Thursday, December 20, 2007

"I oscillate between hope and despair"

Those were the words of the international energy policy expert I spoke to this morning, when I asked if he was hopeful about sustainable development and a solution to global warming.

Most scientists I speak to, when they respond to my now-standard "hope" question, force out something about reluctant optimism. But energy policy people are more realistic. They're mired in the bureaucracy, whether they like it or not. They know how it works within the system - where all their research and recommendations end up and are ignored. A couple of weeks ago, I talked to a guy at Yale who studied energy supply systems in Africa. He said, "It's hard to be optimistic about the whole process. It's a little bit depressing."

Energy sends me into a tizzy. Energy is the root of all the issues I've reported on which I find myself caring too much about to be objective: Ethanol, drilling for oil in the ice-free Arctic, energy poverty and energy development.

So when I realized what today's energy guy was saying (he had a bit of an accent, so it took a second) I was stunned, and affirmed, at the same time.

And then I saw this: "E.P.A. Says 17 States Can’t Set Emission Rules"

Essentially, California was setting more rigorous emission standards, and the recently-signed energy bill allowed the Bush administration to say, "No. Stop what you're doing. We're going to make you pollute just as much as the rest of us. And hey, climate? Fuck you."

Reading this, I was flung deep onto the side of despair. Hope oscillated on its own a long way from where I ended up. I put my head down on my desk for a while, and then wrote a comment on Andrew Revkin's blog. That helped me calm down.

But, why? why why why why why why why.

(Is "why" a word of hope or despair?)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Don't ask the optimist, he's probably dumb

Or unhealthy - so says one of those useless studies. Apparently, optimism means you think of things in long-term progress, not attaining specific goals. And that means you're more likely to justify short-term failures. Or something. The whole thing doesn't make much sense.

“For example, when [a] workout is framed as progress toward the goal of being healthy, going to the gym elicits the perception of partial goal attainment and suggests that it is justified to enjoy a tasty but fatty cake,” the researchers explain. “In contrast, when [a] workout is framed as commitment to the goal of being healthy, going to the gym signals being healthy is important and thus suggests that one should refrain from the tasty but fatty cake to ensure the final goal can be attained.”

Unfortunately, this study will probably picked up and deciphered by the media in time for New Year's Resolutions. I was talking about resolutions with my co-worker today. Last year, he resolved to do yoga every day. He didn't. I said that I prefer to keep my resolutions internal - like changing a behavior - to keep concrete feelings of failure or success out of it. Who can tell if I'm being nicer to people this year than I was last year? Or if I put slightly more energy and creativity into my work? All it takes for me to feel like a success story is a shift in how I view my own reality.

Meanwhile, hand me that tasty but fatty cake.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A heartbreaking work of staggering dancing

This breaks my heart and then warms the shattered pieces.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

In the past few days...

- I made vampire cupcakes for a pumpkin carving party. They had little fang marks in them and bled cherry filling when you bit into them. Delicious and cute and grotesque is my favorite combination of adjectives to describe anything, so overall successful. Also a tad geeky, because I found the recipe on BoingBoing. Photos forthcoming.

- My bike was stolen. I had bought it from my cousin, and it had been a faithful friend on the streets of Austin. We rode with hundreds on a Harvest moon bike ride, we watched others fall off their own bikes while remaining reliably upright, we discovered the non-guilty pleasures of human-powered transportation. It was a beautiful partnership, and we were inseparable. When I got on the bus for the first time without my bike (I usually take my bike on the bus to work and ride it home), my friendly bus driver stared at me slack jawed. I told him it had been stolen. He told me, "You just don't look the same without your bike."

Fortunately, I picked up a barely used women's Schwinn road bike yesterday - courtesy of Craigslist. And it was cheap. I believe in the Black Angel of Bike Theft and the Benevolent God of Craigslist.

- I went to Maker Faire. It was wonderful and amazing.

The Lifesized Mousetrap!

Dirty car art!

My friend Megan, who is kind of looking like a pirate here, kills herself with a sword.

Highlights of the Faire included cycle-powered carnival rides, meeting the inventor of TV-B-Gone, and nice creative people all around.

- I've been working as always. Today I discovered a very cool MIT geek, who I hope to interview about his new robot suit. He also does tons of other cool artist shit, of which I am completely jealous.

We have Steven Pinker, Harvard psychologist, on our show this week. He's talking about swearing. I watched his interview on the Colbert Report. Colbert mentions how Pinker moved from MIT to Harvard, and says, "That's like leaving the nerds' table to go sit at the rich nerds' table." I will vote for anyone who will say that to a scientist's face, in a presidential election. No questions asked.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Image and text

Czech Book Covers of the 1920's and 30's

Words from Cold War Era propaganda films, via Mondo Capo at the Austin Film Festival Saturday night:

"Rape? I've tried it once or twice."

As an innocent young preppie takes his first experimental toke:
"He sacrifices his dignity and puts his future on the chopping block."

For a similar message, check out "Keep Off the Grass" on YouTube.

Friday, October 05, 2007

This is how they like their cake

I saw Low for the third time on Wednesday. The first two times were kind of accidental. At the first, I wondered why I wasn't alone at home, doing drugs while lying on a trippy carpet. At the second, it occurred to me that a symptom of suicidal depression might be listening to Low, and my friends might want to know that.

Then I started listening to Low. Surprisingly, I did not feel any suicidal tendencies. I listened more, and still, nothing. My general well-being and chipper personality remained intact. And then I watched this music video. Which you should do. Right now.

I think... I think I might love it.

The show was great, though they usually chat more. Alan Sparhawk's humor is a scorched-desert kind of dry. There is video documentation of this.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to grow up as the children of Low. I think this video might be inspired by a reading of Matilda, by Roald Dahl. With an emphasis on Bruce.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Her nose was always buried in a book


Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell - Susanna Clark
A big, thick novel about magic! Like Harry Potter for adults.

How to Cook Everything - Mark Bittman
I'm fully engrossed in the chapters on breads and grains. Success in pumpkin and apple breads, and discovered the pleasure of saying "quinoa." Not-so-successful was a disastrous quick bread I refer to as "molasses and whole wheat death cake."

How to Make a Forest Garden
- Patrick Whitefield
Not that I'm going to, right now. But someday.


The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers

After this - Alice McDermott
Slow and suburban but well-written.

No Country for Old Men - Cormac McCarthy
I hear this is coming out soon as a ridiculously violent movie I probably will not see. I closed my eyes through parts of the book.

Amsterdam - Ian McEwan*
One of my favorite authors, but the twist ending was so incredibly unlikely and forced that I can't believe this won the Booker Prize. Read Atonement, The Cement Garden, Between the Sheets - virtually anything else. On Chesil Beach is very high on my to-be-read list.

In Persuasion Nation - George Saunders
A varied collection of short stories. Some were classic Saunders, some were less Saunders-esque, and made no use of the trademarked Saunders conversational question mark. The title story involves a sympathetic polar bear with an ax in his head, and a God-like corner of a green snack wrapper. I encourage you to read it.

Take the Cannoli - Sarah Vowell
I have mixed feelings when I hear Sarah Vowell's voice in my head as I read her essays. Something about it annoys me. I have mixed feelings about Sarah Vowell, sometimes.

*I'm reading my way through the Mc section of the library.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The case of the missing pounds

I was getting ready to leave work today when my co-worker suddenly asked, "Have you lost weight?"

It was an unusual question. I suspected he wasn't asking because he wanted to compliment me. I was wearing a black sack of a dress that's two sizes too big, and my co-worker has mentioned before that he doesn't want to say anything that might be construed as sexual harrassment. That made me feel awkward.

So I was curious as to where this was coming from. I asked, "Within what time frame?"

"Within the past week."

I said I hadn't noticed.

He said that he'd suddenly lost 6 pounds over the last week, and he wondered if it was something that was happening to other people, like something in the air or the way that women who live together kind of menstrate ("cycle?" I suggested) together.

I said I didn't think so, but we've been going through a doughnut phase in the office, and I suggested that they may be secret weight loss doughnuts.

We explored his exercise patterns further, and it turns out he had been biking two hours a day since his truck had been in the shop. He hadn't considered the increase in biking as exercise, or a reason why he might have lost weight.

There is a study (most of my stories start with this phrase now) that says that if your friends are overweight, it's likely that you'll be overweight too. I can't find that study now, but I think it would be really cool if it worked the opposite way. If your friends are skinny or losing weight their weight loss will translate to you through some kind of osmosis or diffusion. I can see the next weight loss craze: No need to exercise, or diet, or take supplements or eat heinous amounts of red meat! Just stand awkwardly close to a thin person for most of the day. The best technique is to "accidentally" handcuff yourself to that person. Then wait for the weight to even out like the scales of Justice.

Friday, September 14, 2007

New Saunders book

I was actually hurt when I found out about George Saunders' new book of essays - Why didn't someone tell me? But all was forgiven when I read an excerpt, which I will rip off wholesale from

Last night on the local news I watched a young reporter standing in front of our mall, obviously freezing his ass off. The essence of his report was: Malls Tend to Get Busier at Christmas! Then he reported the local implications of his investigation: (1) This Also True At Our Mall! (2) When Our Mall More Busy, More Cars Present (3) The More Cars, the Longer it Takes Shoppers to Park! and (shockingly): (4) Yet People Still Are Shopping, Due to, it is Christmas!

It sounded like information, basically. He signed off crisply, nobody back at NewsCenter8 or wherever laughed at him. And across our fair city, people sat there and took it, and I believe that, generally, they weren't laughing at him either. They, like us in our house, were used to it, and consented to the idea that Informing had just occurred. Although what we had been told, we already knew, although it had been told in banal language, revved up with that strange TV news emphasis ("cold WEATHer leads SOME motorISTS to drive less, CARrie!"), we took it and, I would say, it did something to us: made us dumber and more accepting of slop.

Furthermore, I suspect, it subtly degraded our ability to make bold, meaningful sentences, or laugh at stupid, ill-considered ones. The next time we feel tempted to say something like, "Wow, at Christmas the malls sure do get busier due to more people shop at Christmas because at Christmas so many people go out to buy things at malls due to Christmas being a holiday on which gifts are given by some to others" -- we might actually say it, this sentiment having been elevated by our having seen it all dressed-up on television, in its fancy faux-informational clothing.

This is why I don't watch TV news and instead read blogs. At least you can personally insult the bloggers (and also the journalists, columnists, guest writers, and what have you) when they say something stupid. But speaking of, Amazon convinced Saunders to post some blog entries, which I guess is something they do now. Maybe it's the counter-measure to authors writing their own reviews and starring their own books. Let's bring the shadiness out into the open, and pay authors to do exactly what the media chastised them for before. Saunders acknowledges this, and makes the whole ethical promotional quandary a remarkably satisfying read. As always. Damn.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Flash backwards

I've been taking the time to look through some of the documents on my old iBook. I found a list of spam email headings I compiled for the old Mess blog, as follows:

When you are on a diet, the feeling of hunger is always with you? Hoodia 920+ knows how to kill the hunger.

With Hoodia 920+ you will not need chocolate to kill your depression. With Hoodia 920+ you simply wont have it as well as your excessive pounds.

After using Hoodia 920+ all your clothes will be too big for you.

Hoodia 920+ is the key to ideal unblemished body.

Always wanted to look like a super model. Finally, your dream will come true with Hoodia 920+

Time has changed and ugly stomachs are not the example of beauty anymore. That’s why you have to try Hoodia 920+.

Some weight loss preparations can work fast but are they harmless to your health? Hoodia 920+ is one of them.

Looking forward to summer but are a little scared of undressing some parts of your body. Let Hoodia 920+ take care of it.

There are 58 million of overweight people in America. With Hoodia 920+ you dont have to be one of them.

Don’t worry about Penis Enlarge Patch being harmful to your health.

Step back let Penis Enlarge Patch wash away your fears.

But speaking of the "mess" I discovered this thing on the Internet Archive called the Wayback Machine, where you can find websites which, unlike irony, have unfortunately passed. After scoping out Earth & Sky's claims that we were the first to bring radio science content to the web (it's true!), I decided to step back in my own internet history and check out the High Plains Messenger.

It was as if I had traveled back in time to August 5, 2006. Bush was still in office, and my last feature story, "Disabling the System" was the main image, and I think remained to be so because everyone had lost the motivation to change it or to really write anything else. I was blogging about random Colorado Springs stuff which didn't seem all that important to anyone.

But I consider "The Battle of the Bargains" in which I compared Extreme Bargains, Bargain Mart, and Walmart on the relative cost of Jet-Puffed Kraft Marshmellow Spread to be my best investigative work. And I still cherish the hate mail from "Tears of a Clown: Do Circuses Really Make Elephants Sad?"

This article really does seem biased, almost angrily so on the reporter's part. Maybe a rep from PETA killed her parents.

The commenter is only halfway wrong. My parents are still alive, but the article is indeed angrily biased, not "emminently fair". I did not like PETA's politics and I wrote it that way. It turned out as an entertaining but crappy article written with a half-baked idea of ethics. But it's the story I tell every single time someone mentions PETA. "Gather round," I tell the children who are considering going vegan. "And let me tell you about the time PETA almost killed my parents."

Monday, September 03, 2007

Wonderful things to share with the world

Chocolate cream Italian sodas.

Graham Reynolds.



Making risotto.

Hype Machine.

Food security.


2nd Sundays Sockhop.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

(My roommate is the guy clutching the neck of a beer by the bar, overwhelmed by the number of adorable vintage dresses present. I am elsewhere, getting my hop on.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Video odds, and ends to follow

I've done a fair amount of YouTubing this week, a switch from my last week's spree of Craigslisting. And although Missed Connections provides a good fix of pissed off cyclists thrown through windowshields, YouTube is generally more hilarious.

Take, for example, my new favorite person, Michael Cera. Formerly known as George Michael on Arrested Development, there's now a whole bunch of buzz about him. It's like he's in the center of a swarm of bees - which reminds me of how this morning I killed an enormous (no, really, it was like, defined and large and threateningly striped yellow and black) spider by dropping a 10 lb encyclopedia on it, and afterwards felt kind of bad. Anyhow, Michael Cera does this really brilliant parody of Aleksey Varner.

Also worth watching is his web series Clark and Michael.

And then.... And then! I was oh so pleased to find ACTUAL VIDEO FOOTAGE of a show last month that BLEW MY MIND.

Everything about Foot Patrol is amazing. For starters. 1) It's a foot fetish concept band. 2) The band leader is blind, and his foot fetish is real. 3) He's a prodigy. 4) Amazing dancers wearing mustaches. 5) Influences are listed as stinky feet and 80's Minneapolis funk.

The camera work is pretty crappy, but you get the jist.

This song is called "Footography."

This song is the Foot Party anthem. The opening sequence is awesome. "Fifteen years in the county smell!"

I don't think Foot Patrol will ever tour, but if they do.... not to be missed. Or else they'll put you in the pedicure jail, where females will assault you and make your scaly feet pretty at the same time. Tee hee.

And to follow up on my last post, I have photographic evidence of the nerdiest tattoos ever. Science tattoos. They do a bit to deflate the notion that people with Ph.Ds are smarter than everybody else. The worst? A really, really ugly spiraling snippet of Sonic the Hedgehog's genetic code. This lady's nerdish desire to be cool has gone too far, and her hideous shoes punctuate my point. Stop trying. Please stop. Stay in the lab and away from the tattoo parlor. Thank you.

Friday, August 10, 2007

An open letter to you, wearer of tattoo

I've been meaning to tell you: I'm tired of looking at your tattoo.

I'm tired of your hackneyed Chinese symbols, your ugly Celtic knots, your cheap meaningless designs you picked off a wall somewhere, your pseudo-ironic-I-can't-believe-you-actually-did-that Mom tattoos. I'm even tired of your sweet little animals, your well-executed but too-trendy skulls, your homages to lost friends. There's got to be a better way to memorialize. I don't like statues, but I'll deal with them.

I'm tired of your sleeves, your upper back, your thighs, your ankles, your neck, your chest, and your biceps. I'm particularly weary of your lower back and the front of your hip bone. I should also mention that your facial tattoo totally freaks me out. You scare children. Do you ever get used to the sound of their screams as they look at your face?

I know tattoos, brandings, scarring, etc. have been common among people for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. But never among people with such poor taste. America is a nation of freedom, and freedom is the ability to choose what kind of regrettable useless crap you want permanently engraved on your person at any point in time.

As you walk around in your tank tops and short shorts in the heat of summer, your body becomes active moving public art. As much as I try to avert my eyes, you pop up in unexpected places, and over and over again I am forced to confront the question: Why did you do that? Did you spend years carefully considering and weighing out the options, choosing a design that would truly represent who you were, and get it inked by a tattoo artist you knew, trusted, and admired? Or did you wander into the tattoo parlor next to the bar where you were, moments before, drinking Miller High Life or Shmirnoff Ice and reflecting on how awesome it would be to get a shamrock (cuz you're part Irish on St. Patrick's Day) right next to your cross/butterfly/state of Texas?

I'm not saying these are the only two ways you can get a tattoo. Most likely you thought about it for a while, because the "What would you get if you got a tattoo?" conversation is literally impossible to avoid. Everyone's expected to want a tattoo, so everyone gets one. The original idea was that it was both unique and hardcore - you have the means for self-expression and you can stand the pain or the thought of ink becoming a part of your skin forever. It was counterculture and rebellion. Parents don't like tattoos.

Now every parent I see with their toddlers at the pool has a tattoo, and I almost expect the kid to slide straight out of the womb with an I heart Mom tat. Tattoos aren't counter-culture anymore, they're like little needles of popular culture. And pop culture is not permanent. Not like your dumb tattoo. I don't want to sound like your mother but.... there's no way you're not going to regret that when your skin gets all saggy and Tinkerbell starts to droop below rather than hover above your beltline.

I have to tell you though, I've been starting to feel pretty unique and hardcore for not having a tattoo, for having regular skin that is marked only by freckles. I'm feeling pretty good about it. I'm going to try to ignore the mass of tattoos surrounding me. Your poor decisions are not going to go away. I'll let you deal with that.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

This American Wasteland

I cannot count the hours of the past six months of my life that were devoted to This American Life, between listening to the program, applying for the internship, and listening to the program more so I would do better at applying for the internship. Ira Glass appeared in my dreams, sometimes as an overweight, over-made-up middle aged lady. It reached a level of perverseness before I accepted this job, which turned my thoughts to climate change (also a questionably unhealthy obsession). And I didn't get the internship. The reason being my stories didn't follow the trademarked narrative arc, which you can get an idea of in this article from the Onion. The letter said it probably had a lot to do with thousands also applying for the same one position.

Today Morgan, who once ran into Ira Glass on the street in New York and left me a voicemail saying, "I am flipping the fuck out," sent me a parody of This American Life done by a San Francisco comedy group. It's definitely worth a listen, if only for the deliberately practiced impression of Ira Glass.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Before there was Charles, there was Erasmus

Darwin! He's thinking, " Don't wave that little stuffed bunny at me while you sculpt. I'm so unbustogenic. I despise the future."

And that's it. Science dorkitude has now permeated my entire life. I wasn't always like this! Cry for me.

In a brief attempt to make up for the person I've become, I will return to my former habit of recommending a few books.

"My Name is Red" by Orhan Pamuk
The writing in this book is worthy of being called classic, and the plot and narration are unbelievably compelling. Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature last year and I highly recommend reading his lecture if you consider yourself a writer.

"White Noise" by Don Dellilo
I read this a few years ago with Chris Bachelder, who, if you read his book "Bear V Shark", ripped off a lot of ideas from this book because he's admittedly obsessed with it. Now I'm re-reading it, and it's much better when you're not speed-reading on the block plan.

"The Gulag Archipelago" by Aleksander Solzhenitsyn
Great for summer reading! Light and enjoyable, this modern Russian classic tells the tale of hundreds of strangers sent to live in a Soviet labor camp! Who knows what extreme cold, and deprivation will make them do?! You're sure to see me lounging poolside, totally engrossed in this honey of a paperback!

Monday, May 28, 2007

New news!

Long time, no write. I must admit I've been cheating on Crap in a Bucket with another blog - a more attractive, more desirable blog. I get paid to write there and people actually comment, and what did you ever do for me, "Crap in a Bucket"? You simply allow people to internet-stalk me, if they so choose. You're actually kind of creepy, Crap in a Bucket.

But I love you anyhow.

That said, I've been homesteading in earnest, which means I've been Craigslisting in earnest, to moderate success. Today I picked up a vintage chair

and this guy's entire spice and sauce collection for $20. It was pretty sweet.

But my proudest moment has been the arranging of the "owl nook." While in no way comparable in sentiment to the original owl wall, it is still a beautiful thing that makes me very happy to gaze upon in owl-struck wonder.

(I will add a visual aid later, so you can virtually visit the owl nook, if you are not lucky enough to breakfast there.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Another glowing moment

from the mouth of George Saunders:

It's not the case that we're gonna cure all our problems. But it's also not the case that all our pleasure will ever vanish. I think at the very last minute of the world, after we've global-warmed ourselves, and it's 400 degrees and only the elite can live in these little refrigerators with plasma TVs, the people who are burning to death outside are gonna kind of be reaching for the hand of the person next to them or having a memory of childhood or finding some way of knowing pleasure in that.

This from an interview with Guernica. Could I love a fiction writer more? No. Probably not.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


Possibly the best thing to happen on Sunday since Creation, the New York Times Sunday Magazine, features a cover story set in the eerie, murderous depths of Colorado Springs. It's about Robert Browne, the serial killer who took up about a week and a half of the news cycle during the summer. It was my first and only press conference. The article is a worthwhile read, although it's more of a vehicle for the traditional cat-and-mouse detective story. Charlie Hess has a good face for the part, and Robert Browne has a good beard. For being a killer, I mean.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Often more crappy than a poor choice

In my travels across the Internet, occasionally I find things that amuse me. This is one of those things.

It's a blog called Slantmouth that is, as they say, "Often more sultry than a pillow fight." Although I personally have never experienced pillow fights to be sultry, but more like painful and not fun, I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt. It's awfully good humor writing and totally sweet linkage. The links don't burden you with the pain of too much information, but instead are photographs where the captions serve as secret punchlines. You really should check it out.

Also in terms of recommends, Laura Veirs' new album, Saltbreakers, is a glorious achievement. I'm always stunned by her ability to cram nature imagery into every line. It seems like she's always turning a corner to discover some new kind of butterfly or staring in awe at the pink stars. This hasn't always worked for her: I can't listen to Carbon Glacier without cringing a little when she sings, "Topographic lines/ come close together..... and boulders just might/ make an appearance/ if the sun shines just right."

Saltbreakers has a few references to "sautering," which is exceptional. And the phrase, "Merman with a twinkle." Those mermen are up to no good, casting a hook in her.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Great Transition

If you ever drive from Colorado to Texas, bring bean dip. It is absolutely essential. Bean dip is the perfect sustenance for a journey that involves an incredibly open and slowly flattening landscape, exits with no services, entire towns that smell like either crapping animals or processed animals, and a wonderfully haunting emptiness.

I also recommend those handy "Scoop" tortilla chips.

My friend Shari was my traveling companion and partner in speed-related crime. She had just returned from Paris. The cops could smell it on her.

I really believe that the key to a successful road trip is side-trips. On my first road trip, from New York to Colorado, my desires to stop at the Buffalo Bill and corn husking museums were declared void by the front seat because I didn't know how to drive a stick. This time no such opportunities were missed.

We saw Billy the Kid's grave. It was monumental.

We posed in front of interesting signs.

We helped the pioneers with the laundry...

and apple picking. I didn't have the heart to tell the young man on the ladder he was harvesting out of season.

Between bean dip sessions, we took time to stretch.

We pulled over in New Mexico at a church that was in ruins. It was beautiful.

Maybe the most successful part of the trip was the shopping.

The highway wasn't crowded with hipsters, so the antique stores and flea markets were fresh, which means: Tons of owls! For cheap! I collected three new owls, two of them being hot plates, for about $2. I think the hot plates will come in handy when I set up my homestead. But I will always cherish my memory of the original owl wall.

We stopped for a night in Lubbock, where we failed to convince the night auditor we were only one person. In the morning, Shari nearly died from overexposure to MTV's spring break.

Fortunately, we made it safely and happily to Austin, after aforementioned run in with the traffic police. What a buzzkill.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Great! An easy solution to all my troubles.

This year for my birthday (3 months, people) you can give me the gift of carbon-guilt free living: Offset my life.

On the other hand, carbon offsets are actually kind of sketchy. Damn it.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Global Warming of My Dreams

It's been quite a while since I have last written, so I'll quickly catch up:

I am now living in Austin, Texas
I decided not to get my own place quite yet and am living with family
I earn my keep by providing cooking services and the enjoyment of my company
I like working at Earth & Sky
I like Austin
It is mostly hot and humid here but this weekend was cold and rainy
I dented my car the other day

The end.

I intended to write and post some photos about the drive down, but I can't find the USB cord for my camera, and my camera has been having some difficulties since someone (named Reed) decided to put it on a shaky porch railing to take a self timed picture of us before I left, and when it inevitably fell, claimed it was not his fault, despite my warning him not to do it. So I'm working on it, don't worry.

One of the things that occupies quite a bit of space in my mind right now is global warming. Why is this? you ask. Well, I answer, it's because global warming is the new Cold War. Haven't you heard?

Apparently, back in the day, people had nightmares about getting nuked by Russians. Looking back with our spectacular 20/20 hindsight, we can laugh about how silly people must have looked cowering under their desks. We know now that Russians are really as gentle as little lambs, except for when they poison spies and kill journalists.

For the past two months, I've been having nightmares about global warming. I think and read and talk about it a lot, especially with my job, and so it makes sense that it seeps into my subconscious. And global warming is one of those things that people don't want to think about too deeply, because when you do, it's completely terrifying. And as one person, you feel powerless to stop it, especially when you see that people in power don't even want to believe it's real.

Mostly the dreams are about car emissions. I drive a car that I don't feel gets good enough gas mileage. So I feel guilty. The guilt goes into my dreams and combines with other issues. The first dream I had was that I was working (at my old job, with disabled people) and one of the clients/individuals/persons served, who was prone to screaming, "Bad boy SCREAM!" owned this car that was parked outside the building. He couldn't drive, but he liked to have it on, and it had this huge smokestack sticking out of it, just spewing black pollution out of its top. I told the people I was working with that he had to turn the car off. They protested that he had rights, as a person, and if that's what he wanted we couldn't say no or force him to turn it off. I said, no, it's not about his rights, it's about stopping global warming, but they didn't understand. I grew increasingly anxious and guilty until I woke up.

Last night I dreamed that I bought a new car, and as a bonus, the dealership threw in two new trucks. One was a huge new red truck, and the other was an 18-wheeler. They put them all in a huge garage for me. I tried to explain that I didn't want them, but the dealer was unresponsive. I didn't know what to do. I knew that if I gave them away, I would feel responsible for the gas that these trucks would use. And I couldn't keep owning them myself. I hated seeing them as mine. So again, I grew increasingly anxious and guilty until I half-woke up and started thinking incessantly about getting in touch with climate change scientists, none of which I could reach on the phone.

I've had anxiety dreams my whole life, but they used to be about not being ready on time while people were waiting. Now it's about the fate of the planet, and I feel way worse about it. Maybe the dreams will relent once I start riding a bike to work and taking the bus. As I said, I dented my car this week. Maybe it's a sign from a higher power telling me to speed up and stop driving.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


I'm moving down to Austin right after South By Southwest, just in time for the city's collective hangover. It's sort of a bummer, as SXSW was one of my favorite events of last year. The city is completely saturated in music. Every block has at least five bands in tiny venues and six more outside, with their tubas and turntables set up on the corner. Last year I wandered into a parade with the Flaming Lips.

By the end of the festival, we had ditched the idea of seeing the bands we thought we wanted to see (besides the Drive-By Truckers, who were completely worthwhile with Kris Kristofferson) because people like the security volunteers at Animal Collective would not let us in without tickets or badges. But very tall security guard danced with me and Naomi after I complained that we were being treated like second-class citizens. "I never want you to feel that way," he told us.

My favorite band of the festival was the United States of Electronica, featuring this pink-and-sweat drenched wonderboy:

Unfortunately, they're only good live.

I keep telling myself that I'll be there next year, plus I'll be able to rent out my apartment for a little cash on the side, like everyone else on Craigslist. But such promises feel empty and the pain remains hidden in my heart. To solace myself I overdose on free downloads at the showcasing artists' website, and then lie in a pile of my own self-loathing.

Otherwise, I'm excited to move!!!!! If you want any of my stuff, let me know. I have a variety of "gently-used" to "missing essential parts" furniture, plus a sweet bike.

I finished my job and watched two good movies within the past two days, both of which I highly recommend. The first was C.R.A.Z.Y., a French-Canadian film about a boy growing up in Montreal during the seventies/early eighties. He goes through a glam phase, which is pretty awesome, and a self-discovery phase in Jerusalem which I think was kind of spiritually overwrought, but he gets a great tan nonetheless.

Naomi and I went to Tinseltown, the local megaplex, last night, to see Pan's Labyrinth. Tinseltown was out of control. There were legions of high schoolers milling about, some in togas. It wasn't like there were a lot of kids in togas, and it also wasn't like there was a movie involving togas coming out last night, so I was confused by what seemed like big changes in high school socializing since I've graduated. Is it like the cult of celebrity has so permeated our culture that the high schools have to nominate their own and put them up on some kind of toga-clad pedestal to imitate American values? They should make a movie about that. Following Julius Ceasar. So that someone gets stabbed in the back at the end. Kind of like what happened in Pan's Labyrinth. It was scary and bloody and I had to cover my eyes and ears for certain parts, because I'm sensitive to that kind of thing. But it was beautiful and sad and invoked an entire range of human emotion leaning towards the infinite-abyss-of-sorrow-and-human-pain side. I should be like, a movie reviewer. Or a movie maker, a movie maker that studies high school, and just make Mean Girls over and over again.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Good tells you the best

Good, the magazine that seems to have a larger endowment than my college, has come out with a list of the 50 Best Magazines Ever. It's a good (har har) list, and I like how they make distinctions between different eras of in the magazine's history (i.e. "pre-Conde Nast buyout"). But Good is definitely walking a fine line. How do they get to be so definitive? They're like, three issues old. And they got Graydon Carter to write an introduction? How much do you have to pay to get the editor of Vanity Fair, someone who I imagine dictates syllables and trends alike from high in an ivory tower, to write an introduction? There's something about Good that makes me uncomfortable... like Jesus walking on water. There's obviously something bigger behind it, and I'm slightly suspicious of that thing.

Edited: They also got this Teen Beat worthy photo:

I'm going to put it up on my wall and frame it with kisses.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

It's official

I'm moving to Texas. Austin, to be exact. People have been very resolved in telling me what a progressive city Austin is... in fact, the word "progressive" has been mentioned several times with several different people who have no relationship to each other. I think "progressive" in this case means "an oasis of liberalism and independent thinking in an otherwise barren Republican desert which has launched the political career of the worst president in the history of the United States."

I can't really believe that I'm moving to Texas. TeXas. What other state has an X in its name? It's a letter other states dare not mention, lest put in their names. X blares out like a buzzer. But Texas sticks it proudly in the middle. It's like, "Look at my X! Look at my cowboy boots! Aren't they awesome?! I'm BIG!"

The reason I am moving to this prairie oasis is because I got a job there. And I think it's going to be really great. It's with Earth & Sky. I'll be the production assistant and get to write and work in radio. So I'm excited. And I have to pack up and move. Saddle up my burro and ride 'em and stuff. I think it also means cowboy coffee.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

North Korea

An amazing series of photographs:

by Phillippe Chancel

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


You should listen to this really fantastic radio show out of New York. It's called Radiolab, and it's an hour long show that combines science with culture. It's got a really interesting aural athestic, in which people frequently tell the same story over each other, and sound runs underneath almost every part of the show. It's hosted by two men, and they play their parts like they're having a casual conversation that's incredibly interesting and happens to have sound bits. It's more transparent than This American Life. I'd say it's investigative where This American Life is narrative.

I recommend starting with Detective Stories.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

This is what I'm talking about

I'm not much in the mood for comprehensive blogging recently, so here's a select gathering of things I find interesting.

An image by Landsat, a government satellite system.

I've been loving The Morning News for some time now. It's like what would happen if Salon and McSweeney's had an internet love child... plus art. I've developed a real affection for Sarah Hepola, who wrote this charming piece called, "The Key to a Successful Freelance Career: A Diary" and a serial called "Celebrity Magazine." Their content isn't updated nearly frequently enough (weekly), but they do provide a non-stop stream of entertaining links, and mp3 and video digests. And it's been around since 1999. It's virtually an internet geezer.

Here's a thing I did about mass transit in the U.S. I think this was my favorite interview thus far, simply because the transportation expert was so admittedly cynical. He doesn't actually work with transportation in America, because "I only have one life and I don't want to waste it." He's the director of a program that put effective mass transportation in Mexico City and India, and he says the U.S. is almost completely hopeless. Not only do Americans really love their cars, and want to use them, but even if we were willing to ride buses it would be hard to set up a good system. There's a huge multitude of factors that go into this that don't really seem to fit together. We have "bedroom communities" where city workers have to commute 60 miles one way so they can own a large new house rather than rent a small place; the government is more than willing to subsidize gasoline and ethanol at a high cost; and cities create "boutique" subways that cost staggering amounts and no one uses. (A subway costs $1,000 an inch.) It all adds up to one thing: America discourages intelligent decisions.

And interesting piece on NPR news last week about the term "mental retardation." Sounds familiar.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Not too much

light from heat

More snow coming, maybe this weekend. Today I took my favorite "person served" up to the mountains near my house, and we stood on a frozen waterfall. He was excited. It was nice. He always brings Michael Jackson to play in my car, and I told him about the Smooth Criminal video. He laughed. He laughs at everything and nothing.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A "Smooth Criminal" Retrospective

There are many many many reasons to watch this video. First of all, it's like a dance narrative, although the plot is cloudy. Michael Jackson plays some sort of mobster/speakeasy boss, and there's tons of easy ladies nearby and also random bouts of aggression. It's like what a very effiminate man would imagine as a masculinity play. For example, MJ's buttering up two fine ladies and a large man appears behind him with a glittering knife, and the ladies get all freaked out but Michael just blows him through a brick wall without even turning around. That's unchecked fantasy, people. Also, ragamuffin orphans are peering through the barred windows, talking about how cool Michael's moves are. It's kind of too bad that every Michael Jackson video reads like a warning sign.

It's not the best song, and the wierd sound quality of the grunts inserted over it makes it worse. But I've always remembered this video as being legendary because I owned a Nintendo game based off it. Michael would jump/dance-kick, throw his white hat, lean impossibly far, and shoot his arm up in the air all the way to victory. I'm surprised that I can't find this game on a Google search, which makes me think this was all a legend I created in my Michael Jackson-obsessed youth. But I did find this - a Flash animation which features MJ in every other Nintendo game you can think of.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

photos etc

I did make it home in time for Christmas, and it was decidedly less snowy there. By this time, New York is well into the misery that is its winter weather, with infinite gray skies and lackluster periods of snow and freezing rain. But this year, it's been positively balmy. It hadn't snowed yet at the time I got there, and there was much talk of suicidal skiing on depressed mountains. My dad and I like to go cross country skiing far upstate at least once a winter, but it wasn't going to happen.

Other Christmas vacation traditions occurred: I had all my doctors' appointments, saw that our cousins' kids had another year of growing up between holidays, avoided people from high school at the YMCA. I missed most of my friends by getting home so late, and went down to the city to visit a few. It was wonderful.

Michelle, me, and Meg at the tiny underground lair of the Irish bar where we spent a very long time on Friday night.

Bridget, Jen, and I became friends during a disasterous French cooking project - we added a dozen eggs to our supposedly cream-filled pastries. The result tasted like omlettes filled with whipped cream. We did not order these at breakfast.

The next day I flew back to Colorado and drove out to Vail for New Year's Eve with Lara.

This is us after a good deal of celebrating. We're thinking that 2007 might taste gross, but the passage of time is inevitable.

In addition to New Year's, I recommend the Denver Aquarium after dark. It's cheaper, there's no kids there, and also no adult supervison.

I'd love it if they had a little replica of Davy Jones' locker that they would put kids in afterwards, and then after you hear muffled screaming, open it up and have some sort of waterproof sign that says, "Ha, ha."

Camera phones are popular.

It was decided that jellyfish are cool.