Monday, April 30, 2007

If You Can't Take the Traffic, Stay in the 'Burbs

It was beautiful today, one of a handful of truly beautiful days in 2007. Me and my man Martin got on the bikes and ate up the trails, winding 30 miles or so out into suburban Virginia.

There's nothing like having the sun on your arms and the wind in your face for a workout. Being in the gym is okay and all, but it always makes me kind of feel like I'm on a space station somewhere.

The ride itself was pretty uneventful, apart from this completely typical incident on the Key Bridge on the way home. I was riding over the bridge, slowly, on the wide pedestrian/bike lane. I was going slow enough to avoid freaking people out, and calling out to people before I passed, letting them know what was going on.

Then, all of a sudden, this woman on the opposite side of the path(walking back towards Arlington) took a hard right and jumped right in front of me. I yelled out as I braked -- she jumped out of the way a split second before I would have plowed into her. She shouted "fuck you, man!"

"No, actually, fuck YOU," I said. "You jumped in front of me!"

"Well SLOW DOWN," she shouted, loud. "There ought to be a sign up that says 'no bikes allowed!'"

Really. I think one that says "Watch Where You're Going," might be a better idea, or, simply, "No Bitches."

At that point, some kid in those stupid shoes with wheels in the heels could have dusted me. Speed was not the issue. The real issue at hand was that because I was on a bike, I was in the wrong.

This interaction is completely typical for cyclists in D.C. I'm not sure how it is in other cities, but here, you can't win. If that woman were driving when I was riding in the road, she'd be mad at me too. Drivers honk and shout at you to get on the sidewalk, and it's not like it's friendly or safe up there either.

There's one solution that keeps D.C. cyclists and Sunday pedestrians both happy though: when cranks like that lady stay in the suburbs where they fucking belong.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

SF Bay Guardian's Blog Coverage of the Tech Tragedy: Utter Bullshit

SF Bay Guardian Screencap
Originally uploaded by chinese_fashion.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian has covered the Virginia Tech shooting with minimal thought and maximum bullshit in a move that is making me re-think my whole situation as a knee-jerk liberal.

This post by Tim Redmond blames the massacre on the availability of handguns in the USA, particularly Virginia. It goes on to say that George Bush is partially responsible -- quite a deductive leap. I'm from Virginia, and I'm no Bush fan. And it's true that Virginia has no real gun laws of note. They're really more like implied rules of thumb. Many of my good friends in Richmond own enough weaponry to stave off a zombie uprising. I'm morally opposed to that and will be until the first zombie bite makes the news.

Another hard-hitting post relates the killing to Virginia gun laws (again), then pirouettes like a hippo on roller skates to reveal the real shocker: Virginia's pretty ass-backward when it come to gay rights, too! Next, Redmond might reveal that Virginia openly condoned slavery less than 200 years ago.

If you read between the lines here, you'd think that Virginia itself ordered Cho Seung Hui to shoot those kids. Thompson's points are essentially: Bush sucks and Virginia has its priorities backwards when it comes to guns and civil rights. While this is all true, it's hardly news. The Weekly freaking Reader shows more insight.

If a Bizarro George Bush had outlawed the sale of all handguns when he was first elected, there would still be enough in homes, barns and attics all over the country to cause some serious problems. This country is full of people who think that they have a God-given right to own weaponry. Like it or not, most Americans associate available weaponry with freedom. I think those people are wrong, but I am outnumbered in my home state ... and my opponents are armed.

And even if there were no guns, the killer could have built a fertilizer bomb, driven his car over folks on the way to class or used an ax. Affordable, available guns are a big problem in America, but they're far from the only factor in this week's shooting. Timothy McVeigh didn't use guns, and neither did Lizzie Borden. The Unabomber hand-made his bomb parts. Something about our culture breeds people sick enough to kill at random, and when Americans are that desperate and driven, we'll figure something out. Always have and always will. I daresay that's the real problem here.

Jack Thompson and Dr. Phil have already blamed video games for this massacre, and some assmouthed blogger is using the situation to bash Richard Dawkins.. Just because I agree politically with the SFBG doesnt mean they get a free pass: using our nations' latest tragedy to score cheap political points less than 24 hours later is just wrong.

It's gross enough watching TV pundits ask shellshocked students "why do you think this happened?" or "who do you blame," desperately fanning any spark of emotion into something good for the camera. And don't even get me started on that maggot-filled gasbag Nancy Grace. summarizes the rapid politicizing of tragedy pretty well:

Many people will use this terrible tragedy as an excuse to put through a political agenda other than my own. This tawdry abuse of human suffering for political gain sickens me to the core of my being. Those people who have different political views from me ought to be ashamed of themselves for thinking of cheap partisan point-scoring at a time like this. In any case, what this tragedy really shows us is that, so far from putting into practice political views other than my own, it is precisely my political agenda which ought to be advanced.

Blogging is hard -- even if you're not good at it. If it's easy, it's not worth doing. It can be a grind, just grunting posts out to stay relevant and keep your audience. Every blogger knows how important it is to jump on a story and be a part of the conversation -- but in this case, the Guardian's serving up some pretty thin gruel. There's no news here on either side, no insight - just the same old song.

For now, this situation isn't about politics. It's about compassion, understanding, support and regret. Any media that is not expressly news-related that comments on this situation should show gravity, depth, and copious emotional intelligence ... or enough sense to shut the fuck up. We're close enough to a major election and the spin will come soon enough, followed by the lawsuits. Right now, we're all shocked and stunned and hurt. The only thing we can do as media and human beings is to tell the stories and let the tears flow.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

So It Goes

So it goes.
Originally uploaded by egg..
Kurt Vonnegut is dead and now I am unstuck in time.

It is 1989, my thirteenth summer. I am visiting my Aunt Kay and Uncle Dave on their honey farm in South Bend, Indiana. It's a form of indentured servitude to eccentric, loving masters. Life out on the honey farm is probably really boring, but I wouldn't know. I'm busy reading.

"The library's pretty good out here in the sticks," Aunt Kay says. "Nobody else out here reads, so we get the good stuff pretty much to ourselves." On one of many trips to the library in town, I discover Slaughterhouse Five. "Oh, Vonnegut," Aunt Kay says, a little surprised. "I think he's a good fit for you." I start the book in the parking lot on the way home and do not speak for the next 24 hours.

I sneak in a few pages in the truck on the way out to the beehives with my Uncle Dave. I _eat_ the pages while he gets out our netted hats (they are simultaneously ridiculous and ominous) , readies the bee smoker, gets my gloves out of the box in the back. He doesn't make me get out until it's time to hit the hives. "I know how it is," I remember him saying. "If you read real fast, you get to find out what happens next. But if you take your time, it lasts longer."

I do both, my eyes running laps over and over each page. I know what the Tralfamadorian ship sounds like as it hovers over Billy Pilgrim's back yard: it sounds like hives full of sleepy, smoke-addled bees.

I read more while walking slowly to the car that night on the way to the only pizza restaurant in town, read it at the table and in the car on the way home in ambient light from slowly strobing streetlights. Once we get outside town, it's too dim to read. I sit back and imagine saucers, war, time travel.

A beehive is little more than a series of stacked boxes (called supers) containing frames for bees to build honeycomb on. When the hives are full the frames are bloated, pregnant with honey and larvae. Hardcore vegans think that eating honey is cruel because it is an animal byproduct. Hardcore vegans are a uniformly joyless bunch, and I would imagine that they have never had someone else masterfully clean their apartments in an afternoon. I am providing that service to these bees, and in their tiny little hearts they are grateful.

To clean these cramped, boxy little apartments, I stack the supers in a tiny room containing a large, heated bowl with a hole in the bottom, an electrically heated knife, a centrifuge and a DustBuster. After supper I enter the room and shut the door, prying the frames out of the super with a crowbar. A few addled bees inevitably escape. They're no real threat until they come to their senses. Their stupor allows me to take the electric knife and shave both sides of a frame bloated with honeycomb into the heated bowl. There, the beeswax melts and rises to the top, allowing heat-thinned honey to trickle through a hose and into tanks on the floor below me. Then I load the frames into a centrifuge, spinning the remaining honey out and into the same tanks below.

I sit on a wooden box while the honey twirls, reading Slaughterhouse Five in one hand and sucking bees into the Dustbuster with the other. Wisely, Uncle Dave pays me per pound of extracted honey rather than by the hour.

Late at night, when all the honey is twirled, I go into the yard release the bees. I stop reading long enough to stare up into the Indiana sky. A storm system is moving in, erasing the stars one by one.

The next morning, over honey-slathered slices of thick Amish toast from Uncle Dave's personal toaster (he keeps one by his feet at the breakfast table), I am asked to mow a path to the hives. The grass is too wet from last night's storm, so I sit on the porch and wait for it to dry. And while I wait, I finish Slaughterhouse Five and start it over again.

Now it's April 12, 2007. Kurt Vonnegut is dead, and so are most of the bees. So it goes ...

Hear Vonnegut reading an excerpt from Slaughterhouse Five.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Truck at 14th and Rhode Island: Space Is the Place

A lot of people think that D.C. is just grim, grey buildings full of conservative careerists with beige bland dreams. Those people are right.

Which is why I get so excited every morning when I pass this truck at 14th and Rhode Island:

Painted truck, 14th and U St., D.C.

Every time I see it I think "Sun Ra is alive and well and living in a truck in Northwest D.C."


A commenter left a link on this post last night that unzipped the mystery of this truck into something weird and wonderful.

As it turns out, C. Kret is equal parts Sun Ra and Daniel Pinkwater. He may be the living incarnation of a Pinkwater character, a colorful extra from The Snarkout Boys series. He's a children's book author, illustrator, a rambling limerick-spouting poet. Like most other Northwest residents, C. Kret has a law degree ... but prefers to beautify the world instead. Here's a self-conducted interview.

From his website:
Itzah C. Kret is also known as The Phantom Planter because he goes around planting flowers in public places. Since 1979 he guesses he's planted over 41,317 flowers in ten states and six foreign countries. In October, 2003, he planted 202 tulips, crocuses and windflowers right under the St. Louis Gateway Arch. On April 12, 2004, he struck in Buenos Aires, Argentina, planting dozens of Morning Glories in La Boca and in the park in front of the Casa Rosada. Last fall he checked out the Liberty Bell and decided to plant daffodils at the Brith Shalom nursing home in Philadelphia. In 2005 he planted over 20,000 morning glories in Bangalore, India. (He may have an obsessive compulsive floral disorder.)

C. Kret is an ambassador for International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, celebrated on the first Saturday of February. From the Ice Cream for Breakfast FAQ:
Some people have been known to play a competitive card game called "Nuts" on Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. Often, the edge in such activities is had by the person who most adroitly combines a sugar high and caffeine buzz to their greatest advantage.

I've done a lot of wailing recently about wanting to escape D.C. It's really encouraging to see someone who escapes it inside his mind, and may never have let it get to him in the first place.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Why Yes, It Is a Good Friday

dr. manhattan
Originally uploaded by C!b0rg5.
I am wearing my favorite jeans -- Diesel, bought 'em 18 months ago stiff and rough like concrete planks. Wore 'em damn near every day since, and now they're faded soft and tattered, a giant form-fitting teddy bear the shape of my legs. I get the holes patched and THAT my friends is how you get legit faded, worn jeans. None of this artful distressing, whiskering and looking like you sat in a puddle of bleach.

I am wearing my latest favorite t-shirt: sky blue, a large diagram of a hydrogen atom on the front. It's the symbol etched on Dr. Manhattan's forehead in the Watchmen, a book that is to comics what the Stones were to pop music. I bought at the most amazing comic book store on earth last weekend: Forbidden Planet, near Union Square. Yes, I do have a girlfriend.

My best friend on Earth lives two buildings down from me. When we were in kindergarten I could read and write and he knew all the cuss words. At his direction, I wrote them in the dirt by the monkey bars. Together we were Prometheuses (whatever) of the playground. He and me and the woman who became his wife had a band together a few years ago. I'm getting ready to go over to their place now to talk trash and fill my flask.

My best friend in D.C. lives in my building. She keeps a tub of ice cream in the fridge and lets me barge in and eat it at eleven o'clock while we talk about our days, our jobs our loves, and why everybody's gotta be so stupid all the time.

My best friend from college always watches monkey-ass horror movies with me. We saw Night of the Living Dead together, Snakes on a Plane, House of 1000 Corpses, Exorcist, Creepshow, Videodrome, all that shit. She pretends to be a art-film snob and I always talk her into it. She has a great time.

So me and my three best friends and my new favorite clothes are gonna fill some flasks and go see 'Grindhouse' at midnight in Chinatown, a theater that may actually offer partial refunds if you are able to yell through the entire movie. At least, that how it seems sometimes.

I can't wait.

Floating Behind the Bar

My old boss used to say that "perfection is the enemy of good," meaning that perfectionism stops a lot of good things from happening. That's the case with this post I've been working on about the greatest bar in the USA. I made myself late to work this morning trying to get the photos together. Rather than be all high-maintenance and hold out, I'm just going to post the two best images from my trip to that bar:

Kid at Sip-N-Dip

That's me in the background:

peeking sip-n-dip

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Speak of the Sun, See Its Rays

I applied for the job just to see what would happen. I have no business development experience and no management experience, but I like to think I know a few things about blogs. SO I sent a resume in with a quick e-mail and forgot about it completely. I mean, come on. A blogging job in paradise?

I had visions of blogging in a thatched hut by the beach, laptop plugged into a nearby palm tree. One of my monkey assistants brough me fresh cups of strong Costa Rican coffee while another waxed my waiting surfboard.

I've been in paradise without a job, and it was actually hell. Paradise with a job -- with monkeys for admins -- could be pretty sweet.

I was at a bar this weekend with my friend Valaer, who said "What sucks about looking for a job is that it's committing yourself to at least another year in a box. And you don't want to think that you've already had your biggest adventure -- or your last one." We toasted, but it wasn't enough. I had to pour a little on the floor for that one. Then I came home from New York, sighed a deep sigh and wrote my most recent post.

Twenty-four hours after clicking "Publish" on that grey little missive, I got a phone call. Weblogsareus had decided they wanted to interview me ... in San Jose, Costa Rica. I asked for details on the position. Details were sketchy at best. I asked for links to sites the company had created in an e-mail. "I'm going to send it from my partner's account, just so you know," the guy said.

Here is the response I received:

We are a subsidiary of a much bigger organization that specializes in Web Hosting,
Software development and Communications. We Operate out of San Jose, Costa Rica and have our own office building where we Lease turn key call center solutions.

We provide computers, desks, telephones and web hosting for our tenants. We offer web marketing via 100’s of portal sites designed specifically to there businesses. We also maintain an IT-MARKETING-PROGRAMMING department to further market and stay technically advanced for our client’s needs and wants.

Our software development team is enriched with expertise in development of many business models. From call center solutions to accounting systems for cruise ship’s.

Also, we have a real-estate development arm where we buy land and build develop properties.

At this time I can not give out names of our clients websites due to obvious reasons, but I assure you that we are for real. If you would like to call me , I will be at X-XXX-XXX-XXXX to discuss further what our intentions are. Like I said, we would be more than happy to bring you down for a week to discuss and negotiate terms for our future agreement.

I told my friend Nate about it via IM, who had this to say:

nathan: the job sounds crazy. they have the internet in costa rica?!

nathan: "hi, i'm answering the ad for 'drug mule.'"

nathan: "qualifications desired: tight lips, flexible rectum."

It does look pretty sketchy. My mysterious benefactor doesn't have links to the Web companies he's referring to, or his own e-mail address. He did mention that he lived and worked in a sweet house with all kinds of satellite hookups.

But I've worked at startups before, and there's always at least one guy who's brilliant, forward-thinking, and terrible with details to get things going. Admittedly, the startups I worked for were doomed. Then again, most are.

It kind of feels like I'm being recruited to work on the island in 'Lost.'

Adventure is discomfort in an exotic location -- and adventure just called. I'm a little scared, but incredibly curious. At the very least, the interview process will make for a hell of a story. I've got to go. That's all there is to it.

I'll keep you posted ...

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

God Listens

An old friend sent this photo to me this morning ... there's just something so classic about it:

God Listens

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Sitting on the Horns

I'm disillusioned with D.C. I'm over it. I didn't come here to work in politics, not trying to destroy the world or save it. I'm just ... over it. Even the wacky liberals are boring here -- same clothes, different bands, same dogma. I don't happen to find politics very interesting at all anymore, and I cringe internally when I hear someone say to a group of people "so, what do you do?" because I'm about to have to feign enthusiasm over and over again.

Admittedly, this could be because I am not thrilled about what I do, either.

Which is too bad, because I've become one of those people that bitches about the city without having any new plans.

What it comes down to is this: I want to move out of here, but I'm really scared. All my favorite people live within four hours' drive from here. They've all heard this vague litany, too, over and over: I'm tired of D.C., I wanna move, blah blah. Thing is, I don't know where, and I don't know what I'll do when I get there.

A couple years ago I sold everything I could, packed up everything else and moved to Australia without a working visa. And, while it was this amazing, transformative life experience, it was traumatic as hell at the same time. I spent the whole time looking for a job, felt desperate and destitute, and though I'm glad I did it, I don't ever want to do that again.

So why am I writing this? Because. If I tell someone, put it in print right there on the screen, I'm backing myself into a corner. I'm daring myself to jump. I've got a great job lead here that I would consider staying for, but otherwise I am out by summer. It's the risk/reward corollary.

I was in New York this weekend, loving it, of course. My friend Jon said to me "No matter how much money you have saved up, this city will find a way to punch you in the gut in your first three months. I don't know if I like living here or not, but I'm addicted to it."

Somehow, I see that as a selling point.

The first step in beating your fears is admitting you're scared, then facing them. This post is that step.