Ink & Paper

Saturday, December 10, 2005

New Xbox commerical. Rooaaarrrr.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 10:48 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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I used to feel uncool when I walked Whyte Ave. That was when I was 24 and could at least be considered young enough to belong, even if I didn't have the right clothes.

Och, 28 years old and not cool is a different thing on Whyte. Christmas shopping (la de freakin da) on Whyte left me gandering about like an out of touch senior at a Bright Eyes show. It was like the goddamn twilight zone, I felt so out of place.

I am a normal guy. I wear normal jeans, tshirts or collared shirts, and running shoes on the weekend. Boring but predictable. I truly don't care what I look like so long as people don't notice me and say "What the fudge is he wearing?" I don't want to be the Zellers kid, but beyond that, I don't care too much.

Some people I know where talking about some store called Lulu (sp?) Lemon and I had no idea what in the hell they were taking about. I thought it was some kind of mentally deranged fruit. Turns out I was wrong, it is a store for hipsters and people who actually think they look good when they are working out. They don't, we all look like stressed out prunes on the treadmill at the Y. But I guess they look like stressed out prunes in $75 sweat pants, which is an improvement, or so I'm told. Weird.

But today, dressed in my stable and unchanging weekend attire, I felt like I had just rode in on the good ole 4X4 Hutterite truck to land smack in the middle of an overly self-involved fashion nightmare. I was looking at dude, who had his enormous headphones on at just such a tilt, and girly, whose hair was cut and dyed to look like she had been on the losing end of a lawnmower battle, and was thinking to myself about all the useless effort that must go into their pre-Whyte Ave strut morning.

Here is the news hipsters:

1. No one cares what you look like. All that money you spent on your hair and clothes is useless as I have forgotten what you, as an individual, look like in a mere 10 seconds after you have passed me by. In some cases, I am thankful for this. Pink hair in a mullet sytle? Good financial investment. You're shaking the establishment man!

2. You will be replaced. The proximity to the U of A and its constantly refreshed population ensures that in a matter of 4-5 years you will be replaced by a sleeker, hipper, cooler, younger version of you. If you fight this inevitability, you will be 42 and creepy on the Ave. Just think about how many U of A students have walked around Strathcona and moved on. Don't think you are any different.

3. It is not cool to say the word "like" every other second. Nor do I think what Jimmy or Sally did at the club last night warrants any sort of verbalization, unless it is me verbally making fun of you within earshot until Megan tells me to "stop being an asshole." See point #2 for further clarification.

4. You expensive jeans/shirts/trucker hats/piercings/Heely shoes are nothing more than reminders of the extra debt you incurred during university, debt that you will be paying off in 10-15 years time, along with your mortgage and dog food. Oh yes, you will be that uncool. Your dog will lick her own crotch and this will be the highlight of your Saturday night.

5. Not everyone is watching you, and if they do manage to notice your weedwacker haircut or eyeball piercing, they will have surely forgotten it within a matter of minutes, as they have other things to worry about. Unless they are a loser blogger like me.

Granted, I was feeling like a fish out of water today, and Xmas shopping didn't put me in a good mood at all. But honestly, the Ave represented a fashion show put together by the CNIB that no one attended, full of 'models' way too self involved and (in my opinion) lacking any real individuality at all.

I'm uncool and I'm okay with that. I'm lame, I cut myself down to get a laugh, and I am honest with the fact that I will never be cool enough to stand out. I live in the burbs, for Christ sake.

But inherent in my loserstyle is the fact that I am comfortable with who I am and what I believe in. I don't need a $75 dollar tshirt to tell me I am special or unique. I don't need to slot myself into a "genre" of music or style to feel like I belong. I don't care if I belong, be it to the hipster crowd or the masses that shop at Wal-Mart. I wear my "Make Poverty History" wristband because I truly believe in the cause, not because it is the "in" thing to do.

You know why I don't care? Because it doesn't matter. Quick, name the kid you thought was oh-so-cool in your 1st year of university? Drawing a blank hey? Probably because (in my case) that year was 1996 and Macarena was the #1 song on the Billboard charts and no one fucking cares what style of hat was hip at that time.

Get over yourselves, you hipsters, you b-boys, you hardcore kids, you "trendsetters." You live in Edmonton, a northern Canadian oil city with the fashion relevance of a toothpick in a hillbilly's mouth. Your hat is on crooked and no one cares.


Man, I can't wait until I'm 80. My pants are going to be brown and chest high.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 8:41 PM ~~ 10 bonsai trees

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I am tucked away in my bulky winter coat, but not tucked away enough. It is a Saturday before Christmas and I am in a mall, of all places. The crowds are enormous and they are swirling about me, like an ocean of people focused only on getting their gifts and getting out of the mall, unaware that the parking lot resembles, well, a parking lot.

My agoraphobia, undiagnosed as it is, comes about in these situations, particularily near Christmas. I suppose it is agorapobia-lite with a hefty dose of an anti-consumerist bent, confused and disgusted with the gaudy decorations and the blaring tv advertisments. The mall floor is muddy near the doors and sparkling white once you are stuck in the middle of it. The stores are spilling their wares into the congested corridors and canned Christmas music is blaring from every store, colliding into a cacaophony of noise and bells, falsettos and overdubs. Some of the employees in the stores, teenagers and old women, are wearing Santa hats that probably are a lot less fun than they look. There are Christmas decorations strung from the ceiling, although no one notices.

Mother and fathers, stress lining their faces, spend their scant weekend hours dragging kids about the mall, bags overflowing with sweaters and toys. Flash that credit card, flash it. "Yes, I have my airmiles card."

I'm starting to shake, the small tremors that remain unseen under my winter coat. I am going to walk over to that maintenance hallway, the one with the "Employees Only" sign hanging above it. It appears to be the only place in this madness that people aren't crowded into, the only place I can undo my coat and feel a little less warm. I am going to lean my back against the wall and drop my eyes to the ground. I'm not bored, although I may look it. I'm the furthest thing from bored and the shakes are getting worse.

I'm not a grinch, although I do think that Christmas has long since lost the original meaning. I feel the same way when we end up at someplace busy on a Saturday afternoon in July. The swarming of people, loud and crass, around me is perhaps one of the things I hate the most, and pre-Christmas shopping is nothing less than the perfect storm of gluttony and jostling.

So here I will wait until I am told that we can leave, until I am able to leave. I'm shaking with nervous tremors.

It is 1023am on Saturday morning and we haven't even left the house yet.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 10:25 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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An Atheist Manifesto is an interesting article about God(s), reality on earth, and where religion fits into our modern life. I suggest that your read it.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 9:36 AM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Friday, December 09, 2005

I just got back from a dog walk, late on a Friday night that is unusually warm for December. All the snow we had sitting on the ground has melted away to again reveal spongy wet grass and dog-paw mud.

Friday nights in this small suburb contain the standard night owls. There are the teenage kids who walk sullenly in shuffling groups of three or four, smoking while sitting on the park bench in the dark, wondering if they can score some booze off an older brother. There are the kids with Dad's truck, aimlessly driving around town with hip hop music baring from fuzzed out factory speakers. I smile as I think of how the kids paint the divide between the youthful teenage years when you think you know it all and adulthood when you know you don't.

It is a clear night tonight, with a warm breeze blowing from the east. The nice thing about living outside the city is that you can see the stars quite easily, something I rather enjoy when I am alone and not worried about what people think. I had heard on the radio today that if I looked to the western sky sometime on Friday night I could see the planet Venus burning bright. I looked and looked but I don't really know if I can tell the difference between a star and a planet. My eyes aren't that good you know.

But I looked for Venus nonetheless. "You never know unless you try," an echo from childhood. Having decided that she was nowhere to be found, I turned my face into the breeze, facing east and picking out the little dipper, or at least what I assumed to be the little dipper. I have been saying to myself for years that I need to learn more about space. It seems like there is plenty to learn about when it comes to space, and yet I haven't quite got around to doing any reading. Life gets in the way, as we all know.

It wasn't a long walk, maybe forty minutes or so, but I got to walk amongst the shadows of trees, out of sight of the smoking teenagers, and look at the night sky and think existentialist thoughts. Monday sniffed the grasses, which may be as important as anything humanity will ever do in the whole scheme of things, stars and universe and all. We came home, washed paws, and had a sip of water.

Megan asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year, my first Christmas in two years, really. I told her that all I wanted was a cheap and comfortable chair I could put in my office at home and a gift certificate to buy some books.

Maybe a book about The Known Universe.

Good night.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 10:19 PM ~~ 3 bonsai trees

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Clark Griswald (of National Lampoon fame) has nothing on this guy. Holy Santa-on-steriods.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 10:09 PM ~~ 2 bonsai trees

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Co-opting of John Lennon

"...John Lennon mattered. He was smart and he was funny and he was arrogant and he was a man who loved what he loved and who hated what he hated with utter clarity and no apology at all. He would have been an important voice in the Reagan eighties, and if he was with us today, at sixty-five years of age, it's hard to envision him quietly suffering the brutish voices that defend the use of torture in the name of humanity and who blithely dismiss the counting of war casualties who don't wear a particular uniform."

December 8th marks the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's death and all over the world people are paying tribute in one form or another to his memory. A quick scour of the headlines will reveal the longing people still have for the impossible, that being the reunion of the Beatles.

If John Lennon had lived, he would have been 65 this year. By dying near his peak, Lennon transcended his already enormous persona and has lived on in the memories of the baby boomers as the personification of "free love and tolerance."

I feel sorry for Lennon, as he has been transformed into an icon for a failed ideal, that being the ideal of a brotherhood of man. The boomers, who came of age in the late 60s and professed as much, have entered their sunset years and in doing so have bequested the younger generation a planet of wars, pollution, intolerance, and corporations.

And yet, the ideal of John Lennon is resurrected every year and those of us too young to remember him are told of the good he stood for. And he did stand for good, I truly believe that. He stood for peace and tolerance, for non-violent protests. But to have a generation of boomers profess to still believe in Lennon's ideals while the world tilts toward total chaos reeks of hypocrisy. I don't want to cram all the boomers into one category, but take a look at all the leaders of this world, be they politicians or CEOs and one can't help but wonder when the mantra of Lennon was replaced by the chasing of the dollar sign. Where Lennon stood up to such people, the boomers fell into line behind them, hoping for a lick of the brass ring.

John Lennon deserved better. His message, like Che Guevara's and Bob Marley's, has been replaced by a few T shirts and an occasional tribute that seems to ring more hollow with every passing year. While people may profess to miss Lennon, his music, his politics, his aura, they evidently haven't missed Lennon enough in the past 25 years to model their own actions after his own. Jeez, it sounds like I am writing about Jesus here, a comparison that has been made before and perhaps does have some weight to it.

Lennon is dead and so are his ideas. Perhaps that is the saddest thing, that his ideals have withered away and died over the years, only to be vainly trumpeted once in a blue moon by someone who wants to distance themselves from their own actions or make a buck off of Lennon's words.

As with most things that are truly legit, those that walk the walk on a daily basis rarely have the need to talk the talk. Those few boomers that are truly modeling their lives on the message Lennon pronounced are quietly going about their business without fanfare. The ones that you hear talking about Lennon's legacy are the very one's who have either completely missed the point or have discarded Lennon's ideals, save for the few times a year it becomes trendy to remember.

John Lennon was a poet, a musician, a man of peace, and a doer of deeds. The quote at the beginning of this post wonders what Lennon would make of the current US administration and their practices. Perhaps the more uncomfortable wonderment is what Lennon would make of the society that allowed bush to be elected in the first place.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 2:29 PM ~~ 10 bonsai trees

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Tony Pierce, a blogger whose site you better visit often, wrote a nice tribute to Tom Waits, who turned 59 on December 7th.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 2:04 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Like the fat kids running downhill after a stray honey-glazed, the US administration is tripping over itself.

The United States has made a clear, direct, unequivocal statement about the use of torture. Its official policy now is to honour the United Nations ban on cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, not just at home, but around the world as well.

Questions about torture, secret prisons and mysterious CIA flights have been dogging U.S. Secretary of State Condaleezza Rice for months and helped prompt her visit this week to European allies, who have expressed concern over the reports.

The White House has tried to argue that rules against torture don't apply beyond U.S. soil, in places like Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or Afghanistan. But on Wednesday that all changed.

Speaking in Kiev, Rice made a definitive statement. "Those obligations [against the use of torture] extend to U.S. personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the United States or outside of the United States," she said.

A Democratic Senator called Rice's statement an "almost total reversal of U.S. policy."

Rice's statement set off a confusing reaction within the U.S. government.

On the one hand, White House spokesman Scott McLellan called it nothing new. "Is this existing policy? As I stated earlier, yes it is existing policy."

But at the State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said Rice's statement "is a statement of policy and it's been the U.S. policy ... at least since the secretary said it."

Rice was hardly definitive and there are still plenty of loopholes such as what is the definition of cruel and will the rules apply to foreigners hired by the U.S.

But her statement should please the U.S. allies and it may signal that the Bush administration has resigned itself to accepting a ban on torture that the Congress is about to enact.

I really doubt that this is some massive reversal of US policy, and I sure as hell don't think this is a signal that the "Bush administration has resigned itself to accepting a ban on torture..." These clowns haven't abided by international law in the past 6 years, I doubt they are about to start now.

Instead, it is merely a small stumble, albeit a notable one, from the usual bush party line regarding the gray areas created around torture. But the slip is telling as it perhaps can be painted and spun by the left as a 'crack in the bush armour', a song that might sit well with a distrusting public. Time will tell if the Democrats make any political points off of this story.

Rice has had a rough week. She was in Germany for a meeting with Angela Merkel, the newly elected Chancellor of Germany, wherein Rice was attempting to downplay the fact that the US used (without permission) German airports as staging areas and refuelling stops for flights carrying rendition detainees, en route to non-existant US detention facilities in Asia and Eastern Europe.

During her time in Germany, Rice was forced to admit that the US occasionally makes mistakes with regards to detaining innocent people, a situation that happened to a German national, Khaled Masri, who is now suing the US government after he was imprisoned for 4 months and then released without charge. Such an admission, from an administration that never, ever, admits a fault, is seen in the diplomatic circles as rather staggering.

And now, again, Rice has stumbled and caused yet another round of Europeon scrutiny to be placed upon the bush administration. The more scrutiny the merrier, as far as I'm concerned.

Yet, even after all the evidence pointing towards illegal US practices, we still see this kind of reaction from the US when confronted by the UN:

Washington has rebuked UN human rights commissioner Louise Arbour for criticising its anti-terror tactics as the alleged secret jails row goes on.

Ms Arbour said reports the US was using secret overseas sites to interrogate suspects harmed its moral authority and she wanted to inspect any such centres.

The US said it was inappropriate and illegitimate for her to question US conduct on the basis of media reports.

Ms Arbour, a former Canadian Supreme Court justice, told reporters in New York on Wednesday that the global ban on torture was becoming a casualty of the US-led "war on terror".

She singled out the reported US policies of sending terror suspects to other countries and holding prisoners in secret detention.

"Two phenomena today are having an acutely corrosive effect on the global ban on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment," she said.

"There are lots of human rights that can be set aside temporarily in cases of emergencies, lots of them, but not the right to life and not the protection against torture," she added.

America's ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, said Ms Rice had already addressed the issue and he roundly criticised Ms Arbour.

It was, he said, "inappropriate and illegitimate for an international civil servant to second-guess the conduct that we're engaged in [in] the war on terror, with nothing more as evidence than what she reads in the newspapers".

I have written previously about our good friend, the unilateralist John Bolton, who possesses a track record that is less than supportive of the UN, and his reputation as a doting bush bulldog is apparently well-earned. To suggest that Arbour is getting her information while at the same time drinking her morning coffee is rather insulting to the office of UN Human Rights Commissioner and to Arbour herself. This is, however, how Bolton plays the game and it further demonstrates the bush administration's total disdain for the UN.

It just sounds a little more hollow now that we see a uniformity that more closely resembles a second-rate junior high debate club than the fflawless White House myth that has been so meekly assumed to be true for far too long.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 10:19 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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BBC reports

A man who claimed to have a bomb on board an American Airlines plane in Miami was shot dead by a US federal officer, officials say.

Rigoberto Alpizar, a 44-year-old US citizen, was shot after fleeing an air marshal. No device has been found.

Alpizar had arrived in Miami, Florida, from Ecuador and was boarding a flight to Orlando.

It is the first time since the attacks of 11 September 2001 that a US air marshal has shot at a passenger.

You know, the US was due for another boogeyman to emerge from the woodwork, someone or something to scare the population into submission again. Katrina was a good news story, but it was rather inanimate and didn't really constitute anything that could be defined or spun as

It helps that it ended cleanly in death at the hands of a post-9/11 federal air marshal, perhaps the first indication that this tragedy will be, as most things are nowadays, politicized.

The man who was shot was, from current reports, mentally ill and was not carrying a bomb of any kind. I'm not suggesting that the air marshall acted inappropriately, I am sure he was just doing his job. This is, after all, the society that we live in nowadays, a cowboy-ish "shoot first and ask questions later" mentality that permeates.

I don't really know what to focus on here. Is the air marshall to blame? Is the dead man to blame? Is our society a little worse off because we see this action and reaction as 'normal' in times of perpetual war?

Watch for a polticization of this incident, with the right claiming the increased airport security (and subsequent tension) is a necessity. Watch for the dismissal of the mental illness issue, to be replaced by a sense of "what if he did have a bomb?" rationalizing and justifying. Watch for some right wing gadfly to let fly with some intolerance about Latin America. Watch for this to slide under the carpet much like that guy who was mistakenly shot dead on the London Underground a few months back.

What was his name?

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 6:51 PM ~~ 1 bonsai trees

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Kind of a cut 'n' paste blog post today, I'm feeling too out of the loop to try to analyze anything.

Life in Iraq, as usual....

Two suicide bombers struck Baghdad's police academy Tuesday, killing at least 43 people and wounding 73 more, U.S. officials said, while Al-Jazeera broadcast an insurgent video claiming to have kidnapped a U.S. security consultant.

The suicide attackers were wearing explosives-laden vests and a U.S. contractor was among those wounded, a U.S. military statement said. U.S. forces rushed to the scene to provide assistance, the statement said. The military initially said the bombers were women but later retracted the statement.

I was watching BBC today and they reported that an average of 250 Iraqi security personnel are killed each month.

I found this report to be interesting. An excerpt:

Iraqis, rather than foreign fighters, now form the vast majority of the insurgents who are waging a ferocious guerrilla war against United States forces in Sunni western Iraq, American commanders have revealed.

Their conclusion, disclosed to the Sunday Telegraph in interviews over 10 days in battle-torn Anbar province, contradicts the White House message that outsiders are the principal enemy in Iraq.

Interesting to think that the people who the US 'wanted' to liberate (after the collapse of the WMD argument for war) have now turned against the troops. I'm not sure too many of us would blame them. Nor do I blame the average soldier. While they are not blameless, the weight of the matter must land upon those who ordered them there in the first place.

Lastly, as one should always do, read Juan Cole. This is an excerpt from an article he recently published.

The Bush administration naively believed that Iraq was a blank slate on which it could inscribe its vision for a remake of the Arab world. Iraq, however, was a witches' brew of dynamic social and religious movements, a veritable pressure cooker. When George W. Bush invaded, he blew off the lid.

Oh, and December 8 marks the 25th anniversary of the shooting death of John Lennon.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 7:51 PM ~~ 0 bonsai trees

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The ladies

The lads

The Glorious Mr. T and Jay

Megan and Kelly

Romeo and Juliet


Finally, some skin!

Goddamn &%$*& velcro!


Best pic of the day?

Abbey Road

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 10:25 AM ~~ 5 bonsai trees

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Wedding Wrap

I am writing this while Megan is napping on the couch, so slag off with the "spend time with your new wife" comments, all right?

Megan and I just wanted to again thank everyone who was able to make our wedding the best day of our lives. Well, everyone who reads this blog anyway.

Seriously, it was amazing, from the ceremony, to the ever-so-calm bridal party (yes, even Jeff "It's a model shoot" Archibald), to our respective parents who helped out so much, to Lindsay for her amazing job as MC.

A big thanks as well to all the other people who chipped in with the unsung tasks of manning the computer, hauling presents out to the vans at 130am in -24 degree weather, driving the vans, being patient when we asked "just one last favour" to just being there to keep us smiling with a good joke or a great conversation.

We truly had a blast and it would not have been the day it was without all of our friends and family there to celebrate with us. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Thanks so much and we both are looking forward to a quiet and relaxing Christmas season full of family, friends, and festivities.

Best wishes and many thanks,

Jay & Megan Archibald

PS- Regular angry blogging will return by Wednesday morning. Or whenever bush pisses me off next, whatever comes first.

A sovereign thought, delivered to your door at 7:27 PM ~~ 5 bonsai trees

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