Monday, March 31, 2008

The Tibetan Dog Monastery

In 1994, comedian Margaret Cho wrote about a visit to a Tibetan monastery for dogs in her blog. She reminisced about the trip today in Huffington Post:

"When I think of Tibet, I remember the politeness of the dogs, pulling back their dog lips and ever so gently taking the food from my hand with their open teeth, not wanting to bite my hand accidentally and then looking warmly into my eyes with a silent thanks. The thought of rioting and looting and blood in the streets there is too painful to comprehend."

The following is her post from '94:

I recalled a distant memory today, when pressed by sunny quiet. I told the story to friends over a late lunch. It was the kind of tale you start to tell before you know you're going to, when remembrance takes over thought and appears like magic before your casual beloved.

On a trip to Tibet, some years ago, I had visited an amazing monastery. Sacred art is commonplace on the rooftop of the world. The air is thin, but the devotion is given weight by the political oppression heaved upon it.

Everything smells of yak butter, much like the lobby of a multiplex movie theatre, because it is used in every aspect of monastic life, from sustenance to tribute. Tea is made from it, elaborately detailed sculptures are carved from it, candles are given substance from it; it is the physical manifestation of God.

We were many miles outside of the city of Lhasa, where we could order oxygen from room service, and I carried a spray can of air with me everywhere. To be short of breath constantly is to understand true needy desire. Headaches from altitude sickness were debilitating and we, the sea level Westerners, took to our beds or ventured out to brief shopping excursions, but you couldn't really buy your air outside the grand hotel, so inevitably we would return empty handed and winded from walking.

When the group had acclimated enough for travel we hired a driver, Dorje, a quiet and very tanned man, who looked like a Jack o' Lantern when he laughed, partly because he was so orange and he had few teeth.

Dorje navigated the unpaved roads to a tiny village at 15,000 feet. He was incredibly brave, and we sped through and up into the Himalayas at a terrifying clip. I don't remember the name of the place, it was something impossible to pronounce, but it had a sinister feel to it. The streets were empty, but the shops were all open, selling row after row of plastic women's shoes on racks set outside, as if the sandals and pumps were alluring enough to pull you into the store.

I walked out of the main street to the monastery, which sat huge and ornate, but covered in dust. I had sought it out, for the story about the place was that it was a special monastery for dogs. When wayward monks had been reincarnated and demoted from human life into canine existence, they were welcome here. There were a few monks there, who looked after the monastery full time, but it was the dogs who came to worship.

Upon entering, I was handed a ball of dough made with flour and yak butter. Gentle dogs, all colors and sizes, slowly rising from meditation, would walk toward me and wait patiently for their offering. I would feed each a piece of dough and the dog monk would bow in thanks and move back to allow the dog behind him to take his piece. Sometimes one would lick my hand in gratitude, but mostly the dogs were more concerned with returning to their individual and private conversations with the divine.

It was quiet, and the grounds around the temple were clean, even though under every awning there was a warm, furry swarm of puppies sleeping against the belly of another dog monk. You would walk by these animals, and they would look you in the eye, in sincere acknowledgement. "Yes, we are all here. Yes, we are all sharing this moment. Yes, we are all part of the eternal mystery of life." There was no barking, no fighting, no nipping, no chewing on shoes or chasing of cars. There were just dogs, of every hue and stripe, with cold, wet noses and sweetly sloping furry faces, sharing the wealth of mystical knowledge with scholars in saffron robes and shaved heads.

They were dogs that had not the karma of household pets, or strays at the pound, but that of the seekers of ecumenical truth. Even though they were no longer human, they yearned still to know God, and lived within the walls of this special house, built just for them.


Sunday, March 30, 2008


I don't know if anyone is hip to this awesome hair metal band, Manowar, yet, but I discovered them on the youtubes recently. They do the most amazing covers of all your Easy Listening favorites. This version of Chris DeBurgh's "Lady in Red" really moved me you guys:

And if you liked that one, you should check out my second favorite cover of theirs, Paula Abdul's "Rush, Rush." They also did a cover of Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love" that will knock your socks off.
Quote of the Week:

"No, I taught them to make ethnic slurs."

(My friend Sean S. served in the Peace Corps a few years back. They sent him to Uzbekistan, where he became a prime ambassador for our great nation. He recently paid me a visit before heading out to play a mean game of frisbee. He's very enthusiastic about frisbee. He's very enthusiastic about things in general.)

Enthusiastic Sean: Wow, you live right next to a baseball field!

Me: Yeah, you play?

Sean (enthusiastically): No, but I am American! And I taught baseball in Uzbekistan.

Me: What other America things did you teach, did you teach them to make apple pies?

Enthusiastic Sean: No, I taught them to make ethnic slurs.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wal-mart is the new Nazi party

Say what you will about free market competition, and the right of big box stores like Wal-Mart to raze thousands of the world’s acres (totaling in a space larger than Manhattan) in order to erect these monstrous warehouses, completely kill small business owners, lock employees in stock rooms overnight without emergency services, and institutionalize a base level of gender and race discrimination continually challenged by lawsuit after lawsuit…today I am taking issue with Wal-Mart and its health care policies, and the ways in which their totalitarian administrators execute truly evil deeds. I'm taking issue with the way in which Deborah Shank was treated when the corporate monster successfully sued Shank for all she's worth.

Eight years ago Shank worked as a stock person for a Wal-Mart in Missouri until a big rig collided with her vehicle on the freeway, leading to irreparable neurological damage and a new home--a nursing home--bound to a wheelchair. While Shank was able to win $417,000 for her expenses out of a $700,000 settlement, Wal-Mart was able to retrieve "extraneous" medical costs not covered by the company due to a fine print clause that allows the behemoth to take back all money employees receive in lawsuits that award medical compensation. Originally they wanted $470,000.

Six days after Wal-Mart's legal victory, Deborah Shank's son was killed serving his country in Iraq. Due to the loss of her short-term memory, Shank often asks how her son is doing, and grieves repeatedly. Her husband, currently recovering from prostrate cancer, is working two jobs to take care of her and to send their remaining son to college.

Meanwhile, the company made $11 billion last year, and is one of the largest private employers in the world, fourth only to th Chinese army, the British National Health Service, and the Indian Railways.

After reading the quotes from Wal-Mart spokespersons, I can't help but see them all as Nazis. You see I’ve been reading about Adolf Eichmann lately, one of the chief architects of the Holocaust, and the trial in Israel that led to his hanging. I can't help but see parallels in the groupthink that led to a genocide.

Eichmann in Jerusalem, written in the 60s by political theorist/ethicist Hannah Arendt, explores the systemic route of institutionalized evil. Her argument is that evil acts, when institutionalized, can become a function of administrative banality rather than an act of revolutionary immorality. Somewhere down the line of bureaucracy, administrators find themselves in complete disconnect to the evil acts carried out by their own leaders in command, and humanity is lost. I see that in these Wal-Mart administrators and it is beyond deplorable:

Sharon Weber, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, declined to discuss the details of the Shanks' case, but she said the company was obliged to act in the interest of the health benefits of its employees as a whole. "While the case involves a tragic situation, our responsibility is to follow the provisions of the (company health) plan which governs the health benefits of our associates," she said.

Daphne Moore, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said, “It’s a very sad case, and we understand that people have a very emotional and sympathetic reaction.” But the plan, she said, is obligated to act in the interest of the health benefits of its employees as a whole. The benefits are designed so that when an employee does have an accident, “the plan steps in and covers those medical expenses so our associates don’t have to worry about them being covered,” and then later to reimburse the plan if and when they receive funds for the accident from a third party, she said.

Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley, who called Debbie Shank's case "unbelievably sad," replied in a statement: "Wal-Mart's plan is bound by very specific rules. ... We wish it could be more flexible in Mrs. Shank's case since her circumstances are clearly extraordinary, but this is done out of fairness to all associates who contribute to, and benefit from, the plan."

I am disgusted with all of the administrators, not just those working for Wal-Mart's PR arm, who took part in cheating this woman out of her family's livelihood. I am disgusted with the lawyers that took such a huge cut out of Shank's big rig settlement, the lawyers representing Wal-Mart that went after her, the Supreme Court for refusing to hear her case, and the policymakers in this country who allow corporate interests to trump basic human rights. Let us not forget that Nazi generals were also bound to "specific rules" in the best interests of their führer's "policy."

That is all.

P.S. What's up with this?

Of Dreaminess and praiseworthy males

Allow me to get a little, er, Tiger Beat on your ass here and gush about my love for these beautiful New Zealanders that call themselves the Flight of the Conchords.

I felt like I was 13 again when I picked up this magazine, only a bit of a world-weary, nuanced one at that. Alongside the Conchords were Ira Glass from This American Life, David Sedaris, Errol Morris (director of Fog of War), Kool Keith and Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses. Excellent selections this year, lady editors!

The recent BUST was wholesome pornography at its finest, well worth the money for the pictures alone. And if you've seen it, you may get the Tiger Beat reference.

I recently came across this one from a recent Maxim article on the boys (Jermaine Clement and Brent McKenzie), which steps up the eroticism just a notch. (Brent's mustache is painted on to look like Jermaine's):

Why are they so hot right now? Just youtube the hell out of them and look at every music video they've ever performed live or from their HBO show. As Daryl Hall (Hall & Oats) put it in Maxim: “The songs are really intelligent, really advanced. It’s not like ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic. What he does is bullshit. What they do is music.”

Beyond the obvious talent, it's easy to see why there are legions of budding young "Jermainiacs" and "Breterosexuals" (as they refer to their fans). The characters they play are just so sensitive and lovable. Especially Brent, who suffers from body image issues, and is tricked into having a one-night stand by a woman who lies and says she has to ship out to Iraq the next day.

Although FOTC has been casually gigging it since '96, they haven't really become recognized in their hometown of Wellington, NZ until this year. Apparently they were voted "Wellingtonians of the Year" by the local newspaper, the Dominion Post. They even beat out Nobel prize-winning climatologist David Wratt for the top spot.

I won't spoil everything from the BUST article, but here is my favorite excerpt, where the interviewer (who seemed to be totally crushing throughout the entire interview) asks about the FOTC's musical influences:
B: ...I guess Bowie was always being played in the flat.
J: But [the Conchords' song "Bowie's in Space"] came from...not even a song. We just started imitating his voice around the place.
B: And then there was this radio competition.
J: It was from the bottle store, and it was called "Brown Paper Bag," and the question was: What kind of things would you put in a brown paper bag?
B: It was in the early days of cell phones, and so we called up and said--
J: [Bowie voice]"You'd put Bowie in a brown paper bag!"
B: I think we spent about 70 hours pretending to be Bowie, and at the end of it, we came up with that song."

From the "Bowie's in Space" episode:

I don't know when the next season is supposedly beginning, but here's what I gathered from Maxim:

"While the first season was written around the Conchords’ existing set list, they’re now fresh out of material — though neither one seems particularly anxious about it. McKenzie is eager to do a Queen parody, tackle acid jazz, and attempt an R.Kelly homage. 'Trapped in the Closet was a big inspiration for the show,' he says. 'He’s definitely one of our favorites.'

'Bret urinates on all the girls,' Clement explains."

In the meantime, they just released and album and are set for a promotional tour, the details of which are not released just yet.

The Gender Speech That Never Was (Or Will Be)

"It is possible, indeed it is probable, that just as women have faced barriers and obstacles and derision, so have Hispanics, so have blacks, and so have men. No one in America can corner the market on suffering. Who the hell wants to spend their life in a corner, anyhow?

If we in this country are ever going to move beyond Hooters, beyond date rape, beyond the wage gap and the glass ceiling, beyond Girls Gone Wild, and bulimic 12-year-olds, we need to start working together. We need to work with men on the gender signals called out by the media and with business about the value of women workers. We need to talk to one another respectfully and listen to one another's complaints."

Could you imagine those words coming out of the mouth of HRC? Well neither could the two female Slate writers who wrote them. Last week, in a fantastic critique of Clinton's gender politics (or lack thereof), they contemplated why she would never be able to give a gender speech to match that of Obama's on race.

In my oh-so-humble opinion, the true mark of a natural leader occurs when seemingly-insurmountable obstacles, like adversity in public opinion, are seized upon by a politician that knows how to position him/herself in a role of great power rather than victimization. Time and time again we have seen how Clinton responds to negative press. Unlike Obama, she chooses to further victimize herself.

Her moment to elevate the public discourse on gender roles was blatantly thrown at her, much in the way it has for Spitzer's wife and countless other politicians' wives, with a public shaming as a result of a philandering husband. Sometimes a woman needs to be strong enough not to "stand by her man." So today, we have this type of discussion when it comes to the topic of cheating men in the public sphere. The way Clinton handled her husband's affair(s) is chillingly telling. From Slate:

Her biggest supporters are the women who see themselves in her and who feel that she is/they are owed this; after all she has/they have endured. But she won't give that speech because those women don't have as much in common with her as they think. Sure, her husband's behavior has humiliated her. But she has also helped him humiliate the women he's been involved with.

According to Carl Bernstein's A Woman in Charge, as her husband prepared to run for president, she pushed to get sworn statements from women he'd been rumored to have been involved with, statements in which they were supposed to say they'd had no relationship with him. She even interviewed one of these women herself, at her law firm. She also led efforts to undermine Gennifer Flowers, whom she referred to as "trailer trash."

In an interview she gave after the Monica Lewinsky affair became public, Hillary spoke about how horribly her husband had suffered in his childhood as the result of being torn between the first two women in his life—his mother and grandmother. (Note: Again, in this scenario it's the women who are victimizing the poor little guy.)

Hillary Clinton can't give the speech because she has not always been so sisterly, and if her biggest fans knew who she really blamed—other women—they might not still be fans.

One of the most laudable things about Obama is that he always elects to rise above the politics of victimization. One of the most troubling things about Hillary Clinton is that she is never above cashing in on it.

I hate to be hypercritical of a woman who has come so far in her career, so very far in a world where women's rights are lumped into the category of "special interests" despite the fact that women make up the majority. But I don't want an ineffectual, status quo woman unaware of her own misogyny in the White House, one whose brand of mudslinging and dirty politics mimic those of the patriarchy that came before her. Leave that game to the old, white men.

(This post is dedicated to Linda).

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Words cannot express

The sheer joy this video gives me. Thank you for sharing, Gabe.

P.S.: Watch out for Bosnian sniper fire, pequeña Hillary!

Quote of the Week:

"What I need is a shotgun to blow off your head."

OK, let me put this one in proper context.

I am having a beautiful day at the park on Easter. Me and some friends are watching the fashion parade of men in their finest Easter dresses with bonnets and frilly underpants (remember we are in San Francisco). My favorite, though, is a shirtless man wearing leather chaps who has deconstructed a stuffed-animal bunny and re-attached the feet onto his legs like knee guards. He uses the bunny's head as a helmet. Later he will dance to Prince when someone shows up with a sound system attached to a large tricycle.

We leave the park and then return from the store after gathering more refreshments. I slowly make my way across the sidewalk with my bike, after crossing the street. An old, frail-looking woman comes at me from the side on a motorized wheelchair like a bat out of hell at about 15 mph and 10 ft away.

Lady in wheelchair: (Screaming loudly) "Get out of my way, you're blocking the goddamn ramp!"

Me: (Nothing but air, jaw on the ground)

Tom: (Arms outstretched) "All you need is love!"

Lady in wheelchair: (Pointing at Tom) "What I need is a shotgun to blow off your head."

Later I forget about it and come across the cutest bunny I have ever seen:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

If you like watching Bollywood films on acid, and you like Barack Obama, you will LOVE this:

(Dedicated to Gabe and Yelli)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Honey look at me, lookat me. Honey--over here. Lookat me, lookat me...doggone menopause.

Women Quiz:

The Daily Show's John Oliver has a podcast called The Bugle, as I've mentioned before, and it is NOT to be missed.

The following is "a bugle women quiz, for men" from Episode 20: Who's The Least Democratic of Them All. Co-host Andy Zaltzman gave two likes and two dislikes of women and asked men to tell which are which:

1. Increased gender equality in society as a whole.

2. The elemental agony of childbirth.

3. The ability to combine a rewarding career and home life.

4. The menopause and the slow, inevitable decline into the inescapable chasm of death that it ominously foreshadows.

--so which ones are which, men? I know I know, it's a tough one.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How was King Tut, Hil? How'd he get so funky? Did he do the monkey?

Also: Was he buried with a donkey, and was he your favorite honkey?

The much-awaited release of Clinton's public schedule while in the White House finally came out today. It seems, much to the contrary of Mrs.Clinton's claims that she was a key negotiator in the '98 Good Friday agreements, she was tied up that day--instead opting to speak at a National Press Club event to honor a Congressperson who had died. Also in '98, the Clintons were in Martha's Vineyard as 'ole Bill announced a missle strike against what were believed to be terrorist sites in Afghanistan and Sudan. The next day, Bill felt the need to cut the vaca short and head back to D.C. Hillary, on the other hand, couldn't be bothered. (Doesn't she look slick in the Wayfarers? Yeah I'd be tempted to hang in the 'Vin too if I was first lady and had such a rockin' style.)

And as NATO launched an air strike at Serbia to punish Slobodan Milosevic for his brutality against Albanian seperatists, Hillary was busy in Egypt visiting King Tut, who was born in Babylonia, and lived in a condo made of stone-a.

*postscript: I got the info on Hillary's public schedule not from any American news source, but from the Guardian. Because our national media is just that lame.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Joelene doesn't know what to blog about

So I'll do it for her.

Last week I decided I was going to have my dear friend Joelene E. blog for me from Rome, where she is now living with a man who does the Italian voice of Homer Simpson. Living vicariously through her has become a hobby for me. Like internet chess.

I am guessing she is drinking too much wine to follow up on the topics mentioned. This is all she wrote:

dizzam, amity! you're giving me a writing assignment?! fine. i'll do it. but you have to choose one of the three following topics:

1. arguing in italian. including:
ME: "OK! fine! since we can't talk about anything serious without fighting, from now on we only talk about banal, small flowers or soup!" TONINO: "but joelene, flowers are not banal, flowers are beautiful" ME: "AGGH! i kill you!" (*since moving in with tonino i now speak a mix of fractured english and bad "ho fucking capito!". "ho capito" means "i understand" in italian, hence).

2. my valentine's day. including: a surprise from tonino, a screening of the worst french film i've ever seen, followed by a dinner with it's creators, one of whom was massimo cristaldi (son of franco cristaldi who made that italian film Cinema Paradiso). "joelene, tell us what you thought of the film...the truth." "well...i was wondering why the film starts out with the music from The Shining and then ends with the music from Charlie Brown's Christmas. and that part where the mother escapes from the mental hospital and has sex with a jeweler was a bit confusing."

3. italians are superstitious and watch a lot of TV

Non sequiturs: heavy-handed edition

The following are news quotes that I'd like to think are interconnected, as they all seem to have one unifying theme: they appear to me to articulate or reflect the underlying forces causing conflict and in this country and beyond. Or something like that, I don't know what I'm talking about, I guess you could say that about nearly every news item out there. I realize I'm no wise sage. But I did talk to one over lunch today that I have deemed my new mentor. He works as an attorney for a public interest law firm in the city here, and took time out mid-career to study Zen Buddhism in Japan for 10 years to "figure out the root causes of strife in society" or something to that extent.

Let's start with the CSM, an account of the violence in Tibet:

Called to settle the argument, the police beat and arrested the Tibetan, while letting the Hui man go. That prompted a mass protest by angry Tibetans, explained the monk, who asked to be identified as "Aron," not his real name, for his safety.

"We feel the government treats minority groups differently," he said. "It is not fair."

Asked why his fellow Tibetans were protesting now, Aron lowered his head, pondering the wisdom of a frank answer. The silence of the monastery, a warren of brightly painted temples straggling up a dusty hillside, was broken only by the cooing of pigeons and the musical tones of wind chimes fluttering from temple eaves.

He looked up, clearly resolved to speak from the heart. "Because we want freedom," he replied.

By that, he said, he meant both political independence for Tibet, which Chinese troops occupied in 1951, and religious freedom for Buddhist monks, who complain of restrictions by Chinese authorities.

"We want our culture to survive and to pass it on," said a fellow monk, who also asked not to be identified. "But we don't want to use violence; we want to solve this problem in a peaceful way."

And move to key remarks from Obama's speech this morning:

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

And finally, Michael S. Malone, writing about internet companies and nation-building for ABC News:

...the nature of companies has changed in the 21st century. Both eBay and Google are unlike any companies of 30 years ago, even global companies of that era such as General Motors and IBM.

For one thing, their reach is astounding — the two companies literally touch, over the course of a year (in Google's case, in a matter of days) more than a billion people around the world.

Moreover, these companies (and their peers, most notably the great social networking sites) actively enlist these multitudes of customers in the creation and management of the service itself. As such, they increasingly behave more like nations than companies, engaged in a social contract with their "citizens" and regularly dealing with matters that are akin to questions of sovereignty usually reserved for countries.

For example, what is eBay's PayPal but a kind of ersatz currency for the eBay nation? And when Google caved to China on censorship, it wasn't seen as just a business decision, but a violation of an unwritten Google Bill of Rights.

In this new corporate reality, business decisions can no longer be made simply for business reasons. Rather, the companies of this world must first understand who they really are, and then make decisions based as much upon cultural impact as the financial balance sheet...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Will Ferrell's Actors' Studio

I made a group of folks in a cabin in Tahoe watch this the other night at the end of a rough days' skiing 'n such. I don't know if it was the altitude and drunkenness, but we all almost died. It's a parody of James Lipton's "Inside the Actors' Studio," with Ferrell as Lipton interviewing the cast of "Old School." It has to be one of the best Will Ferrell bits I've ever seen. And ridiculously funny if you've ever seen James Lipton's outrageous celebrity ass-kissing in action. If you haven't seen "Old School" don't bother--this is way funnier.

Ferrell (as Lipton): When you speak it is like speaking to an alien, one that doesn't communicate through sound but through emotion.

I look at you and I look into the dull, lifeless eyes of a mannequin. But you
are powerful.

So many index cards full of questions--so ridiculous.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Running for AIDS

I began training for the San Francisco AIDS marathon a few weeks ago and, well, it's been an experience. My group leader, who was assigned to me and Sarah V based on our running times, is quite supportive and insightful with his weekly emails. This is his sixth marathon, which I gathered from the bottom of his email, which lists his complete health resume. This includes a gastric bypass operation five years ago and the loss of 153 pounds a year after that. In person, he got me and Sarah V very amped indeed, stating that after his first marathon, "I could last all night long on the dance floor!"

Here is the email sent today. Sarah said she was confused because she thought he was telling us to rub goo on our nipples, but to be careful, because it may give us the runs. The email, word for word:
A few pointers: make sure that your toe nails are trimmed. As we get into the higher mileages, long toenails can cause injuries and toenail loss. Also, particularly for the men, wearing nipple guards or applying body glide to the nipples will be more important as the miles tick up. On my first 5 mile run, I didn't take precautions, and when I got home and took a shower, my nipples felt like they were on fire as I soaped them up--not fun! Ouch!
I hope you all have tried GU or some type of energy gel/bar to fuel your runs. Don't try them for the first time on a Saturday run because you want to have a bathroom available should you have a bad reaction. I personally witnessed an AIDS marathoner get runner's trots when she tried a sports gel for the first time on a Saturday run. She had to run .5 mile with abdominal pain until we found a bathroom. Not pretty! It may be necessary to try several products before one fits right, but regardless, it's important to get your body used to getting fuel during a run to avoid hitting the wall or bonking, a potentially serious and very uncomfortable condition where your body has used up all its glucose reserves and is trying to cannibalize itself as fuel.
I personally use GU chocolate outrage flavor (it's made with Belgian chocolate and I love it). I will always call out the times when it's recommended to take in some fuel (generally every 30 - 45 mins).
Hope you're all doing well. See ya Saturday.

Total sponsorship so far: $1165.00 Still needed: $635

That reminds me, if you'd like to donate to my "runs" and give money to AIDS research and HIV treatment (I am desperate for the donations at this point), comment or something. I'll give you the link to the donations page.
McCain/Martin Association

I was wondering why John McCain gives me the creeps and why I still think he won't change America's torture policies on things like waterboarding. Now I think I know.

John McCain looks a little too much like Steve Martin (picture him with his normally white hair):

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Man bridges the Germany/Florida weirdness divide: looks quite German, but is in fact Floridian. (Lederhosen was removed prior to gator attack.)

"Once Again"

Some might recall how, years ago, Loveline radio host Adam Corolla used to play a little quiz game with listeners. They had to guess where the current "news of the weird" item came from--Germany or Florida--as no other regions in the world came close to dominating the genre. The Sunshine State's claim to all things bizarre is further validated by Drew Curtis' FARK news briefs, where "Florida" is its own category among "dumbass," "weird," "assinine" and "strange." Today's Florida headlines at FARK include:

Gov. Spitzer's bust sheds light on bigger problem: Miami's drastic shortage of high-priced call girls.

Woman in fight with city over her pet goose.

Attorneys and judge are 'stumped' where to send jailed Cuban paraplegic with nowhere to go.

Today I discovered my own outstanding story that is pure Florida absurdity to the core. The headline read: "Once again, Polk County gator-attack victim found nude in water."

Apparently, Adrian J. Apgar has a long history of getting naked with the alligators. Now I'm not one to judge, but I don't know what's with this guy and gators.

In 2006, he was discovered sometime around 3 a.m. by a man staying at one Moose Lodge, across from a lake where Apgar was being "attacked." The man called 911 and didn't seem to know quite what to do. Remember it's night, there's thick brush and cattails and mud. The man hears Apgar's screams: "Help! He's got me! The gator's got me!" The gator has Apgar's arm and won't let go. Subsequently, Apgar will suffer one broken arm, one partially-amputated arm, and a mighty bite on the rear. Also, Apgar is on crack cocaine. Listen to the 911 call here.

So this time around, Apgar was found in a pond. Again, naked, and again, in the ferocious clutches of a merciless alligator. This time, he tested positive for marijuana and methamphetamines.

Local Sheriff Grady Judd told the Orlando Sentinel:

"He's not just a menace to society, he's a menace to himself...He's past being comical; he has real issues."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Be nice, give rice

Stop reading this right now and go here. You can learn new words AND give rice to starving folks. In less than five minutes I donated nearly 300 grains of rice.

OR, click here to learn about geography while donating flour. OR click here and donate five cents to this non-profit.

Have you ever seen how Japanese harvesters dry rice? Magnificent.

The picture above is from the Asia Rice Foundation. Specifically, Kazuko Tomiyama's 2004 "Rice in Japan" calendar:

The type of landscape that evokes nostalgia shows scenes that have a human touch. It is the diligent care of human hands that naturally creates this type of beauty. That is why they say, in farm households, that the harder the farming conditions, the more the heart is moved by the scenery that results.

In fact, it is just this kind of land that brings forth the abundance of creatures. Here, at Shiginoyachi Wetland, diving beetles, water scorpions, water bugs, giant water bugs, water mantises, and other predacious aquatic insects are found, not to mention amphibians such as the Japanese tree frog, wrinkled frog, and Shlegel's tree frog.

The local children are particularly proud that even the Japanese skimmer, a dragonfly suddenly rare elsewhere, still flies and hovers here. In a project with students from Tokyo, the children are carrying out a joint survey of the paddy field ecosystem.

That is all.

Friday, March 07, 2008


Well are you, are you good and amped? If not, let David Hasselhoff help you with that:

Shakur knew nothing of bitches for he was no proverbial master

A Journey of 1,000 Proverbs Begins with One Mieder

I came across a great profile of Vermont proverb professor Wolfgang Meider the other day in the always-awesome Christian Science Monitor.

The man's scholarship in the field is nothing to scoff at, Meider having annotated proverb entries for more than 7,000 publications. The former German national cited the inspiring proverbs of abolitionist statesman Frederick Douglass as the impetus for becoming a U.S. citizen a few years ago. And his proverbial passion is infectious.

The more I meditated upon which proverbs have stuck with me throughout my life and have been handed down through family, the more I realized that, despite having no religion to speak of, I can begin to identify a pattern in moral code-building. For instance, my father was a bit buddhistic growing up, and when I was upset about an unfortunate outcome of events, he wouldn't exactly give me some popular catch phrase, but simply stated, "Zen farmer honey, zen farmer!" He was referring to this Chinese proverb.

But sometimes proverbs can seem like nothing more than clichéd phrases masquerading as common wisdom. When they're liberally regurgitated again and again, the phrases themselves tend to loose their meaning, if not outright dissuade a person from deriving any substance from them whatsoever.

A few years ago, my boyfriend at the time said, "You know what they say: one bitch, a million faces." I wanted to smack him really hard you guys, but he was with his buddies. So instead I scolded him like a child: "Who told you that? Did (name of friend who was a bad influence) tell you that?" He said, "No babe, Tupac Shakur told me that."

Anyways. I don't much care for that proverb. But here are some of my favorites:

"He who asks a question is a fool for a minute; he who does not remains a fool forever."

"If you drink the water from the well you must not forget those that dug the well."

"A rising tide lifts all boats."

I think a lot of the best proverbs come from song lyrics:

"You don't know what you've got 'til its gone. Pave paradise, put up a parking lot." --Joni Mitchell, "Big Yellow Taxi"

"Thunder only happens when it's raining. Players only love you when they're playing." --Fleetwood Mac, "Dreams"

"All throughout history, the loneliest people were the ones who always spoke the truth." --Kings of Convenience, "Misread"

And of course, a most postmodern proverb a la Bob Dylan:

"Half of the people can be part right all of the time, some of the people can be all right part of the time. But all the people can't be all right all the time. I think Abraham Lincoln said that. 'I'll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours,'--I said that." --Bob Dylan, "Talkin' World War III Blues"

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Feeling check: obituaries make me sad but oftentimes happy

This week I was tasked with writing an obituary for my newspaper and, as of Monday, I was really amped you guys. It may sound sick, but for a journalist, I think it can be a very honorable assignment and very humbling in that it can stifle the brio typically associated with a reporter's work. So I was pleased that I was chosen to write it, even though I knew it was handed to me because no one else wanted to do it.

But then I found out who my subject was. I was not to write about the journey of a lengthy, dignified life and the peaceful passing on into the great unknown, thus solidifying the legacy of an old person. Nope. He was a successful lawyer in his late thirties with two kids aged three and five. The man had cancer, and found out he may have less than two years left to live--he didn't make it. His wife was a strong, generous and kind woman who, just less than a week after her husband's death, was joking with me on the phone about this man's biting wit and zeal for insulting his co-workers.

I had a difficult time researching his life and talking to his wife while holding back the tears. I think I was holding up pretty well until I saw a picture of him on a boating expedition, his arms outstretched, glaciers in the distance. The picture screamed, "I'm embracing life, here I am!" But here I was, telling the story of where he wasn't. Talking to those who missed him. It was awful.

But in the end it wasn't, and I did feel good about myself, for helping to keep a man's memory alive. I've begun reading obitiuaries in order to be mindful of what I have, and in order to further honor the memories of others.

A friend of mine, a manager at City Lights books, would come into the bar/restaurant I worked at in North Beach always with a newspaper in hand. He told me that he always read the obituaries first, because he wanted to be mindful of those souls who no longer had the privilege of watching the news of the world unfold along with him.

It's actually kind of refreshing to read obituaries, because it instills the idea that an unknown, "little" person can still be considered a hero, even if only through a beautifully-written obituary. One that I came across from last week's SF Chronicle describes the remarkable life of Mary Ellen Lear Sherry, the first female reporter to cover state politics in Sacramento. If it wasn't for her passing and subsequent obit, I may have never known about this astounding, inspiring life.

That being said, I still think it isn't without tact to satirize the lives of the recently deceased. Upon hearing about William F. Buckley, I began to research some of the books he wrote and am highly intrigued by his series of spy novels. It seems Mr. Buckley fancied himself a writer like Ian Fleming, with the great all-American version of Bond called "Blackford Oakes." In one book, not even the Queen of England is immune to Oakes' charms. He shags her baby, shags her rotten! I hope to provide excerpts from Buckley's series here in the future.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Children's Treasury Of Barack Obama Playing With Tractors

Here are some pics and captions of Obama that I lifted from Wonkette. I'd like to dedicate this post to Evan, who is a racist and will laugh. Enjoy:

Everyone's favorite Barry Obama tried to connect with "the average American" serf today by attending the whitest event ever: the "Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo 2008." Hurrah! He sat on various farm tractors, and then looked at other farm tractors, and then asked people what the hell tractors do.

This is a thing called "-CHALMERS." Barry has no idea what a "-CHALMERS" machine does, but he supposes this friendly face might know. The friendly face tells him to push the orange button, lift the steam pipe, open the valve, and then go fuck himself. The friendly face, you see, does not care for black people.

Every Cloud Has A Golden Lining

(I recently spoke on the phone with my dad. He seemed very happy and nearly manic over the failing economy. He was awarded tens of thousands of dollars through some old class action claim against his company. He found something fun to do with the money.)

Me: Hey dad how're you doing?

Dad: Couldn't be better honey, couldn't be better. Ha-ha! I'm like Ebeneezer Scrooge over here, countin' all my gold coins and puttin' them in piles.

Me: What? I know you were talking about buying some gold, but...where did you get it? You didn't get it from that infomercial with the woman who talks like she's hosting Masterpeice Theatre did you?

Dad: No honey, it's perfectly legit. I went to the local coin exchange center. You know, the worse the economy gets, the better it is for the gold standard...(goes into rant I've heard twice before)...

Me: So basically you're banking on a weak dollar. You're investing in the collapse of the U.S. economy?

Dad: You betcha!

Me: Are you going to buy me a magic beanstalk with those coins?

Dad: Possible honey, if the value keeps going up.

Apparently it is, according to Thomson Financial:

The raft of bad data from the world's largest economy briefly
pushed the dollar to a new all-time low against the euro, and oil prices to rise
above 103 usd.
Gold benefits from a weak dollar as bullion is seen as an
alternative asset. And with inflation fears rising due to record high oil
prices, gold also benefits from its safe-haven status, as it is bought to hedge
against oil-led inflation.
Barclays (NYSE:BCS) Capital analyst Suki Cooper
said that, with more negative data expected out of the US this week, gold prices
could rise even further if the dollar consequently weakens even more

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Pete and Pete

Am I the only person in the world to own the DVD of this show, and to occasionally reflect upon the bizarre genius that was once broadcast on Nickelodeon? I was 13 at the time it came out, barely young enough to watch Nick without being considered a complete nerd. This was also the only show I could watch and bond with my five year-old brother.

(Above: Young Pete and Artie, the Strongest Man in the World)

But seriously, how many children's television programs are based upon two red-headed brothers named Pete, the younger of which has a mysterious sailor's tattoo of a woman on his arm he likes to call "Petunia" and make dance by shaking his arm? And how many shows are genius enough to attract cameos by Debbie Harry, Michael Stipe, LL Cool J, the redhead from the B-52s, and Iggy Pop?

The young Pete (shown above), was fantastic because he was like Pee-Wee Herman or something, you could live vicariously through him because he committed acts you dared not attempt: wearing adults' clothes that dragged to the floor, striking against bedtimes by staying up for nearly a week, taking dynamite with you to go trout fishing. But it was the elder Pete's narration that made the show so enchanting and at times poetic.

And how about the summer vacation episode, where Mr. Tastee disappears and Artie battles it out with killer bees from the Yucatan Peninsula and the dad discovers a '78 Cutlass Supreme on the beach using a metal detector and the whole family hops in and they drive it home?

Mr. Tastee: I have to go, kid-os. I'm an ice cream man. I'm what the summer is: fireflies, thunderstorms, butt sweat on a hot car seat..

And what about the kick-ass music by Polaris? I've spent years trying to track this band down because they were so f**ing good. Here is the intro to the show, complete with Polaris. Enjoy: