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Media Viruses: Things You Wouldn’t Say in Broad Daylight.



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Depressed.  Can’t seem to write a damned thing. Song stuck in my head (for three days now) is “I Know What I Know” by Paul Simon.

I promised myself that I would write at least two pages of the new book each day until I had a rough, and now, thirty days and nine pages later, I’m failing miserably.  Meanwhile, Warren has written FIVE whole (comic book) scripts in EIGHT days.  And we were wondering why he failed to attend Nerd Prom (the San Diego Comics Convention).

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I’ve been told by several people that my blog would be less scary and more readable if it had
a) more content and
b) a less uh-oh-able title than “media viruses,” which apparently scares the faint-of-heart into believing they’re going to catch a worm from the site and
c) if I actually promoted it, and
d) if I wrote more succinct posts, or at least warned readers when a long diatribe was imminent.

Hmmm.  Although all three of these things are ostensibly correct, I still feel the aching need to tell those who try to tell me how to run my life to give me an RJ.  (If you can’t figure out what RJ means, you probably don’t want to know).  And speaking of Warren, he gets away with calling his feed “Bad Signal,” so what up?

Oh.  Yeah.  

***Verbosity Warning: This post slightly more than 1200 words long.***
*** Duty dispensed.  Regular programming may ensue.***

Boing Boing alerted me to a “Starbucks Knockoff” in Ethiopia (via NYT.com), which I find extremely funny.  The article claims that “Kaldi’s has a Starbucks-like logo and Starbucks-like décor, and its workers wear Starbucks-like green aprons. At the bar, there are Starbucks-like ‘short’ and ‘tall’ coffee options, although Kaldi’s sticks exclusively to Ethiopia’s coffee varieties, while the real Starbucks includes Ethiopia’s premium beans among many other offerings.

“‘I’ve always loved Starbucks, the ambiance of it,’ said Tseday Asrat, the proprietor of Kaldi’s, fessing up to the obvious inspiration behind her year-old business. ‘So we created our own version of it here.’”  

I find this humorous because of two things.  

One, it reminds me of a sad thing David Bowie said in an interview about a zillion years ago (maybe around 1995) when he went on tour with NIN.  Trent and Bowie were interviewed by Kennedy on eMpTyV and Bowie commented on how incongruous and sick it was to find a Mc Donalds in Nepal. The only other bit of the interview I remember clearly was when the two of them were playing a bit of “Good Rockstar/Bad Rockstar,” Bowie telling Kennedy that her dress was based on the work of some dead French painter, and Trent responding “Oh yeah.  And it makes your jugs look big.”
Two, “Kaldi” is the name of the goatherd in the apocryphal coffee-origin story quoted by just about everyone who knows anything about coffee.  Though the best version is used in The Perfect Cup by Timothy James Castle, which remains my favorite coffee book to date, I’ll attempt to summarize.

Once upon a time, there was an Ethiopian goatherd named Kaldi.  One day, while tending his goats, he noticed that when the goats consumed the red berries of a particular shrub, they became excited and happy, frolicking around the plains.  He took some of the berries to the village wise man, who tried the berries, and found them good.  

Of course, they’re talking about coffee, which for those not in the industry, grows on a small deciduous shrub in high altitudes within the middle latitudes.  The plant produces green “cherries” which turn red as they ripen, and the seed is what is roasted, ground, and processed with water to make the stuff you drink.

So basically, we stole the idea of coffee from Ethiopia, and now they’re stealing the idea of Starbucks from us.  Coolness.  Starbucks itself has a pretty weird origin story, or at least the logo does.  Ever wonder why there’s a mermaid on it?

Starbuck is the name of the first mate in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  (Yes StarGazers.  The “Starbuck” on Battlestar Galactica was named after him.)  What does the ocean, Moby Dick and mermaids have to do with coffee?  Not a damned thing.  Apparently, the owner just liked it.

More serendipity, my Mom and Dad were into Transcendental Meditation (TM) when I was a kid.  They were interested in it from before I was born—I mean, full on.  We had two pics of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in a bi-fold frame draped with love beads and everything.  My mom, a StarGazer (read: Science Fiction Fan) was reading Dune by Frank Herbert when she was pregnant with me.  When I was born, she named me after a character in the book.  The film Dune was directed by David Lynch, though he later Alan Smitheed it.  David Lynch has just formed a new foundation based on TM.  According to the article, Lynch felt compelled to do so because of, in part, the state of education in the U.S.  He felt that students are “…getting pathetic educations. They’re not going forward with full decks of cards.”  

Pot.  Calling.   Kettle.

Not that I disagree, but David Lynch saying someone ELSE doesn’t have a full deck is, well, pretty funny.  This is the guy who told Trent Reznor that the soundscape for his Mobius-strip thriller “Lost Highway” should sound like “snakes shooting out of a box.”

I’ve meditated on and off for years, and I will admit it helps me calm down  sometimes, but I can’t say that I’ve experienced a radical shift in perception or anything.  Not even since my Dad gave me a mantra a couple of years ago.

Rounding out the top of the Only Slightly Less Offensive Than Telling A Journalist That Her Dress Makes Her Jugs Look Big department, How-To Goddess Barbara K! has come out with a LADIES’ TOOL KIT.  Disgusto.  We can use real tools, just like Y-Chromos!  We have hands and everything!  I just find it offensive that “Ladies’ Tools” even this version, which is a damned sight better than most of them, has to be color-coordinated and come in a nifty case.  It’s like saying that we have a biological imperative to color match!  Preposterous and totally uncool.

Speaking of gender, I found another word nerd, Melanie Spiller, who had an interesting post on the topic of gender and political correctness in writing.  Although I love her writings, she gives the following example at one point:

The student took a bus on her field trip.
The student took a bus on his field trip.
The student took a bus on the field trip.
The student took a bus on a field trip.

Spiller claims that the final sentence is perfectly acceptable, except that it could be misconstrued that the student took the bus ON the field trip, like, ON A DATE, ON A FIELD TRIP.  It’s just a strangely-phrased sentence, and I don’t care for it at all.  

Since I hate it when people use verbs like “took” for “went” etc., my version would probably be “The students (since the likelihood that only one student took a field trip is slim) rode a bus on their field trip.”  Or even better, “The students said ‘to hell with the field trip’ and went to the pub.”

Which brings us full circle, back to Warren, who is currently being awarded the post of “Minister of Pub” and is looking for header images reading “Ministry of Pub.”  He said he’d take images of female readers with hand-scrawled signs.

Wow.  I just wrote, like, 1200 words.  Too bad it wasn’t on-topic.  Maybe tomorrow.


Return of the Glue Backs.

Return of the Glue Backs
So I figured out what’s wrong with kids today.

Back in my day (read: the ‘80s) we had special tasks and chores, assigned by the Paranti to keep us out of trouble. Mostly, this consisted of pulling weeds and cleaning out the basements and attics of elderly relatives who smelled of moth balls. We won’t even discuss what the attics and basements smelled of.

Even if you could get out of these onerous duties, shirking by one of the usual excuses, like contracting Mono or breaking a leg, there was still one task you could be set to. You could do it sitting down. You could do it from your sick bed. There was no way to avoid—

stamp and envelope licking.

Yes. Stamp and envelope licking. To a kid, a month is a long time, but inevitably, every 30 days or so, Bill Paying Day arrives. Millions of children, oblivious to the fact that it was the first, or the fifth, or the fifteenth (depending on your particular parent’s set of Bill Paying Guidelines, as established in the International Standards for Bill Paying and its easy-read companion volume Bill Paying For the Rest of Us) would leap from bed and get in a few hours of mindless play before the dreaded call from the porch came. “Sweetheart, come in the house for lunch, and then, you can help me do my bill paying.” Oh horror. The injustice. Has another month passed again?

In you would walk, head down, shoulders slumped forward, only to see it, the kitchen table, piled high with opened mail, folded letters waiting for their foray into the world, and the worst torture device of all: the stamps.

You would sit down at the table, waiting, stomach churning, sweat pouring off your brow, while the parent wrote out checks. Each check was piled on a slip of paper torn from the bottom of a letter and handed to you with an envelope, already addressed.

You would stuff the envelope. You would hold open the flap with both hands, each gripping the edge as if the envelope might suddenly leap away from you and scuttle across the table and onto the floor. Tongue out. Eyes closed.

Left-to-right or right-to-left, it didn’t matter. Personally, I was an edge-to-center licker, because I couldn’t handle an entire adhesive strip at once. Then, the Foldover and Flop maneuver, where the newly sealed envelope is flipped face up on the table, ready for the second licking procedure.

A stamp was separated. It was applied to a stuck-out tongue. Then placed, carefully straight and right side up on the envelope’s corner. A minute or two of waiting, before the next check was written, and the process began again.

Oh sure, there were those smart asses who used a damp sponge to seal their envelopes, and apply their stamps, but nothing really compares to the seal made by the saliva of a kid who would rather be doing anything else, even cleaning an old Aunt’s basement, than licking stamps and envelopes.

The parents always rationalized this torture. They no doubt convinced themselves that they were doing us a Big Favor by teaching us to pay bills on time. But that’s a lie. They hated the taste of envelope glue as much as we did. And well they should have! They spent their childhoods being forced to lick envelopes for our Grandparents.

It had its hazards, of course. Several years’ worth of licking stamps will deaden the tastebuds of anyone, and there is always brain damage, and the other side effects common to anyone who eats glue on a regular basis. But it had its advantages, too! Your tolerance for Things That Tasted Nasty was way above average, and schoolyard machismo was determined by whose tongue paper cut was the biggest.

But now, in this technologically advanced age of ours, we have self-stick stamps. The envelopes are usually Lick-n-Stick, but often they’re Pull-Tab-n-Stick instead. Sometimes, the bill comes via e-mail, or Straight-to-Credit-Card, and there’s no bill to send back at all. The result is that millions of American children are missing out on special bonding time with their parents.

At the Post Office today, a kid was looking at the stamps. “Mom, these are all self-stick. Don’t they have any of the kind you lick anymore?” “I don’t think they make them anymore.” “Awww. Man.”

You see! They like it! Forget about how bad it was when you were a kid. Your kids will love it. So spend time paying bills with your kids. I’m calling the Post Office to ask that they bring back the glue-backs.


A Religious Reaction

So I’m lying on the bed, shivering and trying not to retch. Wa comes in and asks me what’s wrong, and since I’m confused and brain-muddled from the toxic waves slamming through my system, I say “I’m having a religious reaction.” Lucky for me, Wa and I share a brain so he went for the Benedryl. Anaphylaxis aside, it’s been a pretty cool week.

Saw Batman flick twice, and I must say it’s the shit.

First, I love Christopher Nolan. Okay, so to be fair, I’m not that psyched about Insomnia, but Following and Memento were both groovy. I think he has an eye for that sort of freaked-out mind-twisty thing I like in a film.

Second, there’s a great cast. Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Rutger Hauer, Cillian Murphy, and really intricate performances. Lots of minutiae, subtlety and class. Even the presence of the Giant Irishman couldn’t fuck it up, and let me tell you, my feelings on Liam Neeson’s overrated acting haven’t changed at all, but he was really right for this part, and he doesn’t even look like a gigantic freak playing off of Christian Bale.

Third, there’s Christian Bale.  Oh, yes. I know how shallow it is to be interested in a film ‘cause the guy in it is a hottie. But it really helps that unlike Tom Cruise, Jason Biggs, Ashton Kutcher, etc. Bale has RANGE.

Fourth, the film is a pretty true rendition of the way I like my Batman. Dark, brooding, social conscience.

Which brings me to my actual point—why I like Batman.

The thing about Batman is this: what are his super powers? Can he fly like Superman? Super strength? Super sight? Hearing? Spidey-sense?

Nein. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing.

The thing about Batman is, he’s a man. He’s just a man. A man with more money than God, yes, but a single, human man, nonetheless.

So here’s billionaire Bruce Wayne, a guy who’s a little bit psycho, a little bit brilliant. His parents are murdered. He gets kicked around. He has everything, but he has nothing that really matters. And all around him, there’s this world of corruption. A world where people will kill you for a pair of shoes. A world where it’s not safe to walk around in broad daylight, unless you’re paid up with the right people. Eventually, he gets tired of seeing the people around him hurt. He gets tired of watching, and doing nothing, and he decides to do something about it.

When I lived in Portland, I used to work at the mall. I rode the train and a bus home at night, and once, when I closed the store, I was walking home at around 11 PM. A guy was walking toward me on the sidewalk. As he passed, he grabbed the strap of my handbag and tried to yank it away. I won’t say that I’m brave or anything, but I was startled so badly that I refused to let go. Instead, I yanked back, screamed at the top of my lungs, and slapped the guy twice in the face with my free hand. He let go and ran off.

The point is, I refused to let him have the upper hand. I refused to be afraid. And I won. Now, the scene could have ended differently. I could have let him have it. He could have had a weapon and could have killed me. But by acting, and not just waiting for him to do something, I took control and I won.

Yesterday, at the shop, a customer told me that she thinks it’s okay for us to give up our rights. “We have to give up some rights,” she said “if we want to be safe. Being safe is more important.”

More important? Being safe is more important than privacy? Free speech? The right to not be searched? Held against your will for no stated purpose? Tell dissidents who died in Tienamin Square how great it is to be safe. Or Nobel Peace Prize winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, imprisoned in her own country, Myanmar, for disagreeing with her government. Tell that to Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Teheran, who fled Iran after being told she couldn’t teach western literature anymore, because Jane Austen was immoral. And it also begs the question, safe from what?

Should it be illegal to cross the street because you might get hit by a bus?

If we are to protect ourselves from terrorism, from tyranny, from oppression and the misuse of power by those who would exploit us, we must retain our rights. We must also use them to destroy those would take our rights away.

I do not advocate violence. Violence only leads to escalation. It leads to more violence, and more death. The only way to stop violence, tyranny and oppression is with speech. The only way to stop terrorism is to refuse to be terrified.

Batman’s superpower, and mine, are our minds, our refusal to give in, and our will to not be stopped—by anything.


Circus Miserables

My trip is two days old and already I’ve seen some new things, things I didn’t know or didn’t notice until just now.

My mother and I hate circuses. I actually knew this, but I had forgotten. There is a tiny circus set up in an empty field near her house.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that we seem to share a brain. Every time she makes a wry comment, I’m either already making the same comment or I’m making a corollary one. The scary thing about that is that Wa and I share a brain. Which leads me to the idea that maybe I don’t have a brain of my own. Maybe I’m just a composite of Wa and my Mom. If that’s so, I should go on a quest to find my real self. Maybe I should run off, and join the circus.

Maybe not.

Albums suitable for an unexpected stranding on an island

It’s a common thing in magazine interviews to ask musicians what 10 albums they would take with them if stranded on an island—-presumably with nothing except their 10 albums, a record player, and plenty of electricity. Picking 10 was very difficult, and in the end, I settled on 11. (Hey, if it’s good enough for Spinal Tap…)

1) Sting: The Soul Cages 1991
This is my absolute favorite album of all time. It makes me cry, and it’s filled with water-images, which really get to me.

2) The Moody Blues  : Caught Live +5  :  1977
The funny thing about this one is that it doesn’t even have my favorite Moodies song on it. (That being “The Story In Your Eyes” from 1971’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favour.  But it does have a lot of other songs I really love, so if I ever get stuck on that island, I can just sing “Story” to myself.

3)  Depeche Mode  :  Violator  :  1989
I’ve been listening to Depeche since ‘82, when I was 7 years old, but of all their albums, this one is by far my favorite.  I was 14 when this came out, and it was that whole “I’m a freshman and my life sucks—-but at least I have my Depeche Mode” thing. 

4)  Peter Gabriel  :  Secret World Live  :  1993
The arrangements on these songs are magical.  There are all the African things, and Paula Cole doing the backup, and Tony Levin’s bass. 

5)  The Police  :  Synchronicity  :  1983
My favorite Police album because it has cool songs, like both “Synchronicity”s and it also has “Murder by Numbers,” “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” and “King of Pain.”

 6)  Bach  :  The Brandenburg Concertos  :  No particular recording
I had to pick a classical album, and this one was fighting with Tchaikovski’s The Nutcracker for this spot.  I love the way Bach uses his instruments.  The arrangements are badass.  If he were alive today, he’d be so at the top of the rock charts. 

7)  Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem  :  In Person At Carnegie Hall  :  1964
This takes me back to childhood.  There are some things on this album that just kick my ass, like the reading of W.B. Yeats’ poem “The Host of the Air,” “The Patriot Game,” which is probably one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard, and the final song, “The Parting Glass.”

8)  Rush  :  Roll The Bones  :  1991
I discovered this album (and Rush itself) kind of late in life, but of all the albums I’ve heard, this one really stands out.  There is something so poigniant in these songs, so lovely.

9)  The Cure  :  The Head on the Door  :  1985
My favorite Cure album, and probably my favorite album that would classify as “goth.”

Here’s where I start cheating, because I couldn’t choose between the final three, so I included them all.

10a)  Tori Amos  :  Little Earthquakes  :  1991
Really ballsy.  Really real.  Really Tori.

10b)  Nine Inch Nails  :  The Fragile  :  1999
I really think this is the best thing Trent’s ever done, so far.  It’s just so powerful.

11)  U2  :  War  :  1983
Me and my sappy Irish music.  These songs are really gutwrenching for me.  I had spent a lot of my childhood listening to The Clancys, so I knew about the “Troubles” but I had a far off kind of kid’s view of it.  When I heard War, it became clear to me that it wasn’t a thing of the past, and rather that it was still happening.

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