Monday, December 31, 2007

Musical Madness

Yesterday me and Sarah V spent nearly five hours in the theater watching musicals. First there was "Sweeney Todd," which Sarah had already seen, and then "Walk Hard," which I had already seen. Both are most definately multi-view worthy. Some people didn't like the "Walk Hard: Dewey Cox Story," but I'd say it's a classic for the songs alone. Or see it just to watch Jack Black, Paul Rudd and Jason Schwartzman do bastardized impressions of the Beatles.

The best song in "Dewey Cox" was the Bob Dylan-inspired, "Royal Jelly", which can be found in it's entirety on the soundtrack, along with another knock-off called "Farmer Glickstein". John C. Reilly, who plays Dewey Cox, does an incredible Dewey-as-Dylan impersonation. Here are my transcribed lyrics:

Mailboxes drip like lamposts in the twisted birth canal of the coliseum
Rimjob fairy teapots mask the temper tantrum
Oh say can you see ‘em?
Stuffed cabbages the darlin of the laundromat
And the sorority mascot sat with the lumberjack
Present past and stinging half synthetic fabrications of his tie
The mouse with the overbite
Explained how the rabbits were ensnared
In the skinny scanny self-slashed apothecary diplomat
Inside the three-eyed monkey within inches of his toaster oven life


It's really bothering me that I can't identify which Dylan song they're parodying, I think parts of it sound like "It's Alright Ma, I'm Only Bleeding." Does anyone know?

Saturday, December 29, 2007



This airport accommodates both the holy man and the holy roller (Notice place of worship to the left).









THE SAN JUAN PUERTO RICO AIRPORT IS SHIT

This and other fascinating factoids will amaze and astound you when I get over my jet lag and blog about Xmas vaca. Until then:

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Solidarity

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Oh You're So Super, Jens

Last month I caught an amazing show by this fine Swedish fellow Jens Lekman and recently found a music video I had to share. I had seen him on my birthday in London the year prior, and, having nearly landed an interview with him for a music magazine, mentioned casually via email that I would be attending his show on my birthday. His first song was "Happy Birthday, Dear Friend Lisa." I'd like to think it was for me though. My favorite lines from this song go a little something like (ahem):

Oh drinking cheap wine, to Bossanova.
You're a supernova in the sky.
And the Jehovas, in their pullovers.
Are no Casanovas, like you and I.


Alas, I never met him. But I felt very blessed to see his San Francisco show, which was probably the best show I've seen all year. It was a non-stop square dance sing-along fest for the audience (well at least the people I was with). And Jens seemed to be in great spirits, much better than when he was in London (it was a small venue in London, and the management was very rude at trying to usher him out. So he angrily charged the audience and sang "Tram Number Seven To Heaven" in the lobby. It was brilliant). The most memorable song for me was a cover of Paul Simon's "Call Me Al". He announced that he loved the song but refused to sing the chorus. It was a very slow, folksy rendition.

I think I love him because his music is so extraordinarily heartfelt, yet his lyrics so obscure that you can't tell if he's going for humor or not. As he wrote in his blog Smalltalk, "I am comically retarded, when I tell you what hurts inside of me you will laugh, and when I tell you a funny story you will cry". But his pop sensibilities are razor-sharp, and his soundscapes lush in an eclectic, experimental 60s kind of way that maintains its modernity. The Morrissey-inspired lounge-y vocals only add to the humor aspects.

Here's a video he made a few months back, doing a cover of Arthur Russell's "A Little Lost." The Kalimba work is top notch.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Czeslaw Milosz

Of Truth, Trauma, and Remembrance

I've been a little under the weather, so to speak, this week. Without going into needless detail, I've lost a great deal of faith in the decency and honesty of others, and it's worn me down a great deal. All I can do to understand what is happening is to get a grasp on the larger picture; I've been thinking about how cycles of lies and manipulation, in general, manifest themselves and how bystanders allow it to happen. I thought a lot about Holocaust denial, the secret history of California internment camps, and human rights violations being committed daily by this government at detainee camps. I came across a remarkable book by Doctor Judith Herman called Trauma and Recovery: The aftermath of violence--from domestic abuse to political terror. It really shed some light on the psychology of perpetrators and bystanders as they relate to the enabling of lies and manipulation:

To study psychological trauma is to come face to face both with human vulnerability in the natural world and with the capacity for evil in human natures...When the events are natural disasters or "acts of God," those who bear witness sympathize readily with the victim. But when the traumatic events are of human design, those who bear witness are caught in the conflict between victim and perpetrator...It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the other contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.

The author then goes on to cite psychiatrist Leo Eitinger, who studied Nazi concentration camp survivors. He says, "War and victims are something the community wants to forget."

The next passage identifies the ways that perpetrators silence victims:

In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. Secrecy and silence are the perpetrator's first line of defense. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure that no one listens. To this end, he marshals an impressive array of arguments, from the most blatant denial to the most sophisticated and elegant rationalization.

The perpetrator's arguments prove irresistible when the bystander faces them in isolation. Without a supportive social environment, the bystander usually succumbs to to the temptation to look the other way...

Soldiers in every war, even those who have been regarded as heroes, complain bitterly that no one wants to know the real truth about war. When the victim is already devalued (a woman, a child), she may find that the most traumatic events of her life take place outside the realm of socially validated reality. Her experience becomes unspeakable.

I'm copying someone else's words right now because my own personal experiences with being lied to seem, at times, unspeakable.

But as for the world at large--in a few months, years, or even decades, will we choose to forget all the Iraqis whose lives our government batted around like bloodthirsty cats with half-dead mice corpses? Will we forget that we tortured innocent, honest men and allowed mercenaries to terrorize legions of civilians for sport? I feel like what Frank Rich said in a recent NYT article is true, that we are "a people in clinical depression." But do we all need to be mindless bystanders to lies, atrocity and evil?

I'd like to believe that there is power in truth, and that people want to tell it. I'd rather think of the words of Czeslaw Milosz, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980, who said: "In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot."

I call on a preemptive remembrance of the truth. Starting now.
Masha Masha Masha

Last weekend I finally caught "Mortified", a touring show of comedians and normal folk that read extraordinarily humiliating personal diaries from their teen years before a massive audience. I heard it was funny, but...wow. I forgot how extreme and dramatic the life of a teenager can be. Crushes are epic; the urge to harm others, and/or kill them, is ever-present, and your emotions run so deep it drives you to extremes--like writing morbid poetry or fan letters to Megadeath.

The stand-out that night was by far a sweet, demure little thing named Masha Tivyan. She read from her Camp Widjiwagon diaries with a sluggish, soft-spoken Lisa Simpson-esque drawl. She prefaced by explaining how they took away her bag of candy at the start of camp, which turned her into a "hungry, bitter, foul-mouthed sailor". She had the whole bar howling. Listen to it here.

I got so excited when I discovered her official website, complete with athletic sports photos from her youth. Here's a video from an appearance she made on the Craig Kilborn show, not entirely hilarious, but there's something about her underwhelming demeanor that makes you just love her:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bobby's Excellent Lasik Adventure

My friend Bobby L. just got laser eye surgery on Friday, and he currently looks like a demon.

Amity: So how was your weekend?

Bobby: Not good. Not good. I had Lasik.

Amity: That's great though, you've been wanting to for a while, is everything okay?

Bobby: No, no not really. It was the most painful, uncomfortable thing I've ever experienced.

Amity: Like how painful? Like having your balls tightened by a really small rubber band? Like being waterboarded?

Bobby: No, no, but I think I would have rather been waterboarded. They tell you "Okay, now we're just gonna do a suction when I say 'suction'". And then they put on this vacuum thing that pops your eyeballs out a bit.

Amity: Woah. So worse than waterboarding.

Bobby: Yeah. They zapped one eye and said, "Okay, we're done with the first one. Are you ready for the other eye now?" And I said, "No. No I think I'm good." It hurt a lot. And then they said, "Are you sure?" And I said, "No, no I'm not." And then they did the same thing to the second one.

Amity: Wow, it would just be better to give terrorists Lasik. "Give me my top secret al Qaida information or we'll do the other eye!"

Bobby: Yeah, basically. So I went to the doctor before the Lasik, and my doctor wanted to know what my expectations were. And I said that I feel like I'm slowly going blind, and I just don't want to be blind. He said, "Wow, those expectations are pretty low...well, we'll see if we can not make you blind, and perfect your vision." My eyes are all red and filled with blood now, I look like a demon.

Amity: Wow. So how have people responded to you? Do people look at you funny?

Bobby: No, I haven't gone out yet, in public. And I'm kind of scared to go to work tomorrow. It could work for me I guess.

(Bobby works with juvenile delinquents).

Bobby: I could look at them and say,"You do your community work!" and just open my eyes real big. Kids would probably go home and be all like, "I'm not sure mom, but I think my probation officer might be Satan, or one of his angels. His eyes are pretty red.

Amity: Are you going to take pictures of yourself?

Bobby: Yeah, that would be good...for a scrapbook. I'll be going over it with my kids one day, "This is the time daddy was really into Satan."

Amity: Hahahaha. Do you feel okay though?

Bobby: I feel like I have sand in my eye, and I can't get the sand out. I feel like I don't know if I'm really seeing things clearly, I have this weird feeling where I'm not sure if anything I'm seeing is real or not.

Amity: Woah, like an acid trip?

Bobby: It's like an acid trip you just don't get out of. It's been trying. I'm just hoping this blood stuff clears up...so, what's new with you?

Thursday, December 13, 2007



R.I.P. Ike

So Ike Turner died yesterday at the age of 76. I don't have much to say about him, but what I can say is that I really enjoyed reading Louis Theroux's (of TV Nation) interview with him in his 2005 book of interviews, "The Call of the Weird: Travels in American Subcultures". His account of the cinematically beleaguered musician shed so much light into this complex and troubled man's inner workings. Not to say that the interview makes you want to like him, but I felt like I understood his personality a great deal after reading it.

Theroux explains how he was trying to interview Turner for a documentary, but even a delicate, casual mention of his past with Tina Turner would send the man into a shitfit. But Theroux warily prods on, effectively learning how to manage his interactions with Turner.

Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

I learned how to be around him, how to maintain eye contact, and be encouraging and supportive...In truth, I began feeling a little like Tina, which may be the fate of everyone who spends time with Ike...A great part of Ike's control of people comes from his excessive sensitivity: that the vulnerability I'd noticed on the first day was also the source of his power, because those around him can feel his sensitivity and they feel protective. I felt it too and wondered if I was falling under his spell.

I could film him but ask no questions; I could travel with him but not film; and then one day in New York word came that he'd had enough...he was a walking spider's web of nerves.

Back in London, a few weeks later, I got a plaintive stammering call of apology. "I don't want you to never feel I mistreated you," he said. "I want you to please forgive me, man. If you can find it in your heart. I wouldn't abuse our relationship for anything in the world. I value it too much. I just had too much pressure, you know? And I just couldn't take no mo'."

The chapter goes on discussing Ike's past "orgying" in the 70s, as well as his claim that he lost his virginity at age six. Ike displays some truly unsavory character traits to be sure, but all in all, you begin to understand the man and despise him just a little less.

R.I.P. buddy.

Saturday, December 08, 2007


A Softer World

I couldn't tell if I liked these tragicomic photo strips exploring the quiet moments in life with the uncomfortable, at times deranged, narrative. But they're hauntingly strange. I like that. (Note: these are a little small--click on them to view at normal size. Go here to see more.)

Friday, December 07, 2007

I'm Dreaming of A Bearable Christmas

I hate Christmas. I've worked in retail so no one can deny me this right. When I think of Christmas, all I can imagine are cars with big bows on them waiting for some white suburbanite to discover in his garage, diamond necklaces being put on wealthy women in front of elaborate fireplaces, and overly attractive office executives having the time of their lives to the point of near-orgy at the annual company gathering.

Christmas is a time for dreams to die, and emotional honesty to meet its ugly fate in the name of "season's greetings". Case in point: Christmas songs. All the good ones are depressing as hell. Why? Because they're emotionally honest. The winter is cold, the end of the year is depressing, the expectations for the New Year are too exhausting; sometimes your loved ones are away when it seems like the whole world is snuggling up to a collective blanket of love comprised of family, friends and lovers.

You know what the best holidays songs are about? They're not about decorating a chopped up tree or roasting chestnuts or sleighriding to grandmother's house, that's for goddamn sure. They're about getting AIDS and being doped up on smack.

To wit: the best Christmas song ever, according to myself and backed by a BBC online readers' poll, is The Pogues' "Fairy Tale of New York", which lyrics include:

You're a bum
You're a punk
You're an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God its our last


The video is absolutely gorgeous, and I believe that's Matt Dillon in the beginning. This would be the Pogues' only real hit, and guest vocalist Kristy MacColl's only known work before she died, ironically, on Christmas vacation in Mexico:



The following is my own top 10 list of Christmas and winter-related, holiday-ish tunes to have a listen to over a few bottles of whiskey and some ludes. Enjoy!


OH LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM


The British graffiti artist Bansky has been spreading his own holiday cheer, adding more of his ironic stencil works to the West Bank barrier, which he's used as a canvas since 2005.



Sure he's no Michelangelo, but I can't help but think of a quote from "The Third Man", a 1949 film adaptation of a Graham Greene short story about an American dime novelist led to war-torn Vienna under dubious circumstances:

Harry Lime (as played by Orson Welles):

In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

GREAT MOMENTS OF INTELLECTUAL BITCH SLAPPING

American broadcast news can be a non-stop 24hr stream of useless information-turned-white noise. We all know this. Brimming with talking head shoutfests, sloganeering politicians, soft-core porn masquerading as "human interest" topics (to catch a predator? please, I have HBO if I want to watch something pervy late night), your standard police blotter story filled with "why-is-this-making-national-news
-oh-yeah-the-woman-kidnapped-was-white-and-wealthier-than-God" news updates, the public shooting or natural disaster du jour, etc etc.

Are we at war? Is hunger in this nation at an all time high? Are we on the brink of a devastating recession? Is global warming serious?

I don't know, I'm just seeing what's on the end of what Burroughs called that "long newspaper spoon” and I'm disgusted. The garbage being spewed from corporate news channels has reached such a base level of uselessness that it's beyond joking about. Although, Stephen Colbert had a real zinger in "I Am America" when he said that good journalists know the five W's: "Who, What, When, Where, and Wolf Blitzer is for hospital patients and old people."

But sometimes, people, sometimes a serious news reporter breaks through the toxic ether and yanks at a listener's ears so hard they have to hold tight and listen to that glassy shield of infotainment shatter. Glazed eyes become clearer if only for a second when mainstream thinking, as perpetuated by pretty corporate mouthpieces, is challenged.

The other day I listened to one of the most influential corporate news anchormen actually held accountable for the hate mongering he's propagated over the years regarding illegal immigration. Not to say that Lou Dobbs will emerge a changed man from his recent appearance on Democracy Now!, but still, to make a media dinosaur like Dobbs stutter and stammer and become uber-defensive is a beautiful thing. Or to hear Naomi Klein hand Alan Greenspan's ass to him on a plate is pretty sweet. Or to see Jon Stewart question the social responsibility of a debate show like Crossfire--as a guest of said program, only to have said program canceled just months later--is a glorious thing indeed.

Here are some of my favorite Dobbs retorts:

--when Juan Gonzalez questions Dobbs on correspondent Glenn Spencer's use of the term "military incursion" when referring to the migration of illegal aliens (Spencer who, by the way, is a noted little helper of the Minute Men and has started his own non-governmental task force to assist the US Border Patrol), Dobbs says:

"My God, don't you have a sense of humor?"

--When Gonzalez compares today's xenophobia to the attitudes towards early Irish settlers, as well as to Chinese immigrants and the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, Dobbs blabs:

"You are ethnocentro to the point of absurdity!"

Dobbs throws out counterpunches like an amateur Rush Limbaugh disciple or a lackadaisical Bill O'Reily. You can tell when Amy Goodman's really got his nuts in a bind when she recounts factual errors in his reporting (like when his correspondent claimed that illegal immigrants could be attributed to the 7,000 cases of leprosy in the last three years, when in all reality a correlation cannot be proven and, really, there have been 7,000 cases of leprosy in the past THIRTY years). When Goodman asks him why he would let inaccuracies go uncorrected, he responds with more questions, like, "Well do you know what year that was?" as if that has anything to do with anything.

It's a real shame that Dobbs is so hellbent on his anti-immigrant agenda, because he has some truly admirable things to say. Like when Goodman asked him what the most important issues to Americans are today. Dobbs says:

The most important issue in this country today is representation of the American people in Washington, D.C., which is being denied right now by corporate America, special interest, group and identity politics that are submerging the will of the majority in this country. The fundamental tenet of any democracy is representation of the will of the majority, and that is being denied through elitists in both business and government and politics. And we have to fundamentally examine where we are and where we want to be going over the course of this next century. And that is not happening, not in the presidential campaigns of both parties. It’s not happening in Washington, D.C., even though we have a government in which the Democratic Party is leading the Congress, and the Republican Party, the White House.

Needless to say, I think this interview was refreshing to listen to, and I hope that Dobbs fires his fact-checkers, if he has them, and finds some new ones.

Listen to it here.

Also, the Naomi Klein vs. Alan Greenspan on Democracy Now! was also very heated and refreshing to hear, it can be found here.

Or, watch part five of an 80s Donahue show where Ayn Rand looses her cool when an audience member very politely states that she had outgrown Rand's philosophy:

Sunday, November 25, 2007

DREAMS

For some reason I've been able to remember nearly all of my dreams for the last week. Maybe it's all the turkey in my diet, or the whiskey-spiked soy egg nog. (Which, FYI, is the best thing to come out of the holiday season--ever--and that's a fact. I love soy egg nog so much that if I were to get a cut I would probably bleed soy egg nog).

Anyways. Dreams. Carl Jung said in "The Meaning of Psychology for Modern Man":

The dream is a little hidden door in the innermost and most secret recesses of the soul, opening into that cosmic night which was psyche long before there was any ego consciousness...in dreams we put on the likeness of that more universal, truer, more eternal man dwelling in the darkness of primordial night. There he is still the whole, and the whole is in him, indistinguishable from nature and bare of all egohood. It is from these all-uniting depths that the dream arises, be it never so childish, grotesque, and immoral.

I like the idea of being an "eternal man dwelling into the darkness of primordial night", however, if that's true, I think the "secret recesses" of my soul are really kinda superficial. I mean, take this one that I posted a few years ago. Also, here are some quotes and scenarios that have filled my sleeping state recently:

--"I don't mind walking the catwalk in a pumpkin suit, but I just hate it when they make you say 'thanks for the salad' before you do a turn." --unknown girl.

--"Put my love into the sauce you spread on all your friends." --I have NO idea who this dude was in my dream, but he said this to me. And I think he was wearing a Peter Pan costume.

--"I just came to deliver your mail. Yeah, I sing and work for USPS. Is Andy here?" --Emily Newsom, Joanna Newsom's sister, who my friend Andy claims he knows.

--In a dream that I had a few nights ago, me and my friend Crazy P are trying to catch a flight to Tokyo, but she has to stop at Starbucks first. We are already late to the airport, but she has to stop at a second Starbucks. Eventually we are over an hour late, and she must stop at the Starbucks at Dolores Park (which does not exist in real life, thank god). We miss our flight. The end.

--In my most recent dream, I am visiting my friend Sarah V at her new home in the Lower Haight which is an old dilapidated Victorian. She lets me do laundry there. She shares her laundry room with the rest of the building. From the window I can look up into the neighboring building to see a step aerobics class in session. One of Sarah's neighbors tells me that they are a cult of "perfect healthy living". I look up and say, "Shit! Is that a smoothie he is balancing on his head?" --Yes, the neighbor says, that is the instructor, he is trying to teach them how to balance a smoothie on their heads while doing step aerobics. The end.

In summary, here is a good comic from toothepastefordinner:

Monday, November 19, 2007

LIKE ANDERSON CRACK

I finally watched this Wes Anderson American Express commercial. It's true, this credit card commercial is actually his finest work to date. Not to knock the Darjleeng Limited, which I saw a few weeks ago and adored, but this is like a quick megadose of high quality Anderson injected straight to the jugular and I am such a junkie.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

SENIOR CITIZENS DO THE DARNEDEST THINGS

What will you do in your golden years? Sit around foaming at the mouth and yelling at the television, your decrepit cat shedding in your lap, a lean cuisine Salsbury Steak snugly resting on the table next to your recliner?

That's not what these fine folks, pensioners in Glasgow, have been up to. Nope, as part of Henry VIII, an art collective based out of a local university, they have been serving as models, re-enacting various "Iconic Moments of the Twentieth Century":

Re-enactment of "Viet Cong Assassination"



Although I prefer this G-rated re-imaging:

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

BOB DYLAN ON THE BRAIN

I finally managed to watch Marin Scorsese's "No Direction Home", a documentary about Bob Dylan and his controversial imprint on the 60s folk music scene, after I caught a few seconds of it last year in London. Borrowing generous amounts of footage from DA Pennebaker's '67 documentary on the reluctant icon, the film is fascinating to anyone not born before Dylan's heretic days of "going electric", in which he was literally decried as a Judas, and blasted--directly by the public (more pronounced in England than anywhere else, really) and the media for going too mainstream and not taking the Joan Baez route of political activism.

My favorite scene takes place at a massive press meeting (this was before he was to turn on his public and go more rock n'roll). A fluffy-haired, smug Bob Dylan sits before a sea of camera flashes, of course wearing his trademark black sunglasses. A
voice begins to question him from off-camera--it's some 50s squarehead reporter, in complete Ozzie and Harriet-style baritone:

Reporter: How many people who major in the same musical vineyard in which you toil, how many are protest singers? That is, people who use their music, and use the songs to protest the uh, social state in which we live today, the matter of war, the matter of crime, or whatever it might be.

Bob Dylan: Um... how many?

Reporter: Yes. How many?

Bob Dylan: Uh, I think there's about uh, 136.
[Other reporters start to laugh]

Reporter: You say ABOUT 136, or you mean exactly 136?

Bob Dylan: Uh, it's either 136 or 142.


This kind of sarcasm typifies Dylan's attitude towards the mainstream, or at least it did in the beginning of his career. And as far as his musical direction is concerned, it's admirable that Dylan refused to let the public influence him; he really seemed to be on his own inner mission. And it is this quality to his persona that led some to believe his work was truly marked by divinity. This viewpoint only adds to the myth behind the man.

But it seems to me that, in his golden years, Dylan has in fact taken the public denouncement of his sell-out ways and expanded them in spite. A few years back, I was more than a little upset to find him playing his guitar in a Victoria's Secret commercial. And then today I came across this Cadillac/XM Radio commercial of him on youtube:



I'm sorry if I find absolutely no artistic value in this atmospheric lonesome travelin man bit of commercial shit. C'mon, is this what one of the best songwriters--if not THE best--of the 20th century has been reduced to:

Music sounds a little sweeter, a little bit neater
When your windows are rolled down
and you got your hands at 10 and 2


I just wish he didn't have to actively tarnish the legacy of his music will this crap. I don't think that's too much to ask of you Bob Dyaln. I really don't.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

TRUE TALES OF THE WILD WEST
My long-lost British novelist father, Clive Sinclair, just emailed with an update on his latest, "Clive Sinclair's True Tales of the Wild West." He asked me if I didn't mind being acknowledged. Of course I had to oblige, feeling honored he would ask.

(From left to right: Seth, Haidee, Clive and me)


It was nearly four years ago that I journeyed across 11 states in a little over two weeks with him, his son (my boyfriend at the time), Clive's girlfriend and her daughter, as well as her daughter's best friend. We began in San Francisco, making our way up to Wyoming for the "Mother of All Rodeos", down to Wichita, all the way down to San Antonio, where we met Kinky Friedman on his ranch. He gave me a Saint Mary night light.

It was a strange yet exciting predicament to find oneself in, visiting old forts, Indian reservations, film sets from old westerns, buffalo ranches, etc--with five Brits. Clive was doing research for a book, that was all I knew, and I was more than excited about going along for the ride. As one of the most published English critics of the American West and it's pop-culture (I don't know what the competition's like there, but he's ALWAYS reviewing something or another for the Times or the Guardian or something), I assumed he would be writing a travel guide. Given his track record for writing fiction, however, I don't know why I assumed this. His new novel, from what I read in the synopsis, is a work of historical fiction or, as Clive has dubbed it, "Dodgy Realism."

I never held any sort of appreciation for the Western film genre, or anything related to that barbaric time in American history before this trip. The closest bit of interest I felt growing up was for grisly tales of cannibalism, namely the Donner Party story, since I lived very close to the trail they took during their grim sojourn to the unforgiving wilds of the Truckee mountains.

But when I looked at my country's legacy from a British perspective, I could see why it could seem so romantic, so epic; almost mythological. These lawless, enterprising, and at times blood-thirsty early Americans were forces to be reckoned with, forces which still contribute to our national culture and identity (i.e. President Cowboy exploring and exploiting foreign lands in classic wild west tradition).

My trip was enlightening, and many moments will stay with me forever. Staring straight into the eyes of a buffalo, just a few feet away, was one such moment. I don't know how may people can say that they stared straight into the eyes of a beast capable of ripping them to shreds, yet could feel a raw soulfulness that shook them to their core.

I tip my hat off to Clive for giving me the opportunity to experience those moments. And hope that his journeys into the Wild West never end.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

WHAT I DID ON MY OCTOBER VACATION

Last weekend I had to get out of town, had to get away from it all, had to visit my granny in Huntsville, Alabama.

The culture shock never ceases to be any less shocking with every visit to the South, where most of my extended family lives. The people just seem to get fatter, the strip malls longer, and the accents more and more inaudible. The only things which struck my as culturally significant, "signs of our times" perhaps, were the drive-through Starbucks (see picture), the proliferation of Mexican restaurants, and the slovenly dressed, malnourished-looking folks selling goods, yard sale style, in front of the Piggly Wiggly or Wal-Mart--this was particularly disturbing to me, as I was reminded of a scene in "Roger and Me" where a woman in Flint, Michigan is selling rabbits at her home, "For food or meat". Desperate times, desperate times.

I guess I've been in California too long, or Europe for that matter.

The South is a source of constant fascination for me. It will always be a part of me, not only my heritage, (my father's side of the family includes slave-loving, marauding confederates including Nathaniel Bacon of "Bacon's Rebellion", much to our amusement and shame), but also as a place where I began to form my identity as an adult.

How I got there is irrelevant, but, after growing up in California and Nevada all my life, I found myself in Mississippi for my first year of high school. I was horrified by what I experienced: being picked on mercilessly by preppy cheerleaders who thought I was from another planet, blacks and whites sticking to opposing ends of the classroom, teachers taking students out to the halls with a wooden paddle to discipline them, English teachers who seemed to be speaking anything but...it was frightening, and I had to get out. After one month, my mother found a new school for me in Memphis which centered on the performing arts, and was far more progressive in a sense.

I'll never forget that day in the Principals' Office, where me and my mother nervously awaited the Principal himself so that we could file the necessary papers to get me the hell out of Mississippi.

In a classic cowboy swagger, he came up to me and said, "So, Yn'kee, are school ain't good enough fer ya?" I looked up at this towering man, reflecting upon the fact that several of my textbooks at his "fine establishment"were recognizable from classes I'd had two years ago, and the fact that half of my day was spent in study hall, sleeping and dreaming of escape...meekly, I replied, "No...sir...it's not that.." He interrupted, "I'm just teasin."

And that was that. I got out, and, although the remainder of the school year was spent in Tennessee, I headed back to the West as soon as possible and knew then that I wasn't a creature of the South....anyways...so last weekend I went to Huntsville.

Besides spending time with my grandmother, two delightful aunts, a sweet uncle and a teenage cousin, I spent time reading novels and transcribing everything interesting I could find. This included recipes from Southern Lady magazine, and poems from my scholarly great-gradmother, Faye Brownfield, who graduated from Mount Union College in Ohio some time around the 1920s or 30s. These were written somewhere around that time; taken from a booklet she put together for her family entitled, "Verses For Those Who Love." This is one of my favorites:

A Wheel

Were I a wagon wheel
Joined to the rest by fate
To try the road ahead,
I would not wait
Til it was leveled.

I would take
Fate's jolts and jars, my toll
Because I was a wheel
And made to roll.

Were I a mere cart wheel,
One of a willing pair
To bear a lesser road,
Well, I would share
Nor wish to have it lightened.

I would dare
To rumble toward the goal,
Because I was a wheel
And made to roll.

But, were I just the wheel,
The rest disintegrate
And I alone were left,
Then I would hate
To be a round white ghost
Beside a gate,
No burdens to control
As when I was a wheel
All set to roll.

Great wheel I never was
Or ever hoped to be
But make some other use
Of what remains of me,
Til hub and tire and spoke
Have ceased to be
Be glad, be glad my soul.
That I have been a wheel
That loved to roll.


Here's another one, written in 1942, that, she noted, was used during a sermon at her church:

Would Be Author

I wrote, but lived apart from life.
I wrote in vain.
I lived and loved; joined in the strife;
Knew joy and pain.

The leaves of my book that might
have been
Are yellow with age.
But the love I gave my fellow man
Makes a living page.


Cheers Faye, cheers Alabama.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

SQUIRREL EAT SQUIRREL WORLD

Yesterday night I was watching some Irish news show on PBS and the serious-as-a-heart-attack delivery given by the news correspondent made me LOLAMESAL (those not hip to the new lingo, "Laugh Out Loud and Maybe Even Snort A Little). I mean, she was talking about the future of red squirrels as if they were part of the African diaspora. "Skwoo-rools," she said. "Skwoo-rools".

So from what I gather, the British Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) is on the brink of becoming an endagered species, in part due to the wiley ways of the tyrannical American Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) on British soil. Apparently the fatter, cuddlier greys have built antibodies to squirrelpox, which has destroyed large populations of the wiry, less-adaptable reds.

Also, according to the BBC:"Grey squirrels seriously threaten woodland management through damage to trees and woodlands and by squeezing out red squirrels and possibly other wildlife like woodland birds."

I say balderdash! Maybe it's their manifest destiny! Like the American settlers, the American squirrels must prosper I say.

There are actually powerful lobbying groups seeking to destroy our poor little bushy-tailed friends: groups like the European Squirrel Initiative and the Save our Squirrels project are actively pushing for grey squirrel genocide.


(This handsome little guy is proud to be an American.)


It's all well and good to want to save the red squirrels; I'm sure they're cute little buggers too, they are squirrels after all. But I think the Limeys are taking things a little too far this time, they are actually serving our poor little squirrels, our innocents living abroad, Peking Duck style! They are actually eating our squirrels in pubs across Northern England.

One wannabe squirrel-eater said:
"I haven't tried grey squirrel but people I know who have say it tastes like chicken used to taste when it tasted like chicken."

Wha?

Another claimed:"The Americans have numerous recipes for grey squirrel, with the most popular being Brunswick Stew, which is casseroled squirrel."

Again, if I may: Wha? Wtf?

So they're not just culling the hell out of our squirrels, they're acquiring a taste for them!

I just don't understand why people are jumping on the red squirrel bandwagon, why are these squirrels deemed more important, or more native, than the greys that have, I'm sure, legally migrated there and maintain active civic roles in their respective squirrel communities? I did find one campaign sticking up for our squirrels, "Professor Acorn," so at least there's one group, or professor, that cares.

OK, I'm going to post a picture of a red now, but don't be blinded by the cuteness...


Oh crap, this little guy is seriously adorable. OMG with that little hazelnut in its mouth...the greys are pretty fat and juicy-looking in comparison...I wonder where I can find the recipe for that casserole.

Friday, October 19, 2007

ME IN COMIC BOOK FORM

I heart Tessa's comics, I heart them longtime:

Tessa's Braces: I miss nature
WTF SAJAK, WHAT. THE. FUCK.

I'm dying here. Tell me what font you use, you smug sonofabitch!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

DEEP THOUGHTS

"Contrary to what most people say, the most dangerous animal in the world is not the lion, or the tiger, or even the elephant. It's a shark, riding on an elephant's back, just trampling and eating everything they see." --Jack HandeyPhoto Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Electronic drawering by me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

ANOTHER GREAT HOUSING SITUATION IN THE CITY BY THE BAY

This is what I deal with on my daily quest for housing. Bullshit like this, I actually have to consider bullshit like this if I want to find a new roof over my head:

$1250 Web Ninja+Hacker chaos-seekers seek third (mission district)--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reply to: hous-449337354@craigslist.org
Date: 2007-10-14, 10:39PM PDT


We're 24 and 26 year old straight male cosmic anarchists with an open bedroom in a 3 bedroom 2nd floor Victorian mission flat with lots of common space.

We're zero drama, very low bullshit, maximally easy-going, and non-territorial. We're from the Internets and we build the Internets. We love haxxing code, mad chaos and random adventure.

Ideal roommate would be a crazy easygoing male or female with a good sense of humor. A plus if you like to light shit on fire on occasion.


$1250 rent, hollatchaboy

Friday, October 12, 2007

SPEAKING TRUTHINESS TO POWER: REVISITED


This morning I watched Stephen Colbert on Larry King Live, pitching away for his new book, "I Am America (And So Can You)." Of the many good points made, one which stuck with me was when Colbert said that school children should be memorizing his White House Correspondents Dinner speech he made last year (video here), not the Gettysburg Address.

In a way, I would have to agree. There is so much anger and insight within his words if you read between the lines--just brilliant. And his commentary about the media and the war and...well, here's one of my favorite excerpts:

I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.

I believe in pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. I believe it is possible -- I saw this guy do it once in Cirque du Soleil. It was magical. And though I am a committed Christian, I believe that everyone has the right to their own religion, be you Hindu, Jewish or Muslim. I believe there are infinite paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe it's yogurt. But I refuse to believe it's not butter. Most of all, I believe in this president.


Read the whole thing yourself here.
POP QUIZ: THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM A CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEE...OR IS IT?

Bipartisanship on SCHIP!

Republican Senate hopeful Montgomery Burns today joined with Mayor Joe Quimby, D-Springfield, to support the Senate’s gazillion-dollar SCHIP bill.

“If the poor children can get a piece of the action, why can’t I?” explained Burns at a MoveOn.org rally in Capital City. “The little darlings are needy? Me, too. I need somebody to pay. Quimby here says he knows a bunch of low-income nobodies who are ripe for the picking. Excellent.”

“You need this?” wondered the mayor. “Well, why not. I’ve got needs, too. Why, I’ve got 27 paternity suits pending and to quote the Speaker, ‘suffer the little children.’ The Quimby Compound is overflowing with those little sufferers. Vote Quimby.”

Inexplicably, the mayor then leaned toward a comely MoveOn organizer and whispered in her ear, “Ah, if anyone asks, you’re my niece from out of town and you don’t get SCHIP.”

“But Uncle Joe, I am your niece from out of town, and I do get SCHIP.”

“Good Lord, I’m a monster!” exclaimed the mayor.

Mr. Burns shrugged and pressed on with a stirring call to arms: “Truth and fairness, these are the demons we must slay if we wish to save the tykes.”

His patience was tested when a ruckus arose from a restive crowd of backdrop-toddlers who’d been rented by MoveOn for the photo-op. “Get these props away from me,” Burns hissed.

“Kids? Who needs ‘em? Rahm, release the hounds!” added Quimby with a spreading grin. “Ha, I’ve always wanted to say that, Burns.”

The 37 rental children fled and were not seen again, but the arf-arf-arfing of their pursuers could be heard well past sunset.

Find the source for this crackpot SCHIP non sequitur here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

IN MEMORY OF ENRICO


Last night I shared a beer with a man who lives in North Beach and we discovered that we had more than a lot to talk about. He was a bit older, a lawyer, and had lived in the city for quite some time. I was drinking a beer inspired by the comedian Lenny Bruce, and this guy, Bobby, told me a story about how Bruce, tripped up on smack or something, threw himself out the window of a two-story hotel off Columbus Ave because he saw his friend walking down the street. When his friend, horrified, asked him what on Earth he was doing, Bruce replied, "I really needed to talk to you, and this seemed like a good short cut."

But then, speaking about North Beach and SF history, Bobby broke the news to me: Enrico Banducci, the "King of North Beach" had passed away the day before at age 85.

Enrico was a San Francisco icon. And for the West Coast bohemian/beatnik scene, a legend. I had the honor and privilege of working as a bartender at his 50-something year-old restaurant, Enrico's, when I first moved to San Francisco a year ago. I met him briefly and only once, while he was being filmed for a documentary. While we didn't exactly engage in conversation, my impression of him was that he was one of the those people, not unlike the Dalai Lama, that exuded vivacity, teamed with innocence and joy. He had a smile a mile long, and was wearing that silly little black beret that he is known for. I loved him immediately.

But Banducci wasn't, as I initially assumed, simply known for his restaurant that once served as a major social scene for San Francisco glitterati and eccentrics alike--he established the hungry i. The hungry i was a nightclub that, under Enrico's conception and direction, launched the careers of the stage-frightened young comedian Woody Allen and a feisty 19 year-old named Barbara Streisand.

Visting North Beach now, it's nearly impossible to imagine the glory that it once was. Today it is reduced to a red light district of flashy strip joints and street walkers, with Little Italy tourists pouring in to experience fading remnants of a the beats and of west coast jazz clubs. While Enrico Banducci will never revisit his restaurant, or Tosca, or City Lights again, one can only hope that his legacy will not be forgotten.

Here are some touching comments from the San Francisco Chronicle's article about him:

--In 1966 I was very young sailor new to the city. Looking for something to entertain myself I bought a ticket to see Woody Allen perform at the Hungary i. Couldn't ask for a better introduction to San Francisco. Thanks Enrico.

--I was so lucky to know him - the sparkle in his eyes never faded - he was always charming and kind and funny - I will miss him forever

--Damn, another one gone. All the Chartreuse that I drank at Enrico's would float a washing machine. Anybody remember the time Bob Dylan got kicked out of Tosca? I was the one that pushed him out the door with my foot for the bartender. Enrico's was a singular moment at the end of the heyday of our empire. No one under 50 will ever nor can they ever know of what the old city was made.
GOOD COP, BABY COP

More of the funny at the expense of a child made unawares. This is the second video on the funny or die website done by Will Ferrell, whose toddler co-star, Pearl, completely steals the show.

Pearl: "I break bones and laugh."

Ferrell: "I don't know who blackened your soul a long time ago, but may God have mercy on it."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

THIS IS YOUR BRAIN. THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON...

I really can't finish that title as it relates to the contents of this post. My stepbro is going to absolutely ream me, or never speak to me again for mocking him and his videos. I know his videos are very important and sacred. And I realize it must take an enormous amount of time and energy to spin the records for the background music, edit the video and come up with cool special effects, AND be able to capture circus freak-like talents for use on youtube.

Tim L was my stepbro for nearly 10 years growing up. We lived together in South Lake Tahoe and mostly spent our time vandalizing the neighborhood, competitively injuring ourselves on our non-bmx bikes which we treated as such, and generally causing a great deal of mischief.

He tends to get real mad when I don't watch his videos, which usually consist of montages of him doing backflips off of people's roofs.

But I just think this one of him climbing up a tree is sooo great, it makes me laugh so damn hard every time I watch it and I don't know why.

GIULIANI-INSPIRED FUNTIME DINNER PARTIES

Upon hearing recently that former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, now-frontrunner in a bid for President of 9/11, had a sweet-ass fundraising dinner in Palo Alto, I was inspired to have one of my own.

Apparently he charged guests nine dollars and eleven cents. Get it? $9.11! How quaint! I think I'll have a dinner party with a super-chic Pearl Harbor theme. We can have a luau with one of those stuffed pigs, and I'll make people wear pearls it'll be fab! OR, I could even have an Oklahoma City Bombing soiree of sorts, where the game is, you have to bring in one bottle of wine or beer that costs $4.19. Why? Because the bombing occured on April 19 silly! Oh Giuliani, your partying spirit is incorrigible! Can't wait to see your next article in Martha Stewart Living!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


WHAT NOT TO DO IN YOUR CRAIGSLIST APARTMENT SEARCH:

Exhibit A, this douchebag writes:

$800 New (chill) lawyer in town needs roommates (mission district)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Reply to: hous-429334085@craigslist.org
Date: 2007-09-22, 1:39PM PDT

Let's get 2 or 3 cool young professionals/students together and get a place to call home. I'm thinking the Mission, but any cool neighborhood would do. We need: responsible, cool, fun, funny, smart people. Work hard/play hard types. But clean. And financially stable. Do you fit this description?

I just graduated from Wash U. Law School in St. Louis (went to Duke undergrad)and moved out here and took the Cali bar. I'm just starting my job search, but I'm financially stable in the meantime. Let me know if you're interested in assembling a house. Tell me about yourself. Include your myspace.

1. Overuse of the word "cool" is not cool. For all I know, you think wearing a Snoopy "Joe Cool" t-shirt is super-cool. Specify what is meant by cool or risk failing my coolness litmus test.

2. Cool cannot be followed by "young professionals", there, you just failed the test.

3. Don't you ever use the term "work hard/play hard" douchebag! For all I know you enjoy the lifestyle of a Gordon Gekko-type Wall St tycoon and debauch yourself weekly in Vegas on copious amounts of cocaine and underage prostitutes.

4. "(went to Duke undergrad)" Wow, how humble you are Mr.Gekko, using parenthesis to name drop Duke U. Did I fucking ask? Does attending Duke AND getting a law degree mean you will wash your fucking dishes and refrain from bringing underage hookers home?

5. Never use the term "Cali". Only morons who are not from California say Cali. "Cali" is almost acceptable from one person in the whole wide world, and that person is LL Cool J. And he was from New York and it was the 80s and rap stars from New York in the 80s are exempt from any accusations of being uncool.

Don't post craiglist ads like this one, don't be a doucebag.
YOUR YOGA INSTRUCTOR MIGHT BE A SADIST IF...

(Note: these are all actual incidences that occured to me in both Santa Cruz and San Francisco)

--They take the time, while you are contorting your body and placing wooden blocks under your back or your ankles, to recite quotes about embracing pain from Indian mystics.

--While in a downward dog position, they tell you to put your leg above your head, then, realizing they meant something else, giggle uncontrollably.

--They don't have a spare yoga mat, but tell you that you can use a spare pilates mat, which is slippery and seems to be more suited for break dancing than balancing exercizes.

--They ask you to imagine connecting the left cochlea of your ear to your right femur. Or the second row of metatarsal bones on your right foot to your collar bone. Then they single you out and accuse you of failing to do so.

--Ask you if you like how a a position feels, then ask you if you'd like to die in this position.

Just something to think about, as yoga is quite culturally unbiquitous. Here is picture illustrating this fact:


Find more examples of asanas as used in urban life here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


IF I ROBBED HIM

Did anyone else catch Slate's "excerpt" from OJ's "new book"? It's probably one of the online mag's most absurdly-prefaced, hilarious articles to date. The intro claims that a rocket will:

...carry O.J.'s book advance to the Andromeda galaxy, where it will be stored in a black hole that is believed to lie outside the jurisdiction of the $33.5 million civil judgment against Simpson in 1997.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

THE FUNNIEST JOKE IN THE WORLD: PRESCHOOL EDITION

As I was doing research for an article NCLB, I discovered a flood of highly entertaining personal blogs by our nation's finest educators. One such had posted this video of the comedian Zach Galifianakis (a regular on Reno 911! and The Sarah Silverman Program) with an audience of preschoolers. My fav line is: "Preschool is nuts isn't it?" uproarious, manic laughter ensues, proving his point exactly. But the funniest part is when the children themselves deliver the jokes. Watch and discover the funniest joke in the world...to a preschooler.

SUPER FUN PARTY LUNCH TIME

I thought I was sooo rad, winning a free lunch for up to ten people at my favorite taqueria downtown. I won by dropping my business card into a drawing box (this is actually the 2nd lunch I've won in the past two weeks). Alas there was a catch, a catch upon many. Basically, it will be sponsored by a financial group, whose rep will bombard us with chin music (look it up people) as we order, and then make us fill out a questionnaire. As my friend Linda pointed out, the email from the rep, in order to invite my "associates", makes the event look like one super fun party lunch time:

LIST OF ATTENDEES:

1. Amity

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

Rules:

21 & over

NO Alcohol

NO Dessert

Must BE PROMPT / ON TIME

Have Fun!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

SPONTANEOUS BISEXUALITY OF THE FUTURE?

Italian physician Dr. Umberto Veronesi is predicting a rise in bisexuality in the future, claiming that we will be able to see evidence of this major trend in just three generations time. This, he contends, will be attributed to a massive cultural transition whereby love will be based more upon affection than procreation.

But relax! The Washington Blade reports that, according to Dr. Paula Rodríguez Rust, a lesbian and member of the International Academy of Sex Research, "...that doesn’t mean people who are straight or gay will spontaneously become bisexual."

Whew! For a second there I thought turning bi was the new spontaneous combustion .

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, less than three percent of Americans identify themselves as bisexual. Whether or not these were incidences of spontaneity was not reported.

All paranoia aside, I am glad to know that love is more about affection than "genital needs" these days. Recently, my friend David H came across this great Freud quote from "Civilization and its Discontents":

"People give the name 'love' to the relation between a man and a woman whose genital needs have lead them to found a family" (57).

Sexy (;

I am now imagining a Sandals commercial of the future (three generations time to be exact), where instead of "I've had the time of my life", the backgrond music is Blur's "Girls and Boys":

Streets like a jungle
So call the police
Following the herd
Down to Greece...on holiday
Love in the nineties
Is paranoid
On sunny beaches
Take your chances...looking for
Girls who are boys
Who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like their girls
Who do girls like their boys
Always should be someone you really love

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

BIN LADEN MORE POPULAR THAN BUSH

At least in Pakistan. A poll by a Virginia-based think tank called "Terror Free Tomorrow" ran a poll asking 1,044 Pakistanis, face-to-face, what they thought of bin Laden, Bush and their own president Pervez Musharraf.

Turns out bin Laden blew the competition out of the water with a whopping 46 percent approval rating, while Musharraf got a 38 percent rating and Bush, surprise surprise was at a pitiful nine percent.

There is a silver lining, however. The Pakistanis admitted their opinion of the U.S. would get better if Americans gave more aid to their country, gave more in business investments, and issued more visas so that they could work in America.

And who knows, maybe, if we treat 'em right, they'll erect a great monument to commemorate the outstanding support we've shown to them. Perhaps like the sarcastic Sarajevans who built a great statue to honor us and show how very much they loved the canned beef they received during the 1992-95 seige of their city.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

HOPE IN THE DARK

Every now and again I'll come across a book which moves me to tears. I think this has happened maybe 3 or 4 times in my life. I recently finished Rebecca Solnit's "Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities" and such a moment occurred in the very last chapter.

Rebecca Solnit is a local Bay Area activist and cultural historian. I first came across her in the Guardian's Comment is Free section, enchanted by her ballsiness in writing this entry. Her prose in "Hope in the Dark" shines and dazzles, waxing poetic on subjects that tend not to inspire great nonfiction writers to step outside of basic documentarian posturing.

The book revisits social movements stemming from the '99 WTO protests in Seattle, and traces some truly inspiring moments of activism which, in Solnit's view, have sparked a new breed of political activism across the globe, the Zapatistas in Chiapas often cited as one example of this new model. What's truly stunning is how she manages to connect all the dots, pinpointing the amount of political cross-pollination that has occurred over the past decade through common enemies such as war, global warming, environmental sustainability and labor rights. Linking conservative ranchers to lefty environmentalists fighting for sustainability; Kazakhs and Western Shoshones united against nuclear test sites, Solnit captures the seemingly nebulous state of modern social movements.

The ending of this book was so beautiful, and made me oh so very proud to be a San Franciscan:

The future is dark, but begin in the present, at the Pacific where it fronts my city, where western civilization comes to an end in a strip of sand and the realm of whales and sharks begins. Fish populations are plummeting in this and other oceans, but if you go down the coast a ways you'll come to where the sea otters hunted nearly into extinction have come back to the kelp beds; if you go either north or south, you'll come to the beaches where the elephant seals who were likewise nearly exterminated return every winter to fight, mate, and nurse their young. Take a third Pacific species, though--the brown pelican, which also nearly disappeared, then came back--and imagine one pelican's trajectory from Ocean Beach, the western edge of my city and our continent.

Imagine it soaring with the heavy prehistoric grace of a pterodactyl down Fulton Street, the long street that starts at the beach, parallels the north side of Golden Gate Park, and carries on after the park ends to run east through the old African-American neighborhood, past surviving gospel churches and extinct barbershops to the little formal garden between the War Memorial Building and the Opera House, then straight into City Hall, whose great gilded dome straddles the street. Let that pelican soar through the echoing central atrium where in 1961 students who protested the anticommunist purges were washed down the marble stairs with fire hoses, let the bird float out the other side, going on east, to United Nations Plaza, where Fulton dead-ends into Market Street, the city's main artery. This is the place where stories come together, one of the countless centers of the world.

...From the west, California as a fierce goddess confronts you; at her feet stands the California grizzly, extinct everywhere but in art and on the state flag. Dedicated on Thanksgiving 1894, the monument survived the 1906 earthquake while all the buildings around it crumbled and burned...a few Native Americans denounced one of its life-size sculptural groupings, the one that shows a Mexican vaquero and padre looming ominously over a prone and apparently conquered Indian. They didn't succeed...but they stirred up a furious public conversation about California history, and they won an addition, a bronze plaque below the sculptural group that speaks of genocide and colonialism, a small rewriting of history, a small measure of change.

...This is what the world looks like to me, like U.N. Plaza, full of half-forgotten victories and new catastrophes, of farmers and junkies, of mountains of apples and of people trying to change the world and tell the truth. Someday all of this may be ruins, but for now it is a place where history is still unfolding. Today is also the day of creation.


We need more books like this to read in conjunction with bleak morning newspapers. We need something.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Hawke Book Spreads Abject Mediocrity, Drags Feist Down with It


Oh crappy Ethan Hawke book, I thought I'd erased all memories of you when I threw you in the trash at age 16, perhaps, if memory serves, even spitting on your shitty hardbound cover. But now you've been made into a feature film, effectively making me wish for the days when Garden State, the worst Wes Anderson/Mike Nichols knock-off film ever, was just the worst pseudo-pretentious peice of trash I'd ever seen. But now I've become saddened by the knowledge that even Zach Braff just isn't at the bottom of the barrel any more.

I think it was the line, "And the day made love to the night" that threw me into a fit of nausea-tinged anger as a youth--I mean, at 16 I was no lit expert, but c'mon, I wrote more compelling stories at age 10 (a story I wrote about a tennis ball and his journey of self-discovery was published in a collection of short fiction by Nevada elementary school children one year). The plot goes something like this: boy meets girl, boy looses girl, boy goes off the deep end of an olympic-sized pool of his own self-loathing and pitifully lame self-indulgence expressed through banal cliches masquerading as expressions of profound heartbreak.

Hawke's new movie looks so bad, it's even got steely-hearted film critics embarrassed. This review was my favorite:

He’s a certifiable pseudo-pretentious windbag who wants so goddamn badly to be Gus Van Sant that it makes my spleen ache like a saxophone inside a sick tooth. And the biggest problem I have with it is not an outright dislike for his work, but a queasy brand of pity I feel for a writer/director who seems almost all too aware of just how third-rate he is comparatively. It’s like … like … Jewel showing up to a poetry reading at Maya Angelou’s house. She’s gotta know just how badly she’s going to embarrass herself, but you feel equal parts shame and reverence for the brazen audacity it takes to get up there and avail her grade-school level vulnerabilities in front of a poet laureate.

What's more, Hawke hired this schmuck Jessie Harris to score the soundtrack. This Harris character used his wannabe-indie sensibilities to write all the songs and hand-pick the musicians "fortunate" enough to cover them. Willie Nelson, Cat Power, Emmylou Harris and Feist are sadly among them. I was excited about the idea of discovering a new Feist song, so I downloaded and almost enjoyed it enough...but then..."like roses on the sea"? Wtf? Ethan? Did you write these lyrics?

Unchained unchained
We drift away
Like roses on the sea

Stars in the sky
They’re always alone
They’re on their own
But you know they’ll always shine
And I know they’ll always shine
All the time


Bwwahh, brrwahhargh, blarghwaagh

(I'm such a great writer, I can capture the essence of barfing so very well. Try that Hawke...more like...chicken.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

VIDEO GAMES, THEY AIN'T WHAT THEY USED TO BE

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

There was once a time, long ago and far away, when a wee lad could grow up strong, and grow up wise, and become the all-time world champion of Donkey Kong, or even Missile Command, if you like. He may appear on the cover of Life magazine, pose for Playgirl, marry a woman with fantastic breast implants, and even have a great conversation with the rock star Madonna Ciccone, in the 80s. Last weekend I saw King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, which captured that bygone era in all its glory.

Perhaps the most awe-inspiring, mind-blowing documentary of geekdom that I have ever experienced, the characters featured in this film were so rich, so incredibly dweeby, that the director was offered a movie deal to have real actors portray the real-life ubernerds.

A side character that really didn't appear all too often in the film really stood out--the aforementioned Missile Command world champ. Dubbing himself "Mr. Awesome", me and my friend Allie felt the immediate need to YouTube the video of himself featured in the documentary, where he lays out his guide to getting girls, stating, in his best Senator Ed Kennedy impression, and I quote, "I want you to remember: No punk bastard ever got a gnarly piece of poontang by being sensitive and considerate!":



After the film, we engaged in a serious discussion about video games, how social they once were, etc etc. I found myself recounting my days of a deeply disturbing addiction to the first-ever CD-formatted game console SEGA CD at age 13. Specifically, the game Night Trap, which has since been pulled off the shelves due to its controversial content. I loved that game, it had all the right ingredients to make for an unbelievably creepy gaming experience: you've got a young pre-suicidal Dana Plato, massive house with hidden passages to explore, bizarrely devious family with near-scenes of molestation, and nightie-clad sorority types falling prey to ninja/vampire burglars wielding sci-fi blood-extracting devices. This thing really blew GTA and Resident Evil out of the water. Seriously. Recently, also on YouTube, I discovered segments of the game...oh how I yearn to play it again! Die Lisa Die!

SENATOR LARRY CRAIG GETS NO RESPECT

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The Craigs

Since I've only read about him and never heard his voice, I'd like to imagine the Idaho Senator talking trash like Rodney Dangerfield, elaborating upon his official statement to the press about recent allegations of improper public bathroom behavior:

I'm tellin ya, I'm not gay.I never have been gay. No respect, no respect. My wife, she's a real frigid kinda dame, y'know? I mean, a roll in the hay is like, foreign to her y'know? She thinks Grape Nuts is an STD or sometin'. My brother said giving him a blow job would help his unemployment, so she gave him one, y'know? This dame. No respect.

So I get a little lonely on business trips? So wha? Rubbin another man's leg in a bathroom stall is like, the way I say hello, make friends y'know? Badda bing! Then I give 'em a little slap n'tickle, how's your father, I'm just sayin--no respect no respect. If that leads to somethin sexual, who am I to turn someone away and hurt their feelings, y'know? People are actin like I'm gay or somethin', those who don't want to give me respect--do I need to remind you who I am? Larry-muthafuckinrespectful-Craig. I'm such a great social conservative, where's the respect? Where did it go? Ay! I've been in the NRA for over 20 years now, I reject protection for gay victims of hate crimes and am a big endorser of the Federal Marriage Amendment, y'know? No respect no respect. I think the federal government should give no respect to Hurricane Katrina survivors. Ay-oh! I get respect, but them gays and poor New Orleans sons of bitches, they get no respect. I am Larry-muthafuckinrespectful-Craig.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

MY HIGH SCHOOL REUNION

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A shot from Lisa W's sweet sixteen. There's nothing more foul in all the world than rich white teenagers receiving new cars with bows on top.

My reunion was crap. There, I said it. Completely anti-climactic, a super-low turnout of under 70 for a class of 300+, and a recent tragedy less than one week prior which saw our "Most Friendliest" as a meat cleaver-wielding child killer didn't help matters. All this made for a sad event indeed.

However, I did get to see about five or so awesome folks that have actually maintained their awesome tendencies, if not completely expanded upon them. And I stole a time capsule from a girl in my class that was appallingly snobby in high school. And it had some really intimate collectibles. And they were LOLADOF funny ("Laugh Out Loud And Dying On Floor" for those not hip with the new lingo). This girl didn't make it to the reunion, and since I never made my own time capsule, I rejoiced at living vicariously through Lisa W.'s.

Lisa W. was on the dance team with me. She had dark brown hair past her ass and was extremely lanky with stalky green bean legs. I never counted her as one of the more intimidating beauties in our school, especially since she had a speech impediment which made it difficult for her to pronounce her R's, replacing them W's. She thought she was a real gem though, that's for sure. And judging from the suitors that passed notes to her in class, a bit of a "woman of the night". One of them, who we'll refer to as "J", was a friend of mine, and made an annual event out of asking me out. I, in return, made it an annual event to flatly reject him. But Lisa W. dated him, and boy was that ever a train wreck. After Lisa brutally dumped him, he wrote this note to her in class:

Though time may pass a thousand shadows, the only scene I feel is your touch through the looking glass...I'll see you again when time permits the fate of young love. That day I love you and farewell.


Later, when "J" still can't move on, and Lisa W has a new boy toy, he writes:

Lisa, you're the best damn tease in the nation's powerhouse.

She responds:

Ya tease to please, not please to tease. Do it right or not at all.


What that means I may never know. I certainly didn't know it in high school, maybe that's why my dating life was so nonexistent as a youth.

The best was the letter she wrote to herself though:

Dear Me (Lisa),
I wanted to write a letter to myself so that in 10yrs I can remember what I was like...I hope that when I read this in 10yrs Ames and Shans will still be my friends. Amy is the goofy one, she reminds me of Phoebe on "Friends"...Luke calls me "chicken legs" cuz I'm so skinny. I don't think that but oh well...Well I have finally gotten into modeling and now I'm just waiting to hear from agents. I'm working at Contempo Casuals and I love the beach. I hope that in 10yrs I have a house on the beach or near it w/horses... Being 17 is so fun, no responsibilities, but when I'm 27 I will be reading this. That's pretty scary. "Smile its the second best thing for your lips, the first is chapstick." Well I best be on my way--oh and one more thing. No matter how hard mom tries, my room is never clean.
Love always, Lisa Class '97'


Oh Lisa, thank you for deep insights on...chapstick.