what is going on down there?

my friend at laughingmeme.org writes that he is coming to see my band play at Folklife (in Seattle) tomorrow). interestingly he writes “Rumor has it this might be their last visit to Evil Empire for a while” which i don’t recall saying – but he likely picked that up from the tenor of the discussion we had about it overall.

you see, i play radical folk music with decent lefty folks who have decent lefty politics and thus, when we talk about the band plans, politics are never far out of the discussion. last year and this, our annual trip to seattle has been the subject of some debate as the bodies continue to pile up in the middle east and the US agressively pusues its own agenda at the expense of every other region of the world. in a 13-year period, the US has killed 5-6% of the Iraqi population, and left their soil permanently contaminated with depleted uranium ensuring that their capacity to reproduce is forever stunted. the photographs and video flooding out of the POW prisons over the past month put even more striking images to the brutality of the invasion.

so the question this year, as it was last – is – do we want to spend time in a place such as this? just how complicit are a people in what its government does? how complicit are we as Canadians in this whole mess (Afghanistan and the war on terror involvement)? how do we fight back?

because it’s not just that american soldiers are torturing people in other countries – this is something we have known for a long time either explicitly or implicitly over the decades – but the reaction of the people at home that is so frightening. for the past month, we have had to bear witness to mainstream commentators asking the questions of children such as – “why are we spending so much time on this torture-stuff, and not as much on the Nick Berg beheading?”, or “why are we focused so much on the bad things our soldiers are doing and not the good?”

why indeed.

first of all these commentators know better than anyone that corporate media leads with what bleeds and if that is extreme torture video then CNN wants to be the first to make a buck off it. secondly, “good works” being done by soldiers are questionable since the good work they point to seems to be things like restoring the water supplies they destroyed in the first place – so the good works are only in the context of the nasty pummeling they have already given. if i break your arm and then set it in a cast – is that a good work all around? does my setting the arm in the cast mitigate the fact i intentionally broke it in the first place?

and to the Nick Berg comments – the difference between the beheading and and what’s happened at Abu Grahib is quite clearly the difference between a force that is part of systemic law and order and is supposed to be accountable, and one that is not and has no pretentions of being. besides which, the it is unlikely Nick Berg was killed by Al Queda, or beheaded live on videotape and one beheading just does not compare to the murder of hundreds of thousands of children through sanctions and warfare. no, it’s not the same and no, it should not be given the same attention as Abu Grahib.

to top all of this off is the ongoing self-obsession with everything internal that citizens of the US don’t seem to shake – it just strikes me as somewhat absurd that in the middle of out and out war atrocities people are finding time to write letters to sex-columnnists attacking them for saying that obesity is unhealthy (this apparently is oppressive), and “launching the child-sized hummer to promote oil-consumption to the under-5 set.

so – yeah – this was the tenor of our discussion. of course we are playing tomorrow at folklife (broad street lawn stage 8:00), and it might be our last trip to the US for awhile especially if they start fingerprinting all visitors
to the country. last year, as this we decided the best thing for us to do is come to the show, say what we think, and encourage people dance to tunes that oppose the war and other global abuses. three of my band-mates are leaving as soon as the show is over and heading straight back for the border. some of us will stay a little longer with my excellent friends at the emma goldman finishing school – glad to know that not everyone in babylon is recklessly building the tower, and that some of them are actively trying to tear it down.

sifting the wreckage

my computer incident from last week is over now – and with the dust settled i can see that i didn’t lose all that much compared to how bad it could have been. my e-mail archives are gone, as is my address book – and i lost some of a database i have been working on, but only about 10 hours worth – but because of my diligent back-ups of everything else, in the end i’m not too badly off.

but wow – what a reaction i had when i thought i had lost all that data in the first place! like coming home and finding the house burned down – especially with so much record storage – journals, photographs, work documents etc. – stored on fallible machines. it’s remarkable to think of all that creative or productive output reduced to ones and zeros and then *suddenly* gone – as if those thoughts never existed because they are irretrievable from fragmented chips.

as a friend said to me on saturday – there are two kinds of people in this world, those who have lost data and those who are about to. unfortunately being the former doesn’t preclude one from being the latter – as this is not the first time (nor likely the last) i have lost large swaths of data.

for those of you wondering – we did try recovery using a couple of different tools and all that turned up in the end were some corrupted images and half of a mailbox file. made me realize why those geek folks hired by the rcmp and fbi get paid so much to analyze seized machines (which believe it or not, often means breaking hard drives down into pieces to read their inner disks on some sort of funky machine).

and on the topic of spooks – i just got an email from a student that used to work for my department – that he has now taken a job with the communications security establishment (CSE) which is the canadian equivalent of the NSA – yuck. and another student who i contract work out to told me a few weeks ago that he is going through the interviewing process for CSIS to be an investigator (apparently it’s very extensive and they fingerprint you during the second interview) – creepy. but this makes me think that the canadian security apparatus must be flooded with cash right now because they are the only government agencies that seem to be hiring in any appreciable numbers.

that, plus canadian troops marching all over the arctic to assert ownership of the melting ice fields (and let’s not even get into what the hell we are still doing in afghanistan….)…..

sheesh – we’re looking more and more like our big brother to the south every day.

apocalyptic fact of the day

according to story in the Vancouver Sun today Arctic ice caps are melting at an alarming rate – and global warming is impacting the arctic at 2 to 3 times the rate of other areas of the world.

this report is based on an 8-year study that has tracked the decline of wildlife and impacts on people living in arctic regions. of course, climate change is only one of the factors affecting this part of the world – others being chemical pollution, increased UV radiation, habitat destruction and over-fishing.

rapid melting of northern ice caps means an increase in the rate of both warming and cooling streams and could likely lead to catastrophic ecological changes.

making pretty pictures

For those of you who saw me working on this on the weekend – this is what the almost finished product looks like. it’s in the frame still because i decided to glue the canvas to the inner hoop rather than framing it some other way, and the glue is still drying.

and on a related note – neither the term “anarchist cross-stitch” or “activist cross-stitch” turn up anything on google but “subversive cross-stitch” does.

personally, i don’t find the designs at subversive cross-stitch very subversive, but they are a welcome break from “home sweet home” samplers and fuzzy bunnies.

40 things I like about east vancouver

I have been having some thoughts about moving, and what it is that i like or don’t like about my neighbourhood. Today when i was walking around i decided to list at least 40 things i liked about east vancouver.

1) it’s a good neighbourhood for walking around and thinking about society
2) the chinese gardeners have taught me a lot about space-intensive gardening
3) the frogs in the charles street alley (i can hear them from my room at night)
4) it’s a 20 minute drive to lynn headwaters in north van – which is like being way out in the middle of nowhere
5) eating gelato while walking on the train tracks
6) the buddhist vegetarian restaurant
7) the free side of sun yat sen gardens
8) wild bamboo growing all over the place
9) the fact that people sell stuff on the sidewalks in several parts of the neighbourhood
10) free boxes left out after yard sales
11) good radical graffitti
12) hearing the trains whistle at night as they pull into the yard
13) lots of urban wildlife (coyotes, birds, rats, raccoons)
14) stratcona community garden & bird sanctuary
15) the look on people’s faces when you tell them you live in east vancouver
16) the least heard language on public transit is english
17) the world cup (soccer) parties every four years are *great* fun no matter who wins
18) best coffee in the city, most independent coffee shops of any neighbourhood
19) the WISE hall
20) great view of the north shore mountains
21) people smoke pot on the street, it’s not a big deal
22) watching the old italian men play bocci and swear at each other
23) when the starbucks moved in on commercial, people picketed it
24) the carnival band marching every monday night up and down the drive
25) all my friends live on this side of town
26) the vehicle impound lot under the viaduct (cars in various states of destruction, abandoned and waiting for their owners)
27) people selling art on the street
28) good and cheap restaurants – with lots of vegetarian options
29) the italian gardeners have taught me a lot about dealing with tomato blight
30) this is where the Vancouver 5 (also known as Direct Action) hatched their plans back in the early 80s
31) the saturday farmer’s market
32) people who have planted beautiful gardens in the city-owned strip on the other side of the sidewalks – there is a whole block in my part of the ‘hood that is almost like a forest path because of this catching on….
33) more grow-ops than you can shake a stick at
34) mosaic park at charles and odlum – the grass almost never gets cut there
35) loads of fresh mint, lemon balm, rosemary and sage for the picking (lots of gardens everywhere)
36) the sound of martial arts classes in the upstairs rooms in chinatown in the early evening
37) the buddhist temple on georgia street
38) the rogers sugar factory below hastings – a victoria-era factory still in operation (though it looks like it should be shut down)
39) old chinese women doing chi quong in the parks in the early morning
40) the street mosaic in strathcona that is a dedicated to the “militant mothers of raymur”

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