Archive for September, 2011

Philosophy of a Knife Review

September 26, 2011

"God Created Heaven. Man Created Hell."

If you’re interested in watching a movie that makes you feel uncomfortable, gives you vivid dreams, and makes you feel sick to the stomach at humanity in general, then this movie is right up your alley.

Released in 2008 by a Russian filmmaker Andrey Iskanov, this half documentary, half movie, focuses on Unit 731, the biological warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army, and all the atrocities committed there.

The film is shot in black and white, with the interviews in colour. At four and a half hours, it’s a long movie. Especially because for three and a half of those hours, you’re subjected to some of the most violent pieces of filmmaking you may ever see. Owing to Unit 731’s clandestine nature there is little historical evidence or archival footage available, so a lot of the experiments were reenacted in painstaking detail.

Like a lot of gore movies (Saw, Hostel, etc.) POAK features a lot of scenes that make you uncomfortable, sickened, scared even. But unlike any other gore movie, what you see in POAK actually happened. No exaggeration. No Hollywood storytelling or magic. The movie receives the black and white colours, the old-school filter effect, and it becomes impossible to discern what’s archive footage and what was made in a studio.

Philosophy of a Knife is known for its exceedingly high levels of gore, if you’ve got a weak stomach this one definitely isn’t  for you. I watched this film for its historical purposes. Unit 731 was just as notorious as the Nazi medical experiments, and all the pain and despair associated with the place goes unacknowledged. To this day, the Japanese Government still deny the operations that occured at Unit 731.

I’ve given you a description and my thoughts, now it’s up to you to fight the curiosity and watch this monstrous film for yourself.

Read more about Unit 731 on Wikipedia.

Read more about Philosophy of a Knife.

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Behind Closed Doors

September 23, 2011

I recently found this  Editorial in a folder (aptly named: ‘wefjwefisw’ – organization isn’t my strong point) which was submitted in an English assignment at college. The editorial itself touches on the issue of homeless youth in Tasmania (my home state) and the Government’s attempts (or lack of) to help solve the problem. The Editorial mentions how in 2007 the state Government (lead by Paul Lennon) appropriated vast amounts of money to the AFL in an attempt to secure matches played in the state. In 2011, the Government sponsored another deal with the AFL, operating through TT-Line, a Government owned business.

Given the eerie sense of deja vu, I decided to republish it.

Here it is, original format:

Behind Closed Doors

The truth about the homeless youth in Tasmania.

     The issue of homeless youth in Tasmania is one which, sadly, goes by widely unknown to the public. Despite the best efforts of local St. Vincent de Paul committees such as Louie’s Van and Bethlehem House (programs designed to feed and assist the homeless, the latter providing shelter), streets and parks of Hobart are still called home some 950 youth (Source: Mission Australia), some as young as ten years old, who have been left to fend for themselves. The youngest recorded homeless youth in 2007 was just eight.

This is a poor reflection on the Government’s ability to assist the Tasmanian youth. Where do the tax dollars the Government so willingly collects go? Into the hands of those who need it most? Hardly. In 2007, under the command of ex-Premier Paul Lennon, the Tasmanian Government injected $15,000,000 into the Hawthorn Hawks AFL team over a four year contract, based on the condition that the Hawks would play a minimum of two games in the state, along with adopt a new title: “The Tassie Hawks”.

Where did this funding come from? The pockets of the Tasmanian tax payers. This $15,000,000 could have just as easily provided additional shelter and rehabilitation facilities for homeless youth, reducing the amount of youth living on the streets both short-term and long term.

This isn’t the only example of the State Government’s mishandling of funds. When Rosanne Haggerty visited Tasmania to advise our State Government on how to “halve the number of homeless people sleeping rough”, the tax-payers spent $27,000 – roughly $9,000 a day. This $27,000 was spent on luxury accommodation, high-class meals, and transport for Haggerty, including a scenic helicopter flight across the East Coast. The irony in this scenario is that Haggerty visited Tasmania to help tackle poverty, yet of the $27,000 spent, not a single cent went to feeding or clothing the homeless youths.

If the Government is spending money so impulsively, what are they doing about homeless youth on a local scale? To their credit, The Tasmanian Government has allocated $60,000,000 of the state budget towards tackling homelessness across the 2008-2009 period (Source: 2008/2009 State Budget). On a national scale, the Rudd Government has allocated $2.2 Billion dollars. (Source: 2008 National Budget)

Whilst it’s easy to simply throw money at an issue, how is the money being handled? Of the homeless shelters listed under ShelterTas, all of them are non-Government Organizations, and only four of them are designated towards housing homeless youth.

Sadly, homeless youth is not restricted to Tasmania alone. A journal article, The School Prefect, written by renowned writer and journalist, Chris Masters, told the story of a homeless girl, no older than 16, being forced into prostitution to fund her drug addiction. The despair and suffering which associates with the homeless youth such as the example discussed by Masters is one which still sadly exists today. But why does it exist? Why in Australia, one of the richest countries of the world, is homeless youth such a large issue? Because its people are not being proactive about it!

 Spending huge amounts on shelters and rehabilitation services, whilst helping to solve the problem, is not enough! Raising awareness about the issue of homeless youth is, whilst difficult, the most effective of all. People are more inclined to make a difference when presented with the cold, sometimes harsh facts of reality.

     Unfortunately, the truth about homeless youth in Tasmania is one which is left behind closed-doors, particularly in the media. It is interesting to note that, for the past seven consecutive days (as of September 1st 2008), the local newspaper, The Mercury, has elected to write articles about the goings-on of Tasmanian citizen-turned-Princess Mary Donaldson, as opposed to any form of hinting at how serious the issue of homeless youth in Tasmania is becoming.

The media is a powerful tool in terms of raising awareness regarding any issue or topic of interest. I propose that the Tasmanian media become more proactive in assisting tackling the issue of homeless youth through the use of advertising campaigns, news articles, etc. Surely, if an article regarding Mary Donaldson is pushed aside in favour of publishing a report regarding homeless youth, the public’s awareness to the issue will increase, allowing Tasmanian citizens to become more active in helping to solve the problem. This problem is one which cannot be solved solely by the Government! Based upon the facts presented earlier, it is apparent that the Government is incompetent in handling major issues in our society. It is time we stopped putting the issues of Tasmanian society in the hands of our Government and the establishment!  It is time the people took the matters into their own hands. As citizens, you have the power to donate both money and basic necessities such as food and clothing, and to spread awareness.

     The issue of homeless youth in Tasmania is not one which can be solved overnight, but if the public are made aware of the true facts surrounding it, in combination with the further establishment of more rehabilitation services, there can be a brighter future for the homeless youth living in Tasmania.

Rich.

From Russia with Love..

September 20, 2011

russian junkie.“Heroin is the world’s evil…It is comparable to a chemical weapon, capable of destroying our society quietly without much noise.”

– Former Russian Heroin Addict.

Every year in Russia, sensationalist journalism statistics suggest that anywhere between 30,000-40,000 people die of Heroin-related complications (overdose being the dominating cause), out of an estimated total of 2.15 million Russians living with heroin addiction. In a report published in 2008, the Russian Ministry of Health (MOH) reported that of the population of 143,000,000~ (143 million) around 6,000,000 (6 million), or about 4.5% use drugs on a regular, habitual basis. The Ministry reported that 10,000 deaths could directly be attributed to overdoses, and another 70,000~ deaths are deemed drug-related.

Drug misuse and abuse is etched into the fabric of society of just about any country you choose to visit.  Drug addicts are everywhere. There’s one at your workplace, stuck at the same red light as you, on your street, in your apartment block. Unless we’re directly confronted with graphic before-after images or physical encounters with addicts,  it can be impossible to discern who’s addicted to what in today’s world.

Due to its close proximity with Afghanistan (the world’s largest producer of opiate poppies, used to manufacture heroin), Russian drug users find themselves with an abundance of Afghan-drugs spilling across the border at a bargain price. Usually, it’s not the best idea to tell anybody about an abundance of drugs at bargain prices; especially if its heroin, and especially if the person is a heroin addict.

Unfortunately for Russia, its injecting-drug users are taking full advantage of the situation and are killing themselves faster than ever. Your average hit will cost you anywhere from $10-40 and given Afghan heroin is regarded as the finest in the world for a junkie it’s a win win situation. If you trawl through google images you will be legitimately shocked at how many images you’ll find of truly sickly looking people, including children, injecting away.

But what happens when a heroin addict can’t afford their addiction any longer? Some might stop, go completely cold turkey and salvage whatever it is they have left. But for others, for the very great majority, they turn to the next drug – something harder, easier to obtain, and above all; cheap.

Enter desomorphine, known by it’s Russian street-name “Krokodil”.

Desomorphine was first invented in 1932 in the United States. An opiate based, more potent derivative of morphine, it is estimated that Desomorphine is anywher between 4-10x stronger than morphine. Originally used in medical trials as a non-habit forming alternative to morphine, Desomorphine was phased out in lieu of other drugs due to its short duration.

Desomorphine can be made from a mixture of codeine, iodine, and red phosphorus, three chemicals that are easily available anywhere in the world. Codeine is the active ingredient, and is readily available over the counter in Russia, no prescription necessary (by comparison, in Australia anything containing 15mg of codeine – found in stronger paracetamol tablets – requires a prescription). And the best bit? It’s as cheap as chips, cooking up Krokodil costs as little as $2.50~ in Russia.

The other ingredients are not unlike ingredients you hear of people using to make Ecstacy, Meth, or any of the other lab-based drugs. Petroleum, red phosphorus (the red dust off matches), paint thinners – basically, shit that you don’t inject into your system – these are all ingredients required for the production of Desomorphine.

Desomorphine earnt its street name of Krokodil oweing to the scale-like skin users attain due to mass infection and gangrene as a direct result of injecting the drug.  Due to the high concentration of heavy metals, iodine, and other industrial-grade chemicals required to cook it, and the lack of common sense of your average junkie,  users are literally injecting poison directly into their veins.

Krokodil has earnt the reputation as “the drug that eats its victims” – and for good reason. Krokodil usage causes the skin and flesh to rot away in a shockingly rapid process.  Severe gangrene to the point of amputation is common.

Warning: The images below aren’t appropriate for anybody made uncomfortable by medical images.

Krokodil montage

rotting flesh common in late-stage Krokodil addicts.

The lady in the top two images not only had the bone poking through her arm, but a similar spot on her upper thigh, and one leading right down to her funbox. These images were omitted due to their particularly graphic nature.

Because it has such a fast onset, and because of its cost-effectiveness, Krokodil is extremely addictive. Infection starts from the first hit. Users report that missing a vein results in a virtually instantaneous abscess appears. Krokodil damages the tissue and internal organs so much that the average lifespan of a typical Krokodil user is  less than 12 months.

Krokodil abuse is a vicious cycle. Because Desomorphine only has a relatively short duration compared to morphine (about 2-3 hours when Desomorphine is made Krokodil-style.), and takes time (like everything else) to cook up, Russian addicts find themselves locked into a cycle of waking up, cooking, getting high, repeat until you die.  When you trawl through Google images of Krokodil addicts in the late-stage of addiction, you get a sense as if these people have become zombified. The pale skin, blank expressionless stare, and the rotting flesh associated with late-stage Krokodil addiction hardly does this thought justice.

The question you’re probably shouting by now is Why? Why would people inject this into  their system knowing exactly what the consequences are?

The rehabilitation system in Russia is highly flawed. Methadone treatment, an opiate-based drug used to ween people off heroin, is illegal. The Russian Government does not provide funding to substitution treatment for opiate addicts. Rehabilitation centers are scarce, and the ones that do are structured more like detention centers then rehabilitation centers. Some reports suggest that up to 90% of Russians who enter rehab relapse within a year.

Rehabilitation centers in the US provide a lot of social and spiritual support for those who visit. In Russia, corporal punishment is commonplace. New arrivals are beaten on the first night, and must spend 27 days handcuffed to bunkbeds with only bread and water. Rooms are built to hold 50. This means that for 27 days, fifty heroin addicts are writhing around fighting the insanity associated with heroin withdrawal. Only those with HIV or Hepatitis C are fed proper meals.
HIV/Hepatitis is endemic amongst injecting drug users in Russia, with up to 70% of all HIV infections in 2010 being directly attributed to injecting drugs. The Ministry of Health estimates 300,000 people are living with HIV, whereas the Russian Academy of Medicine estimates as many as 1,000,000 people. Of the 2.15 million estimated heroin addicts, there are only 70 confirmed needle exchange programs, which is certainly not enough. Out of fear of prosecution if they visit a NEP  injecting drug users will simply share or recycle needles, and any infections they have, with other users.

The legal system frowns upon narcotics of all kind, and as a result, rather then laws differing according to quality/quantity, only a single universal law exists for each narcotic. People suspected of drug use, possession, or dealing are usually surveyed. Combining this with the negative social connotations that come with injecting drugs, typical Krokodil addicts will do little to beat their addiction. They literally rot away to nothing, with no support from the Government or society that’s meant to help guide them in the right direction.

So why do people inject Krokodil if they know they will die because of it? Certainly, there is the ever lucrative “ultimate-high” they’re searching for, and the fact that it can be made with little money or knowhow.

But maybe it’s also because that when somebody in Russia becomes addicted to Krokodil, or any injection-based drug, society instantly turns its back on them. With no reliable rehabilitation services available and fear of persecution if their habit is made known, Russian men, women and children will continue to die, with little but their addiction to comfort them.