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Posts Tagged ‘torture memos’

Note: If you don’t know who John Yoo is I suggest starting with his Wikipedia page. Then listen to The Torture Memos by my band, the Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra. As you ought to know, this is a piece of creative writing that in no way reflects on the life or experience of the real John Yoo. I’m sure he has absolutely no trouble looking at himself in the mirror these days.

 

 

JOHN YOO STARES INTO THE ABYSS
A dialogue

YOO

I am not an evil man.
In fact I am rather a good one,
kind to animals, generous to beggars,
a good son, a timely taxpayer, a good neighbour.
I always pay more than my share of the dinner cheque,
I never leave my bins out after garbage day,
and my house is well-kept, neat, painted,
in accordance with the bylaws
of my Home Owner’s Association.
So tell me, Abyss, why I see your face
in this perfectly clean mirror
on this perfectly ordinary day. (more…)

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The Torture Memos has been featured on FIRE JOHN YOO!, a blog/organization dedicated to getting John Yoo fired from UC Berkeley, which is a cause I can certainly get behind.

Go say hi.
Her

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Hey, you remember that album we made last year? The Torture Memos? Based on the naked display of evil that bears the same name?

Well, when the Torture Memos came to light last spring, the Department of Justice started an investigation into whether or not the authors (John Yoo and Jay Bybee) had violated professional ethics in writing the memos in question. (If I had been in charge of writing it, it would have been done long ago, and would have consisted of one word: DUH.) Apparently the original report made similar conclusions to mine, though probably in more flowery and lawyerly language. But according to Newsweek:

Previously, the report concluded that two key authors–Jay Bybee, now a federal appellate court judge, and John Yoo, now a law professor–violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they crafted a crucial 2002 memo approving the use of harsh tactics, say two Justice sources who asked for anonymity discussing an internal matter. But the reviewer, career veteran David Margolis, downgraded that assessment to say they showed “poor judgment,” say the sources. (Under department rules, poor judgment does not constitute professional misconduct.) The shift is significant: the original finding would have triggered a referral to state bar associations for potential disciplinary action–which, in Bybee’s case, could have led to an impeachment inquiry.

So a verbal slap on the wrist, no consequences, no impeachment, nothing.

And this is in a country that might imprison you for 10 years if they catch you with a couple of funny cigarettes. Some priorities.

via Ed Brayton, Newsweek

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From Eye Magazine:

…The Torture Memos’ strong narrative, decoupled from predictable verse/chorus structures, makes for anxious listening. When phrases like “self defence” or “whatever it takes” are stretched out like taffy, they turn into great hooks — just as evil slogans should. And Kristin Mueller-Heaslip’s fraught, full-throttle operatic vocals are absolutely brilliant, exposing the brutality dulled by the jargon of the source material.

It’s nice to be mentioned positively in a review (and not called “a slightly more human Jessica Rabbit*”), though I’m beginning to wonder if I don’t sing way too loud all the time. Remember the review from Thunder Bay where they talked about how huge my voice was?

My theory is that untrained/pop singers tend to sing in what you might call a “wispy” way. At least the ones who sing in a higher range, in head voice, do, i.e.: Feist. The syllables all sort of taper off before the next one comes around, and there’s not a lot of what you might call pressure to the sound. But I have a naturally bright and forward voice, and the classical training that emphasizes LEGATO LEGATO LEGATO. Different.

Anyway, enough about me, and more about that extremely positive review. Come on Friday to the CD release and buy an album! Or just buy an album!

*I can’t find the link anymore. Obviously some things smart too much for a bookmark.

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Want a copy of the Torture Memos, but don’t want to send me $10 directly? Worried that I will spend the money on beer and ice cream and you’ll never get your CD? Well, here’s an option: buy it from CD Baby.

A perfect holiday gift for the NPR listener on your list.

It’s not up on Itunes yet, but soon.

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For the past couple of days, rather than doing the usual things I do or even the interesting things I’m planning on doing, I have been making costumes.

Squid costumes.

This was just the prototype squid hat, made from this pattern from Instructables. It is only a beginning. I have made a Dark Priestess of Cthulhu costume, partly out of leftover fabric from my wedding dress. I have made two other full squid costumes, a Temple of Cthulhu (built on a portable coat rack) and tomorrow I will make the Mother of the Squid out of an old Ikea laundry hamper.

No, I have not gone into some mad HP Lovecraft fugue state. It’s for the show.

Yes, at the Torture Memos CD release we will be performing the complete Cephalopodae – A Ballet about the Spiritual Life of Squids. I, being the crafty one with the sewing machine, have been press-ganged into making costumes and set pieces.

Today I had some friends come over and help (I provided them with beer and fish and chips, don’t worry), but yesterday as I was working alone, cutting out tentacles, stuffing fins, measuring the coatrack which was to be dedicated to the Old Ones, I listened to B.J. Harrison’s excellent audiobook version of The Moonstone. Me and Ben both like his podcast, so we buy his audiobooks, because who doesn’t need audiobooks? and they’re well done and pretty cheap. The Moonstone, if you’ve never read it, is considered one of the first mystery novels. Wilkie Collins wrote it around 1850, and it has many plot elements which became cliches – a fabulous diamond from India, mysterious foreign strangers lurking around, the crime taking place in a country house in the middle of the night, a wise-cracking servant/lower-class person pointing up the failings of his “betters”, a misunderstanding between lovers stopping the mystery from being solved in the second chapter etc. What’s sort of awesome about it – what totally flew over my head when I read the original book at twelve or thirteen – is how all of those tropes (except, unfortunately, the racist ones*) are subverted in the course of the story. Wilkie Collins invented the cliches, but only as things to smash. It’s not his fault that later authors picked up on them and took them seriously.

So if you’re in the market for an audiobook, I heartily recommend the Moonstone. Ben listened to Tarzan of the Apes (also available at the link above), but I hate Edgar Rice Burroughs so I boycotted it. If you’re in the market for some entertainment next Friday night and you live in Toronto, come to the Tranzac and see my squid costumes. And my performance in the Torture Memos, of course.

*Bearing in mind that this was written during the height of Britain’s colonial period, it’s hardly surprising that Collins would think of the people of the Indian subcontinent as subhuman. They’re impressive and know lots of neat tricks, but they’re not people like the English characters are. It’s still disappointing, and it still grates, as does the constant paternalistic sexism (“No woman has any principles” etc), but the story is still good and the characters engaging.

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Let’s do those in reverse order. The first review of the Torture Memos album:

The Torture Memos – The Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra (www.parkdalerevolutionaryorchestra.com): Composer Ben Mueller-Heaslip uses texts drawn from the writings of John Yoo and his colleagues at the Office of Legal Counsel for the George W. Bush administration for this unusual song cycle. The stark orchestration includes saxophone, violin, cello, bass and drum kit to accompany the declamatory vocals of soprano Kristin Mueller-Heaslip. The result is very effective but hard to define or categorize. The composer sites Schubert, Philip Glass and David Byrne among his influences and the music is as eclectic as might be expected from such diverse roots. Concert note: The Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra launches “The Torture Memos” at The Tranzac Club on December 11.

And now the bad karma!

Last night it started to rain just as I was leaving my second-last lesson. I hadn’t worn my waterproof outerwear (more accurately, waterproof pants and somewhat water-resistant jacket) because, when I left the house, it was a gorgeous if cool day without a cloud in the sky.

After saying a small prayer to the weather god for the rain to stop before the last lesson was over, I went about my business. Unfortunately the weather god failed to respond. I’m guessing this is because s/he doesn’t exist, but it might have been my failure to sacrifice a goat. So, rather ruining my wool coat and nice pants with 35 minutes of rain biking, I took the subway home.

If you are unfamiliar with the Toronto subway and are thinking that it’s something like the London Underground or the New York subway, let me disabuse you of that notion. As far as the actual trains go it’s great. They work, they’re clean-ish, they come pretty often, and there really ought to be about eight more lines but for the area they cover they’re just fine.

The money-taking part of the system, however, is kind of a mess. Unlike, say, New York or London, you don’t get a fare card from a machine. You can either:
– pay cash (about to go up to a nauseating $3/ride)
– buy tickets/tokens (varying discounts)
– get a day pass ($9)
– get a monthly pass (no clue, haven’t had one in eight years)
– I think there are weekly passes too, but have never bought one.

So, because the fares are about to go up AGAIN people were hoarding tokens. The last time I tried to buy some they were out, so I ended up just using cash. Thus when I got to the subway station last night I had no tokens or tickets, just a $5 bill that I needed to break to get on and get home.

Except there was no ticket collector.

The little booth was empty. And, unlike some stations, this particular one didn’t have an automatic token machine.

I waited a few minutes, shrugged my shoulders, took my bike through the gate and went to the train platform. And of course, since I got on the train for free, the ride home was miserable. At the station where I changed trains I couldn’t find the elevator, then was crowded out of getting on one train by the assholes around me, then had an old lady yell at me for having the nerve to want to get off the train when I did get to my station, because apparently some people never went to kindergarten.

On a plus note, I found an awesome squid hat pattern and made a prototype squid headdress that will be PERFECT. Anyone want to come over this weekend and help with the squidifacturing?

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