Wednesday, December 31, 2003

This image could not be published in an American newspaper, magazine, or any other media broadcast, because it depicts American casualties in Iraq. The Bush Administration has decided that this could negatively affect public opinion of the Iraq War and decided to censor all such images. If you are an American citizen, please save this image onto your hard drive and show it to your friends. Freedom of the press is protected by your constitution and you should not give it up so easily.
Aristotle spoke of using "logos" as a means of winning an argument. It is one of the forms of rhetoric, which can be defined as " faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion." Rhetoric is designed as a method of convincing others to bend to your will and to influence public opinion. Luckily, this knowledge has not been lost in our times, thanks to the incredible memory of our politicians. They know that when all else fails, you can run a campaign ad that dumbs down the issues, you can slander your opponent, and you can probably win the votes you need to stay in office for four more years.

South of the 49th parallel, our American friends are getting ready for the Primaries, where the Democratic Party will vote for a candidate to run against Bush in the fall of 2004. It is at times like this that I wish I was an American, just so I could vote against George W. Bush, the cancerous force that is eating away at America's moral character and ruining any hopes for world peace. Sadly, I am Canadian so I must devote my energies to voting against Paul Martin, the Liberal leader with a fondness for corporate rule and a supporter of the ill-fated American Missile Defence Shield.

When I mentioned rhetoric, I failed to offer a concrete example. Here is an ad released by the "Club for Growth", an American non-profit organization that was "...founded in 1999 to elect pro-economic growth fiscal conservatives. That organization forwards campaign contributions from its members to the most free-market oriented candidates in targeted congressional races." It is laden with excellent rhetoric and will be sure to mislead thousands of American voters.







What they are saying is that Democrats want to raise taxes, and since middle-income Americans are going to pay more taxes with a Democrat in the White House, we should obviously vote in a leader who instituted billions of dollars of tax cuts for the rich. Independant studies of Bush's economic policy have shown an alarming disregard for the bottom 80 percent of the American population. The majority of his tax cuts were aimed at the wealthiest individuals in America, specifically those with incomes $500,000 and above. Obviously, the only way to pass off such a tax cut is by convincing everyone that they'll all make a better living that way, and rhetoric makes this possible!

The 30-second "Club for Growth" television ad also associates Howard Dean with several Democratic candidates who lost previous elections. These other candidates failed to win for mixed reasons but it is foolhardy to try and compare the 2004 election to those in the past. By labelling the Democratic party as a lost cause, some swing voters might be convinced to back the winning candidate, and thereby lead their nation into four more years of questionable leadership. Also, in these other elections, the incumbent hadn't put his country into the largest deficit in history (a record $380 billion USD). Bush has been the architect of some of the most questionable acts in American history, including removing two sovereign powers without declaring war, putting his country to the brink of bankruptcy, and failing to capture Osama Bin Laden by wasting his time pursuing pre-emptive strikes and intimidation of "Rogue states".

The "Club for Growth" is not part of the American Republican Party but since the Republicans serve its special interests, the Club is glad to knock down any opponents to GOP rule. Hopefully, the American public will realize the harm that George Bush and his cut-taxes-at-all-costs Republican minions have caused to their great nation. When you cut taxes, you must cut spending accordingly, and by cutting spending, the working class will suffer the most. How many millionaires take the bus? When do you see Bill Gates bleeding in the lobby of an overworked, underfunded charity hospital? Unless we tax the wealthy at a sufficient rate, the rest of us will feel the sting of going without.

My father is fond of saying that if income taxes existed when Karl Marx was writing his manifesto, there would never have been a communist revolution anywhere. Obviously, you must temper your actions with logic and I am not saying that we should blindly vote against whoever supports the status quo, but I think that in the 2004 election, the decision should be simple--just don't vote for Bush! He is a media whore, a man who has never had to go without, an heir to a multi-million fortune, and a former National Guardsman who went AWOL. What he isn't is a leader. Visit for more ammunition.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

I was reading about John Taylor Gatto, the 1991 New York City school teacher of the year, and I was most amused about how he responded to the award--he quit his teaching career and began a life for himself on a farm with his wife. Although he quit teaching, he didn't stop trying to help us learn. He is the author of several books on the perils that forced schooling are inflicting on generations of students all around the world. These days, he is an advocate of home schooling and a supporter of the Libertarian party.

From what I've seen, the core of his argument is that going to school crushes your individuality, teaches you to use external measures of self-worth, and neglects to properly prepare you for a healthy, fulfilling life. Instead, it collates and sorts photocopied graduates to be filed in the Human Resources department of our corporations.

Although I have had some positive learning experiences in my time, I would agree for the most part. I have always enjoyed reading on my own and learning from my parents (who are both teachers, giving me an unfair chance!). I only questioned the idea of going to school when I was five years old and vowed that I would hide underneath my bed when the bus arrived to cart me off. That thinking was long dead, until now.

I know that if I want to write for a living, I'll have to go back to Concordia University eventually. (McGill missed out on a great prospect when they scoffed at my mountain-range chart of high and low marks...they vary from 19 in Vectors and Linear Algebra to 100 in History of Western Civilization) The diploma I receive in Journalism won't teach me to write--it will teach me to pull my punches at the behest of an editor, to follow the "rules", and to make deadlines and get real world experience in the field. So far, the only real journalism I've ever done is for Spec Newspaper, and only an op-ed piece on the 2001 FTAA summit in Quebec City. Unless you count this blog, of course.

I wish I knew a lawyer who's well versed in international law because I have a whopper of a question. I'm wondering if the United States is voiding its lease in Guantanamo Bay by holding "enemy combatants" in a prison there.

According to what I've read about the history of how the U.S. acquired the right to use this slice of Cuba for its own purposes, it appears that the original lease stipulated:

"(a) The area must be used only for a coaling and naval station."

Guantanamo Bay has been occupied by the U.S. since 1898. Since they are clearly using it for purposes beyond those sanctioned in the original agreement, it should technically become null and void, or at least it seems so. If there are any lawyers who I've caught reading this, please send me a message in the msg board to the right & help me to understand the legal logistics of this thing!

I just read an article in by Linda Chavez. She is the President of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a "think tank" that tries to promote the assimilation of immigrants and cultural monoversity (the opposite of diversity?). They also oppose affirmative action programs, certain types of education ("racialist 'Afrocentric' curriculum of dubious merit", as they say on their mission statement), and they absolutely reject bilingualism. It is a good thing that we don't have a branch of CEO up here in Canada! The Quebec government would be in an uproar. Assimilation? English only? It wouldn't fly up here.

After reading her Dean article, I decided to write her a letter and call her on her background information. She says that Howard Dean is proving to say things recklessly and then she tries to use this as a cattle prod, using his misquotes to jab at his nomination chances. Where I took offense was when she says "But to say that Americans are no safer with Saddam behind bars is just plain strange." Then, I began to lose track of my focus and I descended into a rant about her organization. I hope to receive a reply. If she responds, I'll see if I can post it up here, to allow her a chance to defend her potentially-heinous organization.

Here is the letter, unabridged.


I was reading your article about Howard Dean's "wacky" and "irresponsible" statements and how they may hurt his chances during the 2004 election. This is a matter of speculation, however since George W. Bush is the architect of two foreign invasions & the world record holder for both the "Largest Deficit by an American President in History" and the "Most protesters opposing American President in History", there is a good chance that the Democratic candidate will win by a slim majority. Whether Dean will be the nominee is a matter to be seen.

The capture of Saddam Hussein is a triumph for human rights and justice since he and his brutal regime must be judged by an internationally-sanctioned war crimes tribunal. His capture doesn't necessarily mean that America will be safer. Ba'ath Iraqi Fedayeen and other Saddam loyalists are not the only players in the Iraqi insurgency (resistance). Shi'ite Fundamentalist militia and other agents are also involved in the guerilla warfare and other assymetrical tactics versus the American occupiers.

For this reason, Howard Dean was right to say that America wasn't safer with the capture of Saddam Hussein. The troops occupying Iraq will still face resistance for the months or years to come.

Also, Al Q'aida has not been subdued. The attack on Pakistani President Musharaf may have been one of their operations. Osama Bin Laden remains at large.

Let us not forget North Korea, which has taken a harder tack since America refused to make a non-agression pact and chastised North Korea for its nuclear programme. This is also a danger to the United States and a member of the Axis of Exil (With Iraq removed from the list, has the White House considered a replacement? Syria or Iran? The choices!).

Plus, Taiwan has a referendum coming up which has angered the Chinese Communists. They are committed to reuniting with Taiwan but there is a Taiwanese Separation movement that has gained control of the government. If Taiwan declares itself a sovereign nation and is accepted by enough states, China could go to war to seize what she sees as her possession. This uncertain time calls for calm and mutual respect. Foreign policy must be done with concern for other nations and their interests.

So, long story short, the capture of Saddam didn't necessarily make America safer. It did, however, give President Bush a feather in his cap which he will carry into the 2004 election.

I saw your website (CEO) and I wanted to say that my province (Québec) is bilingual. We love speaking both French and English. Most of my population speaks two languages and we have cultural and economic links with Europe as a reward. Instead of trying to melt down your population into a congruous mass, why not celebrate everyone's culture and background? Why assimilate and attempt cultural genocide?

With a small minority of Americans still hindered by the taint of racist beliefs, it is necessary to have programs like affirmative action. Since many of the policies of the past were against visible minorities (before the civil rights movement), many families are still trying to achieve the American dream and make a better life for themselves. What is your explanation for the CEO stance against affirmative action and for assimilation?

Please comment.


Philip Shearing

Linda's group also has the vaguely conservative acronym CEO (meaning Center for Equal Opportunity), possibly to represent the Bush administration. After all, former CEO Cheney now has the opportunity to give no bid contracts to his friends at Haliburton, former CEO Bush is reminding Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin that before Canada-U.S. relations are to equalize, we'll have to sign on to a missile-defense treaty, and poor Colin Powell just got the opportunity to survive cancer thanks to a lengthy operation. Out of all the Bush minions, Mr. Powell is one that I respect. (And Condoleeza Rice equals just a question mark. I am truly indifferent to her)

Friday, December 12, 2003

I just joined the NDP. I figure I might as well get started on fighting to defend Canadian democracy, since with Jack Layton leading the charge, we actually have a chance of winning the next election. Get out there and check out the NDP for yourself! You might not be as right wing as you thought!

Just to inject a little humour into the post below, take a look at Paul Martin's opinion on the Canadian Flag. Like I told you, he is a corrupt swindler! Even voting Conservative doesn't look that bad when you realize at least the Conservatives don't pretend to have a social conscience like Paul Martin's Liberals do.

Today, Paul Martin showed us that he is somebody that we can all agree to Vote Against. He is soon to be the official Prime Minister of Canada and he has begun to brandish his blade. Some veteran politicians have already felt its sharpness, including former Justice Minister Martin Cauchon and former Defense Minister John McCallum. Cauchon and his pipe dream of decriminalizing marijuana will probably be forgotten by Paul Martin's Conservative-in-Liberal's Clothing leadership, since Paul knows who butters his bread, and it is definately not the pot smokers of Canada. Until the public shows some sort of solidarity on the pot issue, we're going to be forced to run from the law and enrich organized crime for the years to come.

John McCallum was a likeable Minister of Defense, content to sit back and ridicule the American invasion of Iraq without any qualms. He has been punished by being delegated to the role of Veteran Affairs minister, a toothless agency who's aim is to thank veterans for their sacrifices, ie. pat them on the back and try to convince them that losing a leg in Korea really made a difference.

It is still to early to begin trying to say that Paul Martin is a horrible Prime Minister...staring at watch...ok, how about now? After all, he has given me a couple of reasons to fear the next couple of years already, and he has barely been sworn into office.

  • Suspicious Move #1- He is trying to imitate our neighbours to the south! He is going to create a "Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness", mirroring the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as if Canada is a major target of a terrorist attack. It is precisely by not buying into the "perpetual war" rhetoric that we have avoided being attacked by global terrorists. People know that Canada doesn't invade or occupy; we don't arrest people just because of the colour of their skin; we don't claim to own God (ie. God Bless America); by aping the American colossus, we risk being pulled down in its wake.

  • Suspicious Move #2- Martin is cosying up to companies This is not altogether surprising, considering that Mr. Martin made his fortune in the private sector and obviously has some debts to repay, but do we have to lead our universities hand-in-hand to sure corporate control? The website of the Prime Minister's office promises to "(foster) the creation and growth of innovative Canadian companies by more effective commercialization of university research and better access to early stage financing." This will mean that any research that doesn't lead to corporate profits will be put on the back burner. By buying into the argument that the free market will provide for us all, we are going to close the door on developments that are beneficial to humanity but not to commerce.

  • Suspicious Move #3- He is trying to seduce the Bush Administration Also promised in his announced changes to government, Paul Martin is going to create "...a new Cabinet Committee on Canada-U.S., chaired by the Prime Minister, to ensure an integrated, government-wide approach to Canada-U.S. relations and to be supported by a Canada-U.S. Secretariat in the Privy Council Office." Doesn't our embassy in Washington already perform this role? What does he mean by an "integrated, government-wide" approach? Are Canadian politicians going to learn to chant U S A in classrooms nation-wide? Is he referring to the frequent criticism of the Bush Administration by the braver members of Parliament over the past few years? This sort of talk is disheartening in a nation that prides itself on being "strong and free". When somebody covers your mouth, you're not experiencing freedom.

Love him or hate him, Jean Chretien has turned out to be a monumental leader. He slashed our social programs and education system in the early 90's and then metamorphized into a global pacifist and liberal moderate over the past year, vowing not to drag Canada into Iraq, attempting to legalize gay marriage on a federal level, and even courting the idea of decriminalizing small amounts of pot.

Sadly, Paul Martin has succeeded him, and if we are to remove him from the office of the Prime Minister, we'll all need to pull together. It will be tough to choose a new candidate but we've got at least a year before he holds a general election. Jack Layton, Godspeed to you & please don't give up fighting the Martin Menace.

Maybe we've been stricken by a case of bad karma. By giggling at the follies of Bush, with his "largest deficit in American history" world record & his obvious attempts at pandering to the lowest common denominator, we've been awarded a kick in the teeth in the form of Paul Martin, a spineless imp focused on winning back the favour of America. I think I'm going to do the unthinkable and actually vote NDP.

Now, enough of this unproductive ranting. I've got to get ready for a Hot Hot Heat concert @ Club Soda (7 PM, tickets are $15 CAD). Cheers!

Monday, December 08, 2003

Today was a bewildering day. I was unable to post anything to this blog for hours (the kind folks @ Blogspot must have been conducting some server maintenance!) and I only gained access to my soapbox just now.

This morning, I wanted to comment on the bombing that killed 9 Afghani civilians (all children). The strike was aimed at a "suspected Taliban terrorist" and was apparently supported by "very clear, actionable intelligence". I know that this Blog spends a little too much time focusing on the "usual suspects" (American soldiers & the Pentagon's war machine) but I couldn't let this slip past without mention. The "friendly fire" wasn't what shocked me the most--sadly, this sort of thing has been happening for years in all parts of the globe--what really caught my ire was the way the U.S. Military spokesman, Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, responded to the event.

"They're pretty understanding...They've been through years of war. They're not happy, but I think it meant a great deal to them that my commander, Gen. Austin, came out and personally expressed his condolences."
He also went on to say that although the U.S. forces were trying "to make sure (they) didn't hurt anybody besides (the suspect)...unfortunately, it's an imperfect art."

Calling firing on human beings from a distance an "art" makes a mockery of human life and of art itself!

Removing the Taliban government from power was necessary but this constant search for Al Q'aida isn't being carried out properly. They should be using the international legal & criminal organizations like Interpol to apprehend terrorists (George Soros is a proponent of this theory).

Then again, Afghanistan is a large mountainous country ruled locally by warlords. Much of the territory is beyond anyone's reach, not even local police, so that is why I suppose the military would be best suited for the job of tracking down the terrorists guilty of countless heinous acts. I'm not a tactical expert. I know that Canada is currently serving as the peacekeeping force in Kabul and apparently keeping order and trying to make a difference. I hope that we are welcome in their country.

Above all, if we just fire first and ask questions later, we are bound to strike some innocent people and create the template for future terrorism down the line. This applies to Afghanistan just as much as Iraq or any other country that we consider a terrorist state. People don't forget when they lose a father, or a child, and every life in the world is equal. If we want to truly combat terrorism, we must remove the reasons for supporting these groups--just like the cliché which remains from the Vietnam war, we must "win their hearts and minds" if we are to regain the security and peace we cherish. If we have the support of the majority of the people, they won't allow terrorists to blend into their population and they will be apprehended and dealt with accordingly.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Whenever I feel in need of a spiritual jello-shot, I just point my browser to the Tao Teh Ching, the great work by ancient Chinese scholar Lao-Tzu. He makes a lot of sense, even to a jaded modern reader such as myself.

"WHEN the world is in possession of the Tao,

The galloping horses are led to fertilise the fields
with their droppings.

When the world has become Taoless,

War horses breed themselves on the suburbs.

There is no calamity like not knowing what is enough.

There is no evil like covetousness.

Only he who knows what is enough will always have

The "Tao" that he refers to is something nearly beyond comprehension, because by definition, it is simply the origin of all life and existence. Taosim does not preclude monotheism since God could conceivably exist and nowhere in the Tao Teh Ching does it say that there is no God. It does say that by trying to assign rituals to spirituality, you are losing the essence of what is pure about your faith.

Failing Tao, man resorts to Virtue.

Failing Virtue, man resorts to humanity.

Failing humanity, man resorts to morality.

Failing morality, man resorts to ceremony.

Now, ceremony is the merest husk of faith and loyalty;

It is the beginning of all confusion and disorder.

As to foreknowledge, it is only the flower of Tao,

And the beginning of folly.

Therefore, the full-grown man sets his heart upon

the substance rather than the husk;

Upon the fruit rather than the flower.

Truly, he prefers what is within to what is without.

There is even a tiny shred of proof that the Canadian way is the way of the Tao!

WHAT is in the end to be shrunken,

Begins by being first stretched out.

What is in the end to be weakened,

Begins by being first made strong.

What is in the end to be thrown down,

Begins by being first set on high.

What is in the end to be despoiled,

Begins by being first richly endowed.

Herein is the subtle wisdom of life:

The soft and weak overcomes the hard and strong.

Just as the fish must not leave the deeps,

So the ruler must not display his weapons.

Since our military is cut off at the knees by lackluster spending and antiquated weapons, our country is weak militarily. Still, we have never been conquered (not even in 1812 when our American friends tried to slip a few thousand troops across the Great Lakes and up the Richelieu) and our place in the world is well respected. I feel much safer with a weak military than I would if we were occupying foreign countries against their will and flexing our might worldwide.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Tonight, I watched "Das Experiment", a German film based upon the true story of the Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971. It recounts the tale of a group of test subjects that are divided into two groups--half prisoners, the other half "prison guards". It was conducted in order to "...see what the psychological effects were of becoming a prisoner or prison guard".

Stir-crazy is an apt term for the way the prisoners reacted to the confinement and abuse doled out by their "guards". The lines between reality and fiction began to blur as the study went on and the catastrophic results that came after the sixth day should have been expected.

In real life, the Stanford experiment was halted on the sixth day because the lead researcher realized that "...(the) prisoners were withdrawing and behaving in pathological ways, and in which some of the guards were behaving sadistically".

I won't ruin the punch of the movie by doling out all the twists and scenes that wind up "Das Experiment" but it will suffice to say that the ending is grim and bloody. In the real experiment, there was a rebellion fomenting by the fifth day and some prisoners had lost all sense of reality. Some even begged a visiting chaplain to contact a lawyer to ask for "parole". They were so convinced that their imprisonment was genuine that they even joined in chanting "Prisoner 819 is a bad prisoner..." at a prison guard's behest, when #819 was removed from his cell for beginning a hunger strike!

I think that the reason this movie was so chilling was that this is the sort of thing we subject millions of people to for various reasons. According to the Stanford Prison Official site, currently there "...are more Americans in jails and prisons -- both men and women -- than ever before in history." Considering that many of the prisoners in Federal and State custody are there for non-violent drug offenses, I think that the current prison system will do nothing to reform felons. In fact, it probably creates more crime than it suppresses since the unbearable conditions would break down any healthy mind. Imagine what it is like to endure 36 months of solitary confinement? It boggles the mind.

I wish that somebody would put the guys responsible for corporate crime into the same cages that they put the rest of the prisoners in. Then, perhaps somebody would speak out against this cruel and unusual punishment.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't lock up criminals, or individuals that are a danger to society. I just think that by treating inmates like animals, we are allowing the evil within us to take control. By torturing inmates with sleep deprivation, physical abuse, and solitary confinement, we are losing part of what makes us human. If you don't believe me, watch "Das Experiment", and see for yourself. (While you're at it, read Human Rights Watch and their section on Prison life around the world)

The American election is still more than a full year away but the Democratic nomination is keeping my eyes glued to Google News. Every columnist, every pundit, heck, even weather ladies are choosing their favourite potential Democrat to oppose George W. Bush in the 2004 Presidential election. The Daily Show likens them to a "herd" and that isn't far from the truth. Nine different people all seek to embody the spirit of the American Democratic party, or as we Canadians call it, the "lesser of two evils". After all, Clinton was a Democrat & he bombed a lot of foreigners too. He knew how to push the Cruise missile button when it suited him. So, for you Republicans out there, don't think that you're the only ones to be blamed for American imperial policy.

If I had a gun to my head right now and you asked me to choose a Dem to go up against Bush, after emptying my bladder and whimpering a bit, I'd probably go with (Wait, do you want the idealistic choice or the pragmatic choice? This is a tough one) Howard Dean/John Kerry. Dean is more resolute and brave, standing nearly alone against the Warmongers in Congress who supported Bush's attack on Iraq. Kerry seems a little more slick and I think he'd have more of a chance of winning. So do we live in a happy little dream world and go with the Heart (Dean) or do we chug back an espresso and study the Wall Street Journal with our minds (Kerry)? Tough call.

Luckily, Canada doesn't have the trouble of choosing a new leader. He's forcing his way in, nearly done sticking Jean Chretien's head on a pike and hungry for fresh blood. Paul Martin is his name and he only uses his right hand when he waves. Yes, he wants to reconcile with the Americans. After all, he is a multi-millionaire businessman & avid investor (he used to own a steamship company, etc.) so obviously Bush Inc. appeals to him more than the vaguely European socialist policies of the Liberal government in the past. With his hands on the wheel, expect Canada to head straight for the treacherous rocky straits of Republicana. We are going to shift to the right but hopefully the NDP can stay lucid long enough to grab some seats from the Liberals, and maybe the Bloc Quebecois will put aside skipping out of the Canadian Confederation long enough to help veer us to the left.

What has left-wing thinking brought us, besides an enormous tax burden on our entire population? Public health care, a decent education system (with tuition rising, mind you), and a lot of jobs for bureaucrats to count how many geese there are in Winnipeg. Still, I'd rather pay higher taxes and not anger the rest of the world by building bombs & dropping them on those who oppose us. Yesterday, I saw an interview with Mr. McCallum (sp?), Canada's current defense minister. When asked why our government spends so little on our military, he tried his best to sound diplomatic & not anger or offend our British & American allies. What he should have said was Why build up for war when everyone wants peace? Nobody is burning Canadian flags in the streets, vowing to kill the mounties with Rocket Propelled Grenades...Since we don't have an empire, since we don't go around signing deals with dictators, since we don't own everything, we're not a major target.

We have won their hearts and minds by being a good example of a democracy that defends everyone's right to exist. I hope that Paul Martin remembers this when he begins savagely turning the wheel to the right.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Not that I want to get on the bad side of the Catholic Church, but please use protection when you get your freak on. Today, a report released by the UN (you know, that multilateral institution promoting worldwide peace & cooperation that has been getting bombed by radical Iraqi extremists and dismissed as being obsolete by Neo-Con American Congressmen) revealed that approximately 40 million people suffer from HIV infection around the world. In some parts of Africa, four in ten people are living with HIV, which eventually develops into AIDS, unless treated promptly.

Sadly, many people in these nations don't have access to proper health care and most can't afford the price of retroviral drugs, which sometimes represents more than their whole yearly salary alone.

One promising development in the global battle against the spread of HIV is the recent efforts at allowing certain nations the right to produce generic versions of badly-needed medicine during an epidemic. Although this circumvents the "patent" laws of the Western world, at least it offers some hope to the people being stricken by this sinister disease.

Some would argue that by encouraging generic drug manufacturers to prosper, patients won't see the real benefit because there is nothing stopping these companies from jacking up their prices. This is a tough question because you hear two different stories every time it comes up. Who to believe? The NGO's or Medecins sans Frontieres? What about Bristol-Myers Squibb, who just announced $30 Million USD of aid for HIV sufferers from several African nations? (Is it possible that the Western drug companies have a heart? Possibly.) This is something that we should keep an eye on.

Even if you don't live in Sub-saharan Africa, with all the various S.T.D.'s prevalent in Western nations, using a condom is your best option, at least until you and your partner are absolutely certain that you're not at risk (ie. getting tested repeatedly, etc.)

Condoms don't only stop most STD's from spreading--they also prevent unwanted pregnancy. Today, as I was picking up some items at the drug store in my community, I walked by a worried young gentleman speaking hurried Arabic on his cellphone. A sales lady was giving him advice about which pregnancy kit to choose and he was translating this to his girlfriend over the phone. I didn't say a word to him (he needs his privacy at such a stressful moment) but I stopped in the condom aisle on the way out and picked up a box of Trojans. Better safe than sorry!

Every time I read an article penned by a Republican, I get this feeling in the bottom of my gut, the same one some people take antacids for. The pain goes away once I put away the gibberish, but while I'm reading it, I am forced to suffer. Suffer? Is this too strong a word?

Witness the unbelievable statement that David Frum made on National Review Online.

"And I recognize too how essential it is that George Bush be re-elected. If he loses the election, the United States loses the war on terror."
Even for an average Republican, this is going pretty far. I can see that the propaganda campaign and constant references to this "War" that doesn't have an end in sight are actually working for Bush. He's getting the support of his nation in a time of need. Without George W. Bush in power, terrorists will all move in next door and begin systematically bombing everyone in the phonebook, beginning with the A's and working towards the Z's. Does anyone really believe this? ("Is this thing on?")

David Frum, I really do believe that you have all the answers. Please explain how Bush is making the world safer and winning the "War on Terror"? By preemptively removing sovereign Arab governments from power? By keeping one hundred thousand or so troops thousands of miles from home? By curtailing domestic civil liberties via the Patriot Act while supposedly "protecting freedom"?

I wouldn't play up the "War on Terror" angle for too long. War creates casualties & even the most hardened generals would rather use diplomats than ground troops. How can you fight a war against a force that has no shape, no face, no flag or official territory? We've been fighting a war against the common cold for years but we still don't have a cure. Imagine if we began barricading ourselves in our homes and putting cold-sufferers in a Guantanamo Bay prison--people would speak up and protest. Instead, due to the emotional carnage that 9/11 inflicted upon America, the Republicans seem to have some sort of moral imperative to "stay the course" and continue fighting these shadows. Nobody wants to offend the survivors of 9/11 so they are letting George W. Bush make a mockery of the U.S. Constitution, and some of the more deluded followers (ie. David Frum, Andrew Sullivan) are saying that voting against Bush is voting for terror. Even if I were lobotomized, I would have a hard time saying that out loud because it makes no sense. Also, I worry that this type of thinking could become contagious in a land where everyone is afraid.

The American Democratic candidates are all claiming to have a unique solution of how to win the "War on Terror" & how to fix the situation in Iraq. Dennis Kucinich's "90 day-plan", which sounds like some sort of infomercial-- "And our troops will be out in 90 days. U.S. out, U.N. in!"--doesn't really sound very realistic, given that the U.N. is punishing the U.S. for acting unilaterally by refusing to send in peacekeepers. Former General Wesley Clark seems to know a little something about security, having led an international force overseas; heck, even Howard Dean couldn't be that bad. Despite his public speaking gaffes (such as the Confederate flag remark), Dean would probably bring America closer to the rest of the world, just by not being Bush.

One good thing about George W. Bush is his consistent incompetence. He makes the wrong decision so often that it would take a real fuck-up for the Democrats to lose this 2004 election. Then again, anything is possible. By sinking the country into a deficit that may leave them penniless in a couple of years, and by losing millions of jobs since Bush came into office, now the Republicans can claim to be raising job growth & productivity. No wonder. It's like cutting down an old-growth forest and claiming the seedlings you planted as political capital. When your economy is in the toilet, there is no way to go but up.

Monday, November 24, 2003

What makes an activist? A deep and undying love of resisting "the system"? A penchant for whining to everyone within earshot about the ills of the world, or of the foreign policy of the world's only superpower? Recycling his or her cans, bottles, paper, and donating to Greenpeace? What about chanting slogans in front of hundreds of shielded riot police?

For too long, I've been the sort that would respond "All of the above" when asked this question. Words are one thing, but direct action is another. I think that I am guilty of the most sinister crime a self-imagined activist could be accused of--not being active, aside from jabbering. I spend large parts of my life writing down my thoughts and spreading my ideas like some sort of textual plague. My talents are debatable, but I don't think anyone would even bother to do so. I do rail against aggression and oppression and occupation (what is it about that -ion suffix? It always goes with something to fight against!) but I never actually do anything about it!

Does talking about what needs to be done count? On a daily basis, I overwhelm my friends and allies with mildly preachy monologues about my pet subjects (U.S. Defense department behaviour, freedom, corporate enslavement, What is horribly evil about "Disney Inc.", the Israeli-Palestinian conflict & where all the settlers should relocate to, the list goes on...) and this tends to both annoy them and give them the urge to flee at all costs. Why don't I get through to them? And if I can't communicate verbally, what sort of writer can I suppose to be?

I know that New Years is still a puff of smoke on the horizon but I am going to make my resolution a bit early. I want this next year to be one of activity--I want to volunteer, be a part of true activism (ie. beyond rallies & ranting) and doing something positive for the world instead of just talking the talk. I suppose I'll keep writing, too, because it keeps my hands warm through these frigid Montreal winters. I'll do my best to limit my blathering to loved ones, and maybe I'll cut it out completely in 2005.

Hey, not to leap topics at the toss of a cap, but the Montreal transit strike that I've been mentioning lately ended on Sunday! Islanders will be eternally grateful to the navy blue team of tricksters (S.T.M. Employees) who exercised their freedom to protest and gauged the Quebec taxpayer for a salary increase of 7.8 percent over the next 4 years.(Check Google News for details). After reading that their average salary is about $47,000 per year, I lusted for a career opportunity at the S.T.M. They enjoy many fringe benefits in addition to such a generous salary, at least when compared to what employees in the private sector (ie. sales, retail, warehouse, etc.). Clerks that sit in the booths at the gates of metros citywide are reading books, right now, while getting paid handsomely to refuse to offer directions, feigning ignorance of the local streets and alleys.

Just seeing such antics makes me pity the poor McDonald's employees that slave away robotically for their stipend of $7.30 an hour (Canadian!). Having already suffered the pain of seeing 80 hours of work become diluted into a measly 23 twenty-dollar bills ($460), I know how it feels to be one of the "working poor". How can we beat this cycle of inhumanity?

Could unions be the answer for all retail employees? How can we improve legislation to protect the creation and organization of unions? Most attempts at starting unions result in closure of the establishment in question and obvious resistance from the corporate HQ. If every worker suddenly became part of a union, would this catapult our nation into a recession, with local retail outlets floundering? This should be addressed if we are to give everyone access to a reasonable standard of living. Through strong-arm tactics like the one the S.T.M. employed to such great benefit, let the Wendy's employees become a force to be reckoned with. Let that McJob pay twice as much and make it a viable career option instead of a transitional job to pay the bills.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Have you ever tried to get from one end of the Montreal Island to the other on foot? It could take hours, even days if you are among the minority of islanders without a vehicle. For these people, the citys mass transit system is the only viable option. Sadly, Montreal is currently in the grips of a massive transit strike.

Sure, there are more troubling things going on around the world. Drive-by donkey-cart rocket attacks in Iraq; Turkey still sorting through the rubble from Thursday's terrorist bombings; Michael Jackson, once America's Idol, now accused of abusing even more young boys. Still, for the citizens of Montreal, this transit strike is hitting them where it hurts.

It began Sunday, November 16th, and since then, buses and metro (subway) service has only been running during rush hour. Service won't even exist over the weekend! This is going to put a lot of pressure on the city to make a deal but these gun-to-your-head tactics aren't going to appeal to the thousands of Montrealers left stranded without a bus or metro & in risk of losing their jobs.

I hope that everything gets sorted out as soon as possible because my sister is one of the hassled-many, and it must be difficult for her to walk all the way downtown from St-Henri Metro! Good luck, sis, and let's hope the STM union is satisfied by the raise the city of Montreal offers them. (The employees on strike already receive an average annual salary of $47,000! This is no small chunk of change. They're requesting an increase of 8.7 percent over the next four years! Whatever. Let's get these buses back on the road!)

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Finally, a billionaire who's standing for what he believes in! George Soros, longtime financier of pro-democracy movements worldwide, has written a scathing essay about where Bush is taking the U.S. (to a dangerous place) and what this will mean in the future. Rather than dilute the force of his words, I will let George illuminate us all with his logical argument.

"The war on terrorism as pursued by the Bush Administration cannot be won. On the contrary, it may bring about a permanent state of war. Terrorists will never disappear. They will continue to provide a pretext for the pursuit of American supremacy. That pursuit, in turn, will continue to generate resistance. Further, by turning the hunt for terrorists into a war, we are bound to create innocent victims. The more innocent victims there are, the greater the resentment and the better the chances that some victims will turn into perpetrators."

He also goes on to say that the United States became the great nation it is now by being amicable, open, and willing to compromise, not by forcing its values upon the rest of the globe at gunpoint. This is where Bush and his Neoconservative Clan have gone astray.

Instead of just criticizing American foreign policy, he even offers a viable solution of how to lessen the spread of terrorism worldwide; to "...lead a cooperative effort to improve the world by engaging in preventive actions of a constructive character." He also goes on to propose "...replacing the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive military action with preventive action of a constructive and affirmative nature. Increased foreign aid or better and fairer trade rules, for example, would not violate the sovereignty of the recipients. Military action should remain a last resort."

In my opinion, that is some sound judgement from a self-made billionaire with a soul. It goes to show that anyone has the potential to make the right decision. Let us hope that the American public makes the right decision in 2004 (by voting for a viable candidate to replace Bush!).

The National Post, a widely-distributed Canadian newspaper that teeters towards the Right in terms of editorial policy, has proven its fallibility yet again. I've never heard such mythical bullshit being passed as news like this in my life, unless you count the tripe they feed you in State-Run newspapers (Ie. China, North Korea, etc.)

For example,

"The world's real environmental problems are not caused by corporations. They are local -- and they are caused by poverty. The solution to these local environmental problems is prosperity and empowerment of the poor. Facilitating and freeing up trade are crucial to achieving those objectives." said Kendra Okonski, director of IPN's Sustainable Development Project."


"Economic growth is key to addressing environmental concerns."

So I suppose instead of putting laws in place that protect the environment, or that demand that corporations stand accountable for polluting the globe, we should simply demolish the shantytowns! They are the ones causing the acid rain and the toxins in our drinking water, right? The National Post would have you believe that the disenfranchised of the world are to blame for everything, despite all evidence to the contrary.

That is why I try to read all sorts of different opinions, to counteract the bias that comes from taking all your water from the same well. Personally, I swear by Google News, since it allows me to find the most important stories from multiple sources, including the opinions of other nations (India, China, Russia, Brazil, etc.). Give it a whirl sometime.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

The Source & Ray Benzino have caused a stir by pulling a skeleton out of Eminem's closet, revealing that he is apparently a racist. Add this to his already well-known misogynic and homophobic attitudes and what you have is a sad individual. I can't defend Eminem and if he really is a racist, his fans will continue to abandon him and go pick up Jay-Z's "The Black Album" (which I can say is truly a masterpiece, as far as rap goes. I haven't heard anything that sounded this good since Nas dropped "Illmatic").

The only problem is that Ray Benzino is closer to Eminem than he realizes. Perhaps not in terms of unit sales--Eminem is a multi-platinum artist while Benzino has reportedly been forced to use his connections at the Source Magazine to even get his own albums released--but they are from the same club when it comes to hating gays and women.

Benzino-"Die Another Day"
"Tell Haley it ain't safe no more (nah)

Daddy better watch yo' back at the candystore

We Fucked up, resort to plan B

Fuck around she and up like Jon Benet Ramsey (that's right)

Matter of fact you better check the DNA (what)

She probably ain't yours, and where's your wife Kim anyway

She's on her knees somewhere suckin' 50 Cent

I know you wishin' you were there cause you on his dick

You dress in drag, you huggin' up on Elton John

You closet fag, I'm a king you a little punk

You the rap david doer the rap bibler

When you consider that Benzino is referring to kidnapping Eminem's daughter, who's not yet out of middle school, you have to stop and wonder if this guy is really smoking the rocks he brags about selling in his songs. Eminem may be the class clown of hip hop, or even an obnoxious Elvis that is truly stealing an urban art form from the "streets", but that doesn't give Ray Benzino the right to single out Eminem for doing the same thing he does; stir up hatred towards people who are different, and try to make money by spitting vile words over a bass drum and a snare.

That's why we should just focus on the positive--hip hop is gaining momentum worldwide. I can count many good rappers or hip hop collectives that are making waves (shortlist? dead prez, Outkast, Rascalz, Buck 65, Jay-Z {gotta love "the black album"!}, Sixtoo, Obie Trice(?), Nas, Talib Kweli, Nappy Roots, even 50 Cent drops the occasional gem and the list goes on) so why should we fixate on a beef between two women-hating, gay-taunting brutes with some sort of love-hate relationship? I say love-hate because Benzino's Source magazine gave Eminem one of his first big breaks by choosing him as an "Unsigned Hype" choice early in his career. Let's just pop in "99 Problems" in the stereo, turn the bass way up, and take a nice haul off the chronic. There, isn't that better? (Damn right!)

We may be on the verge of some sort of major war in Asia. Taiwan has been considering permanent independence from mainland China since 1949, when Mao Zedong and his followers launched the "cultural revolution" and 2 million nationalists escaped to the Taiwan peninsula. Today, Taiwanese people enjoy some democratic freedoms and human rights, while China continues to suffer from totalitarian rule. Chinese citizens may have economic freedoms but they remain socially tied to a system that denies them basic liberties.

I may spend a significant amount of time criticizing American foreign policy in this blog, but I must concede that China also frightens me because they are a superpower without the American constitution, a potential global bully without a conscience. At least America has people capable of changing their government if it goes too far into extremism (in 2004, when Bush is thrown out of office and onto the Whitehouse lawn, democrats everywhere will dance in the streets). China doesn't have this luxury. Their leadership only cares about its own interests.

This brings us to the Taiwan issue. Here is a quote from, the official website of the state-sponsored "Xinhua News Agency" (their mission statement includes the words "Whenever you need news, come to first; Whatever information you search, surf first." Sounds inviting, huh?) ***Warning...Irony Alert!!!***

"Xu said that Taiwan's move for the referendum deprives the democratic rights of 1.3 billion compatriots on the mainland and it is also dividing Taiwan itself, which "disregards human rights and tramples democracy ".

They also warn Taiwan of "crossing a red line". Other articles have even suggested that China would go to war to take back the Taiwanese territory. America has been selling weapons to Taiwan for years (20.7 Billion USD in arms sales from 1994 to 2001) and everyone agrees that it would be virtually impossible for Taiwan to successfully defend itself from the mighty Chinese military. If Taiwan votes to become independent from China forever, there will surely be a war in the Asian region.

Will the U.S. or other nations take sides in this conflict? Doing so would mean a world war because China is powerful enough to take on several nations. Taiwan would be batted aside like a gnat and Russia has signed a mutual protection pact with China, so they would not interfere, but other nations in that area (India, Japan, etc.) would probably not sit idly by. War is a scary thought and I hope that Chinese leaders temper their plans with logic. If America sides with Taiwan versus the Chinese juggernaut, this would probably be the end of the Chinese communist régime.

If you don't think that the U.S. would do such a thing, consider this quote from Richard Lawless, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Affairs.

"(Bush) has reaffirmed his committment to the Taiwan Relations Act and has stated that "America will do whatever it takes to help Taiwan defend itself."

This could mean war. I can already see the wagons circling.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

I just sent in a letter to the editor of the Montreal Gazette. Here it is, in response to an op-ed piece written by H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow specializing in energy and the environment at the U.S. National Centre for Policy Analysis.

How exactly should we prepare for the "warmer world" that Mr. Burnett envisions? Perhaps we can all buy rubber dinghys or pontoon boats so that we can stay afloat when climate change melts the polar ice caps and floods our coastal cities.

I am not surprised by Mr. Burnett's opinion on climate change since the views of the Bush administration on this subject are well known. According to BBC News, an EPA report on the state of the environment was censored by the White House because it warned of global warming. Instead of accepting the reality that our climate is changing, the White House prefers to embrace pseudoscience and studies done by American Petroleum Institute.

Mr. Burnett says that since the Kyoto Protocol is "dead", we should just move on and try to adapt to the consequences. That is like saying that a burning house should be left to the flames just because the living room has caught fire. I suppose Mr. Burnett would just recommend shopping for a new house.

I'm not certain that the Gazette will publish it, but I've crossed every finger on both hands and I'll keep you posted! (Ha ha ha, assuming that anybody is reading these words!!! If not, I suppose this is much like the SETI program, only reversed--instead of listening to an empty universe, I'm some poor young fuck who's shouting to an empty auditorium, trying to inspire a bunch of unoccupied seats.)
Way back in April of 2001, I got my first good taste of tear gas at the Quebec City protests against the F.T.A.A. (Free Trade of the Americas Agreement). Roughly five thousand of us tried to halt the F.T.A.A. in its tracks by waving placards, getting rubber bullets shot at us, and attempting to tear down the 12 foot high barricade that was erected in the middle of downtown Quebec City. We were welcomed by thousands of black-clad police officers lined up in phalanx formation, brandishing billy clubs in one hand and enormous riot shields in the other.

The chaos and disorder of the Quebec City protests were justified, in my eyes, since the F.T.A.A. was essentially a backroom deal, forged without any input from the populations of the nations involved. We "regular folks" couldn't read the text of the F.T.A.A. itself until after our nations had already agreed in principle to signing it! Then again, many CEO's were present at the meetings. Any time they only let you in if you can pay a cool grand for a plate of lasagna and a glass of Chablis, you know there is something fishy going on.

I am pleased to report that our struggles were not in vain. Thanks to our valiant efforts, more and more nations in South America are questioning the logic of such a deal, especially since it risks tampering with both environmental and labour laws. It also will allow companies to sue nations for "lost profits", à la NAFTA!, if they feel that the laws of a particular country are hurting business.

As a Canadian, I admit that my country is dropping the ball in terms of standing up against the F.T.A.A. The Canadian government is bending over backwards (and forwards) trying to help our American allies get this deal signed by 2005. Luckily, Brazil is leading the opposition to the deal, thanks to their feisty left-leaning president Lula da Silva, along with Argentina. Lula is worried that Brazil won't be able to compete with American agricultural exports, since the U.S. subsidizes their farmers.

William Grieder brings up an important statistic in one of his columns on Lula and South American opinion on the F.T.A.A.--"According to a Zogby International poll, only 39 percent of the continent's business and government elites think FTAA would benefit everyone equally, while a majority expect the United States to be the big winner." Obviously, the U.S. has led the South Americans to the Rio Grande, but is having a tough time convincing them that they are thirsty.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Here in Canada, today is Rememberance Day, the day when we give thanks to the veterans who fought overseas and sacrificed their lives so that we could live as a free and sovereign nation. Without any promise of personal gain, our nation has joined in the fight against despotic and fascist regimes again and again. We declared war against the Nazis in 1939, not in 1941 like our neighbours to the south.

Canadian soldiers have a reputation for being some of the toughest, bravest troops on the battlefield (witness how we performed in WWI or on WWII) and that is why the side that Canada is on can usually be trusted to win the day. We don't invade nations without reason. We support our allies when the peace of the world is truly threatened.

John McCrae was a Canadian soldier who was fighting in the Ypres Salient in WWI. He was also a poet and here is his greatest contribution to Canada, the poem "In Flanders Fields".

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

(John McCrae, 1915)

War is repugnant and usually needless, but when all is said and done, some battles are unavoidable. We must remember the soldiers that never made it home, those who came back missing an arm or a leg, and all the other veterans of wars (popular or unpopular). I hope that our country respects their eternal sacrifice and remembers.

Monday, November 10, 2003

I was digging through my old emails (from back in 2000!) and I noticed that I'm a different person today. Just to give you an idea of how I was when I was 20 years is the alphabet, summarized. (Reader discretion is advised)

  • A- Long live Anarchy
  • B- Ignore the Bastards
  • C- Don't be Converted
  • D- Life is Dangerous
  • E- Everyone has to pay
  • F- This world is Fucked
  • G- I wish there was a God
  • H- Nobody Helps you for free
  • I- I am an Island, alone
  • J- Born-agains love Jesus
  • K- Similar converts love Krishna
  • L- Love is empty and fake
  • M- Men try to destroy other men
  • N- Never will I fight for a country
  • O- Better to be Old and living than young and dying
  • P- Perfection only exists in our minds
  • Q- The Queen of England never went hungry
  • R- The Railroads were built on the backs of the poor
  • S- There is no such thing as Satan
  • T- Theology is a method of tricking people
  • U- Uniforms signify a hierarchy of domination
  • V- Very slim chance that we'll make it
  • W- the West had better chill out or the rest will hate
  • X- Xerox is a multinational who doesn't care about
    where they set up shop. They just want "X" amounts of
  • Y- Yes, this is very cynical of me but I just couldn't
    stand by and watch someone be so saccharine and
  • Z- Zeus himself doesn't even exist. We are alone in
    this empty cosmos, with only ourselves to rely upon.

Conclusion? I was going through a dark time in my life & I guess I was just bitter and hateful. Luckily, now I've progressed to the point that I can distill ideas like these and focus them on what needs to be done, instead of wildly firing my opinions in all directions. In other words, I've matured! It's not selling out, it's just getting your shit together. 3 Years is a long time, apparently.

Bush's speech to the "National Endowment for Democracy" was intended to promote democratic movements worldwide. Instead, it appears to have highlighted the disconnect between American values and with actual American foreign & domestic policy. Observe!

Sunday, November 09, 2003

War is impossible without weapons. The world's largest exporter of weapons is indoubtedly the U.S. and here is their customer list. Please note that many of the quantities have been blanked out, explaining why many of the items that appear on the list have "Quantity 0" marked next to them. Frightening, especially since a nation so devoted to peace and prosperity is shipping billions of dollars of weapons all around the world.

According to a report published by Oxfam, Amnesty International and the International Action Network on Small Arms ,

"The report says the global arms trade worth about £17b a year is "dangerously unregulated" and that about 500,000 people are killed every year, an average of one person per minute"

I'm not trying to exonerate the other super-powers (Ie. Russia, China, etc.) from guilt since they would gladly grab a piece of the weapons-trade pie, if they got the chance. Even so, the U.S. has a moral imperative, as the self-proclaimed "Leader of the Free world", to halt export of deadly weapons and to end the proliferation of death machines worldwide.

Here is a complete list of all the weapons & military services or supplies sold by American companies (or the U.S. Defense Dept.) to the world, as a whole. It is both mind-boggling and quite sad if you consider that much of this production could have been applied for peaceful means. If we spent half of our military budgets on feeding the world or taming disease, nearly everyone could eat and people wouldn't be killing each other so rabidly.

"An average of $22 billion a year is spent on arms by countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Just half of this amount would enable every child in those regions to go to primary school. Overall, 42% of countries with the highest defense burden rank among the lowest in human development."

Friday, November 07, 2003

Why is the Bush administration against human cloning but for genetically modified foods? If they are so worried about the negative effects of modifying the human genome, why don't they ban all GMO's? After all, long term testing hasn't been done on the effects of eating plants that have had their genome modified. Sure, human cloning raises some difficult ethical issues but it is strange that Bush et al. are so against one form of tampering with life but for another!

Friday, October 31, 2003

Going over yesterdays rant, I realize that I was being far too black-and-white in my statements. There are various checks and balances to keep any system in order, and the brilliant folks who wrote the U.S. Constitution were aware of the risks associated with governance. That is why they put in limitations on who makes decisions for the whole nation, sharing the power between the branches of government. The freedom of speech they couldn't count on from England was enshrined in the constitution, and that is another variance from Oceania (see yesterdays rant). As long as Americans can speak freely without fearing reprisals, they'll be somewhat safe from the Fascist future George Orwell had in mind. (I know that Orwells Oceania was supposedly Communist, but they were not aligned with the Commie ideals, having more in common with a Fascist system that a Marxist one.)

The U.S. Senate seems to be making progress in untangling the web of contradictions spun by the Bush administration. I applaud them with both hands! Yesterday, they sent letters to the White House, to the State Dept., and to the Pentagon, demanding that they be allowed access to documents and to key personnel in their quest to figure out why the President and his staff made all those claims of WMD before the Iraq War.

According to,

To Rumsfeld and Powell, the two senators wrote, "The credibility of the government with its people and the nation with the world is at stake. Incomplete answers and lingering doubts will haunt us for many years."

The two senators (Pat Roberts, R-Kansas & Jay Rockefeller D-West Virginia), composed the letters and hopefully they'll be allowed to conduct their investigation without delay.

I also understand that I can't blame the American people for the chaos their (un)elected officials are responsible for. After all, less than 50% of them voted for Bush, and out of that >50% majority (minority?), many of them don't agree with everything their President says. I am sincerely hoping that there is a backlash when election time comes around in 2004. Hopefully, the Dems will own up to the task of providing a David to slay the Republican Goliath. Wait, whose side is God on again? I'm getting confused.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Starting January 5th, every foreign visitor entering the United States by plane or boat will be fingerprinted and photographed, then checked against a national biometrics database of "known terrorists".

Instead of beginning a nonsensical rant about how the Americans are going too far, I'll try and keep my cool by reaching for a book that impacted me at a very young age.

This book is called "1984" and within its pages, George Orwell predicted these "times of terror". The methods used by Oceania resemble those of today's U.S.--monitor your citizens (PATRIOT ACT), keep them afraid of the "enemy" (War on Terror, etc.), remain in a constant state of war (Afghanistan, Iraq...), and have a human avatar of the enemy who is both to blame for all the current problems, and also at large (Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein). That way, you can neglect their domestic problems. Unemployment? Massive deficits? Tax cuts for the top 5% of the population? No problem. Any dissenters can be shut up with rhetoric (You just don't want to keep this country safe!) or with dogma (We're the most powerful nation in the world. Why shouldn't we unilaterally remove a potential threat?). They even use word games to foil us (You're either with us or with the terrorists), making neutrality both impossible and quite dangerous.

Perhaps I am being too rash or even paranoid. I understand that terrorists aren't rational and there is virtually no way to stop them from doing their horrible acts of violence. The funny thing is, how will America ever stop the terrorists by being harder? Being tough might work on the schoolyard but in the real world, it is better to temper your actions with gifts and praise, concilliation and respect, rather than M-16s and land mines. The U.S. has forgotten that in order to win the hearts and minds of the globe, they have to at least take us out once in awhile, or maybe send us a birthday card or pull out their troops out of our borders.

It is easy to chop the tallest tree in the forest. By that, I mean that I'm only being hard on the U.S. because they claim to be the Leaders of the Free World, we expect them to live up to their own hype and self-promotion. It seems that now, they're saying "Give me your tired and your poor, so I can scan their retinas and see if they're related to that Bin Laden character".

I wonder if Timothy McVeigh used a seaport or airport when he emigrated to the U.S. Wait, you mean he only had to cross state lines to blow up hundreds of people? He was born in the USA, just like Bruce Springsteen? Really! I thought that terrorists only come from Saudi Arabia, or maybe Sudan if you want to get picky. Wow. Who knew?

Not to increase the amperage of the buzz that Turbonegro have been generating, but I've decided that they're the closest thing to RockNRoll I've heard in a dolphin's lifetime. Sure, some of their stuff borders on self-parody (calling themselves the "Apocalypse Dudes" and bragging in their lyrics "don't bother to call / 'cause we're in the news"), but they have such a fanatic rhythm section, a devoted singer with an oh-so-obvious drug problem, and some catchy, hooky tunes that have been labelled "deathpunk" by the press.

Their primary schtick appears to be their constant references to homosexuality. As the story goes, they were tired of the homogenous punk scene in Norway, so on their third album, they turned their amps up a little higher and began to Cock-Rock like they meant it. Literally. Attempting to get back to the core of punk rock, they began to pose as some sort of vaguely homosexual deviants, with song titles such as "Sailor Man" and "Denim Demon". (Lyrics excerpt: "I've got a congregation / and I am a saint for seamen")

One of their best tunes, "Back to Dungaree High", was covered by Queens of the Stone Age on the 2001 Turbonegro tribute album, with most effective results. Other artists including Hot Water Music, the Dwarves, Therapy?, and Nashville Pussy also appeared on the tribute album. Just eyeing the talent that was willing to praise Turbonegro proves that they have been influential in the global punk scene. I recommend sauntering over to your favourite file sharing program & downloading their back catalogue. If they really turn your crank, head on over to an independant record store and buy "Ass Cobra" or one of their other releases. Support music you like! That's what I always say.

Somehow, punk rock is about bringing together scenes that are on the fringe, without barriers or prejudice. That's why the coolest punk bar in the city of Montreal is undoubtedly Sapphir (St-Laurent Blvd., north of Prince Arthur but south of Pine) , where Friday nights are hosted by DJ's Xavier Caffeine & Plastik Patrik, an ambigously gay duo of Rockers with their own bands and a sound knowledge of modern rock and late 70's punk. All walks of life inhabit Sapphir, from straight-up punkers to Rockers to trucker-cap-clad queers. Everyone gets along and grooves to the music. When you're dancing at Sapphir, whether it be in the arms of your girlfriend (last time Kate was there, she danced her little heart out with me and had a great time) or pogoing beside a transvestite who really likes Le Tigre, you know that you're embodying the soul of real Punk Rock Music. Plus, a Molson Ex will set you back $3.50, and one of the bartenders is a pyromaniac. I once witnessed him violate several safety codes by spraying an enormous phallic-shaped candle with lighter fluid and sparking it with a match. Not for the faint of heart, but very entertaining to watch, as long as you don't get too close to the flames.

They play Turbonegro at Sapphir. They also really like the Strokes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and they're probably the first bar on the island that played Interpol or Hot Hot Heat. (Oddly enough, I harassed Patrik for two months, begging him to play the BC band HHH before he relented. He still isn't big on them but public demand has risen in the past few months!) They also have a deep fondness for all thing Velvet and Underground, Post-Scary Monsters David Bowie, and even the odd Billy Idol track. Peaches, Ladytron, and other electroclash artists also populate the musical scene at Sapphir.

It is always safe to expect a good time at Sapphir and this coming weekend shouldn't be any different.Hallowe'en night, Robin Black & the Intergalactic Rock Stars will be playing a Saturday gig at Sapphir and it should be a blast.($5 cover charge, $1.50 for coat check, no dress code although the Fubu/Crescent Street crowd don't usually venture into Sapphir unchaperoned.)

Speaking of Robin Black & his IRS, their homemade blend of glam and punk is exuberant and lively and somewhat similar to Plastik Patrik's own band, 1-976, of which he is lead singer when he's not spinning at Sapphir. I should also mention that Xavier's band, Poxy, is also gaining critical acclaim here on the island of Montreal, already mentioned in the weekly newspapers (The Hour & the Mirror) and may turn out to be the next big thing in the Quebec rock scene. Check out Sapphir this Saturday, November 1st, any time after 8 PM!

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Kill Bill Vol. 1

I can't pretend to be a typical action-movie fan. I don't have the pecs for it, nor do I have the patience for plots that revolve around revolvers. (Godfather or Full Metal Jacket excluded!) Somehow, though, "Kill Bill Vol. 1" has got me all worked up in a good way.

It is the latest from everyone's favourite Hollywood kook Quentin Tarrantino. His fetish for making his characters look stylish covered in other peoples blood has sustained him throughout his career. He has done the horror movie (From Dusk Till Dawn), the gangster movie (Reservoir Dogs), and even a couple of love letters to the 70's (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown). "Kill Bill Vol. 1" is his effort at updating the samurai movie, with its themes of vengeance and betrayal, and with lots of arms and legs being sliced off by fine Okinawan steel.

Speaking purely on the directing, I think that Quentin has made a silk purse out of these sows ears. (He even makes Lucy Liu appear to know how to act!) One surprise is how Uma Thurman makes us feel sympathy for her character by concealing weakness and trying to overcome the obstacles that block her path to revenge. Even when she has a slice taken out of her back from a sword, or a chain around her neck, she never flinches and is always ready to strike back with brutal force. Somehow, action films are more exciting when the boys don't stand a chance and the ladies are kicking ass.

It is difficult to make the same tired subjects look new and bold but Quentin somehow gets the job done, from his two-second shot of Uma's blood painting a stripe across the Tokyo snow, to the frequent dismemberments and beheadings of the anonymous assasins that challenge her on a Tokyo dance floor. Seeing blood shoot out of where someone's limb used to be is not for the faint hearted, but it does make one feel a little bit of fear in the pit of the stomach. All the death creates tension and in "Kill Bill", I think that Quentin is trying to make a Shakespearean Kung Fu flick. The death is necessary to drive the plot so we shall excuse it.

The Wu-Tang Clan's producer The RZA made the score for this film and we get a healthy dose of hipster tunes, from the Japanese garage rock of the 5,6,7,8's to Spanish gunfight music (can somebody tell me what I'm supposed to call it?). I was disappointed that there were no beats, or at least none that I could throw down freestyle rhymes over, but I'm sure that the rest of the moviegoers were happy that my mouth remained shut.

The character of Oren-Ishii (played heroically by Lucy Liu) could have warranted her own movie. Her best scene is probably when she faces the Yakuza and assumes leadership of their criminal organization. When one of them questions her ethnicity (she happens to be a Japanese/Chinese American), there are bloody results. (Hint: ever see a head bounce on a table?)

I'm not saying that this is a Great Film--it is more accurately an appropriation of a genre, Quentin doing a Kung-Fu Epic, as opposed to something that tries to stand on its own--but this movie has teeth and seems willing to use them. It is a strange feeling watching Uma Thurman cleaning the blood off her samurai sword with her sleeve. Even so, "Kill Bill Vol. 1" is just appealing enough to make me want to catch the second film, so that she can finish off that list of hers (Death List #5, scrawled in a banged-up notebook).

Don't bring your kids, though! This is pure ultra-violence, in the style that Alex and his droogs would dream about. And expect a sequel.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Elliot Smith has left this world. Elliot was a widely-acclaimed singer-songwriter in American Indie circles. His love for the lo-fi and the sublime produced some very moving, transcendent acoustic folk that rivals the best of Neil Young or Nick Drake. He was most known for his song "Miss Misery", which appeared in the movie Goodwill Hunting.

Personally, I recognized him from his work for the movie "The Royal Tenenbaums". His song "Needle in the Hay" appears when Luke Wilson's character, the former tennis star who's deeply troubled but lovestruck, is standing in front of the mirror and contemplating suicide. He ends up slitting his wrists with a razorblade and falling to the floor.

On Tuesday, Elliot Smith decided to stick a knife into his own heart in his Los Angeles home. He was 34. Suicide is something that many of us are forced to witness, either first hand or via our family or friends. I can only hope that nobody will take Elliot as an example of what to do. Maybe if he had somebody to talk to, he might not have resorted to such a senseless action. That reminds us to try and keep our friends and family close so that they won't slip away. We can't afford to lose any more of our own.

Monday, October 20, 2003

If you have high speed internet, then please do yourself a favour and stick it to the Man! Skype was created by the Whiz Bang programmers par excellence Sharman Networks (the same folks who brought you Kazaa. It is a voice-over-I.P. application that allows you to place calls to any other Skype users for FREE. They have no subscription fee for the Beta testers (since we're their software-debugging guinea pigs, so to speak!) so pick it up and give me a ring. You need at least a 400 MHZ processor, 128 MB of RAM, and it currently only works in Windows 2000 or XP.

I tried it out today and after reinstalling it and rebooting my system twice, I was able to get the main screen to pop up. After calling several disgruntled New Zealanders, I eventually got somebody to actually answer my call. He was a slightly odd dude from France. My associate, Mr. Shady also spoke to him over the relatively cheap headset (est. $14.99 or so at your local retailer) and agreed that the sound was great. Not unlike FM radio, although I imagine if both clients (you & your girlfriend, for example) had high speed internet and the whole thing properly set up, those phone card companies could very well go out of business.

I'm moving in two weeks and Shady has decided we should tell our landlord. He won't be pleased, especially when he realizes that he has about a months worth of renovations to do. We didn't really tear the place apart but we certainly haven't lifted a finger to maintain it.

Where am I moving to? Chateaugay, a cosy suburb south of the island of Montreal. {I think I left out the little French grammatical hat but it wasn't a political statement. I just don't feel like going through all those ANSI key codes (ALT 130 et al.).} I'll be living at my uncles house and hopefully returning to ConU in the Fall of 2004. I really need to pay off that gang of lepers known as my creditors before they tear off their own arms and fling them at me. I owe upwards of 15 Grand but with my modest pension, I should be able to cut that in half within a year. If you long to see this humble narrator return back to school, and if Bling is your middle name, click that "PayPal" button on the right hand side of your screen. It doesn't have to be much, since everyone knows that it's the thought that counts.

Hallowe'en is not far off and I still haven't decided upon a costume. My previous idea, myself and Shady going to Sapphire wearing t-shirts labelled "Adam" & "Steve", has been rejected by both parties involved. I may just end up going as myself from 4 years ago, dirty combat pants and all. I'll certainly have enough THC in my blood to make a neo-con giggle in front of the media. *Wait...stop...this is the Lit Police. We're going to have to take you in for questioning*
What? I'm just trying to...
*Don't "just" me! You have been charged with poor taste, clunky sentence structure, and lack of originality*
Listen, last night I was lying in my bed and I couldn't sleep. My girl was far away in her New York State and I was awake in the darkness. I was trying to figure out why I had spent the past 5 months smoking myself sloth-like, why I hadn't written a good thing in ages, and why I didn't want to get a job in the real world, at least not just yet.

I realized that for 3 years, I had been flailing my arms in this pool. For 6 months, I was just floating and existing. Now, it is time for me to steel my mind to the task of rebuilding my life and seizing my destiny. I will have a career that can't lock me up in Maximum Security & I will pay taxes. Oh yes, being Canadian and all, I'm ready to pay half my earnings so that everyone can complain to Dr. So and So when they get a cough.

And don't think I won't marry and be happy and eventually own a house. This life can't stop me. Creditors, if you're out there, you'll get yours. Just get in line, highest interest rates first, please.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Today, I finally got up the courage to sift through my Yahoo! inbox & found what every writer (or artist, I suppose) lives and dreams for--no, not a spam email advertising penis enlargement--I got a rejection letter! Here it is, mostly unabridged. Enjoy.
Subject: Re: Submission -- "Tale of My Teeth"

Uhhh, yeah, hey Phil, I'm sorry. I think we gotta pass on this one.

it didn't strike me as either odd enough or funny enough. I think the
personalities and backstories of the teeth were well drawn, but they
enough to carry the story.

Thanks for the submission tho. We look forward to more of your work!



Submissions Editor

You might ask yourself why I'm flagellating myself in such a public manner. (After all, it is torture to see your own work being used and abused by a gentleman who calls himself Monkey #2) On a good note, they have already published me once so this means they're not easy. It makes the first clipping seem more important, somehow. I like that.

Hey, this doesn't mean that I have to roll over and become part of the soil. Hemingway used his rejection letters as wallpaper (I remember hearing he had them in the hundreds) and plenty of other luminaries I've read about had to slog through a Thousand Savage "No's" before hitting their stride.

I think that the best solution would be to keep banging my head upon this gate and maybe to smoke a little M-39 cannabis (indoor, slightly dry, mild aftertaste) before I try and submit anything else of substance (no pun intended, I swear).

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Does this sound vaguely familiar to any of you?

The housing ministry said in a statement Thursday it was building the new homes "according to the government's policy to promote and develop communities in the __________ and _______ according to their needs and natural growth."

The blanks should really be substituted with "West Bank" and "Gaza Strip", but the way Israel is talking, they're sounding more and more like the fascists of yesteryear. After all, a maniac named Hitler once proclaimed that his German troops had rights to expand their living space in order to thrive:

"[W]without consideration of "traditions" and prejudices, it [Germany] must find the courage to gather our people and their strength for an advance along the road that will lead this people from its present restricted living space to new land and soil, and hence also free it from the danger of vanishing from the earth..."

I know that I'm not really retaining very much impartiality here but it is important to know that this new wall being built through Palestinian lands will only add to the tensions in the troubled region. Plus, by revealing their intentions to encircle Ariel, one of the most successful of the settlements, they are sending a dangerous message to Palestinian moderates--one of defiance, basically meaning "We're not going anywhere". By continually expanding into land that by U.N. agreement is not theirs, Israel is surely becoming the obvious aggressor in this conflict. Every time the IDF knocks down a house or settlers try to blow up a school, they are swelling the ranks of the Palestinian resistance, and this is bad for everyone living in Israel or the surrounding territory.

When these same "resistance fighters" (or "terrorists", in Bush-speak) blow up a café, the whole world cries and everyone condemns this "act of terror". If only we could get the same sympathy for the innocent Palestinian civilians killed as a result of the "targeted killings" of "suspected terrorists". These same "terrorists" have neither due process nor a chance to prove their innocence in a court of law. I don't mean to discount the value of Israeli lives -- violence is reprehensible, no matter which person it is inflicted upon -- but I'm just trying to make sure we consider every life to be equal.

Moments like these make me stop and count my blessings that I was born in Canada, one of the last free countries left in the world.


All is not dark and chaotic. Want to laugh a little? Think about it. Everyone is running around proclaiming that the sky is tumbling because the North Koreans have built 2 or 3 nuclear bombs. Nobody is worried about how the U.S. has over 22,000 (thousand!) nukes just sitting there beneath the soil, ready to poke out instantly, like a dogs penis. (Sorry for the imagery but somehow it makes sense. I'm trying to explain my revulsion at Nuclear Weapons in general, and what better way than by causing you to lose your lunch?)

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Remember the old adage "Truth is stranger than fiction"? I was just reading about the Senate hearing on Peer to Peer sharing at (the article can be found here) and I was mystified by this LL Cool J quote, courtesy of the wordsmiths down at MTV.
LL used a rather bizarre metaphor to render the practice of illegal file-sharing down to its basic element: stealing. "If a contractor builds a building, should people be allowed to move into it for free, just because he's successful?" asked Mr. Cool J, as he was addressed at the hearing. "Should they be able to live in this building for free? That's how I feel when I create an album or when I make a film and it's shooting around the planet for free."

His albums rarely shoot onto my computer, since I've never been much of a fan. LL Cool J may be the most successful rapper ever but he's definately not the Best. Sadly, his attitude is what is keeping the artists of the music industry beneath the heel of the Corporate Machine that feeds off of their life-blood.

Whoa. That was a mouthful. Let me explain. If Kazaa et al. were to become legally sanctioned, competing businesses, just like Radio stations or music stores, people would finally be free to download what they want, pay the artists, and cut out the record company middlemen. Warner and Sony wouldn't be totally out of luck, though. How many artists want to manage, promote, record, and release everything on their own label? Even with Pro Tools, most people prefer the studio for the technology and the expertise that real pros bring to the table. The record industry would have to survive by evolving, instead of trying to force everyone to live in their Pre-Napsterian era and forget that P2P ever existed.

So if Peer to Peer sharing was legitimized instead of being punished, the artists could get paid, the music fans would be happy and no longer law-breakers, and LL Cool J could spend more time trying to remember what it was like to be cutting edge instead of a washed up old rapper with a little "ice" around his neck. (Contrast LL with Chuck D, who said "P2P to me means power to the people," and "I trust the consumer more than I trust the people at the helm of these [record] companies." Even if Public Enemy is a little less mainstream, I'd buy one of their albums over LL Cool J's any day.)

No wonder Canibus called him out. LL is scared to play with the other kids, hiding in his crib, clutching the fame that used to be his, and trying to stop my Adam Green download in the process!

Live: Arcade Fire, Phaser, and Hawksley Workman at Club Soda

I'm still feeling the afterglow from Saturday night and it's thanks to the Montreal Pop Festival, now in its second year. On Saturday, I was among the first in line at the Arcade Fire/Phaser/Hawksley Workman show at Club Soda, on St-Laurent Blvd. and St-Catherine. It was scheduled to start at 9:30 PM sharp but they didn't let us in until close to 10 PM. Grabbing the best seat in the house (top right gallery, beside the speakers, a pebbles throw from the stage), I sat down and wondered what was up with the first band. Even though they looked like an art school field trip being let loose on a room full of instruments, I reserved my judgements for the music. And when the music hit, I knew I was on to something.

The Arcade Fire are from Montreal and have very little music released right now. According to an article I dredged up on Google somehow, they have over 100 songs already written but are trying to raise the funds to record a full length LP and really get a buzz going. It's working. When the lead singer Win Butler began strumming his electric guitar and visibly shaking right on stage, I felt like I was watching Nirvana on Prozac, or maybe a Canadian mock-up of the Flaming Lips. It's important to mention the rest of the band, all 7 (8?) of them. His wife Régine (Chassagne), a little dark haired vixen, was playing the accordion, a bandmate was playing a snare drum, another was just banging drum sticks on the floor, another guy was playing the French Horn, and there was even an Xylophone used in one song. Also, the bandmates switched instruments quite a bit, with at least 2 or 3 different instruments happening in every song.

One thing that must be said about their sound is that it is Big and Layered, like that Wall of Sound we always hear about in trendy music magazines (Phil Spector, etc.). The Arcade Fire is a purveyor of pretty melodies and everyone in the band sings nearly every lyric. The only jarring moment of their set was when Win yelled at the crowd for their apathetic response to this beautiful Rock onslaught. He angrily asked if anyone was awake, or something to that effect. Luckily, he apologized later, attempting to salvage some respect and win back our affections. ("I'm sorry I yelled earlier but doing a live show is so..." and then he looked around for a life preserver. I shouted "Intense!" and he looked up at me before repeating "Intense, yes, that's it..." I was glad to have helped out.)

If we judge them completely on a musical basis, The Arcade Fire aren't just going places--they're building domes on the Dark Side of the Moon, driving dirtbikes over the lunar surface, and leaping towards the sun. Did I mention they're from Montreal? Great new rock and roll. Go and see if you can pick up their album at Cheap Thrills or download some of their stuff from their website.

The way I'm ranting and raving about the opening band, you'd think that the Phaser didn't exist. This would be a blessing upon humanity, if you ask me. Don't look at me that way. I can't help but shrug when I listen to these Washingtonites (Washingtonians?) and hear a Southern version of Sam Roberts, only without the tunefulness and with a lot more attitude. This makes for a mish-mash, a home-brewed bootleg of rock and roll with too many distortion pedals and not enough songwriting prowess. Some in the crowd were grooving to Phaser, while I was not. My brother shook his head when they played although both he and I had been toe-tapping and "rocking out" to The Arcade Fire only minutes before.

Shows are not judged by the opening acts, as we all know, and the headliner, Hawksley Workman, tricked us into believing he was human and fallible in his first couple of songs. He looked slightly shaky, seemingly not happy with the job the sound men had been doing (between songs, he asked them to raise the vocals). His set began with several songs from his latest album, including "On the Highway Tonight", "We Will Still Need a Song", and "Anger as Beauty". This is where he really hit his stride, keeping the whole crowd spellbound. Hawksley kept lurching and high-stepping around the stage like some sort of dinosaur and he was soloing and enjoying himself out there. When you hear him sing live for the first time, it is very tempting to smile in awe of his amazing range. He can go from a guttural baritone into a frenetic yelp at the bat of an eyelash. He has the best set of pipes since Freddy Mercury.

One of the best songs of the whole night had to be "Tonight Romanticize the Automobile". It has such a powerful lead that really shines through when you hear it live and we could hear the conviction in Hawksley's voice. He knows the talent he's got inside and when you hear him turn a catchy lyric into a poetic moment, his eyes look wild and feral. I think this must be what it was like to see Jim Morrison perform live. (One can only imagine! I once read a pretty strange story about Jim & Jimi Hendrix, involving a bottle of whiskey and Janis Joplin, but I'm getting off-topic. Read Rolling Stone if you want hippy gossip.)

Hearing these songs played live for the first time confirmed my suspicions about the poor production of his album "Lover/Fighter" (see review below somewhere on this page). Live, the songs sounded clearer and sharper, like a detailed photograph that comes into focus when you put on your bifocals. He sounded paranormal, almost even mystical, especially on "Wonderful and Sad", "Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off" and "Smoke Baby". It was difficult not to sing along with most of his songs but I could have done without the wailing and screaming of some of the ladies in the audience. (During an operatic pause in the middle of "Don't Be Crushed", some girl shouted "Take it Off!". Hawksley, obviously offended that his song was being overlooked, growled back "You first!")

Eventually, the rest of his band ("The Wolves") left the stage. Only Hawksley remained up there, grabbing a seat at the piano and playing a couple of classics from his first album "For Him and the Girls". Eventually, Mr. Lonely (his keyboardist) returned to the stage and picked up where Hawksley left off . After several pleas for a nice glass of Red Wine (and a bellow from this reviewer down into the crowd "Someone get this man some wine!"), Hawksley's wish was granted and he took a great big swig of wine. At one point, he was singing "Silver Bells" and he still sounded fresh and effervescent.

Hawksley and the Wolves did two encores (including a great song off his first album, "Safe and Sound") and we were all envigorated by the great show we had just witnessed. Excluding Phaser, I think that I saw some of the best Rock and Roll that Canada has to offer right now. Matthew Good Band and Our Lady Peace are relative pee-wees compared to the majestic grandeur of Arcade Fire, while Rufus Wainright is like Hawksley-lite or maybe his kid brother, trying to get his sea-legs. I am really anxious to get my hands on more from the Arcade Fire. And Hawksley? He will only get better the more time he spends in Paris and in Montreal, at least if he stays off the blow. (Read the lyrics of "Smoke Baby" and you'll see what I mean).

To sum up, I can't wait until next year because Pop Montreal is turning into the best music festival we've got! (And to think that I missed the Queens of the Stone Age show. It will be a challenge to refrain from slashing up my wrists with a steak knife).