanted to clarify what everything meant to me. what vancouver means to me, what my friends mean to me, what my family means to me... but the truth is, those answers don't matter.

and so as i lay in bed, staring up at the white ceiling, i quickly came to a sense of calm and quiet and peace. it's the type of peace that would bring tears to your eyes. not to my eyes, of course. i don't cry. because, like, i'm a man. all tears aside, i know i've been a ghost as of late. as much as i love the city of vancouver, i must admit, the city tends to make ghosts of its citizens.

take for instance the brazilian girl at the bar last night. (i keep calling her the brazilian girl because, well, i actually don't remember her name.) it's rare when i see women drinking by themselves, especially attractive ones. she was very receptive and in the end, just wanted someone to talk to. she was lonely. i got that. she was pleasant and polite, guarded yet open. her loneliness was palpable and attractive, and it's a loneliness that i understand. the point is not to share thoughts or feel someone warm against you or swap body fluids. the point is to make sure that you're still alive. waking up and going to work: that's not living. that's merely existing. furniture exists.

this type of loneliness sort of gets filtered through all of my books, and it's not something that i can shake, no matter how badly i want to. at this point, it's sort of like a longtime friend. themes are important in a work of literature. and the themes that repeatedly crop up in my writing, besides loneliness, are politics, the city, and the desire for relevance.

at this point, i don't know if my new found clarity will translate into new writing. (blogging, by the way, is not writing. if it is, it's definitely the lowest form of it the way sarcasm is the lowest form of wit: it's just too easy.) i also don't know if this clarity will last. but as the song goes, for the moment, i am comfortably numb.


ghost plane

stephen grey is the author of 'ghost plane,' which is a revealing account on the secret world of cia prisons. grey claims that all around the world, prisons are being used for the interrogation and torture of terror suspects.

now, we know these prisons exist. george w. bush admitted to their existence last year. what is not being owned up to, are the tactics being used, the direct violation of a person's rights, which in this case, is torture. we are talking about electroshock, sleep deprivation, in some cases razor blades... not to mention the sheer terror of being abducted for seemingly no reason.

bush has defended the use of these prisons, as a necessary means in the war on terror. this is no surprise, considering bush is officially the torture president, having legalized the use of indefinite detainment. however, bush cannot take all the credit: bill clinton has his fair share of it, considering he's the one that brought these renditions about, albeit in smaller, lesser numbers.

what is rendition exactly? it is basically the secret abduction and transfer of suspects, usually without warning, on 'ghost planes' to foreign countries where these prisons exist. once there, the suspects are submitted to some of the most barbaric means of interrogation. methods, by the way, that haven't been proven to be effective. if you take an innocent man, and you beat him long enough, he'll tell you he's the fucking lindbergh baby just to make you stop.

maher arar, a canadian citizen, was a victim of such cases of "rendition," where he was whisked away to syria and tortured, only to be cleared of all charges afterwards. (the united states sill has arar on a no-fly list, claiming he is still a potential threat, even though arar has been proven innocent of all charges. this is no surprise, considering arar has a lawsuit against the united states government. to take him off the no-fly list, is to admit they were wrong).

what is equally disturbing is the fact that in order for the cia to pull this kind of stuff off, they need the co-operation of other sovereign countries. you need permission to have a secret prison on foreign soil, to be able to land the ghost planes, as well as relying on local authorities sometimes to capture the suspects. this includes, of all countries, canada. i suspect this is one of those "don't ask, don't tell" situations for the canadian government.

when facing disturbing issues such as torture, i still try to find a silver lining. in this case, it's the ghost planes themselves. these planes, funny enough, are luxury planes. private jets. i guess if you're going to be abducted against your will and flown to an undisclosed location where you will be submitted to physical and emotional degradation, you might as well fly first class.

here is a clip from the hour with the stephen grey:

and if you want, a previous blog i did about the loss of habeas corpus in the united states can be found here, called last castle.


road rules: viewer's revenge

you're just a fucking punk bitch! - abram, road rules.

okay, this has nothing to do with writing or politics, but i just love this show. i mentioned it briefly a couple posts back, but it's called road rules . it is the original challenge oriented realty show. cbs' suvivor is basically an amped up version of road rules. in the past, it was about getting together a group of strangers and shoving them into an rv, and sending them out on the road for a couple of months. they would do challenges every week, and if they lost two in a row, they would have to vote off a member of the team, which would then bring in a replacement. and off they'd go again.

well, there have been 13 seasons of the show, and after a near three year hiatus, they have brought it back and it's called road rules: viewer's revenge. but the rules have changed a bit. they have taken six road rules alumni this time. after every challenge, win or lose, the guys would vote one girl to go into the "pit" and the girls would vote one guy to go in with her.

the pit is essentially a battleground where voted alumni would battle newbies. there is a group of other kids on the "pit crew" who are waiting for their chance to get into the rv. the pit crew consists of all newcomers who have never been on the show. the viewing public will then vote for which alum member (guy or girl that was chosen to go to the pit). whoever gets the highest votes, will then face off with the same sex member of the pit crew that got the most votes. the two would battle it out in a challenge, and whoever wins, gets to go to the rv, and whoever loses, has to go to the pit crew and wait for their chance for the public to vote them back to the rv.

it's a bit complicated, but that's where the revamped version is at. basically, american idol sort of got this voting thing going and now it seems every show has to have it. it's really quite annoying. what sets road rules apart from the rest of the survivor-esque shows, is that it's about team work. it's about people growing together and working as a team, overcoming differences. there's less of a backstabbing aspect to it (although there is a fare share of it) and more of a team aspect, which is what i like about it. no one individual can win a challenge on their own: they need to work together. plus, it's one of the first challenge based reality show ever. it paved the way for shows like survivor and the amazing race.

the series has gone all over the world, with some interesting challenges, like bungee jumping over a live volcano, or learning to save one another down rapid waters, or driving dune buggies while blindfolded.

what else is interesting is how crazy things can get on the show. when you shove a group of people into a smelly rv for weeks on end, crazy shit is bound to happen. some people can't handle the pressure and they just go nuts, while others thrive off it.

the following is a recent clip from the latest episode. this is a spoiler, so don't watch if you don't want to know.here, abram is pissed off because the group decided that instead of backstabbing and voting people into the pit, they would go on a rotation basis, so eventually everyone has to go in. that seems fair. but for some reason, abram believes adam, the guy who volunteered himself, is going to screw him over somehow. just a little bit of history: abram was on a previous season where he got kicked off for losing his temper and fighting. well, it appears he hasn't learned anything and he goes at it again with adam. (abram is a psycho. i guess the only reason why the producers let him on the show for a second season is because of the drama it creates, which equals ratings). note: abram broke his hand punching adam's head.

and here's a preview clip of a future episode. the alumni are in a challenge against the pit crew. again, spoilerish. there's lots of vomit too, so if you're squeamish, don't watch.


american fascists

chris hedges, the pulitzer prize winning writer and author of american fascists stopped by the hour to discuss his latest release. the former new york times correspondent compares the u.s. christian right to 20th century fascism.

hedges, a son of a preacher, has a deep knowledge of the bible which he uses to openly blast the role of christianity in politics. to be fair, he is not targeting the religion or christians in general; more along the lines of a certain group that has twisted the message of the bible, and polluted it with american capitalism and imperialism. he lambastes creationism and the inherent intolerance of this fanatical breed of christianity that flies in the face of what seems to be all logic and reason and science, intellectual free thought, as well as simple genuine human compassion.

what makes his point of view so interesting is the fact that he is a believer, he is someone who is religious. he makes some very interesting points, like how many people who are victims of economic circumstances tend to fall prey to fascist tactics and ideas.

a very interesting interview all in all, and i must say, hedges doesn't pull any punches, nor does he even remotely try to mask or play down his obvious passion and anger regarding the issue. i have to say, that i can't blame him. the people that hedges targets in his book are attempting to enforce a one-sided, backwards, intolerant view of the world. this type of fanatical right wing ideology believes that christianity makes right the way might makes right. and that is infinitely disturbing.



road rules

i'm about 75% done writing giants. it has been interesting, to say the least. i've mined a lot of personal experiences and feelings for the book, and i have to say it is a bit draining. is it worthwhile? i don't know. i certainly hope it is.

as i have been going through the motions of finishing up giants, i have been looking back to some of the more pivotal moments and times in my life. one of those times was when i went over to europe because i basically had too much money and too much time on my hands. long story short, i ended up in a 1978 bedford rv with four other complete strangers (that sexy beast in the picture is the rv we travelled in). we had all answered an advertisement by the rv's owner to go on a four week road trip through europe. none of us knew each other before we left london. ever see the mtv challenge show, road rules? (i'm actually a huge fan of that show, and i'm glad that mtv brought it back after a two and a half year hiatus.) well, it was exactly like that, except no challenges, and a heck of a lot more drugs and drinking and nudity. no tv, no cell phone, no radio, nothing but the five of us and for some, rock bottom. the isolation of it was an intense experience. imagine my amusement when the first bit of television i see in weeks is arnold schwarzenegger winning the election!

and just who was this rogue group of travellers? you had the ladies man from new zealand who would disappear in the middle of the night only to return in the early morning still wearing the clothes from the night before, positively glowing from the previous night's sexual conquest. there's the little jewish girl who spoke three languages and knew so much of the world, yet had no national identity due to having moved around from australia to pretty much every western country in europe. then there's the free thinking, free spirited auzzie who prided himself on his nomadic lifestyle, but as time went by, you got the feeling that he was putting up a front, perhaps even lying to uphold an image that he'd created for himself that was the far cry from who he used to be just six months earlier: a white collar worker. and then there was the youngest of the group, an american girl who didn't know her limits and seemed mortified when finally confronted with how out of control she can be when under the influence. and of course yours truly, who at the time was completely lost and annoyed with pretty much everything: my friends, my family, my station in life and this issue called "failure" that seemed to follow me around like a bad smell.

now, i might be wrong, but that's a dream cast if i ever saw one. you can't script a better story. there's definitely a novel in there somewhere. the things we did and saw were just life changing. i grew and developed more in those four weeks in that cramped, smelly rv that would break down every day, than i have in my whole life. and the drama. there was so much drama, which is the essential thing to any good plot. we're talking about breaking and entering, nearly getting arrested by the police in prague, raves and neo-nazis and strip blackjack for starters.

so as i come to the end of giants, i can't help but look back on this period in my life and wonder what is next? i think enough time has passed from when i did my very own road rules that i can look past the nostalgia of it and think a little more clearly on what it was that i did and endured. the funny thing is, at the time i thought i was having a once in a lifetime experience that was completely unique to me. but in truth, it wasn't so unique, because in the middle of the trip we met a "van tour" in germany, with dozens of other vans full of young kids doing their own once in a lifetime experiences.

regardless, while i no longer keep in touch with any of the four i travelled with, it's a safe bet that they will be a part of me until i die. there are things, confessions, that i made to them that i have never told anyone else, not even my closest friends. it's very interesting how sometimes confiding in a perfect stranger is easier than your own loved ones.

anyhow, i don't know if this will be my next project, but it would be a good one i think. it would be a nice change from the heavy political ideas in giants. it would also mean that it would be the closest thing to an autobiography that i will have done. perhaps a memoir? can a person write a memoir at 28 years of age? perhaps i can call it a million little parts. what do you think?