Ink & Paper

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Your Smile

I want to see Your Smile,
But I got only sorrow, suffering
and blows from You.
I have nothing, no light, no silence in me.
It seems I don't deserve anything.
That is why You are far, very far.
But I wish to tell You that
without You.
My life is a barren desert,
It is all darkness.

By: Sri Chinmoy

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Hey all, time for a good cause. And the world needs more of them, so listen up.

My Da, in an effort to raise money for cancer research, has offered up his gigantic Archibald cranium for a shaving. That's right, instead of looking like this guy he is willing to lose his locks for cancer research. And thus he will end up looking something like this. All in front of the student body of good ole Archbishop Jordan High School.

Anyway, your favourite author and his brother have already committed $20 each to the cause. I think you should too. If you are willing to be part of a good cause, leave a note on the comments section and I will email you his contact info. He needs to know by May 25. Thanks.

Ye never mess with a Scot.

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Friday, May 20, 2005

With regards to the pictures of Saddam Hussein in his underoos...

The U.S. military in Baghdad said the publication of the photos violated U.S. military guidelines "and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals."

Yep, gotta uphold those Geneva Conventions. Otherwise its a slippery slope to torture and rendition.

I couldn't ignore this hypocrisy. I am officially taking a break from political news analysis starting....NOW!

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I'm going to lay off the serious news analysis for a while. Frankly, I was getting a little depressed reading about the failures of humanity. Taking Saturday and Sunday off, more posts for Monday morning. Have a good weekend.

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A Journey

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I almost had concluded that putting out my thumb was only a signal that people should look to their left, as if there might be something else more captivating across the stark and barren expanse of northern Manitoba. There wasn't, of course, anything interesting. In fact I was sure that I was the most intriguing thing they had seen in a long time.

How I came to be standing ninety miles from the nearest town, with no broken down car or any other of sign of civilization in sight is a long story. A story best left unsaid, untold. The simple fact that was that I had been seated along the side of this late September road for the past few hours, only rising occasionally to stick out my thumb in vain, to watch another driver look away, to their left, as their car or truck sped by.

I had started to consider the idea that I would be spending the night here, as it was almost four o'clock now and I figured that there would be even less traffic as this Sunday night continued on. The idea of spending a night here did not particularly appeal to me, but I had endured far worse. I would just need to find a place protected from the wind and hope that sleep would come quickly.

I was staring vacantly across the prairie and almost missed the car as it came roaring down the highway. I scrambled to my feet and threw out my thumb, a bitter laugh as I thought that I must look like the most inexperienced hitchhiker on the planet. The car roared by, I didn't even get a glimpse of the driver.

I turned around slowly, my shoulders slumping in yet another defeat. I kicked some stones around, then sat down again, grabbing a dog-eared paperback from my knapsack. I was reading about some policeman who was after another serial killer in Los Angeles when I heard a car coming from the south. That was odd, I thought to myself, as the next northern town was well over two hundred miles away. All of the cars that had sped by me had been heading south in their last push for La Pas.

I stood, having no intention of sticking out my thumb. I had come from the north and I had no intention of going back there, even if it meant spending a month on this speck of highway. But I stood.

It was the last car that had passed me, the one I had almost missed. It had turned around. It began to slow as it passed me, throwing itself into the careless kind of u-turn that only can be done on a highway known to be vastly empty. I backed away, reached for my knapsack, the bone handle of the long knife I had with me.

The car pulled to a stop in front of me. It was an early 1970s Buick, still new enough to be alone on these lost highways. The driver threw open the passenger door. I looked in, some weak attempt to judge a book by its cover.

He was an older guy, probably sixty-five or so. White, which was something that didn't surprise me, not too many Indians drove newer cars around here. I looked him over, decided that he was as harmless as I was likely to see for a while and slid in.

We drove in silence. I didn't mind. Most people have the need to fill silence with noise, just to keep them from thinking to themselves. Scared they might find something they don't like, I guess. But the driver didn't seem to mind the silence. It was okay.

We pulled into La Pas an hour and a half later. I slept in the backseat and he grabbed a cheap hotel room.

The next morning he slid into the car, handed me an apple and began to drive again, not bothering to ask if I still wanted to come along. I did, of course, but still. I asked him about thirty miles outside of La Pas just where he was headed to.

"Tennessee," he said. I raised my eyes at this.


"Never been."

That seemed like a good enough reason for me. The driver drove on.

I wasn't sure how far he would take me. Tennessee was a long was from Churchill I figured, about as far away as I could get. It sounded perfect.

We drove for a few more days, through fields of wheat, farms, and forests. I slept a lot, and slept well, something that I hadn't been able to do for a long time. I realized how tired I really was. But with each mile under the wheels, each small town we drove through, each state line that we crossed, I could feel Churchill slipping away from me, like a poison leaking from my blood.

We stopped, for good I supposed, in a medium sized town in Tennessee. I got out first, stretched my legs, drank in the autumn air, twisted my back to get the kinks out. I was looking at the well-kept streets, the little stores, the fading sunlight, when I turned around and found the old man looking at me with intense eyes.


"How old are you?"

"Seventeen, why?"

"Do you know why I picked you up on that highway? Why I took you all this way?"

"I figured I was company."

He laughed. "Some company, you slept the whole way here. No, that isn't why I turned around for you."

"Why then?"

"Because you looked alone. You were alone, I could tell by the way that your eyes looked as I passed by you. They told me that you expected me to keep driving, you expected no one to stop for you."

I stared at the ground, silent.

"I almost didn't pick you up the second time, when I saw you reach for your knife. Oh, I knew you had a knife, you don't find many hitchhikers without something. But you also don't find many dangerous seventeen year olds on the side of northern Manitoba highways. And I'm an old man now, I figured if this was how I was going to meet my end, well, at least I would die trying to do some good in this world."

I said nothing, remembering the moment when I let go of the knife. When he gave me the apple, that was when I knew it was going to be ok.

"Thanks," I mumbled.

"I don't expect thanks, no offense, it is appreciated, but that isn't why I started this conversation, our first and last one. Because in a few moments we are going to go our separate ways and will continue on our own paths, whatever they might be. That is the way life is, it is all just a series of hellos and goodbyes. Some are quick, meaningless. Some crush our hearts with pain. It all depends on the situation. But we continue on with them because we need to have the hellos and the goodbyes. It is what makes us human."

"Why are you telling me this?"

"Because of why I stopped for you. You are alone and you wanted to be alone. You still want to be alone. I don't know what has happened in your past but it must be terrible because I have seen no one with the solitary eyes that you possess."

He paused. I looked at him, his eyes quick and alive.

"Don't be alone forever, okay kid? Whatever happens to you, don't lock your soul away. Make sure you have hellos in your life. They will come with goodbyes, and sometimes the goodbyes will beyond all pain you could imagine. But soon there will be another, a new hello, and life will continue on. Deal with your past, as best you can. But remember that it is the past and that you cannot change it. But to hold back from new hellos is to deny what makes us special. Don't turn your back on people. To be alone in this world, to be truly alone, there is nothing worse than that. Nothing."

He reached into his pocket and threw a bulging white envelop to me, sliding it across the roof of the car. The envelope hung on the edge of the roof, teetering, half over the edge and waiting for a slight breeze to knock it to the ground. I stared at it, hesitating.

"Take care kid. I gotta be getting back to Winnipeg, the wife is going to wonder where I've been. That envelope isn't going to open itself you know."

I took the envelope as the old man slammed the drivers door, started the car. He drove off down the street about twenty feet and swung the big Buick in another careless u-turn. He sped past me, a small smile on his weathered face and a brief wave. A wave goodbye.

I had traveled a long ways and was tired. Some of us travel only to want to come home again, while some of us travel looking forward to the next home. It all depends, I guess, on just how many goodbyes you can handle.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

The Fisherman

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The Fisherman
I wake in the early Tuesday morning sunshine, much as I have done for the past 38 years. A day unlike any other, the sun glistening off the ripples, the stray dogs rather bored by my slow pilgrimage to the beach. I shuffled my sandals down the lane in our village, my fishing nets slung over my left shoulder, my right hand clasping a small bag of nan bread and a bottle of water from the town pump.

I heave the nets into my boat and clambered aboard after them, dropping my bread and my water into the bottom of the small lockbox that is at the front of the boat. I grabbed the oars in my calloused hands and began to row, facing the beach and watching it recede little by little with each silent stroke of the weathered oars.

I rowed out from the little cove that my village is nestled in. I swung my nets over into the water, looping them around the three hooks I had attached to the back of the boat. I began to paddle again, the weight of the nets making my shoulders burn with the fire of physical work. I had long since passed this daily strain into a quiet corner of my mind, content to lose myself in my own thoughts of a various nature. Today, as I rowed my boat, I saw the sea birds swirling around a patch of sea off to my left.

I turned the old boat in this direction. Swirling birds usually follow a school of fish. I might be able to go back to shore early today if the gods let me find many fish. I paddled hard. I leaned over the edge of my boat and looked into the clear water. Nothing. I sighed and began paddling again.

Soon I was lost in my thoughts, thinking about my son and his son and how my grandson looked worried even though he was only three years old. Maybe all three year old boys looked worried these days, I don't know. I don't remember my son looking so worried when he was three. But things are different now and people in the village say that children are smarter than we would like to think. Maybe, I don't know. I'm just an old fisherman, I said to myself.

The sun was hot on my back, my neck. I reached into the lockbox for my water and took a small sip. I needed the water to last all day. My wife always told me to bring more during the dry season but I always refused. More weight in the boat was not what my old shoulders needed. They were full of aches in the nighttime now, not like when I was younger. I could row for days then.

I felt the nets become suddenly heavier. I wondered if I had snagged them on a reef as I was daydreaming. I slowed my rowing and began to tug at the nets. They were definitely heavier, but they moved towards me with each pull of my arms. I continued to pull on them and it was at the very end of them that I saw I had caught a baby dolphin.

I began to pull more quickly, ignoring the screaming in my shoulders, the shots of pain in my back. The dolphin, though heavy, was still small and would need to breathe soon. It looked tired, laying motionless in the tangled net. It had struggled with the net at first, using up the air in its lungs and now it was exhausted and waiting to die.

I pulled the dolphin close to the boat and as it broke the surface of the sea I could hear the gasp of breath it took. I had to work quickly, soon the dolphin would begin to thrash as it sensed that its life was in danger. Yet I hesitated.

This year had been bad. I had caught far less fish than in previous years. My nets were good, I figured that I still knew where to go and how to fish these waters. But still, the fish did not come. My wife was convinced that the gods were angry with me, but I had done nothing to offend that I could remember. I dismissed her in anger, telling her she did not know the water as I did. She had been hurt by my words, but she could not argue with me. Soon the issue had been pushed away, a silent argument.

We had little money now and I wanted to provide for my son and my grandson. It was a man's duty to provide for his family. To fail would bring me shame in my village. I looked at the dolphin, which had yet to begin to thrash about. It lay just below the surface of the water, its eye seeming to look at me in a questioning way. Ridiculous, animals are merely animals, nothing more.

I raised my knife, a marked and dinged testament to the strength of man. But as my knife was held above the motionless dolphin my father's voice echoed in my head. I lowered the knife and sat back in my boat, listening to the past. My father had died years ago but not before he had taught me the ways of the water, the fishing skills I would need to be a father myself. My father had a great respect for the ocean and its animals, especially the dolphins.

My father had said to me that to kill a dolphin is an act that should be taken only in times of great need. He was convinced that dolphins were everything that humans could be, if only we watched and learned. "They work together, they help members of their family, they look out for other dolphins. And they are always smiling, you never see a sad dolphin. That is because they know a greater truth about the world that man has yet to grasp. So to take a life of a dolphin is a grave decision to be made."

I reflected on his words, surprised at how clear they came to me. I had never yet killed a dolphin, although I could have. In those times when I could have, my father's voice did not speak to me. Perhaps it was because in those times the need was not great enough to consider killing a dolphin. There had been plenty of fish then and so dolphins were spared by almost everyone.

But now, well, now times were different. It was going to become desperate in my village in perhaps a week, maybe two. Surely no one, even the gods, would lay blame on me if I took the dolphin into my small boat. I sat in my boat and thought for a while. I had learned that it is important to think large decisions over. Only a fool would take rash action. And a fool was not what I wanted to be.

I thought for some time. I leaned over and looked at the dolphin, who seemed to understand that thrashing about was not going to make things any better. The dolphin sensed that I was thinking about its life, and seemed to understand the weight of the matter.

It was a young dolphin, not a baby as I had first thought, but not old enough to breed. I could only tell this by the size. Whether it was a female or male, I did not know. Nor did it matter to me, the death of either a male or female dolphin weakened all dolphins equally. I thought then of my son and his son.

Suddenly with this thought, I raised myself from my seat and grabbed my knife. I leaned over the dolphin, its inky eye looking at me as I began to saw at the nets, being careful not to accidentally cut the dolphin. My knife flashed quickly but with care and experience. I cut through my nets, an act that would cause me time and money. I pushed these selfish thoughts from my mind, and as I cut the last knot on my nets, my back was drenched with sweat.

The nets fell away into the water. I had expected the dolphin to race away, but it remained motionless. I wondered if it was surprised to be alive, or if it was thanking me. I shook my head, knowing that no matter what my father thought of the dolphin, he was even more convinced that men who claimed to talk with the animals were indeed crazy. Perhaps humans were not yet worthy enough, in the dolphin's opinion, to attempt a conversation.

And suddenly, in a flurry of blue gray and a splash of water, the dolphin was gone. I sat back in my boat and began to bring my torn nets in, assessing the damage with an experienced eye. It was not terrible damage to my nets, I had cut in good places, easy to fix places. Perhaps the work would be not so expensive after all. Perhaps I could borrow some nets for a day or two, until my own were fixed.

I began to row for home. I knew that while people would be sad that I had caught no fish, they would have honor for me because I had thought deeply over a decision and chosen well. I had acted properly and the ocean, and the world underneath it, was a better place because of it.
And I knew that tomorrow would be another day and perhaps the gods would be pleased with my actions. At the very least, I whispered to myself as I rowed into the cove, I was pleased with myself. And if your soul is calm then you will be able to see far across even the roughest ocean.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Jeff on stage at the Sidetrack Cafe, Edmonton.

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Blurry artistic shot.

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"Every writer I know has trouble writing." ~ Joseph Heller

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My legs feel heavy this afternoon, this afternoon of whimsical wants and faraway conversations with Cecil, who stares at me with disinterested eyes and calmly leaps from the bench to the dusty top of a battered and scarred upright piano, a piano in need of a tuning. Cecil curls up, his tail flicking in an accusatory way, his eyes blinking slowly.

This cabin is feeling small today, my various junks and throwaways seemingly deciding amongst themselves that clutter is a worthwhile pastime. The sunlight is streaking in through my dead still curtains, creating passionless shadows on the yellowed rug that covers my living room. My bookshelves need to be reorganized, I mumble to myself in a whisper, knowing that it will probably not get done anytime soon.

The radio murmurs in the background but I pay it no mind, content to just sit here and feel lonesome. I guess we all feel lonely and used up sometimes. If you didn't I suppose that life wouldn't leave us with crows feet around our sleepy eyes. Cecil is never tired, he pretty much makes it his job to sleep his life away. I envy him.

I've been having trouble sleeping lately. The last week has found me awake until ungodly hours, staring balefully at the computer screen, struggling to put my words into a coherent and poetic order. I usually fall asleep early in the morning, only to awaken to the shrill cackle of bells, telling me I am already running late. It is a tough thing to be late before you even get out of bed.

I know the deepness of this northern winter is what causes these blues, these morose self-accusations. The snow piles high, the roads nothing more than a parallel set of tire tracks, cut deep into the ice. The wind howls outside us, but Cecil pays it no mind. It is below him to pretend to care about things he cannot change. I suppose he is right, to some extent. He can't change the wind, the howls, any more than he can change the sunrise, the sunset, his litterbox. He has realized this in his old age and is content to just let the various annoyances of life be unto themselves. He hasn't ceased to care, that would require him to have cared for an issue in the first place.

I stand up, moving my tired legs from the easy chair and move to the window, my drink left alone on the coffee table, beside the coaster with the picture of a Cuban beach embossed on its center. I stare out at the fields of snow, the skeleton trees, and the fading, low-slung sunlight as it cuts across the expanse of prairie.

I am quiet with myself, I have become more so in these past few months. I wonder, with a wry smile, if silence could be considered a hobby. I decide that I will pursue my hobby of silence, or at the very least, of pleasing sounds. It seems that Cecil is happy and he has long since turned his hobby of silence into a full time devotion. He seems not to be concerned with what people think about his direction in life, another attribute I envy about him.

I move over to the radio and crouch down, my knees protesting. I reach out for the radio buttons and move the sound to a classical station. I think to myself that I should become more educated, more learned, in classical music. I decide that being able to name a movement, a composer, or even perhaps an orchestra, would be noble goals to pursue. I must remember to remember this new pledge to myself. I would write it down, but the pencils are rarely where I left them. Cecil, of course.

I stand up from the radio and move back to the window, past today's newspaper, which I could not bring myself to open. I've grown exhausted lately with the act of reading a newspaper and I wonder if it has anything to do with my lack of a good sleep at night. Or perhaps it is because of the paper that I have become an insomniac. Either way, it lays on the coffee table, blaring its headlines up at my ceiling. I avert my eyes, preferring the bleak yet peaceful view of the rolling fields of snow.

It is four in the afternoon and it has been a long time since I talked with anyone on the phone.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Big news on the Canadian "potential election in June" story.....

Belinda Stronach, who ran for the leadership of the Conservative party in early 2004, has crossed the floor to the Liberal party and will sit in Paul Martin's cabinet.....Stronach's defection could keep Martin's minority government in power as it faces two key votes on its 2005 budget Thursday.

She also said Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is not sensitive to the needs of all parts of the country, and is jeopardizing national unity by allying himself with the Bloc Quebecois.

Her defection from the Conservatives gives the Liberal-NDP coalition on the budget a total of 151 votes, not including Speaker Peter Milliken, a Liberal MP who votes only in the case of a tie.

The Conservatives and Bloc, who had threatened to oppose the budget, hold a combined total of 152 votes.

There are three Independent MPs, one of whom, Carolyn Parrish, has said she will vote with the Liberals. The other two, Chuck Cadman and David Kilgour, have not said which way they will vote.

Not that I think Belinda is a saint or anything, but this decision took a lot of guts, as she will now be raked over the coals by the Conservatives, especially members on the far right of the party. As it stands right now, it would take the two undecided MPs to side with the Conservatives to bring the government down, something that could happen but is unlikely given their history.

My bet on this game of games is that Kilgour now becomes the wildcard. Last I read Cadman was sounding like he was leaning to the Conservatives. Kilgour, MP of Edmonton southeast, was a member of the Liberals who just recently defected over the sponsorship scandal. He has rightist leanings but he has been accused of looking out for #1 a fair bit. I suspect that another election, where he has to fight tooth and nail to get re-elected in his riding (who will want to know if he is a Liberal, Conservative, or greyish Independent) is not what he wants, thus leading him to cast a vote with the Liberals, saving his own ass and essentially defeating the motion to bring the government down, even if Cadman votes with the Conservatives.

Liberals/NDP = 151 + Parrish, Kilgour, and Speaker Peter Milliken (if needed) = 154
Conservatives/ Bloc = 152 + Cadman = 153

You have to suspect some backroom promises were made to Belinda were made in order for her to cross the floor. Anyway, such is the game of politics, the vote goes this Thursday.

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The official retraction, if you can call it that, from the Newsweek Editor...

The Editor's Desk
May 23 issue - Did a report in NEWSWEEK set off a wave of deadly anti-American riots in Afghanistan? That's what numerous news accounts suggested last week as angry Afghans took to the streets to protest reports, linked to us, that U.S. interrogators had desecrated the Qur'an while interrogating Muslim terror suspects. We were as alarmed as anyone to hear of the violence, which left at least 15 Afghans dead and scores injured. But I think it's important for the public to know exactly what we reported, why, and how subsequent events unfolded.

Two weeks ago, in our issue dated May 9, Michael Isikoff and John Barry reported in a brief item in our Periscope section that U.S. military investigators had found evidence that American guards at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had committed infractions in trying to get terror suspects to talk, including in one case flushing a Qur'an down a toilet. Their information came from a knowledgeable U.S. government source, and before deciding whether to publish it we approached two separate Defense Department officials for comment. One declined to give us a response; the other challenged another aspect of the story but did not dispute the Qur'an charge.

Although other major news organizations had aired charges of Qur'an desecration based only on the testimony of detainees, we believed our story was newsworthy because a U.S. official said government investigators turned up this evidence. So we published the item. After several days, newspapers in Pakistan and Afghanistan began running accounts of our story. At that point, as Evan Thomas, Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai report this week, the riots started and spread across the country, fanned by extremists and unhappiness over the economy.

Last Friday, a top Pentagon spokesman told us that a review of the probe cited in our story showed that it was never meant to look into charges of Qur'an desecration. The spokesman also said the Pentagon had investigated other desecration charges by detainees and found them "not credible." Our original source later said he couldn't be certain about reading of the alleged Qur'an incident in the report we cited, and said it might have been in other investigative documents or drafts. Top administration officials have promised to continue looking into the charges, and so will we. But we regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst.

—Mark Whitaker

Editor's Note: On Monday afternoon, May 16, Whitaker issued the following statement: Based on what we know now, we are retracting our original story that an internal military investigation had uncovered Qur'an abuse at Guantanamo Bay.
© 2005 Newsweek, Inc

The only thing I will take issue with, at this point in the developing story, is the following comment from the above article: At that point, as Evan Thomas, Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai report this week, the riots started and spread across the country, fanned by extremists and unhappiness over the economy.

I wondered a few days ago when I wrote my Quran essay what the spin would be with regards to the causes of the riots. This is it, I guess. It's the economy, stupid. And don't forget those shadowy figures that want to steal your children away, those "extremists."

I'm being cynical, as always and more so lately, but I think it is easier to explain the actions, the riots, of a far off land as a result of the economy instead of religious desecration by US troops. Explaining religious desecration would take a lot of time, a lot of history, and Allah knows we can't cram that into a 30 second soundbite.

So just tell the viewing public that it was mostly the economic reasons, because even Joe Average American knows a little something about a bad economy. And throw in some "extremists", Joe America should be able to remember the lesson he has learned about the Islamic boogeyman over the past 4 years. Problem solved, it wasn't America's fault after all.

Pat yourself on the back and try to forget that the Coalition of the Willing has neglected much of the rebuilding aid it promised to Afghanistan, leaving the Afghan economy to struggle and eventually resort to what has been described as a narco-economy, based on the lucrative little drug known as opium. Again, that can't be a soundbite, so just throw a blanket 'economic reasons' theme over the story and that's a wrap.

I'm going to read Get Fuzzy & the Boondocks, try to have bit of a laugh, and hit the sack. Tomorrow is another day.

More allegations that perhaps Newsweek wasn't completely wrong after all.

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Just a follow up to my Quran essay that you stopped reading halfway through. Food for thought, if nothing else.

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If you ever need some toilet paper....

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The official word on the book I am about to crucify...

Detective Alex Cross is backand he's in love. But his happiness is threatened by a series of chilling murders in Washington, D.C., murders with a pattern so twisted they leave investigators reeling. Cross's pursuit of the killer produces a suspect, a British diplomat named Geoffrey Shafer. But proving he's the murderer becomes a potentially deadly task. As Shafer engages in a brilliant series of surprising countermoves, Alex and his fiance become hopelessly entangled with the most memorable nemesis Cross has ever faced.

Review: How to write an absolutely shitty novel, by Mr. J.

One of my students lent me this book, and after reading it and having a long hot shower in an attempt to feel clean again, I have decided to fail this student for the year. I'm kidding, kind of. I've read some bad books in my day but this one may top the list.

First and most glaring is the amazingly horrid word puke that seems to land on every page. I wouldn't dare call this writing, so word puke it is. I was rolling my eyes so much one of my students asked is I was having a seizure. Some samples, picked at random, with no more the 15 seconds spent finding each....

"I'm not going anywhere," he yelled back, "But you're going straight to hell!"

"I have diplomatic immunity!" (italics by books author-wooo)

Animals all around the zoo howled, moaned, bellowed insanely. They sensed that something was wrong. I could make out the sounds of grizzles and elephant seals.

I walked over to see her. Be still my heart.

Absolute garbage. Those aren't even the worst ones. Elephant seals? What?

Onward. There are 124 chapters in this 461 page book. That means that there is a chapter every 3.71 pages. Which is kinda like being the passenger in a car when the driver is just learning how to drive a standard.

And the chapters, or long paragraphs if you will, get even more choppy than that. In all seriousness, I was reading the "book" and thought to myself that the author had written all the "romance" chapters first, followed by all the "action" chapters (broken up into good guy and bad guy sub-chapters), followed by the "home" chapters, and lastly all the "introspective/filler" chapters. The author then cut and paste them into the novel in some semblance of chronological order. To call the "home" and "romance" chapters repetitive would be like saying the NHL didn't have much of an audience this year. A little understated.

Finally, the plot-like substance that seemingly holds this book together. Here we go...

Detective Alex Cross (as if that last name shouldn't have warned me off in the first place) is a pyschologist/cop who is trying to catch a bad guy, one Geoffery Schafer, who works at the British embassy in Washington and is ex-MI6 British secret service. Bad guy (Schafer) is a psycho and is killing a lot of people, usually with a bad line thrown in right before he kills them. Bad guy is involved with a fantasy online game with 3 other ex-MI6 guys. The point of this game is vague, but it seems the idea is to up the ante everytime they play, thus the crimes get crazier every time. I supposed this is included in the book to covet the "nerd" market.

Bad guy is crazy and kidnaps Cross's fiance. Cross' by the way, has already lost a wife to a drive by shooting, and the fiance's ex-husband died from a bomb, making them the two most unlucky people on the planet. True love!

Cross has two kids who are perfect. Despite losing a mom to a drive by, losing a future mom to a kidnapping, and being watched 24/7 by grandma because Cross is a massively negligent parent, these kids are angels, no therapy being needed. I guess all kids respond to massive upheavals in their lives by joining a choir.

Bad guy taunts Cross with hints about his fiance's well-being. Bad guy kills Cross's pseudo-partner. Cross is sad. This is an attempt to create suspense, I guess. After the first half of the book, which is written in a day by day format, the fiance is kidnapped. Cross experiences some pain, but the writing makes it seem like he just had to give his dog away. Second part of the book jumps forward one year. Just like that.

Reader finds out later that during this year, bad guy waved his diplomatic immunity and stands trial for one murder. He is found innocent. Goes back to killing. Cross is mad.

Then Interpol comes into the picture, kinda. They set up a sting on the bad guy in Jamaica, just cause I guess. By now, a year has passed and despite occasional longings for his fiance, Cross concludes that she is dead, and moves on. Reader does too.

Cross and bad guy fight in Jamaica, bad guy drowns. Cross flies back to Washington but turns around when he is told that there is an American woman living deep in the Jamaican forests. Could it be? Back to Jamaica. Walk into forest, encounter no resistance and lots of help from the locals. Into a hut. Big surprise, his fiance, who the reader has almost forgotten about by now.

She has a baby with her. His baby. Cue Hallmark music. Jay has his head in the toilet.

Extra Chapter: Bad guy didn't drown!!! He swam away, apparently to London, where he kills his wife and kids in a supermarket and gets away. Ooooohhhh. The end.

Some other stuff happens too. Cops die. Politicians are bad. Kids continue to be fine despite the fact that Dad is never home and fiance/mom is dead then alive, then dead maybe again. Grandma knows a lot about the NBA.

If you buy this book, it would be like buying Ebola and missing with your Draino drink. It is that bad. But you wouldn't know it from the following quotes....

"He gives Cross a worthy opponent probably the smartest killer spawned by patterson's wicked imagination...a worthy addition to the Cross saga."-San Francisco Examiner

Comment: Note that the author's name is spelled in a lower case letter, indicating the high brow intelligence working at the SF Examiner. I laugh at them, because i never make a typo.

"Patterson does it again. the man is the master of this genre. We fans all have one wish for him: Write even faster."-Larry King, USA Today

Comment: Larry King is obviously senile. It would be obvious to even a grade 2 dropout that Patterson ought to take more time, not less, when he sits down to produce future birdcage lining.

"The book's savage twists will keep you enthralled."-Woman's Own

Comment: Girls can't be cops, thus this review is empty and meaningless. I'd pay more attention to a dyslexic monkey chained to a typewriter that has a whole bunch of keys missing.

Anyway, this book is evil. It is worse than alien death rays that hit babies. That is how evil this book is. Buy it only if you want to be reduced to a shivering mess in the bathroom tub, sobbing.

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Just when I think I have seen everything possible on the Kuwaiti road system, just when I think nothing else can possibly surprise me, a new day dawns and Kuwait shows me just how wishful my thinking truly is.

Yesterday was a long day, I was here at skool from 700am to 430pm or so. Driving home with a couple of other teachers, all is well. Then I see some black smoke up ahead on the freeway. Now seeing black smoke in Kuwait air is kind of like seeing a camel or a Ferrari here. Doesn't happen everyday, but it does occur often enough not to make you overly surprised.

So anyway as we begin braking from the minimum 135km/hr speed, I see a really big plume of black smoke floating upwards. As we approach, on the right hand side of the freeway, there is a small minivan that has burst into flames. Must have been just a minute or so before we got there, because the van was still fairly untouched, save for the tires.

The occupants of the van were outside, about 30 feet away from the flaming car, just kinda staring at it, as flames licked around the undercarriage and curled up the sides of the van. One of the teachers I was riding with wondered aloud if the fuel tank was going to explode as we passed a mere 15 feet away from it.

Yep. Just another day. I am going to bring my camera with me tomorrow, see if I can get a picture of the shell of the van. Other than burning cars and the now-routine herds of stray cats, nothing much is new.

I'll post more later on, y'all come back now, y'hear?

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Monday, May 16, 2005

How did we get to here?

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More proof that I am the anti-society...

Whooo hoo. New Star Wars movie. Hey let's go camp out by the theatre, pretend we are in high school again. Let's all run into the theatre like lemmings off a cliff, plop our gigantic asses into the chairs, let our mouths hang open like the black hole of commercialist ignorance that they are. Let's all stare at the screen, taking it all on, taking it all in, like the drug that we crave. The two hour high that leaves us all the more empty in the end. Let's all run out of the theatre, popcorn crumbs falling off of our clothes, and go to the chat rooms, the blogs, the reviews, the parties. Let's all talk about nothing. Let's all have a giant pissing contest to see who has seen it the most, who has wasted the most money and time.

Ah hell, its all so goddamn meaningless and trite. It is all so fucking empty. Why don't we all claim this to be the thankful end of a bad idea and put it to rest? The sheer idea of a prequel is nothing more than a cash grab. Just hand over your $13 and get commerical whore tatted on your goddam forehead, just to make it easy to identify how shallow your values are. Prequels 1 & 2 sucked ass, I'm told. So we are all going to rush out en masse to give it another chance, aren't we? How the hell could it not be? And even if it isn't, well doublethink it until is good, hell until its the best thing that has happened to you this year.

And for the true wastes of society, those who dress up and pretend they are a Storm Trooper, a Vader, a goddam Ewok, I only promise you that if I see you on the street I will call you a hopeless sack of garbage to your face. I will mock you and you will know that you deserve it. You are not a fictional character, and it is about time, far past time, that you become someone you don't have to dress up to be.

Go to movie. Take a date. It is what we are doing, it is what we are told to do. Pass up buying a newspaper subscription, a reknowned novel, a coffee with a friend who you haven't seen in too long. Pass them all up. Get in line, get your stamp, get you soma. Go on, do it, you will, we all fall into the averages anyway.

It doesn't matter, this movie. It is empty and it means nothing. It is almost everything that is wrong with our self-indulgent society. It makes perfect sense when you think about it. I mean, you're mad at me right now, or at least offended I would attack this next great thing. Fine, be mad, but you know that life is not a fucking movie, its not a godamn fantasy.

You know about children starving, children with AIDS, with fucking polio for god's sake. "For pennies a day...." yeah, well, I gave at Christmas. You say that but you know damn well some kid in Darfur, or Chechnya, or throw a goddamn dart at the map, can't afford to buy a pencil for his schoolwork. And you are pretending, living in a world that says it is ok to worship a movie even if it is shit, simply because you had the luck of the angels to be born where you were. You are lucky enough to be born into a society that says ignorance about the greater human needs is second, hell third or ninth, to your desire to be happy, to be entertained.

I'm sick of it. I am absolutely sick of it all.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 10:28 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 9:22 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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In an apology to readers this week, Newsweek acknowledged errors in a story alleging U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrated the Quran. The accusations, which the magazine vowed to re-examine, spawned protests in Afghanistan that left 15 dead and scores injured.

Responding to harsh criticism from Muslim leaders worldwide, the Pentagon promised to investigate the charges and pinned the deadly clashes on Newsweek for what it described as "irresponsible" reporting."We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst," Editor Mark Whitaker wrote in the apology.

Newsweek reported that U.S. military investigators had found evidence that interrogators placed copies of Islam's holy book in washrooms and had flushed one down the toilet to get inmates to talk.

After Newsweek published the story, demonstrations spread across Afghanistan and Muslims around the world decried the alleged desecration. In Afghanistan, Islamic scholars and tribal elders called for the punishment of anyone found to have abused the Quran, said Maulawi Abdul Wali Arshad, head of the religious affairs department in Badakhshan province.

On Saturday, Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, both allies of Washington, demanded an investigation and punishment for those behind the reported desecration of the Quran.
Yahoo/AP News

First, some background.

It is hard for us that grew up in the still mostly secular (in relation anyway) West to understand the power the Quran (or Koran) holds in the Islam faith. I know, you're thinking to yourself that the Quran is basically the equivalent to the Bible in Christianity, but you would be mistaken.

The Quran is revered in Islam as literally the written word of Allah, via the prophet Mohammed. It is seen as the most direct communication that believers can have with Allah and unlike the Bible, it is considered to be written directly by Allah, instead of through a number of authors.

Whatever your feelings on this, my experience is that the Quran is considered the most sacred thing a Muslim owns, be they rich or poor. Thus the reported story of desecration of the Quran not only touches a nerve with Muslims worldwide, it flat out stomps all over the nerve. Muslims have already been subjected to much stereotyping in the past few years and many feel that the war on terror is in all actuality, a war of religion. Instead of working to alleviate these feelings, this story serves only to pour gasoline onto a simmering fire.

If someone was reported to have flushed a Bible down the toilet, how would you react? Most likely with some mild form of unease, perhaps a flash of anger. Save for the very Christian, most people would be mildly offended, yet would go on with their day. As I mentioned above, the West is by and large secular, with religion by and large often coming second to work and life, crammed in on a Sunday morning. Again, I am speaking in general terms, I understand that the spectrum of dedication is well represented from the ultra religious to the Jay-style of "What the hell is that" as he points at a steeple.

However, Islam asks a much higher level of dedication, including prayer 5 times a day and a goal of travelling to Mecca in Saudi Arabia once in one's life. Often the religion is institutionalized via the government and the society, much more so than Christianity. Again, this differs country to country, but it is safe to say that aside from a few pockets of diehard Christianity, Islam is much more of a full time religion. Where Christian services are merely a room in one's life, Islam is the entire house.

Secondly, my opinion.

This story, reported in Newsweek, goes straight to the heart of the attack (percieved or real) on Islam. It inflames people, especially people who have very little except their religion, as one can assume was the case in Afghanistan, where people rioted and died because of this story. Indeed, this report even has the presidents of Muslim countries calling the Pentagon and the White House, demanding answers and investigations. While it is safe to say that there is a lot of politics involved, one would be neglectful to ignore the emotions that are running high because of this story.

This will be repeated, but I am going to say it anyway. If this proves to be a mistake Newsweek screwed up, big time. This goes far beyond the Journalism 101 class that tells you to "double check your sources" and ensure that the facts you're getting are actually fact. Newsweek is not only causing political stress between Muslim and Western countries, but is also (I would say) indirectly responsible for the deaths of those people in Afghanistan.

Is this too heavy a charge to level against Newsweek? I don't think so. The written word, especially in this massively interconnected world, still has the power to move the masses. Hell, I would even wonder aloud if this report may prove as damaging as the pictures from Abu Gharib. The chances of the retraction (as Newsweek has issued one) reaching the masses in Afghanistan are quite low. Bad news travels a lot more quickly than good news, we all know that.

This may be largely swept under the rug in the mass media informed western countries, as it will not be examined as it should, leaving more half-cocked interpretations of Islam. It will create more negative images of Muslims in the west, not because of the actions of the Muslims who protested against this story, but because of the inaction of the western cultures to fully understand why the reaction was so passionate.

We will forget this story in 3 or 4 weeks, pushed aside by another scandal, another body count. Or we may forget about it after we drag Newsweek over the coals, assuming that the wrong has been righted. This story, however, will not be forgotten by the masses in Muslim countries and could very well lead to future instability and unrest between Islam and the West. Which would be the last thing this world needs now.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 7:45 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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"It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Guy LaFleur and his new ride.

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Jeff and the new ride. I dunno who the dame is.

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So Brother Jeff finally did it. Yep. He asked Kyleton to marry him. The two are, uh, phone, uh.. hold on....what? They're NOT getting married?? I'm a little surprised. WHAT??? Kyle is marrying a GIRL? I'm fucking floored.

Ha ha, I lie. Brother Jeff did buy himself a new car though, this past weekend. Yep, got himself a new set of wheels. Three of 'em, in fact. The new ride has a few dings but you can barely notice them in the dark.

This car is loaded to the nines. It has a kick ass sound system and the guy Jeff bought it from was even so kind as to help get Jeff's new ride bumpin' with some tunes. The car also has a ski rack, so Jeff can hit the slopes and mack on some ski bunnies. The car also has a sweet gaming system and an on-board computer system.

This dope ride is bound to turn some heads but I think Jeff is down enough to handle the pressure. After all, this new ride is a big step from his old mode of transport. Hell, Jeff has come a long way since his first ride.

I'm just kidding about all the above. Jeff did buy a new ride, a 1999.5 VW Golf and I say it is well-deserved. The kid is doing all right, getting new rides and gigs at the Sidetrack Cafe, living the rock star lifestyle. He bears an uncanny resemblance to Guy Lafleur's hair when he plays hockey and is known to have the biggest set of cojones every single Freshies trip, hucking big air with no regard to his previously dislocated pelvis. His blog is second only to mine and even Megan thinks he is an okay guy. The kid is smart, conscious, and well read. So I say good on ya lad. My friends and I can't wait to take the new VW Brian out for a spin. I hope the new ride makes it down to Red Deer once in a while, even though you might get run over by a hometown hero truck or two.

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Ha ha.

Some of my Grade 12s were talking about their upcoming graduation celebration dinner. I'm going to go, it should be okay. At the very least it gives this "keeping the bakers employed" blogger a decent meal.

And then I started laughing to myself because I realized that there would be no need to plan a safegrad. And I thought to myself "Self, drinking rules."

So I laughed and when they asked me what I was smiling at, I said they wouldn't understand.

And then I sat down. And remembered that at my safegrad I drank 3 and half litres of beer and punted (quite well for how much I had drank) the other 1/2 litre away.

Then I remembered how I had befouled that porta-potty but was kind enough to tell my friends not to use it.

Then I made out with Vanessa Ebertz. I'm a star.

Then I passed out on the ground with my eyes wide open. Cadrin poured grapefruit pop into my eyes and I was so drunk that I didn't even close them. Burned like a mutha.

I came home today and listened to the Weakerthans and they are cool.

Yea, these kids don't know what their missing. Man I need a good beer night. Any takers?

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 9:07 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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......Hundreds of protesters are reported to have been gunned down in bloody clashes with government forces that have ravaged eastern Uzbekistan.
.......One human rights observer in the eastern city of Andizhan said that up to 500 people may have perished in the shootings and the gun battles that followed. A doctor spoke of "many, many dead", witnesses said 200 to 300 people were shot dead, and an AP reporter saw at least 30 bodies in Andijan.
.......Terrified demonstrators tried to flee the country, seen as a key ally by Britain and the US in the war on terror.

The violence that has reportedly killed hundreds of protesters in eastern Uzbekistan appeared to be spreading to neighbouring towns last night, raising fears that the volatile Central Asian state could erupt into a full-scale revolution.
.......They had stormed the city prison after 23 businessmen were put on trial for alleged Islamic extremism. They took over the local administration centre and blockaded the city centre, some demanding that the government resign.
.......America gives $10 million a year in aid to the Uzbek security services and police, agencies which it says indulge in torture as a 'routine investigation technique'. Murray said: 'The US will claim that they are teaching the Uzbeks less repressive interrogation techniques, but that is basically not true. 'They help fund the Uzbek security services and give tens of millions of dollars in military support as well.' He said the money was a 'sweetener' in return for the Uzbeks allowing the US to have an airbase in the southern town of Khanabad, vital for operations in neighbouring Afghanistan.

And some information about the President of Uzbekistan, one Islam Karimov.....

He came to power as the party's First Secretary in Uzbekistan in 1989. On March 24, 1990 Karimov became President of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. He declared the independence of Uzbekistan on August 31, 1991 and won elections held on December 29 of that year with 86% of the vote. The elections have been called unfair, with state-run propaganda and a falsified vote count, although the opposing candidate and leader of the Erk (Freedom) Party, Muhammad Solih, had a chance to participate. Shortly after the elections, a harsh political clampdown forced opposition leaders into exile, while many have been issued long-term prison sentences and a few have disappeared.

In 1995, Karimov extended his term until 2000 through a widely criticized referendum, and he was reelected with 91.9% of the vote on January 9, 2000. The United States said that this election "was neither free nor fair and offered Uzbekistan's voters no true choice" The sole opposition candidate, Abdulhasiz Dzhalalov, admitted that he had only entered the race to make it appear to be a democratic contest and that he had actually cast his own vote for Karimov. On January 27, 2002, Karimov won another referendum extending the length of presidential terms from five to seven years; Karimov's present term, formerly due to end in 2005, was subsequently extended by parliament, which scheduled the next elections for December 2007.
More info here at

Uzbekistan is one of the countries that the US has been using for 'rendition' purposes, that being the practice of sending suspected terrorists or people who have suspected links to terror to countries that openly practice torture. This is well traveled ground, many people know of Maher Arar, the Canadian sent to Syria. This is essentially the service that the Uzbekistan government provides for the Americans, in return for military funding and a turned blind eye when it comes to meddling in Uzbek affairs.

These riots are said to have started after 23 men were imprisoned because they were practicing extremist strains of Islam. However, on one of the links provided above I read that the strain of Islam identified as "radical" was instead far more moderate (ie. Turkey) than the Taliban ideals.
Now Cadrin has said on occasion that I blame the US far too quickly for most of the world's problems, and perhaps in some way he is correct, as I do tend to rant about the US far more than any other country. But when we are living in a world with only one 800 pound gorilla, well, the actions of that gorilla have far flung results.

All I will say about this current issue in Uzbekistan is that I will be waiting to see when and if the US makes any strongly worded comment against either the deaths of hundreds of innocent protestors or the seemingly trumped up charges of extremism against the 23 men. Enough said, I sit back to wait. Tick tock.

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Loyal bloggies may remember a story I put up a month or so ago about a maid in Saudi Arabia who was tortured, bound hand and foot, and developed gangrene. Horrorific right? Can't get any worse? My my, you have much to learn...

'Tortured' maid charged by Saudis
By Paul Wood BBC News, Riyadh

There is controversy in Saudi Arabia over the treatment of a foreign maid who accused her employers of torture....The most serious charges against the man and woman for whom she worked have now been dropped while the maid is accused of making false allegations.....The 25-year-old maid, Nour Miyati, from Indonesia was sent to hospital with gangrene saying she had been tied up for a month and left without food.....But Saudi authorities have charged her with making false allegations.....They also claim she has now withdrawn part of her original statement....The most serious charges against the Saudi couple have been dropped although they could still be prosecuted for neglect and the wife for assault.....Nour Miyati had to have several fingers amputated.....She said the Saudi couple who employed her had bound her hand and foot and left her on a bathroom floor for a month without food.

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