and I quote

september 2009

click here for permalink September 29, 2009

Free Marc Emery Yesterday, four years after his arrest for selling marijuana seeds online, political activist, entrepreneur and British Columbia Marijuana Party leader Marc Emery was taken into custody by Canadian law enforcement. He is now awaiting extradition to the United States where he faces five years in a federal prison. The fact that the top search result for "Marc Emery" these last two days has been an editorial published by The Vancouver Sun (the slightly more liberal of our two Canwest-owned daily newspapers) entitled "Marc Emery's sentence reeks of injustice and mocks our sovereignty" is evidence that his cause and appeal (no pun intended) are not limited to Vancouver's admittedly prodigious pothead community. The Sun's columnist Ian Mulgrew declares Emery "our country's first Marijuana Martyr."

I hesitate to preface my views with a self-exonerating disclaimer but I've never been a pot smoker — although I've known quite a few people who are (after all, I do live in Vancouver) but this isn't about who gets high on what. Whether their personal preference is to puff or pass, I think most BC residents regard Marc Emery as, if not a local hero, then at least as fitting a representative of British Columbia as David Suzuki or Michael J. Fox — or, while we're on the topic, that other Marijuana Martyr Tommy Chong.

the Seed storeMarc Emery has been a public figure in BC for 20 years; promoting free speech, drug legalization and drug law reforms; protesting the criminalization of medical marijuana and contributing over $4 million to related organizations and initiatives. For more than 15 years, he's operated a very successful business selling books, magazines and seeds out of a downtown Vancouver retail store and through the mail as well as online. Between 1999 and 2005 alone, he paid over $500,000 in taxes to the Canadian government, listing his occupation on tax forms as "marijuana seed vendor."

He sent copies of his magazine and retail catalog to every Member of the Canadian Parliament and, during our nation's brief flirtation with decriminalization, Health Canada — the federal agency that regulates our public health care system — made an official recommendation to Parliament that licensed medical marijuana vendors should purchase their seeds from an online vendor like Emery. This amicable situation could have gone on indefinitely, if only it had remained within the borders of our rational, compassionate, pragmatic nation. It was only when he took his business online, where he was able to sell seeds to unwitting and presumably uncorrupted American citizens, that he found himself among America's "most wanted," an enemy combatant in its longest and costliest imperial crusade, the War on Drugs.

Marc & JodieAs I was reading Marc Emery's article "Why I'm Cutting A Deal" and watching the video he posted Sunday night for his fellow Canadians, friends and activists, I was struck, not by the insane injustice of his case — of that I needed no further convincing — but by the fact that he went out of his way to reiterate what a seriously bad prospect spending time in a US prison really is. Having spent about half of my life in each country, I can tell you that this says a lot about the difference between the two.

When I heard about his arrest in 2005, I remember being horrified. The reach of the Bush administration, with its militarized police forces and booming privatized prison economy, seemed to know no bounds — or borders. The fact that four years later, those same failed policies are being enforced by a new President who admits to smoking pot in high school (and inhaling even) adds a sickening twist to the tale. Of course we all know how fucked up the US is when it comes to drugs and foreign policy; just ask Afghanistan. Or ask Panama, a little country they invaded in 1989, killing thousands of innocent people just so they could seize Manuel Noriega and put him on trial in the United States. Interesting side note: Did you know that Noriega's 30 year sentence for drug trafficking and racketeering was reduced to 17 for good behavior? His term officially ended on September 9, 2007 but he's still in prison to this day.

war on drugsIt would be easy to find similar stories set in just about any country, at least in the southern hemisphere, but one is sufficient to illustrate my point; we've come to expect the United States to violate international laws and treaties, if it enters into them at all, and to defend the American Way of Life by taking the lives of others in remote corners of the globe. Until very recently, though, I think that people around the world — and especially within these borders — expected more from Canada. Our government will reach a brand new low if and when it willingly turns over its own citizen to face prison in a foreign country for a "crime" it never even deemed worthy of prosecuting itself.

"To make marijuana against the law is like saying God made a mistake. You know what I mean? It's like God on the seventh day looked down on His creation and he said, "There it is, My creation. Perfect and holy in all ways. Now I can rest... oh my Me! I left fucking pot everywhere. I should never have smoked that joint on the third day. Shit! Now I have to create Republicans."Bill Hicks

If you are so inclined, please sign the petition to Block the Extradition of Marc Emery. Mr. Pink and I have done so. You can read more about the details of Emery's case in an article by his wife Jodie entitled Marc Emery Imprisoned, September 28 (Cannabis Culture Magazine). The following is from the Cannabis Culture web site. I'm posting a large excerpt here for my small but socially conscientious audience of friends and family in the hope that they might share my outrage, disgust and sadness over this injustice, and on the chance that sharing this information may increase the ranks of those moved by righteous indignation to action.


First of all and most importantly, please be polite and respectful when contacting the following people. Secondly, strongly emphasize that Marc Emery is a Canadian citizen who never went to the USA and carried out his activities in Canada. If he has broken the law in Canada, he should be tried and sentenced in Canada. He should not be sent to a foreign country to be punished under much harsher laws. Continue to explain why you're contacting them, and read more information and facts at to help you better explain why Marc Emery should not be imprisoned in the USA.

1) Contact the Justice Minister of Canada, Rob Nicholson, and tell him to refuse the extradition order for Marc Emery.

Phone: (613) 992-4621 and (613) 957-4222
Fax: (613) 990-7255 and (613) 954-0811
Mail: Room 105, East Block House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6, Canada

2) Contact the Canadian Minister of Public Safety, Peter Van Loan, and tell him that if Marc Emery applies for a prison transfer from the USA to Canada, that the Minister should approve right away.

Phone: (613) 991-2924
Fax: (613) 954-5186
Mail: 269 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0P8, Canada

3) Contact your Member of Parliament in Canada, or your Representative in the US Congress, to let them know about Marc Emery's situation and why you and thousands of other voters want Marc to be free in his home country Canada.


4) Contact Judge Ricardo Martinez in Seattle, Washington and tell him that he should let Marc Emery return home to Canada with a no-prison sentence instead of the 5-year term in the plea deal.

Mail: Honorable Ricardo S. Martinez
U.S. Courthouse
700 Stewart Street, Suite 13134
Seattle, WA 98101-9906, USA

5) Contact President Barack Obama and tell him that he should pardon Canadian citizen Marc Emery and let him return home to Canada.

Phone: (202) 456-1414 (switchboard) and (202) 456-1111 (comments)
Fax: (202) 456-2461
Mail: The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500, USA


click here for permalink September 21, 2009

I've been reading this great book by Steven Johnson called Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life. It's a perfect example of the kind of book I love to read lately and I wish it was at least twice as long. It's only a meager 214 pages, not counting 42 pages of endnotes, but it definitely compelled me to seek out his other books and his TED Talks and appearances on I did manage to find something similar at my favorite used book store called Mind Hacks: Tips and Tools for Using Your Brain by Tom Stafford and Matt Webb, also the authors of the eponymous web site which is one of my favorites.

Mind Wide Open is filled with interesting, first-hand insights about the brain's evolution; how memories are formed and why we remember certain things more vividly and longer than other things. It got me thinking — which was, after all, the author's stated reason for writing the book — about my childhood and how we all have this unique visual patchwork of images, scenes and experiences that were interwoven with, and helped to influence, our first thoughts about our own identity. So I thought I would try to excavate that underlying stratum of influences and come up with some sort of list — almost an underground tour — of the synaptic snapshots that were permanently etched into the malleable sub-basement of my developing brain.

It all starts — where else — with television. I can remember this one commercial so vividly — although, until this weekend, I had always somehow associated it with Christie Brinkley, although I know now that it wasn't her. It was for Revlon Flex Shampoo; a 30-second spot of the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen, wearing a Western Barbie outfit and tossing around a luminous cascade of blonde curls in slow motion. Without a doubt, I wanted to be her. My mother was so concerned that I would end up scarred for life by Barbie — but Barbie had nothing on this chick. To my seven year old eyes, she looked every bit as real and attainable as, well, anyone else on television. Only way better.

rockettesI don't even think I ever actually used Flex shampoo, although I'd have to check with my mother to be certain. That's not to say I was never influenced directly by a commercial to go out and buy some stupid, ingeniously-marketed piece of crap. I did, after all, try Sun-In, Nair and Lee Press-on Nails. (Not to mention, sigh, the Epilady — but that doesn't count. By then I was a teenager.) Okay, speaking of smooth legs — second only to white teeth and flake-free hair as the biggest selling features of the 80s — how awesome were L'Eggs eggs? The ads were okay but I mean the actual plastic eggs. Genius product design — seriously, a once in a lifetime stroke of packaging brilliance.

l'eggsYou know, I'll bet there is a distinct rainbow-colored layer running through all the landfills in the civilized world chiefly composed of L'Eggs eggs and Playtex plastic applicators, a precise line of demarcation that sets the 80s apart from the previous era when recreational consumption was just hitting its stride, and the subsequent era when the recycling revolution hit in the early 90s. I imagine that thick post-war layer below as an impenetrable 30-year band of glass bottles, tin cans and stainless steel household appliances suspended in an oily, molten magma of first-generation plastics — toys, Tupperware and disposable furniture — like fruit cubes in a Jell-o mold.

But TV was certainly not all about the ads — I mean, not when we were kids, anyway. There were epic, generation-defining moments made possible only by television for which there are no correlations in previous eras. Gladiator games, you say? The sinking of the Titanic and the fiery crash of the Hindenberg? You have a point; but I would counter with the moon landing, the Challenger disaster, the opening of the Berlin Wall and the final episode of MASH. But I digress. This isn't about "flashbulb memories," the I remember where I was when that happened moments. This is about the filler — the regularly scheduled programs and words from our sponsors — the unexpectedly influential flotsam that filled our heads when they were at their most impressionable, filled them to overflowing, shook them to settle the contents, then filled them again.

Saturday nights in the early 80s had the perfect prime time TV line-up, starting at 6 pm with The Muppet Show, which was awesome and timeless and the memory of which provokes no twinges of embarrassment whatsoever. Moving on to 7 pm, the pristine waters grow murkier with Solid Gold, starring an apparently none-too-healthy or reliable Andy Gibb and the terrifying Madame, a trash-talking muppet that looked like a cross between Dionne Warwick and Joan Rivers (now, not then).

solid goldBut we didn't watch it for them. No, we watched it for the amazing Solid Gold dancers, a multiracial quintet of oiled-up coke fiends who shook their groove things to abbreviated versions of the top ten singles every week. They all had huge permed hair and wore more makeup than KISS. They did these crazy Flashdance-y choreographed dances with special sets and evocative costumes that consisted of various combinations of three quintessentially 80s ingredients; fringe, spandex and stilettos. I'm not ashamed (okay, maybe just a little) to admit that I wanted to be a Solid Gold dancer — even more than a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader.

At 8 pm some channel surfing was usually required — sometimes over to The Barbara Mandrell Show (I know — it seems weird now — what can I say?) or, all too briefly, to Charlie's Angels and for a few seasons, T.J. Hooker. After that it was, heh, smooth sailing through The Love Boat and Fantasy Island, which was followed by the longest 35 minutes of dead air in TV programming history. I would try so hard to stay awake until Saturday Night Live's subversively skewed time slot of 11:35. I probably succeeded about half the time. The rest of the time I would awaken around 1:15 and trudge upstairs to bed, berating myself all the way for falling asleep again, especially if there had been a guest I really wanted to see, like Blondie or Christopher Walken.

Peter BartonOn Wednesday nights, there was The Greatest American Hero and The Fall Guy, which was great, and Friday nights were awesome for a while (maybe the 82-83 season?) with back-to-back hunks on The Powers of Matthew Star followed by Knight Rider and Remington Steele. I didn't even remember the name of that first one until this morning when I went into full nostalgia brainstorm mode but boy did I remember him... When I was eight or nine, I thought he was the cutest boy in the whole world.

Imagine my dismay after finding and eagerly watching the above-linked trailer when I realized how very, very selective my memory had been — not about the boy, surprisingly — I can still understand exactly what I saw in him, lo those many years ago. But the show itself appears to have been just about the lamest piece of shit ever greenlit for television; with a fleeting homage to Superman, it was Quantum Leap meets Escape to Witch Mountain meets Benson — but, you know, for girls. The saddest part, which I had completely blocked from memory, is Louis Gosset Jr. playing the teenage heartthrob's bodyguard-slash-butler in that early eighties "it's not racist because his character just happens to be black" kind of way. Even in the preview, he's got this look in his eyes that says, "Don't hold this against me... I've got some heinous gambling debts to pay off."

Then again... after a brief perusal of his IMDB filmography, I'm not sure where I got the idea that he was ever above a role like that. There are maybe three films in his entire career that fall safely within the bounds of traditional respectability. Not that there's anything wrong with that — he's like the black Christopher Walken — or at the very least, Peter Weller. Perfectly respectable.

Moving on, we mustn't forget Saturday morning, a very influential time for most kids growing up in the first world. You'd carry your blanket and pillow down to the living room well before the sun came up and park yourself on the floor (why not the couch? Proximity, I guess). You'd get your bowl of cereal and settle in for at least six hours of pure, kid-centric television enjoyment, your innocent little mind sucking up all those commercials for toys, games, cereal and Pop-Tarts, sugary toothpaste and sugary things you could add to your milk, and kid-friendly destinations like Disneyland or the nearest waterslide park.

goldie goldJana of the Jungle and Goldie Gold and Action Jack were my favorite cartoons but they were pretty short-lived, both surviving only a season or two. I also liked Thundarr the Barbarian, The Drac Pack and Spider-Woman, another one-season wonder as I recall. Spider-Woman was in a commercial for Underoos but I only saw it once and I desperately wanted them but could never actually find them in a store.

spider-womanI eventually got the Wonder Woman ones, which was still pretty great. The Super Girl and Batgirl ones were cool, because they looked like bikinis and they were sexy, but I must have had an idea, even at the age of six, that there was something kind of fucked up about that. Besides, I thought the whole "girl" thing was stupid. If I was going to be a superhero, I wanted to be a full-grown one, not some underage female sidekick like Robin in a miniskirt.

batgirlMy Underoos totally helped me through my first trip to the dentist and subsequent round of cavities — which I never even earned since I wasn't allowed to eat candy! (Gotta love those 70s silver amalgam fillings, though.) I've always wondered why they never created a line of adult Underoos to target my nostalgia-obsessed generation — the idea seemed so obvious and, if it had been launched at the right time, it would have been a potential goldmine. I actually searched once and found all kinds of articles from back in 2001 about an imminent product launch but it seems they never actually went through with the deal.

Maybe they got to the part where they started throwing around ideas for commercials and realized there was no way to do it without making their perfect target demographic feel vaguely creepy and like a bunch of pedophiles. I found some Underoos commercials from the early 80s on Youtube and I could see some potential issues just watching the old ads. I was actually a little grossed out after watching one or two of them. You really don't see elementary school-age children dancing around in their underwear on TV anymore. (Betcha hadn't noticed that 'til I mentioned it!) Okay, you know what I was saying about adult Underoos? Never mind.