Friday, December 24, 2004


So I would like to tell you all about a magical place that doesn’t quite seem real; one that I like to call Babylon. Babylon used to be a great Empire, and spent some time as a monarchy, and a colony of those effete, tea-drinking flag planters (who in their own right, spent a good amount of time ruling the world). Then Babylon spent quite a bit of time as the mud under the boot of a vile dictator that we the North Mexicans (or Southern Canadians if you prefer) took from power when we landed our big half-assed Imperial Forces in his place as the Rightful Authority.

Babylon is full of Babylonians. The Babylonians cannot be summed up on the whole, any more than any other people can be labeled and tagged with 100% correctness or efficiency. There are of course certain social mores and customs, societal norms that are shared by the majority of the people.

In the last few months, I have had opportunity to chat with large numbers of Babylonians; some have been quite friendly, some have been quite the opposite, but all have had some certain traits that I can speak of. My job, you see, is that of Inquisitor for the Empire, and in our little fiction we are writing here, we will keep in mind that unlike some other Inquisitorial Places, my chamber is free of stacked nude Babylonians, and no chubby faced little miscreants are playing Vanna White with the genitals of bound and blindfolded men. I will not tell you that every Babylonian enjoys their little sessions with me, and sometimes there are those who go to bed with a little sneer and a wish for my discomfort or worse. However, a good Inquisitor can effectively bring out the fears or terrors necessary for certain sessions of Inquisition (and let me please add that such sessions are the vast minority) with a gentle whisper or a furious bellow, and not once do the Inquisitor’s hands and the Babylonian meet.

But it is not of Inquisition that I wish to speak today, but rather as I said of the Babylonians. I have always considered myself to be of open-mind about others. I do not like to consign people to stereotypes or groups. There are however many traits that the leaders of the North Mexican Empire have not taken into consideration in our occupation of Babylon. We, and I do certainly include myself, are generally individualists. There is a concept here normal to Babylon that we do not get, and it is so damn integral to the Babylonian psyche—tribalism. The tribes here are so important. Some tribes have as few as a couple of hundred, and some number up to seven million. They are led by the Sheikh, usually a title bestowed by birth, or sometimes they get the office simply by being the eldest. He makes decisions for the lives of his people. He arranges marriages, treaties, and declares war. Tribal war. Millions will agree to kill because someone’s tribal cousin was wronged.

Which leads us to the next Babylonian norm- Vengeance. The stuff of a thousand hackneyed television plots, the entire reason they made Klingons on Star Trek, revenge. Let’s imagine a convoy of Imperial Humvees riding down a moonlit Babylonian highway. A genuine bad guy with the bad guy weapon of choice (the Kalashnikov AK-47 and its many variants) tries to rid the world of the 19 year-old soldier of the Empire sitting in the turret of the lead truck. Lucky for the 19 year-old, he scavenged from the right trash heap, and has enough armor to stop the lead coming from the Kalashnikov at 600 rounds per minute. Also lucky for him, the South Canadian Empire has given him a .50 caliber machine gun. He returns lead, and his bullets are about three times the mass, and about ten times the destructive power. These go through our genuine bad guy, the wall behind him, the house behind that, and the young Babylonian asleep in that house. This means his brother in the bed next to him has legal and moral right to kill an Imperial soldier. That’s right, the moral right. It is expected to strike back at the tribe that did this thing, and the Forces of the Empire are currently the most powerful tribe. So, next moonlit night it all begins again, but rather than an honest Bad Guy, it is the victim’s brother or cousin with the Kalashnikov. Right now in Babylon, these people are extracting vengeance on the Imperial Forces, on their neighbors, on the members of the former dictators brutal regime, on tribal debts accrued a century ago—the entire nation is a festering pool of vengeance. No one is willing to be the one to put the gun down first. And no soldier, man or woman, is safe.

And speaking of women, don’t we North Mexicans do a great job of trying to equalize gender roles in society? In our businesses and homes, we generally accept women to be humans, probably even equals. There are officers in our Imperial Forces that are women! The Babylonians don’t understand that, and inversely we don’t understand the status of women in this culture. I have spoken to Babylonians who personally killed their daughters for engaging in pre-marital sex. Brothers who have beaten their sisters for talking to a man on the street. Husbands here who have taken two or three wives, and actively cultivated hatred between his two families that he can control. Women are stoned, women are beheaded, women are shot. Rape is a common occurrence. Indeed, I had to share oxygen with a man who had been married for about a week, and by all reports to a very attractive young woman. Then, a whole week into his marriage he and a friend went out to find a prostitute and rape her. Then, he was likely going to kill her, but he got caught and came to me.

Life in Babylon is cheap. Very cheap. Dime a freaking dozen. People are killed for money. People are killed for vengeance. People are killed for gasoline. One of the oil richest nations on Earth, and people are shooting each other for long gas lines. Our new Babylonian Guard we’ve created and some gas station security guards that we hired got in a gunfight with automatic weapons over whether or not the Babylonian Guard had to pay for the gas. And these are the people we want to set up to run this show and make it better than Ousted Brutal Dictator. The Babylonians don’t hate death. They embrace it and define themselves by it. That’s the thing isn’t it?

The right to rule is the right to bestow death. Be it by declaring war, carrying out executions, or deciding who gets the flu vaccine, the Powers That Be have to decide who lives and who dies. There is only one type of person that can be allowed to wield that power— someone who hates death. Only someone who hates death, who hates the gun can have the bullets. And we, the South Canadian Empire, have given the death-loving Babylonians the bullets, and now can’t figure out why it isn’t working. Can’t figure out why things are still blowing up, and mortars are still falling, and rockets are still flying. We expected them to be us, to love freedom and not to want to kill or die senselessly.

Oh God help us, we were wrong.

Monday, December 13, 2004

A Poem

I based this poem on the Islamic 99 names of God. I haven't named it yet.

Compassionate, Pure, Merciful Protector;
Almighty, Faithful, Compelling Sovereign;
Peaceful Lord.

Forgiving Creator; Inventor, Designer.
Almighty Provider; Omniscient Donor.
Revealing Recipient.

Gracious, Equitable Judge; All-hearing, All-seeing Exalter;
Raiser, Humbler; Expander, Subduer.

Sagacious, Gentle, Mighty Forgiver;
Greatest Exalted Nourisher; Thankful Preserver;

Majestic, Generous, Omnipresent Watcher;
Judicious Answerer;
Affectionate Resurrector;
Glorious Witness.

Powerful Truth, Trustee;
Commendable Friend, Life-giving Enumerator;
Praiseworthy Creator, Restorer.

Life-giver, Death giver; Ever-living, Self-sustaining;
Perfect; Unique, Illustrious Finder;
Capable; Able.

First Expediter, Last Deferrer;
Apparent Master, The Veiled Most-High;
Relenting and Pious.

Indulgent Avenger, Generous Ruler of the Kingdom;
Just Pardoner, Rich, Gathering Bestower;

Afflicter, Benefactor, Wonderful Guiding Light;
Patient Inheritor, Incomparable Eternal Consciousness.

Saturday, December 04, 2004


For the love of Yahweh, it is already December. That's actually good, making it all the sooner I will be leaving Babylon and returning to a more civilized place where the preferred method of civil disobedience is public drunken nudity rather than beheading. I may consider engaging in some drunken public nudity myself. My firm doesn't look kindly on that, but they try to make us all wear the same earth-tones outfits as well, and they do nothing for my hips.

On the lighter side, I got some new comic books in the mail today, and they are good. I also recently re-reread the first three volumes of the collected "Powers" series by Bendis and Oeming. I never fail to be blown away by their ability to tell some pretty devastatingly emotional tales with artwork that is stylistically reminiscent of the "DC Adventures" comics. I don't think anyone can deny the impact of Olympia's wife's reaction to his public death and the revelations that he had taken comfort from hundreds of groupies. I think they go five or six pages with no dialogue, and it is great.

Finished a horribly disappointing book- Jonathan Carrol's "White Apples." He excelled at creating truly weird moments, but just couldn't bring it all together in the end. His God-concept is pretty good though, as much as the story goes nowhere. Maybe I just didn't get it, but I really was left with the feeling there was nothing to get.

Watched a really fascinating movie recently; "Return to Oz." now, this is a movie that was lambasted when it came out, I'm sure because it is far more true to the source material than magnesia classic ever thought of being. Sure, who doesn't love Judy singing "Over the Rainbow?" This is a different type of trip though. Notably, it is Fairuza Balk's first film, as a more age appropriate Dorothy. The film also involves serial decapitation, electro-shock therapy, inanimate objects brought to life, people turning to sand, and the only villains in movie history as creepy as Flying monkeys, the Wheelers. It's really a well made film though, with Jim Henson's shop working overtime on the animatronics, Will Vinton's claymation, and some great imagery that didn't rely on computer effects to make a movie. Don't expect musical goodness, but it is well worth checking out. I don't think you can play "Dark Side of the Moon" along with it though...

I'll tell you what else I have to talk about- William Shatner's "Has Been" album. Now, one could probably argue this is a Ben Folds album with Shatner narrating, but the damn thing is bloody brilliant. I defy anyone to find a better study on classism than "Common People" or anything more chilling than Shatner confronting his deceased wife in "What Have You Done?"

Arrogance. We The People of the United States are full of it. In a lot of ways, we kinda earn that right. For all our troubles and blemishes, the vast majority of our country lives in safety and health, and does not go to bed hungry. Our poorest are better off than most of the planet (if you have ten bucks in your pocket, you have more money than some 75% of the worlds population). We are so good in so many ways, but we let that go to our heads. We enjoy freedom and our Republic, and we believe everyone else must want what we have right? A lot do- but not everyone. Not everyone knows what it means. Not everyone knows that with freedom comes responsibility. You have to be involved for freedom to work, you have to be accountable for freedom to work. We cannot expect people to have never had the right to think for themselves to do it right overnight. We have to teach them (or not push ourselves in them in the first place, and let them earn freedom like we did...).

I don't know what all these subjects in this post have to do with one another, but they are all in my head. Maybe it is the approaching Babylonian winter, or the spring that will (hopefully) take me home, but my mind's a scramble right now. It is a swirl of the inane and the severe, the important, and the really-way-not-important.

A beautiful woman sent me pictures of herself today. That made me happier than my comics.