Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It's freezing, but at least I have mono.

Just a quick note. I don't even really have anything to share,...just wanted to write something.

This is the first time I've written something that hasn't been school related since, well, school started. It's been that kind of a term. Now that my body and brain have had a small amount of rest, I'm finding some sort of coherence in my thoughts. The term is not over yet, however.

It's been a very long time since I've gone out and bought a CD -- paid full price for one, that is. I can't remember the last time that I threw down twenty duckets on an album, but I had to yesterday. Though I have an older record from the band Mono, (an album called One Step More and You Die)  I never kept up with their releases. However, I was on YouTube, of course, and found a song of theirs called "Pure as Snow." If 'Post-Rock' is your thing (however lame that fucking moniker is), then you'll know what to expect, and surely you'll be lovin' the shit outta this track:

Yeah, melancholic and blissful. They have an orchestra and everything. Long as hell songs, but if you're patient then these slow crescendos pay off in the end. The raw production is perfect for this kind of music, too. The album that this song comes from is called Hymn to the Immortal Wind. The album that I purchased yesterday though was called Mono: Holy Ground: NYC Live with The Wordless Music Orchestra. It is basically Hymn to the Immortal Wind done live with an orchestra. Really fucking excellent stuff. It's hard to explain this, but it is the kind of music that feels fitting for the winter. I'm not just saying that because the track is called "Pure as Snow." It's production probably lends it some of that feel; it is lo-fi, which gives it kind of a 'vagueness' or even 'loneliness.' And the washy sounds during the loudest part of the crescendo is noisy and chaotic, actually sounding like wind through a tunnel. The music itself is very mournful-sounding: the kind of thing you might want played at your funeral. Maybe a strange thought, but I could kinda see it. The live album, that also has a DVD of the performance, is well worth the twenty bones. I'll probably put down another twenty for the record of Hymn to the Immortal Wind. Why twenty? Because it probably sounds even better in record form (vs. CD or YouTube clips) so I'll pay the price.

Well what do you know? I actually had something to share. Mono.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Portland to Hood River by:

It started off at 10:00 a.m on Tuesday, 14th. Nerves had me up by 7:00 a.m. since this was my first time doing this ride. It was also the longest ride I've done thus far. Oatmeal, coffee, George Carlin stand-up segments on YouTube -- digestin', ampin', laughin.' Decided on a backpack instead of my panniers. I don't know if it was a bad decision or not. I'm used to riding with a heavy backpack; I'm not used to riding with even lightly loaded panniers. As I was pumping up my back tire it deflated -- a rip at the stem. I was briefly thinking "hmmm,...is this what's to come for my journey?" Not being much for superstition, I just changed the tube and got on my way.

The first leg is one that I'm quite familiar with: my house to Troutdale. I live very close to Marine Drive, which takes you straight to Troutdale. I frequently ride from my house to Troutdale and back, so this was easy enough. Usually, Marine Drive is loaded with cyclists since it is loaded with bike paths off of the road, but this morning there didn't seem to be a anybody out. The weather was a little cold, a little misty, gray-as-shit. In some ways, it was the ideal condition for a long bike ride. However, I had my mind set on 80 degrees and sunny, as all the weather reports indicated. Couldn't see it quite yet, but it was early enough in the day. Arrived in Troutdale where the Historic Columbia Highway starts and made my way into the Gorge.

Though this trip through the Gorge by bike was a first for me, it's not exactly unfamiliar territory. I have taken many car rides through the Gorge with Rich Bachelor, and even the day before we scouted the Historic Hwy and made mental notes of the route. That was possibly the best thing I could've done in terms of guiding my bike route. When you have as poor of a sense of direction as I do, it's nice to have an instructor who has one as fantastic as Rich Bachelor's. Yes, it is a relatively straightforward route along the Historic Hwy, but there are also lots of side roads that could easily confuse unless one was familiar with the landmarks along the Hwy.

Troutdale to Crown Point was a gradual incline. Admittedly, I was having to stop a few times and catch my breath. Sometimes it felt like I was barely moving. I stopped off at the "Womens' Forum." I believe that is what it is called. It does have a pretty fantastic view of the Gorge, so I took a picture:

When I took the picture it seemed like it came out terrible. When downloaded to the computer it seems not so bad. Still, it looks like everybody's Gorge picture. The generic postcard. I continued on up to Crown Point and then started the long descent into the meat-n-potatoes of the Historic Hwy. This was the fun part. Traffic was low-and-slow and there were many sights to see. As mentioned before I have seen these parts before, just not by bike. I took very short stops at each of the main sights: Latourell, Multnomah, Bridal Veil, and Horsetail Falls. I didn't take many good shots of my surroundings, but I found this sign at Multnomah Falls:

The other Prope-Dope? It makes you feel like your head is gonna literally explode, and it burns off all the hair on your face...but it's a sicky high, bro!

Horsetail Falls is almost majestic, and yet I couldn't get a decent photo of it. This is what I got:

The sun was just beginning to break through the gray cloud-cover. And though it can't really be seen in the photograph, it made these falls, in particular, look spectacular. Just beyond Horsetail Falls, the hwy went alongside this amazing little field that was just beginning to get the sun. The forecast was accurate, and now I was beginning to feel it.

After this section of scenic overload, the hwy eventually takes you into Cascade Locks. The 'Locks' is a sleepy little town that connects Oregon and Washington by the "Bridge of the Gods" -- a toll bridge that apparently charges bikes to cross. Underneath the bridge were fresh fish "vendors," who basically had coolers of the catch-of-the-day. Every time I've been through this area I see this patch of fish-pushers. It's probably fantastic. Maybe one day...

After Cascade Locks there are apparently a couple of options for continuing on to Hood River. I took the Herman Creek Hwy route. Unfortunately, I didn't take it all the way because it seemed like it was going in another direction, so I thought that maybe this was the part of the trip where you're forced to get on to I-84 and ride the shoulder for ten miles to Hood River. Well, turns out that I got on the highway prematurely, and I was on it for 16 miles. This was definitely the most unpleasant part of the ride, if not for the trucks riding the white lines, then for the broken glass, ripped tire-casings and other shit lining the shoulder. I briefly stopped off at the exit for Starvation Creek, which is not too far away. Sat at a picnic bench and ate a snack while an older gentleman with a white handlebar mustache stood outside his truck and puffed on a cigar. Got back on the freeway and continued the last five or so miles to Hood River. At this point, I was definitely feeling the weight of my backpack and the way it was forcing my neck into a weird position to support it. I kinda couldn't wait to get off of the fucking freeway.

Got into Hood River at about 3:00 P.M.; the day was just about at its peak temperature. I parked the bike, then had some coffee at a shop that was either called "Fresh Coffee," or "Ground." My friend who works in White Salmon, just across the way on the Washington side, was my ride back to Portland. He got off of work at 4:00 P.M. The perfect amount of time to have some coffee and reflect. The ride took me about 5 hours total, and it was approximately 70 miles. It was fun, glad I did it. I picked the perfect day, too. Yesterday and today decided to rain and it looks like rain from here on till...

In the days before my trip, I had thought that I could maybe just turn around after getting to Hood River and come back to Portland. Well, by the time I got there I was definitely feeling it. I need a few more long bike rides before I attempt to go there and back. Still, I plan on doing it eventually.

Remember: No Smoking Propane.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Coulrophobia: awkward sociological experiment

So much for promises to blog regularly this summer...

A couple of months ago I was looking up videos on YouTube under 'Scary Clowns,' or 'Fear of Clowns.' The reason I was doing this was because, when I was a kid,  I used to be terrified of the toy clown in the movie Poltergeist. Something about the demented smile on, what seemed like at the time, a life-sized clown doll freaked the fuck out of me. The feeling was strange because most horror movies didn't frighten me. In fact, my favorite childhood movies were horror films: Creepshow by Stephen King was my all-time favorite; Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead were winners, too. The first couple of Friday the 13ths, the first few A Nightmare on Elm Streets. I watched The Exorcist numerous times at my aunt's house. Along with those, I also watched B-horror films like Maniac, The Burning (a camp/slasher film that featured a very young Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame), Camp Sleep-away, The Gate, etc...The horror section at our hometown video store, I.V. Video, was well attended by me. I used to even request for horror movie posters/advertisements after the store was done with them. Amongst all of these films, it was the discovery of the dead body of Ray Brower in Stand By Me and the clown scene in Poltergeist that actually lingered.

The Poltergeist scene gave me a strange and mild fear of clowns -- or rather, clown faces, since I haven't been to many circuses, therefore haven't spoken with many actual working clowns. This was when I was really young though, and the fear dissipated pretty quickly. By the time the movie adaptation of Stephen King's It came out (featuring Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown) I was not bothered.

Anyways, back to my YouTube search. I found a mini-documentary on a woman who becomes paralyzed with fear when she sees a clown. Apparently, the term for this phobia is 'Coulrophobia.' This goes beyond a silly scene in a horror movie; she has a hard time just looking at pictures of clowns. And just to state at the outset of this deconstruction: I am not laughing at her phobia. It's clear that this fear stems from some sort of childhood abuse scenario. I mean, she held onto a stuffed animal from her childhood as some sort of protection during her therapy session. With that being said, the circumstances and the few people surrounding her during a therapy experiment (volunteers from the Sociology Department at some college) are quite funny.

At one point during the video, the woman's therapist informs her that they're to go into a room with four or five people and a clown. She says that she would rather the clown come in after she was in the room. The therapist then says, "okay,...stay put, I'm gonna go tell him. His name is Mr. Giggles." She gives him a strange look and an incredulous "what?!," and he reiterates: "His name is Mr. Giggles. He's a clown." This last part he says with a funny intonation in his voice, as if he meant to say "why else would someone be called Mr. Giggles?" Then, the therapist leads the woman into the room with the other students where she sits and awaits Mr. Giggles.

So, Mr. Giggles walks in while blowing on a kazoo, and I don't know if this was planned or not, but it sure looks like he walks in and immediately spots the woman who is deathly afraid of his mere presence and waves right at her. Of course, she loses it and starts screaming and hyperventilating in the corner. Now, the thing that I find funny is the participant-clown interaction going on around her. I try to imagine how these sociology students were prepped for this experiment? So guys, we're gonna simulate a balloon-animal demonstration from a clown, like what you would've experienced at a circus when you were a kid. The focus of this experiment, however, is terrified of clowns. She's probably going to be screaming and crying and....well, who knows what she's gonna do. She's absolutely terrified of them. What's important is that you maintain your composure. You gotta look like you're having a good time and you can't stare or ask her if she's alright. She'll be alright, just give your attention to Mr. Giggles, and for God's sake keep smiling. When the camera does a slow close-up on the woman, it keeps one of the participants in the frame. The look on her face, I feel, reflects what I'm talking about. She's trying to look like she's having a good time, but you know -- there's a woman freaking out right next to her.

Now, Mr. Giggles is conversing with his audience members amidst this meltdown. If you listen closely, you can hear what he's saying: "Balloon Dog is the first thing they teach you to make when you go to Clown School, kids"; "And, like I tell all the other kids, everything you gotta learn how to do you gotta go to school"; "Anybody here know how many heads a dog should have?...Aww, come on. A dog has one head." At one point, Mr. Giggles says, "Alrighty," but it feels more like a "Ohh...my god. okay. focus." At the end of the video the narrator claims a success on the part of the experiment, but it looks more like exhaustion.

Here's the video:

Anyhow, the vacation is soon to come to an end. School is right around the corner, which is to say that this blog will probably remain neglected. But then again, maybe not?...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Night Tracks Classics

Tonight I have been scouring YouTube for old music. I say old, but I'm talking about the late eighties and early nineties. For me, it was a period of consuming all varieties of music meanwhile trying to figure out my own tastes. I had acquired my sister's 45s (which I believe are singles): Expose': Point of No Return; Terence Trent D'arby: ? (can't remember the title, something about crying, I think?); INXS: The Devil Inside; Pebbles: Girlfriend; Madonna: (also can't remember which single); Taylor Dane: Prove Your Love/Tell it to my heart. And there were a few cassette tapes: Bangles: (the one with 'Eternal Flame' on it), and the rest I'm a bit hazy on. This was during the time when I had my first real stereo system: a cassette/record/eight-track player. Before CD, of course, or at least before they were really hitting the market. Here's the video for 'Prove Your Love' by Taylor Dayne, with a strange introduction from the artist herself while sitting in the Night Tracks studio:

One cassette that I owned (that I believe was also a hand me down) was a compilation. This was surely purchased at a Payless, when they had many cassette-tape displays throughout the store selling record company compilations. In fact, back when there was such a place as Payless, unless I am just unaware of their existence now. And this one cassette I had, in particular, had a strange Caribbean theme to it. The front cover's font was electric-neon-sign and the title was framed by two inwardly-swaying Palm trees. There are really only two songs that I remember from the cassette: 1. Beach Boys: Kokomo; and Elton John: I don't wanna go on with you like that. This last song was sort of my introduction to Elton John, actually. It probably wasn't the first song of Elton John's that I'd heard; I did watch TBS Night Tracks most Friday nights, and if you remember Night Tracks, you remember that it was Cable's version of MTV. It played the hits, so surely Elton John was on rotation. It's a strange song, kind of funny, but very catchy. However, as far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with Caribbean culture, it has no 'Caribbean flavor,' it doesn't even sound World Beat to me. I'm not sure what it was doing on a compilation like that.

There were also the songs that weren't hand-me-downs, but ones that I absorbed by hearing them occasionally when passing by my sister's room. In particular, the song I remember that she was into was Wilson Phillips: Hold On. I had never seen the video to the song until looking for it today, and it's pretty funny. I don't know if this is an eighties/nineties theme to music videos, but performing on top of mountains or hills, and the sweeping panoramic views of the world from up on high?

Want another example? Here's Bon Jovi's 'Bed of Roses' video:

And here is what makes The Darkness such a fucking awesome band:

These hand-me-downs were just the pop side of my sister's collection. She also introduced me to heavy metal: I can remember her driving me around in her white pickup with her newly installed sound system that included decent subwoofers to boot, and blasting Metallica's 'Ride the Lightning' album. The song 'Ride the Lighting' in particular was a song that just sounded so powerful -- like it was the sound that I had been searching for: dirty, buzzing guitars, heavy reverb on the drums (an eighties thrash-metal sound that makes drums sound thunderous), dark, angry, and insane. And blaring at extremely loud volumes (this is well before my first concert, mind you) -- I loved the shit out of it.

Like my sister though, I too have a pop side. It took a long spell of heavy metal listening to admit that, but it's true. It's purely nostalgia, but I kinda love looking at these old songs from that time period. One noticeable element of Pop music in the eighties was that it had more guitars, kind of the Bon-Jovi-esque polished/controlled distortion sound, sort of buried in the background taking a backseat to the main vocal melody. Case in point: Roxette. Yesterday, I was telling Rich Bachelor about this band and I called them the 'poor man's version of the Eurythmics.' While they don't sound like the Eurythmics, they do look a lot like the Eurythmics. And I swear they are another band in a small list that has that going on: Sort of adrogynous female singer (and by that I mean she had short, spiky hair at a time when dudes had flowing, aqua-net hair, wore blouses, and shopped in the Women's department for their accessories) and the male songwriter/guitar player with a vaguely Robert Smith look. Roxette was a full band, but the credit went to those two. I think it just looked interesting on an album cover to have two contrasting characters sharing the spotlight.

They were definitely a band that I liked then, and I even purchased one of their cassettes. This was during my phase when I was trying to figure out what exactly it was that I liked. Back then, it was just about taking in as much music as I could, clearly not discriminating, which is, I feel, the next phase. Does merely 'catchy' suffice, do lyrics add or detract from the music, or is a constructed image even a bad thing? I must've felt that these questions were important, because I started listening to music that was definitely nineties in its attitude. 'Alternative,' as MTV used to call it. However, one look at this video and you'll realize that alternative was the strange market of Doc Martens, shorts and leggings, flannel, and white chicks with dreadlocks:

Alright then.

Monday, June 21, 2010

It has been even longer...

I suppose that it's about time that I posted something on this severely neglected blog. If only to just show off the new template, apparently a new option with blogspot. This cool-blue border is pleasing to the eye and the map background says "I'm a world traveler." No? At the very least it says "I'm a history major?"

I'm usually reluctant to post something unless I have a point or a purpose, but that is exactly what this post is gonna be about. I just wanted to put something up to break this spell and to hopefully get me back into the process of writing on the blog. Since last post it's been more of the same, school and all. And that means routine and roughly the same faces day in and out, so therefore not much excitement. I can only manufacture so much drama from that kind of existence.

My first term at Portland State University was not too surprising. The faces were, generally, younger; the kids were a little snottier. My professors were very good though, and ultimately that's all I care about. It looks promising, based off of my professors. And the choices in history courses are really fantastic. The campus is a lot larger than I realized, but it will probably feel small soon enough. God, I sound like such a cynic. Well, I am, but despite sounding unenthusiastic about my term, it was actually good. It was just very intense. The weekly-reading load was incredible, I would even say hardly manageable at times. Thank god the material was interesting.

Now I'm on break for the summer for three months and some change. I plan to frequently update this blog this summer, keep the stories-a-flowin.' There's a few stories I've been thinking of blogging about, so they should appear soon enough. These last two weeks have been a period of decompression and normalization, and now I'm beginning to get into the rhythm of the warm and lazy afternoons creeping into the long summer nights. Now I'm just waiting for this damn Portland weather to catch up. Till then.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It has been too long...

I am currently on my spring break, but instead of flying down to Miami to scream at the top-of-my-lungs while having a douche-bag muscled-neck bartender pouring the ingredients of a pomegranate cosmo directly into my mouth, only later to vomit and pass out, I am reading and relaxing on the home-front.

This has been very nice. But I haven't really been in too much of a mood to write lately. Earlier in the term I found time to write (not on the blog obviously), but as the term progressed I found myself drawn to the variety of brainless activities: watching sitcoms on Netflix, watching old VHS tapes of Seinfeld and Howard Stern when his show was on the E Channel, and general internet bullshit. Only now, about a week into my break, am I breaking through that weird dead zone and starting to actually read the words on the page of a book rather than following the sentences while thinking: Is that Bruno interview with the "terrorist" real or staged? As if the quotes couldn't lead you, the post-interview with the Ayman Abu Aita by a TIME journalist suggests otherwise, as well as the fact that Aita is "going to pursue him [Sacha Baron Cohen] legally, in the courts." Yeah, I know -- who cares?

Unfortunately, I'm still trying to rein-in my attention span. I believe I am thinking and acting like a chipmunk because this particular break is very short and my ambitious mind tries to set goals for it. I wanted to catch up on reading, but instead of taking my time on one book I had to simultaneously have four other books on my nightstand so that I could interchange them at will. I wanted to study German language for about ten minutes, then I wanted to read a Non-Fiction essay, then I wanted to read half of a chapter of a Fiction book, etc... But it's slowly getting better. Yesterday I put them away and now I am focusing on two books, albeit one at a time.

The first of these books is called Inventing a Nation by Gore Vidal. It seems an appropriate supplement since I have just finished a college course on the earliest part of U.S. History. This is but one of the many Gore Vidal books, whether historical fiction or non-fiction narrative, of American historical figures or American politics in general (Burr, Lincoln, Washington D.C., Empire, and probably a few others I am forgetting) . This book in particular deals with Washington, Adams, and Jefferson. As has been said before of Gore Vidal, (maybe even by Vidal himself, I can't exactly remember...), he treats the founding fathers as if they had dicks (surely this was phrased differently if Gore Vidal had said it himself). In other words, he doesn't canonize the Founding Fathers, rather he writes about them as if they were humans who had contradictions and faults, and even sex drives. And he dispels the notion that the colonies, and the political leaders of said colonies, were one big united front against the evils of British monarchy and aristocracy. Okay, that might be simplistic; point is, he looks at U.S. history with a most discerning eye, and judging by his literary/journalistic/political career, has for quite some time. Most responsible historians today, I feel, are able to objectively look at the standard story of the late eighteenth-century David and Goliath, but it's probably because of people like Gore Vidal that they are able to do this now. And fortunately, my U.S. history textbook, Give Me Liberty, by Eric Foner, does a good job in its treatment of the founders, too.

In comparison, I have a 1909 U.S. history book, simply titled American History by James Alton James and Albert Hart Sanford, that seems to have been written by two fawning historians. To its credit, it's not poorly written, but the chapter on the Revolutionary War is kinda funny (Even the preceding chapter "Causes of the American Revolution," mysteriously has no mention of Thomas Paine or his influential tract "Common Sense." As a matter of fact, Thomas Paine is not included in the book whatsoever). After reading the chapter I concluded that the authors seemed to have a George Washington fetish. Lafayette seems to be a passing character, and in general France's military aid (as well as their financial aid) is understated. Washington never retreats from a battle ungracefully; no, he "was obliged to retreat," and "this he did most skillfully." And the recently successful army of General Howe, whose army was following Washington and his retreating army, "did not dare make a serious effort to dislodge him [Washington]" at their position at White Plains. Of course he didn't, defeated and fleeing armies are so impressive and intimidating, who would dare? Again, "Washington's only policy was that of retreat," in reference to a decisive battle in which the British were anticipating the arrival of Washington's dwindling army. The authors' tone almost seems defensive, as if to say "he had to run, alright! what are you implying? he's the bravest, smartest, and most wonderful human being that ever was, alright!" And when one opens up the book, the first page one encounters is a portrait of George Washington. It made me laugh out loud.

The second book that I'm going to attempt to read during my spring break is a collection of short stories from James Joyce titled Dubliners. I believe it is his first book, though I might be wrong. Since I haven't even cracked that one open, I don't have much to say about it. I found the only cheap copy of it at Powell's bookstore that hadn't been scribbled in or highlighted. I was sort of amazed at how many used copies there were of both Dubliners and of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. But then I started to leaf through them, and found almost all of the books had scribbles in the margins. They were funny scribbles too: a passage would be circled and in the margin the word "clever," or "metaphor about childhood" was inserted. The highlighted book that I looked through (can't remember which one) was equally funny, but because the highlights were of single words. I might be wrong on this one, but the highlights seemed to be of semi-unusual words that the reader didn't understand the meanings of. And they were on practically every page. Anyhow, I thought that Dubliners might be a good entry into the James Joyce style, before tackling the big ones like Finnegan's Wake or Ulysses.

Well, that's about it for now. I just had to write something since it's almost been three months of silence. I had contemplated writing about a rather antagonistic and shrill Craigslist ad for a breakfast cook that I found titled "I really meant I need a Great Breakfast Cook (Dowtown Portland)," but I decided that it would take up more time than I was willing to spend deconstructing the damn thing. It sort of speaks for itself, anyhow. And on that note, here's the ad:

Earlier today I ran the following ad: Kenny and Zuke's needs a terrific breakfast cook. Fast, dependable, meticulous, quality oriented person needed immediately. Experience working a busy breakfast line (not catering work) required - this is not a trainee position. Full-time, four day week. Must be able to start training this coming weekend, and be able to work mornings through lunch, including at least one weekend day, maybe both. Cool place to work - Fun and family-like. Please respond with resume, references and letter telling us something revealing about yourself we won't get from the standard resume. Points for humor and offbeat personality. Absolutely no phone calls or drop-ins!

What I got back was 80 (so far) responses, about 75 of which were notable for how unqualified they were for the position. Let me clarify - When I said Breakfast Line Cook, I meant someone who can stare down a rail with 20 dupes and 60 plates of eggs and hash and French toast and clear it in 20 minutes as 20 more dupes take their place, and do this on Saturday or Sunday for 5 or 6 straight hours. I don't need someone who has been Head Chef at Fifi's for 9 years making bordelaise sauce, or someone slinging burgers at the Rose Garden for Aramark, or someone who got laid off their construction job, cook's eggs for their little brother and thinks it might be fun to, I don't know, turn pro. I wish you all luck, but I need a breakfast line cook right now. Any out there? 

Wow. Who wouldn't want to work at this "fun and family-like" restaurant?