Sunday, December 31, 2006

Cusp

The night before New Year’s Eve. I feel no impulse to make resolutions, nor desire to herald change. There hardly seems any point, there’s been so much of it this year. Transformation has become ether.

Looking back, it's all a bit of a blur. I remember the things I’ve written about, but I can’t recall feeling them, not really. There was never time for anything to seep in, except in dreams lost moments before waking.

I suppose that’s what this interregnum is for: to provide a space for review, and for release.

Some bands are playing in Griffintown tomorrow. I think I’ll go.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

What he said

Saddam's heinous crimes against humanity can never be diminished, but he was our ally while he was doing it. Saddam as a war trophy only deepens the catastrophe to which we are indelibly linked.
--Rev. Jesse Jackson

Friday, December 29, 2006

Enter hangman

Late last night, reports surfaced that Saddam Hussein had been handed over to the Iraqi government for execution.

This morning, US officials denied that the handover had taken place, stating that Hussein would not be executed until sometime in January.

Since both parties have agreed to keep Hussein's execution secret until after the fact, this can only mean one thing: Saddam Hussein is already dead.

Just thought you should know.


Postscript: Okay, so I was off by a couple of hours. I still scooped the Beeb.

New Orleans, meet Baghdad

From today's New York Times:

Along with its many other desperate problems, Iraq is in the midst of a housing crisis that is worsening by the day.

It began right after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, when many landlords took advantage of the removal of his economic controls and raised rents substantially, forcing out thousands of families who took shelter in abandoned government buildings and military bases. As the chaos in Iraq grew and the ranks of the jobless swelled, even more Iraqis migrated to squalid squatter encampments. Still others constructed crude shantytowns on empty plots where conditions were even worse.

With many families in such encampments or worse, and many others doubled or tripled up in friends’ or relatives’ homes, the deputy housing minister, Istabraq al-Shouk, puts the shortage at two million dwellings across Iraq.

(Sighs.) See below.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

For Rent: New Orleans-style lofts

Every now and then, I like to stop in and read a few posts on Metroblogging New Orleans, just to see how the city is doing. Today, I discovered this rant about a Craigslist ad for a pricey apartment that has gone unrented for quite some time. From the post:

This place just illustrates the total lunacy in our rental market right now. People are fixing up flooded property, taking their insurance money and spending it on luxuries like granite countertops, jacuzzi tubs, and stainless steel appliances with the expectation that they will attract rich tenants who will pay absurd rents to live there. Are you insane?!?!

What people are looking for right now is affordable housing. Nobody gives a shit about granite countertops and bamboo floors. Rich people are not moving to New Orleans right now. When they do, go ahead and install that heated marble floor and charge Manhattan prices for rent, but I wouldn't hold your breath if I were you.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports on a movement of New Orleans citizens who are demanding that federal authorities reopen the city’s public housing projects, several of which are slated for demolition and redevelopment. The authorities insist that new “mixed-income” communities will eventually be built in their place, but in the interim, thousands of poor and working-class evacuees remain homeless.

The sticking point appears to be the philosophy of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which adopted new urbanist planning principles in the mid-1990s and will employ them in the reconstruction of New Orleans’ public housing. The DUD's stated goal is to “deconcentrate” urban poverty, as it did in the city's St. Thomas project in 2000, but the article suggests that the results have been less than successful.

The pleasant streets of pastel-colored houses that replaced the grim St. Thomas buildings have put life back into a Lower Garden District neighborhood that for years was fearful and moribund.

On the other hand, the new development has accommodated less than one in five of the old St. Thomas families, though the developer says expansion will add more. And those that are there feel threatened by tenant rules designed to make the neighborhood’s market-rate inhabitants comfortable, including occupancy restrictions. [Emphasis mine.]

Historian Mike Davis calls the gentrification process that is unfolding in New Orleans “ethnic cleansing,” and he points to the collusion of new urbanists and neo-conservatives in the expulsion of the city’s minority population. The term sounds rhetorically harsh until you read the thoughts of one French Quarter landowner, who opines, “The hurricane drove poor people and criminals out of the city and we hope they don’t come back. The party’s finally over for these people and now they’re going to have to find someplace else to live in the United States.”

Somewhere in all of this, it starts to become clear that real estate has become the battleground upon which a war of human rights is being waged, and, more often than not, lost. Think about it: does one cease to be a New Orleanian because one has suddenly been priced out of its housing market? If so, what does this mean for those of us who think of our cities as our home, but who have no legal title to them?

As a parting thought, it bears remembering that prior to 1856, American voting rights were restricted to white male landowners, or about 10% of the population. In Canada, property ownership requirements were not fully lifted until 1948. Just something to chew on.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Noel

Christmas Eve with John and Arit; Christmas Day alone. Just a faint hangover from all the grappa we drank, which scorched the backs of our throats as it went down.

I steeled myself and made calls to my family today. My father is depressed and didn’t feel like talking. My brother was in hospital for a week and is still waiting to receive his disability benefits. My mother was trembling and confused, having taken suddenly ill.

With each one, I fought back a surge of feeling. When I quietly counseled my mother to see a doctor, she shrieked that she intended to die at home, exactly as she did two summers ago. This time I left her to her suffering, knowing that there is nothing I can do for any of them, even on this day.

Instead, I will listen to James Brown’s first single over and over again as I wait for the snow to come.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Every Who
Down in Who-ville
Liked the funk a lot...

But the Grinch,
Who lived just North of Who-ville,
Did NOT!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The day after Global Orgasm Day

Okay, so it didn’t stop any wars. But Global Orgasm Day did feel kinda sexy, didn’t it?

The event even caught the attention of my favourite astrologer, who wrote this piece on its potential merits. An excerpt:

Orgasm transcends differences of gender, sexual orientation, social identity, language, nationality, house or trance, rock or disco. It can be a profound moment of inner freedom that (if you're paying attention) is really a deep cosmic joining. It seems plausible enough to try focusing this on world peace -- and at the very worst, it's hot that a whole bunch of people around the world are planning to get off at the same time, thinking about one another doing it.

[ . . . ]

Given the choice, I would rather live and work among sexually expressive people; in a house where people are affectionate with one another; where there is freedom to speak freely about pleasure and desire, and where different strokes are not the subject of judgment, but rather encouraged and explored. I would rather live in a community where people feel safe to feel and express themselves. I would rather live in a country where the culture is tolerant and where people strive for equality, which can only come through communication.

Oh, and he also does horoscopes. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Global Orgasm Day

As I nursed my first cup of coffee this morning, an email arrived in my inbox inviting me to take part in the first annual Synchronized Global Orgasm for Peace Day. Seriously.

Inspired by the Global Consciousness Project at Princeton University, the event organizers hope that “a huge influx of physical, mental and spiritual energy with conscious peaceful intent will not only show up on Princeton’s Random Event Generators, but will have profound positive effects that will change the violent state of the human world.”

To which I say: Why the fuck not? I am on vacation, after all.

For anyone who cares to join in the experiment, details are below. And, if you need a little, er, guidance, just watch this demonstration video.

WHO? All Men and Women, you and everyone you know.

WHERE? Everywhere in the world, but especially in countries with weapons of mass destruction.

WHEN? Winter Solstice Day - Friday, December 22nd, at the time of your choosing, in the place of your choosing and with as much privacy as you choose.

WHY? To effect positive change in the energy field of the Earth through input of the largest possible surge of human energy a Synchronized Global Orgasm. There are two more US fleets heading for the Persian Gulf with anti-submarine equipment that can only be for use against Iran, so the time to change Earth’s energy is NOW!


Good luck!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Done

Hello. You’ve reached KARL, our automated message system. The revolutionary is out of the office until January 3rd. If you require an emergency insurrection, please dial 911.

Beeep.

Thank fucking god. I’ve been hanging on to each day by my fingernails and have felt myself slipping. As I told Mimi, it’s like all my adrenaline ran out at once.

After the fever, I realized I had to stop and I will, in the new year. Until then, a taste of what it will be like when my days have no union in them.

It’s been three and a half years since my days have had no union in them.

Tomorrow, I’ll make a pot of coffee and write down all of the things I’ve been thinking about but haven’t had the energy to lock into place. Then, I’ll look through the books I picked up at the library today. And then maybe I’ll do the dishes.

I said, maybe.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Mull

A sleepy and hungover day. I drank entirely too much at the department party last night, and may or may not have danced to New Order before one of my colleagues took pity on me and drove me home.

Between pints, I learned of two break-ups that occurred this fall. The first was as bad as they come: sudden, evasive, and painfully revisionist. When she told me that it was as if he had never loved her at all, I nodded in sombre recognition.

The second was different. Together, they set a date that would mark their transition from being lovers to close companions, which has since passed. He called it their new anniversary, which affirms the bond they still share. I recognized something in that too.

I’ve never believed that relationships have to come to a full stop, and I like being reminded that sometimes they don’t. These feel to me like truer loves than the other kind, which seem fickle by comparison, and unnecessarily cruel.

When I think of it this way, I realize that my longest relationship was not with Phil, but with C. And that, in the end, it was the better one.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bigger, longer, and…

Okay, this one’s really quite extraordinary.

Several years ago, world health practicioners observed that men who resided in African communities in which circumcision is commonly practiced had dramatically lower rates of HIV infection.

Preliminary research studies were conducted in South Africa and India that appeared to support the correlation, but scientists reserved judgement until the results of two much larger studies were in.

Their findings? That circumcision reduces the rate of HIV infection in heterosexual men by half.

You can read more about the studies on the BBC website, and in today’s New York Times. When you do, be sure to note the surname of the WHO director quoted therein.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Unintended consequences

Example A: Mass demonstrations by Hezbollah supporters in Lebanon.

Example B: A Taliban mini-state in Pakistan.

Example C: Saudi threats to back Sunni factions in Iraq.

Example D: Suicide bombings, sectarian death squads, etc.

Example E: Jon Stewart calling the outgoing Secretary of Defense a cocksucker on national television.

Seriously...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Random notes

Gentrification is the leading cause of hyperaesthesia.

Lou Dobbs seriously needs to read some Marx.

Can IKEA really build a better flophouse?

Iraq is a mistake that only stupid neo-liberals could make.

Is the new guy on The Daily Show kinda cute, or is it just me?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Company

A night in with Setare and Oblivia. Drinks, of course, and conversation, the kind that makes sense of the world and then giggles.

Atomic will be back in Montreal soon, which makes me realize just how long she has been away. There is something about these women, and infinitely more when they’re together.

Walking home, I noticed that the CafĂ© had closed early. It wouldn’t have if we had been there.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

In the cards

I learned about the Tarot from my mother. She learned about it from the cigani, or Gypsies, which is what they were called then.

They didn’t have Tarot decks in the villages my parents grew up in, just well worn packs of playing cards which served the same purpose. My mother’s cards sat beside the fruit bowl on the kitchen table, waiting for my torrent of questions. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Does he? Doesn’t he? Will we? Won’t we? I never said the questions out loud, but she always knew.

Once, my mother surveyed the cards and drew in a long, grave breath. “He loves you,’ she said, and three weeks later, he did.

Sometimes, people ask me if I believe in these things. I try to explain that habits aren’t a matter of belief. They’re just what you’re used to.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Monday meme

Are you at a crossroads? Unsure of your direction in life? Having a full fledged identity crisis? Well, look no further--the Tarot will reveal all!

Okay, peeps, this is my card. What's yours?





You are The High Priestess




Science, Wisdom, Knowledge, Education.




The High Priestess is the card of knowledge, instinctual, supernatural, secret knowledge. She holds scrolls of arcane information that she might, or might not reveal to you. The moon crown on her head as well as the crescent by her foot indicates her willingness to illuminate what you otherwise might not see, reveal the secrets you need to know. The High Priestess is also associated with the moon however and can also indicate change or fluxuation, particularily when it comes to your moods.




What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.


[Link courtesy of Me: The Sequel]

Saturday, December 02, 2006

On the Metroblog

Over at the Metroblog, we’ve received orders from head office to expound on our city’s greatest gifts to the world. Feeling mischievous, I decided that my contribution would focus on Montreal’s penchant for drinking, which is, incidentally, how Arit and I whiled away the hours during yesterday’s ice storm. Providing that your power has been restored, you can find the piece here.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Gone beta

Hmm... what do you think? Is it me?