26 March 2015

world wide wednesdays meets throw-back thursday :: you again?

i was more than a little surprised this week to hear news of brewing troubles in the falkland islands. it seems that tensions are once again surfacing on the tiny archipelago in the south atlantic, with a new player in the mix. i say "again", because the only time i [and probably a lot of others] remembering being alerted to the existence of the falkland islands was over thirty years ago when argentina and great britain very briefly went to war over the them, until bill o'reilly descended from the sky and brought everlasting peace. or something. [ok, o'reilly never claimed to have brought peace to anything, but he did claim that he was a correspondent during the two month conflict, which let him see war up close, something that, on closer inspection, turns out to have been utter bunk. more recently, o'reilly has claimed that he never said he was in the falkland islands, a claim which right-leaning fact-checkers politifact rate as "half-true", since he referred to being in the falklands "war zone", which could be interpreted as meaning a broader area than the islands themselves.]

the current dispute is basically the long-postponed sequel to the original, which saw argentina surrender after just a couple of months, but things are different because this time, argentina has some bigger guns [literally and figuratively] backing them up: russia has publicly questioned britain's claim to the islands and may have started arming argentina in anticipation of a second conflict over ownership of the islands. it also allows russia to thumb their nose at great britain for implying that russia had no claim to the crimea [we talked about this], while continuing to "occupy" the falklands thousands of miles away. it does seem kind of weird that the british would get so wrapped up in a conflict over a tiny community made up chiefly of penguins and sheep, but as we'll see, the falkland islands are kind of a weird place to begin with.

for starters, the islands are the rarest of the rare: a new world location that europeans actually did discover. while it's possible that south american tribes visited the islands, there is no evidence of any permanent inhabitants before european explorers arrived in the seventeenth century. and that would be the french, who could probably assert a claim to the territory themselves if they really wanted to. the french called the islands "les malouînes" after the town of st. malo in brittany [a territory we discussed here]. explorer louis antoine de bougainville [who gave his name to the largest island off the mainland in papua new guinea] established a colony there in 1764, while the british established a colony of their own two years later. before the french and english arrived, there was no one living on the islands and the two settlements were so isolated that it seems they may not have even been aware of each others' existence.

that changed when france ceded the territory to spain, who attacked a british settlement and brought the two countries to the brink of a war in the late eighteenth century. but eventually, the two made up and decided to just live like ebony and ivory, side by side in perfect harmony. that colonialist ambivalence towards asserting a claim to all of the islands is an indicator of how little either cared about the archipelago. they fought to the death over territories around the world, but happily shared the cramped space available on the falklands. [side note :: the spanish and, later the argentinians know these islands as the islas malvinas, which is just the spanish version of the original french name. today, they're known as the falkland islands to everyone in the non-spanish speaking world, but officially, if you're speaking spanish, it's proper to call them the malvinas. because everything is less complicated when you give a country two completely different names.]

after a few years, the british got bored and decided that there wasn't really any point to having this strange little crop of rocks so far from home with very limited exploitable resources. they left a plaque behind to indicate that george iii still claimed the lands, but it hardly mattered, since, in the 1770s, george had rather more pressing colonial concerns. the spanish were so excited about having the islands all to themselves that they didn't even bother to take over the former british space. it just sat there and the spanish used their section of the islands as a penal colony until the first decade of the nineteenth century, the spanish decided they had way better things to do than babysit penguins. they closed their garrison on the islands in 1811 and for years the islands returned to their uninhabited state.

in 1816, the united provinces of the rìo de la plata [more or less equivalent to modern-day argentina] staked a claim to all of the former spanish territories in the south atlantic, which is significant not because others cared very much about the falklands, but because it is the genesis of the argentinian argument that the islands should belong to them. when current argentinian cristina fernandez de kirchner attempts to stoke nationalist sentiment by claiming that the falklands have always been part of argentina, she's being disingenuous. the argentinian case is one of geography, not history. that's fine, because national borders are generally based on geography, but de kirchner hurts her own cause by appearing to make claims that are easily debunked.

argentina's only period of sovereignty over the islands came in the wake of the spanish departure, before argentina existed. the government in buenos aires allowed a german immigrant to set up shop on the empty islands and to try to control some of the mercantile activities around them. this worked reasonably well for a few years, until he came up on the wrong side of a dispute with the americans, which is just never a good idea for a small country. the americans were adamant that they didn't want the united provinces governing the islands and so the british returned, mostly just to get rid of the argentinian nationals who had moved in. their argument at that point was that they'd never said definitively that they didn't want the falklands and after all, they'd left a damned plaque. nonetheless, once they had vanquished the argentinian foe, the british didn't seem thrilled that they had their precious south atlantic rock collection back and it wasn't until the middle of the century that there was a move to really, seriously colonise the place. at that point, a number of scots- people the crown were trying to drive out of the country anyway- were wooed to the land with promises of year-round damp weather and plentiful sheep. [side note :: argentina makes the case that the british did absolutely renounce their claim to the islands in the nootka sound convention of 1790 and that they agreed that spain could have them, a claim which argentina contends devolved to them after the spanish left. for their part, the british said that they never relinquished their claim to the falklands, because plaque and that the agreement at nootka only referred to who could start new settlements, not existing ones. furthermore, the british point out that argentina's own national maps, printed twenty years after the arrival of permanent british settlers, didn't include the falkland islands, which indicates that the country wasn't attempting to claim them until much later than they now say.] 

the current population of the falkland islands is almost entirely descended from scottish and welsh settlers who arrived in that wave of immigration and as far as anyone can tell, these people are the only long-term residents of the islands in history. in 2013, the islanders held a referendum on the question of whether or not they wanted to stay part of the british crown and the result was a nearly unanimous "yes". president kirchner dismissed the result as squatters voting to continue occupying a building, but it does raise some interesting questions: is the british claim to the islands wholly colonial? there's no doubt that they first came to the islands as part of colonial expansion, but for once they didn't displace anyone or come into conflict with existing claims, except for those of other colonial governments. since the islands weren't inhabited, are the argentinians any less colonial simply because of their geographical proximity? how long does one have to live in an empty space before one can be considered a "legitimate" occupant?

the problem is, of course, that the heated rhetoric around the falklands has very little to do with the plight of  her three thousand citizens. the falklands have given britain a seat at the table in discussions surrounding antarctica, which could never have been justified otherwise. there has also been a disproportionately vocal lobby on behalf of the falkland islanders in the british parliament, which has perhaps resulted in britain holding onto the dependency a little tighter and a lot longer than they might have wanted to. the presence of a british military outpost so close to the argentinian mainland clearly has the potential to inflame nationalist outrage and both in the early eighties and presently, the argentinian government may have been guilty of using the issue to distract from the country's economic problems. most recently, there is the very tantalizing possibility that there is oil to be extracted from the ocean floor near the falklands, which means that things are likely to get worse before they get better.

the falklands occupy a peculiar spot in geography and history: a territory that is simultaneously wanted and not wanted and one that could be claimed by any number of countries based on history. parts of bolivia, uruguay and brazil were included in the united provinces that originally claimed the falklands when the europeans had left, so in theory, any of those countries has a reasonable argument that the islands belong to them. fortunately, none of them have yet waded into the discussions. spain could argue that they never ceded the islands to anyone, despite having left and since the british case hinges on their claim that leaving a plaque behind in their absence was sufficient to guarantee their continued ownership of at least part of the islands and since the argentinian case hinges on spain never having relinquished control, but simply allowed their claim to fall to their former colony, spain as a plausible argument that the islands have never belonged to anyone but them. ultimately, though, it comes down to a question of people versus placement: do the british win because the people who live on the falklands are overwhelmingly of british decent and continue to identify with great britain? or do the argentinians triumph because the islands sit on their back porch?

if you want to talk about who has the most legitimate claim, of course, it's not the humans you should be asking...

i don't know if we'll get any answers, but i do sense that the questions are going to be asked louder and louder in the coming months.

25 March 2015

almost here...

we're only one week away from the launch of tricky + conversion, my new book featuring a novella and a screenplay in one convenient volume. the book will be available starting wednesday, april 1st from the more like space bookstore. i thought i'd continue the countdown with a little excerpt from tricky to pique your interest [i hope]:

*

Against all the warnings of his body, he struggled into a sitting position and smiled at her. One of those sheepish smiles where you know you’ve done something wrong, but you want that person to like you in spite of it. He covered part of his face with his hand, trying to limit his exposure to the sun, which made her smile again.

“What kind of drugs were you on?”

“I’m not on drugs. I was just drunk.”

“Alcohol is a drug.”

She had him there. For her, there was little distinction between being drunk and being flipped out on PCP and, truth be told, he couldn’t be entirely sure that alcohol was the only thing he had consumed, just that it was the only thing he remembered consuming. He pulled a little closer to her, hauling himself along the grass like a clumsy snake. She didn’t make an attempt to move away, but just watched him struggle with movement, observing his eyes resting on her, the only part of him that was completely still. 

“I lost my friends. We were out together and somehow I got separated.”

She looked at him not exactly with sympathy, but with curiosity. She told him later that he had been the only person she had ever met from whom she had no idea what to expect. And perhaps that is what had made him attractive. Her whole life, she had been sheltered and guided and sure of what to do. She was aware that there were people who did drugs and ignored the word of God and who didn’t care about their fellow man and who lived with people they never married, but she had never wondered about what those people were really like. Until that moment. 

Jared felt something. He knew she didn’t exactly trust him, but he could tell that she didn’t hate him and that she wanted him to keep talking. So he kept talking, because that much he was pretty good at, even while poisonously hung over. He started telling her about how he had ended up on the lawn, but realised he couldn’t remember that much of it. She found that fascinating, the idea that he couldn’t remember what had happened to him the night before, that a period of time could simply be snatched away from you like that. He tried to explain to her what a hangover felt like, but, since he thought that he might actually like to see what she was like when drunk, he played its horrors down to a minimum. It wasn’t so bad. You just woke up confused some times.

*

of course, that's just a small part of what happens, but if you think you'd like to know more, you'll be able to in just a week's time.

p.s. :: will there ever be a wednesday? yes, yes. i said that world wide wednesdays would return this week and they will. but a little late, which isn't that unusual. i'm having a bit of a time keeping up with everything lately. i'm thankful i can remember my name although, truth be told, there are certain times of day when i might have to think about it. 

23 March 2015

mental health mondays :: off the beaten path

i've mentioned before that i get migraines. they invariably sneak up on me in the middle of the night, which is a pain not just because it sucks to start the day with a migraine, but because the only medication my doctors have been able to give me is something that must be taken as soon as you feel the very first symptoms of a migraine coming on. i'm not one of the "lucky" thirty percent of sufferers who get an aura 24-48 hours before a migraine sets in, which means that by the time i'm aware of one, it's already in full force and the medication i have is useless. i gave what i had to dom, who generally gets more advance notice and i've never bothered to get a new prescription.


something that i have done, however, is raid my stash of meds for some form of benzodiazepine. if you have issues with anxiety and panic attacks, doctors will generally give you a prescription for one of these to keep on hand "just in case". personally, they don't do much for me on that front, but i continue to fill the prescriptions for one reason: they're the only thing that offers a little relief when i have a migraine. i can't explain the chemistry behind it; certainly one of the effects of a benzo is that it relaxes you, so it's possible that this in itself does some good. another theory is that, if migraines are a very mild form of epilepsy, benzos might help because they are a mild form of anti-convulsant. either way, they take the edge off.

what i've just confessed to is in a legal grey area. it's my prescription, after all, and i am supposed to be taking it on an as-needed basis, which is what i'm doing. it's just that what the drug is supposed to be needed for and what i need it for are two different things, which is a bit sneaky. that would seem like a bit of a slippery slope to some, but it's actually pretty common, with things like cardiac and asthma medications being used for ulterior purposes. it's most common, however, with psychiatric meds. there are good things and bad things about this, but what's truly disturbing is that it's become so normalized that no one is talking about it.

clear sailing?
in order to be approved to treat anything, drug companies must show that they have conducted various sorts of testing and shown a clear and consistent result that backs the claims they are making. the language of the claims is often very restricted [although companies are not restricted to using only those claims when advertising or promoting a drug]. claims don't just deal with what a drug says it can do, either. testing submitted must also indicate the safest maximum dosage, the length of time a drug can safely be taken and the ages for which it is appropriate. [getting drugs approved for the very old or the very young is a whole separate set of hurdles.] off-label prescribing involves going outside the boundaries of any of these variables.

one study found that 96% of off-label psychiatric prescriptions have no scientific data to back them up, which is troubling to say the least. the most common off-label uses are exceeding the maximum recommended daily dose and keeping a patient on a drug longer than recommended. the logic behind doing this is that the patient hasn't responded well or has responded well: if a patient's symptoms show improvement, but not enough improvement, within the parameters of the recommended dosage, a doctor might decide that the risk isn't sufficiently high and recommend taking more of the drug each day; on the other hand, if a patient has responded well to a drug that has only been proven safe to take for a year, a doctor might want to avoid the disruption and frustration of having to discontinue one set of meds and find another. there isn't data to back these uses up, because once the "safe zone" is established, there's no incentive for pharmaceutical companies to test outside it. there are specific thresholds that must be met when it comes to dosage and duration and once a company has established what those are, they don't test any further. so the doctor is extrapolating the likelihood of something bad happening and weighing the risks and benefits. but that doctor doesn't have any real evidence to back up those extrapolations.

probably the most controversial use of medications is outside the age range for which they are approved. older patients who may be experiencing signs of senility [on top of a mental disorder] or children who are starting to exhibit worrying signs often fall outside the testing parameters used to get a drug approved. brains in "transitional" phases can react quite differently to drugs than those that are, relatively speaking, stable and for that reason, most pharmaceutical companies don't start off applying for a claim that their product can be used for children or the elderly. so a doctor, looking for a solution, may work from the assumption that the drug should do more or less the same thing as it would to a regular adult. [50-75% of psychiatric drugs given to children are prescribed off-label.]

feeling armpathy?
that sounds a bit horrible, but consider the position of the doctor: 80% of conditions described in the diagnostic and statistical manual have no medications that are recommended to treat them. the only "cure" is therapy. that's all well and good, but therapy can take months or years to be effective and most doctors don't want to leave a patient suffering for that length of time, especially since mental disorders have a tendency to disrupt a person's ability to work, sleep, relax or interact with other people. furthermore, there are very few options that are even available for patients in certain groups [children, the elderly, people with certain health conditions], so if those don't work, then the doctor is faced with the choice to abandon drug therapy entirely or try something experimental. makes a good "what would you do?" question, i think.

things get even more complicated when you have a doctor who uses the "logical extension" argument to prescribe a drug off-label. [this is actually what i'm doing with my benzodiazepines.] in this case, the doctor is assuming that if a drug does "x", then it stands to reason that it should be able to do "x + 1". don't worry, that's all the algebra for today. that can mean that s/he uses a drug for a completely different purpose, based on its mechanism of action, or in combination with another drug, understanding that the combination should achieve an end to which either on its own would be insufficient. we all like to think that such logic puzzles are common sense, but consider that even experts don't know the exact way in which a lot of psychiatric meds work and you start to see where things could go awry. [it's not just psychiatric drugs, either. technically, biochemists haven't even figured out the exact mechanism of action of aspirin.]

off-label prescriptions can help provide valuable information on a drug's potential for other applications. [and if you're nervous about the idea of being used as a human guinea pig, ask yourself this: how do you think they get the drug approved in the first place?] it can also offer a fast solution or stop-gap measure while waiting for other methods to work. but it's a risk and all risks are susceptible to failure. furthermore, if a drug is used repeatedly off-label for a specific condition, it dissuades pharmaceutical companies from conducting the testing necessary to prove that it is effective and safe. and this happens with alarming frequency. anti-psychotics are increasingly prescribed to help with insomnia, which is like seeing a big spider and getting rid of it by running it over with your car. sure, it'll help you sleep, but it's likely to do a great deal more that might not be to your liking.

what's the worst that could happen?
one of the most surprising examples i came across of this sort of prescribing is lamictal [lamotrigine]. it is currently one of the most, if not the most commonly prescribed drugs for bipolar disorder, particularly type 2. because it has a much lower side effect profile and is generally much better tolerated than the "heavy-duty" drugs like lithium and valproate [which are now reserved more for patients who have experienced full-on psychosis as a result of their manias]. used alone or in concert with other drugs, lamictal is a  mood stabilizer that is particularly effective against bipolar depressions and helps to steady the boat. so it might surprise you to know that it's not actually approved for use in the treatment of bipolar disorder type 2 in either the u.s. or canada. its first application was as an anti-convulsant and it was used to treat epilepsy. when it was discovered that it actually functioned as a mood stabilizer [one of the only true mood stabilizers available], approval was gained to have it prescribed for bipolar disorder type 1. and that's all it's approved for.

ironically, lamictal doesn't seem to be as effective against bipolar type 1, especially not alone, because it's not as effective at controlling acute manic episodes. so doctors prefer to prescribe it for forms of bipolar disorder where the patient is in less acute need of calming. this has been done for so long that a lot of doctors might be surprised to know that it isn't an officially sanctioned bipolar 2 medication. but because it's now so commonly used as such, there's no incentive whatsoever for its manufacturer to actually conduct testing to prove that it's effective for that particular form of bipolar. it's not like official approval is going to increase the number of cases of bipolar disorder.

as i said near the beginning of my post, there are arguments for and against off-label prescribing. what can't be argued is that, with mental health becoming a greater and greater concern and in-patient resources becoming more and more taxed, it is well past the time when these things need to be discussed publicly. because educated guesses are only going to get us so far and we shouldn't be happy with medical treatment based largely on guesswork anyway.

20 March 2015

armchair centreback :: pound foolish [or, why piers morgan is wrong]

please cheer up, arsenal fans. yes, your team had a woeful showing in the first leg of their elimination round against upstarts monaco, which made recovery well nigh on impossible, but you came so very close. and, on top of having to play the other team, you had some really questionable calls go against you, including a deserved penalty turned into a yellow card against your own player. you're still motoring along and, given all the injuries you sustained earlier this year and the fact that no team has been made to pay for their mistakes more than you have [seriously, how many games have united won that were completely undeserved this season?], you have reason to be proud of yourselves. now give us a hug. come on, all five million of you on twitter and everyone else, too. let's go for the biggest group hug in history.

c'mon
yeah, you definitely need a hug

and you- you guys are too adorable not to hug
all of you guys
you too, grandma
right, now that that's dealt with, let's talk about the future. not the immediate future, but what happens in the fallow season when decisions are made about who to sell and who to buy. [that sounds way more horrible than it is.] this happens every year and most years, arsenal fans have gotten frustrated as it has seemed impossible to pry the cash bags free from manager arsène wenger's iron grip. [that's only sort of true. that fact is that they were for some time relatively cash-poor because they were paying off a  spiffy new stadium.]

if you listen to piers morgan, arsenal's most vocal fan [also dubbed arsenal's most annoying fan], the club should splash out serious cash on signing a world-class striker, a guy who you bring on to score oodles of goals. based on his fanatical dedication to this cause [as well as the cause of getting wenger fired, which is sort of his pet project], you could be persuaded to think that this was the only possible course of action. but don't be persuaded just because some people [piers] voice their opinions louder than anyone else. there is basically one argument for signing a striker: he'll score lots of goals; and lots of arguments against making a striker your top priority. for instance:

he'll cost more money than a solid gold bentley that runs on liquified diamonds

yes, but spend wisely
barcelona got uruguyuan striker luis suarez [who was rumoured to be cosying up to arsenal before the start of the 2013/14 season] at a bit of  a discount because he keeps trying to eat defenders. they only had to pay about seventy-five million fucking pounds to get him from liverpool. the most expensive transfer in history was welshman gareth bale, for whom real madrid paid just over eighty-five million [again, we're talking british pounds here, so chances are it's a way bigger number in whatever currency you normally think in] to british side tottenham hotspur [who then flushed the money down the toilet, i believe].

strikers and centre forwards are the superstars of football and football is the biggest sport in the world. unless you manage to grow your own and keep everyone else in the world from finding out about him, you're going to pay a ridiculous amount for someone who shows even a little promise in this position. figures in the tens of millions of pounds are mooted for even very young players. strikers with a proven track record... well, that figure for suarez i quoted above takes into consideration that he couldn't even play for the first few months of the season because he was suspended over the cannibalism thing.

arsenal have lots of money by the standards of most people. hell, they have lots of money by the standards of a number of countries. but their most expensive signing in history cost about half a suarez or bale. buying a world-class, top-of-his-game guy basically means that arsenal are taking their entire savings account to the roulette table and saying "put it all on sixteen red".

[and remember: the purchase figure is what one team pays the other team to buy a player from them. the issue of how much the team pays the player himself gets worked out afterward.]

 it's not like they grow on trees [except possibly in south america]

not a world class striker
as you might expect, with everyone desperate to find the next big thing, teams spend a lot of money paying people to go around the world to find someone who fits the bill. world class strikers are never a well-kept secret. by the time a player is deemed worthy of being called "world class" you can bet there are thousands of people around the world wearing a shirt with his number and name, a small museum in his honour and probably several religious shrines with his picture. there are a very limited number of players available and everyone with even a passing interest knows who they are. furthermore, everyone who works as a scout for a team knows the players who will become that next generation of stars already. if a boy can reliably land a ball in the back of the net, you can rest assured that there are a dozen people observing him from a discreet distance and offering fancy gifts to the boy's family.

there are a really limited number of young men who will ever achieve this level of success. some will play for a few clubs during their career, while others will become so integral to one club that they spend basically their entire playing time there [before ending their days in north america's major league soccer, where great footballers are put out to stud]. so, if you're in the market for such a player, you can pretty much count on the fact that you're competing with virtually every other top team and that the player's current employers are going to sell to whoever makes the most ridiculously overpriced offer.

they have a short shelf life

you know what's rarer than a guy who can score goals against the best teams in the world? a guy who can score against the best teams in the world for more than a few years. swedish icon-cum-psychopath zlatan ibrahimovic is still banging them into the back of the net in his early thirties, but he was a late bloomer. by the time most strikers hit the big 3-0, people start talking about them being on the downward slope. of course, to establish yourself as one of the best, it takes time. in your early twenties, you're still just showing potential and people want to know if you can maintain that form. so it's really only when you're in your mid-twenties that people will start talking about you as one of the best and within five years, you'll be past it.

try working that out on a dollars per year basis. it's not a sound investment. midfielders and defenders tend to have a longer period of time when they're considered the best and goalkeepers can have more than a decade at the top. [juventus goalkeeper gianluigi buffon is still considered one of the best in the world at thirty-seven, alongside chelsea keeper thibault courtois, twenty-two.]

when you dish out that kind of money for one player, you like to think that the message you're sending is "we're serious about winning". i'd argue that the message you're sending is "we're richer than you can fucking dream of". yes, real madrid won the champions league last year, but they just barely eked out a victory over comparatively cash-poor rivals atletico madrid. chelsea won the champions league with a much smaller budget than they have this year, and they've already been eliminated from the competition.

not every team needs a superstar striker

there are teams who are all about the goals. when they had luis suarez up front, liverpool was that kind of team. who cares about your porous defense when you have a guy who could hit goal blindfolded from behind a brick wall? [they've had to make some adjustments this year.]

but not every team is like that. arsenal isn't like that and i can prove it. first of all, arsenal have the most goal-scorers of any team in the british premier league this year. no one else has had as many different guys hit the back of the net, which is especially shocking when you consider that arsenal have been derided all season for relying too heavily on new signing alexis sanchez.

so why should a team that has more players than anyone who can score spend their entire kitty buying one player who can score a lot? [especially considering that there are other areas that could do with a tune-up, *cough* defensive players *cough*.] 

arsenal don't even play the sort of game that favours an annoited "goal scorer", because they're much more about playing as a team. witness this nifty little graphic of an arsenal goal from this year where every single player including the goalkeeper was involved in the build-up.

and if you stare at this long enough, it starts moving

a single goalscorer can be taken out by a single injury. it's highly unlikely that all your key players will suffer injuries at the same time. [unless you're arsenal, especially this year.]

it doesn't always work out so well

yes, about that...
remember gareth bale from my first point? yeah, he's getting booed by his team's fans who don't think he's producing enough to justify his gigantic fee. rumour has it that he might be on his way back to the premier league after just two seasons.

arsenal fans [particularly piers morgan] were livid when the team sold robin van persie to manchester united on the back end of a great season. he had another great year the following season, after which he and the team have stumbled badly. almost perpetually suffering from injuries and uncertain on the pitch when he does play, it doesn't seem that arsenal lost that much after all. in his place, they added midfielder santi cazorla, widely considered to be having the best season of his career at age thirty and showing no signs of slowing down and striker olivier giroud, often branded as being below the standard of a top team, although he's scored just three fewer goals this season than league-leader diego costa, despite being sidelined with a broken tibia for three months. how bad does the van persie math look now?

gambling so much money on one player is, well... a gamble. you could end up with a very expensive salary on your books and very little to show for it.

so that's my case.

is having a big goalscorer a good thing? of course, if for no other reason than he's the kind of player who'll put asses in seats and shirts on torsos. is it necessary? no. and it's particularly not necessary when your team is built around not having one. take it easy, gooners, you're better off than you think.

looking just fine.

and that doesn't just go for arsenal. if you're not among the financial chosen people, you might want to remember that buying a big gun might sound like a good idea, but you'd probably be better off with a well-disciplined army. 

[note :: like him or loathe him, i do recommend following arsenal's most vocal/ annoying fan, piers morgan on twitter. you will be richly entertained no matter what your feelings on the man.] 

19 March 2015

in which my diabolical secret is revealed

so many of you have probably seen this mysterious thing i posted earlier today on facebook and twitter: 



there have already been a couple of teasers for an upcoming project and, as a few have already guessed...

it's a brand new book!

it's actually two books in one, because after such a long break [since the publishing of interference, a collection of my short stories], i figured why not go big. well, bigger. a little under three hundred pages, which is still totally manageable, but like i said, if you have trouble concentrating, you can read it in two parts and you won't suffer one bit. 

the book is inventively titled tricky + conversion, because those are the names of the stories it contains.

the first half, tricky, is my very first [and to date very only] novel, telling the story of a young woman who ditches her predictable, conservative life to go in search of the father whose identity has been hidden from her. the story was born from an idea i had while reading an article the mythology of the trickster figure, common in north american lore and embodied in other mythological characters, such as the norse loki. i began to think of how such a figure would be if you knew him [or her] in real life, what the challenges would be in dealing with a human who had those same traits. of course, to find out who is the trickster and who is the tricked, you'll have to read the book!

the second half is the shooting script for conversion, the feature film that dominic and i made. it's a companion piece to the movie [which you can view for just one dollar here], including material we weren't able to shoot and some of my notes from on the filming process. the story of conversion started one night when i was leaving a bar after a dj set. all that occurred to me was that it was late, and i was happy that i had cab fare on me, since otherwise, it might have been difficult getting home. this set me on a cycle of thinking about the strange characters i'd met and adventures i'd had during my years in montreal, as well as the friends i'd been lucky to make. the script [and the film] is a love letter to life in the city and to montreal in particular.

i chose to have these stories published together, because i think that they share a number of common elements. aside from the theme of being "lost" in the city, both are darkly comedic and both are stories about the bonds of love in their different forms. [i think that those of you who enjoyed "an honest day" from interference will appreciate these two new pieces.]

in honour of the inspiration behind tricky, the book will launch on april fools' day and be available exclusively through the more like space online shop. i'll give you more details as the date approaches and i hope that you'll be happy with the end product!

thanks to everyone for your support and well-wishes. it's helped me a great deal in getting this accomplished.

p.s. :: sorry about the lack of world wide wednesdays this week. as you can imagine, this project has been front of mind in the last little while and to top it off, i was unwell yesterday. [cue the violins... -ed.] aside from that, i've also been doing a lot of non-blog writing lately, so hopefully there won't be another five year break between my second and third books!
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