Monday, July 5, 2010

Riot Act: The G20 in Toronto

At the south end of Queen’s Park stands a statue of Sir John A. MacDonald, the father of the Canadian Confederation. Late afternoon on Saturday, before the police decided to push protesters out of the so-called “designated protest area”, his pointing finger leads right into the epicenter of the crowd. It seems less of an accusation than an open address to all parties: the assembly of police from all over Canada, the summit leaders, the Canadian government, the city of Toronto, the protesters, the media, even casual bystanders. He says “What now?”

Is that too dramatic? The Globe and Mail announced that the roughly 900 arrested constitutes the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. This is our beast as much as anyone’s: it was Paul Martin who sat with Lawrence Summer in the U.S. Treasury Building in 1999 and drafted up the list of 20 developed and developing nations on a brown manila envelope. It was our leaders who opted to spend 1.1 billion dollars on the joint summits, nearly 10 times as much as any other international G-summit in history and closer to 100 times the amount spent at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh last September.

What now, indeed? What conclusions will the Auditor-General draw from this massive overspending (the vast majority of which seems to have been eaten up with egregious overtime pay and fancy crowd control toys for the police)? What will come of the inquiry into police conduct over the weekend? What will happen with the trials of protesters and Toronto’s Police Commissioner Bill Blair’s promise of 400 formal charges (and what kind of violent contortions of the law will be necessary to make that many convictions hold up)? Or will it all just quietly disappear?

On Friday morning I and some other photographers walked around the summit area, eyeing the giant perimeter fence which was then still open. That morning it had been reported that a York student had been arrested based on a temporary law that had supposedly been passed in secret, allowing police to detain anyone who refused to present identification or submit to a search within 5 metres of the fence. By the end of the weekend it would come to light that no such law existed, that people could be searched only if they came within the security area. Not that any of these legal distinctions mattered: by the end of the weekend, police were searching and arresting people all over the downtown core, anywhere even remotely close to a site of protest activity. student had been arrested based on a temporary law that had supposedly been passed in secret, allowing police to detain anyone who refused to present identification or submit to a search within 5 metres of the fence. By the end of the weekend it would come to light that no such law existed, that people could be searched only if they came

For now though, the area was eerily quiet: police were bored and most seemed unthreatened by photographers without a press pass. They admitted to knowing very little about the fence or even what they were supposed to be doing there. Even then I thought it was almost inevitable that this casual demeanor would quickly transform.

If there was visible tension, however, it was with the private security guards, who stood outside of the large high-rises around Front St. and told us not to take pictures even when we were simply walking by. The police received comfortable overtime pay and had no specific property to defend, but these people seemed understandably nervous about having to do their own policing.

That afternoon, while a few dozen Oxfam and Council of Canadians reps met a multi-million dollar police force in Huntsville, the first major rally met in Allan Gardens in Toronto. These were the grassroots community organizers: everyone from Iranian socialists to PETA, from women’s rights and anti-poverty activists to a 12-piece marching band. I even heard one group advocating for free transit. If there was a consistent issue being addressed directly related to the G20/G8 itself, I didn’t pick up on it. The thinking seems to be that the summits themselves are mostly wasted time and therefore all these heterogeneous organizations address what the summits fail to, which is entirely fair. Still I can’t help but think the popular conception of the meetings as billion-dollar photo-ops – as depressing and probably at least partially accurate as this might be – is more encouraging than the potential for the working poor and middle classes around the world to be forced to pay for government bail-outs of multi-billion dollar banks. Here again, Canada was a leader: Stephen Harper fought against taxes on banks or financial transactions -- taxes that, by most accounts, major banks could easily absorb -- and he won.

It was an early sign of how, over the course of a weekend, real issues could become deflected, masked and hopelessly fragmented, most notably through a perfectly scripted and symbiotic relationship between a handful of anarchists with rocks, 19,000 riot police and an international media contingent obsessed with a couple of burning cruisers. The tension was already beginning to fire up on Friday: the sun was blazing hot and minor confrontations felt thick with prescience. During the march, police on bicycles blocked the entire length of sidewalk, making it nearly impossible for people to leave the dense crowds on Carlton/College St., or even, in some cases, to move anywhere.

It seems Emomotimi Azorbo was trying to get past this rather arbitrary barricade when he was arrested. From my perspective, all I could see was swarms of police followed by protesters and media. A journalist from the Real News Network was punched in the face and had his microphone torn off. Azorbo was initially charged with “failing to obey police orders” (and now faces charges on assault and resisting arrest), an absurd allegation considering that Azorbo is completely deaf and cannot speak. Later the police would insist they had no way of knowing he was deaf, and yet they refused Azorbo’s friend when she begged them to allow her to translate and to handcuff him at the front so he could communicate. He was held in the detention centre on Eastern Ave. overnight without an interpreter.

Even amidst the escalating tension I was drawn to a group of protesters all dressed in black, with a banner surrounding them right around their faces. They moved in a tight formation and when one photographer tried to snap their picture, I saw one shake his head angrily and pull his cap way over his eyes. In what was, at the time, still something of a celebratory gathering – stereos were playing M.I.A. and mid-90’s R&B while protesters danced down University Ave. – they looked ominous and out-of-place.

By Sunday, the Toronto Sun was carrying a front-page article with these so-called “Black Bloc” members and a single headline: “THUGS.” After September 11th it was “BASTARDS”, which begs the question how hijackers responsible for thousands of deaths and vandals who failed to cause any documented bodily harm could only be distinguished by a slight discrepancy in terminology. Bastards are unruly, uprooted outcasts without clear principles. Thugs are self-serving and ruthless but otherwise highly-organized professionals. One might reasonably argue the titles should be reversed.

Regardless, the Bloc don’t deserve it. Their discipline is remarkable –
anyone who can wear ski
masks and goggles in 30° weather has to
be – but they’re not an organization or movement but a
When the time is ripe for vandalism, individual members break
away to destroy targets,
then blend back into the crowd. They
are a blob more than a block, an indiscriminate, anonymous
of aggression and rather empty rhetoric. During the destruction of
London’s financial district in 1999, a statement was printed and
distributed inside thousands of masks: “Our masks
are not to
conceal our identity but to reveal it…Today we shall give this
resistance a face; for by
putting on our masks we reveal our unity;
and by raising our voices in the street together, we
speak our
anger at the facelessness of power.” Inspiring, but the reverse
seems to be more true:
rather than distinguishing themselves
from peaceful protesters they seem to foster paranoia
the police forces, as unjustified as it may be. In between bursts of
vandalism (and no I will
not call it “violence” – injuring, harassing and
intimidating innocuous demonstrators is violence,
this is just petty
property damage), the Bloc shed their black clothes to blend in with
the crowd,
and police continually tried to justify their crackdown by
insisting protesters contained Bloc
members in their “civilian” clothes.
Surely, after several decades of this type of tactic in large-scale protests,
those involved would have some idea that this claim – that dressing up in
black protects non-violent protesters – is a ruse. So why the disguises?
It seems far more likely that it protects individual members, rendering
them indistinguishable from each other, and the inevitable photographs
that do get taken unusable as evidence. Smart, yes, but to confuse them
with a highly-organized political group is as misguided as confusing the
G20 with a legitimate and democratic international body. In one of the
saddest images of the weekend, property destruction that was initially
highly-selective – singling out banks and large corporations – became
far less discriminate along Yonge St., where a tousit info centre and a
little tacky Mom & Pop souvenir shop was counted among the casualties.
They were teenagers, most of them, 18 or 19.
But the clumsiest disguises on Friday weren’t the Bloc. During the march
I came across four burly men being taunted by protesters. How the force
has yet to discover a convincing way to look like a demonstrator is
absolutely beyond me. One wore a tiny Che Guevera patch on his backpack
and had a marijuana-leafed bandanna around his neck, itself smacking of a
hasty Google search on “How to Look Like an Anarchist”. But it was the
shiny leather boots that gave them away – that and the fact that when
asked about Che Guevera they looked straight ahead and failed to
respond, the same look all police gave when confronted over the weekend.
They were found out in a similar way at the Montebello Summit in Quebec
in 2007 – that time they were caught with rocks in their hands, one of the
worst instances of illegal agent provocateurs in the last decade.
While there hasn’t been any confirmation that undercover police provoked
violence in Toronto, it’s worth wondering what exactly they were doing
there. Surely the hundreds of cops along the sidelines could have sensed
if the crowd was getting tense. Did they really think they were going to
uncover some plot to attack the police or cause mayhem?
Nevertheless, Friday came and went with only a few incidents and a
handful of arrests, and it almost seemed as if the summit might come and
go with little fanfare. On Saturday around noon, crowds began forming in
Queen’s Park for the People First March, a labour rally intended to be
“family-friendly”. It was raining, but there were still thousands of
demonstrators by 1:30pm, when the organizers struggled to get everyone
in a coherent line to begin marching. I came there to film some friends
performing street theatre – under the auspices of a little Christian-
anarchist group known as the Beansprout Collective, run by Jared Both
– but the march started before they were assembled, and they were forced
to perform an impromptu rendition further down University Ave. Armed
with cardboard boats painted with various G8 countries’ flags, they enacted
a drama wherein world leaders remain in their own private boats afloat
on the rising tide of the economy (based on an actual analogy made by
Stephen Harper ), while ordinary people living on the coasts pay for
their recklessness
. I wonder if passers-by didn’t just absorb a more
general sense of turmoil and confusion – it was certainly in the air –
but there was a theological and political richness to this performance
that unfortunately may have been lost amidst the more simplistic
sloganeering. In the end, the boats find Mt. Ararat, but rather than
coming to rest peacefully like Noah, they capsize. I have often thought that
demonstrations like this are part of an innate desire to make visible the
global destruction that otherwise remains primarily hidden in countries
like Canada – a need that links both aggressive and peaceful activists.
Despite the even greater diversity of marchers – which, unlike Friday,
included groups normally not associated with left-wing activism –
there was a palpable feeling that, as the G20 leaders were escorted
by helicopter to the Metro Convention Centre on Front St., this day would
not end peacefully, which proved to be well-founded. Sadly, the most
pressing concerns barely received a word in the mainstream press.
Local Tibetans with fire in their eyes took the appearance of Chinese
President Hu Jintao at the summit to demand independence. They
paid little attention to the police, and I can only assume, when the
march dispersed into pockets of vandalism and peaceful stand-offs, they
dispersed. This is tragic, because their demonstrations highlighted how
the G20 – expanded from the original 8 countries to include the most
flagrant human rights abusers in the world – represents the ultimate
demise of democracy in the face of economic“order.” We live on
coasts, not boats.
By 2:00, as protesters began nearing Queen St., lines of riot police
began blocking various streets between Queen and Richmond.
The march rounded Queen at University and headed towards Spadina
At Queen and Spadina the march began to break up, and while
some headed north on Spadina, crowds began forming just south of
the intersection against the lines of cops who blocked off all corners
of the Spadina/Richmond intersection. Protesters began donning
vinegar-soaked bandannas, and there was the expectation that the
police would start pushing back. Having wrongly assumed that any
confrontation would happen here, eventually I turned back to Queen
At 3:00 some protesters lit flares at Queen/Spadina, in clear site of
the riot police just 50 yards or so south, but nothing was done. At
around 3:30 I headed east on Queen, slightly behind the vandalism
that I had no idea was taking place. It didn’t take long. Halfway
between Spadina and John St. – no more than 100 yards from riot
police positioned on both sides – I watched two squad cars get beaten
up periodically, the glass smashed by metal sewer caps and other
hard objects. It is worth mentioning that maybe a dozen people – in
a crowd that at times numbered in the hundreds – were responsible
for vandalising the cars. The rest were onlookers, independent media
like myself, and other protesters, including many who bravely stood
up to this nonsense. When one of the vandals defended his actions by
saying “This is our day”, one woman pleaded with them to recognize
that the protests were about global justice and not sticking it to the
police. “This isn’t about us,” she cried passionately.
I watched this charade for about 20 minutes, in which time onlookers
began to speculate about what two police cars were doing abandoned
in the middle of the path of marchers. They served no strategic purpose,
and given the slews of police horses and fully-equipped riot cops,
made little sense as a means of confronting or dispersing crowds. It is
hard to conclude that they served any other purpose than magnets for
those inclined to vandalism, intentionally-placed photo-ops in the
making. The press statements that followed by Blair and others seems
to only confirm this – photographs of the three police vehicles which
were later torched became the defining icon of the entire weekend, and
a way of justifying the billion dollars spent on security. The burnt-out
shells became the most mutually-beneficial displays of the summits:
for the police, for photojournalists and editors who might never go to
Beirut or Palestine to witness true chaos, for summit leaders aiming to
deflect the genuine concerns of demonstrators, and for anarchists for
whom direct action and staging a media circus is the only option left.
Everyone but those who stand to genuinely lose from the G8/G20
policies and/or those interested in more constructive global justice.
I thought again of the Tibetan demonstrators, and a Buddhist monk
standing alone at the south end of the security fence, beating a drum
for world peace.
There were other practical reasons why the police might choose not
to interfere with property destruction: later, in what can only be
described as a systematic campaign of obfuscation on the part of the
Toronto police, hundreds of protesters became implicated in the actions
of what was almost certainly limited to a few dozen agitators. After the
Bloc and others moved up Yonge St. around 4pm, in a wave of vandalism
that lasted over an hour and during which not a single member of
the 19,000 police in the city could be found, Blair would accuse all those
in the vicinity (the majority of whom most likely self-identified as
members of the media in some form or another) of “complicity” in these
actions. Complicit? Unarmed (and probably frightened) onlookers
and media representatives just doing their job carry the responsibility
and not thousands of police, some of whom, at around 4:15 pm in the
midst of the destruction, were spotted farther south on King St.
removing their riot gear and taking a break? The fact that these
egregious statements largely went unchecked by major news outlets
contributed to a collapse in coverage of the weekend. In fact, in
moments of duress large media representatives often disappeared,
leaving coverage to independents – as a result, what may prove to be
one of the most photographed/filmed events in Canadian history
still managed to be poorly reported (only now, days later, are the real
stories beginning to trickle in).
I didn’t walk up Yonge St., but after passing an abandoned streetcar
covered in graffiti near Nathan Phillips Square (the movement against
the TTC was one cause I absolutely failed to understand in the context
of an international summit), I turned down a nearly empty Bay St.,
heading north. Considering that, at the same time, windows were being
smashed just a couple blocks east, the silence was odd. In a way, though,
it was also fitting, since the opportunity for destruction only presents
itself in situations where a civilian presence is lacking: ordinary people
who wanted nothing to do with the summit were either driven out of the
downtown core or opted to stay in their homes based on the increased
security presence, allowing free reign for vandals. Finally, at Dundas
and Bay, where some limited semblance of normalcy was operating,
a massive formation of riot police marched towards me, performing
a ridiculous military about-face when they reached Bay St. They were
doing drills in a peaceful, if slightly empty, part of downtown, while a
couple blocks over the city was being destroyed. At this point it
began to feel like everything was being orchestrated from afar, that
the whole event was as spurious and empty as this procession.
I finally reached Queen’s Park in time to see all four corners around 
College St.
and University blocked by riot police. This was around 5:00,
and tellingly, a pile of black clothing lay on the grass outside the
University of Toronto’s medical building. The Black Bloc had dispersed.
There were several hundred protesters, but it was unclear how many
followed the destruction up Yonge St., or how many congregated here
(either before or after the police appeared) on their own accord. This
was, after all the “designated protest zone”; the place where, more than
any other part of Toronto, protesters should have felt safe to demonstrate.
The police had already begun to periodically charge north and west, and
I was told an elderly man had been knocked to the ground by a riot
shield. Thus began the crackdown. The cops charged in short bursts
with several minutes of nervous energy and collective cries of “Shame”
from the protesters in between. Those who chose to sit down in front
of the line were met with beatings and arrests. I was hit twice by
paintball guns – once from behind when I was merely trying to get
out of the way. One man with several police on him appeared to
have suffered a broken or sprained leg. Those closest to the line
were pepper sprayed. Only after this was well underway, did protesters
throw a few useless water bottles into the crowd, the entire extent
of “violence” against the police I saw all weekend.
But by 6:00 it appeared to have petered out. The police had not moved
for about 30 minutes, and the crowd had dwindled to maybe 150-200
people, mostly media (there were few protest signs left), with just as
many if not more police. The whole day was turning from boring to
farcical to tragic and back so many times it was making my head spin,
and at around 6:30 I prepared to call it a day and go home. I watched the
NBC van pack up and drive north around Queen’s Park Circle; most of
the other major news outlets appeared to be doing the same.
Then the oddest thing happened: in the midst of this non-protest that
would have inevitably dispersed completely in a matter of a couple
hours, the police decided to send everyone home themselves.
This was not just the 20 feet they had pushed back over the last two
hours, but a stampede, complete with galloping horses, which would
run through the crowd to disperse them, turning around within feet
of the Ontario parliament building (the irony of this kind of needless
intimidation and abuse happening literally on the doorstep of the
McGuinty government was not lost on the crowd). Throughout,
small groups of police could be seen pointing at random individuals
in the crowd then bursting out and tackling them to the ground and
bringing them behind the lines to be sent to the detainment centre.
I saw a young girl on a bike being knocked down and a man
trampled by a horse.
While the Toronto police would later claim they acted according
to procedure, it was clear that wasn’t the case. Several times I saw
police brutally attacking protesters only to be restrained by other
officers. Given the sheer number of police present, it is highly
unlikely that the majority of them have experience with crowd
control – they were driven as much by fear, stress and adrenaline
as everyone else, they just happened to be the ones with the authority
and the expensive toys. At some point it appeared the entire line
was replaced by another division with more experience, who continued
to push everyone back up Queen’s Park Circle, but without the
random arrests. We were driven down Harbord until the crowd was
dispersed in two different directions by Trinity College. Again, the
horses were used to charge, and the police allowed them to come
dangerously close to the line of protesters.
On Sunday, the police refused to even wait for any signs of
vandalism or aggression before they made arrests. Organizers of the
protests – and many visiting from outside of Toronto, including a
large number of Quebecois activists – were raided overnight and
arrested. One young couple with a six month-old son were raided
at 4am by police who refused to show a warrant and only later
realized they had the wrong apartment. An afternoon rally at
the corner of Eastern and Pape Ave., where the temporary
detention centre was set up in an old film studio (as if the whole
weekend hadn’t had enough un-reality already), was broken up
after an hour despite the fact that even mainstream media sources
admit there was no “visible provocation”.

The protests were beginning to take on an anti-Vietnam War vibe:
the Eastern Ave. protesters were singing songs in solidarity with
those being detained, then many of them were sent there
themselves. Later that evening, at Queen and Spadina, a
spontaneous rendition of “O Canada” was met with a sudden charge
by police. It was that distinct brand of irony that makes you sound
pedantic for even labelling it as such.
While I managed to avoid getting arrested, there has been enough
testimony from the “prison” to establish that it was indeed a nightmare.
There were reports of cramped shared cells with cold concrete floors,
hours without water, harassment, and zero access to medical
treatment. There have been increasing reports of women being
sexually harassed.
And some of these people were bystanders who
wanted nothing to do with the protests, many detained after the
police decided to close in on Queen and Spadina from all four corners
on Sunday night, arresting everyone trapped inside. Many were
even accredited journalists, like Jesse Rosenfeld who was working on
an article for The Guardian, but was beaten and arrested by police
after revealing an “Alternative Media” press pass.
And then the official contortions rolled in. Ex-PC leader John Tory
told CBC Radio that “thousands of peaceful protesters didn’t give the
police any problems and weren’t given any problems”, as if anyone
involved in demonstrations over the course of the weekend had
not been harassed in some form. For Blair, the violence was not
limited to a few dozen people but “hundreds”, who came to Toronto
with the “intent to commit criminal acts”. Given the force’s inability
to discern between vandals and members of the media – let alone
between peaceful and violent protesters – this number seems
whimsically arbitrary. Blair even held the Toronto Community
Mobilization Network responsible, the group which facilitated a
good deal of the general marches and demonstrations throughout
the weekend, but who have never, to my knowledge, advocated any
kind of vandalism or aggression. Again, these organizers were
“complicit”, as if they could have controlled the actions of thousands
of protesters, but the police who failed to rescue independent
businesses on Yonge St. from vandalism were just doing their job.
And since they were facing “organized criminals”, Blair rolled out
a vast “weapons cache” at a press conference on Tuesday. A
menacing collection, it seemed, until the arrows covered in sports
socks (which Blair insisted were there to be covered in flammable
liquid and set ablaze) and chain mail were revealed to belong to some
Tolkien fanatic, innocently trying to cross town to take part in a
role-playing game. When pressed, Blair also admitted the chainsaw
and crossbow were confiscated in an incident completely unrelated
to the summits.
Also included were bandannas and gas masks, as if protection for
demonstrations that most protesters (rightly) predicted would
include tear gas, counted as “weapons.” It made perfect sense now:
protecting one’s own health was akin to wielding a weapon.
Peaceful protesters were advocating violence, or at least complicit
in it. Independent journalists were criminals.
Then, in a complete collapse of accountability and proportionality,
Blair called the Bloc “terrorists.” The same word that most experienced
commentators find problematic even in the context of the loss of
innocent life. One might even argue that this title gives more political
credibility to the “movement” than either the police or the Canadian
government would be ready to admit, but I suppose the irrational
grip that the word has on most Westerners trumps all else.
Admittedly, the hyperbole ran both ways. Was Canada really becoming,
in the words of so many protesters, a “police state”? It was, after all,
only the extenuating circumstances – where ordinary life in the
downtown core was almost completely shut down for an entire
weekend – which allowed the breach of basic rights. It seems to me just
as valid to protest that a country which normally allows citizens full
autonomy and recourse to the law should not be allowed to suspend
those rights even under situations of duress. This isn’t about a
complete failure of democracy – even if our countries often facilitate
its destruction in less developed nations – but about the limits of democracy.
And yet, despite what appeared to myself and many other witnesses to
these events as a self-evident breach of rights, a poll conducted after
the weekend was over found that 73% of Torontonians thought the
police actions were “justified”. Was this simply a failure of the media
or were most Torontonians just not paying close enough attention?
Did they think all 900 arrests were of violent anarchists? It’s interesting
to note that the exact same percentile thought that holding the summits
in Toronto was a “mistake”, suggesting that the desire of most residents
in the city was just for the whole thing – the leaders and the protesters
– to go away.
They might have their wish. It would be so much easier to let it all
disappear – for the government to count its losses, for the police to
launch a private, internal “inquiry”. Even to drop all the charges
against the organizers, to silence the protests which have continued
this week. To board up the windows and allow this whole carnival to
play itself out again in some other city. To insist that this was merely
a problem of local security and not global democracy.
Everything about this weekend could have been predicted: when
you suspend everyday life you can’t expect normal behaviour. When
you manipulate legal rights you can’t expect lawful responses. When
you hold a summit for fragmented, self-serving and un-democratic
purposes, you can only expect the same from your populace.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fantino to Public: Stay Out of Police Affairs

As if the death of Robert Dzienkanski at the hands of RCMP didn't put the public's perception of Canadian police officers in jeopardy already. Rather than admitting what it was -- a careless abuse of power -- and distancing themselves from the incident (however dishonest that would be), the RCMP have taken to defending it as a matter of due course. It is apparently part of officer training to interpret raising two hands in the air as saying "go to hell", as it is to assume that four officers can't restrain a man with a stapler without recourse to a weapon. Oh yeah, and Dzienkanski "directly disregarded a command", which begs the question of how someone who doesn't speak English is supposed to regard a command in the first place.

Now OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino -- whose dark imprint left on Toronto as the city's Police Chief can be seen here -- has taken to deriding the public for questioning the incident. He sneeringly dismissed criticism from those who "could never pass recruitment training", perhaps because ordinary people wouldn't be able to bring themselves to taser a confused Polish immigrant five times. The message is clear: issues involving police treatment of the public need to be handled within the force. Perhaps someone should tell Fantino that the concept of accountability and third-party monitoring is the backbone of a democratic society.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Falling Asleep with the TV On

by Zoe Alexis-Abrams

Previewed, dreams turn heinous,
untrue: like pausing a foreign film at its climax,
subtitles bright yellow against someone's chest,
set against picture, not to follow
a general rule: shot of Detroit and
you're a good friend, Steve scrolled below—
veins of traffic running yellow

around Motor City, an aerial view,
the same colour, but a betrayal—
my waking sensibility.

Shoes lined up behind the line,
ready to walk before me.
Hatchet through the bathroom door:

this is my dream,
but not.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Reviews of the Next 10 Blogs on Blogger

Just thought I'd have a scope-out of my Blogger neighbours. Greet my virtual community, and maybe get some future ideas for content.

1. Kerolato Hecho a Mano -- Bogota, Colombia

1 Single Post, with a little rosy-cheeked girl holding some kind of certificate. I don't speak Spanish, but I'm pretty sure it's a certificate for "Most Likely to Start a Blog and then Not Do Anything With It". Also, she doesn't have any followers either, so this was a boost to my self-esteem.

2. Combo Ninos, Jetix Combo Ninos, Serie Animada Combo Ninos, Personaje de Combo Ninos

Ok, we get it. Combo Ninos. Which is, apparently an anime featuring capoeira-fighting kids who change into animals. For "ages 6-10" according to Animation magazine, so I think this blogger is a kid too. Maybe I can get him to design my page.

3. The Hokey Pokey

Finally, something in English. Can I just say that no-one wants their music interrupted by a page that automatically loads its own tunes. Especially Squeeze. The latest post is on a device to apply moisturizer to your back, apparently the result of a sudden burst of inspiration after not posting for two weeks. The rest of the blog seems to be about weather, so I guess those two things are "what it's all about" when you live in rural Washington State. I left before I could be plagued with any more AOR. Also, she has two followers, so I hate myself again.

4. Prohibido Decirno

I'm not sure if that's the name of the blog, or just the link which tells me "Permission Denied", but either way I apparently have to be "invited" to view this. Which, ok fine, I mean I baked you this rum cake, and I was going to invite you to play Twister with me, the 40-year old from Washington and the two Spanish kids, but whatever.

5. Shauna's World

Hey "Little Miss Sunshine", how many pictures can you post of people standing by your stupid snow hut? Also, you say there are all these "fab pics" of your mock wedding to Eleanor, but they're not there, which makes me think this whole "mock wedding" is just a scam so you can get your green card.

Sorry, I just found out that when I press 'Back' on my browser and then "Next Blog" I get something different every time, which means it will be very difficult for us all to reach out and form a Neighbourhood Watch.

6. Laguz Brecho

This appears to be some kind of shoe blog, based out of Brazil. You're not coming to my house because you use too many exclamation points, and I don't want those monstrosities sitting in my front entrance. Also, I don't speak Portuguese.

7. Frost 4 Now

"About Me (Rokt): I am a 80 Draenei Death Knight on the European realm Aggramar. A member of British Empire and an avid Warcraft player." I understand Portuguese better than I understand this.

8. La Trastienda

'Trastienda' is Spanish for "back room" and according to the photos, the blog seems to involve the use of high-tech recording devices and/or seances inside old Catholic monuments to find traces of paranormal activity. Moving on...

9. Filipe Cintra

Lots of headline photos with funny (or I can only presume meant to be funny) headlines, way too many capitals, and a pukey-orange design.



"Healthy and Beauty Space"

Monday, February 2, 2009


I hope wherever we're going
they save a space for us.

At the gas station,
I held the door for a man
who squeezed by me awkwardly.

I forget whether I returned his nod.

And you,

my first man-crush

knowing all the back routes to Toronto
but cautious with words.

Vaguely aware that one false move will cast us both into oblivion.

3 Prayers


I'm so thankful

for everything you haven't given me.

Dear God,

Please let me live
to beg again.

Dear Mother,
I'm sorry,
I've hung with the wrong crowd.

I will learn to use a knife and fork again.

(Painting "Venus of the Rags" by Michelangelo Pistoletto, 1967 -- Hirshorn Museum, Washington D.C.)

For Lynndie England

What starts at the top
of the chain of command


like a rock

to the bottom.

Where the rope
between your hand
and his neck

back and forth

across a vanishing front line.

Where your nervous smile
Says you'd kill to be
anywhere else.

Where the ghosts of spoiled regimes,

prisoner and guard,

still have their way.