Saturday, October 20, 2007

Lame-o Five

Have you heard of the newest fad in the blogosphere? Listing the five things you do, did or like that some may consider “totally lame,” but that you are totally proud of.

I'm on to this raging fad because of El Beño.

Not to be left behind...

FIRST: I never buy or watch pirated DVDs and I do not own pirated music. This self-righteousness has not made me new friends but I will not dither. As an artist who has made very very very little money from art I sympathise with those who need to protect their work. I heartily approve of artists who give their work free, who encourage sharing knowing that they will benefit in the end, and those who offer their work for any price (yeah, Radiohead) but I also strive to protect those who put their work up for sale and do not expect to be robbed. I am not swayed by arguments that "that [artist's name] is already so rich". The problem with this is that some friends stare at me strangely and necessarily don't invite me to their movie nights. And I have to pay a lot more in the short run.

SECOND: I am a rabid Greg Keelor fan. Greg is one of the singer/songwriters in Blue Rodeo and my favorite musician. I have a story about Greg stopping a song to ask me if I'd told him to shut up. He was starting to sing something a cappella (was it 'Diamond Mine'?) in Philadelphia and some drunk Canadian women in the audience would not stop talking. I yelled 'Shut up' at THEM and Greg stopped and said "Did you tell me to shut up?" He understood and was joking but I was devastated. Later I managed to say "I didn't mean you" and he grinned and said he knew. Special note to Jim Cuddy fans: Jim is awesome too and I'm not interested in arguments about who is better. Greg is only my favorite musician in the world but I admire Jim very much. (And he's a lot friendlier with strangers like me than Greg is. Only Jim would have noticed that I was following Blue Rodeo around the British Isles and dedicated a song to me half way through the tour.)

THIRD: I like railway (/railroad) locomotives, rolling stock (but not long German four-wheelers), tracks (especially), signals, couplers (but not buffers), schedules, crews, maps, history, pioneers, museums, stations, yards, tunnels, bridges, crossings, legends, models, games, fiction, archeology, policy, advocacy, politics, passengers and TRAVEL.

FOURTH: I buy and wear used clothing whenever possible.

FIFTH: I declared all my earnings when I was a restaurant server in Montreal. More self-righteousness. I get very impatient with members of the artist / bohemian crowd (who made up the staff where I worked) who demand government services (especially to artists and bohemians) but who do not pay their share of taxes. I wonder if this was an indirect cause of my sacking - the stated reason was shabby dress (see #4 above?). Restaurant serving was the job I think I've done best in my whole life and which I've enjoyed the most.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Islamabad and Rawalpindi 2004

I'm refurbishing some of my 'Souvenirs' albums on my website. (It's amazing how they somehow seem to get stale. Part of the problem now is that my friend Jacqueline taught me how to adjust the levels with PhotoShop and now I hate all my old photo formulations.) Here's stuff from Pakistan in 2004.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Capital Punishment in Afghanistan

Despite all the troubles in Afghanistan I thought until today that at least this country and its struggling government had the integrity to maintain its moratorium on capital punishment, a practice I find abhorrent and wrong for so many reasons. (Readers may remember my fervent blogging over a threatened execution in Liberia last year.) Sadly, this morning I read about an official execution of 15 Afghans two days ago.

Here is Amnesty International's statement. I agree with all of it except that I personally do not choose to emphasize most of their points in the sixth paragraph because I believe capital punishment is equally and morally wrong in all cases - I could not have advocated the execution of Hitler or Pol Pot... though if I'd been in charge they would have wished for it.

Amnesty International condemned the executions of 15 people on Sunday 7 October 2007 in Afghanistan. The 15 men were executed by firing squad at the Pul-i Charkhi high security prison outside Kabul. They had been charged with a variety of offences including rape, murder, attacking security posts, robbery and looting.

Amnesty International particularly regrets these executions at a time when there is a real global momentum towards the abolition of the death penalty. A total of 133 countries from all regions of the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice and there is an overall decline in the number of reported executions. On 10 October, World Day against the Death Penalty, people around the globe will be protesting against the use of the death penalty, and later this month the UN General Assembly will be voting on a resolution calling on all governments to support a global moratorium on executions.

These executions mark an end to a three year moratorium on executions in Afghanistan, and comes shortly after the Taleban executed a 15 year old in southern Afghanistan.

Amnesty International considers the death penalty as a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. As the world continues to turn away from the use of the death penalty, the execution of these 15 men is an anomaly. Such state sanctioned killing is all the more unacceptable where, as in this case, there are serious doubts about the fairness of trials.

The last execution in Afghanistan was that of Abdullah Shah in April 2004. At the time of his trial in October 2002 the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, following her observance of his trial proceedings, stated there were concerns “that the safeguards and restrictions according to international standards for imposing capital punishment cannot be observed at this stage.” In 2003, the UN Commission on Human Rights called on the Afghan government to "declare a moratorium on the death penalty in the light of procedural and substantive flaws in the Afghan judicial system."

The death penalty is often discriminatory in its application, used disproportionately against the poor, minorities and members of racial, ethnic and religious communities. It is often imposed after unfair trials, the risk of executing the innocent has been persistently demonstrated, and executions have never been proved to have any unique deterrent effect against crime. Amnesty International believes that executions are brutalizing, dehumanising those that carry it out and devaluing the worth that society places upon human life.

Amnesty International again calls on the Afghan government to immediately impose an official moratorium on the use of the death penalty.