Archive for November, 2005

Do you see what I see?

A minority government balanced by the NDP!

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Syriana and Purple Trees

Monday night, I went to see a preview showing of Syriana with a couple of friends.The Cinema Studies Students’ Union (CINSSU) was screening the sneak preview, for free, as it often does. The film kicked ass.

It’s a complex film with several characters; shot with two hand-held cameras, it’s so rich in detail it almost seems like a documentary (and it might as well be). It is an important film about America’s dealings in the Persian Gulf revolving around oil. It follows four main characters (they’re all men): a CIA agent shuttled between the Middle East and America (George Clooney), and energy analyst (Matt Damon) advising the would-be emir of an oil-rich nation, an attorney investigating the shady merger of two oil companies, and a Pakistani migrant-worker in an oil-rich nation who joins a madrassa. The jargon may be hard to follow for some, and many of the business dealings can leave people confused; but the message of the film comes through — without making any of the characters appear one-dimensional.

Again, it’s an important film, because people need to know how it is that they manage to get cheap oil and at least some of the reasons why leaders of oil-rich countries are almost invariably lackeys of American agendae.

Many people, after the film finished, expressed that they didn’t understand it. And I suppose that might have something to do with the complexity of the content or of the way the film was structured. In any case, I hope they use it as a starting point to learn more about the United States’ operations in other countries.

On Tuesday, after noon, as I was headed downtown on the subway and reading Thucydides, a man started asking loudly for change. You could tell he was kind of homeless; carrying a few things with him, wearing two dirty coats, dirty pants, dirty hair, dirty skin, and with an intoxicated manner. As no one responded to his appeal for change, he began to loudly castigate the general subway ridership for their self-alienation and isolation — refusing to interact with fellow human beings and living in their own worlds. I actually agreed with him on that point.

Finally, a lady got up, thrust some change into his hands and sat back down. He left his seat and went over to her to thank her, and managed to find a seat right beside her and sat down. Soon, she — disgusted — got up and walked to the other end of the car. He laughed and continued his banter.

As we approached Broadview station, he quipped that he came to Broadview to view broads. Blondes, brunettes, redheads, tall ones, short ones, “pencil necks,” and so on (to the general repulsion of those who had nothing better to do than to listen to him).

He related a short story about how he picked up some girl and in bed she started talking about a “ban-job” — short for a banana job.

Soon he went into a narrative about a whore he picked up from Dundas and Jarvis. He talked to her, knowing she had been in this business for some time, and asked her name. She said it was Cynthia. So he asked her who gave her that name, her father or her mother? She replied neither. Well then, he asked, who gave her that name? At which point she rolled over on the bed and bent over and vomited on the floor. She then said Satan, Satan (and he had a peculiar way of pronouncing Satan, “say-dun”) had given her her name. He laughed and asked her if she was a ritualistic type, a ritual girl. She said yes. So he asked her how many candles she lit in her room. And she said sixty-nine, sixty-nine candles and that “ain’t no sexual reference, neither.” Sixty-nine. Cynthia. End of story. Thank you for listening.

The train approached Sherbourne station and he got up, stating that he didn’t understand why people were unkind to him — he wasn’t a gangster, he was a “good fella.” The door opened, and he said:

Crimson mountain, golden sun,
Purple tree for everyone.


As he bid his farewell, the door chimed and just as it closed he exited. It was like he had it perfectly timed.

I turned to the girl next to me and asked, “Did he say purple tree?”
She replied, “I have no idea.”

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Spidey Toque

Ever since I got that toque, girls have been looking over my way more often.

Of course, I realize that they’re checking out the toque and not me — but I’ll take whatever I can get.

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iPod and Drunk Subway Guy

Today I was on the subway with an acquaintance I’ve known since high school. We got on the subway at St. George station discussing ugg boots and how I dislike them, and I was trying to show him an example by pointing out someone wearing ugg boots. This we did not find.

There was this guy sitting down beside where we were standing, in front of us was a woman. The guy started tapping the woman and she, I guess, was scared and so with a frustrated expression, asking him what his problem was, walked away. The guy then got up and tapped a man and asked him where Donlands station was, and tried to get some elaboration, and the man tried to help him. For whatever reason he didn’t choose to adhere to the man’s advice and came up to me (within inches of me).

This guy was not in a normal state, definitely intoxicated, and he asked me where Yonge/Bloor station was, and I told him. He then asked me how to get to Donlands, and I told him to stay on the train; I told him I’d let him know when we got there. He then informed me about how “she” took his house, his truck and his two children, all because of his booze addiction (as well as crack). He also showed me how he was now drinking rubbing alcohol (Life brand) that he’d bought from Shoppers’ Drug Mart. He told me he was going to a detoxification centre but he had no hopes of building his life again, and that his wife wouldn’t take him back.

I tried to encourage him and tell him that as long as he was motivated to clean himself up, he’d at least have a new start. I told him it was good that he was going to a detox centre.

We were approaching Donlands and he told me that if it weren’t for me, he’d be on the train forever trying to find his station. He thanked me and held his hand out. I took it and shook it, it was rather dirty. (I didn’t touch anything with that hand until I got to Kennedy station and washed it.) When we got to Donlands and the door opened, he turned around and again thanked me, but the door chimes were going off. So I gently pushed him out of the train and told him to make sure he gets everything together, and bade him good luck.

I wondered afterward if I perhaps should have actually tried to help him find the detox centre. He told me he could barely see, and it seems if he were to go up to someone on the street and ask to help him find it, people would walk away quickly. I’m still thinking about that and wondering if I should have actually taken him to this detox centre. Not sure if it exists. Should google it. Apparently there’s a detox centre at East General Hospital at Danforth and Donlands.

I hope he finds it.

My acquaintance and I then sat down and continued our discussion about ugg boots. As it happened a girl came in and I noticed her boots, which weren’t quite ugg boots but were ugly nevertheless. A couple of stops later she was about to get off at Victoria Park station. So I asked her (because we were sitting right beside the door) if hers were ugg boots. She said no. I let her know that I thought her boots were gaudy anyway. She told me that a lot of guys had said that to her, but it kept her warm and comfortable. As long as it’s pragmatic, I responded. She was kind of cute.

Later we got to Kennedy station and as we went up to the RT platform I noticed another girl with boots, and on the platform I asked her if hers were ugg boots. She had apparently never heard of them. So I had to explain what ugg boots are. In doing so I also had to assure her that I was not crazy (and my acquaintance tried to reassure her that I was simply trying to show him what ugg boots are) and that I was, in fact, a student at UofT. And so was she.

As such, we talked about university, about tuition fees and about medical school, until we parted ways at Scarborough Town Centre.

In other news, I got the replacement for my malfunctioning iPod — brand new (or, at least, it has no scratches). I have to get a case this time.

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I’ve only formed one meaningful, potentially lasting relationship throughout my three years of university. I think it was by mistake (she e-mailed me after I addressed a class to raise funds for tsunami relief earlier this year).

It’s interesting (read: sad) how I can know hundreds of people around university, and not really know anyone.

Then you’ve got something like facebook. Apparently, I’ve got 80 “friends”. Only, I barely talk to half of them and bump into most of the rest by mistake. Many are political acquaintances (I’ve got the entire executive of SAC, except the VP UTM, on my friends list) and ASSU-related.

I’m not sure I care, either; but then why would I take the time to write it down?

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I ended up causing a conversation among six complete strangers (including myself) on the subway today. I’ve got to do this more often.

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iPod and Spider-Man

I went to Toys ‘R’ Us today and saw that they finally had the Sentinel Series‘ Spider-Man figure. So I bought it (naturally).

Here’s Spidey standing on my Landmark Thucydides text from POL323 (Thucydides, he’s the guy who wrote about the Peloponnesian War about 400-odd years B.C.).

As you can see, they tried to reproduce the characteristic webbing that Spidey has under his arms, as can be seen on the cover of Amazing Fantasy #15 (the first Spidey comic, which, by the way, the action figure is based on).

They got it down to some degree, but it’s basically achieved by throwing a whole net over Spidey’s back (which I haven’t pictured).

At any rate, it’s an improvement over the older Spidey figure they released that was ostensibly patterned on the same comics. Problems: the spider emblem on the chest is remarkably modern (started in the late eighties), and the webbing pattern on the mask isn’t drawn properly — in the more stylized Spidey that soon appeared, the webbing above the eyes splits into two and the webbing below the eyes emerges as one column; whereas in the first few Spidey comics the webbing splits in two columns above and below the eyes. In fact, that’s one of my pet peeves: when people draw Spidey, they completely mess up the webbing pattern on his face (if not everything else).

Otherwise, I’d say this older Spidey actually managed to capture the way Steve Ditko drew the eyes in most of the first comics until John Romita took over.

(Older Spidey)

I would’ve bought the Black Panther as well, but I don’t like the costume he’s wearing in this one (I prefer the pared down, non-cape, non-golden accessories version).

A few days ago, in Markville Mall I found this (unlicensed) Spidey toque, and I had to have it. So here it is, as modeled by me, standing in front of my Spider-Man calendar.

In other news, I called the iPod folks and they said they’d repair or replace my iPod. If they replace it, I’m going to get a case for it this time so it doesn’t scratch up every time it moves.

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This is criticism…?

In a strange full circle type of thing I recently found out that pundit-blog Little Green Footballs found my old “This Is Islam” presentation and presented it to his readers. (Mustaqiim Sahir’s chest-slapping acapella isn’t accepted by many of the Salafis I know as legitimate. Boo hoo, LGF. Idiot.)

I’ve tried to distance myself and as far away from that presentation as possible. In a way I regret having made that Flash piece of crap. It’s chunky, has a crappy soundtrack, and many of my ideas about Islam have changed profoundly. Nevertheless it was made by a sincere 15/16-year old trying to present a different side of Islam than what’s usually found to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

It gave me (or, at least, my name) an instant fifteen minutes of fame around the Muslim world as Muslims in remote places waited all night for their crappy Internet connections to load the whole thing and then forwarded it to their friends. Muslims around the world — the ones who probably looked upon the burning towers of 9/11 with a sense of poetic justice but later cried for the innocents — appreciated it.

What’s ludicrous is much of the putrid ignorance posted in the comments by the readers of LGF. There’s an automatic assumption that I’m an anti-Semite (why, because I implied that Ariel Sharon is a liar?), completely ignoring the fact (pointed out by a later commenter) that I picked out the bombings of pizzerias in Israel as terrorism, pointed to the bombing of planes by Palestinian militants as terrorism, that I picked a picture of an Arab man and Jewish man living together, etc.

The vicious ignorance of the commenters toward Muslims, painting them and the entire religion with the same brush, is as vitriolic as the ignorance of several Muslims toward Jews.

At this point, I’m not comfortable enough with Islam to make a presentation like that again. If I did, it would be quite nuanced and ambivalent about many of the things in Islam. I don’t think Islam should be simplified to slogans such as “Islam is peace” nor should Islam’s claims to promotion of peace be discounted immediately.

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Just when you need to listen to Francoise Hardy on your way home, your iPod’s battery is fucking up.

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