Tuesday, January 29, 2008

i love this fucking country

I hope you can can use the same post title more than once because I say the above line at least every two days. Vignettes from my life with apologies for lack of posting, I've had lots of people in town:

I came home slightly drunk from Leopolds, the tourist trap bar in Colaba that has some of the only dancing in the city on a Sunday night. I saw some bright lights down a normally dark alley. I find a bunch of guys playing a board game and listening to music under a beautiful canopy with strings of light while Krishna constantly waved his arm with the help of a little motor. They immediately sat me down at the board to play a game called carrom that resembles pool but used flat heavy discs instead of balls. I loved my partner: an older guy with streaks of gray through his beard who danced at the table whenever a new Bollywood song started. Word of wisdom for best ways to make friends: sing the latest Bollywood hit, currently Om Shanti Om with his greatness, Shah Rukh Kahn. We won quite a few games until I missed an easy shot. Eventually, we gathered in a circle and somebody broke out a drum. About six guys started clapping this hands and singing songs in Marathi (at least I assumed Marathi, it sounds almost exactly like Hindi so I have to judge by the look of the people rather than their words, if they wear a cool narrow pointed hat, Bingo, Marathi). I sat there for about 90 minutes listening to them and thought to myself "well, you found what you were looking for." Luckily, someone took my video camera and started making movies. I'll upload them as soon as possible.

I went the to Manish Market with my friend Dave Sears so he could get some illegal software ($900 of software for $6) and so I could trade in some headphones that didn't work. I went back to the same shop and got the guy to confirm that I had bought them there. Then I told him that I wanted them replaced because they didn't work. He pointed at the sign that said no exchanges or returns. I figured I'd have to act a little heated to get the job done so I did. After a few minutes of loud statements of refusal by me and passive resistance by the owner, he agreed to replace them. I immediately lightened up and thanked him. He gave me new headphones and we tested them together. Then he took the old ones and put them in their package and back on the shelf. I told him that they were broken. He just looked at me and smiled. I started laughing and winked at him. He laughed and grinned mischeivoulsy. I shook his hand and said "that's funny. that's really funny."

Again at Crawford Market. I took my two friends from Austria, Judith and Sonia, so they could find gifts for friends back home. Turns out there's really nothing good in that department unless your friends like severed animal heads, weird chinese electronics, cell phone covers, bolts of cloth or guinea fowls. As we walked, two guys on the side asked to take a picture of them. My answer in this situation depends on my mood (which depends on my hunger level) and my feel for the people. For some reason I didn't like these guys so I said "no" loudly and kept walking. They just stepped forward and took a picture. This pissed me off. I turned to him and started berating him. Our exchange started getting heated and then he said something angry in Hindi. I said "what?". He repeated himself in English. I said "what?". After repeating this little performance a few times, we all started laughing about it. I said, "Oh, you Indians. I love you." We shook hands, still laughing, and went our separate ways.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cool links

Amazing. The Atlantic Monthly opens it entire archives for free perusal. The New York Times did this same thing a few months ago. I hope this trend continues (New Yorker, come on, please). I haven't got a chance to search it all yet but I'm excited:
Atlantic Monthly

A complete scan of a photograph book documenting the strangest practices of humanity. 564 pages of weirdness:
The Secret Museum of Mankind


I found a judo class and showed up on saturday morning after the required asking ten people where to find the National Stadium. I walk in to find 15 little kids rolling around on the mats together watched by two guys in judo gis. I felt pretty out of place but the teachers run over to talk to me. Unfortunately, someone told me I didn't need a gi but they had no extra. I had to wear my new, too tight (Indian style) pants.

The teachers immediately ignore the students and spend the rest of the class teaching me the basic throws while occasionally scolding the kids for being noisy or restless. I felt bad hogging the teachers but they didn't seem to care at all. They seemed to like working with me and I felt good until I ripped out the entire crotch of my pants (15 Rs to fix, wonderful). They took pants of another kid and gave them to me.

At the end, they bought me an orange juice, told me to keep the pants and start coming on Sundays when the older kids attend. I'm pretty excited about this and even started working out before my morning bucket showers.

I can't wait for a competition because wrestlers kick ass. Judo concentrates on throwing. If you throw some directly to their back, you automatically win the match. You can pin people if you keep them on one shoulder blade for one second but they see it as dishonorable. Luckily, I don't worry about honor. This means that they have no experience wrestling on the mat and as a wrestler, I spent most of my time on the mat, usually on my back. We come to them with an attack that they almost never see. It makes us quite good and quite disliked. During practice, I want to learn more about throwing but when it comes to compeititon, we're heading to the mats.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The zero rupee note - great for bribes, hookers and taxes

via India Uncut

For an anti-corruption campaign, the 5th Pillar NGO made up thousands of zero rupee bills to give officials when they ask for a bribe. I haven't been in that situation much yet. Wearing ripped pants, dusty boots and a menacing look (OK, might be more of a shit eating grin) usually keeps away people looking for money.



Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A ruined statue of liberty

A collection of apocalyptic visions of the statue of liberty from movies, comics and band posters:


via BoingBoing

Lex's Guide on How To Poop with Just a Smile (and a Bucket of Water)

From a suggestion by my illustrious pater (Edward Carl Alexander Pelger III):

By the way, old man, you can't buy this kind of great publicity. Look, you're right by the squatty potty. I'd hire you to do whatever you actually do in that office under the guise of construction

note: this is just how I worked it out for myself. I've asked friends but everybody gives me the same great advice "I dunno. You just do it."

1. Get a small bucket of water and put it behind you.
2. If a dirty bathroom, hitch up your pants so they don't trail on the floor. Drop your pants below your knees.
3. Squat over the toilet and if it's your first time, take one waddle forward. Hitting the back of the toilet is a classic newbie mistake. Your asshole is farther back than you would think. Don't worry. Your positioning will come with time.
4. Pee carefully because its easy to hit your legs.
5. Poop. Isn't it nicer to be able to see it? And it's healthier. You can check for high iron levels.
6. Here is where I really started winging it. Personally, I have been using the middle and ring finger of my left hand to clean and dig and then washing them with a stream of water from the bucket with my right hand. I repeat this many times until I feel clean. I am going to try an alternative method I envisioned last night (a flash of enlightenment?). I will pour a constant stream down my lower back and and use my left hand to clean. It might be a better method for more heavy duty jobs.
7. When everything is clean (as it's going to get), pull up your pants and ignore the slightly damp feeling. It's just clean water.
8. If you want to be fancy, carefully avoid using your left hand until you can get home and wash it thoroughly. When out and about, most places provide soap for washing in the bathroom.
9. When surrounded by lots of kids, avoid thinking about them following these same procedures and probably not getting to the soap before getting distracted by a kite/dog fight/butterfly.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

little tales for little people

A selection of short experiences from my last few days:

A Day No Kites Would Die or: A Great Opportunity for a Spoof Public Service Announcement
Sankranti is the festival of the harvest and, even better, kite flying day. All of the kids get off school so they can fly kites. I look up in the sky and see dozens of kites, some up in the air and some (OK, a lot) hanging forlornly off the power lines. It's a carefree wonderful day filled with cheerful children. (next line to be read in ominous newscaster voice they use when warning about danger) But you never know when this kite might be your last. This year in Gujarat (a small state in the northwest), ten people died in kite related accidents. How often do you get to use that phrase? (see below) Three people got their necks sliced open by the sharp lines people use so no other kite will get entangled and 7 kites hit the power lines to electrocute their owners. Do you know where your children are on Kite Day?

Zero results: 'snake charming' and 'haberdashery'.  (Things like 'car' and 'boating' and such are of course the highest, by a huge margin.)

from xkcd - best geek comic ever

Stupid Police Interview or Brown Bacon
For some reason, the owners of our flat had to take us to the police so they could see us. We had already met once to do this but last time, we simply didn't go to the station. I don't know why. In fact, I'm not sure if I have ever seen a more poorly executed plan for arranging to rent a flat. I feel the worst for our roommate because he's home more. Every day, somebody comes around to bug him about some detail that's already been worked out. Then, every few days, a bunch of people come over to sit around and jawbone about the plan that's already settled until everyone who doesn't matter finally understands the details.

Anyway, I forgot we had this meeting so I'm at a friend's house and a little hungover when I get the call from my roommate. I decide to throw my money away and spent $1.50 on a tuk-tuk ride back to our place. Huge mistake. The traffic on the one highway is not moving. We could have walked home faster. So now I'm hungover, hot, hungry and late. The last one bothers me the most. We finally get to the house and walk over to the station. Luckily, I really like the owner, his wife and their oldest son. They called during our first few nights to offer good advice (a rare thing) and ask if we needed anything.

The cops look at the rental papers for a few minutes. Then they amble over to ask what we're doing here. Tessa says bollywood, Mandela says teaching french and I say looking for a wife. They laugh and ask if I want an Indian wife. I'd said I would take anyone stupid enough to settle down with me. In retrospect, that's a bad answer. Apparently, once you start making friends with locals, aunties and uncles with marriage proposals come swooping in fast, furious and uncomfortable. I should not be advertising my single status and certainly not expressing interest in changing it.

I'm still annoyed by being dragged in for a waste of time of interview but I felt better after I swiped one of their little police hats. Alright. Impersonating a justice of the peace, here I come.

Train in Vain or: Looking for Clever Title (best in comments will be put here)
The trains here are crazy. If you're not used to it, the people look crazy too. During busy times and at major stops, it's a hard shoving match to clear the doors. They only have 20-30 seconds to disembark a lot of passengers and take on many more. It's violent but it's necessary. I rarely see people lose their tempers.

However, for a people that exhibit amazing patience with flabbergasting red tape, long queues and glacial multi-tier bureaucracy, losing a little time on the trains or highway make them lose their shit. I have not seen any traffic accidents but it's an easy way to get killed or badly injured. I'm not talking about the impact either. If it slows up traffic, a mob forms quickly and whoever they decide to fault will have a rough time. My friends, both from Pune, were out driving when they got bumped by a tuk tuk. Bob hopped out and saw no damage so he just got back in his car. He looks in his rear view mirror and a group of five men had pulled out the driver and beat him to the ground. Bob had to intercede on the drivers behalf to stop them.

I saw something similar today. I stood in the doorway of the train (a coveted spot and getting more valuable as the temperature increases). Every time you get to a station, those of us on the outside had to hang off the door of the train or step off and out of the way so we won't impede the traffic jam waiting to get off. Two boys of fifteen, who looked new to the city although it's really hard for me to read anything about anybody here, just stood in front of the doorway with a dumb look in their face. This enraged a bunch of the passengers who had to shove by. The first guy punched one of them in the face while a few of the others delivered body blows. The boys hung onto the overhead handles for dear life as two men tried to pry them off and throw them onto the platform. One man reached back in and hauled on them until his young daughter, screaming Papa repeatedly and frantically, finally pulled him away. This last scene sticks in my mind's eye. He looked ready to kill as his daughter yelled and pulled at his shirt. When he came away, he threw one last irritated look at the men, smiled at his daughter and walked down the platform. As I got back on, everybody around me scolded the boys and then offered them advice about train riding. My advice: keep your head down and your body out of the way

Too late to review what I wrote. Yes. It may surprise you that I read it again to clean up the writing and spelling. You may argue it might need a few more revisions. Emily Ku might say it needs ten more revisions but nuts to you guys. They're shutting down this sucker. Let me know if I have any mistakes. Actually, you can always do that (as long as I haven't dated you).

Science fiction writers steal the bomb!

From Making Light

In Asimov's Science Fiction magazine, Robert Silverberg writes about the CIA getting its collective panties in a twist over a story written by Cleve Cartmill in 1944. He accurately described the mechanics of how the atomic bomb would work which resulted in a surreal investigation to discover his source. The CIA theorized about a chain of conspirators that included some of the greatest writers of the day like Isaac Asimov and my personal hero, Robert Anson Heinlein. I don't want to spoil the ending but it turns out, Cartmill had just made it up.

Part 1, Part 2

Saturday, January 19, 2008

random tidbits

McCain rebuked Hilary Clinton for earmarking 1 million USD for a Woodstock Museum. He said, "I wasn't there. I was tied up at the time."

Quick political aside to Al Queda (they are probably checking this blog often for updates): I know you like to attack before elections but DON'T DO IT. You'd only put McCain in the White House and he would be quite effective at making your life miserable. Even if Hilary did not manage to win after an attack, she'd be hell fire too. You need to give a bunch of money to Obama and wait until he's elected. You don't know what he'd do which is at least better than the other two.

Cool wallpapers (desktop images) made by capturing images from Google Earth

Charlie Chaplin entered a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest in Monte Carlo. He came in third.

My friend Bobson to Tessa while she measures her tongue with my new Spy Kids measuring tape: You don't have a big tongue, you have a small face.

Warren Gamaliel Harding limerick (about a president who had more trouble with the language than our current Glorious Leader, poet E. E. Cummings said "The only man, woman or child who wrote a simple declarative sentence with seven grammatical errors is dead.")

There was an old man named Warren
who hated all things foreign
He liked to live normally,
drunk and informally
and spent his time gambling and whoring

Friday, January 18, 2008

Katnip Kollege

This looks good to me. Unfortunately, I can't listen to it.

Santa Cruz or Lex's OCD in pictures

I hear a collective whoosh as everybody finally gets what they have been eagerly awaiting: a picture of my room and the contents of my bag.

In the first shot of the room, you can see my book shelf (low wall), my dresser (pole), my sister (making much more money than me), our beds (10 USD and still bed bug free after 2 days), our urinal (behind the low wall, flush with bucket of water) and outside porch (6 feet square and enclosed by metal grate with a view into everybody's windows, a good spot to sit, read and smoke beedies (cheap indian cigarettes, really just a dried leaf rolled and tied together). You cannot see the tin roof (aka the oven maker), the open stairwell to the bottom room where Mandela and the shower live and the constant trail of ants going down our wall to Mandela's food (i love ants and will post on them soon, something else to get excited about).

Here's the downstairs shower/bathroom (that's right we have two bathrooms, I am aware they are just drains in the floor but while trying to impress women with my wealth, I always mention the two bathrooms, girls love that stuff). I'm sorry the picture is sideways. I literally have found only one computer in the country that can rotate an image and its not connected to the internet.

To shower:
1. Fill the bucket from the big water barrel
2. Fill the two small containers with water (green and red/green in the middle of the bottom shelf)
3. Use the larger container to pour water over yourself until soaked, usually 2 or 3 should be enough
4. Use the camping soap as shampoo.
5. Wash hands to wipe soap off forehead so it doesn't get in your eyes. Some of you who have showered with me (colin, ryan) know that I'm amazingly OCD about shampoo in my eyes.
6. Lather up whole body. Save asshole for last (tends to be a little bit more of a job here with the whole no toilet paper thing). Wash and rinse hands thoroughly.
7. Dump a few containers on you to remove all the soap.
8. You should have a few inches of water left in the bottom of the bucket. For a refreshing finish, tip the entire thing over your head for a deluge.
9. Put on your athletic shorts and air dry by the window because you are too cheap/lazy to buy a towel when in the middle of winter, you are dry in 5-10 minutes.

Here's the kitchen. I don't have much to say. We have to fill up the big blue barrel of water from five to six in the morning. It doesn't take long because we only fill it half full. We don't use much water. My roommate bought a little gas stove and some kitchen stuff. I have yet yo touch any of it. I have the same philosophy I did in NYC: If I tried to cook a meal as good as a cheap mexian/indian/chinese place, it would cost me more money and taste terrible. This means I will never woo a woman with my cooking so I am counting on the fact that I have not one, but two bathrooms (and yes ladies, very very very single).

Now onto the part that excites me the most and probably bores everyone else but family members (and only a handful of them): what I keep in my pants (ignoring cheap joke, i know, it's rare). Everything important, I keep in my pants. For some reason (possibly all of the prison books I've been reading), I am always prepared to run and never come back. From left to right, I have:
Hindi flash cards (elephant is hat-tea)
fine point pen (I'm a fine point fiend, 0.5 or nothing)
pack of beedies
digital camera in modified slide box (thanks NewYork Medical College) to protect it (Colin, this means you)
Moleskine 18 month calendar with daily planner on left page and blank page for notes on the right (scoured high and low for this perfect design, out of stock on moleskine website, had to buy from some strange little chinese company)
lighter and matches (both deceased since picture was taken)
US passport (powerful, no stupid, easily hacked RFID tags yet)
wallet with a good bit of hidden money
change for cripples and old women (never children, you can't encourage them to be out there, it's easier when they pinch you or throw rocks at you when you don't give them money, doesnt happen often but tessa gets it some)
a small glass pink pig that showed up in my pocket on new years where i didn't even get that drunk, just slept on a sand pile right next to the big party

My wonderful Chrome messenger bag never ever leaves me. If I have this, I can live on the run easily for a few weeks. It always has a change of clothes and in addition to the items pictured, it also has a Taiwanese good luck charm from Candy Kuo, a string of Tibetan prayer beads from my friend Wen-jay Ying (why are you waiting? just come now) and a small Ganesh (god of travellers and writers) statue I "acquired" at some point in college. With no further ado, from left to right:
The Argumentative Indian - a sociological study of the history of dialogue in the subcontinent, not really my cup of tea and his arguments get repetitive
My notebook (bought for a meeting with GE for their internship program, never heard back from them, maybe I shouldn't have told the dirty joke to the prim and proper korean woman) containing plans for world domination via the blogosphere
an emergency bag of Pepto Bismol, electrical tape, gauze and other medicine
toilet paper (not for me, i've evolved beyond or devolved back from depending on your viewpoint)
notecards for Hindi words/ransom notes
never used deodorant because it attracts mosquito and they currently love tessa much more than me, she's like a mosquito motel, they check in and they don't check out because they're so delighted with the view, the good music and easily available blood
my Let's Learn Hindi book, a present from my friend Bobson. Unfortunately, it's in sankskrit so I take it to my Hindu baba near my house. He's an older guy who translates the lessons for me into phonetics as his family sits around and laughs good naturedly at all of my mistakes. Lessons end when he puts paan in his mouth. If I haven't described it before, it's spices, fruits and sugar mixed up in a leaf. You can get it with or without tobacco. My baba puts in a huge slug of it and subsequently becomes incomprehensible.
International driving permit. I'm getting a motorcycle but I will wait awhile. I'm very excited. I started with a simple fantasy when I came to India. Me and good hearted orphan boy travel the country on a motorcycle with a sidecar and have adventures. My fantasy has grown to include a monkey and a great dog. Last night, along the sea wall at the Gateway of India, I mentioned my dream. A girl decided we should try to imitate what that menagerie would sound like. Each of us took a part and made our noises. It wasn't pretty.
A decent street map of the city although it can drive me a little crazy. Why would you have a map with no overall view of the city with labels for which page has the detailed view of that section? And why would you not label the edges to tell where you go to see the map in that direction. Arrgghh.
Nintendo DS charger, camera charger, flashlight, camera cable, power adapter
business cards, playing cards slightly marked to give Tessa and I an advantage
length of rope, i don't know why I have it but when it comes in useful, i will be very proud (of course, usually, the one time I don't bring my bag is when I need something in it like a length of rope)
booklight, contacts, glasses
Time Out Mumbai - a biweekly guide to city events, not a great magazine but its the best they got
the Economist - I miss good english writing, especially the New York Times, it's nowhere in this damn city
giant box of condoms (unused) - as usual, my eyes were bigger than my luck
portable hard drive with all my pictures, music and most importantly: every Monty Python's Flying Circus
Nintendo DS Lite - a great little portable game player that Nintendo encourages you to hack (Hey Sony, you evil son of a bitch of a corporation, I know you're PSP is amazingly powerful but I can only use it for exactly what you allow me to use it for and will shut me down if I try to add anything I might find useful but you didn't approve, and apple, don't slink away, you're on my naughty list too). I got a card from China that you plug into the regular game slot. This card takes camera/cell phone memory chips and you can load them with whatever you want. You can download programs to read ebooks, listen to mp3s, watch movies and even do wireless web surfing. I bought this because instead of just a game player, I could hack it and turn it into an all in one portable entrainment system for about 130 bucks.
eye drops and hand sanitizer - for others, i think never washing my hands and eating things off the ground all of the time is one of the sames reasons i only got a little sick when i got here

Wow. That's a lot of little rants in there for a pretty mundane topic (and mundane is putting it nicely). I am scared to go back and read it so I hope it's good. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

do you feel safer?

I just started reading Jon Taplin's blog but I am already impressed:

"The Republicans pretend their are no trade-offs. The Irony of the twin poles of the neoconservative philosophy first elucidated by Irving Kristol in The Public Interest in 1965, is that still today the fiscal insanity of the task is not generally realized. Here’s the Gospel according to Irving:

In domestic affairs the national government should shrink (by cutting taxes and business regulations)
In foreign affairs the government should grow (by becoming the world’s sole military superpower).

If insanity has been defined as the ability to hold two opposing ideas in your mind simultaneously, than this must be exhibit A. "

colin: akward boy genius

I sent a half-drunk sad email to my friends about missing them and the city. I even fantasized about coming back. I realize these feeling can not be avoided and that I just have to push through. Here's the funniest part of colin's uplifting response:

It would be like an awkward breakup with an entire continent if you were to come back. "I was with North America for a long time, but then I started to get bored with the relationship. I started seeing this sub-continent and I eventually moved in with her. When things got a little rough there I started thinking about North America again. Just wondering what she was doing, thinking that maybe I should call her up." Pretty soon neither hemisphere is going to want you and you'll have to move to the Bermuda Triangle. And don't go saying that that sounds like a good plan. Jesus man.

Monday, January 14, 2008

random tidbits

McCain rebuked Hilary Clinton for earmarking 1 million USD for a Woodstock Museum. He said, "I wasn't there. I was tied up at the time."

Quick political aside to Al Queda (they are probably checking this blog often for updates): I know you like to attack before elections but DON'T DO IT. You'd only put McCain in the White House and he would be quite effective at making your life miserable. Even if Hilary did not manage to win after an attack, she'd be hell fire too. You need to give a bunch of money to Obama and wait until he's elected. You don't know what he'd do which is at least better than the other two.

Cool wallpapers (desktop images) made by capturing images from Google Earthhttp://www.earthwallpapers.org/

Charlie Chaplin entered a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest in Monte Carlo. He came in third.

My friend Bobson to Tessa while she measures her tongue with my new Spy Kids measuring tape: You don't have a big tongue, you have a small face.

Warren Gamaliel Harding limerick (about a president who had more trouble with the language than our current Glorious Leader, poet E. E. Cummings said "The only man, woman or child who wrote a simple declarative sentence with seven grammatical errors is dead.")

There was an old man named Warren

who hated all things foreign

He liked to live normally,

drunk and informally

and spent his time gambling and whoring

misidentification or it's too early to be John Candy

This morning, Tessa had a Bollywood gig in Film City. I walked her to a tuk-tuk (apparently I am the only here who calls them put-puts so I will stick to correct terminology because this is a factual place and I need to maintain my current high level of trust from both my readers, hi mom and dad) and told the driver to go south towards Bandra. I wave good-bye to Tessa and start walking north towards the train station (bollywood girls take tuk-tuks, unemployed scientists take trains). Then I see a tuk-tuk going by me that I thought contained Tessa. I start running next to it (they're not known for their speed) and start yelling "you're going the wrong way". I expressed some righteous indignation against this scummy driver who obviously plans to take a long route to the destination. As I huff and puff, the driver and the business man in the back seat stick their heads out and stare at me in bewilderment while never letting up speed. As they slowly chug out of sight, I just stop to laugh and laugh at myself. Luckily, I get to do that a lot.

PS: This might be a new parentheses record. Still waiting on results from the judges...

Animal vs Buddy Rich

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ancestral voices prophesying war!

I have three interesting war related pieces I came across:

Harry Lamin fought in World War I and you can read the letters he sent home, exactly 90 years after his family received them. Unfortunately, the tension increases because he did not survive the war. Just like his loved ones, you never know if the next missive will be the dreaded telegram beginning "We regret to inform you..."

In a similar vein but a different century, US Army Major Andrew Olmsted's posthumous blog post. In July 2007, he arrived for a 18 month tour of duty in Iraq and started publishing a blog for the Rocky Mountain News of Denver. On January 3, he was killed by small arms fire north east of Baghdad and his friend posted the entry he had written just in case. Powerful.

From my "170 Chinese Poems Collection" translated by Arthur Waley (not that great a collection by the way):

Protest in the Sixth Year of Ch'ien Fu
by Ts'ao Sung (879 AD)

The hills and rivers of the lowland country
You have made your battleground.
How do you suppose the people who live there
Will procure firewood and hay?
Do not let me hear you talking together
About titles and promotions;
For a single general's reputation
Is made out of ten thousand corpses.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Does anybody have music from this band (Ku bear, I'm looking at you): Marseille Figs

BoingBoing called them "a three piece big band" (I've liked big band ever since my grandfather got me hooked, gene krupa: I love you) and the "Violent Femmes and Tom Waits, with some Squirrel Nut Zippers and even a little Louis Jordan". The easiest way to make me listen to a band, compare them with Tom Waits (see Man Man).

BleigieBen and clubfa

The Swedish girls in Goa introduced us to two fun parts of their culture: a drink that's more fun once it's gone and a new year's tradition.

They brought the clubfas all the ways from Austria. These small bottles of apple vodka had to be carried on their flights in the stuffed regulation size Ziplock bags for liquids. Although not packing much punch on the liquor end, I entertained myself after each round by stacking the bottle in the most creative configurations I could imagine (note: that's not really saying much, I'm a scientist with the imagination of an engineer/cauliflower).

On the Russian New Year(so it doesn't really count), they showed us the bleigieBen. It's a kit that has a metal spoon, a few lead figurines like a horseshoe, basket, etc. and an instruction/interpretation card. You need a candle and bowl of cold water. I know what it sounds like but they assured me that these kits rarely contained heroin. You put the figurine in the metal spoon and hold it over the candle until it melts into a pool of liquid metal. Then you quickly dump the metal into the bowl of cold water. The metal solidifies into a new shape that you must determine and it's very open to interpretation). The shape portends your future for the next year. Here's a list of meanings.

I got a boat meaning good luck in my future plans (quite a relief). The odd yet endearing Nepali waiter couldn't stop giggling when he got a shoe that says he will get married. Everyone started giggling when Tessa's piece broke into pieces signifying a baby on the way. We joked about their coming union as the waiter's eyes widened in excitement.

Actually, one person never heard Tessa's fortune. I made sure that the woman who ran the hotel never found out. I watched her all week: a cute plump woman in beautiful sardwaras (dress to the knees with matching pants and a scarf around the neck and down the back) dedicated to her rottweiler/german shepherd puppies. However, I could see a little sadness and desperation in her love for them. She didn't have any children and India can be hard on a childless woman. While playing the game, she immediately asked about the symbol for a baby. It's the first she mentioned children and you could see disappointment run quickly across her face at her fortune: good luck in business for the year.

home again home again lickety split

No put-puts. Lex is sad. I went back to the English guy's hotel but I couldn't find them. They got kicked out for having nine people in their room (none of who were on the bill), loud obnoxious drinking (i have often heard the english referred to as the rats of the world: they are everywhere and you can't do anything about it) and vandalizing their own vehicles in the parking lot. The management seemed pleased with itself for removing them and smug in having no idea where I could find them. I didn't have a phone number so we had to take a night bus to Bombay.

We got the best bed in the house: back of the bus, top shelf. This position increases the stomach dropping sensation as these buses go so fast down the hill that you swear the brakes are gone. I know it sounds exaggerated but I get the same feeling when I ride the Comet at Hershey Park. I slept well in spite of the zero g drops and occasional bumps that throw you into the ceiling. In fact, we slept so well that we awoke to somebody yelling loudly that we need to get off right now.

That's the worst feature of the buses (and to some extent the country): a person thinks some event has to happen right away and they're a pushy pain in the ass until it gets done, regardless of the actual need for speed. This bus could have waited the extra minute to let us disembark easily without pushing and shoving. I have seen this in a number of jobs and situations so far. Rush, rush, rush so you can wait, wait, wait.

Unfortunately, we slept so late that the bus must have passed through Colaba (touristy south part of the city), travelled all the way to the northernmost 'burbs (passing our house on the way) and returned to Colaba to boot us off. This means we had to walk 20 minutes to a train station, take a 30 minute ride on the commuter rail and then walk fifteen minutes home just to get to a place we passed twice in our sleep. Annoying. Mostly because I am the one at fault.

However, it's nice to be home. At least for me. The kids all shout when they see me and my neighbors seem happy to have me sit outside, play with their kids (not to brag but the cutest kids in the city live outside my front door) and smile at each other for lack of a common language. I no longer encounter huge delays when I leave because the kids have gotten used to me and don't need me to stop for 20 minutes every time I pass. It's nice because I can chat and play games when I feel like it but be fairlyanonymous in new parts of the city.

After walking around with Tessa all day, I see how hard it is for a blonde girl here. I have walked around with some brunettes and we get the same amount of stares that I receive on my own (still plentiful). With Tessa, everybody stares all of the time. The young annoying guys make a number of comments or try to say hi when I am standing there. She says its much worse by herself. I feel bad for her. However, she wants to be famous so this seems like perfect training for it.

She's also ready for a job to fill her days. She's currently beside me looking at agents but she already got an offer for some extra work for a fashion shoot scene that lasts for a few days. The pay is shit but she's going to negotiate for more. I also got a call today from a woman offering us supporting roles on a TV show in Assam (north-east India, a two day train ride). It'd only be for a week but I think she's desperate. We might be able to make a few hundred dollars out of it and see an interesting part of the country.

I'm playing the "I'm not really interested in this line of work" card. It works but it's also the truth. I've been dreaming about being a journalist. I'm going to start walking into English newspapers and asking for a job. Regular readers of this blog might argue otherwise (Goody, Kurt, Colin, not looking for your opinion on this one) but I think I could do pretty well as a journalist. Even the best paper in the country (Times of India) has some shit writers for many of their pieces. We'll see how it goes. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

New Hampshire

Obama loses the Granite State. If you need me, I'll be drinking tequilla by myself in a dark room while playing with my lighter and US passport.

indian traffic

I see this every day. To correctly cross a busy street, keep edging out until someone can't fit by you and has to stop. Then cross.

via BoingBoing

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

random thoughts from the week

Inspired by the giant families at our place here in Vagator, I now plan to have enough kids for a football (soccer) team although I may have to contract this out to a few wives. I will turn the kids into a crack acrobat troupe/crime team/Haarlem Globetrotters style soccer team.

The Dehli legislative assembly meets for a total of 60 hours per year according to the Times of India. It breaks down to 20 working days at four hours of day with a 40 minute break for tea.

From the Island (a good sci-fi movie about clones although Michael Bay put in too many car chases as Michael Bay tends to do):
Clone ignorant of the world: What's God?
Steve Buschemi as a wordly technician: You know when you close your eyes real hard and wish for something.
Clone: Yeah
SB: God's the guy that ignores you.

Record for the longest speech at the UN:
9 hours non-stop by Krishna Menon from the Indian delegation

The Devil's Advocate review:
Keanu Reeves can't act and Al Pacino can. It makes for a painful comparison.

Monday, January 7, 2008

stuck in paradise

Sorry for the lack of posting but I've had little adventure of note. I'm in Vagator, Goa with two buddies, three girls from Austria and one sherpina. My day consists mostly of eating, drinking and making corny jokes.

Last night turned out to be fun. After consulting with tessa (party expert and socialite extraordinaire), we met these British guys we knew from south goa. We headed to Chapora for an outdoor Russian christmas party (which scared me a little because I was taught in school that Russians drink Christian baby blood on holidays). After some beers and kebabs (the best drunk food), we end up at a lousy club with 20 Indian guys and two lonely girls. Luckily, they had cheap beer and so we spent most of the night bullshitting with the English guys. I always like hanging out with English guys, a good sense of humor. The lone Scotsman got pretty drunk and combining this with his accent, became incomprehensible.

These guys came to India and bought auto-rickshaws. They plan to drive them all the way to Kathmandu. They offered us a ride to Bombay tomorrow. Whether a drunken joke or genuine offer, I am taking them up on it (you can't offer me anything in jest). On the walk home, I got to see the three vehicles. They have already been painted with racing stripes, clever phrases and one even has a sun roof cut into the top. They got out the paint so I could mark one but they ended up vandalizing the other put-puts instead. It might take three days (or my life) but I am driving to Bombay in a put-put. Hot damn.

Friday, January 4, 2008

happy pointless holiday that generally depresses me

I had a pretty good new years, sitting on the beach drinking beers with some friends and watching fireworks. Then this girl decided we needed to go to this big party which i knew i would hate. i went anyway and rebelled at paying the 500Rs (12 USD) cover so i tried to sneak in at three places by going over the wall. damn india. labor is cheap so they have guards and tattletales everywhere. i got caught every time i went over and ended up passing out in a pile of construction sand which is worse than regular sand for sticking to you and driving you crazy.

Now I'm vacationing in Goa. We've had a nice quiet few days in South Goa and now head north for the weekend.