Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Paris - Sonic Jihad
David Bazan - Fewer Moving Parts
Todd Steed and the Suns of Phere - Heartbreak and Duct Tape
Starflyer 59 - Leave Here a Stranger
Mustard - Eureka Grande
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Location: Illinois, United States

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling
My Secret - Frank Warren
Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

16 January 2007

So This Is The New Year

Perspective is a funny thing. Perspective can make a glass either half full or half empty. But, as Demetri Martin quipped on his Comedy Central special over the weekend, it also depends on what's in the glass. What if it's baby blood?

Most reasonable people seem to view the current situation in Iraq as a complete disaster. Others continue to see the glass as half full of baby blood. As my wife and I were told at Thanksgiving, it's really all the fault of the liberal media. Things really aren't that bad in Iraq.

I stand corrected. Iraq is, apparently, a bit like Disneyland these days. Only at this theme park 34,000 park visitors died last year, there's only four hours of electricity a day, women can't travel through the park alone or with uncovered heads, and you have to stand in line for eight hours for gasoline to ride attractions like Splash of Blood Mountain. And if you're a florist, sales are at an all time high, because Iraqis still love to greet the troops with flowers and candy.

Of course, it's easy for Americans to see the situation in Iraq as not that bad. We aren't the ones who have to choose between standing in line for gasoline or standing in line for less time to buy it off the black market. We aren't the ones without electricity for 20 hours a day. We aren't the ones who have to fill up multiple containers of water every time the stuff comes out of the tap, because we don't know when the tap will stop working again. We aren't the ones having our homes raided by overzealous security forces. And we probably aren't the ones who have been to the morgue several times to see if a body is or isn't a relative. No, we're the ones gearing up for a new season of American Idol. Iraqis should clearly be more grateful for their four years of misery.

But what do I know? I've been brainwashed by the liberal media. I'm sure the Iraqis are just glad that Saddam is dead. Oh, wait, sorry, no they aren't:

You know your country is in trouble when:

1. The UN has to open a special branch just to keep track of the chaos and bloodshed, UNAMI.

2. Abovementioned branch cannot be run from your country.

3. The politicians who worked to put your country in this sorry state can no longer be found inside of, or anywhere near, its borders.

4. The only thing the US and Iran can agree about is the deteriorating state of your nation.

5. An 8-year war and 13-year blockade are looking like the country's 'Golden Years'.

6. Your country is purportedly 'selling' 2 million barrels of oil a day, but you are standing in line for 4 hours for black market gasoline for the generator.

7. For every 5 hours of no electricity, you get one hour of public electricity and then the government announces it's going to cut back on providing that hour.

8. Politicians who supported the war spend tv time debating whether it is 'sectarian bloodshed' or 'civil war'.

9. People consider themselves lucky if they can actually identify the corpse of the relative that's been missing for two weeks.

A day in the life of the average Iraqi has been reduced to identifying corpses, avoiding car bombs and attempting to keep track of which family members have been detained, which ones have been exiled and which ones have been abducted.

2006 has been, decidedly, the worst year yet. No- really. The magnitude of this war and occupation is only now hitting the country full force. It's like having a big piece of hard, dry earth you are determined to break apart. You drive in the first stake in the form of an infrastructure damaged with missiles and the newest in arms technology, the first cracks begin to form. Several smaller stakes come in the form of politicians like Chalabi, Al Hakim, Talbani, Pachachi, Allawi and Maliki. The cracks slowly begin to multiply and stretch across the once solid piece of earth, reaching out towards its edges like so many skeletal hands. And you apply pressure. You surround it from all sides and push and pull. Slowly, but surely, it begins coming apart- a chip here, a chunk there.

That is Iraq right now. The Americans have done a fine job of working to break it apart. This last year has nearly everyone convinced that that was the plan right from the start. There were too many blunders for them to actually have been, simply, blunders. The 'mistakes' were too catastrophic. The people the Bush administration chose to support and promote were openly and publicly terrible- from the conman and embezzler Chalabi, to the terrorist Jaffari, to the militia man Maliki. The decisions, like disbanding the Iraqi army, abolishing the original constitution, and allowing militias to take over Iraqi security were too damaging to be anything but intentional.

The question now is, but why? I really have been asking myself that these last few days. What does America possibly gain by damaging Iraq to this extent? I'm certain only raving idiots still believe this war and occupation were about WMD or an actual fear of Saddam.

Al Qaeda? That's laughable. Bush has effectively created more terrorists in Iraq these last 4 years than Osama could have created in 10 different terrorist camps in the distant hills of Afghanistan. Our children now play games of 'sniper' and 'jihadi', pretending that one hit an American soldier between the eyes and this one overturned a Humvee.

This last year especially has been a turning point. Nearly every Iraqi has lost so much. So much. There's no way to describe the loss we've experienced with this war and occupation. There are no words to relay the feelings that come with the knowledge that daily almost 40 corpses are found in different states of decay and mutilation. There is no compensation for the dense, black cloud of fear that hangs over the head of every Iraqi. Fear of things so out of ones hands, it borders on the ridiculous- like whether your name is 'too Sunni' or 'too Shia'. Fear of the larger things- like the Americans in the tank, the police patrolling your area in black bandanas and green banners, and the Iraqi soldiers wearing black masks at the checkpoint.

Again, I can't help but ask myself why this was all done? What was the point of breaking Iraq so that it was beyond repair? Iran seems to be the only gainer. Their presence in Iraq is so well-established, publicly criticizing a cleric or ayatollah verges on suicide. Has the situation gone so beyond America that it is now irretrievable? Or was this a part of the plan all along? My head aches just posing the questions.


My only conclusion is that the Americans want to withdraw from Iraq, but would like to leave behind a full-fledged civil war because it wouldn't look good if they withdraw and things actually begin to improve, would it?

Here we come to the end of 2006 and I am sad. Not simply sad for the state of the country, but for the state of our humanity, as Iraqis. We've all lost some of the compassion and civility that I felt made us special four years ago. I take myself as an example. Nearly four years ago, I cringed every time I heard about the death of an American soldier. They were occupiers, but they were humans also and the knowledge that they were being killed in my country gave me sleepless nights. Never mind they crossed oceans to attack the country, I actually felt for them.

Had I not chronicled those feelings of agitation in this very blog, I wouldn't believe them now. Today, they simply represent numbers. 3000 Americans dead over nearly four years? Really? That's the number of dead Iraqis in less than a month. The Americans had families? Too bad. So do we. So do the corpses in the streets and the ones waiting for identification in the morgue.

Is the American soldier that died today in Anbar more important than a cousin I have who was shot last month on the night of his engagement to a woman he's wanted to marry for the last six years? I don't think so.

Just because Americans die in smaller numbers, it doesn't make them more significant, does it?

15 January 2007

Monday Random Ten

Bedhead - Smoke
Sufjan Stevens - All the Trees of the Field Will Clap Their Hands
The Beatles - Long, Long, Long
Bonepony - Twenty More People
The White Stripes - Slicker Drips
Gorillaz - Every Planet We Reach Is Dead
Sage Francis - Come Come Now
Northern State - Dying In Stereo
Superdrag - Gimme Animosity
Girl Talk - Give and Go

14 January 2007

Something Corporate

All the experts say you ought to start them young. That way they'll naturally love the taste of corporate cum. -- Pedro the Lion

One of the guiding principles Christians in the United States live by is to be "in the world but not of it." Christians, as Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, are to "be not conformed to this world but...transformed by the renewing of (the) mind."

It's interesting to see how this plays out in real life. Such ideas are often used to suggest that Christians shouldn't engage in particular behaviours, like smoking, drinking alcohol, watching movies with a rating above PG-13, or saying words like fuck. Such activities, I have been told, can hurt one's "Christian witness." I don't run in such circles any longer, so I honestly don't know how many Christians still believe those things. I suspect it's still a lot.

Funnily enough, other behaviours are still acceptable for the Christian who isn't conformed to the world. Whether it be shopping at businesses that use sweat shop labour, eating fast food, or attending a church that models itself after a corporation (instead of after the early church), for some reason many Christians don't consider these things to be "worldly." Thus, you often see Christians boycotting businesses for things like treating homosexuals as human beings. But you don't as often see Christians boycotting businesses for paying substandard wages or for failing to provide adequate health benefits for their employees.

Tonight a couple from my church who lives in Chicago's Pilsen neighbourhood is on ABC's Extreme Home Makeover. I'm really happy for them. At the same time, it's hard not to be simultaneously unnerved. Should I be happy that Sears is donating thousands of dollars worth of free stuff to a family in need? Or should I be upset that that free stuff was built on the backs of tens of thousands of sweat shop labourers?

I don't know. But I do know that I'm not going to stop saying fuck until RepubliChristiamericans stop shopping at Wal-Mart.

10 January 2007

A Brief Recap

Not dead. Only unmotivated. In the meantime, Keith Olbermann recaps the war, and the President's credibility.