Sunday, July 31

Urban Heat

I'll be leaving Paris on Tuesday. And to be honest, it won't be too soon. Still, I realized that although I'm not having a good time in Paris, I've been confusing my feelings for this city with the rest of France.

I took a trip out to one of the small villages near by a few days ago for a break from the pace of the big city. I was a bit shocked at exactly how relieved I felt. Although there are quite a few things that I don't like about France [not the least of which is an annoying wave of nationalism and protectionism that's been building since the end of the spring], there are also quite a few things that I like about this country. The slower pace of life is not a bad thing at all, but it's quite strange when mixed with the mad pace of Paris to produce some strange hybrid. Here, everyone's constantly in a rush, but a rush to do nothing. It's very hard to explain. But people fight viciously to be able to work less, all the while not relaxing at all. As well, there are way too many nut cases wandering around. It seems like every night I'm getting hassled by some sort of weirdo on the street. And other people that I've talked to say they have the same experiences.

At any rate, I'm going east, with my first stop being Geneva. Eventually I'll loop around and head north.

As far as what I've been doing these last few weeks, there really hasn't been much at all worth mentioning. Mostly I've been reading. The French [written] media really is the best that I've seen, and I've been enjoying it while I can. I've also been working on some drawings, although not portrait style like the ones that I've posted on the deviantart website. So I doubt that I'll bother scanning them. I've been trying to find a style that I like in terms of doing cartoon characters, but haven't come up with anything quite yet.

Seeing as how there hasn't much going on in my life lately, I'll fill out yet another of these entries with a rant about politics/current-events.

So the Bush administration has been caught telling bold-faced lies yet again. And as usual [always?], there aren't any consequences. No big surprise. But this time something is different. And it's something that I find scary as hell.

A few months ago, the name of a CIA agent, Valerie Plame, was leaked to the media. This is a serious federal offence in the U.S., as it's seen as jeopardizing national security. No one knew who spilled the beans, but Bush promised that if he found out that person was working for his administration, he'd be fired on the spot.

So the story cools off for a while. Then, a judge at the inquiry into all of this demanded that the reporters who broke the story divulge their sources. What was shocking was that when they said no, one of them went to jail. Judith Miller, who works for the New York Times, was sentenced to four months in prison. Even worse was what happened afterwards. The news magazine Time, which had also been involved in the story, went against the wishes of their staff and released the name of the source.

This amounts to the death of confidentiality in the media. Although the article in question isn't of massive national [or global] importance, the next time there could be much more at stake. The main source for Watergate was also leaking confidential documents, and the reporters who broke that story could well have gone to jail under similar circumstances. The next time that someone feels they should report a scandal, even if doing so is illegal, they might think twice about it. They could very easily go to jail.

Now in this particular case, the stool pigeon was Bush's #3 man, Karl Rove. It seems that the CIA agent's husband, Joseph Wilson, who had been conducting investigations into Iraq's weapons capabilities back in early 2003. He told the truth about his findings, thus [as expected] contradicting what the Bush administration was at the time trying so desperately to peddle to the world. This was of course frowned upon in a big way by the Republicans, and Rove took it upon himself to punish Wilson by outing his wife. All of this is completely illegal. But seeing as how this is Bush's butt buddy, the government has changed their stance. It seems that Rove only said that the wife of Joseph Wilson, the American ambassador, was a CIA agent, and didn't actually give her name outright. So this is apparently fine, despite the fact that any idiot that Googles his name will get her's as well. And so Rove will likely go completely unpunished, and if the past is any indication, he'll probably end up with a promotion instead, ala Wolfowitz, Bolton, etc. Of course, had it been a Democrat who had leaked the name in the exact same way, it goes without saying that Bush would have had him strung up by the nads. But no one in any position to do anything seems to care, and so the accountability of the U.S. government slips even more. Of course, it was already dead when Bush was re-elected, after lying so obviously and consistently all the way through the Iraq fiasco. And that's only to give the most obvious example. Still, I guess we can say that accountability in the U.S. is now (in addition to being dead) buried and forgotten.

I'll end with something that I found quite funny, in addition to being well written. The author's name surprised me. Although I don't respect the man at all, he really did a good job here.


I have decided to take a page from George W. Bush's foreign policy. If it's good enough for the United States of America, shouldn't it be good enough for me?

Thus, I would like to announce to all of my neighbors in the Santa Monica Hills that I am reserving the right to launch a preemptive attack on any of them - should I feel threatened. The nature of the threat need not be clearly defined in order for me to initiate, at my sole discretion, this first-strike option. After all, I don't want the first warning of an attack on me to be a mushroom cloud, right? To ensure that my neighbors comply with my security needs, I will be sending a personal emissary to their homes (probably a guy named Doug) to determine that they are not armed or - if indeed they possess weapons - to encourage them to disarm.

Of course, I want to reassure my neighbors that most of them have nothing to worry about. I would never resort to force unless it were absolutely necessary. However, like the United States, I've already been attacked once (and severely wounded), and I don't intend to let that happen again. So keep your stereos turned down, folks, stop complaining about the naked women hanging out at my pool, and I'm sure we'll all get along just fine.

Larry Flynt


Sunday, July 17

Tapping Out

I finally came to a decision about what to do for the next few months. Although I'm somewhat comfortable here [having a place of my own and a steady job are nice changes], I realize that I could never be happy in Paris. It's just too big. I've never really felt welcome here. I've given my notice to my boss and landlord, and should be out of here at the end of the month. Perhaps a bit sooner. It's sad, because my boss turned out to be very nice. Finally. I've had 5 jobs in a row where the bosses were horrible. But she said that she couldn't hire me full time until the fall, and since I can only work here until the end of the year [at which point my visa expires], it doesn't seem worthwhile to stick around.

In hindsight, I think that I made the right decision in coming here. My other options were Ireland, Britain, and Holland. In the end, I feel that I've learned quite a bit these last couple of months, and not just in terms of the french language. I always suspected that I might want to live in France, and would have regretted not finding out for sure. Now I can leave without any doubt in my mind. France is a great place to visit, but it's not the sort of place where I want to spend any more time. It's just not for me.

I'm going to go wandering around again starting next month, but I'm not really sure exactly where or for how long. I've always wanted to see Norway, so I'll head north for the first while.

In terms of my own little world, the last few weeks have been quite uneventful. On a larger scale, it's been anything but. Everyone's heard of the terrorist attacks that happened earlier this month in London. What some people don't realize are the consequences.

[Most of what follows I've read in either news magazines. I found a really great one, that translates articles from all over the world into french. It's called Courrier Internationel. Also, I saw a movie a few months ago that seems very pertinant now. It was called either Yasmin or Yasmine, I forget which. But it's worth checking out]

To start with, these were the first suicide attacks on European soil. Ever. So the insanity that plagues the Middle East has finally spilled over to here. Now they have police armed with semi-automatic weapons patrolling the streets. Probably not any worse then after the World Trade Center was destroyed, though.

Secondly, and much more importantly, the suicide bombers were all home grown. This means that on top of being British citizens, they were second generation immigrants, born and raised in Leeds. Things may never be the same for the Arab communities in any European country again. These suicide bombers were believed to be well adjusted, had white friends, and seemed to be happy and normal teenagers or twenty-somethings. Then they took trips to Pakistan earlier this year, and decided to blow themselves up and take more than fifty innocent people with them. Not to mention the hundreds that were horribly injured. And of course, they've completely ruined the lives of their parents and siblings, who might as well go back to the Middle East. They'll never be able to keep their businesses afloat now. As well, brown people in Europe, no matter how integrated into the European culture they might be, will all be treated worse from now on. So the idiots have fucked everyone over.

The thing that I find the most frightening is that this is almost definitely going to repeat itself. The second generation of immigrants, mostly my age or a few years younger, tend to be a mix of Muslim and occidental culture, and can be quite confused. By wanting to rediscover their culture, they reach out to Islam. At the same time, they're sometimes angry. They want equality in British society, and some don't feel they get it. Whereas their parents still see living in Europe as a privilege, and as such are less reactionary to prejudices, their children aren't so passive.

Others see their lives as failures, and think that by serving Allah, they can redeem themselves. Their insecurities and weaknesses of character are exploited. In the end, the four from last week were stupid enough not to think of their families, gullible enough to believe all of the bullshit about going to heaven for blowing the fuck out of yourself and innocent people, and evil enough to carry it out. The Arabs will feel more isolated, and the younger generation will be even easier prey for the evil pieces of shit that preach about being martyrs. And on and on.

I think it might be time to move onto a lighter note. I finally finished a drawing that I've been working on for way longer than I want to think about. It's of the lead singer of Green Day, and you can check it out at

The main reason that I started it was because of the way that he was standing. Getting the perspective right looked like a challenge. Then I decided to do the background, a series of stripes. They took forever, and in the end the shading still didn't look good. And I'm also not happy with the scan, but I'll put up a better one later.

Now more sad news. I suffered my first heart break in a long time. I'm sure that everyone heard of the Live 8 concerts that happened earlier this month. Well, the London show featured something more than huge. Pink Floyd, who haven't spoken in more than 20 years, agreed to reunite for this one show. And somehow I didn't hear about it. I'm a glorified stone's throw from London, I could have been there in about two hours, and I didn't know about it. Making me feel even worse, I saw a video of their performance, and they were really in form. Of course, maybe now there's a chance that they'll get back together and do another album. They seemed to be getting along quite well on stage. One can only hope.

I'm going to close by saying that if anyone wants to comment, feel free. There's no need to sign in. Just click on the option below the blog. It's nice being able to vent, but at the same time, this blog starts to feel like a monologue sometimes. Which I suppose it is, really. Still, I'm sure that people have opinions on what I wrote here, and if you agree or not, I'd be happy to hear why.

Monday, July 4

Year Long Haul

It's been a year since I left Montréal.

In some ways, it's hard to believe it. Time has really flown. This year has easily gone by faster than any other in my life.

At the same time, looking back at how much has happened, it feels like so very much longer. Although I still have no idea what I want to do in the future, I do feel that I've figured out a few things that I don't want. Such as staying in Europe any longer than this trip. However long this trip lasts.

As little organization as I've had with my plans before, I have much less now. As I should have expected, after I'd given up on looking for jobs here I got a call from someone looking to hire me. They were responding to a resumé that I'd left a few months ago. It's to work nights in a hotel, which is the easiest job imaginable. I can do anything that I like, such as watch television or go on the internet. I just have to be awake to let guests in and to call for help in an emergency.

When I say that I'd given up on finding a job here, it wasn't because I didn't think that I could find something. It was mostly because I was tired of France in general. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike the country. It's still where I feel most comfortable in Europe. But I realized that no matter how happy I could be here, I would be much more so in Canada. Or in Montréal, to put a finer point on it. That's not to say that I'm coming straight back, though. I still do want to travel around eastern Europe a bit, and take some Spanish classes in Spain as well. This should take at least till the end of the year.

So now I'm completely on the fence as to whether or not to stay, and for how long. Not helping the staying part is that the hotel keeps pushing back the time that I can start, and telling me that I can only work part time till September. This doesn't seem very promising, as I was told I could work full time starting in early July. The main reason that I'm still here is my lease, of which I have to give a month's notice before I leave. Which I still haven't done. I'm not entirely sure why, but it's likely because I'm feeling very passive lately on top of everything else. Too passive to make a decision, I suppose.

Something that might push me towards deciding sooner is that my shower is leaking water onto the old man who lives below me, and he and the super intendent came up shouting at me today. This seemed out of line, as I hadn't done anything wrong. I didn't KNOW it was leaking. After I started shouting back at them, they threatened to call the police. The acting landlord said that they're both totally nuts, and he's been trying to get the super intendent fired for a while. So depending on how I play this, I might be able to get out of here sooner than I thought.

Mostly, though, things are pretty slow. I had my first somewhat social day yesterday. Sundays in Europe are a bit boring, as any sort of shop is closed. So to kill the day I went to pay my respects to Jim Morrison. I'd already been to his grave once before, but at the very least I figured that a cemetery would be open, and that it would give me something to do. Morrison's grave is a huge tourist attraction, and there's at least a dozen people there at any time during the day. Plus three or four security guards. Apparently, his monument has been stolen. Twice. Despite the security. Go figure.

I got to chatting with a couple of goth/punk Scottish girls while I was there. I think it was the combination of the accents and tattoo body suits that I found most interesting. We hung out for the day, wandering around between bars. They were going to Amsterdam the next day though, so I didn't see them again after that night.

Usually I end up either going to libraries, drawing, or seeing movies to pass time. Of the movies that I've seen, two have stood out. Sin City was the best movie based on a comic book that I've ever seen. Due mostly to the director having written the comics in the first place. It's a crime story, very dark, but I won't try to do it justice here. Just go see it. The other that stood out was Garden State. It's been out for a while, but I only got around to seeing it now. It's mostly a drama, but was one of the few movies to make me laugh out loud in a while. And the soundtrack is awesome. Very chill. It includes a track from my favorite band of the moment, Zero 7. Plus it starred Natalie Portman. Incidentally, I found out that we share the same birthday. She's exactly one year younger than me. The only other famous person born on the same day as me that I know of is Johnny Depp. But he's way older. 40 something.

I'll close with yet another rant about the working conditions here in France. Mostly because it's pertinent. Right now there's a mandatory thirty day trial period before starting any job. Which means that you can be fired at any point in that period for no reason at all. Except for that you're like any other employee. After the thirty days, the boss needs a reason to fire to you.

A major problem facing French politicians is the very high unemployment rate, which has been over ten percent for a few years now. Instead of talking about the real reasons for this [overly powerful unions, 35 hour work weeks, low productivity and unreasonably high wages for even menial jobs, etc], the prime minister has decided that he can solve the problem by increasing the trial period to two years. The theory is that this should entice employers to try hiring more people. Any idiot should see that this will lead instead to younger workers being treated like shit for two years, then fired so that they can bring in a new trial worker and repeat.

I'm beginning to understand why the economy here is so stagnant. Whereas the last generation worked so hard making this country a world power again after the war, the current generation wants nothing but to be able to maintain their 'socialist model'. This is a fancy way of saying people demand to work as little as possible (or less) for more pay and benefits than they deserve. And my generation seems even more resistant to change then their parents. They were the driving force behind the rejection of the Constitution, mostly wanting protectionism out of fear of an invasion of cheap Polish labor. I'm not for globalization, but at the same time it isn't going away, and hiding from it for a generation or two isn't going to help anything. The British are embracing it much more, and their economy is doing very well, with an unemployment rate half that of France. I've always considered myself a socialist, mostly for the sake of state sponsored health care and education. Here, the term socialism seems to have been very heavily distorted, being driven by individual greed. Whereas capitalism is the pursuit of as much money as possible, Rrench socialism is a mechanism to work as little as possible.