News round-up for 28.08.2013. (update)

1. Tasers

  • The Canadian Civil Liberties Association releases a statement in response to the Ontario government’s plan to expand the use of tasers among police. The statement calls for funds to expandd de-escalation training, as opposed to new weapons.

2. Syria

  • The  Nation‘s Phyllis Bennis has a fantastic piece this morning making the case against military intervention.
  • The website of The New York Times was hacked yesterday; the so-called “Syrian Electronic Army” has taken credit.
  • For perspective, a blog written by an actual Syrian revolutionary, & why he opposes Western intervention.

3. Fukushima

  • The severity of Japan’s nuclear facility’s leak has been upgraded by the country’s nuclear regulator.

4. Surveillance

  • Evidence that the US government bugged the UN has damaged American relations with other countries, particularly Germany.

5. Quebec

  • The PQ government unveils a new, bigoted “Values Charter”: here.


  • In an historic ruling, the Ontario Supreme Court ruled that the Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals could be held liable for massive human rights abuses at its mine in Guatemala, including the assassination of community organizer Adolfo Ich Chaman.


No news today or tomorrow, unfortunately, friends. I’ve just spent 4 1/2 hours on the VIA cattle-car to Montreal where I intend to spend my days getting sloshed on Crescent St., spending money I don’t have at Simon’s, & feeling super guilty over eating smoked meat.

This means, however, that the daily news round-up will be put on hiatus until Wednesday. In the meantime, I would suggest checking out Glenn Greenwald’s blog at The Guardian for updates on the state of surveillance/survellance state, and for Canadian news.

Bon matin.

News round-up for 24.08.2013.

1. Israel

  • Tel Aviv has recently announced the creation of racially segregated kindergarten, designed apparently for Israeli citizens of “sub-Saharan African” descent (ie., Sudanese, Eritreans, &c) after many of the city’s Jewish parents threatened to remove their children from school rather than have them intermingle.

2. Egypt

  • Canadian citizens John Greyson and Tarek Loubani, still detained in a prison in Cairo wthout charge, are apparently in “good health in spirits” according to a lawyer who recently visited them. There is no indication they will be released any time soon.
  • An interesting on-the-ground report from Egypt from The Guardian: here.

3. Climate Change

  • A haunting new report on global warming, written by Canadians, to be released imminently by the UN.
  • The UN’s Intergoverment Panel on Climate Change to release a report reccommending that African nations prepare for “extreme weather.”

4. Surveillance

5. Nigerian food crisis

  • Conflict in Nigeria between government forces & jihadist group Boko Haram has led to a severe food crisis. More here

6. Ontario

  • Information commissioner Ann Cavoukian tables a 35-page condemnation of the Liberal Party, claiming they knowingly deleted emails related to the scrapping of two gas plants

Wesley Colford, MYA

Today was officially the last day of rehearsal for my current project, Aim for the Tangent’s Mature Young Adults, written by Wesley J. Colford, starring same & Hystericon alumnus Renee Hache (imagine, if you will, the appropriate accent marks; it’s 11:17PM & I simply haven’t the strength of will), directed by yours truly. The show’s in good shape, notwithstanding various technical snafus which simply can’t be avoided, given the hugely unhelpful Halifax Fringe staff (all of whom work unpaid, so I don’t entirely blame them), & the cast leave for Nova Scotia on Monday.

If you’re so inclined & are interested in perhaps accruing some karma, I give you this: the Mature Young Adults Indiegogo Campaign, featuring a hugely weird video of us looking like bonafide psychos.  Your donation will help us gogo.

Moreover, there is also this, an interview with Wesley by the Cape Breton Post, talking theatre, Fringe, Rehtaeh Parsons &c. A certain someone is curiously un-name-dropped. Interviewers never care about directors…Ah well. The cast are excited.


News round-up for 23.08.2013

1. Fish Lake mining disaster

  • A follow up to the story concerning Professor John Stockner’s haunting remarks at the public hearings for the New Prosperity mine in BC. The primary victim of the mine would be Fish Lake, known for it’s plenty of rainbow trout. This is from the article posted on MiningWatch Canada’s website:


  • A backgrounder on Fish Lake & the mine is available here.

2. Global surveillance

  • The ACLU’s Ben Wizener has a great op-ed this morning about the sentencing of whistleblower Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning. The most salient sentence in the piece is:

Those who expose misconduct should not be punished more severely than those who engage in misconduct.” – Ben Wizener, ACLU

  • DemocracyNow’s Amy Goodman gives a great commentary on recent events w/r/t government surveillance here.
  • Is the UK government leaking its own information in an attempt to discredit Edward Snowden? Glenn Greenwald thinks so.

3. Fracking

  • Good piece on the dangers of fracking, & its deleterious effects on potable water in the Great Lakes.

4. Syria

  • Estimates for the death toll in yesterday’s chemical weapons attack in Syria yesterday range from 500 to 1400. (Is it crass to have ads on a video that shows images of dead children? I leave that for you to decide.)
  • This article ask an interesting questions w/r/t who is actually responsible for the attacks, the regime, or the rebels? It seems odd that the regime would engage in exactly the kind of activity which would precipitate foreign intervention when this is its primary fear. This isn’t to say they are not responsible, but a healthy skepticism might be warranted.
  • An American journalist, Matthew Schrier, claims he was held in prison & tortured for a period of seven months at the hands of a jihadi rebel faction.

News round-up for 22.08.2013. (update)

1. Civil Liberties

  • The Parti Quebecois are set to unveil (so to speak) new legislation which would ban religious symbols in all public institutions, including hospitals, government buildings, & courts.
  • CSEC (Communications Security Establishment Canada), the Canadian equivalent of the US’s NSA, is accused by watchdog Robert Decary of illegally spying on Canadian citizens.
  • The US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) accuses the NSA of illegally collecting tens of thousands of emails.

2. Egypt

  • A Canadian lawyer is set to meet with detained Canadian citizens John Greyson & Tarek Loubani.

3. Syria

  • Interesting piece in the New Yorker concerning chemcial weapons viz. the Assad regime.
  • Hundreds feared dead in recent chemical weapon attack; see here.

4. Bradley Manning

(update – 10:32 PM)

  • There are, in today’s news, three stories about the shameful & grossly under-reported activites of Canada’s powerful mining industry. In the first, here, three aboriginal tribes (the Lutsel K’e Dene, the Yellow Knife Dene, & the Tlicho) have come out to publicly oppose a newly proposed diamond mine 300 kilometres east of Yellowknife, citing environmental conerns. The second, here, summarizes commens of UBC Professor John Stockner at the public hearings for the New Prosperity open-pit mine in British Columbia. Finally, Mexican journalists the account the role the Canadian embassy played in the deaths & abuses against miners & local activists committed by Canadian mining giant Blackfire.

“Fairly soon, the impact will roughly destroy 40 to 50 per cent of the wetlands that drain into the system, and its productivity is completely based upon on what happens in its drainage.” – UBC Professor John Stockner

News Round-up for 21.08.13.

1. Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years in prison.

  • Manning is the Army private responsible for leaking documents of war crimes committed by the US & its allies to Wikileaks. Note that the documents he leaked would be declassified in 25 years – yet he gets 35. More on his trial and sentencing here.
  • Manning’s sentence was reduced by 112 days due to his pre-trial treatment by the US military. He had been locked in solitary confinement, stripped naked & exposed to extreme temperatures such that the UN deemed it torture.
  • The Canadian Civil Liberties Association released a statement expressing concernts w/r/t to Bradley Manning & free speech.

2. Egypt

3. Climate change

  • A recent report shows that Vancouver is near the top of the list of cities to be wiped off the face of the earth due to climate change.

New round-up for 20.08.2013

1. NSA Wiretapping scandal, Glenn Greenwald, & the Guardian

  • In the wake of journalist Glenn Greenwald’s publication of article based on the leaks of whistleblower Edward Snowdene, the British government used a bizarre terrorism clause called “Schedule 7” to justify the 9-hour detention of Greenwald’s partner David Miranda, as well as the confiscation of his cellphone, laptop, & USB sticks. Miranda & Greenwald have launched legal action against the British government. US officials deny any involvement.
  • Meanwhile, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger claims that British intelligence agents forced him to physically destroy the computers containing Snowden’s leaked documents. Rusbridger says The Guardian will continue to publish stories based on the documents, but “not from London.”

2. Egypt

  • The Muslim Brotherhood’s leader Mohammed Badie has been arrested in his home in Cairo by the military authorities. There is no word on whether he has been charged with any particular crime, or if he will be.

3. Stephen Harper prorogues parliament…again

  • Predictably, the ugly precdent set by the last prorogation is being followed to its logical conclusion.

News Round-up for 19.08.2013

(Beginning today, I will be providing my readers with a curated selection of news. I hope that those of you who tell me they “don’t know where to look for real news” will use this as a resource; I’ll be selective so you don’t have to be. Be advised that these selections reflect only my own sensibility & those looking for more are encouraged to do so.)

1. Candian citizens held without charge in Egypt after being arrested

  • Canadian filmmaker John Greyson & physician, Tarek Loubani are somewhere in Egypt. For the story, click here. For updates, check here.

2. Egyptian military coup deepens & worsens.

  • The military dictators who have claimed power admit to killing unarmed detainees. (Disregard the use of the word “Islamist” in this piece; it is a descriptor which is devoid of content)
  • More than 800 people have died since Wednesday.
  • Deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak claims he will released within the week. The truth of this is in dispute.
  • Obama refuses to call the incident a “coup” (which it is) & continues US military aid to the dictatorship.

 3. “Time Magazine” journalist Michael Grunwald writes tweet celebrating the putative drone assasination of Julian Assange

  • For a really good discussion as to why this is newsworthy, as well as the ideological framework that underpin it, click here.

4. Constable John Forcillo, the officer responsible for the shooting death of Sammy Yatim, has been charged with second-degree murder.

5. Amnesty International condemns the detainment of Glenn Greenwald’s partner as “revenge tactics.”

  • Greenwald is the journalist who broke & continues to break the stories on the NSA’s illegal wiretapping programs. He was approached by whistleblower Edward Snowden a few months ago. Now the US & UK aren’t happy with him. Full story here.
  • For more on the NSA story, perhaps the most important ongoing story in the world, please click here.
  • For Greenwald’s fantastic blog, go here

6. UN chemical weapons inspectors arrive in Syria.

  • Their mission is to determine whether or not chemical weapons were used, not who used them. Accusations of the use of chemical weapons have been made against both sides.

7. Flotilla protesting Indonesian occupation of West Papua to be intercepted by Indonesian authorities.

  • Story here. It’s estimated that 500 000 West Papuans have been killed by the Indonesian occupiers since the island was annexed in 1969.

Long overdue, an interview, &c.

Well folks, I know this post is long overdue. The brisance of Toronto Fringe Festival has given way to a kind of post-apocalyptic scrambling for resources, which has enjoined me in spending vast numbers of consecutive hours either writing stuff up for clients (including a children’s educational book on communication inventions for Crabtree Publishing, more on that to come), or trying, desperately trying, to get a play written for the Tarragon Theatre’s RBC Emerging Playwright Contest. Attaching a $3000.00 price tag to any contest is ipso facto motivation for donating the sum of one’s creative energies, but beyond that, I’m just using it as a deadline, an anchor, something which will force me to do the actual physical labour of writing. As Dorothy Parker once put it, “I hate writing; I love having written.”

The new script (the name of which I can’t mention, lest I poison the integrity of the contest’s “blind panelist”) is almost finished (it should be, it’s due on Monday) & I have just begun to phase myself into my next creative project: directing Wesley J. Colford’s play Mature Young Adults for its upcoming run at the Atlantic Fringe Festival. Produced by the wonderful Aim for the Tangent, whose previous productions The Wakwoski Brothers (Best of Fringe 2012), & Genesis and Other Stories have earned them considerable critical acclaim & sold-out runs, MYA is a bit of an experiment in that I’ve never done the Atlantic Fringe (which is located in Halifax, Nova Scotia) before. Indeed, seemingly no one has. Aside from the fairly tortuous time we’ve had extracting information from the AF people w/r/t the actual dimensions & character of our venue, the publicity apparatus of the Halifax theatre community leaves much to be desired. Well, praise the Lord & pass the ammunition.

The production stars the playwright himself, as well as the lovely & talented Renée Haché, who performed in my play The Hystericon last month. A kind of contemporary response to David French’s Salt-Water Moon, the play explores the evolution (or devolution) of a young teenage couple in small-town Nova Scotia, as they struggle with sexual awakening, gossip, & the rigours of finding love in a thoroughly cynical world. At the behest of the Aim for the Tangent, I did a little Q &A, which should give you a nice idea of what the thing’s about:

Aim for the Tangent: What interests you about Mature Young Adults and what drew you to the project?
Alexander Offord: If you're any kind of consumer of culture at all, there are certain trends or evolutions in form that you've necessarily been saturated with, particularly in the last twenty years or so. Almost of all of these trends or forms reduce to what we might call "irony," which is to say the kind of  self-conscious, wink-wink-nudge-nudge-ing that one sees in TV programs like HBO's Girls, where day-to-day tragedy & self-reproach & inner turmoil are removed from the characters' experience & replaced with a carapace of dramatic self-awareness that is both a) the inevitable consequence of a generation of hyper-educated, internet-fed young people suddenly being driven to create art, & b) dangerously seductive in terms of being accessible& entertaining to watch. It also happens, at least in my opinion, to be at times seriously abrasive to the soul. The American critic Lewish Hyde once wrote, in an essay called Alcohol and Poetry: "Irony has only emergency use. Carried over time it is the voice of the trapped who have come to enjoy their cage."
Mature Young Adults appealed to me because it is about unhip, uncool, unsexy subject matter. It is about the day-to-day experience of human beings who, above all else, feel. It is about two young people who are in love, old-school love, before whole notion was reduced to eye rolling and a misting of A10 cells with dopamine in the ventral tegmental area of the brain. If there is going to be another major aesthetic movement in the coming years, I suspect it might be a return to themes or characters that are easily written off as "sentimental." It will be a second-coming of characters who don't need to be admired, only loved.
To Wesley's credit, it's also one of a very small minority of plays which I read & didn't just see the playwright trying to convince the audience how smart he is.
Were there any challenges that come to mind (either working with a new script or working on a show about Nova Scotia or not getting to go to Halifax to see the end result...)?
AO: This depends on what is meant by "challenges." I try to excise difficulty from my creative process by working with people more talented than I. Yes, there were serious cuts made to the script; yes, there are always sticky points in rehearsal, but in truth, the biggest challenge in working with Wes & Renee is resisting the temptation to dick around too much. 
That being said, the venue itelf is causing me a certain amount of psychic pain, but to an extent that's the nature of Fringe. My kingdom for @#$%ing gobo... 
What's the best and worst thing about working in Fringe?
 AO: I have a whole rant I could do about this but I don't know of how much interest it would be to your readers. My only experiences thus far have been with the Toronto Fringe, so I can really only speak to that. I guess I would say that conceptually the Fringe is possibly the most important theatre festival in the country, in that it provides basically the only venue for emerging artists to not only a) produce their work on a budget, but b) actually get people to see the stuff. The Canadian theatre scene is so hellaciously underfunded that there is a real hostility to young artists from a lot (though not all) of the establishment. Fringe to certain extent obviates some of this restriction. 
The worst thing about Fringe really doesn't come from either its patrons or staff/volunteers, but from the reviewers. A sad reality is that far too many people decide to see shows based solely on the arbitrary tastes of a particular journalist. Which, whatever, critics are just doing their job & everyone has to eat & live. But the notion that the worth or existential merit of a work can be reduced to how many fucking "N's" it gets is pretty dispiriting. 
What's something you learned from your first relationship?
AO: That all grievances, no matter how small, must be aired. Fighting, or at least bickering, is very healthy in a relationship.
If you could ask a past girlfriend one thing, what would it be
AO: I have nothing whatsoever to say to any past girlfriend. Which should tell you a great deal. 
Why should people see MYA over other options in the Fringe?
AO: Because in ten years when Wesley's Artistic Director of the Tarragon Theatre, and Renee's been forced to hire servants just for the task of polishing her Doras, you'll want to be able to say that you saw them act in a shitty art gallery in Halifax for ten bucks. If you remember my name at all, it'll most likely be in some formulation of, "Oh yes, I saw his production of 'Aladdin' at the Norfolk County Theatre. It was a little slow, I thought.'"