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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to All

Nothing much to this post, other than to wish a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, to those who celebrate it, no matter how they celebrate it, or why.

This is a season of joy and giving. Give joy to others even as they give it to you. Have fun, party hard.

I'll either be doing a post just before or just after the New Year, about some resolutions I've made for 2009, as well as possibly reviewing events that have happened over the last 365 1/4 days.

Until then, all the best.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Miniature Swiss watch found in 400 year old archaeological dig?

I read this and the first thing I thought of was Michael Crichton's "Timeline".

The second thing I thought of was "Wait a minute..."

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_3122542.html?menu=news.quirkies

"...The watch ring was discovered as archeologists were making a documentary with two journalists from Shangsi town...

"We picked up the object, and found it was a ring. After removing the covering soil and examining it further, we were shocked to see it was a watch."

The time was stopped at 10:06am, and on the back was engraved the word "Swiss", reports the People's Daily..."

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Canadian Politics Have Never Been This Dramatic

I hate how much time I've spent on this weblog in the last few months talking about politics. I really fucking hate politics. Politics are the reason I didn't go to film school; namely, the backstabbing between students, the mandatory sycophantic adoration of film teachers in college, the ridiculous emphasis on everything other than the abilities of the aspiring filmmaker.

Politics are what made me turn by back on the Catholic Church, and most practicing Catholics (not to mention the so-called "Practical Catholic Gentlemen" of the Knights of Columbus), when politics demanded cowtowing to an arrogant, faithless and unworthy priest intent on destroying some very important community groups operating within the church.

Nothing good has ever come out of politics, least of all effective government. We need only look at what politics have wrought in the United States: environmental disaster, economic collapse, an unwinnable war, poverty and ruin. All because of politics as usual.

So, why is it that time and again I have detoured this space away from writing about writing and am once again writing another long post on politics?

Because once again I feel circumstances have compelled me to.

Earlier this year, Stephen Harper, leader of a minority government, ran head-on to the reality of what a minority government means: despite being the head of the political party that garnered the most votes, the electorate cast more total votes for representatives from other parties. Without the cooperation of the opposition, the minority government cannot govern.

Harper wanted to push through several bills that the opposition would not support. Faced with the prospect of having to build consensus instead of being able to run things his way, Harper called a snap election--in violation of his own election reform laws.

The end result of the election--which was bitter and decisive, partisan and seemed at times far more like an American campaign for all its sleaze and controversy than anything Canada had previously seen--saw Harper's minority returned to power, with only a handful more seats than before.

Harper's ambition had been to win a majority, but the political will of the Canadian people was to vote for anyone other than him. Unfortunately, the vote was split among three parties, meaning that while the Conservatives won the most votes of any party, most voters voted against the Conservatives.

Following the election, Harper appeared conciliatory, willing to reach out to the opposition and seek their input in the governance of Canada. Appearances, however, can be deceiving. It was all lip service, all lies. The minute Parliament was back in session, Harper began acting as though the Conservatives had won a decisive majority. In response to the growing global economic crisis, Harper tabled a plan that would have done nothing but benefit the corporate special interests that have always made up the backbone of Harper's support.

The opposition parties revolted, formed a coalition and advised the Governor General that they intended to call for a vote of non-confidence in the Harper government. Such an action would bring down the government, leading to one of two possibilities: The Governor General would either have to call another election, or ask the opposition parties to form a coalition government.

While exceedingly rare, there is precedent in Canadian history for a coalition government. But Harper went on an attack, accusing the coalition of being anti-democratic and demonizing the separatist Bloc Quebecois, whose support is necessary to give the coalition the majority necessary to govern. In the process, Harper's power base, namely Alberta, began to threaten to leave Canada and create a new independent state.

So, Quebec Separatists are bad, but Alberta Separatists are okay? Why? Because they have oil and speak English?

In any event, Harper managed to convince the Governor General to prorogue Parliament until the end of January. This means that Harper can hold on to power until then, though he cannot govern in any sense of the word. Of course, he can spend countless millions of taxpayer money on a relentless propaganda campaign designed to try and sway the public against the widely-supported (outside of Cowboy Country) opposition coalition.

The truth of the matter is that Harper and the Conservatives are (unsurprisingly) the ones behaving in an anti-democratic manner. The majority of voters elected parliamentary representatives from other parties than the Conservatives. The coalition therefore represents the majority of Canadian voters. The Coalition has every right to refuse to support the minority conservatives, and they therefore have every legal right to vote down the government and either form a new government, or stand for a new election.

Harper has proven, time and again, that he is unwilling and unable to make any concession to the opposition parties. He has proven, time and again and by his very words, that he would rather legislate according to his opinions and moral beliefs than according to the facts, the experts and the evidence. Harper has proven himself unfit to lead the country. His refusal to abdicate power that was never his to claim to begin with is nothing short of criminal. He has also expressed that he will do anything he can to stay in power. That makes him the ultimate threat to Canadian democracy, the Canadian government, and the people of Canada.

Stephen Harper is unfit to lead this country. He should be removed from power by any means necessary. If the democratic process and the Rules of Parliament fail to remove the slime from power, if the Law fails to remove him from power, then it will become incumbent on the Canadian people to do so.

We must look at such tactics as general strikes, blockades of Parliament Hill, and even more radical means of protest and civil action. This is our country, this is our future. If we must fight to protect it, then fight we will. If we must tear down the government, if we must depose Stephen Harper, who is neither right nor honourable, then so we shall. If the only way to dethrone Stephen Harper is through revolution, then we must revolt.

People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of the people.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Work: The REAL enemy of productivity

So for the last few weeks I have been working on stuff for CONFRONT Magazine, most notably a piece on the Andy Warhol Live exhibit, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. That involved a lot of my writing time, and required multiple trips to the museum. However, I'm quite pleased with the end result of my labours, which will be going live on Thursday at CONFRONT Magazine.

Also this week, I have been listening to the new Guns & Roses album, also for CONFRONT, for this week's Views and Reviews column. I am a fan of G&R, but I have to say that the latest CD is a letdown. Of course, you'll just have to go to CONFRONT on Thursday to find out my full opinion.

Alas, my work for CONFRONT hasn't been the only drain on my free writing time of late. Last weekend I had a corporate retreat to go to, and though I had one hell of a good time, I did not get my weekly fix of Cagibi lattes and excellent writing atmosphere.

These events have conspired against me to stall my creative efforts, though I can honestly say that sometimes nothing is more important than getting out from behind the desk and getting back to living life. However, it means that my rewrite of Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind and my work on the tentatively-titled Length of Love have been stalled.

All this is especially frustrating, because I had wanted to be done with Nevermind before the end of the year (Which is looking less and less likely) so that I could start shopping it around to agents and publishers in early 2009. Douglas Adams once said he loved the wooshing sound deadlines made as they zipped by. I imagine I should take that concept to heart, but still. It's been four years since I finished the initial draft of Nevermind and I hate how much time has slipped past from that first writing to now.

Equally frustrating, I've been stalled with Length of Love. Granted, I've not had much to say about the project, but that's because it is still in its first draft stage, and the subject matter is bound to be so controversial that I don't want to share with others until I've gotten the initial writing done. That's me suffering for my writing idiosyncracies I suppose.

I would also like to send up another flare about beta readers. I am still looking for people who would be interested in reading the final revision of The Darkness and the Stars, which is the follow-up to The Unearthing. As I've said previously, I'm looking as much for the opinions of readers as I am the opinions of my fellow writers. The story takes place 18 months after the close of The Unearthing, and is not so much a sequel as it is the continuation of the story. If anyone is interested, please email me or post a reply to this entry. The only requirement is having read The Unearthing already. As it is available as a free PDF format ebook from this and many other sites, I don't think I'm asking for too much--plus, you get to read not one, but two books free of charge.

Anyway, I'm off to get shut-eye. I still have to get up for the paying job in a few.

Hope to hear from you soon!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Canadian free internet access under threat

http://www.digitalhome.ca/content/view/2972/280/

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) this week said it has launched a proceeding in hopes of gaining a better understanding of broadcasting in a world increasingly being dominated by the internet.

The government agency says the proceeding will include a public hearing starting on February 17, 2009, in Gatineau, Que where the federal government is inviting comments on "the significance of broadcasting in new media and its impact on the traditional broadcasting system"

In simple terms, the agency is trying to establish a role for itself in the regulation of what Canadians can and should be able to see over the internet similar to the way the commission regulates what Canadians can see over Canadian radio and television.

The result of these hearings could result in in the overturning of a 1999 decision that exempted from regulation broadcasters that distribute their video content over the Internet. The hearings will also examine a 2007 decision that took a hands off approach to broadcasters and wireless companies who were sending video through cellphones and other mobile devices.

In a written statement federal bureaucrats said the review was required now because Canadians are now spending more time watching video over the internet and mobile devices. The Commission, therefore, wishes to consult on the "the appropriateness of the Commission's exemption orders for new media and mobile broadcasting services."

We are in danger of losing unfiltered access to the Internet! We have to do something to stop this!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Only one possible topic tonight on the Blogosphere...

God knows I'm ecstatic that Obama's won, if only because it represents the end of an error, namely the last eight years of divisive, violent, incompetent and corrupt administrations in American history.

Obama has consistently talked of dialogue; sitting down with America's enemies to address their grievances. He has talked about reuniting the country, of helping the poor, of working to heal the environment. Obama is the right man for the right time.

And yes, it is a wonderful moment for Black Americans that Barack Obama will be the first Black President. But how shameful is it that it has taken so long for a Black man to be elected President? How shameful is it that America has never had a minority President? Or a woman President?

Let us hope that this is a step forward into the future. Let us hope that America once more becomes a beacon unto the world. But let us also not forget how long it has been...how long it has taken for a Black man to get elected to President.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Questionable Content and Other Sundry Notions

So one of the biggest productivity-killers I've encountered of late has been the amusing and endearing webcomic, Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques. It's a wonderful ongoing comedy about twentysomethings in college, hanging out, having coffee, listening to hipster music and contemplating life, sex, love and pop culture. The website is here, but if you're new to the comic, you should probably start reading from the beginning, here.

I guess what I like best about this story is that it reminds me in many respects of Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind, my own novel about twentysomething lovelorns growing up and hanging out. I think Jacques nails the sentimentality and the poignancy better than I did, however, and I really think his work deserves to be read. Please check it out; I think you'll enjoy!

***

On to other topics, this weekend I completed the third rewrite of The Darkness and the Stars, which is the follow-up volume to The Unearthing. I am currently recruiting beta readers to go over the "finished" story and let me know their thoughts. For fans of The Unearthing, this is your chance to read the next part of the story before anyone else; it is also an opportunity to provide feedback to the author, and possibly help shape the final version of the novel.

I am also looking for beta-readers for another project some of you may be familiar with, called Crossroads. The latter story is technically "finished", having debuted eight years ago on the Jumpgate web portal. However, I feel it needs a bit of polish. It has proven beyond my capacity to see where to tweak it, so I'm offering it up for book-doctoring. I know it needs some work, I just don't know where.

If you're interested in helping with either project, you can either reply to this post or email me. Don't be concerned if you're not a writer; what's more important is that you be a reader. It is a reader's opinion I need.

***

Also in the "ME" news, I will be going back over Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind as my next project. Following the suggestions of one of it's beta readers, I will be doing the final revision of that story by starting with the last chapter and working backwards. Likely, Nevermind will be the next story I submit for publication. I'll be shortly in the market for an agent/publicist to help with that.

Well, that's it for this post. Glad to be writing about writing again...I'm sick of that beady-eyed fat fuck Stephen Harper. God help us, we have at least another two years of his shit to live through.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

If you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.


"Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth."

Of late, this space has been less writing-related and more political. For that, I apologize. However, the simple truth is that for quite a while now, something has been going wrong, terribly wrong in my country.

It started a little more than two years ago, when a gang of religious fundamentalists seized power. It wasn't a military coup that allowed them to gain power, nor was it the result of foreign invasion or domestic revolution. No, far worse, the people of the country actually allowed this travesty to happen.

"Our story begins, as these stories often do, with a young up-and-coming politician. He's a deeply religious man and a member of the conservative party. He is completely single-minded in his convictions and has no regard for the political process."

In 2006, Stephen Harper and his band of like-minded bigots, conservative Christians and corporate cronies rode into power, waiving their ten-gallon hats and whooping and hollering as they won a minority government.

Minority governments are a funny thing...the party with the most votes gets into power, but most of the electorate cast their votes for parties other than the one in power. It's a subtle perversion of the democratic process: although most people who voted voted for someone other than you, because their votes were split two, three or four ways, you win by default.

"He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent."

A number of scandals involving high-ups in the previous Liberal government's administration caused massive voter disapproval, which opened the door for the Harper Boys to ride in.

From the get-go, Harper and his government began doing everything they could to mimic their American counterparts: accessibility to the government by media dried up; the party closed ranks, Harper keeping a tight, tight reign on his deputies in order to ensure the party stayed on-message. Then, of course, came the legislation: Cut funding for social programmes here, provide corporate welfare to profitable businesses there; accusing civil servants of partisanship for going against Party ambitions here, endangering the public by disregarding the nuclear regulatory experts to reopen an obsolete nuclear power plant there.

Along the way Harper also barred the press from airbases when military coffins were shipped home from overseas, and continues promising to stay the course and keep Canadian forces committed to cleaning up Bush's mess in Afghanistan.

Then there was the dissolution of our civil rights, as detailed here. And of course, the censorship of and funding cuts to our arts, as previously discussed here, and here.

Lest we forget, Christian Conservative Harper and his gang attempted to put legislation into place that would have made it a special crime to assault a pregnant woman, as well as separate legislation designed to allow doctors to refuse patient referrals to women seeking abortions.

Add to that Harper's stated intentions to impose harsher sentences on young offenders, preferring punishment and incarceration to rehabilitation and education. In his own words, Harper said he prefers the opinion of the "Common Man" over the opinion of the EXPERTS.

If you're done letting that pile of anti-intellectual, counter-intuitive and ignorant hubris sink in, we'll continue.

A couple of months back, after the opposition parties balked at continuing to allow Cowboy Stephen and the Circle-C Posse to run roughshod over the governance of Canada, Harper decided to call a snap election, in violation of his own law requiring set terms before elections can be called.

And as of Tuesday, the Harper Conservatives have returned to power once more, when the vote was split between the other three major parties, namely the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc Quebecois.

But how did it happen? How did Harper, despite his unpopularity, win re-election, even if it was once again with a minority government?

"We're oft to blame, and this is too much proved, that with devotion's visage and pious action we do sugar on the devil himself."

This election, something terrible happened. This election, perhaps one of the most undemocratic events took place. No, the Canadian election was not robbed in electoral fraud as we witnessed in 2000 and 2004 in the United States. No, the governing power did not simply disregard the democratic will of the people as happened in Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Burma.

What happened was far, far worse.

For the first time in Canadian history, voter turnout during a Federal election was below 60%.

Only 59,1% of Canadian voters turned up at the polls.

Put another way, that means that of the 23 401 064 eligible voters, only 13 832 972 people bothered to vote.

And, dear readers, mea culpa. I was among those who did not vote. Why? My reasons seemed sound, at the time: I live in a Bloc Quebecois stronghold; a riding that has always voted for the separatist Bloc Quebecois. I believed that it was a waste of time to vote, especially given that the candidates from the other parties running in the riding had little to no visibility, and in more than one case, didn't bother campaigning beyond putting up posters.

"And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there?"

The thing is, some nine and a half million other eligible voters across this nation had the same idea. They all stayed away from the polls. Whatever their reasons, the fact of the matter is they, and I turned our backs on the democratic process. We failed the electoral process. We failed our civic duty and we failed our democracy.

Even if those nine and a half million votes had been split between the Liberals and the Bloc, or the Liberals and the NDP, or all three parties, it is entirely possible that the Conservatives would not have returned to power.

The lesson is simple: Not voting does not profit democracy. It does not profit the election. It profits the party you don't want to see return to power. What never occurred to me as I stayed home on Tuesday after work is the fact that if everyone in my riding who didn't vote because it's a "safe" riding for the Bloc had actually cast a ballot, then perhaps the Bloc would not have been returned to Parliament.

And if the 9 568 092 of us from across Canada who did not vote had cast a ballot, then perhaps the Harper Conservatives would not have won re-election.

I can only apologize on my behalf. I'm not certain that the other 9 568 091 failed voters realize their culpability or accept their guilt.

Not voting is treason; the treason of apathy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Remember, Remember...

I cannot believe the voters of Canada were fucking stupid enough to re-elect the Conservatives.

Stephen Harper, who has raped culture, whored tax dollars to Big Business and has completely fucked over the cause of women's rights, is in the process of winning a minority government.

That means more people voted for anyone but Harper and his gang of bastarding crooks and misogynists, but not enough people voted for any other one party to keep the pigs from power.

Canada, we cannot allow the fucking Bush Lite Regime of Stephen Harper to have another one, two, three or five years in power. Canada cannot afford what these bastards will do as they strip mine the country in the name of their Christian Conservative Capitalist credo.

Whenever any Government becomes desructive, it is the Right of the People to abolish it and institute new Government. Revolt, Canada.

In 1605, Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the British Houses of Parliament...400 years later, an idea can still change the world.

A building is a symbol. Symbols are given power by people. With enough people behind it, blowing up a building can change the world.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Stephen Harper: Fuck Culture.

Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party’s Canadian Prime Minister by Default, leader of a minority government (which means that a majority of people voted for anyone else but him and his party), recently slashed 45 million dollars from Canada’s arts funding. Under the guise of fiscal responsibility and moral leadership, Harper attempted to justify this attack on Canadian ideals.

The question is, why slash 45 million dollars from arts funding, but maintain 50 BILLION dollars in corporate welfare-subsidies given out to some of Canada’s richest corporations? This wasn’t money to bail out a bankrupted industry; this was cash giveaways to “encourage” business.

Is it that much more fiscally responsible to cut culture programs than it is to stop profitable corporations sucking at the taxpayer’s teat?

Which brings us to the next problem: the government imposition of morality. This isn’t the Harper Conservative’s first attack against culture on moral grounds. Earlier this year, they pushed through legislation that allowed them to deny Canadian films public funds, if the films were found to contravene “public morals”. What contravenes public morals? Well, the Harper Conservatives seem to take particular offence with the word “Fuck”. One of the films they cited as justifying their cuts was “Young People Fucking” which, according to them was an obscene and immoral film. Ironically, there are shows on television with more graphic portrayals of sex and sexuality. Likewise, the fuckophobia of the Harper Conservatives continued, when they claimed that music acts like Canadian rockers Holy Fuck were what was wrong with Canadian culture, and singled them out as one of the reasons for the 45 million dollar funding cut.

Here in the province of Quebec, we have always been militant when it comes to culture, and we have always elevated our artists to the status of cultural icons. In the last couple of weeks, a series of free concerts have been held in protest of the Harper Conservative arts funding cuts, featuring many of Quebec’s greatest and most respected artists.

Upon learning of this, Harper said “I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people at, you know, a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren’t high enough, when they know those subsidies have actually gone up - I’m not sure that’s something that resonates with ordinary people.”

In so doing Harper betrayed not only his own anti-intellectual temperament, but his complete ignorance of what it is to be an artist, particularly a musician in Canada. To say Harper is out of touch with reality is nothing short of hyperbole. Harper demonstrates the ingnorant’s disdain for anything intellectual, creative, or to use a favourite word of Harper’s Conservative cronies in the United States, “elitist”.

That Harper, who has never done a hard day’s labour in his life, has the audacity to claim these funding cuts in the name of the “working people” is offensive, for several reasons.

First, anyone involved with the arts on any level knows how difficult it is for artists to make a living in their chosen field-if they even can. Musicians must practice constantly, learning new songs; they usually have to provide their own transport and accommodation when on tour; at CONFRONT Magazine we’ve spoken with countless musicians who spend their tours sleeping in the back of a battered Econoline van. Likewise, the cost of supplies, be it guitar strings, musical instruments, what have you, can be exorbitant. More than one band has folded for want of being able to afford to replace lost, stolen or damaged equipment.

One need only look at the faces of the young men and women who are working artists-be they musicians, actors, painters, sculptors, or God help them, writers-to see how tiring it is to live an artist’s life. It’s certainly not the life of excess and delights that Harper and his gang of anti-cultural bigots would have us believe. These men and women work diligently and tirelessly, not just to be able to afford to practice their art, but to be able to afford food, clothing, shelter…the basic necessities of life. On average, working artists earn less than 27 thousand dollars a year. That’s less than most people make. Professional artists depend on those government subsidies to survive.

If Harper does not think that the struggles of artists resonates with ordinary people, then he is ignorant of the vital and ever-present role that art in all its many forms plays, not only with what we label “Culture”, but in our everyday lives.

How many of us drop earbuds into our ears in the morning, and crank up the MP3 player as we head out on our commute? How many of us adorn our walls with photographs, paintings, pictures? How many of us buy little odds and ends from street-corner vendors, like decorative sculptures, hand-made bracelets, necklaces, earrings or pendants? How many of you go to museums, or stop to look at public-display sculptures? How many of you go to movies, watch television, go to plays, go to the outdoor summer festivals? Art and culture is all around us. Art and culture saturate our daily lives. Whether we notice it, appreciate it, take it for granted or ignore it, whether we love it, hate it, are passionate about it or outraged by it, art and culture affects each and every one of us profoundly, regularly, constantly.

Subsequently, Harper has claimed that 45 million dollars is a paltry amount, that it is a small cut to cultural funding. If that is true, then why has he repeatedly claimed that these cuts are of such importance to fiscal policy? If that 45 million is so desperately needed, why are corporate handouts in the excess of 50 billion still allowed to continue?

The anti-cultural bigotry of the Harper Conservatives is vile, outrageous, and is an attack on Canada’s ideals as a nation, as a society, as a people. His disdain towards artists and arts programs smacks of ignorance, of the very sort of elitism he supposedly derides. For who else but elitists so ignorantly assume artists to be decadent, lazy, arrogant low-lifes? Who else but elitists think they know what is in the best interests of the “ordinary” person? These cuts were not merely the deletion of a few line items from an invoice. Vital programs have been affected:

• PromArt, a grant program supporting foreign travel for artists ($4.7 million)

• Canadian Memory Fund, which gives federal agencies money to digitize collections and mount them online ($11.7 million)

• Culture.ca Web portal ($3.8 million)

• Canadian Cultural Observatory ($560,000)

• Research and Development component of Canadian Culture Online ($5.64-million)

• Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund ($1.5 million)

• Audio Visual Trust ($300,000)

• National Training Program for the Film and Video Sector ($2.5 million)

• Trade Routes, supporting international tours by Canadian performers ($7.8 million)

• Northern Distribution Program, which distributes the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network signal to 96 Northern communities. ($2.1 million)

These decisions are supposed to be fiscally sound, but yet they fly in the face of any real understanding of the revenues generated by cultural programs, arts, music, film, theatre and television. According to ACTRA spokeswoman Taborra Johnson, “The arts contribute $85 billion per year to our gross domestic product. It creates 1.1 million jobs, which is 7.2 per cent of our employment.”

The arts don’t just contribute to Canadian culture; they contribute to the Canadian economy. When you consider the residual sales of merchandise, memorabilia, food, beverages, hotel and tourism dollars that festivals, concerts, exhibits, productions and plays generate, when you consider the multitude of spin-off income generated by such things, not to mention the jobs for technicians, service people, maintenance professionals and others, it becomes clear that cuts to cultural programmes are not only myopic, but imbecilic in the extreme.

Canada is currently in the midst of a Federal election. This election was called by Harper, in an attempt to change his minority government into a majority government. The funding cuts that Harper has so cavalierly justified have become one of the elections major issues.

It is incumbent upon all Canadians who care about culture, be they fans of music, patrons of the Arts, theatre-goers or festival fans, to send a clear message to the Canadian government that these funding cuts are unacceptable, and far more obscene than the use of the word “Fuck”.

Stephen Harper and his gang of Conservatives have shown a callous disregard for public opinion on this, and on several other issues. The fact of the matter is, nothing less than our Canadian identity is at stake in this election. Anyone who cares about that identity must take action. There is only one way to remedy this situation, and that is to ensure that Stephen Harper does not return to Parliament as Prime Minister. If we care about culture in this country, if we care about our friends and family who toil to make a living in the creative fields, there is only one thing we can do: On October 14th, we must vote against the Conservatives; we must ensure that they are not re-elected to Government. This is a war on Canadian culture. We cannot afford to let the Conservatives win.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Cinematical Allegory is Alive and Well


So, Angel and I just came back from the movies. As the title link suggests, we went to see Eagle Eye, the latest Hollywood actioner starring Shia LaBoeuf.

Now, before I get to the main topic of this post, I would like to take a couple of moments to talk about the twenty fucking minutes of commercials I had to endure, before they even dimmed the house lights.

Cineplex Odeon Theatres ran commercials for Telus, Fanta, the Quebec Dairy Board, Canadian Tire, Toyota, Stella Artois, Scotiabank, Burger King, MasterCard back to back, interspersed only with a few vague "celebrity interviews" that were nothing more than filler designed to give us a break from the commercials.

Here's the thing: given what we pay for the privilege in sitting in a theatre designed to hold as many people as possible in as small a space as allowed by law and given how overly marked-up the snacks at the concession stand are, given that those advertizers PAID to show those commercials to a more-or-less captive audience, namely us, I feel that we, the viewing public, are owed some sort of compensation. The bloody ticket prices being what they are, I feel that if I am going to be obliged to watch these damn commercials, well, I ought to get a rebate; at the very least you should make the popcorn a hell of a lot cheaper given how little it actually costs to produce.

Now, until something is done to either compensate us for wasting our time with bloody COMMERCIALS, be it removing those damn commercials from the screens or giving us something back in return, I intend to boycott the advertizers whenever possible. Obviously, the Dairy Board has me by the balls, but I intend to avoid using the services or purchasing the products of Telus, Fanta, Canadian Tire, Toyota, Stella Artois, Scotiabank, Burger King, and MasterCard until something is done.

I think you should all do the same.

Now, on with our feature post.

So, while I thoroughly enjoyed Eagle Eye, in spite of some massive plot holes and questionable technological contrivances, I was struck by something, as I watched the film.

Back in the Good Old Days, Hollywood movies were often used as allegorical propaganda, delivering thinly veiled and easily digested messages to the movie-going public. The best examples of this are the original versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing, which were cautionary tales about the dangers of Communism.

The idea was these mysterious alien pods were insidiously invading, taking over, assimilating and homogenizing everyone into perfect, obediant slaves. Get it?

Well, there were many movies like this in the 50s, 60s, and off and on even into the modern era. Some of them were more subtle than others, some of them so painfully blatant that people walked away from the ham-handedness of the message.

Well, Eagle Eye is an example of this allegory at its best: the film serves as a three-pronged attack on some (definitely) dangerous elements pervasive in America today: The threat posed to individual freedom and civil liberties from a government run amok in the name of national security, the direct and immediate threat posed to Americans by the warrantless wiretapping program, and the naive way people entrust so much private information to very public data networks.

Now, this is as much as I can actually say, without really spoiling the plot of the film. This one does follow the Robert Ludlum Thriller Formula, which I've spoken about before (at this point if you know the formula of which I speak, scroll down to the next paragraph; otherwise, keep reading): The Robert Ludlum Thriller Formula goes like this: Ordinary Man becomes Reluctant Hero placed in Extraordinary Situation. Bystander Woman gets swept up as Events Unfold, Casting Her Lot in with Ordinary Man. Shocking Plot Twists make Ordinary Man and Bystander Woman question Who They Can Trust. Last Minute Race To The Finish makes for Reader Excitement. Book Ends with Ordinary Man and Bystander Woman either Getting Married or Getting Laid.

Now, it is important to note that this movie does not have any maniacal government conspiracy; it really is about the dangers of the untamed and unpredictable technology we put so much faith in. It is, nevertheless, a brilliant movie.

However, the movie is trying very hard to impart the lessons of its themes, almost to the point that I found it distracting. It is an important message, and it is a brilliant window on current history, as it unfolds. I suspect that it will even be the focus of many a lecture, in film classes in the future. What irritates me, however, is that such an important message, such an important indictment of the facts has to be spoon-fed like pablum to an audience that is otherwise oblivious; an audience that will, for the most part, go out of its way to avoid confronting the hard issues.

Why is it that the general public has spent the better part of the last decade closing their eyes to the very real threats to their safety and liberties? Why have so many tried so hard not to question what they've been told? Why have so many turned their backs on everyone who has tried to tell them what's going on? Why is it the only way people will even entertain such notions is when they're disguised in parable, like sticking a dog's pill in a hunk of cheese?

What really frustrates me is that I can't think of any reasonable answer.

Go see Eagle Eye. Hopefully it will open your eyes, and free your mind just a little.



Tuesday, September 09, 2008

On New Laptops

Don't get me wrong, I really love my new laptop. I love its videogame-ready graphics accelerator, its 2GB ram and 160 gb hard drive, multiple USB ports, widescreen and 3 hour battery life.

But, I really wanted a Mac.

And my new machine runs on Windows Vista.

So why didn't I get a Mac?

Well, it all boils down to cost. The price of two of the Acer Aspire laptops I bought (One for me, one for Angel, both tax deductible thanks to CONFRONT Magazine and my writing career) was still less than a new Macbook Pro. Add to that the fact we were given a copy of MS Office 2007 for Windows, it also meant we were saving a king's ransom on software.

Now, the laptop runs perfectly fine, and now that it's set up, it's terriffic. The problem was setting it up.

The usual tedium of first activation of a PC applied: about two hours of automated installation and setup, followed by the real sheer hell. The laptop refused to connect to my home-based wifi network, instead it kept connecting to every other wifi network in the fucking neighbourhood.

Basically, the struggle to get the laptop to connect to my wifi netowrk and not any other network went something like this:

Me: Stop connecting to the other networks.

Computer: But they're better!

Me: I want you to connect to MY network.

Computer: OK! Please restart me to make this network the default network!

Me(After restarting the computer): You're connecting to the other network again!

Computer: This network is better!

Me: IT'S NOT MY FUCKING NETWORK! MY MAIN COMPUTER ISN'T ON THIS NETWORK!

Computer: Okay! Just switch me over to the network you want me to use!

Me: Ok!

Computer: OK! Please restart me to make this network the default network!

Me: You BETTER make it the default network...FUCK! YOU ARE CONNECTING TO THE OTHER NETWORK AGAIN!

Computer: This network is better!

Me: FORGET THAT NETWORK! FORGET THE OTHER NETWORKS! FORGET ALL THE OTHER NETWORKS!

Computer: Okay! Please restart me to make this network the default network!

Me: FINALLY!

Computer: You can't connect to the internet from here!

Me: WHAT? Why...aren't...you...connecting...to...the...fucking...INTERNET?

Computer: You don't have permission on this network to connect to the internet. Here are some other networks! You can connect to the internet using THEM!

Me: GOD DAMMIT! YOU PIECE OF SHIT!

Computer: If you like, I can attempt to repair the wifi connectivity so you can connect to the internet using your default network.

Me: YES! PLEASE!

Computer: There is nothing to repair. This connection is working fine!

Me: For FUCK's sake! No it isn't!

Computer: Yes, it is!

Me: No, it isn't!

Computer: Yes, it is!

Me: NO! IT REALLY ISN'T!

Computer: Would you like to connect to the internet?

Me: Yes! Absolutely!

Computer: You are now on another network and connected to the internet!

Me: YOU SON OF A BITCH! FORGET THAT NETWORK! FORGET EVERY SINGLE NETWORK YOU HAVE!

Computer: Okay!

Me: Now, connect to MY network!

Computer: Your WHAT, now?

Me: My network,

Computer: What network?

Me: THIS network!

Computer: I don't see a network,

Me: It's right there!

Computer: That wi-fi thingie that you have connected to the other, obsolete computer? Is that what you want me to do?

Me: YES! Oh, God, please, YES!

Computer: THIS network over here is better! I'll connect to it, instead!

Me: NOOOOOOOO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! O NOES! NO!

Computer: Okay.

Me:Just...connect...to...my...network...don't...even...LOOK...at...other...networks...

Computer: Even if they're BETTER?

Me: Even if they're better...even if they're the best network you've ever seen, even if the network is a direct pipeline into the greatest most important secrets in all the cosmos, even if the network is hard-wired into the back of God's head...even if the network entices you with shiny things...don't...connect...to...another...network...just...MINE!

Computer: Okay! You're now connected to the network. You're now on the internet! Wasn't that easy?

See, now that that's over with, the computer actually works fine. When I go to the cafe, I can connect to Ile Sans File without problem, when I come back home it connects to the home network...but the setup was such a pain in the ass...SUCH a pain in the ass that I'd rather suffer through a proctological exam than do it again.

The writing is marvellous again; I'm almost through The Darkness and the Stars, I'm slating other projects, I've all my music stored on the laptop...simply dreamy!

But, next time, I want to get a Mac.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Decline of Canadian Society


It has been said, by better men than I, that a society that does not value art does not have any value. Canada’s societal value has come into question this week, after the federal Conservative minority government passed funding cuts to Canada’s arts programs.

Once upon a time, the Conservative Party of Canada’s platform was about encouraging economic growth through measures designed to promote business. Granted, such measures were usually to the detriment of worker’s rights and the environment, but for the most part they generally kept their hands off things like the arts and social programmes.

Those halcyon days of yore are long gone, it seems. This funding cut represents just the latest attack on Canadian culture to be launched from Harper’s New Canadian Government. Several months back, the Conservatives passed legislation that limits or removes funding for films found to be “indecent” or “against public morals”; there’s next to no arts funding in the 2008-2009 Federal budget; likewise, the Harper Conservatives have cut funding to museums and even to Hockey Canada, one of the most quintessentially Canadian of institutions.

The Harper Conservatives continue to attempt to justify these cultural attacks either as fiscal responsibility or as in the interest of the public trust, but the evidence speaks for itself: the Harper Conservatives are anti-intellectual, plainly dumbing down Canada’s rich cultural heritage.

These funding cuts are hitting the music industry particularly hard: The East Coast music scene in Canada depends heavily on public funding, as do the Montreal Pop festival and programmes like PromArt, Trade Routes, and the Audiovisual Conservation Trust.

When we consider the calibre of artists Canada has produced over the years, the number of Canadian success stories in all level of arts, from authors, playwrights, filmmakers, painters, sculptors, to actors and especially musicians, it is unconscionable for the Canadian government to slash funding to our cultural programs. It is a move wholly based on the Harper government’s own anti-intellectualism and ignorance.

What is particularly appalling about these funding cuts is how vital and yet how fragile our arts programmes in Canada are. For certain festivals, such as the Montreal Jazz festival, there is private funding. But the private sector in Canada doesn’t have the wherewithal to produce and aggressively promote new works. Less money for the arts means fewer artists receive funding, which means fewer new artists can emerge. The more private money that funds the arts, the less of a gamble the people ponying up the cash will be willing to make, which translates to less Canadian innovation. Less Canadian innovation means more market share will be given over to American artists, which means the Canadian talent pool shrinks even further.

The music industry in particular relies heavily on public funds, and these cuts to our cultural programs are nothing less than a betrayal of Canada’s heritage. Denial of these funds is denying the chance for the next Simple Plan, the next Barenaked Ladies, the next Avril Lavigne, to emerge. Denial of these funds denies new musicians the chance to shine, and reduces our chief musical export to the world to Celine Dion and Canadian Idol.

It appears that the Harper Conservative's idea of culture is running fiction commercials about how wonderful Stephen Harper is--and having people boast about how they'll be voting for him. Point of fact is that in Canada, we do not vote to elect the Prime Minister, we vote to elect our Member of Parliament. The political party with the most votes then forms the government. The only people who would vote for Stephen Harper are the poor saps who have him as their MP. Of course, the Harper Conservatives have a long history of assuming the people are stupid enough to believe everything they say...despite all evidence to the contrary.

Canada is less of a nation because of the arrogance of the Harper Conservatives. And our society has that much less value because of it. In violation of his own law against snap elections, Harper is determined to go to the polls. These funding cuts are just one more reason that sane Canadians should do everything they can to make sure that the Harper government gets booted out, and send the son of a bitch and his redneck jamboree packing back to Alberta.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Slow Summer Continues...

The royalty statements and cheques are being prepared by Publish America, so I will very shortly learn how the release of The Unearthing as an ebook affected the sales. With over 2000 downloads since March and syndication over at the Readers and Writers Blog, I glad that some of those translated into sales.

Authors who didn't have sales in the last quarter would have gotten a royalty statement via email on the first of August; I received no such email, which means that I've had sales since the last royalty cheques were issued.

Another waiting game, but still good news. I'm anxious to see how many or how few sales I've had.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Guilty Until Proven Innocent : A Dangerous Precedent


Normally, I use this space to talk about my writing, or writing-related subjects. I had hoped to have something more on-topic to discuss in this week's post, but unfortunately something has happened that is far more pressing than anything I normally concern myself with.

A crime bill was enacted into law by the Federal Conservative Party of Canada, back in May. Most of us didn't pay much notice to it. Most of us couldn't have cared less when it passed. And that is how democracy dies: not in fire or blood, not in revolution or war, but in ignorance and apathy.

The bill in question reverses the burden of proof in "certain" criminal cases. The burden of proof is of vital importance in law: it allows someone accused of a crime to be deemed innocent until proven guilty.

Under the "Tackling Violent Crime Act" of May 1st, suspects must prove they are innocent--it is no longer up to the Crown to prove guilt.

The implications of this measure are terrifying.

The Act was used this week, against accused members of the Crips crime gang, in Montreal. Under the clauses of the Act, they have been denied bail because they cannot prove their innocence. They have not been tried, they have not been found guilty, but they are being kept in custody until their innocence has been proven.

Now, I have no love of street gangs, I have no love of a thuggish, violent organization like the Crips, their chief rival the Bloods, or the vile criminal gangs that have flocked to Montreal in the past, from the Mafia, to the Hells Angels and the Rock Machine.

However, the fact of the matter is that the law and the justice system are note there merely to protect the law-abiding from the lawless; the law and the justice system are there to protect all citizens from injustice, no matter of their status or their worth as citizens. The law and the justice system are there to protect the citizens from their government. The law and the justice system are there to ensure that all citizens are treated fairly by all levels of society.

The law and the justice system, in this instance, have been perverted.

You may wonder why I am so upset at the notion that gang-bangers, drug dealers and violent criminals are being stripped of their rights.

Because the law that protects such as them from such perversions of civil liberty and justice, then it will protect the rest of us as well. Because the law that is used to strip them of their civil liberties and justice can and will eventually be used against the rest of us, as well.

Today it is a violent criminal that is seen as a threat to society.
Tomorrow it will be the political dissident whose ideas threaten the Government's status quo.
Today it is a violent criminal whose rights are stripped.
Tomorrow it will be an activist whose actions oppose the Government's political interests.
Today it is a violent criminal who sees themselves imprisoned without trial.
Tomorrow it will be someone fighting against government abuse.
Today it is a violent criminal.
Tomorrow it will be you.

People should not be afraid of their government.

Governments should be afraid of their people.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

First Round of Updates Done

As you may have noticed, the first round of updates to the look of this weblog are done. There are new links, outdated links are gone, the site has been retooled somewhat, and I've added a list of blogs I read and things from the Internet Tubes that I like.

I will, eventually, be migrating my "Chronicles of an Independent Author" to its own blog, and cross-posting from there to here, as I do want the Kspace Universe to remain my primary weblog.

I'm still open to any suggestions you may have on ways to improve this weblog further; links you'd like to see, features you'd enjoy seeing, questions, comments, observations...anything.

I'm still writing; I peg away a couple of pages a day during my lunch hour on my current new project, I spend the weekends dithering with "The Darkness And The Stars", the forthcoming follow-up to "The Unearthing". Likewise, "Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind" is insisting that I start to pay attention to it, and "Crossroads" is going to [eventually] return from the dead, no pun intended...

I'm not one to write about works-in-progress, and I'm not here to talk at you about proper writing technique, seven ways to improve your grammar, the importance of character development or how to write an effective, exciting and erotic sex scene. I'm of the opinion that one either can or cannot write well, and the focus of this weblog has always been a chronicle of the things I am trying to get my work read by as many people as possible, with the eventual goal of maybe making more than a buck or two while doing it.

Unfortunately, that does leave for some lag time between posts, and then a burst of several posts in a short period of time before another large lag. Those of you who have borne with me so far, thank you. Those of you new to the process, feel free to browse the archives; the Chronicles of an Independent Author are there to be read, so feel free to do so.

Also, in the interests of value-added blogging, please feel free to suggest content or content ideas. What can I bring to you, dear reader, to make your experience more enjoyable?

Everyone who suggests something will get a free copy of The Unearthing ebook.

Monday, July 21, 2008

iWant Apple Stuff

http://appleiwant.blogspot.com/

iWant Apple stuff...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Michael Bay's Rejected Bat Man Script

Something to tide you all over until the release of The Dark Knight.

http://my.spill.com/profiles/blog/show?id=947994%3ABlogPost%3A355506

Friday, July 04, 2008

Weblog Retooling...

I'm beginning to plot out a reorganization of this weblog's layout. I'm hoping that, sometime this weekend or next, I will have completed this concept map, and will then implement the changes.

Because of the ease of use of Blogger software, that should only take three or five hours of my life.

WHAT WILL CHANGE: the links. Namely, I will be removing any and all links that are no longer relevant to the Kspace Universe. The links to "The Unearthing" will remain, and will be joined by permalinks to CONFRONT Magazine and to PHYTE. The Chronicles of an Independent Author will remain, though I will eventually be retooling the look of that, as well, by turning it into a full sub-blog of Kspace Universe. I will be adding links to various things Facebook and Twitter, as well as links to my favourite haunts of the Internet. The reference guide for writers will be truncated and later incorporated into "Chronicles", where it more properly belongs.

The gold-on-black motif will remain the same, though I may lay things out differently. And I will be creating a labels list and other doo-hickeys, as time goes on. Likewise, I am open to any suggestions you, the reader, may have, with regards to layout, linkage, widgets or content. Please provide links and show your work.

That's all for now; I'm off to try and sleep.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

So Much For "Don't Be Evil"

Google has announced that Patrick Pichette, one of many pricks at the helm of the many-headed hydra that is the Giant Canadian Telecom company, Bell Canada, will be their new Chief Financial Officer.

Pichette worked with Bell alongside the mealy-mouthed Grand Weasel, Michael Sabia during a time that Bell introduced a bogus "Network Access" surcharge of $4.25 on every Bell Canada telephone account, by sneaking it past their customer base. Tally some thirteen million-plus subscribers, and that's an extra $55.25 million a month--at least--that Pichette generated with the "Network Access" sneak-attack.

He was also there when Bell Canada laid off thousands of jobs so Sabia could take a 555% pay rise, after negotiating a crooked deal with the CTEA union that narrowly averted a strike, in 2006.

Pichette was also there when Bell Canada's internet division, Sympatico, began the process of "throttling" the Internet, namely imposing bandwidth caps on supposedly "unlimited" internet access during peak times, in order to help stamp out P2P file sharing. The ploy didn't work, as P2P sharing is going to continue for a long, long time to come. What it did do was the one thing Bell Canada has proven universally good at: pissing off its customers.

Pichette's appointment comes after Google spent nearly a year looking for a new CFO. Frankly, they should have kept looking.

Bell Canada's business practice is simple: they impose whatever their board of directors decides to, on their customers, usually with tacit approval of the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission. The $4,25 surcharge and the bandwidth throttling are only the two most flagrant examples of the sort of petty evil that comes out of Bell Canada. Employee harassment is rampant in the organization, as is unfair sales practices, poor customer service, terrible tech support on all levels but most especially with Bell Mobility and Bell Sympatico.

If Pichette is the kind of person Google is looking for in its organization, well, I'm sad to say that the company is continuing the long slide into evil that began when it started helping China police the Internet.

Pichette is a good company man. That means he's lied, manipulated, kissed ass and generally fucked people over to get where he is. From there, he like most of the unimpressive stable of mediocre caretaker executives that have polluted Bell Canada Enterprises for the last couple of decades, continued to perpetuate the cycle of gorging company profits at the expense of customer service, customer experience and employee morale.

I'm already shopping around for a new search engine, in light of Google's questionable decision to hire this Pissant Pichette. Bell Canada lost over 511 000 subscribers last year. While pundits will give you a dozen reasons why these people left Bell and then make the claim that "many" will be back, the fact is the CRTC-imposed telephone regulation only ended last year, effectively breaking Bell Canada's quasi-monopoly on telephone and telecommunications in Quebec, Ontario and points west. People left because they could, because they had long wanted to. Bell Canada has always shown a callous, arrogant and cavalier attitude towards their customers. The fact that so many were so eager to switch away from them only demonstrates how poor their service is.

If this is the kind of business Google wants to be in, I want no part of it. I may even consider migrating this weblog away from Blogger, if this shit continues.

Friday, June 20, 2008

News About Me And My Writing


So there's a whole lot of little things going on right now...first, my review of the new Alanis Morissette CD for Confront Magazine was until recently being referenced on the Wikipedia page for the new album, so that was fun--while it lasted.

Second, I'm up for a job as a reporter for CJAD 800 AM Radio here in Montreal, so that's tres cool. It's not that I'm unhappy at the newspaper; in fact I love my job. However, I would like to get in on the journalism side of things; unfortunately my spelling and grammar in French aren't good enough for me to get a job as a reporter with the paper.

Also going on, my interview with Craig Chaney of the Metal band Evergreen Terrace has been posted over on Confront Magazine; it was a fun conversation and I'm glad to finally be able to share it with the readers.

The latest stats for The Unearthing are pretty good; roughly 1750 downloads since the free ebook download went live in March. Ugh...I've got to do so much housecleaning on this and my sister site for the novel; update the links and such, as Chapters Indigo are now selling it here in Canada for the US list price instead of the 30% markup it used to be selling for. My publisher has had a falling out with Amazon.com over the latter's ridiculous demands...that's something else I've got to get around to. But, if you haven't already bought the book odds are you won't. If you have bought it you don't need to buy another, and if you do want to buy it, the links on the left all still work in the meantime, so that's on the low-priority list.

...I smell a small lecture about the above paragraph wending its way from the keyboard of my personal Jimminy Cricket...

CONFRONT Magazine is also branching out, musically speaking. In association with MAP Music (Musicians Against Parkinson's) CONFRONT Presents will be hosting an awareness concert to benefit people living with Parkinson's Disease. The event is August 23rd, at Club Soda here in Montreal. The line-up for the show includes Arthur Kall, Monday Rose, Polar Eyes, La Confrerie, and The New Cities, as well as presentations by musician and MAP Music founder Robbie Tucker and Canadian Pairs Bronze medalist, Craig Buntin.

I guess that's the most immediately relevant stuff. So, for want of a better concluding paragraph for this post, let me just say

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Brief Update...

So it's been twelve days since I last posted. My bad. A lot of things have been going on; the ever ongoing quest to treat my panic disorder, adjusting to yet another new medication, the relaunch of CONFRONT Magazine, initial feedback from Oh Well Whatever Nevermind's test readers before I polish it off one last time and send it out to prospective publishers...that one I'm going to need some advice on; I"m not sure how best to approach the pubs.

In that time I've been rewriting The Darkness And The Stars, the follow up to The Unearthing. I've also been involved in regular planning sessions for a new phase in CONFRONT Magazine's ventures, garnering some positive reviews for my article on heavy metal music for said same magazine, and toying with an idea to ship to a comic book company I met through Twitter.

The Chapters/Indigo thing was some over-hype by Publish America: Canada's Only Book Seller won't be STOCKING PA titles, but selling them on a par with the US cover prices. I've gotten another 200 downloads of The Unearthing, so I'm around 1750 now...Still trying to figure out the next step on that one.

I'm actually dozing off...guess the anti-anxiety meds are kicking in. More soon...I promise.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Biofuels are being vilified by the Oil-industry manufactured "food crisis"

The whole biofuels-are-starving-us thing is a crock.

First off, farmers around the world were ENCOURAGED by their governments by ways of grants and tax credits to grow corn for biofuel. What happened next was inevitable: so many farmers started growing biofuel crops that there were food grain shortages.

Ask yourself, however, who stands to profit most from the vilification of biofuels? The same people who have been writing US energy policy for the last decade: Big Oil.

Big Oil has pulled the wool over everyone's eyes, by encouraging--through lobbyists--the governments of the world to subsidize the overproduction of biofuel crops at the expense of food crops. Now, the backlash against biofuel is so widespread that the alternative fuel source will be abandoned by and large.

Biofuel is much cheaper to produce than petroleum distillates. This means that Big Oil could not make the switch to biofuel without massive losses. This means that the best way to continue making obscene profits is to ensure people do not look for cheap alternative fuels.

Big Oil engineered the current worldwide food shortage in order to sabotage biofuels.

Big Oil, like so many other corporate special interests has been dictating American policy--as well as policy for much of the West--for far too long.

Land doesn't have to be diverted from food production to biofuel production; the land we farm the fuel supply on doesn't have to be "clean"; there's a lot of contaminated land that could be used. Likewise, adapting the procedures Israel used to create the "Kibbutz" farms in the desert, the whole of the Southwest could be used to grow fuel crops.

Likewise, if its a question of climate control because the crops cannot grow except in specific conditions, why not create greenhouses to do that? Again, the crops don't have to look pretty or taste good, all they have to do is be able to be converted into ethanol or biodiesel. Are you going to tell me, with all the GE crops Montsanto and others are turning out that they couldn't engineer a crop that would produce fuel when processed? Again, the crops could be highly toxic to humans, (and don't give me the whole M. Night Shaymalan "The Event" spiel) and still be viable for fuel. Oil workers are exposed to poisonous chemicals every day of their working lives; I have no moral qualms about exposing biofuel workers to similar risks for similar rewards.

All this to say that in the case of biofuels, it is the flesh that is willing and the spirit is weak; the Big Oil concerns have too much to lose.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Interesting...


...Publish America just announced that the Chapters/Indigo book stores will begin stocking Publish America titles.

...The largest book store chain in Canada will now be a potential new point of sale for The Unearthing.

Now of course the question is how to turn this to my advantage...seems my "break" from marketing The Unearthing is coming to an end...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The insane day which is in the midst of extremeness using

Amazingly, after midnight and as tired as I am, I can't fall asleep. Funny, I can remember as far back as six or seven years old, oftentimes not being able to sleep at night, until 2 or 3 in the morning.

It's not that I don't want to sleep...I just need to unwind.

The day started in its usual way for a Friday: me going up to go to work at the newspaper, Fridays being my super-busy crazy day (or, as translated into Japanese and then back into English by the Babelfish translation engine, my The insane day which is in the midst of extremeness using) followed by two interviews I'd had scheduled for CONFRONT Magazine, at Le National.

Let me just pause here to plug the Babelfish translator. It is hilarious. You take a block of text, any text, and then translate it from English into Japanese. Then, copy the Japanese text back into the translator, and translated it back into English. The results are hilarious.

For example, you probably recognize the opening lines of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

Well, this is what English-to-Japanese-to-English makes it read as:

As for that before us the best of the time, as for that at the time of age of intelligence it was worst before us, the light/write which is the infidelity and that new era which are conviction and that new era which are foolishness and that age which that are, the darkness which is that season, the winter of the despair which is desire and that spring which are that season, us what which us it did not have everything which it had, entirely was we who go to the heaven which is we directly, it was the other method of going and indicating entirely


You can have a lot of fun with this software. I imagine that fans of Battlestar Galactica could use this to actually make sense of the jabberings of the Hybrids.

Anyway, back to my insane day which is in the midst of extremeness using. I can't complain about my job, because I enjoy it so much. Oh yes, the coffee is shit, but at least it's free, and although it's high pressure because of newspaper deadlines and such, the end result is still a feeling of having accomplished something worthwhile.

Plus, I get an hour for lunch, which I usually spend sitting in the Quad at the nearby McGill University, writing and looking at all the girls go by dressed in their summer clothes...short skirts and pantyhose, windy days and games of hacki sack...I love this city.

Oh, and the fresh air is nice and the writing I get done at lunch is usually good.

But because of the day job, I had to have my interviews--with the bands As I Lay Dying and Evergreen Terrace--scheduled for after work. They were supposed to be at 7:00 and 7:30, but in the music world things like scheduled interview times tend to change.

Also, I had a Hunter S. Thompson moment (No, not one of THOSE Hunter S. Thompson moments, the other kind) in which, as I was going into the venue, a burly security guy stopped me and wanted to go through my backpack.

Now, although it has been a number of years of (relative) sobriety for me, I have nevertheless an absolute hatred for People of Authority searching my things, especially my backpack. And with the last name I have, that means when I go on a trip, I'm usually pretty annoyed by the time I get through at customs. I'm on a Department of Homeland Security "He Has a Funny Last Name" watch list.

But anyway, the guy was sort of being a dick about it, so I just looked at him flatly and said "I'm Press!" Which of course I am. But as these two magic words (and verification of my press pass) did their trick, he let me through...and in my head I heard Johnny Depp shouting that line from the film version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: "I'm a doctor of Journalism, dammit!" and it was just...unreal.

So, I did my first interview about half an hour before showtime at eight, with the second originally to be right after the second. Usually these interviews are short affairs, ten, fifteen minutes, though sometimes you get into a zone with the person you're interviewing and lose track of time.

The first interview I did was over and done with in less than twelve minutes, according to my digital recorder. It looked like I was going to complete a tactical surgical strike: get in, get the interviews, get out.

Of course, you know what they say about plans only working until they're actually attempted...

After my interview with Tim from As I Lay Dying ended, the label rep then told me that the next interview was rescheduled and now would be after Evergreen Terrace did their set.

This was a tad annoying, as I was tired from a month's worth of not sleeping properly (Case in point it's a quarter of one and I'm still writing this post) and a long day's night, the fact that I walked from University Street to Ste Catherine's and Montcalm, where Le National is. That's over 16 city blocks, and several kilometers. Also, I'm perhaps not old, but old enough to want to go home and rest after being out and about since 7:30 in the morning.

However, I had to stay for Evergreen Terrace's set, so I did. They put on one hell of a live show, and they did a cover of Mad World, which most of you know from the film Donnie Darko, as performed by Gary Jules, although it is in fact an old Tears for Fears song.

Then, instead of being right after their set, some other unforeseen circumstances delayed things further, but finally, about two hours after I got to the venue (nearly four hours after I finished work--and no, it didn't take me that long to walk to the venue from work; I stopped to have supper and a coffee before the show) I was going into my second interview.

Anyway, the interview with Craig of Evergreen Terrace (which, along with my interview with Tim you'll just have to wait for the relaunch of CONFRONT Magazine on May 29th to read about) ran long...coming in at 45 minutes. It was a great interview, don't get me wrong, but this crotchety, set-in-his ways geezer was wanting to get home early enough for a shower, a cup of tea, some quiet time with my wife and to watch Battlestar Galactica.

Didn't happen that way. Sometimes in an interview, reporter and subject just end up having a conversation. Conversations are long things, so it was nine thirty by the time we'd finished talking (and he went off to help the band finish loading the gear and I went off to call my wife and let her know I was still alive) .

I live 25, 30 minutes from downtown, when the public transit is on peak hours. 9:30 at night is not peak time. It took me an hour to get home. At this point, I've been up since 6:00, worked all day, walked 20 blocks and spent two and a half hours doing music journalist stuff, then making the sojourn home.

If I'd have dropped a gold ring into a molten pit, well then the Tolkienian undertones of my day would have been complete.

I did get the tea, quiet time with my wife and the shower, but I'm going through some serious BSG withdrawal. Thank God the show repeats tomorrow at eight PM...I'd be inconsolable if I missed it.

I love working as a journalist, talking to the bands, listening to new music all the time, seeing shows for free (usually) and just the whole atmosphere of the lifestyle. It does take a lot out of you, though, especially when you have a day job. I wouldn't change a thing. Except of course to be a full-time journalist, of course. Or, to be a full-time novelist. Full-time anything involving writing, other than technical writing, of course...Hell, I have a couple of ideas for graphic novels that I'm kicking around, now...on top of my rewrite of The Darkness and the Stars, coming up with the next phase of promoting The Unearthing, and the work I'm doing on Lengths of Love (The TENTATIVE title for the story I'm working on now) and rewriting Oh Well, Whatever, Nevermind, I'm very busy creatively speaking.

Which may explain why, at 1:30 I'm still nowhere near ready to shut the laptop down and pull the covers up over my head and get some fucking sleep.

Fortunately, it's a long weekend here in Canada, so I have three days instead of two to recuperate. God bless the long weekend!

On that note, Happy Victoria Day, Canada!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Israel marks its 60th anniversary


60 years ago, the nation of Israel was founded, to create a homeland for the Jewish people.

They did this to have a place to live, free of persecution, oppression and the threat of genocide, to never again face a Shoah.

It is high time, then, that the Israeli government stopped its Shoah against the Palestinian people, whose land they invaded and expropriated for their own.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Perverse Society: The Illusion of Freedom in the Market Economy

We may want to believe we are free...but the truth is we are not.

The culture of debt and addiction to which we belong ensures that we are forced into bondage, in order to ensure our very survival.

Those of us who can "afford" higher education must usually go into debt to do so. Those who cannot have their options forever limited by their lack of education into a life of servitude.

In either case, the very things we depend on for our survival can and are denied us, unless we yield to the will of our masters.

How many times have you been told "If you don't like your job you can always quit"? How many times have you thought about quitting, and then realized that you simply could not afford to do so?

You have rent or a mortgage to pay. You have to buy food. You have to pay utilities. You likely owe a great deal of money to one or more credit card companies, who are charging you an obscene amount of interest for the privilege of going into debt with them. They make their money off those interest rates, because most people work so very hard for not nearly enough money, so all anyone can afford to do is pay the minimum monthly balance, thereby ensuring their debt load increases.

Do you own a car? Outright, or are you still paying it down? More debt, and more expenses: license fees, registration, insurance...gasoline...gas prices keep going up and up and up...the gas companies tell us it's more expensive to import and refine crude oil, and they are making billions upon billions of dollars of RECORD profit, every year. Do not believe their lies. They are raising the cost of fuel in order to inflate their coffers.

There is, supposedly, a worldwide food shortage right now. Why? Because so many farmers were "encouraged" to grow crops for ethanol production that not enough food crops were produced. What lies. Every year in the United States, Canada and Western Europe farmers are paid subsidies to let grain ROT in silos, because it is more cost-effective to do that than to put that grain on the market. The "food crisis" was invented to do one thing: to make people reject Ethanol, which is a legitimate and viable alternative to the oil monopolies stranglehold on our society.

If people reject ethanol, demand for fossil fuel will increase, which the fuel companies will be able to use as justify increasing the price of gasoline.

Higher gasoline prices mean higher costs for the transport and manufacture of goods, which translates to higher prices overall. Higher prices overall mean you have less earning power. Less earning power makes you a slave.

Has your salary been indexed to the cost of living? In other words, is your employer raising your salary to match the price you must pay for your drive into work, the food you eat, the clothes on your back and all the other necessities one must buy to even eke out a subsistence existence? I didn't think so.

So, while everything else gets more expensive, you aren't earning enough to keep up. This increases your debt, which in turn increases your dependence on your job for your very survival.

You are a slave.

You are not free to quit unless you have another job lined up. You can't line up another job without going on interviews. :You can't go interview elsewhere, because prospective employers expect you to be available for interview during the day, which is likely when you're at work. Is your boss going to give you time off to go on a job interview? I didn't think so. Can you just call in sick whenever you have a job interview elsewhere? No...I didn't think so either. And if your employer finds out you're shopping around for another job, will they do anything to keep you, or punish your disloyalty by terminating your employment?

So, then, how can you claim to be free? You spend eight hours a day in service to others, laboring under their yoke. Whatever earnings you have are taken from you to pay your debts. What little you have left over after paying for the necessities goes into savings--if you're lucky--so that you can hopefully one day stop working. And if that is the case, you must hope that you die before the money runs out.

You are not free. The supposedly free society that you live in is designed to give you the illusion of freedom, while keeping you completely controlled.

This is known as trickle-up economics. Follow the money. It always flows from your pockets, away from you and towards corporations, financial institutions and then into the hands of greedy pigs who already have more than their fair share of the wealth.

Now, how are you supposed to break free? How are you supposed to liberate yourself?

Well, what happens when you don't pay your bills? The accounts go into collection. And what happens if you default on accounts in collection? Your credit rating is affected.

All your credit rating truly determines is how much deeper in debt creditors are willing to let you get.

So, do you want to know how to break free? Stop paying your bills. Not the utilities, not the rent. The frivolities. The car; let them repossess it. The credit cards? Stop paying them and watch your income go up. Take public transit, buy what you can afford, save up for the things you want, and prioritize rent, food and utilities. You stop paying the frivolous debts and you'll have money enough. You stop paying the frivolous debts and your economic slave masters will lose their power over you.

But what about your credit rating? Why do you need it? You don't. Let your credit rating be ruined. Imagine this: If everyone stopped paying their credit card bills, their student loans, their car loans...if everyone just stopped for one month, for two months...the economy would collapse, because it isn't industry or hard work that runs our society, it is debt and dependency.

Start a revolution: Get three friends to stop paying their credit card bills. Get each of them to get three friends to stop paying those bills. If everyone who was in debt stopped paying their debts for 120 days, the financial world would be shaken to its foundations. Credit ratings will become useless and, deprived of their only source of revenue, the creditors will die, like parasitic leeches deprived of the lifeblood of their victims.

And then what? Well, the oil conglomerates and the financial institutions are the pillars of control. One cannot exist without the other. The oil companies rely on our dependence on their product, they rely on us to be in their debt. But if we use public transit, if we refuse to pay their ransom for gasoline, if we find alternative sources of heating our homes, such as space heaters, warm clothing and more blankets on the bed, what then? They will fall.

Alternative fuels like ethanol, alcohol based fuels, hydrogen fuel cells and other renewable fuel sources are dangerous to these parasites. And if we start turning to the alternatives, if we turn our backs on the fossil fuels and the financial institutions, they will have no further power over us, as we will have no further need for them.

No, it would not be easy. No, it would not be pleasant. But the path to freedom is not an easy one. The road to liberty is littered with the carnage caused by those who fight against those yearning to be free. There will be unemployment as the credit and oil-sponsored industries collapse. But in times of such collective destitution, there comes change. We have been conditioned to look out for ourselves, when we should be looking out for one another. If everyone worked towards helping everyone else, we would all prosper.

In this new war for freedom, money has been the weapon of choice used to keep us enslaved. Now it is time for us to use that weapon against our masters. Deny them the power they have over us, by denying them those goddamn pieces of paper that they have taught us to believe have any real importance. Crush them by using those same pieces of paper to starve them.

It is time to break free.