mishak: (gotplur)
2015-04-27 10:46 am

World Inferno Friendship Society

My favorite local band HUMANWINE was playing on Friday with two other bands I don’t know, I love it when this happens, I don’t get exposed to new music often as I’d like. I come down the stairs to the Middle East, the first band is going on and OMG it’s a punk show. I haven’t been to a punk show in decades. The lead singer is setting up the next song THIS SONG IS ABOUT AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE BECAUSE WE ALL DESERVE HEALTH CARE THAT’S NOT TIED TO THE CORPORATE OVERLORDS ONE TWO THREE FOUR AARRAORROUGHAAARAAHHAOUURRGHHH. This shit is awesome. They’re called Disaster Strikes, they are the most social justice band I’ve ever heard, besides the affordable healthcare song they got a collective bargaining rights song, a marriage equality song, an anti-torture song, and an anti-corporation song. Only thing they were missing was an anti-NSA spying song. Punk is alive and well.

HUMANWINE was, of course, fantastic, ‘nuff said.

The headliner was World Inferno Friendship Society, I’d never heard of them before MY FRIENDS WHY HAVE YOU NEVER TOLD ME ABOUT THIS BAND?!? They are so awesome. I’m not sure what to call them…swingpunk-cabaret-surfabilly? There’s eight people on stage, the lead singer is a nattily dressed devil taking swigs from a wine bottle, and the bass player, she’s this tiny thing with severe cheekbones, blond dreads in a topknot, and an inconceivably high forehead, she looks like she dropped out of Bene Gesserit Witch School to join a punk band. I think I’m in love. Anyway, Masha sez “You wanna go into the mosh pit?” and how can you say no. I tend to dislike anecdotes about feeling old, but damn. You want to feel some years on you? Be 45 years old and go into a mosh pit.
mishak: (gotplur)
2015-04-24 10:18 am

Duduk

I’m digging all the stuff on the Armenian Genocide this year, the wiki articles and NPR coverage. I’d only vaguely known what the Armenian Genocide was, it’s fascinating to hear the history and context of it, and personal stories about what it means to people today. WBUR had this interview with Eric Bogosian and some others, and at one point this guy starts playing a traditional Armenian instrument called the duduk. OH. MY. GOD. The sound is simultaneously profound and mournful, I don’t know how a physical object can create such an instant and deeply emotional reaction in me. You’ve heard it before, in the background of Battlestar Galactica, and Peter Gabriel’s Passion, that reedy, low droning tenor. I turned off the TV, the radio, the lights, and found some on Spotify, and just sat on my couch, listening. I haven’t done that in years.
mishak: (gotplur)
2015-04-14 09:11 am

I will show you the world in a bowl of soup.

I’ve grown up eating some of the best Chinese food in the world. I don’t speak Chinese, I’ve never been to China, but I grew up in LA, and Taiwan, with side trips to Hong Kong. My parents would order from menus I couldn’t read and waiters I couldn’t understand, and I’d eat it all; I wouldn’t necessarily like all of it, but I tried it (sums up a good part of my privileged life: I did nothing to earn or deserve all this amazing stuff, my parents just served it up on a plate for me). You know that scene in Ratatouille where the food critic is gobsmacked back to his youth by the titular dish?



There’s two things that do that to me: Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings), and New Ro Mien (beef noodle soup). I have these precise, specific memories of my dad teaching me how to eat xiao long bao - put the dumpling in the soup spoon, add a couple drops of vinegar and ginger slivers, nibble an opening in the dumpling so the hot broth inside can cool down faster. Slurp the deliciousness down in one luscious big mouthful. My mom putting down a big bowl of new ro mien in front of me, typhoon season is wet and cold outside but the soup is hot and the noodles are chewy, I squirt in a dab of sriracha and stir it up, the beef tendon is meltingly tender, fragrant steam rises from the broth, fatty with beefy flavor, balanced with herbaceous greens. I believe the human brain has special food-sentimental neurons that link us powerfully to our past, to mom and dad and home and food and love. I wonder if the profound effect of these memories and sensations is a reaction to external things, like living as an adult in a scary world of responsibilities and anxieties and no easy answers. Irregardlessly, to this day I can just think of xiao long bao or new ro mien and my eyes get misty with memory, and gratitude, and everything is going to be ok.
mishak: (gotplur)
2015-04-10 10:28 am

The Sarantine Mosaic

I’ve been re-reading some Guy Gavriel Kay books, Sailing To Sarantium and Lord of Emperors, it’s been like 15 years since I’ve last read them, and they’re still marvelous. Guy Gavriel Kay is a genius with plot, language, and character, and these two books are my favorite. I wouldn’t say his books are _better_ than Song of Ice & Fire, but they’re more tightly written, and have, y’know, an ending. Guy Gavriel Kay writes in such an emotionally engaging way, when I finish one of his books I’m heartbroken to leave his world, I want to turn right back to the first page and start again. When I finish reading a Song of Ice & Fire book, I’m just tired.

It surprises me that, with all the Game of Thrones/Spartacus/Rome/Vikings shows out there, no one’s tried to do a Guy Gavriel Kay book for the screen. It’s probably for the best. I can’t imagine a screen adaptation doing justice to any of the novels, they are so perfect unto themselves, and I want them to stay that way. When I hear people get all cranky about film adaptations (“The Hobbit suxx!”) I tend to dismiss them as cantankerous whiners; the film should be judged independently of the text, taking liberties with the source material is a good thing. Your precious book is still there on your shelf, Hollywood can’t take it from you. But with the Sarantine Mosaic, I think I see where they’re coming from. I am so invested in these stories, Do Not Change A Thing Or I Will Kill You.
mishak: (gotplur)
2015-03-24 08:16 am

Vietnam: The Stupidest War Ever

I loved the WWII In HD series, so when The Vietnam War In HD came on Netflix I was pretty excited. But my giddy war-nerd self was quickly deflated by the reminder that the Vietnam may be the most _asinine_ war America has fought in modern times. That includes George W Bush’s Iraq War Fiasco, which is saying something. So, there was a civil war going on in Vietnam in the 1950s, why did we get involved? There was no reason for us to be there at all, our main strategic interest in the region was to keep China bottled up, and we had Japan for that. Vietnam had nothing we wanted. Vietnam In HD has some great footage and gripping recounts of battle, Khe Sanh was AMAZING. But it was for nothing, the whole war, from start to finish. It’s really depressing to think of all the money spent, all the people killed, napalmed, got their arms and legs blown off, and it was all for nothing. Kinda like Bush’s Iraq War. Although Iraq was for worse than nothing; Vietnam didn’t have huge consequences on the wider region, and the region isn’t particularly important on the geopolitical scale; we actually made the world a worse place by invading Iraq, and that fuckup is still fucking things up today. Gah.

It seems a pretty important requirement for a war that every soldier, every citizen, be able to talk at length, in an informed fashion, on What The Hell Are We Doing Here. What are our strategic goals, how is this war supposed to further those goals, what is the likelihood of success (and what defines “success”), at what cost? Anyone who pulls out bullshit labels like COMMUNISM or TERRORISM or FREEDOM gets a bitchslap, and sent back to remedial history/geography/international relations class.
mishak: (gotplur)
2015-02-24 11:44 am

Ka and Zumanity

Thing I definitely wanted to do on this Vegas trip was see Zumanity and Ka. Zumanity is the sexy one with boobies, I was afraid might be a little cheesy; they have to sell Cirque to the widest audience so I wasn’t expecting anything too extreme or inventive. But it’s actually a really cool, high-quality show. The drag queen emcee is a riot, the comedy routines are well done, the performances are stylish and beautiful. The stunts aren’t extreme, they’re going for beauty, grace, and sensuality over thrills. And when the performers are mostly naked, you can see in lavish detail every cut and muscle and line, it’s entrancing. Get seats close to the stage as possible. Totally worth it.

Ka was freakin incredible. I’ve almost every Cirque show and I have never seen staging and technical effects as huge as this. The Ka aesthetic is Oriental Steampunk, and the entire 50-foot stage lifts from horizontal to vertical, tilts and spins, extrudes pylons that the performers swing from and bounce down like pachinko balls, all coordinated with hi-def video projections, it’s overwhelming. And there’s this huge boat that comes out of the stage, rocks and spins like crazy, and then two huge counter-rotating windmill things come out and it’s all gonzo awesome. Go see it. Get seats that are 5th or 6th row, we were 3rd row and kinda lost some things on the periphery. Ka doesn’t have the most extreme stunts of all the Cirques, and the music isn’t my favorite , but the staging and costumes and props are far and away the most amazing of any show I’ve ever seen. You must see it! Go!!
mishak: (gotplur)
2015-02-18 12:05 pm

Vegas, Velvet Ropes, and Hangovers.

I like how everyone dresses up in Las Vegas, we’re all here to party, we’re outside our comfortable everyday home environments, so we try to look extra nice. You’ll aways see girls walking unsteadily in unfamiliar high heels. We all know we’re here to party, we’re all living in this shared hallucination in this manufactured landscape. Things are monolithically huge, the signs and screens and props and architecture of the Strip, there’s a subliminal unreality to it all, I think it contributes to the ease at which we drink more, play more, party more than we otherwise do at home. God bless you, Las Vegas, you are wonderful.

The promoter for this club Life in the SLS hotel guestlists us, and he feeds us drinks tickets all night. It’s a huge thumping booming laser-filled space, it’s cool. I think one thing Vegas clubs do that not a lot of the clubs I go to in Boston do, is the whole Table thing. Like, pay $2000 and you and your friends get this private table behind velvet rope, includes a bottle of Belvedere and mixers and hot chick bartender to make you personal drinks all night. I have a hard time dealing with any kind of elitism, it makes a really unpleasant vibe, that kind of bullshit just sets me on edge. Separating people in tiers of importance or money just seems so asinine. This is a club, we’re all equals here, let’s all have a good time together, right? And what’s really bizarre is when they walk people to their table they make this big production out of it, they have showgirls holding the vodka bottles over her heads, LED lights in their hands that light up the bottles, it’s this little parade of look-at-me look-at-my-specialness look-at-my-money. If I had a table I’d be fucking _mortified_ to go through that. I dunno why, but I’ve always felt that trying to call attention to how special you are and how much money you’re spending, that is utterly appalling. We’re all on this planet for a short time, and the point of social groups and clubs is to find people you love and enjoy those connections; we’re all the same, we’re all in this _together_ dammit. I get the impression that there are some customs in some Vegas scenes (LA, Miami, NY, wherever) that are not aimed at people like me. Look, there are lots of reasons to celebrate a person, but how much money they have is NEVER one of those reasons.

But the music is good, they put a lot of effort into the sound and lights, and the promoters are super friendly. We walked past this guy on the strip and he put us on the guest list for Steve Aoki, I was super excited but by the time we finished walking all over the strip and had dinner and been drinking since breakfast, we were not as much capable of diving into a big production. The promoter kept texting me saying where are you in line, I’ll get you thought to the front, it’s cool. But we bailed. And then Johanna’s promoter friend back at the SLS got us into the Borgore show, and more drink tickets. Cool stuff happens in Vegas. He’d also been trying to get us to meet him at this 11am party at some other joint, but that was just not happening after the epic drinking of the day and night before. Waking up in your hotel bed in Las Vegas is a time to reflect on some possibly poor decisions recently made. But if you can make it to breakfast, a Bloody Mary, some OJ, and coffee will silence those pesky angels of out better natures.
mishak: (gotplur)
2015-01-19 09:18 am

Coming Home

I was originally a bit trepidatious about going on the trip with mom, I’d never spent a long time in the sole company of mom, this was going to be ten days just her and me, in the same hotel rooms, every meal, on the same minibuses. Like, when I visit mom at home in LA I start to get really restless after a couple days, and I try to not get grumpy because it’s not anything mom is doing, it’s all me. But Costa Rica was really great! I think being in a foreign country with stuff to do all the time keeps any family-type grumpiness away. Mom didn’t feel like Mom, she was more like my travel buddy. It’s never felt like this before, it’s pretty cool.

Whenever me and mom hang out, a good amount of our interaction is talking about stuff that happened years ago - remember when we went to that restaurant, remember that trip we took, that time dad got us all lost. We’ve told these same stories over and over again but we still come back to these same memories, laughing the same way, saying the same words, together. It feels kinda Darmok And Jelad At Tenagra.

The last day of our trip felt a little weird as we went to the airport and we said goodbye and I put mom on her plane. I was totally ready to go home, after a trip to another country I miss my bed, my friends, my ability to get around my city whenever and however I want. And as fun as it was to spend a lot of quality time with mom, I was pretty much done. But I was also kinda depressed about it, I dunno, it felt like I was losing something. Not to be morbid, but how many more trips like this would we be able to do. This is the first vacation we’ve done since dad died, so duh there’s a bit of sad realization in there. The inflight film is The Hundred Foot Journey, Helen Mirren owns this fancy french restaurant in a small village, and across the road an Indian family start an indian restaurant, and the talented Indian chef son falls in love with the French girl chef so there’s all these cross-cultural hijinks, and the chef son goes to Paris and becomes a Michelin star chef on his own but he’s not happy he misses the traditional food and family in the village so he goes back and reconnects with the French girl, and dame Helen Mirren has started dating the Indian family patriarch and everything is family coming together, of course the cinematography is all warm, golden and glowing, and life is food, and love, and the essential bonds of reunited family, motherfucking family family family and I start bawling and the people sitting next to me are wondering who’s the weirdo with tears streaming down his face.

Any trip that ends with sobbing emotional catharsis is a winner in my book.
mishak: (gotplur)
2014-12-30 10:15 am

Costa Rica 2014

Me and mom’s Costa Rica trip was pretty great. I don’t usually use travel agents, I like looking stuff up online and reading books and researching things myself, and I learn more history, geography, and politics of the places I’m going. But this time I didn’t have a bunch of mindspace to do a lot of planning, why not try out someone who’s job it is to do this stuff. So big shout-out to Nichole of Costa Rica Custom Trips; I told her the stuff we wanted to do, with what budget, and we got a fantastic trip; she set up everything, all we had to do was show up. Not including airfare, it cost about $220 a day each for a 3-4 star hotel (my mom’s 74 years old, I want her to be comfortable), all transportation, one or two meals included and either one or two activities each day - river floating, nature hike, canopy tour zipline, canyoneering, sunset cruise, boat tours, etc. I might have been able to find a better deal? But I doubt it.

There were a few hiccups, here and there: the bus never showed up to pick us up from the hot springs, I called the tour company and they sent a cab picked us up in 10 minutes. No big. There were a couple travel snafus going from the Monteverde cloud forest to Manuel Antonio beach, but I called Nichole and she sorted things out right away, rearranged some pickup times, tour schedules, hotel nights, and everything was good. Costa Rica is a country of dirt roads and not a long, widely established culture/infrastructure for industrial-scale hospitality like the US and Europe. If you expected every detail of your plan to be executed as a well-oiled machine, you’d go to Germany, not Costa Rica. Not everything will happen when and how you planned, but just go with it, everything will turn out great. That’s another bonus of having a good travel agent, when problems happen, you’ve got one person to call and they take care of it.

Costa Rica rocks the eco-friendly, they play it up on all the brochures, but they also walk the walk. All their energy is non-fossil (70% hydro, 15% wind, 15% geothermal), I never saw a single incandescent bulb anywhere, everything’s low-output CFL. There are little placards reminding you to turn off the lights when you leave, and often as not the electricity in your hotel only turns on when you slot your room key in a receiver so when you leave and take your key, everything necessarily turns off. Recycling bins are everywhere, barely any litter on any roads or sidewalks, it’s way cleaner than Boston. To the point where, I saw a beer can on the beach and I felt mildly offended so I picked it up and tossed it in the nearest bin. I wouldn’t do that in Boston.

I’ve always thought that saying “The people there are so friendly!” sounds squeamishly patronizing and colonial, but maybe I should get over it; like, you can say ridiculously broad-brushed stuff about Americans, or Bostonians, and of course it’s not all literally true, but you’ll probably have a point in there somewhere. So here we go: The people here in Costa Rica are so friendly! This place is chill, Ticos love their country and are happy to show you the great stuff about it. Tipping is appreciated but not totally expected, there isn’t a palm-greasing culture of baksheesh like in Egypt. I didn’t get the feeling and was not advised from the guidebooks that there were a lot of locals trying to rip you off, as opposed to like, Hanoi and Cairo. Talking to one of our tour guides and he was saying that sure, you can try to go to the US and work your ass off and try to make money, but here in Costa Rica you can work and have a great life and be a part of developing your own country.

Costa Rica has no military, the president abolished the army in 1948, and put the money into education and health care and other cool stuff. When you think about it, through all the Cold War proxy violence bullshit with Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the south, and the hideous drug war violence from the 80s up till now, Costa Rica has done miraculously well with no military. Kinda makes me reconsider what I thought were first principles of geopolitics. They’re in a rough neighborhood, how do they not get invaded or otherwise messed with? Maybe cuz the roads are terrible and hills and valleys full of rainforest are difficult to navigate, so it’s not worth the effort for an an invading army to hold territory? Currently, Costa Rica has so many friends, lots of American and other expats own land and live here - an invasion is just not going to happen. Pretty sweet deal, when you think about it, you don’t have to spend a bunch of money on soldiers, just use your resources to be awesome and everybody likes you and wants to vacation in your country. Which is not to say Costa Rica doesn’t have it’s problems, but for the most part this is a beautiful country, economically thriving and just about carbon neutral, and they don’t need a military. Not every nation can do what they’re doing, but the fact that they are is kind of inspiring.
mishak: (gotplur)
2014-12-16 12:05 pm

Hobbitses

Johanna invited me on her epic journey to Middle Earth – seeing all three Hobbit movies back to back! I couldn’t get out of work early enough to catch the first one, but I caught up with Desolation of Smaug, and was thoroughly psyched for Battle of The Five Armies. It was all SO GREAT. Also: cushy reclining seats at the new Assembly Square theatres are a good idea when you’re sitting for more than six hours. It’s been a year since I saw Desolation, and I liked it better now than the first time I saw it, the emotional interaction between the characters comes through the second time around and the Barrel Ride is still hilarious and awesome. The Hobbit trilogy is pulling a lot of hate, but here’s the thing: a movie diverging from the source material is neither good nor bad, the film need be judged on its own merits - Peter Jackson & Co may have hugely expanded on the book, but there’s nothing wrong with that, the argument should be how the movie is executed in story, pacing, and character. I like this trilogy a lot, and I can understand some of the points people don’t like about it. But if you think The Hobbit sucks, what other fantasy epic of the past ten years is better? Of course The Hobbit is not as good as LoTR. Nothing is. But besides that, what else? Maybe Avatar. Maybe Harry Potter. Maybe…I can’t think of anything else comes close.
mishak: (gotplur)
2014-12-12 09:12 am

Mixtape: Modern Country 2014

We’ve been doing Mixtape Parties for a while now, more than a decade, easy. I try to make interesting packages my mixes, my first year wrapped my CD in bacon, another year I stuck it in a cake. My favorite might be when I froze a CD in of a block of ice. This year I was a bit lazy, I jammed it into a carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Here are the liner notes for this year: Modern Country 2014. Ooh I can make a YouTube Playlist!

This summer I got into country music. Specifically, Modern Country, which is intensely pop-crossover, incorporating elements of and at times indistinguishable from Rock, Pop, Hip-Hop, and Dance music. It was weirdly coincidental, I came across the video for This Is How We Roll in a hotel room in Vermont, and like that same week 101.7FM changed format from Electronic Dance to Modern Country, and thus was born the soundtrack to my summer of 2014. “Dude, country music sucks!” you say. Well I’m telling you, Modern Country is just as good and often better than your average Pop song. “Well, pop music sucks too!”. Oh yeah? I’m willing to bet you have a Lady Gaga, Adelle, or Daft Punk song on your ipod, you like that stuff, so you should really give this a try. Tune your radio to 101.7FM The Bull, with an open mind and sense of humor, I promise you’ll hear at least one song you like. It will remind you of your favorite pop song, but with a touch more banjo and in a southern accent.

1. “This Is How We Roll” - Florida Georgia Line. This is what started it all for me, this song rocks, it’s the epitome of what they call Bro Country, which are songs about partying, drinking, and girls. What got my attention is that this guys are pretty much rappers, which I did not expect to find in country music. There’s actually a subgenre of Country Rap, it’s often referred to as “Hick Hop”, which is so funny you gotta love it. Florida Georgia Line really push the southern drawl to a point it becomes caricature, but their song “Cruise” is the Best Selling Country Song Of All Time, so there you go.
2. “Bartender” - Lady Antebellum. This is great straight-ahead modern country, the jilted lover theme is probably the most common of women singers, which is a little unfortunate as a stereotype, but this track is just so good it can really define the genre.
3. “Drink To That All Night” - Jerrod Niemann. I love the autotuned rapping leads into this song, it really shows the dance/pop/electronic influences on modern country.
4. “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” - Thompson Square. This is one of the most classic-sounding country songs on this mix, it harkens back to the days when they sang sweetly romantic songs about couples falling in love. Not all Modern Country is Bro, dude.
5. “Leave The Night On” - Sam Hunt. Honestly, most songs are from a guys point of view, sung to a girl he’s infatuated with, in a good old fashioned, wholesome kinda way. This track is one of the better examples.
6. “Mama’s Broken Heart” - Miranda Lambert. The bass line and snare drum on this track are SO FUN, it’s got such a bouncy carnival feel to it, and the writing is spot on, her sense of rhyme and lyrical rhythm are so natural. Classic set up of a jilted woman with anger management issues.
7. “Bottoms Up” - Brantly Gilbert. Another song about partying and drinking, but I like the darker, laid back instrumentation and vocal style. This isn’t a full-throated party anthem a la Florida Georgia Line, there’s a cool intensity to this track I find really distinctive.
8. “Girl In A Country Song” - Maddie & Tae. In most Modern Country, all girls are so gosh-darn pretty, blond hair and long tanned legs in them daisy-dukes, slide up on here in the passenger seat of my truck. A ridiculous cliché, and everybody knows it, I’m sure country music fans have the same wry self-awareness of their music that us Goths do. I mean really, we don’t _actually_ have any desire to wear capes, mope around in graveyards, or drink blood.
9. “What Was I Thinkin’ “ - Derks Bently. This is a rollicking great song, one of the few country songs with any kinda of vague story set-up. I miss that, country music used to have lots of stories, Kenny Rogers “The Gambler” and “Coward Of The County” remain some of the best story-based songs in all of country music, nay, all music across all genres. But anyway, this song is still super fun.
10. “Play It Again” - Luke Bryan. While most Modern Country is sung by guys, about girls they want to get with, there’s always a total non-threatening crushy aspect to it, it’s so not macho or threatening in any way. This song exemplifies it best, the guy is totally smitten with this amazing girl, she’s the one who takes an active interest in him, and he’ll do anything to keep her happy. It’s sweet. And Luke Bryan has such a great voice, that’s him in the feature guest spot on This Is How We Roll.
11. “Meanwhile Back At Mama’s” - Tim McGraw. This track is different from all the others, it’s not about partying, or boy meets girl, or a breakup; it’s a softly powerful meditation on life, and the roads we find ourselves on, and where we ultimately want to call home.
mishak: (gotplur)
2014-10-22 01:14 pm

Turkey Food

The food in Turkey is delicious. All of it. The spices and ingredients are more-or-less familiar - garlic, onion, paprika, chili; tomato, eggplant, yogurt, beef, chicken, lamb – and the forms and methods are reminiscent of the Middle Eastern-ish cuisines we’re all familiar with from living in modern cosmopolitan cities with interesting restaurants. What makes the food in Istanbul so good is all the ingredients are so outrageously fresh. Turkey has huge agricultural capacity, and the stuff they grow doesn’t have to travel thousands of miles to the city, so their produce needn’t be bred for shipping ruggedness and long shelf life. These tomatoes, melons, and cucumbers taste like were picked this morning, from fields right over that hill. Makes you realize that our advanced American civilization with its efficiencies of massive agriculture and transportation can result in us never knowing the taste of real local, real fresh, and done this way for hundreds of years.

It also helps to dine with your best friends, on vacation on the other side of the planet, in the midst of culture and architecture of thousands of years, under the glorious Mediterranean sun. Food is experience inseparable from company and location, and Turkey was wonderful for all of it.
mishak: (gotplur)
2014-09-29 01:29 pm

Welcome to Turkiye

On the subway from Ataturk International Airport to Istanbul, about one out of eight women wear headscarves, maybe one out of 50 wear the head-to-toe hijab. So headscarves arean’t unusual by any means, but nowhere near the majority. Besides that, girls wear just about the same stuff as America, everything from tank tops and shorts to business suits, and everyone’s happily getting along. Turkey is not a Muslim country, it’s a country with a lot of Muslims in it. Their government is purposefully non-religious, and while a few noisy wackjobs might want to change that, the overwhelming majority of people are satisfied with church/state separation. In other words, it’s just like America. I dunno what I was expecting, maybe a certain measure of Muslimness that women being more covered up? But there are chicks in bikinis and lingerie in advertisements and TV, just like normal countries. The sexuality might be a bit less aggressive than the US, like, there is no Turkish Nicky Minaj. But give them a few years and I’m sure they’ll catch up. Humanity’s progress marches ever onwards.
mishak: (gotplur)
2014-09-22 04:00 pm

The Spartan Beast

The Spartan Beast was terrible. Brutal. Painful on every level of existence. Fifteen miles up and down the slopes of Killington, two hundred yards swimming in 60 deg water. Fill a 5-gallon bucket full of gravel, carry it 100 yards up a hill and back down. Eight miles later, do it again. Pick up a 50-lb cement ball, carry it 10 yards, drop it, do 5 burpees, pick it up and bring it back. You’ve almost dried off from that lake swim? Back into the water for the rope traverse. Crawl under more barbed wire in the mud, uphill. You’ve been hiking this course for 9 hours and the sun goes down, you turn on your headlamp and pick your way up and down the forest trails, through the muck under barbed wire, over the mud berms into the water troughs – when vision and distances are limited by shadows and darkness, everything becomes much worse. It is not awesome. Nothing is awesome. There is no end in sight. There is only one foot in front of the other.

This is much harder than Tough Mudder. Significantly longer distance. Tough Mudder’s double-black-diamond ski slope you crawl up, counts as an obstacle in its own right? The Beast has five of those. Tough Mudder doesn’t ask you to lift heavy things, usually just your body weight over a wall. The Spartan obstacles emphasize brute upper-body strength and bulk lifting. Tough Mudder has a sense of humor and camaraderie that keeps you in high spirits, the Spartan Race’s burpee punishments for failing obstacles adds dread to every challenge. When I got to the lake rope crossing at Mile 12, the thought of getting soaking wet and cold again was utterly spirit-killing, I thought about just bypassing the obstacle, doing the burpees but staying dry. This guy with a megaphone is screaming “IF YOU DO NOT COMPLETE THIS CHALLENGE YOU MUST GIVE ME THIRTY BURPEES OR I WILL DISQUALITY YOU FROM THE RACE!!” Dude, fuck you. I’ve come this far through your shitty course and you’re yelling at me and threatening to kick me out. Fuck you. I got into that fucking lake and hauled myself hand-over-hand across that fucking rope, because fuck you.

I would have had a much better time if I had been running or done any rock climbing or trained in any way since Tough Mudder back in June, and if I wasn’t recovering from being sick as a dog the weekend before; so I’m impressed that I finished. I was seriously considering bailing out halfway through when my knees started killing me. But what are you going to do, there’s no way to get off this mountain but walk, and by the time the course had looped back near base camp, we were three quarters done, and I wasn’t going to quit. The Spartan Beast was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, the ordeal emptied me of all personality, emotion, and motivation. There is only one foot in front of the other, on hand and knees, over walls, under wire, through mud and water. Until the end. But now I know my limit. And I have no desire to approach it ever again.

For all my complaining about the Spartan Beast, there were a lot of things that were awesome. The obstacles were creative and well executed, some of the best you’ll find in any race. My favorite was the Platimun Rig: series of gymnast rings to horizontal bars to rectangular bars to a rope to rings at foot-level, that was super fun. The rope ladder to Tarzan swing would have been fun if the water temperature hadn’t cramped my muscles up so badly. At the highest mountain summit is a two-story cargo net rig you climb over, you’re twenty feet in midair with the fog and wind whipping at your clothes, its an impressive moment. The heavy lifting tasks in and of themselves are fine, they’re just geared towards bigger guys – a 60lb weight is a different challenge for a 150lb dude than a 180lb dude, so keep that in mind. I think Crossfit people might like the Beast. So if you really want a challenge - something you need to train for and plan clothing, gear, liquid and calorie intake, an experience that is not at all safe, that will drain you past all reserves of strength, endurance, and spirit, to conquer the most brutal ordeal you’ve ever been through, then The Spartan Beast is your race.
mishak: (gotplur)
2014-09-19 09:22 am

Country Summer

After a summer listening to the new 101.7FM country music station, I’ve learned a few things:

1) All automobiles are trucks, and most trucks are Chevys, probably because “Chevy” has more lyrical bounce than “Ford”.

2) In almost every song there is drinking, and a decent number of references to smoking pot. The marijuana references are quite coy and never mention it by name, as opposed to hip-hop songs.

3) Speaking of coy, the sexiness in country songs is pretty G-rated. The most detail you’re likely to get is talk about a goodnight kiss in the driveway, and while the singer may say “Girl you look so good” it will never be “I wanna hit that all night long”. There’s a cute aw-shucksiness to it that I really like.

4) The girl is almost always the more active character in a country song; it’s she who approaches the guy, who is otherwise hesitant to go up to such beautiful and confident woman on the honkytonk dance floor/late night party in a field under the full moon/afternoon summertime party at the riverbank. There is almost none of the machismo or overt misogyny you often find in pop, rap, and rock music, the country guy is completely enchanted and trying to keep up with this awesome girl. My favorite example of this is Joe Nichols “Yeah”, first time I heard it the song charmed my goddamn boots off .

5) Outside the homogeneity you’d expect from any pop station, there is a decent diversity of styles and sub-genres. This one song, I think it’s called “Outsiders” comes on with this huge Bon Jovi rock anthem sound, and then the last minute and a half is an extended guitar solo that goes through all these tempo changes , it’s totally Prog-Country. And this Miranda Lambert song “Mama’s Broken Heart” has this awesome syncopated carnival backbeat right out of Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band’s playbook, it is so much bouncy fun.

Country music’s been perfect for the summer, it’s totally made for windows-down cruising in the summer sunshine. I won’t be listening nearly as much when the temperature drops below 60 degrees, feels kinda wrong.
mishak: (gotplur)
2014-09-08 09:50 am

Context

This humor article came around a while ago, I didn’t like it. It’s mean-spirited and grouchy. It’s making fun of a New York Times article about how it took this family a long time to find the house they wanted to buy (apparent to anyone who’s thought about real estate in Boston, NYC, or SF). But the critique article is trying way too hard to be all “Oh its SOOOO TERRIBLE that you have to take 9 months to spend $4 million on a house, life is SO ROUGH FOR YOU”. Dude, chill out. It’s all a matter of context. If you’re scornful of a wealthy family buying an expensive house when others are less advantaged, that’s the exact same thing as you complaining about your commute on Facebook, when millions of people have no cars, no roads, no jobs, no water, no electricity. However much resources you have in your current situation, your cares and your woes are your own, and you should feel free to talk about what’s going on in your life with other people who care. That’s what I mean about context – the article about the family buying the $4 million house is meant to be read by other members of that general economic class, people who are way poorer or way richer probably won’t relate. And that’s ok, if you’re not the target audience, then don’t waste your time reading the article. What I write here is meant for everyone I know, and we share the same general social-economic reality (a broad class bordered by the parameters: A) Everyone here has enough resources to fly in a jet airplane once in a while, but B) No one here has enough resources to own a jet airplane). A starving person trying to survive in a war zone probably doesn’t care to hear about me buying a house, or going on vacation, but don’t make fun of me for living my life and writing about it, because that’s just not very nice.
mishak: (gotplur)
2014-08-08 11:06 am

The new place.

So I bought a new place, I move in a week. The new place is so different, it’s got dark wood molding and classic stuff all over, a couple of those built-in hutches for serving ware or whatnot, a high picture rail in the dining room for photos or plates or whatever, this place is Traditional New England looking, and it’s totally not me. Which is why I’m excited to paint it some exciting colors, knock down the wall between the kitchen and dining room to open up the space; I want it to look modern, while still acknowledging the bones of its classic craftsmanship. I realized that if I were to construct my house from a blank sheet, my home would have everything I want – open floor plan, high ceilings, all the thoughtfully designed modern conveniences...and it would look like every other bland yuppie palace out there. I’m going to be living in an illustration of one of my favorite life lessons, something I learned at a young age and have been enthusiastically practicing ever since, in jobs, friendships, relationships, and every other adventure in my life. The truth is this: getting everything that you want isn’t going to make you happy, or be the best thing for you. What matters is what you do with the options and the possibilities you find yourself in.

Oh crap I’m turning into one of those bullshit inspirational Facebook affirmations. Ima go do yoga on a mountaintop now.
mishak: (gotplur)
2014-07-29 02:21 pm

Sandbar

The ancestral Bunn Camp at Ossipee Lake in New Hampshire is in a groovy gated community of homes, most of which were once mobile-homes and trailers, now permanently fixed to the land, built and expanded upon by succeeding generations until their humble origins can barely be discerned. I envision it as I do colonies of spacefaring explorers and settlers, reaching out to the limitless tracts of the cosmos, making planetfall on some strange and wondrous world. They set their colony-ships down in the alien soil and remove the engines and hyperdrive cores, building new structures onto the outer hulls, setting spars and cables deep into the bedrock to support the newly formed edifices, arcologies of hope supporting the dreams of a people looking for a life among the stars. Yeah it’s just like that. But with more Bud Lite.

And then there is the The Sandbar. Half a mile up an inlet to Ossipee Lake is a sandbar a hundred feet long by fifty wide, barely two feet below the surface of the warm, lazy creek, scores of people anchor their boats and jetskis along the stretch and hang out in the thigh-deep river. There’s a volleyball net set up in the water, beer-pong tables, frisbee games, dogs paddle and jump in the water, music is always playing – country, pop, and hip-hop bump along in a feelgood mashedup groove that flows easy as the current. It’s a happy sun-drenched tribe of bros with tribal tattoos, babes in fluorescent bikinis, kids and parents and older folks with weathered tans coming to the lake for decades, probably on their Harleys with some truly astounding airbrush paint jobs. And everyone, I mean everyone, is holding a beercan in a foam coozie. This is New Hampshire. I love this place SO MUCH. Every summer I’m pestering Johanna when can we go to Sandbar huh Sandbar I want to go to the Sandbarrrrr!! I don’t know why this magical place speaks to my soul as powerfully as it does. But it does, it’s my Backwoods New Hampshire Lake Trailer Camp Home.
mishak: (gotplur)
2014-07-10 10:46 am

I love animals.

You probably know by now that I don’t really give a shit about animals. Puppies and kitties are super awesome, but all that Vegan Blah Blah / Share If You Think Michael Vick Should Be Crucified Blah Blah goes right past me. Our society owes dogs, cats, horses, and dolphins no more or less special treatment than cows or pigs; cows and pigs are lovely animals, just as emotional and soulful as puppies and kittens. And delicious. Maybe it’s a genetic thing. I’m Chinese, and we’re famous for looking at any organism on earth and going “I could probably eat that.” There’s an awesome saying that the Chinese will eat anything on four legs except the table, and anything with wings except an airplane. My vegan and animal-rights friends, they’re almost all white people, hardly any Hispanics, Blacks, or Asians. We ain’t got time for that shit, let’s eat.
mishak: (gotplur)
2014-06-23 11:42 am

New home! Maybe.

I made an offer on a house in Teele Square about half mile north of Davis, it was accepted; the home inspection went well, the place is in good shape. It’s not the home I originally pictured, I thought I wanted a contemporary look: high ceilings, bright clean lines, recessed lighting, the standard Temple Of Yuppie. This place is more classic Boston architecture, like Tony's or Chris & Sara's place. Dark wood molding and a built-in hutch thing. Not what I imagined living in, but I’m becoming more and more enamored of a home with a personality. I rather like it a lot. It’s got a freakin’ fireplace. When buying a home there are progressive levels of reality, now that the Inspection has not turned up an Indian burial ground in the backyard, the next stage is the Purchase & Sale Agreement, and the Closing is when it actually happens. I might have a new home! A radically different space than the last 13 years. This is very exciting.