there is no excuse!
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Monday, October 6, 2008
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
I had to substitute a few S songs by the same artists for lack of availability on the site I was using, but in case anyone has a hankering to hear my ten S songs from back in the day, they're below.
Monday, May 19, 2008
2:42PM - This is a test!
If this works, it should enable you to listen to things I've been listening to online lately. If it don't work, you're looking at some garbled html and your browser's probably crashing. Enjoy, and/or sorry.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
11:15AM - Alphabet Songs
The estimable malconstant has once again pointed me in the direction of that most noblest of internet fartaround inducers, the meme. He listed the ten favorite songs he could think of starting with a particular letter of the alphabet. I commented, and he gave me my very own random letter, an S. So here, with little ado, are ten of my favorite songs that start with S.
Star Power Sonic Youth
Substitute The Sex Pistols (covering The Who)
Storm Vibrations Guided by Voices
Satellite Robyn Hitchcock
She Don't Use Jelly The Flaming Lips
Still Ill The Smiths
She Cracked The Modern Lovers
Soeng Isaan Caravan (OK, I cheated a little on this one--it actually begins with a ซ)
Snowfall The Halo Benders
Son of a Gun The Vaselines
Friday, August 24, 2007
Phnom Penh can be a pretty overwhelming place, even by Southeast Asian standards. I’m no slouch; I studied Southeast Asian history in school, can speak a little Khmer, and had been to the border a couple of times. I’d also traveled pretty widely in Laos, the poorer parts of Thailand (visit the countryside in the northeast for a few days and be reminded that it’s still a developing country), and Vietnam. So I was arrogant enough to think I’d have a pretty good sense of what to expect when I finally got there last year.
But of course, I was totally wrong. There were a number of things that reminded me of other Asian cities I’d visited, particularly in Thailand, which modeled many of its architectural and ceremonial traditions after ancient Cambodian precursors, and exerted a significant influence in the other direction in subsequent centuries. There are also obvious parallels to Laos, and to other parts of the Theravadin world. But there are also at least as many unique and sometimes deeply startling aspects as well.
The most immediately jarring features of this colorful, bustling, extremely friendly, and still more than a little unsteady little metropolis are without much doubt the urchins and the amputees. Little kids selling shoeshines, postcards, water, and other stuff throng the little clot of tourist-oriented hotels, bars, and restaurants along Sisowath Quay. Landmine victims beg for change at the temples and on the streetcorners.
I gave a lot, bought a lot of stuff I didn’t need, and got into a lot of conversations with the street kids, especially over the first few days, but with deep misgivings. I knew that the kids probably weren’t getting the money in the end. I recognized with particular discomfort that the surprisingly fluid English of one adolescent girl with an armload of bootleg guidebooks was riddled with lies. Of course she is needy, and I’m sure her true story, whatever it is, is compelling, but she was also obviously hustling me. It was hard not to feel creeped out, and worried for her future.
The next thing I found startling, maybe even more than the poverty, were the city’s striking parallel, or even multiple, economies. Not so much for the shockingly expensive luxury-tourism facilities that are proliferating—Cambodia’s worth going to, and where people want to go, expensive hotels get built. But the facilities set up for those who are there to stay were more amazing. There’s a very healthy international development community that has taken up residence in some of the best-refurbished colonial buildings the old quarters of town, and international development aid budgets, have to offer. They’re clearly setting up for the long haul, and doubtless living a lifestyle that, modest though it may be by international standards, is all but incomprehensible to their Cambodian neighbors.
Maybe even weirder, there’s also a growing community of Western aesthetes—antiquarians, artisans, clothing designers, restauranteurs, and others—who’ve made Phnom Penh their home base. Surprisingly expensive galleries and ateliers abound, offering everything from handicrafts to modern silk dresses. Coffeeshops and bakeries that would not be out of place in Palo Alto, California, (except for the fact that they’re served in French mansions from the 1930s), right down to the kiwi tartlets and $2.50 lattes, dot the urban landscape to service fellow expats.
In spite of all this, and in spite of the heaps of garbage and pervasive dust and all the other problems that the Khmer capital will continue to wrestle with well into the future, there is also a real sense of hope in many quarters. Dozens of restaurants and shops supporting worthy causes can be found around town. Alongside (and even among) bloated government expenditures some positive impact is being had by local and international NGOs. And independent of all the global concern their long term guests seem to express, local people are mostly very warm, open, and welcoming.
Finally, grungy and shambolic as it is, the city itself has a great deal of charm in its own right—historical architecture, lovely markets, temples, and riverside promenades are all worth experiencing if you like urban areas.
So go and visit. Try to see more than just the grim monuments to the tragedy of the 1970s, and try to spend conscientiously, but be prepared for at least a little sensory and cognitive overload.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Yeah, Lonely Planet uses the phrase “crumbling French artitecture” rather too loosely, but Battambang is nevertheless an atmospheric place to wander around for a day or two. There’s not much to do, but it’s very pretty in a run-down way. Plus, there are no urchins selling postcards yet, either, so it’s refreshing after the sad onslaught of Phnom Penh.
The boat trip from Battambang to Siem Reap along the Sangker River, however, is best approached with caution. There’s some beautiful riverside scenery, yes, and an interesting stop for lunch at a floating village, indeed, but it’s a very long, very loud trip.
We did it in just under ten hours (on heavily vibrating wooden bench seats). We also had the privilege of a boat accident (we smashed the prow of a smaller fishing boat with an appropriately distraught family on board—no injuries, thankfully) and a mysterious breakdown.
Do it, sure, but make sure you really want to spend a long day on a boat. The bus is faster and cheaper.
I went to the DF for the first time frankly expecting the worst…. smog, crime, traffic, thieves in taxis. I found instead a thriving, teeming, cheerful, colorful, and diverse ancient metropolis with the cheapest, and probably most efficient subway system I’ve ever used. I felt as safe as I do in New York (which is plenty safe), and was embarrassed for being so paranoid.
Some of my favorite moments included: fantastic museums, wonderful galleries, art, and shopping; Strolling the parks and old quarters admiring pyramid blocks repurposed into 17th century seminaries; Stumbling upon a goth-industrial club night (called The Bat Cave Club) on the top floor of a computer school in the charming, but quiet after dark, Centro Historico, featuring a fun but weird mix of really gothic music and slightly incongruous 80s pop. Mexican goth kids dancing to Siouxsie and the Banshees and slamming down $1 Indio beers. Being the only gringos on the dance floor at a norteno (Mexican country) bar in the Zona Rosa featuring the loudest banda you ever heard.
I can only say that I was rather underwhelmed by the much-vaunted nightlife district of Condesa… sort of stylish, sure, but rather yuppie for my taste. The Zona Rosa, too, was a little garish, and sort of tacky, but as a San Franciscan I was delighted to see such a prominent (by Latin American standards, at least) LGBT community acting out.
Go! Don’t be afraid! It’s a wonderful city.
Check out the least popular part of the country! You’ll be glad you did!
I had the distinct privilege of living and working near the exact center of Northeastern Thailand for several years. Aside from a few justly revered historical sites (Thailand’s only vestiges of the empire of Angkor) the region lacks, for the most part, the kinds of attractions tourists come to see. There are no beaches, apart from the sandy banks of the mighty Mekhong, no real mountain ranges, and people speak better Lao than English. But where it lacks sophisticated tourism, the region more than makes up for it with what I believe are the best examples of the good things Thailand is famous for: food, textiles and handicrafts, and most of all, the genuine warmth and openness of the people. I firmly believe that the Northeast is the friendliest part of a famously friendly country, and most people have yet to get jaded by putting up with legions of smelly, dreadlocked backpackers, as well-intentioned as their garishness generally is.
For these reasons and more—I’d include the music and local festivals, as I’m a big molam fan—the region known as Isaan will remain my favorite part of Thailand, a country I love more than most places.
Since moving back to the States a decade ago, I’ve earned a Master’s degree in Thai literature (which is almost as useful as it sounds) and returned to visit many times. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the chance to see all of Thailand’s regions, and most of its provinces. I speak and read Thai well, and like to believe that I know the country fairly intimately.
But no matter how exciting Bangkok is, or how beautiful the misty green hills of the North may be on a winter morning, they are second to me to the wide expanse of the Mekhong, and the small towns and cities of the Khorat Plateau. I will forevermore order my green papaya salad Lao style, regardless of the funny looks I get in restaurants in Bangkok.
The sheer scale of this place is awesome, the bus ride out from Mexico City passes through some interesting suburbs, and once you get there you can have lunch at an underrated little snack bar that offers very cold beer and good sincronizadas (ham n’ cheese quesadillas).
Oh, yeah, and there are also some large groups of new-age hippie types in white robes apparently worshipping ancient Aztec deities. Didn’t observe any human sacrifices, however.
Those pyramids are harder to climb than they look, by the way—not for the fearful of heights.
A thriving modern art, cafe, and modern-Mexican food scene, and perhaps Mexico’s cleanest and best-preserved historical center… this place is almost aggressively charming. It seems as if every corner you turn reveals a vista that should have been on a postcard… and curiously enough, most postcards for sale in the city are rather less impressive!
I particularly liked eating ice cream in the Jardin Socrates next to the basilica, and hanging out drinking Mescal in the Zocalo. Crowded with tourists? Sure, but at least as crowded with locals, which is a sign of a great public space. It was particularly nice when the Oaxacan State Marimba Orchestra fired up and a bunch of local old people ballroom danced into the night.
5:03PM - A review of Haight-Ashbury: Worth coming to to shop, or maybe to visit, but please don't drive your car
I used to live one block northwest of the Haight-Ashbury intersection, and can say that for all the kitschy tourist crapola—by far the least exciting part of the area—the neighborhood was always interesting.
Beyond the monuments to the events of 40 years ago, the sometimes hilarious, sometimes snarly streetpunk/walking wounded population that in many respects considers itself the heirs to that period’s legacy, and especially beyond the souvenir shops, junk stores, and gawking tourists, the neighborhood is also home to the city’s best record store, three independent bookstores (one an anarchist collective) a lot of good vintage clothing shopping, a couple of tasty low-end restaurants, some good cafes, a nice branch of the SF Public Library, and the entrance to Golden Gate Park, among other good things.
It’s also almost in the exact geographical center of San Francisco, which in theory makes it convenient to a range of neighborhoods.
Haight Street itself can be too crowded with amblers to be much fun to walk along, particularly on weekends, and yes, parking is thoroughly nightmarish, but along with a tourist trap, the Haight is a very active, vital neighborhood that has a lot to offer. Insider tip: The streets that aren’t Haight are substantially less grungy—I lived on Page and never had a problem with the street being dirty.
Hayes Valley is fascinating because it’s a tiny neighborhood featuring some of the most stylish, high-end stuff in San Francisco (a pretty stylish and high-end place in general), full of wealthy yuppies (some with hipster aspirations), and it’s immediately adjacent to some of the worst housing projects in the Western Addition—among the most enduring pockets of poverty and systematic disadvantage the city has got.
But its reputation for style and taste is clearly strong—a growing percentage of real estate advertisements for places in the Lower Haight, the Western Addition, and even the Civic Center district are calling themselves Hayes Valley nowadays.
I go here quite a bit—I live not far away, and my video store is here—and never fail to be surprised by the combination of dazzling and borderline frightening this ‘hood offers from block to block. Sort of San Francisco in a nutshell.
I just started messing around with the very interesting online forums at 43things/places/people.com, mostly for the travel discussion, and discovered it would autopost stuff I wrote on those forums to this here sorely neglected blog. So enjoy a random sampling of opinions about places I've been and/or lived, sometimes with photographs. But I don't actually come around these parts to update, so comments may take some time to reach me.
Friday, May 19, 2006
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
I can't decide if I wish I a) didn't know this, or b) didn't find it so funny, but here's the deal:
Some low-budget British pr0n featuring Daleks (Yeah, those trashcan-shaped EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE! aliens from Doctor Who) has incited the ire of the BBC. The Beeb would like us to know that “The reason the Daleks are still the most sinister thing in the universe is because they do not make things like porn."
Ah. Now all is clear. Not Making Porn=Sinister. Porn=Not Sinister. That's also the reason that Jenna Jameson is famously unsinister.
The link below features pervy nerd fodder, bad implants, and is NSFW, so follow at your own risk. http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-20
Monday, November 21, 2005
For a remarkably accurate example of this tendency, look no further than below. I can't wait to kill that damned Joan of Arc in a duel, grrrrrr. Note that this result was generated using my real first name, capitalized, which worked better than using any of the common variants of my LJ user name.
|Your arch-nemesis is:|
Joan of Arc
Because they hate cheese
|The winner will be...|
You will kill each other in a duel
|Take this quiz at QuizGalaxy.com|
Friday, November 11, 2005
The Political Compass
Economic Left/Right: -8.75
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.85
Whoops... the red dot at the appropriate coordinates seems to be missing, but recall your algebra days, and plug it in at an appropriate spot. The numbers at the top make me slightly more libertarian, and slightly more leftist, than His Holiness. I can live with that.
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