Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Mother Jones" loses a war.

First I'd like to make a homonym distinction, I don't mean "lose" as in "Losing to Boston 7-2" I mean losing as in "I lost my left shoe."

Mother Jones Magzine has an interactive timeline which claims to show all the lies leading up to Gulf War IV.

Yeah, Gulf War FOUR. The first one was the Iran/Iraq war which lasted from 1979 to 1989, and had been over when the timeline begins. Not included? Fine. However, Gulf War III, also known as Operation Desert Fox, and the events that led up to it are completely absent, at least from the internet interactive timeline. Where did it go? Why were arguments used to blow up much of Iraq's infrostructure the day of Clinton's impeachment and the week following, completely erased from Mother Jones' historical memory?

For the same reason that Bush Sr.'s betrayal of the Democratic revolution he INITIATED surpressed, which is to make Saddam look like an innocent victim.

It's sick.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Toronto: day "—7"

Today, we've got a the last couple of prefestival screenings down here in New York. This might be termed "Indian autumn" as it got down to the fifties overnight and the weather is awful. We're going to start posting reviews on Monday, these will be major films that have already opened in New York, but that's for later.

Meanwhile, I have to change a half a grand to canadian so I could pay the hotel bill in advance as they don't take credit cards. I stayed there last year, and that's the only drawback to an otherwise wonderful little place.

Meanwhile there are three films, the week's big releases that aren't having press screenings, They can't be THAT bad could they?

Saturday, August 26, 2006


That is the address of the spammer who's been sending me about 89 emails so far this afternoon.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Their next target is Mercury

It's obvious, now that some evil astronomers have "booted" Pluto out of the solar system, their next target is Mercury, which has a famously unstable orbit [it was a proof of Einsteins's theory of relativity] and is smaller than two moons.

They're going to try to get another one folks, and soon we'll be living on an asteroid.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Toronto: day —8

Well, they've announced the full list of flicks and three films that I mentioned were NOT being shown a few days back ARE. They are:

Breaking and Entering
A Good Year

So with seven of the major "Oscar-bait" flicks being shown, if not more, we're going to have a pretty good idea who might just make it in.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

toronto: day —10

We've got three scheduled toronto flicks to see before we actually got to the festival in a little more than two weeks. Our real coverage will begin a week from monday.

Toronto’s film festival has been famous as the place that where the fall’s Oscar bait generally makes its debut. Last March three of the five the picture nominees had their debut there, and the previous year two. Generally a couple of foreign-language films get shown here get Oscar noms, so it’s a good place to start looking at the field for next march.

Looking at the various Oscar® blogs, the following list is what’s generally considered to be in contention:

Films I’ve seen and have already opened:

A Prairie Home Companion,
The latest from Robert Altman, who's been very irregular in the quality of his output.

World Trade Center
Oliver Stone's most patriotic film ever.

Flight 93
If WTC doesn't make it this will, but both won't.

Inside Man
Spike Lee's best film in years.

Films that we’re sure are opening in Toronto:

Little Children
The Fountain
Copying Beethoven
The Last King of Scotland

The above films will probably get nominated for something. Maybe best picture, but maybe not.

Other stuff that’s been mentioned, but probably won't be shown at Toronto:

Breaking and Entering
Goya's Ghosts
The Good Shepherd
The Good German
Running With Scissors
The Painted Veil
A Good Year
Flags of Our Fathers
The Departed
Youth Without Youth
Inland Empire

The above is just a list of course, and the most of them aren’t mine. I’ve seen a couple of the films without a link, but that’s because of embargoes and such, and thus can’t comment. We’ll go over everything after the NY film festival is over in October. Then we should have a far better picture of what’s going on.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Planets in size order, assuming that Ceres is upgraded

The international Astronomical union is debating whether or not to add three extra plantes to the official list. The list below includes the moons and Keiuper belt objects that are larger than them.

Radius (miles)
Jupiter 71492 This may not be a planet at all, but a brown dwarf star
Saturn 60268 This may not be a planet at all, but a brown dwarf star
Uranus 25559
Neptune 24764
Earth 6378
Venus 6052
Mars 3398
Ganymede 2631
Titan 2575
Mercury 2439
Callisto 2400
Io 1815
Moon 1738
Europa 1569
Triton 1353
Xena(2003 UB313)
Pluto 1160

Santa(2005 FY9)
2003 EL61
90377 Sedna
90482 Orcus
50000 Quaoar

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The middle east before the war: Mt Nebo

Oct 13th The Dan Nature reserve, Western Jordan

Our first stop of the day was a crusader castle called Shobar, which was built in 1115 and was captured by Saladin in 1189. The name means “Forest”, which was all chopped down by the Turks in the time just before World War One. You may be wondering why no one has tried to plant a new forest like the Israelis did back in the 1950s. Someone said that the Arabs didn’t like trees…anyway…There are cisterns and a chapel, under which was the bank vault and a winery,

After the crusaders were kicked out, the castle was turned into a village and the structure was until 1955. Sort of like the tombs in Petra, which had the residents thrown out slightly earlier.

After the eviction, the archeologists went to work, and they found plenty of Islamic inscriptions by pious Moslems who wanted to obliterate all traces of Christianity in the region. On the whole, it was not too impressive. Afterwards we went to the visiters center for the nature preserve, got some decent souveniers, and then went to one of the worst looking hotels in the middle east.

Dana six PM

Mistakes can be dangerous things, and although near-death experiences are usually better than actually dying, I should have known that I was too out of shape to go on a nature hike down a 70-degree vertical revine.

Going down was relatively easy, although the guy took us down some difficut paths around a mile down, where we say a blue lizard and pretty much nothing else but the same scenery we saw up at the top. It was all very pleasant until we discovered there was really no way back up except the way we came. At least most of the way. Being out of shape, I was at the rear, taking easy stages, although my body began to give out a quarter way back up the mountain. The guide lagged behind with me and we managed to catch up with Marie, the stewardess from east 83rd street. Three members of the group didn’t bother to go, including one person who cut out about one tenth the way down.

I don’t know exactly why I went, maybe it was macho, maybe it was guilt for not climbing that volcano in Nicaragua earlier in the year, Whatever it was, I was about three quarters the way there when the guide got fed up and decided to abandon me (Marie got a second wind and was gone), taking a short cut somewhere near the cliff face and I foolishly decided to follow him.

There are tales of little old ladies lifting cars to save their loved ones, and after this I know that they’re true. I lost the guide, and there I was at the bottom of a hundred and fifty foot cliff. Looking down, I discovered I was somehow trapped, and so I took off my sandals, put them in my tote bag, and started climbing. I had seen a couple of Israelis climbing a few minutes earlier, and thought it was the way. Unfortunately, I climbed the wrong path and was stuck about ninety feet up with really no way to get down to try again. Death loomed. I’m not really sure how I got down, but I did and I tried the next “path” and scampered up like a little kid making it to the top in no time.

The tour leader was looking out over the scenery for any trace of me when I got there. An Israeli helped me the last few feet, and that’s when my body collapsed from fatigue. It was like the crash after you get really high on some illegal intoxicant, My feet were in tatters and I almost had to crawl up the road to the hotel. It was without a doubt the greatest athletic feat of the past decade. I was a bit delirious and was denouncing myself loudly for the next hour while we waited for dinner.


After dinner, there was a band and bellydancers and a whole bunch of people from several of the hotels in the area were partying. I wanted to join in but my feet were in tatters and I couldn’t. I wouldn’t be able to walk properly until well into Syria.

Oct 14th

Karak is an another crusader castle which was built on the ruins of the capitol of Moab. It was a Bishphoric during the Byzantine empire, and during the crusades, obviously, the castle was constructed and it’s one of the biggest in Jordan, six stories high. This is a masterpiece of recycling, as most of the stones were cut by previous civilizations going back thousands of years. But what we really wanted to do was bathe in the Dead Sea, known throughout the world for it’s curative powers. The agony of de feet required them.

The extra-salty water stung quite a bit but not as bad as advertised. It also didn’t do much to make my dogs feel any better. After a short trip to cool down in a air conditioned souvenir shop, we headed up to the place where Moses viewed the promised land before he croaked back in the 12th Century BCE.

Famous lookout spot on Mt. Nebo is one of those holy places which is now dedicated solely to tourism. Back during 2000, Pope John Paul II visited and there dozens of commemorative plaques were set up, including one by the anti-Zionist “Danish Palestine Society” which is kind of hypocritical for a place famous for the first Zionist exercise in the history of the world. Aside from the view, allegedly on a clear day you can see Jerusalem, there’s a ruined church with lots of beautiful mosaics. The place is a ruin now, but it’s being restored as a tourist attraction, run by the Catholic church, although was built by the Eastern Orthodox. But then the Pope did show up.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I have a new book out!!!! Don't buy it!

It's called: Discovering the Mysteries of Ancient America: Lost History And Legends, Unearthed And Explored and contains an article by me which I gave no permission to reprint. Also, it was the cause of something resembling libel on the part of the editors and a dozen or more letters to the editor of the original magazine.

The lawsuit should be interesting.



The crowd at the Castle of the Three Kings of the Orient is larger than one would expect for a daily event, but the evening is lovely and there’s really no reason to avoid just hanging out with friends after a hard day’s work, or touring. The sun has just set and the show is starting…


A soldier clad in 18th century uniform walks through the crowd wielding a torch, which he juggles like a bowling pin. This is the first part of an age-old ceremony, where the Spanish army would warn pirates that they weren’t welcome. Calling for silence in this solemn event, he’s soon joined by others similar dress. One carries a cannonball, the other gunpowder. They do their job and ker-POW!

That’s it. The ceremony’s over and the crowd begins to disperse, but one cannot help but think that what they were really aiming at was not ancient buccaneers, but Florida 90 miles to the northeast. This is Cuba, America’s nemesis, and forbidden fruit for tens of thousands of Yankee tourists every year. The government won’t let us go. What better reason to try.

The lure of Cuba is everywhere. Look at the travel section of just about any Barnes and Nobel or Borders bookshop, and you’ll find tons of stuff on Castro’s imprisoned island. Insight Guides, Lonely Planet, Frommer’s…and the World History section has plenty of volumes on Castro and Ché and the like.

Why have all this stuff if you CAN’T GO? It’s very annoying.

So it was poster in ‘s travel agency in Greenwich Village that immediately caught my eye. Legal trips to Cuba! For a short time only. I sort of had the money. It might be years before I had another chance. Why the heck not?

The reason why Cuba had suddenly big now right up there on the wall between Aruba and Bermuda, like everything having to do with it was political. It seems that a decade or so before, the state department and a company called Cross-cultural Solutions had made an agreement to issue the latter travel licenses for so-called “person-to –person “ trips.

This isn’t regular tourism, but a kind of diplomatic investigation where regular Americans can see what exactly was going on. The Clinton Administration didn’t really mind, and there wasn’t advertising, except for a few left-wing political journals.

Then sometime the spring of 2003, all that changed. Someone in the Bush Administration found out that much these trips involved a gentle political indoctrination. How the US is evil and all that rot. So, the official thought, if regular tourism is NOT allowed, then why the heck are we permitting THIS? The Treasury department informed CCS that their general Cuban travel license wouldn’t be renewed when it expired on December 31st.

This provided CCS both disaster and opportunity. No more Cuban trips, but before the license ran out they could make a killing on expensive tours and use the profit to subsidize their other projects, like building houses in West Africa. So they got in touch with General Tours and began advertising. The response was HUGE.

“Why are you going to Cuba?”
“For educational purposes.”
Don’t you know that there’s nothing to see in Cuba?”

Continental Airlines has a daily flight to Havana from Miami international but nobody’s supposed to know about. It’s officially a charter for another company and the check-in process is four hours long. Then you have to go on a separate security line and you wait while people going to Jamaica or Cancun just breeze on by. Then when you finally get to the gate, and we’re not talking about the waiting room, but the middle of the collapsible tunnel between the terminal and the plane, government agents verbally harass you and demand to see your license. Trying to make you feel like a criminal is just the thing to inspire solidarity with Castro.

The first thing one looks for when getting out of José Martí International are the famous antique cars. When the embargo was imposed in January, 1961, the importation of jazzy new cars was suspended, so the cars and the only alternative was crappy vehicles from East Germany, so people took very good care of their ’57 Chevys and ’49 Buicks, creating a rolling museum of cruising.

Some of these beauties are still there. They’ve got new engines, now, and the paint’s an inch thick, and the government has turned most of them into taxis, but the sight of a clunker with tail-fins can still bring a lump in one’s throat. But there aren’t that many, Havana has as many new cars as just about everywhere else. Nobody respects the embargo outside the US. Not even Israel.

We were assigned a bus and were told what was to be expected. This is one of those guided tours of the “if it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium” type. One week, four days in and around Havana and a long trip to the quaint city of Trinidad de Cuba: Propaganda and a beach.

After a look at a monument or two in La Plaza de la Revolucion, we headed to our hotel, the “El Presidente” which is called that because the street next to it has statues of every president prior to Castro, except for the first one, who was considered too close to the US, and Batista, who didn’t have time to put one up to himself when Castro kicked him out. The first guy’s pedestal is still there, though. For some reason they couldn’t pull it out of the ground. Weird.

Havana needs a paint job. Except for the big hotels and diplomatic buildings, the paint is peeling off of everything. The government blames the US. They blame the US for just about everything short of the weather, even that, most likely. But the shabbiness gives the city a rustic charm. From the seawall known as the Malacon to the forests in the south, almost every façade has an air of genteel decay.

There is something to be said about group bus tours. If you don’t know the area, it can be rather helpful learning to find your way around. It’s also fun to find out the reasons for people coming on this thing. After all, it wasn’t the beach. Most of the people were on far lefty persuasion. Old veterans of the anti-Vietnam movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s, younger anti-Bush activists who wanted to apologize to the Cubans for what JFK tried to do to Castro’s beard back before they were born. Then there were a few oldsters who wanted to see how the place changed since they were there last, sometimes more than half a century before. Also, there were a few like myself who just wanted to see the place.

The first night we went to the Miramar district for a pretty decent dinner of chicken, rice and beans while the band played the officially-designated musical set. Wherever we went, for some reason, we they served us the same stuff, and played the same music. It got so we almost got sick of it. That’s socialism for you. But this was a propaganda tour and the main dish was politics, which was unfortunate, because the world cup of baseball was being played and we couldn’t go as there wasn’t time. We had to go to a lecture on the status of women. There was a clause in the contract that he had to follow the program or the tour company would rat on us and we’d get a ten thousand dollar fine.

There were lots of these, One couldn’t really tell how much we were being told was bull and which was the truth. For example, we went west to the border of Pinar del Rio province, where we were going to look at a “community project.” I guess they wanted us to believe that a bunch of locals were doing some artsy-craftsy type of deal and we’d all go “oo” and “ah” over what they could accomplish without the help of the mean old United States. But noooo!! This small community project, was in fact the quite large Los Tarranzas TOURISM complex, which included a five star hotel, a faux arts and crafts center and a plantation museum, which made up for the who scam with one of the best views on the island. One could see both the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean by just moving one’s head from side to side. The lush, dark green forests went on for miles and miles, one hell of a sight. The chicken, rice and beans were pretty good.

When we got back to Havana, we had the chance to see a recreation of the floorshows like they had back in the bad old days of Batista. Unfortunately, the thing cost eighty bucks and not having enough cash [and US credit cards being unusable], I couldn’t make it. I wasn’t the only one in this situation, so a couple of other people and myself went to a local disco that was recommended. Here we met some Germans who complained what s hole Havana was. When we had our fill of that, we hailed a taxi to get back to the hotel, and that’s when the adventure REALLY began.

The taxi was a beat up old East German thing, and the doors didn’t work all that well. Then the driver, who couldn’t speak more than two words of english began making noises that indicated I should tell the police that we were personal friends. I didn’t exactly know what was going on, but then I looked out the window and there was a cop car with the driver motioning to follow. What had we gotten ourselves into? When the car stopped at the corner, we tried to make a quick escape, but one of the cops pulled a gun and motioned for us to get back in. This was the Cuba I had read about. The fascist police state.

We went to the police station where they took the poor driver inside, while they were browbeating him, we made our own getaway in the other direction. They didn’t follow, and we breathed a sigh of relief.

This was a political trip, so we went to listen to a few political propaganda lectures on how the Cuban system works. Sort of like those timeshare things except you have to pay through the nose. Some of it was quite informative, but not in the way the Castro regime wanted it.

Take real estate for instance. People are allowed to own their own homes, but they can’t SELL them. So instead they swap. Person a goes down to one of the designated park benches in central Havana and looks around for someone who has a larger or smaller house, then they make a deal, pay off the proper official, and then hire some movers.

It’s a way that people avoid profit. Communism, right?

Then there’s the Committee to Preserve the Revolution, whose lecture we missed because the waiters were slow. They’re main job is to make sure that their neighborhoods are politically correct and take out the garbage on time. All pretty innocuous until you remember that they can have people taken away…

Finally, we left Havana and went crosss-country to pay homage at the tomb of Che Guavarra and see the sleepy little town of Trinidad de Cuba. This was interesting.

Cuba isn’t the tiny island it likes to pretend it is. It’s the sixteenth largest in the world and is bigger than the rest of the Antilles combined, not counting Hispañola. We got up at five in the morning and got on the bus for the road trip.

Once you get out of Havana, the landscape turns into that lush, tropical island you dream of. Acres and acres of lush forests dotted with occasional homes and other buildings. Not a factory to be seen. Then back to the politics….

Halfway between Havana and our hotel on the Caribbean, we made the obligitory stop at the tomb of Che Guevarra. It’s a big thing, designed for the mass rallies denouncing the United States or worshipping Castro. It was here a couple of years before the ashes of Che and his men were brought back from Bolivia, where, with Castro’s permission, the heroic image on a million tee-shirts was plugged full of holes in 1967.

The building is topped with a monumental statue showing how Che would have looked if he were still alive and in his 70s. It was so moving, a couple of women in the group cried.

Finally, we arrived in the hotel, which was designed by the Soviets and was in badly in need of repair. The beach was not and was the site of a splendid sunset. There is nothing like sitting on the beach with a rum and coke in your hand watching a sunset.

The reason we went over to this side of the island was to view Trinidad de Cuba, the heratige city of the southeast. This is one of the best preserved places in the Caribbean and is almost too quaint for words. Here, a minor miracle occurred.

I was wandering around looking at the architecture, when one of the locals, a beautiful woman in her late twenties, tried to start up a conversation with me. I had taken Spanish all the way from sixth grade to tenth, and most of it went in one ear and out the other, I could ask for directions and a few other things but a real conversation? No! But she spoke no English and for some reason, I understood what she was saying. My Spanish came back and I was able to have a genuine conversation in a foreign language. I was completely in shock as the words came trippingly off my tongue.

Then a fellow tourist broke the spell and said hi. I forgot everything-BAM!-it was gone. I sand “adios” and headed back to the bus, wondering what the hell had just happened.

We headed back to the hotel for a lousy meal and another beautiful sunset. The next morning we were awakened at around five and saw an even better sunset. We headed halfway back across the island to Havana and left the next morning with rum and cigars.

Since I returned, The laws against travel to Cuba have been tightened. You can still go illegally, via Canada [there are dozens of travel agencies who specialize in the place] or Mexico [two or three flights a day from Cancun] or pretty much everywhere, but it may not be worth it.

We’ll have to wait to wait until after the next election to find out what’ll happen.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The middle east before the war: Petra, Jordan

Oct 11

Sela, Jordan 4PM

Sela, or Artham, is the modern town on the outskirts of the fabled “lost city” of Petra, Jordan’s great tourist attraction. This was the capitol of the Nabitean Arabs for the better part of five centuries, and a major trading center for a few more until the place was flattened by an earthquake early in the Byzantine era.

The great African rift goes far to the north of Africa itself, and the suq, the entrance to the lost city, was allegedly created by a magnitude Ten sometime in the Pleistocene. The tremendous colossal quake wrenched open a crack in the earth so large that a person can drive an oxcart through it. This, as you might remember is where Indiana Jones found the entrance to the temple of the holy grail in the third film all those years ago [most of the hotels are forced to show this film at least once a day, and thus they hate it like poison ]

I’ve been here before, eleven years earlier, I had gone with the first YM/WHA trip here, and saw a much less excavated city. Back then, the suq’s floor was nine feet above where it is today, and it was a dirt road. They’ve gotten down to the paved cobblestone floor, and you can see some interesting carvings and fossils dating back two thousand years.

The Arabs invaded this part of the Middle East around 400 BC, the Babylonians had exterminated most of the indigenous Edomites around a century before. The Nabiteans, legend states, were originally from Yemen a century before that, and set up shop, taking cultural bits and pieces from the locals. They would carve tombs in the rocks on a massive scale, and this is what remains. The regular housing, except for one part of a palace, were all flattened by earthquake of 442 CE, or burned down by the Romans, who invaded in 106 CE.

The two main gods were Bashira, who can see and touch but cannot speak, and his mother Alosia, who was similarly handicapped, not much is known about them, as the Christians and muslims weren’t much into preserving pagan traditions. Finally, we get to the bottom of the Suq, and the famous treasury, also known as Al Fasma, which is almost the symbol of the country. A perfect Greco-Roman façade, which now fronts nothing, however, it was the tomb of a great king. Who he was is unknown.

It’s still an amazing sight to behold.

Walking past the theater and the necropolis, we notice a number of restaurants, some ancient, the Nabiteans liked to eat near their dead, and some modern. It’s hot even in October. Tomarrow, I climb to the top of a mountain with a bunch of other people to the great alter, where the ancients would sacrifice to Bashira and Alosia, then rapidly running out of water head back down to ground level where the lost city of the living was and where the museum is now. That has been rebuilt, but still isn’t all that good.

Inside the tombs is the glory of the area. The natural coloration of the rocks is amazing, resembling modern art. God paints like Chigal here. There are snack bars all over the place, and being thirsty, I purchase lots of water whenever I pass one.

The excavations of the city itself shows that paganism died out here about the time it did everywhere else in the Roman world, and by the time the Muslims invaded, the town, which had never recovered from the fifth century earthquake, was in serious decline, another one in 717 left Petra pretty much moribund, and nobody much lived there afterwards. The locals knew there were magnificent ruins, but the west had forgotten the place completely until a guy named Brukhardt found it again in the 18th century.

“A rose-red city half as old as time”, he said. Yup.

Petra Oct 12

Last night I got a bad case of the shits and spent much of the night on the toilet. Also, the roosters were crowing at all hours. I love colonel Saunders just about now…

I’m back at Petra where I’ve just spent almost, if not over ah hour climbing the endless stair to the high place of sacrifice, I’m not too sure that it’s worth it. There’s a refreshment stand near the top and I just spend a dinar on a bottle of Nestle’s water. Otherwise I ould have died…I wonder how they got all this stuff up here? Helecopter?

Just a bit more climbing to do and we’ll see the remains of the temple here. Then it’s all downhill….I’ll still be too hot, but at least gravity will be on my side for once. On top, my bag broke and I had to fix it. I couldn’t, at first, find the way down, which was scary. Even more scary was the way down, which was about an 80 degree drop—vertigo city— and I was very lucky not to fall down and break my neck, although I fell just before getting to the museum. No real harm done to my person.

I met three people from the group and we took donkeys up to a place called the monastery, which was a giant tomb almost as well preserved as the Treasury. My donkey was in a head-on collision with another donkey. It could have been a sexual encounter for all I know. Yet another near-death experience! But I wasn’t winded.

The Monastery, is almost free of withering and is more Persian in style. Almost everything else looked its age. It’s quite beautiful to look at, especially from the restaurant right across from it. It’s all very expensive, but I’m not complaining.

The people running the place decided that there were enough people interested to put on an extra performance of the weekly light and culture show, which was actually quite fun to observe. The suq was filled with candles and we went down to the treasury we saw traditional dances and heard traditional music.

Then it was back up the suq to find out where the hotel’s van was and get a good night’s sleep at last.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The middle east part two

October 10th

The Petra tourist complex Noonish

This is a pit stop two thirds the way from Amman to Wadi Rum. The trip is about three hours long and we’re been on the road about two of those. The people are pretty nice. We Americans number about five, which is large for something like this…we should be less but this is okay, as most of the women are good looking.

Wadi rum is a beduin nature reserve. We get to stay in a semi-authentic tent, which will add to the experience, I guess. We’ll see when we get there…

Outside is desert, and desert usually looks the same everywhere, except for the species of cactus. There are a few tree farms here and there, which look really weird…

Near Wadi Rum-two-ish

After a huge slog we are now at Wadi Rum, which resembles the Olgas in Australia or the monument valley area in Arizona. Its really impressive. Right now we’re transferring our stuff from the van to this guys’ house, where we’ll get picked up by the land rovers to get to the Bedouin holiday camp, where we’ll spend the night. I don’t really know how long we’re going to stay here ant the transit point, so we sit here and discuss trivia.


We got to Wadi Rum about two, and transferring our stuff from the van to this guy’s house, we got ion the vehicles and headed out to see Wadi Rum’s greatest hits. We mostly saw the amazing mountains, which during the Pleistocene were weathered to look like stalagtiteses in cave.

There are lots of bizarre formations that look like something designed by either Guuldi or Dali, whom were quite beautiful and others were humorous. The area, as was said before, resembles Central Australia or Baja California. The temperature varies immensely between shade and sun. This is a very beautiful and mysterious place. We’ve seen.

Oct 11

Wadi Rum—seven AM or so

The Bedouin Experience® was pretty good. We sat and ate in an authentic Bedouin tent and l slept in another. We didn’t see the stars as it was rather cloudy, except for when ZI had to go piss at around three in the morning. I saw what looked like the whole universe, which was amazing even without my glasses on.


On our return to the Rum Village we got a good look at Jebel Rum (Rum’s mountain) the rock they named the wadi after, apparently this Rum guy was pretty important…In the morning we checked out a Nabitean temple. The Nabiteans were the first Arabs to invade the Middle East well before Mohammed showed up. It was not nearly as impressive as the surrounding mountains, and rock formations. Now on to Petra.

The Middle East Before the War: what I should have posted last October

I went to the middle east and was planning to blog it. Unfortunately, there was very little internet access, so I'm only transcribing it now.I should be getting it all up by the end of next week.

Oct 7th

New York City 5PM

So the journey begins…the signs on the posts last week seem to be incorrect. .: there was a JFK train right there when I stepped on the platform. We should be leaving Manhattan any minute now…

JFK airport, Queens New York 6PM
It took less than 40 minutes to get from my apartment to Queens via Brooklyn. This is actually good timing….

JFK 7:45 PM

We’re on the plane and we’re allegedly going to take off quite soon. The plane is far more empty than I ‘d expected, but that may change—this , then is the beginning of the great adventure, with five minutes of boarding left, w are 5732 miles (92224 kilometers) from out destination—we’re going to be on this tub for ten hours at least, and the seats’ already beginning to hurt my butt, but what can we do? We cans till get off but that would be a waste of thousands of unearned dollars. The trip is going to be ten hours and fifteen minutes long, and then four weeks on the ground before getting home at5 last.


We’ve been taxiing around the airport for about forty minutes and it seems that we won’t leave the ground any time soon. I guess that the pone call informing me that the flight would be an hour shorter than planned was a bit premature. Who knows? We’ll take off from Macarthur field near the Hamptons at this rate, Jeez!

11: 45 PM, somewhere over Long Island, NY

WE take off at last—ten more hours of this and we should arrive around noon, New York time. I’ll be zombified for most of not all of the day, which’ll start any minute now.—I’m not sure how much sleep I’m supposed to get, as there’s a huge time lag between here and Jordan.

OCT 8th—Day One

7 AM (NY TIME) Somewhere over Europe

The Jordanian Dinar is worth more than a US buck and the visa bough at the airport costs about ten , of them which is affordable, but annoying. Syria is paid for and Lebanon is probably free. But there are exit charges as well and that is something to think about when the times comes. In the mean time I was able to lie down and get about six and a half hours sleep. According to the TV map, we’re over the toe of Italy, and are now heading over the eastern Mediterranean.

We’re going to land in two and a quarter hours, which means that there’s time enough for another nap….

Amman Jordan 7 PM (Moscow Time)

Things started going wrong from the minute I left the terminal. First there are no busses due to Ramadan, then there were no dorm beds due to Ramadan, however there was a hotel room. Then there were no restaurants open due to Ramadan, which is strange as it’s past sundown, and all those eateries should be open by now. I had a filling dinner and met some people from the trip, a new Zealand couple and an Aussie lady who lost her luggage in Bahrain. They seemed very nice. I’m going on a different tour in the morning and be back from the thing by five in the afternoon. This may have been a mistake, but we’re going to have to get back by five if we leave by seven. The guy’s very persuasive, I guess and it’s too late to get my forty bucks back.

Oct 9-Day Two

I had a restless night’s sleep. I kept getting up every whour sor so. I guess it was nervousness or something like that . I tried the internet at the hotel, but it didn’t work. I left my stuff at the Caravan hotel, although ZI didn’t check in as the registrar was nowhere to be found….that expensive day tour ZI shouldn’t have bought strts in about five to ten minutes or whenever that other guy shows up.


We’ve been on the road since 7:30 and made about three stops—all archeological sites—Gadara and Pella, and Saladin’s nephew’s castle in Sjura. We’re making a curve around the western end of Jordan going north to the Syria border…at the Gadara ruins we could see the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights. Most of the time we’re just driving. I slept a good part of the time between the northeastern border and the castle. The Gadara ruins were rather extensive, and the castle which is in good shape despite earthquakes and the like, but it’s main attraction is the temperature, which is quite cool. We would have had lunch, but as it’s Ramadan, none of the restaurants are open. There’s a donkey carrying stuff…how Quaint!

Amman 8PM

The orientation meeting has started. Semi-independent travel. They like to use public transport and the group is a maximum of twelve and I’m not the only American here…the local culture is important: appropriate dress, not shorts, although that’s what I’m wearing…Mostly hotels except for the second night where we stay in a buduine tent. In general checkout times ar around eleven or noon. Breakfast is included except for Petra…always take a hotel cart for taxies. Extra incidentals are, of course, extras, and that includes laundry, most of what the guy’s saying are the usual safety precautions…the vehicles are all over the place, water sis scares as it’s a fucking desert, Ramadan is a problem where lunch is concerned. I may lose some weight.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Toronto Report # —3

The official opening press confrence is on the 17th and I won't be able to go 'cause it's in another country and my tickets aren't until the beginning of September.

I've seen one major flick already: Bob Gothwaite's Sleeping Dogs Lie which is a brave attempt to do something important, but fails. It was at Sundance.

Here are some of the rest of the major flicks announced already:

ALL THE KING'S MEN, Steve Zaillian, USA (Gala Presentation)

AWAY FROM HER, Sarah Polley, UK/Canada (Gala Presentation)

DIXIE CHICKS - SHUT UP AND SING, Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck, USA (Gala Presentation)

NEVER SAY GOODBYE, Karan Johar, India (Gala Presentation)
This opens in New York in a week

BABEL, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Mexico (Special Presentation)

THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY, Ken Loach, France/Ireland/UK/Italy/Spain/Germany (Masters)

BERNARD AND DORIS, Bob Balaban, USA, (Special Presentation)

PAN'S LABYRINTH, Guillermo Del Toro, Spain, (Special Presentation)

THE DOG POUND, Manuel Nieto Nas, Uruguay/Argentina/Canada/Spain, (Contemporary World Cinema)

BRAND UPON THE BRAIN!, Guy Maddin, USA/Canada, (Special Presentations)

CONGORAMA, Phillipe Farledeau, Luxembourg/Canada, (Special Presentations)

MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES, Canada, (Special Presentations)

EMPz4 LIFE, Allan King, Canada, (Masters)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The UN resolutions on Lebanon

While there's a war on we might as well have some background:

Resolution 425 (1978) and Resolution 1559 (2004)

Resolution 425 (1978) of 19 March 1978 [1]

The Security Council,

Taking note of the letters from the Permanent Representative of Lebanon [2] and from the Permanent Representative of Israel, [3]

Having heard the statements of the Permanent Representatives of Lebanon and Israel, [4]

Gravely concerned at the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East and its consequences to the maintenance of international peace,

Convinced that the present situation impedes the achievement of a just peace in the Middle East,

1. Calls for strict respect for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized boundaries;

2. Calls upon Israel immediately to cease its military action against Lebanese territorial integrity and withdraw forthwith its forces from all Lebanese territory;

3. Decides, in the light of the request of the Government of Lebanon, to establish immediately under its authority a United Nations interim force for Southern Lebanon for the purpose of confirming the withdrawal of Israeli forces, restoring international peace and security and assisting the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area, the force to be composed of personnel drawn from Member States;

4. Requests the Secretary-General to report to the Council within twenty-four hours on the implementation of the present resolution.

Adopted at the 2074th meeting by 12 votes to none, with 2 abstentions (Czechoslovakia,
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). [5]

Resolution 1559 (2004) [6]
Adopted by the Security Council at its 5028th meeting, on 2 September 2004

The Security Council,

Recalling all its previous resolutions on Lebanon, in particular resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978) of 19 March 1978, resolution 520 (1982) of 17 September 1982, and resolution 1553 (2004) of 29 July 2004 as well as the statements of its President on the situation in Lebanon, in particular the statement of 18 June 2000 (S/PRST/2000/21),

Reiterating its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized borders,

Noting the determination of Lebanon to ensure the withdrawal of all non-Lebanese forces from Lebanon,

Gravely concerned at the continued presence of armed militias in Lebanon, which prevent the Lebanese Government from exercising its full sovereignty over all Lebanese territory,

Reaffirming the importance of the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory,

Mindful of the upcoming Lebanese presidential elections and underlining the importance of free and fair elections according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference of influence,

1. Reaffirms its call for the strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity, and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon throughout Lebanon;

2. Calls upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon;

3. Calls for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias;

4. Supports the extension of the control of the Government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory;

5. Declares its support for a free and fair electoral process in Lebanon's upcoming presidential election conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence;

6. Calls upon all parties concerned to cooperate fully and urgently with the Security Council for the full implementation of this and all relevant resolutions concerning the restoration of the territorial integrity, full sovereignty, and political independence of Lebanon;

7. Requests that the Secretary-General report to the Security Council within thirty days on the implementation by the parties of this resolution and decides to remain actively seized of the matter.