November 2006

Monthly Archive

A bit of sadness– my old coffee grinder broke one morning just as I was readying my morning pot… Something of a family heirloom, the grinder had come from my aunt and uncle and was probably as old as I am… Looking at the snapped cord, severed right at the base of the machine, was frustrating to say the least… Here is a mechanical problem possibly easy to fix… I’ve made electrical cords before (and only set fire to a kitchen once) and the engine had been working just fine prior to the accident… But if the mechanical problem is not fixed immediately I

will have some severe social problems in twenty-four hours time beginning with the first person who talks to me and ending with me in jail… Luckily I had enough sense to judge immediately that while I could eventually repair the damage but not soon enough to have coffee the next morning thus saving me a lot of yelling obscenities at the coffee grinder while trying to solder the bits back together late that evening… I would have to, sadly, buy a replacement but nothing more than a bridge between today and the eventuality of the repair… Having entertained some rather suspicious ideas in my past I was aware that there are manual coffee mills in existence just like many other modern conveniences coopted by mass production and consummerism… Unfortuantely I don’t have the catalogue which sells these, water cisterns for collecting rain, camping showers and solar panels anymore– maybe I do, actually… Anyways, my impusle here was that, in order to justify the purchasing of a new piece of machinery to act as a temporary replacement I would purchase one which required no electricity but didn’t have much in the way of clues for finding one… Sadly I don’t even know where to buy an electric coffee grinder except Bed Bath and Beyond… I did have a faint memory from years past, tho, and walked down to the Castro where I found a small variety store stocking everything from hardware to small kitchen appliances… There was a scandalously beautiful girl on a ladder who helped me find the coffee grinders available for sale– one model in two colors and the closest the store had to a manual appliance were spice mills… Not quite the same thing, we agreed… So I bought the black one and brought it home where I left it boxed up in my backpack until the next morning… It feels light and cheaply made and the lid is shaped exactly like the opening of my coffee pot which means the first thing I did with my new coffee grinder was drop the grounds and the lid into the pot… I checked the warranty– one year deal… Of course it’s a on year deal– it’s not made to

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last forever… Things are made to last forever anymore be it a coffee grinder or a job or a relationship… Facts of life, adapt and move on kids… Everything and everyone lands in the landfill sooner or later and we’ll just build another Walmart on top when the bulldozers have buried a generation’s worth of garbage… My only hope to alleviating my personal responsibility in regards to my most recent purchase is that I’ll have taken the initiative to repair my broken heirloom before this piece of garbage breaks down… Probably due to the advent of the holiday

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shopping season there was a news story on a group of middle class whites in Bernal Heights who formed a club to not buy any new products for a year… Garage sales, craigslist trades– these weren’t dumpstering types but they went that extra mile and circumvented the traditional shopping experience and acquired, well, a bunch of kitchy junk no one needs… There may or may not have been political or environmental idealogies expressed during said news story but nothing you can’t hear from the middle class white in the sweater next to you… The reporter asked if there was anything that had provided a real challange to these brave new consumer pioneers… Yes, said a middle class white in a sweater, there were these stemless wine glasses I really wanted… Last year I gave the family books for the holiday season which requires a little more creativity then I generally employ in showing my love for them but, luckily, is cheaper… My sister and father got used books I could easily explain and my mother, difficult woman that she

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is, got a new book with a receipt for returning although I’m not certain if she every returned it, read it or remembers it exists…Â It’s not really a strecth for me to be buying used shit– it’s a stretch for me to buy shit and it’s a further one for me to buy anything new… But what strikes me is how crummy I felt giving people used books for Jesus day, like I was handing poorly wrapped evidence of my lack of caring, seasonal involvement, and personal problems I’ve yet to climb over on my way to a salaried job with a wife (even mailordered) and offspring… I’m sure the family doesn’t give a shit I gave them used books– they certainly didn’t say anything about it nor were there any recognizable inferences to my being cheap… Still, all the same, there’s a certain conditioning that’s occured where it makes me feel bad… Me, who can stand in a dumpster for half an hour kicking through shit and have a grand time… And as much agonizing as I’d like to pretend it causes me I bet I’d feel a cleaner break with the holidays if I just dumped my pennies at the Macy’s counter and bought some shrink-wrapped gadgetry and knickknacks to pass round… Something I don’t care about, something the receipiant doesn’t care about, something with a year long lease and a short trip to the city dump on the horizon… Oh, and more evidence that God’s been laughing at me all these years after I got home from being creepy to the girl at the variety store I received a postcard– an artcard, really– from my friend Nancy… On the back was a catalogue image offering an old styled hand cranked laundry washer requiring no electricity and only the amount of water to use to wash what you’re washing… Ah, but I wouldn’t know where to keep that– my bedrooms’s still a coffin…

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The disturbing thought arrived whilst in the midst of a whiskey shit. Carrying me mercifully away from love’s labor lost was this head scratcher, imprinted as the sole English text on a package of Chinese toilet paper: “Mind act upon mind.” A redundant and misleading statement within the context of Buddhist thought, the phrase is a succinct, grammatically incorrect reiteration of phenomenology’s central thesis.

Was this foresight and kindness on the part of the toilet paper’s manufacturers? Subtle Communist propaganda designed to undermine our way of life? A mental fabrication elicited by William Grant? Whether or not this statement is a message of hope or despair most likely rests with the individual.

Equally unnerving is the slim blue can of Gatsby brand shaving cream, perched on my sink and also visible from my toilet. The identity issues raised by a grooming product named for a character that was little more than a winning smile are further complicated by this apparent mocking indictment of metrosexuality: “For men who want to keep the skin feeling healthy and fresh.”

Go ahead, you straw man pansy, shave up.

In news outside of my bathroom, a Russian spy was poisoned to death in London, representing the second incidence of an unnecessarily complicated Russian spy assassination carried out in the UK. First

it was ricin-loaded umbrellas, now the radioactive substance polonium 210. Next they’re going to be tricking ex-agents into eating shellfish during the summer red tide or mixing diamond powder into their cocaine.

The British police seem to be doing their usual miraculously good job–aided perhaps by their terrifyingly ubiquitous surveillance systems. Whatever the case, their work truly deserves praise, especially compared with that of their American counterparts. From investigative effecicacy, discretion in releasing frightening information, and most relevant this week, restraint in using force, our law enforcement agencies really don’t stack up to those across the pond.

While the London guard was tracking down radiation in sushi restaurants and in general finding needles in haystacks, the NYPD–in an operation akin to taking black off of coal–was busy trying to prevent people from purchasing sex and drugs at a strip club. The operation was appartently prompted by spates of violence against ladies of the night and the normally clean-cut, church-attending strip club crowd’s disturbing upward trend towards drug abuse.

Of course, because current laws make these social problems crimes, it is in the interest of justice system bureaucrats to “sting” those involved, rather than have their law-enforcement officers stand around in uniforms and make sure no one gets hurt at the party.

The net effect of this situation is that rather than the sleazy-but-safe red-light and head shop district of Amsterdam, New York and its environs have a sleazy-and-dangerous flavor everywhere you find big-people fun for sale.

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in this nerve-wracking environment, five of the seven undercover officers tasked with getting drug-addicted and poverty-stricken hookers arrested and put in jail got jumpy and murdered an unarmed man and bady wounded some of his friends.

Calling this incident a law-enforment or racial problem is a bit off the mark. Law enforcement problems are what they have in Oaxaca and throughout Brazil (or in Atlantic City, where dead hookers can lie next to the road undiscovered for weeks). Racial problems have nothing to do with Michael Richards or the NYPD and everything to do with unfair distribution of Pell grants or indifference to Sudan.

The rub is that if those officers had been in uniform, the fight that sent the groom out to his car for the imaginary gun would likely not have escalated to that point.

Both Richards and those New York officers made terrible decisions in the heat of the moment, but maybe they couldn’t have done anything else. Phenomenology argues that one’s experience is the only reality, a stance used both to exempt one from personal responsibility and to put it squarely on one’s shoulders.

I will go ahead and have my cake and eat it too and say that I think both tacks are correct. I think crime of passion laws are on the books in some places for the simple reason that sometimes circumstances drive people crazy.

Consider the various massacres involving US troops in Iraq. There are two groups at fault, one of which is made up of the most powerful people on earth, attended to as though they were Formula One cars, and the other is the boots on the ground, typically filled with 18-year-old kids from poor towns thrust into a hell-on-earth situation that never should have existed in the first place.

I would more readily blame those in power, who are old enough to have seen Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now and who really ought to know better.

So Michael Richards and Mayor Bloomberg are making the rounds of ministers and offering their apologies, while little is done to correct the underlying causes of either incident.

It’s only been

three weeks since the Democrats regained some power, and it’s already starting to feel like the Clinton years.

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Somewhere in the popular consciousness resides an idyllic paradise segmented by the white picket fences of yore… Sunday BBQ’s under warm blue skies, milk delivered to your doorstep by smiling, white-capped, fresh-faced men and hamburgers cost a quarter down at the drugstore… Everything was clean, people didn’t bear children out of wedlock and pop would build the most amazing tree house out in the back yard… If you happened to find yourself sharing the corner with a ringing in ears cialis frail old woman you would offer her assistance in crossing the street– of course she would accept… You shoulder her groceries and take her free hand, leading her gently as she tells you what a nice young man viagra online overnight delivery you are and, probably, she’ll offer you a shiny nickel once you reach viagra online the other side… No, you couldn’t accept… Walking home the other night down a dark side street, overgrown trees blocking the orange glow of streetlights, I watched a woman carrying bags struggling to unlock the gate to her apartment building… My impusle was to approach and offer help, to take a bag so that she could open the gate and the door, or maybe viagracanadianpharmacy-norx.com I’ll hold the gate so she can handle the door… As I grew closer and pictured this my thoughts were savaged by another image: startling her outside her home on a dark and quiet street offering to hold her belongings so that she could unlock the gate and door to her quiet house– me, cast in shadow, a stranger, a viagra vs food man, alone with her in the dark… At best she would jump at the sudden sound of my voice, laugh nervously that I had surprised her and offer an embarassed apology before explaining that, no thanks, she’s fine, she’s okay, she’s got in under control… The whole while, through the pounding pulse, she’s begging for me to leave, to leave her alone… I leave her alone, walking quietly past so as not to disturb or startle, and she continued her laborious effort to reach the sanctity of home… The next night the movie was in reruns as I walked home from work, although I felt a little better avoiding the situation since she was gabbing on her cell phone… But the same impulse strikes everytime I see a woman similarly burdened, or trying viagra pills from canada to navigate a child down steps with her hands full or break a stroller down to put int he trunk of her car… Ignoring them makes me feel like an asshole but I’m scared of coming off as a creep or a pervert… I’ve offered help before and been told rather cooly that my assistance is not required– anytime I’ve ever stopped to pick up anything that’s been dropped I always feel like I’m under suspicion as I hand it back… On the street women glance at me before quickly jerking their gaze away as I notice them and I feel like I’m discount viagra online canada being sized up as a threat… Worse yet is that it would be stupid of a woman to hand me her bag, to turn her back on me and unlock the door to her house… Anytime people see the news and a report comes on of a woman attacked everyone shakes their head– what was she

thinking walking alone at night? What was she thinking letting him help her carry bags into her house? We’ve given a reason to fear and shake our heads when they don’t bow to it… Spitboy released a slew of records all about it… So what happened to our milkmen and our BBQ’s and old ladies dishing out nickels on every corner to a horde of do-right boyscouts? As much as a myth those days must have been there had to be a validating aspect, just as our modern myth of a violent society, of Abel Ferrara, has its merits… No more borrowing the lawnmower from next door– I don’t even talk to mine… We shush each other at the top of the stairs as we hear them climbing, waiting until they disappear into their apartment before sneaking down, anonymity intact… The one time I was in my downstairs neighbor’s apartment eating cupcakes I swear to god that everytime I looked back at her from observing the artwork and bric a brac she was watching how my shoulders were set, sizing me up… I left as quickly and no doubt as awkwardly as I could…

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Voting Rights

Standing smoking in front of the anarchist bookstore looking worn and disgruntled– it’s hard to sell ideology and days of slow business can eat away your nerve… Approaching in my old punk rock t-shirt freashly adorned with my red “I VOTED” sticker I prepared myself for any amount of abuse which might be hurtled in my direction… The expected confrontation never occurs and, try as might, passing ellicits not even a trace of a sneer…

The girl at the coffee shop is thrilled by evidence of my participation in democracy… Earlier, she explained, someone told her they weren’t voting because they didn’t believe in it… What does that mean– like you can’t exist? Well, it wasn’t gonna drag her down and damned if she wasn’t gonna plaster that red sticker proudly on her shirt after her shift was over… It’s nice that she’s often the first person I speak to in my day but even so it’s hard to keep up with her sunshine…

Rock the vote parked one of those new VW’s out front of work, manned by a team of numbskulls in matching t-shirts… One looked like Sammy Hagar and played cock-rock licks through the car’s amp while a hapless film crew shot from cutting edge angles… The other must’ve recently escaped from the fraternity and stood much too close to me and explained that people had told them to fuck off as they were spreading the word ealier in the day… Can you believe that? Well, yeah, you make me wish I hadn’t voted– but instead of saying it I just wished them luck and gave up on smoking…

I’m a bad voter– I’m under informed and my comprehension of issues is on par with an Irish lab’s… Generally my grasp of conidates’ history is non-existent, I judge commercials by style and funding and I decide by emotional instinct over critical pragmatism… As guilty as this makes me feel I collect my torn paper cheat sheet and anxiously approach the polls, expecting mocking looks, quiet chuckling and some death by embarassment moment contrived by gravity and my lack of coordination… Aside from being accidentally disenfranchised one year I’ve never suffered any of the expected catastrophes and I can’t help but step lightly as I leave… It happens with the knowledge that my ballot may as well end up floating in the bay for all it’s worth– San Francisco is a predetermined district…

Still, the guilt of my feckless participation pales in comparison to that which I would– have accidentally– be consumed by were I to refuse… In the end I don’t think I vote because I care or because I matter or because I decide a fucking thing ot even because democracy’s such a great idea… In the end I think I vote for every southern black who risked being beaten, jailed or lynched for stepping up to a ballot box for the first time… For the women who marched through the streets suffering taunts, jeers and abuse for their suffrage… For the Central Americans who stood in line under military guard to cast their vote amidst a week of political bombings, assassinations and the closure of independent newspapers… For my highschool English teacher who flew back to Africa to participate in the first election after aparteid fell… I voted because Chinese tanks ran over college students and for Lech Walesa’s Solidarity movement in Poland– because not voting would be pissing on the graves of people who deserved a right routinely taken for granted by the most powerful population in the world, and the graves still being filled today… Not really a good reason to vote or a responsible act, just a goad I’ll respond to like a pack mule…

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Well, Rummy is gone. But what’s really interesting is who broke the news. Comedy Central. “Yep, it’s true. Defense Secretary

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Donald Rumseld is packing it in. This won’t come as a shock to those of you who keep in touch with the muckraking journal which broke the story late last evening, the Wall Street Jour— er, the New York T— er, the National Enq— huh? Oh, right, the Comedy Central blog. Nice work, media! You got scooped by the folks who write web promos for Mind of Mencia! Related: A Mind of Mencia web exclusive!!

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