Sunday, November 28, 2004

Bush comes to Canada

Occasionally things happen in Canada that pique ones curiosity. Hell, I'd go so far as to say I'm VERY INTERESTED in what's going to happen in my country this Tuesday.

Lawyers Against the War are an international protest movement that I first became aware of when I saw their banner during an anti-war march last spring (the one which Noam Chomsky spoke at). They're declaring GWB a war criminal and are taking a two-pronged course of action, on the one hand by trying to get the Canadian government to bar Bush from entering the country, and on the other, considering trying to press charges against him when he comes. Given a pattern of complicity by the Canadian government in American politics, a general lack of political self-assertiveness that comes with the territory of being Canadian, and our economic dependency on the United States, of which Canadians are well aware, it seems fairly unlikely that anything too dramatic is going to happen.

Of course, there will be protests -- angry people in the streets, waving signs. I'll be among them, but I guess I shouldn't let myself hope for anything more. It's like the buildup to last year's general strike in Vancouver -- the one that was cancelled at the last minute; all the grafitti heralding the action lingered for awhile, adding a what-if-we-had flavour to our workdays, but it was like we knew all along that nothing would come of it, knew we'd be too afraid to put the matter to the test. In the end, all the hospital workers at the center of the strike were laid off, their jobs contracted out as planned, replaced by part-timers and huge indifferent corporations; I was told by one of the doctors (who no longer eats at the hospital) that a cook who had worked at St. Pauls for 27 years, devoting himself to the well being of the staff, was replaced, pensionless, by a megacorporation mentioned in Super Size Me. We can wonder, now that the moment has passed, why we just rolled over, why we didn't strike, what weakness kept us from going the distance. Much as some of us would like to see some changes to the current world order, no doubt the same weakness will surface on Tuesday.

It's sad to see, really: even Jack Layton, the alleged voice of the left, is gearing up to kiss Bush's ass, which is pretty disgusting to some of us. Politicians who aren't towing that line are getting pushed aside. Protest marches are more a sign of our political disenfranchisement than anything else -- our politicians don't represent us, we have no access to the corridors of power, so we have to just brace ourselves for anticlimax and head out into the streets.

One can dream, tho'. Of course, it'll be in Ottawa that things will happen, if anywhere. Still, for those of us off to the side of things, have organized rallies around lunch on Tuesday in front of the American consulate in Vancouver and a gathering/march at 5PM (for us workin' folk) in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. The posters, glued up around the city, have the message "war criminals not welcome here" across Bush's forehead. Probably he'll get a warmer reception than he got in Chile, but... it's Canada, for God sake. Doing things you feel proud of is practically taboo.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Brown Bunny vs. the War in Iraq

...two things that are competing for my attention, these days (along with this rather intense Australian John Cassavetes fan... more on that later): Vincent Gallo's The Brown Bunny and the war in Iraq. I'm sure they're connected somehow -- Gallo is a Republican, after all.

I have very little to say about The Brown Bunny. The film felt shorter and faster than I expected it to be-- with the number of reviewers who talked about how long and boring it was, I was shocked at how quickly the film finished -- I actually had to check the clock to see if it had really clocked in at 90 minutes. It was interesting to watch, but left me without thoughts or insight into anything much outside the confines of the film itself -- the only new thing that I left the theatre knowing was how big Gallo's cock actually is (it's not John Holmes-long but it has girth, for those "girth girls" out there. It's a very masculine cock). (Note: were you disappointed that neither of those links lead to a picture of Gallo's penis? Why?). Despite being a bit underwhelmed, I am almost curious about seeing the long version, the alleged "working cut" that was trashed at Cannes and generated all that huff; and not just because I can gain some odd filmsnob status by claiming to prefer it to the "second version." There's one scene in particular where Gallo gets on his bike and drives off into the distance across salt flats; in the longer cut, the shot continued to show Gallo riding back. It sounds better, cooler that way.

By the way, does anyone else but me get disturbed by blowjobs where the man is towering over the woman, hands on her head, while she kneels in front of him? In porn, in art, in life -- it's kind of disturbing to see men who need that sort of reassurance of their power. So many of the blowjobs one sees in porn, in particular, seem to be all about that -- the woman reassuring the man of his masculine strength, praising his penis and semen, assuring him that (as she struggles not to gag) that she really loves doing this, really. I felt kinda sorry for Chloe Sevigny during the blowjob scene in The Brown Bunny (and I began to understand why some women have issues with swallowing). It's a fairly humiliating moment. Gallo does undercut his own assertion of masculinity, afterwards -- but the scene itself is a little disturbing, hardly arousing. IMHO. (In a way, that's a testament to the success of the scene, I guess -- tho' the number of people Googling +"Chloe Sevigny" +blowjob must be astronomical these days (See The Biggest Blowjob Since Monica Lewinsky!).

Meantime, as interesting as such piece of American narcissism is -- and what better narcissism is there than American narcissism? -- I find I'm following the war in Iraq again, and much more interested in the news than film. I'd stopped paying attention, for awhile -- I didn't really want to know. Now I figure with Bush re-elected I need to know what form the oncoming apocalypse is likely to take. Been reading some excellent articles online -- thank God for the internet as a news source. Apparently malnutrition among children has increased since the American invasion -- quite an accomplishment, given the state Iraq was in under sanctions. Interesting to read, too, that Chile came very close to snubbing Bush during his rather heavy handed little visit there -- there were oblique, awkward stories in the press about Chilean security guards refusing to let Bush's thugs into one conference and about a dinner being cancelled because the Chilean government thought Bush's insistence on metal detectors at the door was an insult to other invited diplomats and political figures. Chile, of course, has its own September 11th to remember, which likely leaves Chileans with little warmth in their hearts for the United States.

I wonder if Canada will show Bush as warm a reception? Justin Podur put something very articulate about it all on Znet -- I've already (ironically) chastised him via email for leaving Vancouver out (Vancouver is becoming Quebec West in terms of the amount o' bitching we do about our position in Canada). I assume there'll be a protest organized before the end of the month -- I wouldn't want to walk over the Burrard Street bridge all by myself.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Walked out of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion gig at Richards on Richards tonight. The band didn't look like they were havin' much fun -- it was like watchin' people do a job. They were professional about it, but I just didn't care. Time to stop thinkin' about these guys altogether so I can still listen to my Pussy Galore discs.

One good thing came of the night: saw (the?) Gossip perform, a Portland trio fronted by a really passionate female singer. Really cute, too, and just my type -- dark hair, pale skin, slightly heavy -- but quite possibly, given the dedications she kept makin', a lesbian. Wonder if I was the only guy there with salacious thoughts? She was very sexy, but I figure that big women have a limited (albeit elite) appeal...

Wonder if I'm gonna be able to make the Nomeansno show in Langley tomorrow... I somehow doubt it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The First Hollywood Action Movie about the War in Iraq

...the first Hollywood action movie about the current war in Iraq has, to my knowledge, not been made. I'm thinkin' TONY Scott, not Ridley, for this one. George Clooney, of Three Kings fame, can be President Bush (they can use computer animation to make him look shorter, like they did with them hobbits) and Clint Eastwood can be his Dad, the former president. George can fly in with a turkey for a special Thanksgiving for the troops (maybe after the heroic rescue of a female soldier), be kidnapped, and slated to be beheaded, until he's rescued by Marines in the Battle of Fallujah. His Dad (ol' Dirty Harry himself) can fly the plane in that blows up the evil terrorist masterminds, rescues his kid, saves America, and makes Iraq safe for democracy. They can have some fat bearded guy in a baseball cap as some sort of cowardly liberal-type who gets in their way and sells them out to Iraq or such. Better a no-name actor for that role -- maybe by the time the film gets made I'll be fat enough to audition myself. I could be pretty convincing as a pissed-off liberal.

Sickened about Margaret Hassan being killed (still hopin' as I write this that it wasn't her). Wonder if they eschewed the use of a knife out of some sort of respect or mercy... Much as I feel bad for her, tho', it's Andrew Veal whose death is really lingering with me these days.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Naughty Origami!

A book of naughty origami projects! What a great idea!

Miscellany, plus Funny Language learnin’ errors

Smokin’ a bowl, downloadin’ bootlegs o’ Tom Waits for this hot little redhead I know on a wet Friday nite at 2:05 AM. Listenin’ to him singin’ “Chocolate Jesus” from a 1999 live show in Oregon. I love bootlegs.

I been away. I had a great night at the all-night Nightwatch event at the Western Front last weekend – the highlight being Ellen McIlwane playing slide guitar at 3 AM and tellin’ us stories about her childhood with missionary parents in Japan. (She told us she “always scats in Japanese because it sounds cooler than scoobie doobie.”) What a raconteur! Her stories are almost as cool as her guitar playing. (I like it when musicians tell stories, usually). She tells me via e-mail that she doesn't know Tomokawa Kazuki or Mikami Kan, outsider folkies from the '70's. Gonna mail her a package of CDRs. Tomokawa recently appeared in Miike Takashi's Izo, a sprawling, bizarrely philosophical samurai action film with surrealist moments -- Tomokawa sorta serves as a chorus, his bleakly passionate ballads commenting on the action, his screams lingering after he's off screen.

I got into trading language learning stories with one of the percussionists, I think he was, from Gamelan Alligator Joy (featuring two Javanese guests and Western Front curator D.B. Boyko). He told the audience earlier in the evening that he’d walked around Java telling people a phrase that transliterates from Javanese as “sweet dreams,” having learned the word for “sweet” and the word for “dreams,” and assuming they would, when smacked together, mean the same thing. He in fact was wishing people wet dreams, not sweet ones. Or just asserting “wet dreams” without it being clear it was an item of well-wishing, which, in a way, would be stranger. I approached him later while waiting for the sitar player to come on and told him that I had liked the story. I then explained that I spent weeks in Japan, mistaking “furo” (bath) for “fukuro” (bag), and thus telling shopkeepers that I didn’t need a bath, or, worse, asking them to give me one.

This led to a fun segue to a story about travelling in Vietnam, I think it was, where the tonal aspects of the language make it very easy to say, when you want to be sayin’ “Is this meal vegetarian?”, the far-more loaded phrase, “I intend to leave without paying.” Leading to such great conversations as:

“What would you like, sir?”
“This looks good, but I intend to leave without paying. Is that okay? I intend to leave without paying. There's no meat in this, right? Do you understand?”

I played the final card – my best, a possibly apocryphal tale off (a forum for expats-and-teachers-in-Japan) Big Daikon (where I ride again as Pemmican): A young man wanted to ask his coworker, “Shuumatsu ni, nani o shimashita ka,” which translates as “weekend on, what (object marker) did you do?” He approached his coworker’s desk and smiled and said instead "shuumatsu ni, onani shimashita ka?" -- becoming indignant when his coworker looked at him in shock and horror. The Japanese, you see, have this flexible little syllable “o,” which can move around in sentences – this is a very easily-made error. By putting the “o” in the wrong place, the young man had unconsciously stumbled into the Japanese borrowing from the English word, onanism, meaning he’d asked his coworker, in very polite tones, if he had masturbated on the weekend:

"Excuse me, did you masturbate this weekend?”


Even more unfortunate, the Japanese-learner got a little frustrated at his coworker’s inability to understand his simple, perfectly grammatical question: so he repeated it louder, so everyone could hear.

It’s easy enough to compile and chuckle at goofy phrases Japanese learners come up with when they attempt to speak English (the “we-play-for-MacArthur’s-erection” syndrome). I’d like to hear more from native English speakers who fuck up when trying to learn Japanese…

Anyhow, I haven’t abandoned the blog, just haven’t had anything I wanted to write here. Plus Big Daikon has been keeping me busy. I’ll have more to say presently – maybe after the Laurie Anderson show on Sunday night.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

United States of Canada

Gwynne Dyer speculates on an unusual solution to the current divide in America: about half the US should join Canada. There's a funky little image of a map designed thus that's circulating on the web right now -- the northern half of North America is labelled "the United States of Canada," with most of both coasts of the current US become part of the US-Canada hybrid; there's an area below identified as "Jesusland," incorporating the southern states. Alas, I can't seem to upload it onto my blog. E-mail me if you'd like a copy to send to friends...

Now I know what it's like when the head is cut off from the body

Apparently there's a new wave of beheadings going on worldwide -- terrorists like the shock value that cutting off someone's head has. Three policemen in Haiti were found headless; it's being called Operation Baghdad. Meanwhile, people online are collecting and disseminating these images -- which I personally don't want to see; much as it seems to be one of the defining images of our time (yay!), I'm just not masochistic enough to want this stuff rattling around in my head. I watched the Berg video until they took out the knife -- then I left the room while a friend of mine finished it. The sounds were bad enough.

There's a history of beheadings here, if you like.

I recall somewhere reading that often when heads were cut off by guillotine they would blink and show signs of life for some time after being removed.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Jandek live!

Jandek played a live show! In Glasgow, unannounced! Holy cow! (It's about two weeks old, this news -- but what can I say, I miss stuff sometimes).

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

John Pilger has a good article on the current state of things immediately pre-election -- check it out. Also a well-written piece by Justin Podur on Znet today. To offer sustenance in a dark time, by clarifying its nature...

Condolences, for what they're worth

It doesn't make me feel too much better right now, either, but we do have to note that in SOME quarters of the world, the swing to the right in the US is bein' balanced by a swing to the left. Spain, say. Canada has approved o' gay marriage and is possibly gonna legalize pot. There's a huge revitalization of the left, tho' it's looking a little haggard this week. (Stumblin' around the office trying not to really think about it too much, drinking when it gets home.) And hey, the impending Apocalypse probably won't be all bad, either.

Me, the cheeriest thing that I've read today was that Dallas has elected a Hispanic lesbian sheriff. The first ever! Like th' folks at Yahoo made that a headline just to cheer some of us up a bit. Thanks, guys.

I wanna see it made into a TV miniseries, myself. The Lupe Veldez Story. Michael Moore could direct.

Hey, Annie Sprinkle e-mailed me today! Hi, Annie!

And Hungary pulled out of Iraq.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Cynical, but hoping it's just my problem

I feel this doomed sense of certitude that G.W. Bush is gonna win. I've consoled myself, below, with the possible good results of a Bush victory, but my mood today is more grim than hopeful. One of my coworkers said today, as we chewed over our sense of what's gonna happen, that he simply cannot believe that evil will triumph over good, that there will be four more years of darkness. Much as I admire his optimism, I don't share it. First off, it seems more of a case of evil triumphing over mediocrity -- I can't get that hepped up for John Kerry; secondly, well, I guess I'm just less certain of justice in the universe. I've had it out online -- mostly on Big Daikon -- with Bush supporters, and I know how stupid and entrenched in their xenophobic, media-manipulated bubbles they can be. Christ, I hope I'm wrong. Think I should find a bar to watch the results at -- I want to have a couple of beers in me when the news finally breaks.

Monday, November 01, 2004


Sweet Jesus, I have seen the most frightening film I've ever encountered. The most ambitious movie I've seen in years, one for which I have considerable respect; and one which I will be very interested to see the public response to, should it ever be distributed en masse in its present form: Jim VanBebber's The Manson Family, the closing show at the Cinemuerte Festival. (Film Threat interview with VanBebber here -- also features a really amazing image of Maureen Allisse as Susan Atkins). It took years to make, required great struggle on the part of the filmmaker, and shows love that is far greater than that of a craftsman. Not the love of a Manson devotee, either -- "I'm not Nicholas Shreck, I don't save his toenail clippings," the director clarified during the post-film Q&A -- but the love of someone truly fascinated by his subject matter and determined to capture the truth of it. Tho' VanBebber claimed not to care about the reactions of the Family, or of anyone, really, to his film -- "it's a work of art... buy the DVD and shit on it if you like," he's standing behind his work -- he does try very hard to capture what it must have felt like inside their heads; extends them far more sympathy than some viewers will be comfortable with. The filmmaker draws us in very carefully and lets us experience, insofar as any film could, what it must have been like to orgy on acid with the Family, using their own accounts and words wherever possible; once we've linked our subjectivity to its characters, followed them with some degree of understanding and sympathy into the darkness, we're then to ask us what it must then have felt like to stab people repeatedly about the face and shoulders, or to listen to a woman beg for the life of her unborn child before killing her. The violence is brutal and allows for a certain tone of dark revelry, such as the Family members presumably felt on their missions to murder. It's scary as hell that any human being could do such a thing... but that's kinda the point; I haven't seen violence on film that left me quite this uncomfortable since I shut off Last House on the Left in mid-viewing, the one time I attempted to watch it.

Only one of the audience "comment's" during the Q and A was negative, and this is where it focused: "that is the most violent film I've ever seen" (to which the director replied, "bullshit," drawing some cheers and laughs). I asked VanBebber if he worried about anyone's reaction -- how the victim's families might feel, for instance -- but he either feels no concern -- feels like his responsibility is to his art and subject matter alone -- or else is not 'fessing up in public to it. He's within his legal rights in everything he's done, or so he says, and sees this as history and art, self-justifying. He put it somethin' like, "Are the families of Pearl Harbour survivors going to sue Michael Bay for his shitty movie?" ...the man has brass balls, or somethin'. Personally, I'd have a very hard time making any work of art that could dig as deeply into unhealed wounds as this one does.

I think I'm gonna spend a lot of my freetime during this next week probing the 'net for public reactions to this film. I suspect there are some strong ones out there. Roger Ebert describes it thus: "This is not a 'horror' film or an 'underground' film, but an act of transgression so extreme and uncompromised... that it exists in a category of one film -- this film." Tho' I'm not sure that the film itself is transgressive -- unless trying to capture accurately the experience of people who transgress is a transgressive act unto itself, which I suppose it may be -- Ebert's review is actually a far better place to read about the actual contents of the film than this blog, but what can I say, it's late (2 AM) and I need to be up for work in about four hours.

Cinemuerte is dead again for this year. Long live Cinemuerte! I think this is gonna turn into my favourite Vancouver festival...