Sunday, November 21, 2010

If That Ass Hadn't Shown Up...

"I will now read the minutes."


"Continuing. In the last sessions there has been no steady progress towards a resolution of labor disagreements. The current economic and working climate between both parties has been found to be unsatisfactory towards both parties. Negotiations began three months ago, and despite the concessions made at the last meeting neither has reached satisfaction."

At this point the Morlock representatives walked out, clutching their heads in despair.

* * *

"Going to the party tonight?"

"Fuck off."

"Everyone's going, come on. Don't be a pain."

"I don't want to see anyone. I'm going up on land."

"Dude. Dude!"

He scuttled up after him.

"There's nothing here! Air-plants! They suck!"

"I find it soothing."

" slowly dehydrate. If there was anything interesting here I'd tell you to stay. But everyone'll think you're a dick if you don't go."

They scuttled back into the waves.

* * *

It was an incredibly dull dinner party. He wasn't up to his usual tricks at all.

* * *

Weena went over to pick up some fruit off the ground. The others were playing a game which also, unsurprisingly, dwelt on fruit.

Munching away she wandered past the others, who took no notice of her, to the water. She slipped.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Post 200: Music Update

I am exactly half of the way through Tom Moon's 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Of the first 500, 395 have agreed with me. The other 105 weren't so hot, including:

"Toxic" by Britney Spears
Living with the Law by Chris Whitley
Rapture by Anita Baker
Psycho Soundtrack by Bernard Herrmann
The Ballad of Baby Doe by Douglas Moore and John Latouche
Joshua Judges Ruth by Lyle Lovett
Short Sharp Shocked by Michelle Shocked
Live in Japan by Sarah Vaughn
Hello Dolly! by Jerry Herman
Wild Gift by X

and many more. Some of the awesome winners that I was introduced to include:

John Barleycorn Must Die by Traffic
The Complete After Midnight Sessions by Nat King Cole and His Trio
N'ssi, N'ssi by Khaled
Inspiration Information by Shuggie Otis
The Best of Carlos Gardel
Turandot by Giacomo Puccini
Balkanology by Ivo Paposov
The Blues and the Abstract Truth by Oliver Nelson
Chester and Lester by Chet Atkins and Les Paul
Emperor Tomato Ketchup by Stereolab

and many more. I hope this percentage continues throughout the second half of the work.

In other music news here are the 2011 nominees for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Kindly note that the people I want inducted (Gram Parsons, Kraftwerk, and Roxy Music) are still absent.

Alice Cooper - I can only think of "School's Out".

Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique is a masterpiece.

Bon Jovi - Sure.

Chic - No disco please.

Neil Diamond - Meh.

Donovan - Is no worse than some others.

Dr. John - I own two of his albums: Gumbo and Gris-Gris.

J. Geils Band - Who? Apparently some Worcester band that had some the '70s...

Darlene Love - Background singer.

LL Cool J - I guess Radio is a classic.

Laura Nyro - Oh man, Eli and the Thirteenth Confession is a good album.

Donna Summer - No disco!

Joe Tex - Apparently a fore-runner to rap.

Tom Waits - Blech.

Chuck Willis - An early bluesman? They have a whole separate category for guys like this...

There were far too many this year I had to look up. The only three I really want to win are Laura Nyro, Beastie Boys and Dr. John. Pad that with Bon Jovi and Donovan and we'll be cool. The worst list would be Tom Waits, Chic, Donna Summers, J. Geils, and Chuck Willis, at which point I may lose faith in the R+R HoF.

So that's where I stand.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Here's a game. I'd say fun, but tastes differ.

Go to which is the Singaporean film censorship database and see if the movies you own would be banned in Singapore, or perhaps only allowed with editing.

I've been going through my collection. Here's what I've found so far:

Apocalypse Now - Passed Clean, that is unadulterated. I was surprised - war violence, the proximity in Southeast Asia. Huh.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - Passed Clean. Apparently child torture is okay.

Clerks. Passed Clean.

The Shawshank Redemption. Passed Clean.

Blazing Saddles. Passed Clean.

Milk. Passed Clean. Even though homosexuality is illegal... Same goes for Brokeback Mountain.

The Godfather. I don't actually own this, now I'm just seeing if I can push buttons. Passed Clean.

Snatch, Scarface, White Heat, Taxi driver. Passed Clean. (The latter, almost cutely, warns "violence AND course language" D'aaaw.)

Romeo and Juliet. Passed Clean. I guess there're no objections to depictions of underage nudity, either.

Passion of the Christ, Schindler's List. Passed Clean. ("some nudity" is the warning for the latter.)

Well, I guess that's it. Maybe I was wrong. Singapore is apparently pretty tolerant. I guess I'll just go through the rest of my collection. What have we here? Oh, yes

Life of Brian. BANNED.
Well, shit.

Of all of my movies, and many movies I don't own but could rationalize censorship for, my copy of Life of Brian is what's banned.

Here's what's interesting. Some titles are both banned and not banned. Like The Big Lebowski or A Clockwork Orange.

Also, some titles don't even appear, like The Third Man. Dr. Strangelove does not exist either. If they were banned they'd show up. They simply...aren't.

My entire collection is a-okay for importing (at a fee) except for a Terry Jones comedy. Because it pokes fun at religion. You can't do that. But you can:

Depict open homosexuality
Glorify crime
Demonstrate drug use (which in Singapore would result in death)
Show underage nudity and child violence and torture
Exhibit violence of any variety
Present any harsh language, including racist slurs and profanity
Make fun of bureaucracies and government incompetence

Oh wait! Wait! I had forgotten I own a movie. Let's see if I can get away with

Reservoir Dogs. BANNED.

Right. So the pattern here is...? I mean, Taxi Driver and Scarface, those are fine. Zatoichi, with outlaws killing outlaws and cross-dressing...a-okay. Both parts of Kill Bill are Passed Clean, too.

So I guess there is no pattern. Arbitrary decisions made by mindless bureaucrats. Fear the mindless.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The SF Green Festival is Decadent and Depraved

A rainy Sunday for free parking and a check-up on the health of America's hippies. Great!

San Francisco - the motherland, the home-stop. 9th annual this time. San Francisco in the 2010 Hope-bust. Obama had been here a few weeks before. Now he's in India.

Crowds don't change. Whether the sloppy weather would drive people away or inside had me nervous enough to show up in the late afternoon. Last day - perhaps some good discounts on whatever the hucksters flung my way.

Rather than the Cow Palace, whose halls I know, the greens had come to significantly more lush auspices. Parking a block away from the SF Tennis Club, I wonder how many members the recession has driven away from an admittedly lousy locale. This part of town, 5th and Bryant, is useless for living, although some artistic types pleasantly resign themselves to these Tenderloin outskirts. I'm not sure of any American neighborhood so well-named.

But even if greyed the light is still from sun-source instead of lamp post, and the festival-goers are out in droves. Too slight a drizzle to keep them away, but enough to drive them inside.

My tickets were free, and there were hot pink hospital bracelets at the entrance, that no one would check for the duration.

Besides a check-up on the green movement, which I'd not looked in on in ten years, I was curious to see how it was adapting to the infirmities of middle age. They were young and strong in the late '60s and '70s, and fully adult by the 90's. After the 2000 mid-life crisis I dropped out of it, and concepts like watersheds, r-value, foodwebs, solar and snow leopards had been replaced by buying a gallon of organic each week.

The ulterior motive for this was to see if there was free ice cream and business shirts good for the tropics.

We'd missed the ice cream - that was on Saturday. So up we went to the fashion section. I should mention I was with my father, whose slate ponytail was not out of place.

Plenty of greens in the building. Were they aware of their playing to stereotypes?

The man with the trimmed white beard, beret, and suit. Olive oil vendor.

Dreadlock babies, cute eye-linered girls so fashionable they'd passed to the other side, the well-meaning hipsters in skinny jeans and caps asking the critical question "What is falafel, anyway?"

Earnest teens ready to exchange cleavage for business, and two girls showering in what was some sort of demonstration in water-recycling or soap.

Asian people selling Asian remedies, offering Asian bodywork, handing out Asian business cards.

A young girl in pink and grey rhythmically kazooing towards the kid's arena where the hand-made stuffed dolls waited.

The San Francisco suits, always men in pairs, looking for something to brighten their lives.

Gauged ears and shaved heads, goatees, long greys, and a polyester-clad braided Native American man whose bright shirt I couldn't out-manoeuvre.

Oh, the hippies are alive in 2010. I'm just not sure they are well.

The festival isn't festive at all. It's a shopping market, a indoor street fair-cum-ethics violation. Which booth do you support: the one for hard working rural Kenyans or the one for hard working rural Guatemalans? Both are fair-trade and organic! Gluten-free!

Or do you instead, I think, buy whichever is cheapest?

Not that cheap items were abundant. Besides the clothes, which I abandoned after two rounds, there were home furnishings, crafts, jewelry (of course jewelry - the American entrepreneurial ideal survives on the potential of home-made jewelry), food to go and cook and food to eat for lunch, subscriptions and petitions...

"This man who had no chance of winning, a junior senator that no one had heard of..."

Keep trying to rally the faithful. I wonder if they voted last week.

...books on every type of spiritualism and green investing, paper made of elephant dung, soap and shampoo and cream and conditioner made of anything from goat's milk to bee spit to acai juice (probably) and all of it peddled by young ladies ready to convince you why their product was the greeny-est. Water bottles water bottles water bottles: sleek, patterned, self-purifying, a collapsible bowl made of recycled chopsticks.

My dad found two rival ink cartridge refill programs, and got their business cards. I would walk away with no such find. Hemp shirts may wick water effortlessly, but at $55-95 per, I wasn't buying.

These hippies had itching palms: but what else but expensive art and crafts was there? A few speakers, getting a few listeners. Amateur musicians. Movies.

How can the hippy survive on mark-up? All the corners of the idealized world were sharing wares: Tibet, Africa, Chile - anything third-world would do. No booths bragging their items were from Paris or Tokyo. California was a safe bet: Buy Local!

Corporate greenwashing has become the green movement at the San Francisco Green Festival 2010. Nothing outlandish like BP. Just every vendor in the place happily accepting Visa or Mastercard for your [exotic location][thneed]. Even if you said "Fuck it - I'm only supporting the Guatemalans this year" you'd still feel the trap spring shut on the way home when you realize you'll be cherishing this thing because of it's dear price rather than it's ethical capital.

When your apartment burns down and all the third-world do-gooding merchandise is gone will the pang come from cultural loss of knickknackery, or loss of stuff? To put in Buddhist terms: are you attached to your organic fair-trade vegan lifestyle and do you need that wrap to prove it?

"Save the fucking planet? We can barely take care of ourselves!"

When we decided to split re-entering the San Francisco early evening glow the walk back to the car landed on any topic of conversation besides the Festival, from blinds to bars to cross-walks. A busted afternoon, void of revelry but secure in spending, the American hippy is either buying or selling.

Geographic Fluency

I am fluent in:

San Francisco Bay Area

Boston Area

Bennington, VT

Reno, NV

Greater Aspen Area

I am partially fluent in:

Leeds, UK

New York City

Los Angeles

Washington DC


Columbia and Greenville, SC







With help I can regain fluency in:


San Jose, Costa Rica

San Diego, CA




Manchester, NH


I will soon be fluent in:


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Life and Times of Young Teetotaler

I can only imagine what a difference alcohol makes in a person's life. As a life-long abstainer I've found no use for the stuff. Yet, now that studies are beginning to show that moderate alcohol consumption is healthier than no alcohol consumption, I feel a slight pull to defend my position in light of health benefits. Further, since teetotaling is relatively rare amongst youth, it may do well to explain what appeal it holds for me.

* * *

I'm 24 years old. I've not been legally drinking for three years now. I didn't illegally drink for 21 years before that. My whole life has been one of abstaining from alcohol.

There's no religious reasoning to my decision, which I presume accounts for most youth teetotalers. Having no religion I have no religious qualms as Muslims or Baptists or Mormons might about the dangers of drink.

Let's not kid ourselves about those dangers, either. The other day in the UK there was a study showing that the effects of alcohol were in that country more damaging than heroin. Simultaneously there is research being vaunted by the pro-tipsies that alcohol in moderation is linked to longer lifespans than no alcohol at all. What to make of this?

I think the latter study on the benefits of alcoholic moderation is correlative rather than causative. That is, I'm not surprised that most people who drink a bit live longer lives. I think alcohol is, for many, the number one stress reducer in their lives.

Stress, as much more research has shown, really is a killer. We can reduce stress through chocolate, or sex, or alcohol. Chocolate only goes so far, and a great many people get together every Friday desperately looking for sex, so I think alcohol may be the way most people choose to relieve their tensions.

Obviously, as a drug (more accurately a poison) we know that alcohol has horrid side effects, in fact many more than a Hersheys. The liver damage is one deterrent, no matter what, if anything, it does for the heart. My heart is fine - I want my liver to be as well. Like any drug it also has the potential for addiction.

Here's a story: Once when I was a teen I was contemplating pot usage. Literally all of my fellow classmates were users, with the exception of only two or three individuals (who later were). A fellow I wasn't fond of took me aside and gave me some solid advice.

"Three things could happen. First, you could try it, find out you don't like it, and not smoke it anymore. Or! Or! You might just try it, find out you like it and that it improves your life giving you depth and clarity that you didn't have before, and be a regular user. Or you might turn out like Jesse."

Jesse could not, medically, have been addicted to marijuana. But the dude was addicted to pot. This was the kid who smoked up after school, before school, and in-between classes. He smoked at least three times a day, and got horribly irritated if he didn't: docile as he may have been high, he was a mean cuss when deprived of his weed.

So I didn't try it. 2/3 odds? Not good enough. To this day I still don't smoke.

This same type of roulette applies to alcohol. Someone very wise once pointed out: No one starts to do drugs with the intention of becoming an addict. No one initially starts smoking or shooting up or drinking hoping to become a victim of abuse. Yet millions of people fall prey to addiction.

Some day, genetically, we'll be able to know who is more likely ahead of time. But that day is still only a glimmer at the end of my lifetime. For now there is no way of knowing with your first hit, first drink, or first smoke, what the outcome will be. Whether you will escape or have it ruin your life.

Here's part of where the atheism comes in: I only have this one life. I'm not going to play around with a possible loss of ten years to drink or drugs and (hopefully) rehab. Even as a possibility it is abhorrent - an obvious path to avoid. Would you take the road whose warning sign said 'Caution! 1/3 chance road will lead to inescapable cliff!' You're lucky if you survive the fall, and far too many don't.

Furthermore, from a social perspective, we know that alcohol is very damaging and costly. As The Streets succinctly put it: "Government funding for further education pales in insignificance when compared to how much they spend on repairing leery drunk people on the weekend in casualty wards all over the land." We repeat the mantra over and over: Don't Drink and Drive. Every year innocents keep being killed.

Even if we enforced the laws we had there'd be a nice change. Try and figure this one out: Drinking in bars is legal. Being drunk in public is illegal. An interesting thing it would be if police stood outside bars waiting for the drunks to hit sidewalk so they could arrest them. Maybe bars would have special sobering-up rooms - not allowing patrons to leave until it's all worn off.

But enough reasoning for a bit. On to the life and times.

Being a teetotaler does put you at odds with a society where drinking is common in some obvious and other more opaque ways.

Dating is more difficult. Think about it: if you don't drink why go to a bar? Most people who drink or not have had the experience of being the sober one surrounded by people drinking. Everyone who has knows what a bad time it is. Some do it for charity, and put up with it out of kindness. Others simply feel like they're wasting their time being around drunks.

So if you don't drink going to a bar is very awkward, unless you stick to a close group of friends, in which case it's, at best, just a dull time. On your own, however, it's a little peculiar to try and chat people up for flirting if you're sober in a bar. The same goes for young people's parties, of the collegiate sort, and clubs. I suppose you can still dance at a club without drinking. But so often there is a drink minimum that you either waste your money or don't go.

Besides the brusque social and dating ramifications there are subtler ones. I love food and love good restaurants. Ever been to a 4-star restaurant with a date and not ordered wine with dinner? The waiter is never pleased. Or assumes you're a mature looking teen playing 'adult'. Neither experience is much fun, but hopefully when my hair goes grey that'll begin to change.

Teetotaling can also be a slight strain on relationships. The only two major fights I've ever had consisted of sober me and a girlfriend who'd been drinking. If being around drunks is a bore or outright unpleasant to you, then if your partner is drinking it means spending time with them can be a bore or unpleasant. Drama!

Then there are the small details: the aisles in the grocery store which you will never go down, the commercials on television for beer, the toast, the shared experiences and mindset you've not had.

Two final stories.

The first can't be told by the guy who lived it, a friend of mine from high school. Avery Mathieu and I were just beginning to cultivate a great friendship the end of my Junior year. We shared a similar sense of humor, intellectualism offset by silliness, and we could sit a jaw for an age. Ironically, before a drunk driver killed him that summer, the last thing we talked about was how he wanted his funeral to be joyous. I miss him.

The other was from a work colleague telling a story, which I will try to recapture while doing justice to the original, of some times he had in Hungary:

"I was drinking the night after exams and I got totally wasted. In Hungary they have a game where you take two shots for every one someone else takes, and I was already buzzed on beer. I started the evening in the bar I usually do. What I remember next is kind of fuzzy, but:

First I ended up in a bar I didn't know with some girls I didn't know.

Then I was sitting on the sidewalk of an alley with some bums puking and crawling towards a streetlamp.

Next I somehow ended up in the middle of the street, lying down, with cars driving around me.

I may have been naked at that point, come to think...

Anyway, I don't know how I got home, but somehow I ended up back in my room. Ii didn't go to work the next day. In between these visions, these episodes, I must have blacked out. I have no idea what on earth happened, and talking to my friends they don't know either. Who knows what I did. I don't even know. It's a weird knowledge that part of your life you lived without knowing it."

* * *

In a way I find the latter story sadder than the first. I have only one life to live, and I want to be aware of it. So my teetotaling will continue. Thank you, out there, for putting up with it. I do my damnedest to put up with you.