Wednesday, December 31, 2008

DEMONSTRATE IN TORONTO AGAINST THE ISRAELI ASSAULT ON GAZA!

Dundas Square 
(facing Eaton's Centre, Dundas Station)
2pm on Saturday January 3rd, 2009

CONTACT:
Palestine House
info@palestinehouse.com

Demonstration Organized By:
Palestine House
Canadian Arab Federation
Women in Solidarity with Palestine (WSP)
Not In Our Name (NION): Jewish Voices Opposing Zionism
Muslim Association of Hamilton
International Jewish anti-Zionist Network – Toronto
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid
Students Against Israeli Apartheid
Canadian Druze Society
Canadian Syrian Cultural Club
Al Huda
Islamic Relief
United SteelWorkers
CUPE , Ontario
Educators for Peace and Justice
Toronto Coalition against the War
Muslim Unity
Canadian Shia Muslims Organization ( CASMO)

Please send further organizational endorsements to: info@palestinehouse.com

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Arab Anger Gives Hope To Gaza

Stepping outside the borders of Gaza, a sea of anger is visibly rising. It threatens to wash away the detritus of American imperialism in the region; the Arab ruling classes of Egypt, Jordan and beyond.
That the dictatorial governments of Jordan and Egypt are bought and paid for is utterly apparent to all but the North American and European media. They endlessly insist on calling them “moderate Arab regimes”. You’d think this were a compliment if you didn’t know that this is a region where extreme solutions are the only viable ones.
But the New York Times is happy to let the cat out of the bag: being moderate means being pro-American. It doesn’t matter if you cut the heads off of political opponents and prevent women from driving. It doesn’t matter that you slaughter, repress, censor or engage in any number of other repulsive practices: if you will kiss Uncle Sam’s ass, you’re a moderate. Robert Fisk summed it up well :
“As usual, the Arab satraps – largely paid and armed by the West – are silent, preposterously calling for an Arab summit on the crisis which will (if it even takes place), appoint an "action committee" to draw up a report which will never be written. For that is the way with the Arab world and its corrupt rulers.”
Luckily, the idiot kings and dictators of Egypt and Jordan face a growing wrath. Egypt in particular has seen an explosion of militancy in recent years, including a growing confidence to challenge America’s favourite president-for-life, Hosni Mubarak. It was only severe repression earlier this year that prevented a growing labour insurgency from turning into a general strike, rooted in the giant textile mills of Malhalla, Egypt.
That anger still exists and the confidence remains unbroken. The present slaughter in Gaza is creating a special crisis for Egypt because it has locked down its Gaza border, preventing at gunpoint desperate Palestinians trying to escape.
“The largest protests against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza were in Egypt, where 8,000 demonstrated in the southern city of Aysut, 4,000 protested in the capital Cairo and 4,000 in Alexandria. In total, more than 50,000 demonstrated in Egyptian cities on Sunday, led by the Islamist opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood, out of which Hamas first emerged.”
Within Iraq anger at the slaughter is acting as a catalyst to unite Sunni, Shia – and even Kurds in the north. Israel is undermining all of America’s good work of divide. The war against Gaza could make life difficult for America in Iraq.
In Jordan, which has long aided Israel, including a massacre of tens of thousands of Palestinians during Black September, 1970, protests continued across the country.
In Lebanon, which has also suffered under the blows of Israel’s American-made weapons, and which sent the Israeli’s scurrying back across the border on more than one occasion, there was a mass demonstration of tens of thousands that pledged solidarity with the suffering Palestinians.
And, of course, within Israel/Palestine itself the assault is pushing more Palestinians towards support for Hamas and leading to greater unrest – including riots and protests - in the areas controlled by the corrupt satraps of Abbas’ Palestinian Authority.
It’s this explosion of anger that has pushed the Americans and the so-called Quartet to press Israel to agree a ceasefire. So far Israel has resisted the pressure but if the mobilizations and pressure rises in Egypt or Jordan, watch America move to rein in its high priced watchdog. It can't come a moment too soon.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Hancock: Delivers Too Much & Too Little

After being repulsed by rich, white guy, Bruce Wayne running around in a rubber suit in The Dark Knight, I was ready for a down and out black superhero in the latest Wil Smith video release, Hancock. I loved the last Wil Smith film I saw, I Am Legend. And, what? Shit blows up and the superdude doesn’t like cops or ridiculous uniforms? Sign me up.
Well, not quite.
Sure, Hancock has some funny bits – the armor piercing ejaculation was worth a guffaw and his drunken flight, bouncing a vanload of baddies off nearby buildings. I love that stupid shit. The whale toss? Classic.
There were even a couple of good stories in there – the hated superhero who needs a publicist to improve his image and the superhuman who’s lost his memory and now wanders alone and embittered imagining that he is the only of his kind. But that’s where the problem started. When you’ve only got an hour and a half to two hours – unless you’re making Batman films – you’ve got to be efficient and that means one story only. The result here is that neither story gets its due and none of the relationships are properly developed.
Charlize Theron spends the first half of the film throwing looks and/or jibes towards Wil Smith, setting us up over and over for something significant to happen. But then we have to wait until we’re over halfway into the film to find out what the deal is. By then we’re getting bored.
Boredom is especially a problem because the director, Peter Berg, has chosen to truncate the first story – the recuperation of Hancock’s self-image and public popularity – largely through a montage sequence, in which events are more or less repeated with slight variation. This prevents any drama or identification from developing. Then Hancock is redeemed in the eyes of the public – after years of being a much-hated public nuisance – with one daring rescue that takes up perhaps five minutes of screen time. Suddenly his anger issues are resolved and we move onto the next story between he and Charlize (never mind the total disappearance of the Jason Bateman subplot that drove the first half of the film).
Beyond these story issues, I have to ask, does anyone else out there think that it’s stupid for a superhero who is immortal, can fly, stop bullets, etc. to spend his time stopping dudes from robbing banks and liquor stores? Is that really the best use of their time? I dunno, how about that war in Iraq, or the Congo, or Afghanistan. Why not, you know, stop Israel from bombing the shit out of Gaza. And why not break the siege that is starving the population? How about those death squads killing trade unionists in Colombia and other places?
Instead, we’re led to believe that the biggest problem facing us is petty crime by (usually) black and brown people. That might make sense if you’re trying to sell homes in gated communities but its pathetic in a superhero story. I wouldn't pay to see this film in a movie theatre, I admit. But a five dollar video rental isn't so painful. Besides, it isn't as long as that stupid movie about the guy in the bat suit.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Gaza Suffers In Vengeance For Lebanon

You could be excused for thinking that Israeli jets are bombing the hell out of Gaza in order to stop the missiles falling on southern Israel. Every mainstream news outlet in the western world has been spouting that line, direct from the propaganda offices in Tel Aviv. Too bad it's a lie.
See, here's the thing. Hamas and Israel had agreed a peace treaty that expired only a few weeks ago. You'd think that the problem was Hamas wouldn't renew it but the truth is that Israel violated it back in November, on the night of the US presidential election when most people were looking the other way. Israeli forces assassinated a number of leading Hamas members. What's more, the Israelis never implemented the terms of the treaty, which included lifting the horrific and illegal siege of Gaza, that has turned it into the world's largest open-air prison.
So, the idea that Israel was interested in peace with Hamas or is motivated by concern for the ineffectual rocket attacks on southern Israel is a non-starter. The present asymmetrical slaughter is motivated by two things:
1) Israel wants to restore its prestige after being humiliated by Hezbollah during its last invasion of Lebanon in 2006. As Mark Heller, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University put it: “There has been a nagging sense of uncertainty in the last couple years of whether anyone is really afraid of Israel anymore.” And, when you're a settler regime which owes its existence to the expulsion and continued exclusion and oppression of the indigenous Arab population - and you're surrounded by tens of millions more Arabs who understand that Israel's role is as America's enforcer - well, you better believe that maintaining fear is important. A bully who doesn't inspire fear isn't much of a bully. And if Israel isn't an effective bully, what use would it be to the United States, which forks over 1/3 of its entire direct foreign aid budget to Israel every year, plus billions more in indirect aid, loan forgiveness or just plain military hardware.
2) The present assault on Gaza has to be understood as part of the long term Israeli zionist project of all out genocide against the Palestinians. There have been detours, temporary pauses and the occasional minor reversal but Israel's leaders have never faltered in the long-term project to "spirit the penniless Arab population" out of greater Israel. This present assault is merely one more stepping stone on the way. 
Will it work? The Palestinians are a proud and tenacious people who have endured generations of Israeli brutality (with the full support of the United States of America, history's most powerful and most vicious empire). The present bloodletting is unlikely to break them now. In fact, if anything, this will probably strengthen the hand of Hamas in the West Bank, now ruled by the quislings of the Palestine Authority under "president" Mahmoud Abbas. There is the danger that the strengthening of Hamas will provide an excuse to extend the horror from Gaza into the West Bank, to drive forward the genocide project.
But Israel is on increasingly thin ice regionally. The Palestinians never stood a chance on their own. They need the power of the Arab masses, particularly those in Egypt. Israel and the United States know this, that's why Egypt's ruling elite gets a fat paycheque from the US government every year - to keep their population down. But the Egyptian workers and peasants are increasingly restive, with strike waves and a burgeoning independent union movement, alongside a growing sense that Mubarak's pathetic dynasty must go. If Israel pushes too far they may topple the only Arab regime that really matters for their survival. Revelations that the Egyptian government may well have aided the Israelis in tricking Hamas into thinking an attack was unlikely will further inflame ordinary Egyptians. Already thousands are protesting around the Arab world. Israel is playing with fire, with its usual arrogance, we can only hope that, like 2006, its fingers get burned. 

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Gaza Is The New Warsaw

It must be with a sense of irony that Israel sustains the punishing ghetto prison that is Gaza. The Palestinians, cut-off utterly from the outside world by the Israeli embargo against all but the most basic humanitarian aid, barely scrape out an existence, as 90 percent of the population falls below the poverty line and bakeries threaten the end of bread for lack of flour. After all, the situation faced by the Gazans is ominously similar to that faced by Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War Two. Penned in by the Nazi occupiers, the ghetto Jews suffered and starved and lived in endless fear of instantaneous death.
So it is with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as news reaches us that Israel has killed more than 225 Palestinians with waves of air raids. And this is likely only the beginning. Israel, after all, has never met a military over-reaction it couldn’t top – whether it be “internal” enemies viz Palestine or external governments or movements who challenged their inherent right to be the biggest bully on the block.
Israel’s central strategic role in America’s domination of the Middle East ensures that little more than isolated peeps of protest will be raised in our complicit media. Even when the tanks roll through the streets of Gaza City – even if they gunned down every male above the age of three – the murmurings of protest would be preceded and post-scripted by a condemnation of Hamas. They would have us believe that Hamas is an existential threat to the might of the world’s fifth largest military and not simply an indigenous resistance movement against the ongoing genocide.
No government spokesperson in Canada, the United States or Europe, will demand that Israel recognize that Hamas democratically won its election – an election demanded by the US government. None will demand that Israel end the illegal siege, which amounts to a Geneva Convention defying act of gross collective punishment. None will suggest that Palestinians have the right either to a fully-fledged contiguous state – including control of air space, water and borders – along with the right of return for the Palestinian diaspora. No sir, because that would be like criticizing our own military – Israel is, after all, no more nor less than a US military base and the 51st state of the Union all rolled into one – at least in terms of its receipt of US tax dollars.
So, Gaza is the new Warsaw, where all resistance will be punished with the utmost ferocity. But, like Warsaw, even if the ghetto is destroyed, the heroism of its undefeated population will live throughout history. Israel, on the other hand, will be remembered for what it is: the last racist, colonial settler-state with all the cowardly, asymmetrical, hyper-militarized decadence that this implies.
Join the protest in Toronto outside the Israeli Consulate, 2pm on Sunday, December 28 at 180 Bloor St. West. Just east of the St. George subway station's Bedford St. exit. For more info: http://www.caiaweb.org/node/928

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Batman is an asshole

Okay, everybody loves the fucking guy. Not me.
Look, here’s some damn BILLIONAIRE playboy, who arrives at parties with multiple women on his arm, like some goddamn pharaoh, who slips into a set of Kevlar long underwear and runs around tackling “evil.” Well, the last time I checked, the only people that billionaires thought were truly evil were the poor, the rebellious and the undisciplined. Oh, yeah, and democracy.
But everybody says that The Dark Knight is art. It’s “soo complex and dark”, they say. And Heath Ledger (RIP) is stunning in it, isn’t he? Wow, what acting.
Horseshit.
First, Heath Ledger was great in Brokeback Mountain. He managed to capture the complexity of a gay cowboy, forced to live a lie and struggle to find dignity within it. The movie was too long for my tastes (a habit of the director’s, I’ve noticed) but it was sublime nonetheless.
But the character Ledger plays, the Joker, has no character arc whatsoever. He runs around acting crazy, killing people and spouting ridiculous grade-school philosophy. He learns nothing and doesn’t change an iota. No, he is simply a cipher for some gushingly liberal point – people are good at heart. All this nonsense about what a great role he made it is reminiscent of Paris Hilton’s fame. She’s done nothing to warrant fame – in fact, as far as I can tell she’s utterly without skills or talent – but she’s famous for being famous. Everybody says it was a great role and thus it becomes in the common mind a great role.
The same goes for the raspy voiced Batman – dude, somebody give Christian Bale a Hall’s willya? I will give him this: he at least has some variety in his performance, from the suave and conflicted billionaire, Bruce Wayne, to the principled but violently animalistic superhero, Batman.
So, why did all the reviewers cream their jeans for The Dark Knight? Because it had pretension to be art, generated through a self-fulfilling marketing campaign. And because it had a stupid, liberal message to it – but one that could appeal to conservatives too.
That message? We mustn’t let the enemies of civilization bring us down to their level. Yup, profound, isn’t it? Here we have the Joker, who wants to destroy civilization (read: America) for no discernibly rational reason. Gee, I can’t imagine why anyone would have a bone to pick with the US of A (cough, cough, Chile. Cough, cough, Iraq. Cough, cough, Afghanistan, Central America, Cuba, etc). The Joker is, in reality, the personification of blowback made incomprehensible. He is depoliticized crime – and we all know that crime is bad, a threat to civilization, etc. And he is a terrorist. Have you got the picture yet? Those guys who blew up the Twin Towers – they were the Joker. They were trying to destroy civilization because they hate our values – not because of anything we’ve ever done to anyone in the Middle East (just as an example that popped into my head).
And Batman? Batman is what we would like to do. He is, as Commissioner Gordon informs us in the final scene, “the hero we deserve but not the hero we need.” Batman is arbitrary, violent power. He will stop the Joker, but his methods are a threat to us all.
So, yes, we’ll whip him out every once in a while – in fact, that’s what the Joker is hoping (presumably because he has a death wish as well as a desire to undermine society’s values) – but we really shouldn’t. And we should spurn the principle that Batman represents. Not because that principle isn’t effective but because of the abstract liberal values that society needs to keep functioning – accountability, rule of law, arbitration. In other words, we need to use Batman, but we need to pretend we abhor his methods – you know, like extraordinary rendition, torture, assassinations, etc. That Batman’s methods are the only effective means to defeat evil (read: terrorists) is reinforced by the fact that the crime-fighting DA, Harvey Dent, is destroyed both morally and physically by the terrorist. Batman, the counter-terrorist, is incorruptible.
Batman is the War on Terror. He is the principle of class justice – that is, the ruling class against the anarchic masses – the foreigners and African-Americans who make up the mobs in the film, the freaks, the mentally unstable.
So, like I said, Batman is an asshole and somebody oughta stop this guy, expropriate his fucking property, jail his colonialist butler and nationalize Wayne industries.

Time Flies

I remember when I was a kid and someone said to me "time flies." I looked around the room for hours looking for the time flies, as in house flies. I imagined that they would be those house flies with the shiny blue abdomens but built into them would be a clock of some sort. Needless to say, I never found any such creature. And time did, indeed, fly. 
So it has since February of this year, almost a full year later since my last post. Where have I been? Well, here - in the blogosphere, that is. But purely voyeuristically, visiting other websites, generally of ill repute (politically that is). Lenin's Tomb has always been a favourite. And other more unsavoury ones as well. It's a sad addiction, I fear. But it is easier, when you have only a few moments or not the energy to spare to write ones own posts. But, why so little time or energy you ask - assuming that there is a "you" out there and that this "you" has gotten this far in a completely self-indulgent post. The short answer is that it's been a busy as hell year. After completing the Writers' Lab component of the Feature Film Residency Program at the Canadian Film Centre, I was trying to get something happening with my screenwriting (and hopefully, directing) career. 
I had some success too.
I was accepted to the CFC on the basis of a script called Where Elephants Go - it's a historical epic set during the Civil War that followed the Russian Revolution. The story is about a Bolshevik who deserts the Red Army, disillusioned as a result of the brutality of the war. On his way home he comes across a Jewish village destroyed by the Whites and reluctantly agrees to escort the surviving children and their teacher to the relative safety of Petrograd. En route he spins a tale of a magical place in the mountains of Persia and of a group of Elephants who descend the mountains to go and save the people of Russia. The film follows the parallel journies of the Bolshevik and his charges and the elephants. 
Anyway, the film has everything going against it - it's a historical piece, it has children, it has animals and it is almost entirely outside in the winter. So, I was very excited when one of Canada's most important film producers, Roger Frappier of Max Films optioned the script. Roger has an impressive string of film successes in Canada - Jesus of Montreal, Decline of the American Empire, Maelstrom, Seducing Dr. Lewis, et al. My fingers are crossed that it will get made.
Meanwhile, another script has gotten the interest of the Feature Film Project at the CFC, which has facilitated the production of a number of features from the Dark Hours, through Siblings, Cube, and Nurse, Fighter, Boy. After some logistical hurdles in assembling a full production team, we go for an interview in January to see if we'll be accepted into the development component of the program, on the road to full production. Keep your fingers crossed.
I also gained representation with Lesley Harrison Artist Management, and wrote a film pilot that has garnered some interest from an established production company. Lastly, there is interest from an established Canadian director to adapt a short film script I wrote into a feature in the new year. In addition to this, I directed a script that I wrote - 2 Kings - and helped to organize a conference - Art Changes Everything - and an outdoor film screening, both with Artists Against War. There is also a major project still hanging in the balance that I don't want to speak any more about, for fear of jinxing it.
But it hasn't only been a bumper crop year in terms of trying to kick off my writing career. My personal life has also been, well, busy. Completely unexpectedly, my lovely wife and I purchased a home this past summer. Right at the height of the real estate bubble - d'oh. I think we still got a good deal and it's a beautiful house - stunning in fact. It has required some renovations - that we were happy to pay someone else to perform.
Lastly, but more important of all, I became a father this year, on November 28, with the birth of a baby girl, Beatrice Marguerite Palmateer-Whitney. She was born at 3:27 pm, after a relatively short labour of 7 hours, most of it spent in a birth pool - my wife was in the birth pool, that is. I was there for support, not a swim. It was an incredible and life changing event and I've fallen in love with this beautiful little creature.
As all this was going on - and I was working as a waiter - I still managed to write three feature length screenplays and a one hour television pilot. Not bad, if I do say so myself.
So, anyone who's interested, there's my excuse for being absent the past 11 months or so. I won't be foolish enough to promise any sudden conversion to blog-meister. I'm no Richard Seymour of Lenin's Tomb. But I will try to toss out the occasional film review or editorial commentary about the ongoing collapse of capitalism. Or culture. Or my life. Whatever.
Or maybe I'll be writing another identical post as this next Christmas.
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