April 2007

Monthly Archive

There’s a side porch on the third floor of my apartment in between my hovel and that in the rear of the building. On the ground underneath the bench decorated with Parisian landmarks lay three peeps– the disgusting yellow (traditionally) marshmallow chicks that plague Easter baskets– alongside a can of spray varnish. This is not the project of anyone I live with but, out of respect, I carefully hunker down a safe distance from them to smoke a cigarette out of the wind.

A cereal box had been employed to prevent the newly varnished peeps from damaging the floorboards, some variety of Safeway O Organics product that have been increasing in popularity over the past couple of years. Poor people– they hear that organic foods are the

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thing to do, so right and so correct, but they don’t know anything about what that means or what it entails. Lucky for them Safeway discovered this niche and has provided “over 150 exclusive organic items” for purchase. Now you can get your box of organic cereal and you’ve done your part– no need to worry about any of the messy agricultural or transportation or distribution or economic implications involved. Look, the express aisle’s open and there’s no line.

Mildly offensive– as offensive as it is amusing– but nothing to start setting fire to shit over… or is it? On the back panel of the box there’s a colorful depiction of South America. The earnest copywriter who landed this contract entices: “Take Organic Living on the Road”. There’s an invitation for me, the viewer, to take advantage of “naturally beautiful eco-friendly vacation destinations…” next time I’m traveling abroad. The recommendations? The Dominican Republic, The Galapagos Islands, Chile and Brazil.

Nothing to special about the D.R.– just one more place with Club Med sanctuaries for Mr. and Mrs. White 1st World to play in the tropics for pennies on the dollar. Chile doesn’t seem too wild although there’s a suggestion that Easter Island is the most remote inhabited island (which is actually Tristan da Cunha) that calls into question the overall validity of my cereal box encyclopedia. Then the real head-scratching begins when you look at Brazil:

Travel through stretches of unexplored rainforest, islands with pristine tropical beaches and endless rivers.

As tempting as it may be to send tourists into the uncharted wilds of the Amazon some latent ethical gland prevents me from willfully pursuing a life as a death-dealing travel agent. It’s not only a bad idea for the personal safety and well-being of idiots booking vacation but it also seems a little less than eco-friendly to have a bunch a shorts and Tevas clad goofballs tramping around the flora and

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fauna, or that which is left after the clear-cutters came through.

The absolute worst crime against humanity perpetrated by the Safeway Cereal Conglomerate is, by far, best exemplified by their interest in the Galapagos Islands:

…the Galapagos Islands have rich natural history and unique plant and animal life that make it a mecca for ecology enthusiasts.

You’re then invited to scuba dive into the unique plant and animal and swim with sea lions and penguins. For years scientists have been concerned about the unique Galapagos environment being affected by flotsam and jetsam drifting in from us civilized folks the world over. Now the sea turtles and weird blind critters found only here have to contend with idiot eco-tourists alongside castaway nets, Coca-Cola cans and leaky outboard motors.

Poor people– they just don’t know what to do. We’re supposed to eat healthy and, lo and behold, you can now get salad at McDonald’s! How tasty and nutritious and once or twice a week on your lunch break at your McJob you can feel like you’re doing something positive. Unfortunately current laws do not allow me to smash these people in the face with handy bricks while shouting “Stop eating at McDonald’s you stupid fuck!”. (more…)

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In Serbia a lot of people hate me because they want to westernise, not understanding that the western world is bipolar, with very good things and very bad things. Since they don’t have experience of the west, they even believe that western shit is pie.–Emir Kusturica

Despite my predilection for hiding in my room events overran me recently, out into the Richmond and in front of what used to be the jock-lite Last Day Saloon and has now become the yuppie-lite Rockit Room. True there was a birthday to celebrate and true two people had invited me but I was a little shocked at how readily I had consented to being taken away from my room. Maybe the mood was just there, perhaps the moon was in a special phase– I dunno. It may have been because two Serbian/Rom style bands were playing. Years ago I dwelled in a dank little hovel called Leather Tongue which was so similar to the dank little hovels I hid away in on purpose

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that I kept going. It didn’t pay well and it didn’t help any minor mental issues I might have had but it did introduce me to plenty of movies I would never have chosen to hunt down and rent on my own. After renting it out to hip Mission scum a thousand times I checked out “Black Cat White Cat” by Emir Kusturica which drilled into my mind and deposited some of the most flamboyant images ever captured on film as well as some of the most scintillating music ever, er, captured on film. If Fellini had been into carnies more than circus freaks and was thrilled by saturated colors (and been Serbian) it would have been his movie. I travelled back in time a couple of years and caught his earlier festival success, “Underground“. Last year at a different job I was hawking shit on eBay when I pulled the soundtrack to “Underground” from a bin of CDs. My hands were shaking and I played it on the office stereo. Then I played it again and again until I was quite certain that everyone was going to kill me so I had my boss price it out. Not in the store’s computer– Argentinian release so it’s $1.99… Awesome! To this day I think this is the only CD that I have danced to with another person. Waiting for my ride to The Rockit Room I played a couple choice cuts and bobbed around while finishing my roommate’s beer. The first band of the evening took their identity-crisis cues from Hector Babenco’s depression-era drama “Ironweed“, glorifying the hobo/drifter lifestyle by not bathing and playing guitar, a washboard and a bass made from a washtub, broom handle and a single tightly wound length of twine. The kids, friends of the birthday girl, ate this up and had skipped their showers special for the event. I tried not to be bothered by this and watched them play but wondering what to expect from the next two groups in the bill.

Brass Menazeri

Zoyres was a quartet: full kit, tuba, clarinet/sax and trombone. Fascinating shit, ultimately danceable and exactly what I was hoping for. It’s weird how the tuba took over where the bass would be and the trombone player kicked ass playing with a brash style reminiscent (tho probably because I can only name two others: my dad and Labamba from the Conan O’Brien show) of Don Drummond. The Brass Menazeri was even more bombastic with nine members, three tuba type instruments, accordian, clarinet, saxaphones and trumpets along with two drummers (a hand bass and a couple rack snares) and vocals. Both are local and I would recommend you check out either if your local is the Bay Area. So the evening went quite well even tho the drinks were horribly over-priced, most of the attendees living as caricatures running around like sugar-addled, snot-nosed brats and my getting home past my bedtime. I should just stop here… But it makes you think, don’t it? So far as I could tell everyone in these bands were American born and bred but both bands played distinctly Eastern European (with some Klezmer mixed in) gypsy music with no obvious Americanization taking place. It’s as authentic as The Dropkick Murphys but somehow entirely less offensive. Hell, the opening band, The Inkwell Rhythm Makers, co-opted not only their music but their dress and shtick from impression of a time long gone. Does America, appropriate outside culture so readily and so completely that there’s no bothering with integrating it with our own? Or do we just not really have any cultural identity not relating to commerce so we borrow heavily from places that have more than a couple centuries under their belts? Ysabella Dolfin wrote in her blog:

Watching local access Asian TV In Japanese. A cooking show. I have no idea what any of the ingredients are… but I recognize ground beef and some type of musrhoom. I am getting the feeling they are cooking “American” food. But they are serving it over rice with sliced fresh spinach. The theme song is some kind of Japanese rap music.

Japanese Ad

Now that’s a proper culutral mish-mash– anything the Japanese have done since 1945 has basically been one form of cocktail or another. Pop music, art, fashion, day to day living, advertising, food… it seems that every aspect of Japan has been touched by America and has incorporated, in the most fucked up way possible, the source material by taking what they think they understand and dumping tradition on top. Hell, the Japanese advertising industry has essentially become the hallmark of the Japanese approach to international relations. Why are we so fascinating to them? Cowboys? The independence of owning your own car? Where the hell is our culture out in the world that’s not a McDonald’s? PS- my efforts to make these pictures integrate into this post have failed but I’m sick of the second one disappearing so I’m gonne give up. Deal with it.

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If you felt alone in the world of exploitative business enterprise it should cause you no small amount of joy to learn that everyone on the industrialized side of the fence is just as nefarious, trouncing about with the rabid mongrels and shoeless children of the third world. The uniforms worn and the flags waved may have changed but the great white North still has the unlisted numbers to the new guard of colonial rule below the equator. The French army will not be found imposing curfew in North Africa, Britain no longer imposes martial law in India and the Dutch have ceased their murderous pacification in the heart of darkness, but rest assured that the situation is under control. The natives aren’t likely to get uppity because the natives will be shot so the steady stream of cheap imports and the bottomless pool of cheap labour will continue to exist for our amusement and profit.

Historically the Germans were not forerunners in the imperial land-grabs of yore, waiting for world events to invest much in properties beyond the borders. In the modern era we have Bert Morsbach, formerly an engineer from Dusseldorf just shy of seventy, who has labored for the past couple of years to introduce his Myanmar Vineyards. A sprawling 40-acre paradise in western Myanmar welcomes guests to tour the property, enjoy a fine meal and, perhaps, even stay for a couple days. Soak up the temperate climate in the shadows of the Blue Mountains just forty miles from the famed Inle Lake. Sample the fine selection of European-styled wines with a hint of magical Southeast Asia.
Myanmar Vineyards
Then go home. Not even the US government calls it Myanmar– it’s Burma. This is the country where, a hundred and fifty miles due east in Chin State, there’s a brutal effort to Burmanize

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the ethnically distinct denizens. Refugees are pouring into neighboring India desperate to escape the soldiers. They bring stories of rape, of kidnapping, of enslavement. They bring stories of porterage, a term borrowed from the colonial powers who had previously held sway. The Red Cross has recently been sent packing, journalists are allowed in country only on special junket tours and somehow, despite a collapsed economy and more trade sanctions than any country not on the axis of evil tour, the new capital city Naypyitaw has flowered in central Burma. It was built by slaves and it was paid for by a junta which, paranoid, clings to power by surrounding its population with machine guns. This has been the situation since 1962 when the recently independent republic (released from Britain after WWII) was overrun in a military coup. Drink your wine and then go home. (more…)

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I’m pretty sure nothing means anything. I’m not complaining, I’ve just lost sight of why I get up in the morning. My free time is as liberating and eye-opening as my work time is stressful and existentially untenable, which would seem like a wash but it’s actually just exhausting. At the end of the day I’m not really sure if anything I did had any sort of purpose. Years ago I talked with people who were in this exact bubble of consciousness and I remember being baffled as to how one gets to that state.

It’s a combination of determination and fear. When I was a student and unemployed, I vowed to throw myself into any job that gave me some traction. Just set me to a task with tangible consequences and watch out. After a few years of employment, I’ve started to evaluate my surroundings with a bit more critical eye and found that I’ve painted myself into a corner financially and have no visible choice but to stay the course. I’m more dumbfounded than despairing. I console myself with the fantasy of waking up one day with an ounce of resolve and disappearing to Taiwan for the rest of my twenties.

On top of this, my dilemma has already been trivialized by a cultural cloth soaked through with both failed and masterful attempts at depicting this process

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of maturing. I just got to the misery party and everyone’s already tired of talking about it. I’d have to single-handedly create a new era of prose and narrative for anyone to pay attention to my whining.

I don’t know how to say anything that hasn’t been said a million better ways, but what I do know is good video. Like an island savage celebrating toothbrushes and candle holders that have washed ashore as art from the gods, when I’m sitting at my desk in a stress stupor these videos indicate to me that there is a whole other world out there that lives entirely differently. Maybe I should start building a raft …

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