Sunday, May 31, 2009

Benny Lava

Bollywood: The Next Generation

Thanks Abby

Pro-Life Enough to Shoot Up a Church

George Tiller (pictured at left), presente! The creeps that call themselves "pro-life" shot George Tiller down today at his church service. The gauntlet has been thrown down. When you see an evangelical or arch-right crazy talking of militias or reaching for guns, better slam 'em down fast. The next person they could gun down could be you. Let's hope this act of terrorism destroys the Kansas "pro-life" conservative Christian community for a long, long time to come.

Monday, May 25, 2009

First Bomb the Media, Then Watch Cartoons

Thanks to for pointing me to a Jeremy Scahill article in I missed. Col. Ralph Peters, a military analyst who has whored for virtually every cable network in existence, has written a puff piece for the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs (an organization that makes AIPAC look respectable), in which he says that military attacks on partisan media may be necessary when conducting an unpopular war. To be precise, the U.S. military did conduct a few deliberate attacks on media representatives in Iraq in the first year of the war, but Peters is calling for pre-emptive physical military strikes on the media, in the home nation. He accuses journalists of considering themselves "superior beings."

Excuse me? The few journalists I know are scared kittens, assaulted on every side because their very form of employment is going away. First we have to put up with corporate machinations, an indifferent public, a disappearing media format in which to decribe the world that exists, and now some military-consultant-loon wants to take potshots with live grape and gravity bombs. Who will rid me of this meddlesome Peters?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Two Years Before the Mast

I'm sitting on a land mass 7500 feet above sea level that wants no part of The Drowned World, only to have torrential rains insist otherwise. Resembles what my dreams have been doing, now aided by a fever (romantically assumed to be swine flu, but probably not) that pushes dreams into the daylight hours. Maybe I'll quit taking Motrin, just to exorcise this beast.

Explanation of sorts: when my feet hit Velikovsky drifting two-step plates on May 10, there was no adaptation time for "sea legs" - there was only the fussy and insistent secular world telling me that three weeks at sea had been a dream, and that it was time to go out and DO something. It only took 72 hours for ships and sea creatures to become dream squatters - not just occasionally, mind you, but dozens of times a night.

Maybe it was the visit to San Diego, when our ship docked next to the Maritime Museum and I spent hours walking through three-masted brigs and Soviet nuclear attack submarines, but the dreams featured ships of every variety: ocean liners, container cargo ships, pilot tugs, maybe the occasional Somali pirate fast boat, though they weren't nearly as scary as the Aegis cruisers and littoral ships. I've become sold on the idea of reincarnation wheels, and am sure I have lived several lives before this one. The past two weeks of dreams have convinced me that at least one of those lives was at sea. Was it before or after the point where steam power and diesel engines and nuclear reactors made ocean vessels chase the land obsession with fast faster fastest? I'm not sure, but 18th-century rigging felt comfortable, somehow.

Almost every dream was accompanied by a soundtrack of human voices singing. On the real-world ship, these were dominated by JD and Kim Smith, Jordan Bennett, and a dozen others, but in the dreams, a more ethereal bunch emerged, Christina Carter, Antony, Inca Ore. Of course - sirens. But not sirens luring us to a death on the shoals, but sirens luring us to a safe harbor. Sirens who represented perfectly safe company. Safety from what?

At some port (Jamaica?), in a little metaphysical bookstore with too much patchouli incense lingering in the air, I learned about the 2012 prophecies for the first time. I don't put much stock in millienium apocalypses, and 2012 could easily be a re-run of the Great Disappointment of 1844. But I keep thinking about my friend Dietrich, who has spent the last year at sea. And I think about how the sirens are trying to guide me to safe harbors over the next two years. We have to document these intervening months very carefully. Maybe you or I will be the only ones left to tell the tale. We can take turns being Ishmael.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Such Great Heights

When the Postal Service first came out with "Such Great Heights," the song seemed more inconsequential and silly to me than several of the songs Ben Gibbard has written for Death Cab for Cutie.

But this week, I heard Sam Beam sing a very slow, acoustic version of the same song on Iron & Wine's excellent two-disc set of B-sides, rarities, and leftovers, Around the Well. It brought up two images: the Victorian-era bathers waving on the cover of Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (pictured); and the Hardy Boys-style zeppelin pilots named the Chums of Chance, in Thomas Pynchon's novel Against the Day. No real point here, though something in the sounds and visions makes me shiver, hard to tell whether it's in joy or terror:

"They will see us waving from such great heights,
'Come down now!' they'll say.
But everything looks perfect from far away,
'Come down now!' but we'll stay."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Crack Box and Crackheads

OK, I always thought of Animal Collective as good people, the Catsup Plate label as righteous, and Chris Freeman of Fusetron as one of the most honest indy distributors in the business, but the fiasco surrounding the creation of "Crack Box" has turned into an ugly thing of greed among people who are supposed to be above being greedy. Somehow, a three-lp set got inflated to a price of close to $100, then Fusetron's servers melted down trying to sell them, they sold out immediately, and people turned around within hours and tried to sell "Crack Box" for $500, $700, $1000, on eBay. Crack Box indeed, it's creepy crawlers for Crackheads.

I know, I know, it's like Bob Pollard says, "If you don't want it, don't buy it," but people can always download free live sets of Animal Collective from their fan web site, and I somehow feel that even participating in the Crack Box fiasco is like contributing to evil. Makes me very sad to see this. Particularly when we consider that the companies with the fairest prices for vinyl on Record Store Day in April were the supposedly evil, big multinational conglomerates. The most outrageous prices came from those scrappy small independent labels. Just goes to show that the evils of rampant capitalism can arise anywhere.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

You Can't Tweet Science

One little piece of information I missed during my weeks without obsessive news content was the late-April gossip about a shakeup at the venerable Scientific American, in which both editor in chief John Rennie (above) and publisher Steven Yee left the magazine. While Rennie denies it, rumor is rampant that the board wants to take the magazine further into the Discover domain of consumer-aimed, Twitter-feed-led pop science. Shudder.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that Rennie didn't walk on water, though he wrote damned fine editorials and tried to hold the line against the superficiality tide sweeping science publications. SA had gone a bit crazy in brand-extension, launching bimonthly publications on the mind, and on special topics, that almost made the wider Scientific American brand as difficult to pace as The Economist. Hell, it was during the Rennie/Yee tenure that SA broadened into science cruises at sea, f'cryin' out loud ("not that there's anything wrong with that").

But I can see the 140-character handwriting on the Twitter wall now for insta-science feeds from our friends at SA. Ugh. Thankfully, Lost creator J.J. Abrams has spoken out in an essay in Wired against instant-gratification culture, and my dear friend and fellow blogger Ruth Mowry has reminded us that Twitter feeds of The New York Times were never a good idea. Scientific American, are you listening? Science can be fun and stimulating, to be sure, but it must also be serious, lengthy, and loaded with content.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Canal videos at last

After being at sea with no Internet connection for too durned long, I offer belated videos of the Canal passing:

Stops in Cartagena and Jamaica:

The Monteverde cloud forest at Selvatura Park:

And here's a final clip of the last few days at sea, with Pampas Devils and dolphins and midnight jams:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Quick Canal Update

No videos, no pics, but a quick update to let everyone know that there's no swine flu here so far. I am sailing between the Gatun and Miraflores Locks in the Panama Canal. Got a special deal on a ship that went through Jamaica and Cartagena (Colombia) on the way through the locks. But the ship is now barred from all Mexico ports due to swine flu, so I guess I'll just be back in the states soon, more details then. In the meantime, don't believe everything Arnold Scharznegger 0r the CDC tells you about virus transmission vectors, but be careful....