Friday, February 22, 2013

The Police State is Coming

       First, I have to apologize for the length of this article, however, the overwhelming evidence, in combination with the sheer importance of this topic, required a comprehensive analysis and supply of sources for the claims listed. Instead of an overarching approximation of the movement, I have listed key events and players, for facility in identifying who it is we are fighting, and what their capabilities are. You will find this very frightening, and if you don't, you should.

      For anyone who has read any Orwell, the phrase "big brother" will be familiar. Although Orwell wasn’t able to predict the internet, his understanding of the risks of an intrusive government were well-founded and prescient, as the Canadian government races toward the destruction of our digital freedom, and the implementation of a police state.

            Michael Geist, a Law professor from Ottawa, comments:

“The Motion Picture Association - Canada reports meeting with Canadian Heritage Minister, Foreign Minister, and Industry Canada Senior Associate Deputy Minister all on the same day. These meetings occurred less than three weeks after the introduction of Bill C-11 and the decision to sign the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Ministers were willing to meet with the top U.S. copyright lobby group, but not with Canadian creator, consumer, or education groups who offered a much different perspective on legislative reform.”

            We are on the brink of a New World Order; one in which the monkeys at the peak of the hierarchy seek to implement the foundations of a global spying network, the likes of which have now penetrated 70 countries, and is currently pounding at Canada’s door.  There are 5 important bills to discuss on the topic and some elements of international trade law as well (ACTA).  I have read them all and will summarize their content and implications later in this article.  The main point I wish to illustrate is that this problem is not going to go away unless we make it do so, and time is a factor. There is a point of no return, and World War II showed that, and more, what evil mankind is capable of.
      There are interests who are pushing for the implementation of spying bills, such as the widely publicized SOPA and PIPA bills; which were by and large motivated by lobbying pressures from media moguls including but not limited to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).  There was a blackout protest to these bills in the states spearheaded by large internet companies such as Google and Wikipedia.  

One might imagine that the message got across to the government, but that is simply not the case.  An international consortium of shady interests are making moves to shut down freedom online. Organizations such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) are massive lobby groups representing powerful media companies and IP (intellectual property) hubs, and are actively pursuing the enactment of bills which will crush Canadian constitutionality.

Here is an excerpt from the “2013 special 301 report on copyright protection and enforcement,” written by the IIPA:

“The Copyright Modernization Act (Bill C-11), enacted in June 2012 after several previous unsuccessful attempts at copyright reform, is a significant achievement… But much more remains to be done… To some extent, this turns on how the new copyright law is implemented and enforced, and how and when Canada finally accedes to the WIPO treaties. But there is other important unfinished business, notably the need to transform the copyright enforcement environment through better legal tools (including at the border), revamped law enforcement priorities, greater resources for investigations and prosecutions, and imposition of deterrent sentences on violators… Ultimately, they agreed to recommend that Canada be moved to the Watch List for 2013, [and] to urge that the U.S. Government remain extensively engaged with Canada to make progress on the long list of further changes needed.”

            In summary, the IIPA is pressuring the Canadian government to be sneakier, punish more harshly, and watch more closely. It demands the empowerment of law enforcement to watch internet activity of its citizens without due process, and to approach punishment to the tune of shock and awe. 

      Some historical information:

  Mass-surveillance of the internet isn't a new phenomenon.  During the Bush administration, internet service providers colluded with the US government to spy on Americans illegally; sometimes referred to as the "President's Surveillance Program," or the "NSA electronic surveillance program;" wherein the NSA was tasked, by executive order, to collect massive amounts of information on American phone and internet activity, without warrants.  In 2008, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008 tasked the inspectors general of all intelligence agencies to publish a comprehensive report entitled the "unclassified report on the president's surveillance program," which can be read here. The report states that "The Attorney General... publicly acknowledged the fact that other intelligence activities were also authorized under the same Presidential Authorization, but the details of those activities remain classified." So to be clear, this activity is likely still going on, as the amendments which extended the powers of intelligence agencies during the Bush administration have not been redacted or even discussed in Congress. In fact, they have been amplified under Obama, who signed the reauthorization of “the broad electronic eavesdropping powers that legalized and expanded President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program secretly implemented in the wake of 9/11.(1)

      Enter Wikileaks.
In 2010, a massive release of documents now widely described as "Cablegate," initiated a new kind of cyber-warfare.  The US was embarrassed internationally, revealing its underhanded methods of manipulating foreign powers, and its blatant disregard for judicial process for its intelligence members and agencies. Not only this, they were proven to have spied on members of the UN, and to have collected detailed personal information of diplomats and nation leaders.

For example, in 2003, the US threatened and coerced Italian legal authorities, preventing the prosecution of 22 CIA agents who kidnapped an alleged terror suspect, Abu Omar, in 2003. However, last Tuesday, "an Italian court sentenced several former Italian intelligence agents to terms of up to 10 years for supporting the CIA."(2) American intelligence agencies have also illegally interrogated individuals in the pursuit of leverage over Wikileaks.(3) In a classified document obtained by Wikileaks, the State department reveals its intentions to reveal Wikileaks sources, terminate their employment, and prosecute them criminally. Their justification of “blocking wikileaks in the US” is delineated in comparison to “`Several foreign countries including China, Israel, North Korea, Russia, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe [who] have denounced or blocked access to the website’”(4)

The US agents involved in the kidnapping, rendition, and torture of Abu Omar were not investigated due to stonewalling by the US State Department. Bayer, the lead prosecutor in Germany is quoted in an interview as saying "What happened in Milan and Ramstein is a disgrace and should be prosecuted. If it had been possible, we would have filed indictments." Due to a lack of cooperation by the American government, the CIA members and operation heads were not prosecuted (or even reprimanded as far as can be determined). 
This is just one example of hundreds of blunders which the US assumed would never come to light. The release of cables in 2010 was a wake-up-call for the US intelligence agency, and it promulgated several important shifts in world politics:

The Arab Spring, beginning in Tunisia, was due in part to the revelation of extreme corruption and undue opulence of the reigning government, as outlined in the leaked diplomatic cables.  Also contained therein were pleas from the US embassy to address the serious human rights issues.  The US did nothing. They have a bad track record of supporting dictators who will do what America wants (Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nicaragua, Guatemala…).

The war on internet freedom has two fronts: commercial and military.

 The two are actually merging; combining the lobbying clout of trillion-dollar industries with the most powerful governments and military research organizations on earth.  Although this may sound extreme, it’s no exaggeration. For the sake of economy of words, I will write the advancement of this group’s agenda in summary:

The Patriot Act

The President’s Surveillance Program



Canadian Bills:

C-11: “Copyright Modernization Act”

C-30:  Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act; Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act (a troubling subterfuge)

C-12: “Safeguarding Canadians’ Personal Information Act;” An Act to amend the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act

 S-7: “Combating Terrorism Act”

 C-55: may allow warrantless wiretapping in the near future. I can’t get much information, no advance copies or drafts have been released to the public, and the parliament library website is conveniently down during these talks. I will update on this subject. 

POST EDIT:    Bill c-55 is now law.  I posted the amendment to 184.4, which is the disquieting text below.

184.4 A police officer may intercept, by means of any electro-magnetic, acoustic, mechanical or other device, a private communication if the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that

(a) the urgency of the situation is such that an authorization could not, with reasonable diligence, be obtained under any other provision of this Part;

(b) the interception is immediately necessary to prevent an offence that would cause serious harm to any person or to property; and

(c) either the originator of the private communication or the person intended by the originator to receive it is the person who would commit the offence that is likely to cause the harm or is the victim, or intended victim, of the harm. (?)

(c) note the obfuscating language still cannot hide much room for future abuse, although there are some restraining measures as well.

            I strongly suggest that you read parts of these bills, or at least, informed commentary on their elements and consequences.  A quick google search will reveal much.  Priority should be placed on bills s-7, c-12, and c-55.  C-11 has already been passed, so it’s a “too late” moment, but I would check it out anyway. C-30 was very recently defeated, but it is a good example of the conservative governments attempts to install the foundations of mass-surveillance.  (Post Edit, c-55 passed, now law.)

        It is also of extreme importance to pay attention to emerging international trade law (a) (b) (c) and the TPP - or trans pacific partnership.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, FISC (US)
(I will write an article on this subject at a later time, but here is a list of the members)

Wired writes that the FISC is “a rubber-stamp for giving the federal government carte blanche powers to spy on Americans at home or abroad…and doles out spy warrants without even knowing a target’s name. No probable cause is necessary, as long as the feds attest that the electronic eavesdropping is material to an investigation.”

The Washington Post also writes that “The White House nominee to run the CIA said setting up a special court to oversee deadly drone strikes against American citizens is worth considering.”

The wording in Canadian bills bears terrifying resemblance to the conditions upon which such rubber courts operate.  If a police officer adequately predicts or assumes a crime may be committed, it is enough to gain the power to monitor individuals.  Not just internet either – all forms of spying technology available. 
(Post Edit: Since C-55, subjects do not need to be informed.)

Many of these bills are not what they seem. As the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) recommended in their 2013 report; the Conservative Government should use narrow, low-profile methods of implementing further controls.

  For example, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said “either stand with us or with the child pornographers,” on the subject of passing c-12 although it desperately erodes Canadian personal information protection, and allows authorities greatly extended powers of surveillance. Historically, when legislative bodies want to erode the powers of their opponents, they choose catchwords and accusations to leverage their agendas.  In Germany Hitler won power legally.  In the US, the word “communist” was used in the seventies. More recently they prefer “patriot” or “weak on terrorism,” such as in the passing of the Patriot Act.  Canada is now calling opponents of government spying “pedophiles,” which is decidedly not sneaky, as the IIPA suggests.

As Yahoo News reports, under c-12; “police could watch anyone’s Internet activity at any time across Canada.”  In a unanimous Supreme Court decision, concerning R vs. TSE, it was determined that aspects of the bill’s contribution to the Criminal Code of Canada were unconstitutional, violating Canadians’ search and seizure rights.

 The Copyright Modernization Act (C-11) was passed last year, and is currently in effect.  By the way, if you downloaded anything with a torrent program in the past 6 months, you were being watched. Here is a company that does that kind of work, based out of Quebec.

            There is an emerging consortium of super-spy agencies as well. I don’t mean the CIA or the FBI, or the KGB or MI6 either. They are corporations who are paid to massively to monitor whole nations.  the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Amendments Act allows the US to spy internationally, and on purely political grounds, as described in a report entitled  Fighting Cyber Crime and Protecting Privacy in the Cloud, a European report which was recently delivered to European Parliament.  
What this means is that if someone, for example me, speaks out against the US government, I might be placed on a watchlist, and data in a cloud such as Google will be collected and automatically compiled into a dossier.  Those who have studied history understand this is a tactic employed by secret police in totalitarian states (Germany, Russia, Italy, North Korea).  The security penetration of the SS was around 10%, meaning 1 in 10 were informants.  The possibility of penetration would be 100% under this new system. 
  In a way I’m taking a risk by even writing this article; and if I were more popular, more outspoken, there would be a risk as a reader too.  Google records and stores all search data, and the government is constantly pressuring them for it.  It won’t be long, unless we fix this problem. 
(Post-edit: Google seems to be de-prioritizing this blog in its results ([used startpage])

            The final point for this article relates to the emergence of new technology firms, which are already engaged in mass-spying, which Julian Assange calls “a secret new industry spanning 25 countries.” Wikileaks released a spat of documents detailing over a hundred security firms’ role in the mass surveillance of cellular and internet traffic.(5) Assange describes how

Intelligence companies such as VASTech secretly sell equipment to permanently record the phone calls of entire nations. Others record the location of every mobile phone in a city, down to 50 meters… When citizens overthrew the dictatorships in Egypt and Libya this year, they uncovered listening rooms where devices from Gamma corporation of the UK, Amesys of France, VASTech of South Africa (Free Trade Partners) and ZTE Corp of China monitored their every move online and on the phone. Hacking Teams in Italy and Vupen in France manufacture viruses (Trojans) that hijack individual computers and phones (including iPhones, Blackberries and Androids), take over the device, record its every use, movement, and even the sights and sounds of the room it is in. Other companies like Phoenexia in the Czech Republic collaborate with the military to create speech analysis tools. They identify individuals by gender, age and stress levels and track them based on ‘voiceprints’. Blue Coat in the U.S. and Ipoque in Germany sell tools to governments in countries like China and Iran to prevent dissidents from organizing online.

          Read the comprehensive spy files released by wikileaks, and commentary by Assange from which the above quote originates.

Above is a graph from a presentation by one such spy-firm.  They have a good marketing department it seems. If I were a maniacal dictator I'd definitely consider them for their colourful presentations.

Here is an overview from another spy network, which brandishes the proud Made in the USA at the bottom, promoting high irony, a sure-fire selling point for particularly patriotic US interests. My first laugh of the day came from this.

The above page is a list of customers who apply the services of Glimmerglass. It is an alarming list, with top defense contractors and research institutions, and even academic institutions (UC San Diego is up there). Scary. Below is a summary of their methodology and content coverage:

        The FBI has been caught red-handed, spying on millions using a vulnerability in Apple software, with unique identifiers called UDIDs, which they can use to track the location of someone, as well as their address, numbers, and other personal information.  The hacktivist group Anonymous breached the FBI database and leaked the information with the personal info wiped from the publication. (6)

        The ACLU also claims that Boston Police have been intimidating and profiling peaceful protesters, and submitting their reports to the FBI. The ACLU "has now published the findings obtained through a lawsuit against the BPD, revealing that unmerited investigations were regularly opened up to probe into protest groups only exercising their rights. Even when no incident warranted an investigation, however, Crockford says that protesters were still filed in these fusion centers with reports plastered with labels such as 'Criminal Act,' 'Extremists,' 'Civil Disturbance' and 'HomeSec-Domestic.'" As reported by 

        So what we're seeing is government cataloging of those who express dissent, then utilizing technological measures to monitor their activities, collect their data, and create "profiles."   In the seventies this practice was commonplace, with the important difference being  technology's t.  Undercover agents would infiltrate peaceful groups and profile its members, preparing for hearings in which a subject would be tried based on their ideology and affiliation, then blacklisted for their views. This is happening now. (a) (b) (c)

        Not only are these groups being spied on, the government has actually established a highly sophisticated network of 77 spying hubs called DHS Fusion Centers, under the auspices of national security. According to a report by United States Senate subcommittee on investigations for Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, entitled "Federal Support for and Involvement in State and Local Fusion  Centers," the Fusion Centers were "unable to meaningfully contribute to federal counterterrorism efforts" and the Department of Homeland Security "does not know how much it spent to support fusion centers ... [and]does not exercise effective oversight of grant funds.. [additionally] if published, some drafting reporting could have violated the privacy act."  Among these infractions were lack of oversight, poor training, wasteful, unnecessary spending, violations of civil liberties, and reporting of fusion centers that "do not exist." The report goes so far as to claim that "fusion centers may have hindered, not aided, Federal counterterrorism efforts"(7)

        I don’t need to expand further on the severity of the issue. 

        We are living in legendary times, and being born in this new Renaissance tasks us with a special responsibility to the future of humanity.  If we don’t encourage protective legislation, we “are all screwed” as Assange puts it.  This isn’t conjecture.  This isn’t Hollywood.  There hasn’t been a threat to freedom like this in human history.  This crisis makes the Third Reich look like a fancy picnic for teddy bears.  I urge you to become informed and outspoken.  Normally, it wouldn’t interest me to encourage you to share my writing, as I consider it to be a form of artistic expression rather than a popularity contest; however, in the case of advancing the cause of our mutual freedom, I must encourage you to link this article insofar as you are able and willing. 

       One important element in this uphill battle will be to encourage transparency and accountability in government. This can be accomplished in the legislative branch of society, however, it is just as important to ensure our political overseers are beholden to the laws.  

         The executive branch of the US government hasn't expressed much interest in anything but pounding out executive orders by the basket. This trend hasn't stopped since Bush, and in fact, it has gotten worse. (8) (a) 

           There are enabling technologies and frameworks which will allow the populace to regain control.  It can be accomplished by regaining control over the legislative bodies, both the House of Commons and Congress, as well as both Senates.  I would venture to say that forcing politicians to publish their financials every term pre and post would be a good measure to prevent lobbying corruption.  SuperPACs need to go, they are an affront to democracy and a joke.  Accounting is a simple and effective countermeasure to corruption.  Financial oversight allows us to watch where the power flows.  All the secrecy in these clandestine organizations has done permanent damage to foreign and domestic affairs in the US, and we would do well to learn from these lessons. 

      Quantum cryptography offers a way to deal with the overreaching powers of government. It is a technology which will allow consumers to protect themselves from prying eyes.  It is not possible to intercept a QC connection without alerting the proprietor.  So let's implement citizen-driven referendum, where IP addresses represent voting power; kick out these idiots from the House; encrypt connections with QC; and rebuild the legislature to favor the populace instead of its silver-haired overlords. 

        We can win this, but we will all need to work together, and make sure these sneaky bastards don’t take our privacy and our freedom out of our hands. One thing that's clear, whether Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative, black, white, Christian, Muslim... we are all in this together, and all our freedom is at stake. 

(Post Edit: since I wrote this article, Edward Snowden leaked documents on a spy network called PRISM - facebook, google, microsoft implicated)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Bionic Eye Approved by FDA

      As the title of this post implies, the FDA has approved an artificial retina for commercial production and human use.

      Science has produced several solutions for problems of sensory deprivation due to disease, genetic malfunction, or birth defect in the past, such as cochlear implants.  Now that we are reverse-engineering the visual pathways in addition to the physiology of the eye, we can expect that BMI (brain-machine interfacing) will become useful for mediating problems that don't occur with the actual eye, but with the neurons that govern how vision is aggregated and processed in the brain.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cure for Type 1 Diabetes Discovered

      Researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona have discovered a treatment for diabetes type 1 that has completely cured the disease in dogs using a single session of gene therapy. On the UAB website, the researchers explain that "the dogs... no longer show symptoms of the disease. In some cases, monitoring continued for over four years, with no recurrence of symptoms."

     This is not the first treatment of this type in the works, and the applications are virtually endless. It is a type of gene therapy that "activates" dormant genes - in this case - the genes controlling the production of insulin.  Dr. Bosch, the head reasercher, is quoted on the UAB news website:

""this study is the first to demonstrate a long-term cure for diabetes in a large animal model using gene therapy.”

      In the future, we should expect treatments of this nature for a myriad of disease processes - not only in combatting illness, but in optimizing health in general (fat insulin receptor gene is a good example).  Researchers routinely use gene manipulation techniques for research purposes, for example, as a means to make cells bioluminescent, for the purpose of tracking their behavior. 

Congratulations to those who suffer from Diabetes Type 1; it seems a significant step forward has been made. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Fantastic Voyage

“The meaning of world is the separation of wish and fact.”

 - Kurt Godel

       Today I begin embarking on an adventure - one which I had conceived in a storm of seemingly senseless bits of information - a sea in which I took strange refuge perhaps from my own inadequacy, and perhaps also in a genuine desire to create something beautiful or discover something true.. Whatever my reasons, I was convicted to a purpose: that the mind is an unfolding universe of possibilities, not restrained to the genes we are born with (to an extent, of course), but free to change as it wills, and all the more if we will that it changes. This strange aspect of intelligence was to be the underlying theme of my study.

      When I was in the twelfth grade, I reserved my exercises in profundity to the dark recesses of my mind, merely questions, and no answers.  In fact, I was resolved that there were no answers, and no reason to go looking.  I came to be in my high school library and stumbled on a book called "The Philosophers," the contents of which spanned several grecian and modern ponderers. It was a tattered old thing; it had been passed between many hands before it came to be in my possession.  I never signed it out, but I spent weeks going to the library after school to read.  I suppose it was then that I came to a simple conclusion:  I knew nothing. This was my first realization.

      My second realization was realization itself.  At the time, I never knew that I was tapping into a fundamental aspect of physics, of mathematics, yet, something inside me called out, demanded resolution. The epiphany itself was to be the subject of my study.  I was enthralled at the idea that a system (the mind, being a closed system of bits) could alter itself by introspection.Such a simple conclusion, that someone could "change their minds" and be a different person forever.
        I remember seeing the movement in my mind, like a heavy stone falling into a serene pond, forever clothing it in cascading waves.  I suppose the best metaphor would be the Big Bounce hypothesis in cosmological physics - that the universe begins, expands, and collapses, to expand once more.  Yet that new Universe is profoundly different, and we are universes unto ourselves; evolving, expanding, accelerating. 

      The next obvious step was psychology - cognitive dissonance - the 'self' and where it originates, which naturally led me to the physiology of the brain. I was no scientist. I didn't have an electron microscope, or thousands of brain slices. I didn't have an education in the math of brain strucures (or much math at all), but understanding the parts of something isn't sufficient in truly understanding it anyway. Facing the enormity of my failure was maddening. But I comforted myself in the idea that through poetry or fiction, I might tap into this human phenomenon, if not the universal one.

      Then my next realization came, in the form of a Christmas gift from my accidentally perceptive brother: an enormous treatise by the name of "Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, a metaphorical fugue on minds and machines in the spirit of Lewis Carroll" by Douglas Hofstadter, a computational neuroscientist.   I would like to share a quote from the preface which was a profound coincidence (or perhaps not?):

"the 'teetering bulb of dread and dream' that nestles safely inside one's own cranium is a purely physical object made of completely sterile and inanimate componenets, all of which obey exactly the same laws as those that govern all the rest of the universe, such as pieces of text, or CD-ROM's, or computers.. the key [to consciousness] is not the stuff out of which brains are made, but the patterns that can come to exist inside the stuff of the brain.

      This is a liberating shift, because it allows one to move to a different level of considering what brains are: as media that support complex patterns that mirror, albeit far from perfectly, the world, of which, needless to say, those brains are themselves denizens - and it is in the inevitable self-mirroring that arises, however impartial or imperfect it may be, that the strange loops of consciousness begin to swirl."

"And the Word became flesh" - John 1:14

      A few weeks prior to this, I had written a story about a lawyer with a brain tumor, who confronts his demons in a house of mirrors, wherein he is the judge, jury, defense and prosecution. The mirror was always the keystone metaphor for the epiphany.

      For me personally, it was indeed liberating.  I began to learn about formal systems in mathematics, about the strangeness, and the eerie incompleteness, of loops - from a simple fugue to the infinite complexities of abstract structures in the mind and in the cosmos.  When Hofstadter wrote his masterpiece, there was a wealth of information yet undiscovered that scientists have access to today. Considering that fact, Hofstadter had profound insight into the nature of "mind," and at a very young age. I have had the advantage of his intuitive wisdom, and an ocean of information in real-time.

      Since then I have been learning about strange loops - insofar as my capacity for mathematics allows. I've always been more inclined toward poetry, but when truth stares me dead on, it's difficult to ignore it in the face of hand-me-down inadequacies crafted in wasted hours. So I did not give up, and still haven't.  Now the time has come to apply what I have been learning.

     Today I began the first stages of a comprehensive project, which I began researching several years ago with the intention of raising my IQ.  Lyme disease, and all its glorious trappings, was instrumental in preventing me from really digging into this project; in addition to my desperate need to look in a thousand directions at once.  Now I have collected, and I'm not afraid to say, a vast amount of information on the topic of not only strange loops, but the brain and how it works; from the biophysiological to the mental.  I have struggled to understand the relationship between the physical connections of the brain, the epiphany as a physical process, and the growth of brain cells as a mental process.  The question was, how does the epiphany change the physical structure of the brain?

      Until only recently, I had abandoned hope for this project, as the Lyme disease seemed to have spread to my central nervous system, infecting some of my lower brain regions, such as the hippocampus, which is crucial for the formation of memories as well as the production of neural stem cells.
       However, now that I am in remission, and with access to a wealth of knowledge on the topic of neurogenesis and the proliferation of neural stem cells, I am fully prepared to embark upon what I call Fantastic Voyage 2.0 - and the journey begins as it did in that first vision, with the birth of a universe - ever accelerating to the point of actuation, the fulcrum, the crack in the levee before the breakwater, and surging inward for rebirth, an epiphany from within and without.

      I will be doing a series of articles describing my fantastic voyage, and I hope it will inspire others to find some truth in themselves. Stay tuned for Chapter 1

"The Brain - is wider than the Sky -
For - put them side by side -
The one the other will contain
with ease -and You - beside-"

-Emily Dickinson

Television - A Normal Blog Post

A short window into my non-life of non-accomplishment (unless you consider my amusement to be an accomplishment, in which case I might go accomplish something right after this).


1)  Fringe Finale and Series Review

'Pretty Fucking Shitty' - 60th percentile.

      Ordinarily I don't use this blog for what I consider to be mundane, only what others might.  However, for the sake of being a well-rounded blogger, I've decided to spare a few words for Fringe, a science fiction television show featuring Joshua Jackson (and the occasional Leonard Nimoy).

      Commenting overall on the television series, in its entirety, was entertaining in the way playing balloon keepy-uppy is entertaining. It's not quite logical, or that intelligent, but you just can't help but enjoy bouncing that damn thing.   The science is frequently off, and the writing can be transparent, with a plot that, previous to the most recent seasons, felt like a "numbers" or "house" type of format; fringe case #X.

      More recently, the show finished itself off (couldn't help it) with its series finale.  It was more illogical than usual, which is quite a stretch for the Fringe staff.  It played the emotion card, where grandeur and ominousness would have served the scope of the show far better.  The writers' lack of desire to formulate a consistent definition of time and time travel (not correct, consistent) was a real problem.  They alluded to the "resolution of paradoxes," which were hastily strewn together, and in fact, less problematic than many others.   Normally, this Fringy type of scenario wouldn't be upsetting except that I usually defer to the self-promise that it will one day improve.  Alas..

I won't go into further detail, as I'm trying to avoid specific spoilers, but it suffices to say that it was a limp-dick finale. 

2) Boardwalk Empire Series Review Thus Far

'Fucking Amazing' - 85th percentile.

      Boardwalk empire is a show which chronicles the reign of a kingpin in Atlantic City during the Volstead act (prohibition) in post-WWI America.   The viewer enjoys the view from the top, as Enoch Thompson, the merchant-monarch of Atlantic city as treasurer, attempts to maintain control of his micro-plutocracy, as well as contend with rapid expansion of his competitors, and his own voracious ambition.

      The show actually deserves a full review on its own, because the cinematography, dialogue, acting, and pace are brilliant, which isn't altogether surprising, as it is directed by Martin Scorsese (Goodfellas, Shutter Island, Taxi Driver).  It has so many memorable lines, delivered at precisely the right time. There are few shows in which I'm able to invest enough to get a little shiver up my spine, but Boardwalk is successful in doing so.

      The show features some truly amazing characters, my favourites being Richard Harrow, a terribly deformed former army marksman; a reflection of the iconic Phantom of the Opera; and Nelson Van Alden, a zealous prohibition agent, who struggles with the temptation of Atlantic city, and his own overreaching zeal. I could write essays on these characters, as they possess and portray the depths of their origins, as much as they demonstrate the direction their characters must go to evolve.

      Here I will give Richard Harrow a short shout-out:

      As a character, Richard manages to conjure your empathy, while brandishing a kind of desperate bloodlust. Richard Harrow is a shadow and a bright dream all at once. Their use of his character is somewhat sparing, but it is artfully delivered, but more is sometimes less in the case of the mysterious. 

Here is a scene involving Van Alden that was one of my favourites. Warning: spoiler. It helps with some character background, but is amusing enough as a standalone piece.

Here is another, involving Richard Harrow, and Jimmy Darmody. A great scene.

 In the case of Boardwalk Empire, do not take my word for it ladies and gentlemen.

3) Sons of Anarchy Series Review Thus Far

Somewhat fucking amazing. 70th percentile.

      Similar to Boardwalk Empire, but set in a small American town called Charming, documenting the life and times of a motorcycle club called the "Sons of Anarchy" (you guessed it!). Initially, the story begins with the club as established, focusing primarily on Clay, the club president and one of nine founders; Jackson Teller, the son of a dead founder and vice president; and Jemma, the mother of Jackson and wife of Clay.

      The cinematography is pretty good, the effects are cool, there are a lot of action scenes, yet the show possesses surprising depth at times (and also surprising flatlining).  The plot itself can be somewhat cyclical, and I noticed a trend:

1) Some enemy is revealed
2) they ride motorcycles toward that enemy
3) they shoot/maim/beat/brutalize whomever impedes them.

The real story is the internal conflict, and I won't spoil it for those who are interested.

On the downside, Jemma, played by Married With Children's Katy Sagal (the mother); is a real pain in the ass. She is often illogical, by the viewer's standards definitely, and sometimes by her own.  She can be inconsistent, or "super-consistent" as if yelling "I am X" from out of the screen.  This isn't Katy's fault, the writing didn't leave much room for her to grow (don't worry she TALKS a lot, but doesn't very often SAY much, except the vagaries of "bitch").

Overall, a pretty darn good show.  Better than Lost and worse than Dexter, it's hard to place exactly, but it worth spending an afternoon discovering if it's something you might be into. 

4)   Archer

Fucking Hilarious - 90th percentile

      An animated series which follows the daily comings and goings of a private counterintelligence agency called "Isis." The plot surrounds the protagonist, "Archer," as you might have guessed, and his mother.   For those of you who have seen Arrested Development, you will recognize many of the voices in the show, as well as several cameos from famous actors.

      Without going too much into depth (because neither does the show), I can say that Archer is hilarious.   I don't know if I've laughed out loud at anything animated except for the occasional South Park.  The jokes build very well on each other, and the humour can be unexpectedly witty.

Downsides include occasional vague references to old movies or actors, a misstep often made by Family Guy. Fortunately for Archer, they wield it without the hasty desperation that Family guy often uses to cram volume.  

5) House of Cards

Quite Fucking Entertaining

      I recently began watching a Netflix original starring Kevin Spacey, who plays the part of the majority whip for the democratic party in congress - beginning with his dethroning from a promised position of Secretary of State; and following his new mission for vengeance and power.  Thus far, the show is witty, funny, exciting, and full of political intrigue. If you like that sort of thing, it's for you.  The episodes tend to conclude in a sometimes anti-climactic way, which is largely due to the subject matter and format, so I don't hold it against the show, as it doesn't detract much from it.

      The real power of the show is a) the writing, and b) Kevin Spacey reading that writing.

Nuff said.

This concludes our "regular blog post," and the short blurbs concerning the wasteland that contains so many hours of photons pouring into my skull in the late night.

Friday, February 1, 2013

In Paradisum

I meander in slow fog,
sundered by spirits -
those devious supplicants;
those heavenly voices,
perhaps terrible bards in the court of my soul;
where words are new but stories old.  
They sing and play their lutes just fine
and I don’t mind,
for spectres rest in paradisum. 

I count my hopes like beans,
joined in supposed spaces -
my database of dreams,
that opulent happiness abacus.

I scramble to keep them ordered
as they spill, stretch thin, drift,
get vaporized in the distant sky -
where hostage in horizon’s edge,
they find a home in paradisum. 

This poem is meant to be read in tandem with, or very near to Fauré's "In Paradisum."