Friday, April 19, 2013

Nothing to see here now... move along... life happens... later.


For quite a long time, this blog has been languishing along with my other projects.

In the past, with some new means of expression, I would play around , do some shits and giggles, then, once bored, run off to do something else with a new toy.

In this case, my new toy is "The Jacques Treatment".

"The Jacques Treatment" was originally a series of vids that I did on YouTube. Unlike the vitriol that I've posted on this blog in the past, mine consisted of some random thoughts and other silly shit. There was some great potential with them. People would subscribe to my channel and post something.

Then, I became bored with that. There are so many people doing vids, plus doing the post-production and uploading took a lot of my me-time to watch other people's vids.

Throughout all this time, I was going through therapy, a failed relationship, work stress, several near-evictions, financial woes, midlife and existential crises, addiction, recovery, relapse, re-recovery, anger, confusion, personal behavioural issues, self-reflection...

All these things would drive a normal person to suicide.

I admit: I'm not really that normal a person.

I'm not a totally responsible person.

Sometimes the competitiveness, mandates and chaos of the real world pisses me off and I simply wanted to withdraw just once and find solace in the eternal playground of my mind, which never stops creating an alternate universe and thinking well outside the box.

In the past, I didn't live my life right. I've probably made more mistakes and have gotten into trouble that any normal person would never think of doing in the first place. I've made a lot more enemies than I have made friends. all for the wrong reasons. And I may have alienated many more than I care to remember..

I've done my share of self-delusion and self-medication. I've given into temptation many times over. And I must admit, I enjoyed the ride while it lasted until either the money ran out or when the ride started to affect my "normal" life, the one that created the money in the first place.

I will not explain to you my 2 "bottoms". This is not something that I would wish to discuss except to a few trusted people who know. It was, in hindsight, very unpleasant and has cost me more than my sanity. But they woke me up, albeit too late to undo any damage made in their wakes.

But here I am. Recovering. Regrouping. Rebuilding.

I may not have enough time on this earth - the human body doesn't rejuvenate itself and will always betray  and foil its master at times. But I still want to be The Man. Hopefully sooner than later.

I accept my past. I cannot change it. I cannot rewrite it. I cannot ignore it. There are times when I simply damn it. But I'm proud of the small victories that I have made and the contributions that I have made to society, to the community.

But my priority is the here-and-now. And things don't get done on their own. My job, as a creative being, is to live a better life. To create. To express, Without a gun pointed at my head.. So to Hell with you, World. I'm here to stay.

The world stops for no-one. It sure as hell didn't stop for me. Don't expect it to stop for you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

09SEP01: “Once upon a time in Esquimalt, British Columbia”

The place where I woke up one Tuesday Morning in 2001
I was never a fan of mornings.
I knew that Tuesday morning would be no more different than Monday morning, except that it was one day closer to the weekend that I used to crave. Once with booze, tunes, women, girls, and more booze.
Given the type of person I was back in the day, I usually wound up with more booze. And there were times that I had to pay for the women.
But this was a Tuesday morning in September, as grey as the ship on which I served, tied up alongside at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, located just outside Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. And it was a day that was no different from the Monday that preceded it, nor should it be from the following Wednesday. Come to think of it: back then, nothing mattered but the weekend from a Tuesday point of view. I was there to get paid. And hopefully to get laid. Which, in my case, I had to pay for that privilege.
The only thing I had to do first was answer that alarm clock. She was an unforgiving bitch with a snooze button effective for only 3 minutes until she got vindictive with a louder blast. So I decided, “Fuck it. I’m up” and struggled to sit upright on my bed. I grabbed my pack of smokes and took out the first stick of the day, a ritual that was costly since a 20-pack of anything would run up to 10 to 11 dollars in BC at the time. But I was jonesing bad for that nicotine fix, because I knew that the day would be another crashing bore of training, teaching, training, dills, more training. I really didn’t know what the fuck I was doing, nor did I really cared about giving a fuck, but it paid for the smokes and the booze. And that was good enough for me.
It didn’t make matters any better that I was also a senior naval combat information operator on that boat. The naval reserve maintains 12 maritime coastal defence vessels, 6 per coast. Of the 6 in Esquimalt, 1 is set aside for refit and alongside training. My job consisted of ensuring that the kids under my control get familiarised with the equipment in the operations room and to get ready for work at sea. Honestly, I had no clue what I was doing, everything seemed a little over my head and I preferred to delegate the dirtiest of dirty works to my 2 senior Leading Seamen. Even though I was their boss, I always wound up partying with them on weekends, trying desperately to behave more sober than the minions. The end result , of course, was major fail.
After I lit up the first stick, I turned on the radio. The Victoria radio scene reflected the Zeitgeist of the 21st century "Naughts" - either all poppy or all crusty. It reflected the city’s attitude which was that of the “nearly-wed or the nearly-dead”, reflecting on those who were close to being married, yet were eventually condemned to an unfulfilling existence, and those who were close to meeting their respective makers, yet were eventually condemned to an unfulfilling existence. A no-win situation if you were stuck on an island. Rather than deal with the vapid blathering of the morning pop-radio deejays, I opted for the tried-and-true CBC Radio 1.
Normally, on this station, there would be talk about politics, world events, local events, more politics and fluff pieces on home and garden care in the morning, with more of the same in the afternoon and in the evening. No matter where you are in Canada, there is always a CBC Radio 1 for news and talk and a CBC Radio 2 for arts and talk, all more or less homogeneous in content and ideology. In fact, the only thing that kept me from being a complete fan of Radio 1 was because their “unbiased” dial seemed to be turned  all the way to Loony-Left. Not that there was anything wrong with dippy hippy philosophy, but when someone would host a “serious” current events show, the last thing the the listener would want is an indoctrination. At least the news coverage was good.
Something was really wrong on that day. The news was centred around a couple of plane crashes, one in New York City, another one in Washington, DC, yet another in Pennsylvania. The first thing that came to my mind was that either some poor soul lost control of the craft then all shit happened, or that some idiot was trying to make some warped socio-political statement by ruining someone else’s day. The President of the United States at the time, George W. Bush, was ranting on how these people should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. He was either over-reacting or off his meds – back then, I thought he was a bit too unstable to be a world leader, but then I had bought into the previous Clinton Camelot spirit that consumed most of the 1990s. “Whatever”, I grumbled to myself on my way to take a much needed shower to shake off whatever cobwebs accumulated in my sleep.
When I returned to my room, the same news was still going on, but took on a surreal, yet disturbing tone. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were no more, and hundreds, maybe thousands of people were either dead or missing. More people had perished at the Pentagon in DC as well as in Pennsylvania. “What the fuck”, I grumbled to myself as soon as I went over to work onboard HMCS Brandon, the designated training ship at the time.
As soon as I stepped on aboard Brandon, I looked around. Normally, there would be people hanging around the boatswain’s workshop located near the sweep-deck usually before 8 am (or 0800 in Canadian Forces speak). But on that morning, there was nobody there. I went in, got the operations room keys from the coxswain, looked around and went to the main cafeteria to grab a coffee and steal a toast. Maybe there would be people in there watching the news and explain to me what was going on in the world.
As soon as I went into the cafeteria, I simply gave up on asking. 31 other people were asking the same questions, either to themselves, to each other or to me, ranging from the simple “Why?” to “Are we going to war?” Like a macabre broken record, the news channels showed one tower at the World Trade Center smouldering from the wound left by the incoming aircraft when a huge airliner drove into the second tower. Then a cut to the moment when the wounded Towers slowly went down like a house of cards. The first tower fell when I got up that morning, The second one fell minutes before I got aboard. And we were going insane. “This looks like fucking Hollywood”, I kept saying. “Master Seaman, are we at war?” “Dr.Dray, what’s gong to happen to us.” The only answer I could muster was “Standby. We’ll have something to do.”
One man, a boatswain Leading Seaman, didn’t share the same feeling of anger, confusion and fear. He was originally from Lebanon, and he made the cardinal sin of saying that the Americans finally had it coming. The ship’s electrician, a fellow Master Seaman, threatened to fill him in – a polite way of saying that he was about to beat the tar out of the guy. I had to step in an break it up. It turned out that the boatswain spent some time in refugee camps back in the day, hence his beef with the US as well as Israel. I explained to him that as long as he was wearing the uniform of a Canadian sailor, he was Canadian, and he had to tone down the rhetoric for everyone’s sake, including his own.
As I was watching the highlights and aftermath of this unspeakable act (the word “tragedy” is not strong enough to describe it), I tried to figure out who would be behind it. Gaddafi? Saddam Hussein? The Michigan Militia? Endless fingers were being pointed. Back then, the name Osama bin Laden didn't create that much of a wave. After all, he was just one of many semi-Messianic terrorist warlords who resorted to hit-and-run attacks on unprotected military assets worldwide. All I knew that these were simply brazen attacks on the most visible symbols of American power, even though nobody had figured out the Pennsylvania crash until later.
All of us lower-deck people sat glued to the television until 0930 when the coxswain reluctantly ordered us back to work. Up in the ops room, we struggled to get back to what was considered as “normal” – delegating, drilling, teaching, ad infinitum. But we were also talking about whether or not we would be the next in line. In one of the rarest moment of clarity, I explained to the kids that we were targets, that any lunatic with a boat could take out the West Coast Navy in one shot. In a matter of hours, we got mustered, briefed and told what was going to happen, which essentially meant that the base was going into lockdown mode. Everyone had to be searched going to and from the base, extra watches were to be conducted along the jetties to discourage sabotage of any kind, and we were to refrain from bringing in civvy guests for the next little while.
The events took me by surprise. I thought that the US was vigilant enough to avert incidents like what happed on that Tuesday morning. So did everyone. But the people who flew these planes never got the memo. Meanwhile, all the laissez-faire that we had taken for granted seemed to have disappeared. Someone was trying to kill us just because they could if they worked and trained hard enough. The reality of the “world’s longest undefended border” quickly faded into history and cross-border travel quickly became regimented, scrutinised and dissected, all because of Osama bin Laden and his band of merry, soulless Jihadists.
In the days following the event, I called up my parents, sister, friends, letting them know that I was alright. I was relieved that my relatives living Stateside were doing well. But I was on edge for the next couple of months mainly because I thought that things would devolve from bad to worse to utterly abysmal. Some people handled it better then others, I just wanted to get my drink back on.
But I never forgave bin Laden, nor his enablers, nor his followers, nor the apparent sight of Muslims cheering this “heroic” act of 9/11. I never forgave them for upsetting everyone’s expectations that the 21st century would bring in peace in our time. Given the petty wars and pissing matches amongst nation-states and tribes alike, I doubt that there ever was a peace at the start: only respites, ceasefires and stalemates, punctuated by bouts of revolts, cold wars, jihads, coup d'├ętats, assassinations and ethnic cleansings. The walls that we thought were broken down started to reassemble. There had been talk of Crusades and Great Awakenings, yet we as humans failed to realize that as a species that sit at the very summit of what is commonly known as the food chain, we are pretty much capable of driving each other to extinction based on petty differences.
It’s just to easy to say that we had all brought all this down on ourselves because of complacency, greed and pettiness, but it takes one individual with command of language and ideology to create a condition poised for an apocalyptic showdown. Osama bin Laden may or may not have been the mastermind of these tragedies, but as the bankroller of many successful terrorist undertakings, he was clearly the one who should've been held totally responsible for the deeds and their subsequent results and repercussions. Iraq, Afghan, Libya, Gaza and the West Bank… the list goes on.
So many other things happened on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The cleanup at Ground Zero, where the Twin Towers once stood, may be close to being complete, but nobody can, nor ever will eradicate the scars.
All I can remember afterwards was that life, for me, went on, business as usual, on the following Wednesday. Under all normal circumstances, it would’ve been a day no different from the Tuesday preceding it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Occasional Rant:
"Cowboys and Aliens"
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes""

Great way to spend a vacation Tuesday with a double bill worth 12.00. Had to spend extra for some Starbucks and Swiss Chalet. But what the Hell: it's my vacation and I can spend it any way I want.

First movie was Jon Favreau's genre-bending "Cowboys and Aliens", a noisy fusion of outlaws, natives and some rogue space invaders. This more is more like a spaghetti western rather than "High Noon" or "Shane". A Man With No Name wakes up in the middle of nowhere , wondering what happened to him and his wife. A posse passed by and recognised him as a wanted man. After overpowering said posse, no-name arrived at a one-horse town where an intoxicated son of a cattle baron started to shoot things up.

Things get interesting after the stranger winds up sharing the paddy wagon with the aforementioned delinquent. Strange flying objects swoop into town abducting townspeople like cattle. Not a good day in the West.

As I have said, this film is more spaghetti western than the traditional strain. Alliances have been created amongst outlaws (cattle barons and train robbers), settlers and the natives. Daniel Craig does his take on the Clint Eastwood persona while Harrison Ford channels a cowboy Indiana Jones. Aliens or no aliens (the opening body cavity brings to mind the alien from, ahem, "Alien"), this is a fairly decent popcorn movie. Nothing mind-blowing or inspirational, just another fun caper in the Old West.

In "Rise of the Planet of the Apes", was the director trying to makes this ragtag group of chimps, orangutangs and gorillas into the new Navi? I hope not, because by the way the soundtrack was going, this movie seem to be playing the "Avatar" race card.

James Franco plays a researcher trying to find a cure for the Alzheimer's that's slowly claiming his father (as played by the progressively ageless John Lithgow). He brings home a baby chimp that was rejected by his mother who was injected with a prototype drug known as ALZ 112. Apparently, this chimp, who inherited the drug at birth, starts to display a considerable amount of intelligence. Being a latchkey kid, however, doesn't do the beast any favours, and eventually, the chimp grows up to be Andy Sirkis (a la that character he played in "24-hour Party People" vice Gollum in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy). Chimp eventually goes emo, scares a dog, beats the crap out of a douchy neighbour and eventually winds up caged with Draco Malfoy and Brian "I can haz any starring roll" Cox.

More monkey business ensues when the researcher has to juggle municipal bureaucracy, Byzantine office politics and the well-being of his father. Eventually, the chimp steals a couple of cans of new and improved ALZ 113 to be unleashed on his fellow inmates. The rest, as they say, is history.

When you get down to it, the "Planet of the Apes" movie series that existed in the 60s and 70s acted as social or political metaphors. Behind the camp are subliminal (or somewhat obvious, depending on which side of the fence you are sitting) messages regarding nuclear war, racism, fascism and the generational gaps - after all, some of us were once called "little monkeys" once in a while. And sometimes these messages get flogged at every moment. The original "Rise" movie involved the offspring of time travelling gorillas who escaped an imploding future Earth, and eventually created an egalitarian, trans-species society - imagine a simian Soviet Union. The flicks were great fantasy until the Marxisms started to add up.

In this reboot, I suspect that the producers had the "Avatar" bug and drafted our distant primate cousins into the ranks of the Na'vi. Sadly, the "unobtainium" in the movie eventually turns into a curse - without spoiling it, think "Ebola" - and thus we have a cliffhanger, with the primate escapees getting a primo view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I did feel the movie in the first half, but the way the soundtrack was arranged and Tom Felton's over-acting (I'd blame the melodramatic writing in the story) made me lose interest. Of course, I've seen a better made movie - unfortunately, it was called "Avatar".

So my verdict...

"Cowboys and Aliens" - THEATRE (bring own popcorn)
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" - TORRENT ("Avatar" suspends belief better)

And now, my day is complete.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Amazing Atheist - It's Only Sexist When Men Do It

How very sad. How very true.

Two legs and a vagina - good.

Three legs bad.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Faith No More - We Care A Lot (Video)

Sometimes, I feel like singing this song out quite loud.

Because there are days when the world really could piss you off.