Saturday, August 30, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Since all of my t-shirts have pit stains the size of Wyoming, I made up my mind to trek the great distance to the Alexis Nihon shopping center, two blocks away, to procure some new t-shirts, so fresh and so clean clean. I had thought this would be an easy task, but I was mistaken—it seems that clothing stores go way way out of their way to make their customers look like the biggest assholes possible. What I wanted to buy were plain, sized small, colored t-shirts. What I found were mountains of quintuple-X wearable Reebok billboards. I'm in favor of supply-side clothing regulations. Better yet, people need uniforms.
Friday, August 22, 2008
There are too many movies to watch. How am I supposed to decide? I've watched and enjoyed these recently:
L'année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad)
Dong (The Hole) [This one is quite appropriate, since the landlord said she's going to be putting a hole in our ceiling.]
Ni neibian jidian (What Time Is It There?)
Le temps qui reste (Time to Leave) [Actually, this one kind of sucked.]
Angst essen Seele auf (Fear Eats The Soul)
Il Vangelo secondo Matteo (The Gospel According To Saint Matthew)
I plan on watching these sometime soon:
Cléo de 5 à 7 (Cleo from 5 to 7)
Le pornographe (The Pornographer)
Ma mère (My Mother)
Vozvrashcheniye (The Return)
What I'm saying is I am looking for movie recommendations. Please to write in the comment box.
Europa Film Treasures was officially launched last month with a selection of fifty-three rare films made all over the world between 1898 and 1970. All of the films are available for viewing on their site, but as the site has gotten quite popular in the past month, some of the films can be very slow to load. All of the films come with background information and subtitles of your choice. The Sandbath, a lightly erotic film from 1906, is pretty awesome.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
"Is this some sort of test?" I asked. He looked at me blankly for a few seconds. "I mean, thanks!"
So instead of my original $3 I now had a whopping $8 to spend on beer! As it says in Malaleuca 15:9, "God works in mysterious ways."
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
To wit: back in the day, the Russians spun out some Soviet Socialist Republics to keep various large minority ethnic groups happy. While some large minority groups (but by no means all of them) were given their own SSRs, the SSRs only loosely followed lines of ethnic division. Minority groups inside the perimeter SSRs were often given their own 'autonomous oblasts' inside the little SSRs. Stalin came for Georgia, and for reasons of geography and Georgian chauvanism, Georgia happens to be about the only former SSR that contains almost all the members of the ethnic group the SSR is dedicated to. (The only Georgian-dominated areas not in Georgia are in Turkey, near as I can tell.) Which means that Georgia also contains lots of bits of other ethnic groups as well. That makes Georgia a midget Russia - that is, a country containing lots of other ethnic groups that would really prefer not be dominated by the majority group.
When the Soviet Union self-dissolved, all the little SSRs kept their boundaries and there have been various bubbling hotspots since. So after the dissolution, Georgia had lots of fratricidal warfare; the Abkhaz kicked out the Georgians from their area, while the Ossetians tried to ejects the Georgian from their areas and the Georgians were ejecting Ossetians. From the description I heard, the Georgian campaign against Ossetian areas was quite nasty - as nasty as the Russian campaign against Chechnya.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the end of the cold war apparently resulted in the decision that the cold war should continue ('New World Order'), except that the US would adopt the policy advocated by neo-cons - rollback. Rather than starting a war, this rollback would consist of a peaceful cloak-and-dagger campaign. Your deracinated rootless cosmopolitans of Belgium (aka Eurocrats) decided this would be an excellent plan, as it would enlarge the area controlled by Eurocrats. The Russians, recall, wanted to join NATO and were refused. Which gets us right to the bombing of Yugoslavia, which made the Russians very unhappy, as they have long-standing ties with the Serbs. Seen from Moscow, that event taken together with the expansion of NATO, looked an awful lot like what Napoleon AND Hitler got up to before they invaded Russia. That's because it was... what Napoleon and Hitler got up to. So the Russians started pushing back locally. In particular, they supported the Abkhaz & Ossentian against the Georgians, and let us not forget Chechnya.
Meanwhile, come 911, the US suddenly decided that the most important thing was killing Muslims, because Muslim == terrorist. So for about a year and a half, the US adopted a policy of Great Power cooperation against any and all Muslims. Chechnyans are mostly Muslims, so they made the shit list and everybody decided it was ok if the Russians beat on them some more. Similarly the US suddenly decided to back the Chinese against the Uighers, which is how Uighers wound up in Gitmo. That's what the right hand was doing.
The left hand was, zombie-like, continuing the policy of rollback. So when the US insisted on invading the Iraq and insisted on adding new bases in places like Georgia and Romania and Bulgaria, the Russians looked around and noticed that the encirclement rollback demanded was more or less complete. That was the point at which they start pushing all the former SSRs to get the Yankee bases the hell off their turf. Which of course has produced lots of protests from the US about Putin being anti-democratic and blah de blah blah. That was also the point at which the Russians decided to step up their support for Iran's nuclear program.
After the 2004 election, apparently our many chuckleheads who practice foreign policy in the US decided they had a free hand to do whatever they like, so the CIA intervened in the Ukraine & Georgia against the Russians to um, promote democracy. No one who got elected appears to be much of a democrat, but they want to slurp Americans and apparently that was good enough. So now the Russians are just actively pissed and selling arms to the Iranians and opposing the US where ever.
Back to Georgia. Basically we fed them a bunch of weapons to build a big army, and their goal was to retake Ossetia and Abkhaz. However Russian peacekeepers have been on the ground in both places (I believe the Russians have a naval base in Abkhaz that they've since the end of the USSR) and this has sort of put a damper on the Georgian plans.
Last week the Georgians apparently signed a treaty recognizing the independence of South Ossetia (in exchange for the abandonment of claims to Ossentian territory outside the old Oblast?). Then they turned around and attacked South Ossetia, which includes attacking the Russian peacekeepers.
The thing is, is that the Russians have a rather large army to hand not 50-75 miles away in Chechnya, and they have that naval base in Abkhaz so they said 'Oh, no, you will fucking NOT!' and proceeded to kick the shit out of the Georgians. The news reports suggest that they have stopped at the Georgia-Abkhaz boundary... on the Georgian side of the line. Taking Gori in the center tho, would have to be done if they intend to occupy ALL Ossetian territory in Georgia... because Georgia is basically a big valley with a river running down the middle, and there are Ossetians in the hills above the river on both sides.
Of course, the entire reason the Georgians have been dedicated to taking all of Ossetia, is that if that territory were independent or occupied by the Russians, it would split Georgia in half. (Whereas Abkhaz is peripheral, so the Georgians have never tried to retake it after the Abkhaz said fuck off in 1999.)
In any event, in a world where treaties, territorial integrity and/or ethnic cleansing are valid justifications for going to war, it looks an awful lot like the Russians are on the side of the angels here, regardless of their behaviour elsewhere.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
But I've changed my mind about the Gospels. I've realized that these interpretations that I had taken for granted are way more complicated and convoluted than they need to be.
Before when I would read the Gospels I would see Jesus doing ridiculous things like sending a demon into a herd of pigs and having those pigs drown in the ocean and I'd think, "OK, I'm supposed to believe this, but this shit's laughable." And I would assume that the writer was an ass if he thinks people are going to believe this (of course, there are idiots who do).
But the writers know all of this. They're not stupid. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John know they're telling funny stories, ripping off ideas from legends, magic tales of magic robes, etc. They know they're being funny, they're well aware of their sarcasm. And they want us to laugh. They're some witty bastards. I was the one being an idiot.
And you know why they're doing this? They're doing this because they're not writing history books. They're writing letters to people who are already Christians, who already know the story. They already believe that Jesus is the Messiah and all that. So in these letters the authors can play around with the story, can tell jokes, crude ones even, spin fantastical and magical tales of walking on water and calming storms. Whether or not they really happened is irrelevant. If we're questioning whether it really happened we're missing the point. We've missed the punch-line.
Jesus: For my birthday my dad gave me an empty box and said it was a GI Joe deserter.
Christian: So you're saying our hearts need to be like empty boxes? I worship you, O Lord, O Trinitarian Triune Trinity.
Saturday evening at Parc Henri Bourassa some kids were playing dice when two police officers showed up and started acting aggressive. The police singled out one of the kids and threw him to the ground to arrest him. The other kids got closer to the cops and started yelling, one of the cops opened fire, killing 18-year-old Freddy Villanueva and wounding two other kids. None of the kids were armed.
Yesterday a mass of people gathered at Parc Henri Bourassa to protest the police violence and the death of Freddy Villanueva. Police showed up and things turned ugly. A riot ensued, fires were set and buildings vandalized. This all took place in Montreal North, an extremely poor area, home to many immigrants, mainly Haitian.
The shit's hitting the fan in this city. This it what it looks like when a city keeps its immigrants poor, angry and continually harassed by the police.
The Villanuevas immigrated from Honduras in 1998, living in Montreal North before moving to Longueuil and, eventually, to a house in Repentigny. Yesterday, they said their faith in their adoptive country had been shaken to its core.
"We thought we were going to be better off," Julissa said. "We thought there was justice here. We thought the police were supposed to protect us."
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Russia launches air strikes in Georgia
As fighting raged for a second day Saturday in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, Russian jets bombed the town of Gori, near the breakaway province of South Ossetia. An apartment building and military base were among the targets hit in Russia's attempt to force back Georgian troops seeking control over the separatist enclave on its southern border. Freelance reporter Giorgi Lomsadze told CBC News that neighbours told him five people who were living in the building are killed. Warplanes also bombed the Black Sea port city of Poti, which has a sizable oil shipment facility, the Georgian Interior Ministry said.
So far nothing seems out of order. Russia orders air strikes in two locations: the town of Gori and the port city of Poti, both in Georgia. This is where the article gets very interesting.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Moscow that 1,500 people have been killed, with the death toll rising Saturday. The figure could not be independently confirmed, but witnesses who fled the violence estimated that hundreds of civilians have died. They said most of South Ossetia's provincial capital, Tskhinvali, was in ruins, with bodies lying everywhere.
So what just happened? To someone with no knowledge of the situation this seems to be saying that Russia is admitting to killing 1,500 people with its air strikes, and that the bodies lying everywhere in South Ossetia are even the Russians' doing.
The article never points out that those 1,500 dead (and I've seen reports of 2,000) happened at the hands of Georgian troops. These are civilians being slaughtered by Georgia, but we're supposed to see Russia as the evil-doers here.
Which is not to say that Russia has good intentions in getting involved with defending South Ossetia, but this article is just another example of US-backed military violence being overlooked by the media in order to demonize a rival of "the West". Cold War logic just doesn't work here.
Read this if you want a better run-down of the situation.
Saturday, August 09, 2008
I'm not talking about identity politics. I have no patience for identity politics. I guess what I'm talking about is a need to confront bodies without our usual defense of ironic detachment or flat out disavowal. This is what fascinates me about Dumont's films, though admittedly they freaked me the hell out in that they allowed me no emotional distance. Whenever I came to the end of one of his films I'd feel the same thing: really fucking revulsed and really alive. That alive feeling is very similar to a feeling I would get when I would draw. When I did draw I always drew bodies. I started seeing people in different ways. After you draw faces, heads, hands, backs, etc, for an extended period, the boundaries and defining lines of these body parts start to erode and drift. The eyes end up being just as "meaningful" as the elbow (similar to some of the world's peoples who do not differentiate between "arm" and "hand", they have no word for hand). I found myself staring at people's heads, in awe of this mass of flesh that is different from any other mass of flesh, where categorizing these lumps of flesh is silly, because "heads" only exists linguistically.
Of course this categorization is inevitable, but during those brief moments when we're confronted with bodies in all their ambiguity and vulnerability, their fleshiness, we see that those categories are ultimately malleable, leaving us, as Dumont's films do, with brief glimpses of the world's openness. The lower-case "h" in the title of L'humanité is important, as that which is human is still open to question.
Disclaimer: I don't intend this post as a recommendation of Dumont's films. They're not for everyone. Lots of graphic sex and violence. But if those things don't bother you, go for it.
I think I need a little break from French extreme cinema. Next up: Paprika by Satoshi Kon.
Friday, August 08, 2008
PS Bonus points to you if you get my geeky reference in the title.