Monday, August 28, 2006

Water Inc.

"The most difficult aspect of coming to an ecological understanding of the world is in changing one's own life style. But they begin in one place and in one form - in our own heads and in our own day to day actions." -Kenneth Cantor

A hawk perched on a telephone pole signals a sombre omen.

It watches a dump-truck's lacklustre performance.

Innocent as we feel today
it is yet to be discovered
how we will pay the price
and what it is worth
to commit these commercial sins.

Lobbying for more lobbies and less logs,
indulging in profit intake,
our matron is a matrix of concrete camouflage,
another airline arising out of thin air growing thicker,
a discourse of capitalist intercourse,
voicing the vocabulary of the anti-vagabond.

We are selling the world's loins down the river in a Coca-Cola can.

Environment and Poetry

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Snakes on a Plane

Snakes on a Plane, or 'SoaP' as it's now being coined, made 15.3 million this weekend, becoming the leading movie in Canadian and US theatres! It's not surprising considering buzz around the film, which is pretty much summarized by the title and the fact that Samuel L. Jackson is in it. It has replicated like a meme and slithered into every corner of the internet. I haven't even seen the film, yet I already feel like it has wrapped itself around me, with Jackson's wildly infectious, inflecting voice screaming "I'm sick of all these motherf$%king snakes on this motherf#$king plane!"

Yes, it may just be the dumbest movie of the year, and the most notorious. That's what summer time cinema is apparently all about.

But there is something brilliant about it too. They've done an excellent job marketing, making it fun both to love it and hate it. I have friends who have made a point of boycotting the movie and making sure that everyone knows it. That's advertising too. Either way, it may be impossible not to feel passionately about this movie. Considering how many 9-11 documentaries there have been this year, by utilizing the now familiar symbol of planes and their associated terror along with something completely unrelated and ridiculous and archaically symbolic of evil: snakes, the idea is laughably provocative. It just resonates so well! That's timing, baby. In a way, it works as a parody of a serious political movie turned campy horror flick for a large enough target audience of people who may believe world affairs have just gotten so terrible they're willing and yearning to laugh about them as cathartic relief.

Here, send someone a personal message from Samuel L. Jackson, who claims this may be the most important film of the year. I stole this link from Jeff. Put in a little info about the person you are going to send it to via email or phone and Samuel will tell them to go see the movie, or else...
UPDATE: Apparently someone interested in giving movie-goers a real scare unleashed two diamondback rattlesnakes into the screening of Snakes on a Plane in Phoenix, AZ. Thankfully, no one was hurt and the snakes were later re-released to the desert. Read the article here

Movie Reviews

Saturday, August 19, 2006

AIDS: The Disease that No One Wants to See

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This was just one of the paintings featured at the International AIDS Conference this week in Toronto. There was a display to highlight the Iraqi, Brazilian and other war zone routine executions of people with AIDS. It seems that in some of these countries where Amnesty International is trying to spearhead investigations into these murders, they are trying to curb the incidences where gay, lesbian and straight people with AIDS are stalked, harassed, tortured and often killed by governmental or non-governmental agents.

"It's time to deliver!" is the theme of this year's conference. Fittingly, Bill Gates donated half a billion dollars to AIDS research. The theme is a reference to the fact that while Canada promised all these drugs to help the plight of developing countries whose populations are being ravaged by HIV/AIDS, not one pill has been sent. The other Bill (Clinton) was present along with UN envoy in Africa Stephen Lewis and Richard Gere stated that AIDS was "the real terrorist" in the world today.

Critics charged that while it is helpful to try to develop a microbicide to kill AIDS in the future (like Gates is proposing), we need essential services right now. One of the demands is to not shut down the free injection site in British Columbia which is scheduled to close down this year, leaving hundreds of thousands of drug addicts prone to infection. We also have a distorted view of people with HIV/AIDS which is where the stigma comes from. Many schoolchildren don't know the basics about disease-prevention and many still consider victims of the disease somehow deviant.

The fact is: every 14 seconds, someone between 15 and 24 is infected with HIV. (That is an estimated 6,000 a day).

While all these NGO's were networking to fight this global disease, meanwhile, the governmental organizations were busy burying their heads in the sand. Stephen Harper was as far as he could be from where the International AIDS Conference was. He was in the Yukon. After a week of brow-beating from the media for not giving a response on whether or not he will allocate any funds or resources to this epidemic, he said that the issue is now "too politicized" to respond to it. If issues become too politicized for politicians to respond to, you might ask: what DO politicians respond to? Harper's non-response was a response in and of itself. As a normal person with some intelligence stated: "This is not about politics. This is about people dying."

Instead of going to work at a new job which turned out to be sales instead of PR (like it was advertised as), I skipped out and went with Peter to this event, free to the public. We trundled from booth to booth picking up free buttons, reading pamplets, signing petitions and watching performances. It was a highlight to see people from all over the world with the same mission. I got to hear lesbians lead a session on sexual techniques, giving some tricks on digital stimulation and see a female condomn for the very first time! Hey Sue, that thing's a bit clunky ainnit? Well, Earl, it'll also protect against pubic lice too!

Some of the biggest challenges to poverty and development are linked to HIV/AIDS since the disease kills or incapacitates the most productive segments of the population. In this country, AIDS is a preventable and treatable disease. However, since poorer children may "miss that class" in school or make a misinformed decision, or also because there is still that stigma surrounding the disease which forces many to remain silent about it, there is quite a considerable risk. And just because HIV/AIDS doesn't take hold of one-third of the population like it does in some countries, it is a global responsibility to try to lessen its destruction. It is one of the MDG's.

As I left the conference, I asked Peter if he wanted to hang out a bit longer before I had to rush back for my real job. He started gagging uncontrollably which was probably a lot less pleasant for him than for I. He was having a "bad medication day". He has always talked about being guilty because the medicine that he takes every day is available only to a hair-thin slice of the world. Although he still faces many inconveniences, frustrations and obstructions like his inability to travel to the U.S. he feels very thankful to be in a country where he can get treatment for his disease. He is not an example of someone who has given up but rather the person who is always energetic and "too busy living life" to be sick. Last week he wrote this article that was featured in the Globe and Mail.

There is still much for us to do though. Making AIDS less of something to feel ashamed of and something more people should know about are just the very basics. When our government feels the issue is "too politicized" to respond to, what are this generation's children going to say when they get the disease? Will they be brave enough to tell their partners?

In closing, I will leave you with a picture and excerpt featured in "Our Way Through", a publication put out by the AIDS Committee of Ottawa featuring photographs by Gustavo Hannecke. Here is the story of a 44-year old man with HIV:

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I am a 44-year old gay man who has been HIV positive since 1989. I worked for the City of Ottawa for 11 years repairing pipelines. In 1996, my mother passed away in the hospital due to certain medical complications. I was deeply impacted by my mother's death. My health began to deteriorate soon after that. During the next two years, I was diagnosed with toxoplasmosis and CMV (cytomegalovirus). Consequently, my vision got worse and today I am considered legally blind.

16 years after being diagnosed with HIV, here I am, still alive and kicking. I live alone and I am very independent. When I look back at the last 16 years, one word comes to mind...RESILIENCE. I am living proof that HIV is not a death sentence. If you have a positive attitude towards life, you can live a normal and healthy life. That doesn't mean that life is perfect, but life does go on.

The message that I would like to convey is your HIV status doesn't define who you are, but how you deal with [it] does. I am an HIV positive man, but what defines me is my indomitable spirit.

Proud Volunteer of The Living Room.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Howard on an Anti-Terror Kick

I've been working so much lately that all I can think of is work. I've even had dreams about it, being a guest in a hotel but not knowing my check-out date then running into Stephen Harper but not being able to find his reservation folio. Today it is sunny and I went for a jog and felt like things were nicer. The world is in harmony, at least here. Once they hire someone else I won't have to work so often. In the meantime they are talking of putting me on a salary. Anyway, when I got back from the jog, I found another parcel from Howard with a few monkey bones and other things all the way from Timbuktu!!

He is still as nuts and entertaining as ever. This time he seems to be a little worked up about things and I pity Amman for having to put up with his belligerence. Nevertheless, I'm happy to hear from him and thought perhaps you would be too:

Good day good sir!

My Waywardianess compells me to divert myself from my rope-making and write you to say hello and ask how are you? and to make the most of this paper. To summarize the past few months, I must say that were the viccisitudes of my life a geological landscape, they would be valleys and mountains.

Though I may be old, I am not completely impervious to the events that have transpired on our international stage. Also, though I am hidden away in Africa, it is not as if I am completely cut off. Perhaps Amman would like me to wear a face of perfect politeness and assume an apolitical attitude and pretend ignorance and sit with my legs crossed and do a curtsey and amount to no more than a deaf, blind, mute, perhaps taking the poodle for a swim while tolerating monkeys chewing at my hair but I am no clown and I can speak when I feel the need! It is not as if there were cotton stuffed in my ears, rubber plugs put in my eye sockets and a cloth stopping my mouth, which is why I will say a word or two on the controversial topic about the latest scuffle between the Arabs and the Jews.

I can say just as any simple bumpkin that this war on Lebanon is terrible. However, so are salespeople. So, please, I entreat you: do not take me erroneously to assume that I would side with communists and anarchists against war. As Mr. Bush well understands: war IS terrible but is that any reason to avoid it? Of course not! If anything, they need to be engaged more vigorously and quickly so that they can be fought away before there is too much peace to compete over. Now that the West has no real enemy from Russia, we must hurry to seize one in Iran and Syria. If this means war, so be it! A man has to have principles and if not, he must have limits (women also must have limits, such as a limit to how many lovers they may court at once, how promiscuously they may act, whether they will be incontinent or no etc). The limit for Israel was the kidnapping of corporeal Shalit. I know something of the anger that strikes a man when something has been taken from him, especially since I have had my shower head stolen from me not once, but several times by unidentified thieves, so when I see that Israel bombed the Lebanon to ruins and killed and displaced millions in several weeks because they had something taken from them, I can understand that it was not an irrational response.

The worst part of this particular war is that it didn't start sooner and that I am not able to fight alongside the ushers of democracy and humanity. Were I in the field at this moment, you can be certain I wouldn't stop until every Hezbollah fighter was crying like a little schoolgirl. Someone should have smashed these hoodlums back in the eighties! They are getting their full dose of their own medicine now though, these bloody terrorists! Israelis have suffered time and again the barbaric onslaughts of fanatical beasts trying to impose their inflated doctrines on them, to make them modest and passive, so that they can quietly celebrate their glory instead of serving as a ruling elite! So now if they are going to bomb the daylights out of Beirut and the whole of South Lebanon, let them have them have a few weeks of recourse.

In our discussions concerning these events, Amman and I do not always agree. He would seem to think that that the best way to deal with murderers is to let them do what they please -murdering and terrorizing villages, hoping that they will exhaust themselves or die of old age. As a peaceful Muslim, he suggests that the Arab world align itself with peaceful, if not somewhat complying Egypt and stop drinking such flammable liquids! Howard is very empathetic and patient when it comes to listening to his idiotic opinions and it is only because I know that he doesn’t know better that I take my time with him to entertain his childish whims. Howard is not completely insensitive, nor does he like to see children and innocent women die. For this reason, if I am to watch the news on a television, I close my eyes. However, if there is anything that we have learned from the great wars of the past, it is that innocent civilians need to be obedient when it is their turn to die. The positive result of all of this is that not one of these innocent children that have been killed by rockets and bombs will have the temptation to grow up as a terrorist. The danger of them becoming brutal killers and jihadists is completely stripped away.

But enough of war. I have tried to be peaceful though terror and violence surround me. You will remember my
attack sheep which I trained for the express purpose of ensuring my safety against Janjaweed militiamen? It appears that someone has played me a sick joke. Although my sheep were meant to attack others and thereby secure me from outsides forces, it appears they were the subject of attack by them. I could hear poor Balthazar, a smaller sheep who is chronically lost, bleating his little head off (though, it was actually quite amazing how it stayed on) as he came running to the compound. I went outside to see what was the matter and found, like a horrific image burned into my skull, that someone had all the others decapitated and impaled on wooden sticks! Their heads were formed in a macabre arrangement around my hut, staring at me with their dead eyes. I broke down and cried out, inquiring why anyone would slaughter my beloved sheep. They were too young to die!! Balthazar also bleated quite a sorrowful bleat to see all his brothers and sisters treated thus and nuzzled his head close to mine. Then I saw that with him he bore a message. In between his sheepish teeth had he a ripped piece of cloth. On closer inspection I saw that it was of the polka-dot fashion, red and white. Discerning with my Howardian mental apparatus, I concluded that my valiant Balthazar must have successfully defended himself from his interlopers and ripped the ass-end of their trousers and boxers right from their seat!! I am so proud of my attack sheep, the grandmaster Balthazar. Even if he couldn’t save the ninety-nine other sheep, he saved himself, and found his way just in time. That’s an attack-sheep of my own training if I ever saw one!

Amman and I spent the greater part of the day weeping and digging a large mass grave for the others. I tried as best I could to match each head with its respective body, then I laid their wooly carcasses to rest. My one consolation is that before I lay myself to sleep tonight, I will count each one as it hops over the fence, knowing that the grass is greener on the other side.

I am now in the midst of studying booby-traps, hoping to involve some of my knowledge and innovation in making
Rube Goldberg contraptions into a macro version of my other models -an alternate, unmanned and automatic security system for my perimeter. I do not leave my Balthazar one moment alone but he stays in our abode with Amman and I, lest he be attacked again while his defenses are down. (Sheep may acquire post-traumatic stress syndrome like any human can, and Balthazar’s nerves are certainly shot). One thing is certain: we will get whoever did this.

On the positive note, Pamphilia has given notice to me from California where she is wrapping up some performances in street theatre to say that she is finally ready to make a visit. I will be overjoyed to see this splendid woman. She is such a striking actress, My little actress, and I long for her on starry nights. If it were up to me, she would stay here where she belongs, though I empathize with her adventurous spirit. In fact, I believe it is what tied our twin souls together and made us instantly recognize the capacity for a life-long affinity together.

In other news, Amman and I have been too busy to go on a holiday yet although I am still planning on taking him somewhere cooler so that he can experience snow. At night sometimes I tell him stories about big fluffy flakes of snow and how they cover the ground. He becomes like a child at Christmas time with big wide eyes, full of curiousity and awe. He is learning English at a rapid pace, although it is a dangerously rapid pace at that. He knows too many words that he shouldn’t. I made the mistake of renting some action movies starring Sylvester Stalone with guns and violence and foul language and now Amman will mimic his actions by air machine-gunning me down as part of his regular routine. It seems that something is always missing at the Wayward residence and this time, just when I needed to supervisorily edit the movie, it was the remote control. As a result, Amman now employs the F-word with alarming frequency. Since the movie, whenever he needs to add adjectives to any of his sentences, not finding an appropriate alternative, he will talk about the “f—king camels” or the “f—king Hutus getting their f—k on all over this g-d—ned country!” or “that beer f—ked me last night.” It is a vulgar, and irksome trait. This morning, for no reason whatsoever, he kicked me out of bed then had the additional rudeness to ask: “Hey Howard, how the f—k are you?” Sore in the ribs was what. I nearly throttled him then I realized he was genuinely curious. He is sometimes hard to interpret although I treat him with gentility because he is a valuable resource when it comes to bartering with others when I cannot speak the tribal languages or Farsi. The one thing that scares me is when he uses the F-word in anger. I can tolerate it being used lovingly though in our arguments about war he once told me to “go f—k a tree” and that was too much. So Amman’s vulgarity deserves a mouthful of Dove sanitizing lotion. I suspect that for the most part, or at least the greater part of the lesser part, he doesn’t know what he is saying and simply favours the response it provokes. In keeping with the Howardian problem-solving legacy that I have tried to maintain, I have tried to extract some strategies from my child psychology studies, maintaining neutrality throughout his cursing escapades as not to encourage negative behaviour, though sometimes he sees through it. Certainly, I should never have exposed him to Western cinema but it is too late now, he has already seen Jaws, Terminator II, and Dude, Where is my Car? My one secret pleasure is that although he has gotten the idea that the F-word can be used in almost any way, he will still incorrectly use prepositions, as in, when noticing a piece of furniture which is either unique or dilapidated, he will ask: “Hey Howard, don’t you think that couch is pretty f—ked on?” (instead of F-ed up). On the other hand, it disturbs me to consider that he may actually be using the F-word accurately and wonder who was on our couch.

So that is all the news I have until this second. I have promised the town that I would lead the children in a play. It is about a man who learns the importance of gaining cooperation from others and becoming better at agricultural techniques. I also authored this play called: The Inconsistent Gardener, so I must be off to instruct them now. When my dear Pamphilia comes, I will update you on our tours. Until then, remain strong, committed, energetic, full of good health, focused, mature, dynamic and pure.

To toppling terrorism once and for all,

Howard Wayward

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Victims of Collision

Friday, August 04, 2006

Waiting for Godot

"For a long time it seemed to me that real life was about to begin, but there was always some obstacle in the way. Something had to be got through first, some unfinished business; time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life." -Bette Howland

I recently had a morose conversation with a friend who had lost most of what he'd known up until that point. Things went awry. He almost lost his mind. He felt that he was on a dark path yet one worth wading through. He admitted that the humiliation and degradation of it all was horrible. If anything, it convinced him that there was evil in the world. Of course, part of him always understood that. After all, in science, there is positive and negative energy. The two forms rarely, if ever, differ in degree. Otherwise the universe would implode.

We would like to think that we are living life to the fullest, not holding back, but do we waste time waiting for something that has already begun, without our notice?

Everyone has a dream that they are holding onto, whether it is to change the course of humankind, build a home, be the first person to travel outside of our galaxy or simply have a quiet moment of rest.

I think it's important to value the challenges that prevent us from achieving our ideal. It seems that in life, once one challenge is overcome, the next one is even more difficult, and there are no breaks. Does that mean that life just gets worse? Perhaps it is simply the certainty of getting older.

In sleep we unwind what we prepare in our minds during waking life. In life we work ourselves silly, measuring the length of some imaginary threshold that we anticipate breaking through. Hopefully, before there is no feeling at all, it will not feel like we've spent too much time waiting. Hopefully, once life is spent, there will be more stories shooting out of it, like spokes in a wheel or rays from a star, that will allow for the details to be told, for truths to be gleaned, in more ways than can be said in one life time.

"...for life's not a paragraph And death i think is no parenthesis" -E. E. Cummins

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