Monday, April 30, 2007

Grave Mistake

So, uh, don't really know what that last post was about. Someone, obviously, hacked into my account or something.

Lying on the couch, coping with this morning's hangover, I finished up a quick read:

#18 -- "Lenin's Embalmers" by Ilya Zbarsky and Samuel Hutchinson

This oddity has been languishing on my bookshelf for the better part of a decade -- a quick book by the last of the men involved in the early preservation of Lenin's body.

Some of it is quite interesting -- it's a very good description of the semi-privileged life under Stalin, a viewpoint I don't think I've read before. Some of it I can do without -- the author's relationship to his parents, which is touched upon a lot, doesn't add much of anything.

The most interesting part is really given short shrift -- the role of the preserved body in Soviet society, the cult of personality surrounding the corpse. I would have liked to see more on that and less of the family dynamics.

Ok, back to lying down.

Ah, Yes

After being really, really good for a while here, due to Mom in town and some other stuff, I'm really, really drunk for the first time in a while.

It feels great.

I don't have anything really productive to say, other than that I've behaved like a moron tonight. And I don't really have a problem with that.

Hope all of you are equally trashed.

P.S. Good job Canucks (my new and temporary favorite team) ruining all this. Maybe a photo of Bubla next time, Alanah.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

NFL Draft - Live Blog

(just kidding.)

I actually did start watching it today, even though these things are pretty deadly dull to all but the most rabid fan. Maybe I was swayed by the CNNSI headline a few days back proclaiming it something like "Sports' Finest Day" (or whatever -- I was so dumbstruck that I just stared, slackjawed, and didn't write it down).

I watched just long enough to see who went first, and to see if the Buccaneers got Calvin Johnson. They didn't, and the broadcasters said the guy they did isn't always the most focused fellow on the field, so three cheers!

I've got a couple other things that I'm in the process of writing, but they're nowhere near done. So I leave you with Chris Morris.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Finally Figured It Out

It only took seven years here, but this year, I'm taking most of my vacation in the summer -- when it sucks here -- rather than in the spring and fall, when it's nice.

Some exotic destinations (Southeast Asia, Singapore) are getting put off 'til next year for a variety of reasons (time and money, mostly) -- instead, after a flurry of booking, I'm heading back to Colorado in June and then London in August. Since one of my closest friends now lives in London and another will be back there celebrating his birthday, it promises to be a Party with a capital P.

Wales may also be visited.

Anyway:

#17 -- "The Future of the Past" by Alexander Stille

Interesting little collection that's been sitting on my shelf for a while -- a collection of essays detailing the difficulties in conserving different forms of heritage (buildings, art, manuscripts, and oral tradition).

Stille traveled all over the world compiling this, and some of the essays are really fascinating. The highlight for me was a chapter on Somalia's oral poetry. It's both a story of tradition vs technology, as well as the political power of words. Chapters on China and Egypt are also really good.

Some of the other stories, in the end, are just office politics on a larger scale, and less interesting. All in all, Stille writes quite well, and if the description of the book sounds interesting to you, you'll probably like it.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Small Town Geek

As I mentioned before, Mom and I took a little jaunt out to Madison, Georgia a few days back. I'd honestly never heard of the place before a friend recommended it the other day -- Mom wanted to see some antebellum houses and Madison came up. It's notable for a couple things -- Sherman didn't burn it in his march to the sea, and it was voted "Best Small Town in America" or something like that a few years back, so there you go.

It certainly was peaceful and idyllic -- the skies were clear, the temperatures moderate, birds were singing, children laughing. I expected Jimmy Stewart to stroll down the street, arm-in-arm with a fresh-faced lass. For someone who spends much of his time in bars, it was a bit of culture shock.

We wandered the streets for a couple hours, marveling at the homes (one note -- even though Sherman spared the city, the grandest buildings were all post-Civil War. The pre-Civil War houses were far less remarkable). It was pretty pleasant. I'd like to think it will spur me on to take more trips within Georgia -- in seven+ years here, I've been outside metro Atlanta only a handful of times -- but since I've been planning a day-trip to Rome, less than two hours away, for over a year now ... I wouldn't hold your breath.

Madison comes highly recommended, if for some reason you find yourself down here. They even had a cool funky little left-leaning bookstore, with a sign noting it was up for sale. I let myself get swept away by the thought momentarily -- move out to rural Georgia, marry some nice girl, run a bookstore, write, drink lemonade on the verandah -- before dismissing it. I like the urban life a bit too much. And besides, I didn't see any bars out there.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Think for Me

It's been a pleasant weekend with Mom PPA -- as always, when people come to visit, it motivates me to get out and do stuff that I've been neglecting for ages (i.e. visit the High Museum, or actually get out of Atlanta).

Things should return to normalcy here soon enough -- which means, I guess, book reviews, photos of crap around Atlanta, and in-jokey post titles based on old hardcore songs.

In the meantime, though, I should at least mention David Halberstam's death yesterday. He is/was one of those iconic and admirable figures in journalism, which is at least nominally my profession, and as is far too often the case, his death reminded me of how little of his work I've actually read. In the time-honored tradition (cf. Halldor Laxness, Naguib Mahfouz) his death will undoubtedly spur me to start filling in some of the gaps in his body of work.

In the meantime, over at Salon (yes! Salon is still around) there's a collection of some Halberstam quotes on the press that (in my mind, at least) emphasize his character. (link via Sadly, No!)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Rawk the Puck

I forgot to mention this (on this blog -- I mentioned it over on Hockey Rants) earlier -- I'm one of the panelists in the online "Rawk the Puck" competition, pitting songs related to the hockey playoff teams against each other. It's now in the second round -- so get over there and vote.

That's it for now. Very, very tired.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Busy Week

And getting busier -- Mom PPA visits this weekend so I won't be around much. After that, I hope to get back to taking photos and stuff like that.

In the meantime:

#15 -- "The New York Trilogy" by Paul Auster

and

#16 -- "Eiger Dreams" by Jon Krakauer

I read the Auster book (three loosely-connected odd novellas on the themes of identity and loneliness) probably about a decade or so ago, when I had the habit of turning down corners on pages that featured a thought I found particularly illuminating. Seeing what I found notable in my early 20s is kind of fun -- I went straight for emotional drama and romance, thoughts that seem deep when you're 23. Ten years on, I note that I missed the really illuminating stuff -- too subtle. I don't think I found it as amazing this time around, but the Trilogy is still pretty entertaining.

Mountain climbing has a theoretical appeal for me -- the thin air, the dizzying heights -- but reading Krakauer's book (a collection of articles on various forms of climbing) reaffirms that it will stay theoretical. Even if I magically got into shape, good God, that stuff is terrifying. "Into Thin Air," which I read years ago, somehow didn't hit that close to home -- the climbers involved were too distant. This, for whatever reason, drove it all home a bit better.

Some of it's a bit technical, but again, a nice quick read, and Krakauer's got that nice style that makes highly specialized writing accessible.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Two Things I Do When Drunk

1) Text message. A few nights back, I cleaned out my text message inbox and sent folder before going out. The next morning I had 58 messages in my inbox and 70 in the sent folder. Most of these messages have a negligible literary value.

2) Cook. I woke up this morning to a full stomach and a frying pan filled with congealed butter and wilted onions -- I cooked pelmeni when I got home last night. At least I remember that. Once I woke up to find a bunch of dirty pans in the sink, empty food packages scattered about, and a delicious quiche in the fridge. I'd made it from scratch. And remembered none of it.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Randomness

Don Ho died tonight, bringing to the forefront a recent topic of conversation -- famous songs that I don't really know. I've heard "Tiny Bubbles" many times, I'm certain, but I couldn't hum the tune or sing it for you if you offered money. And this is after someone played it for me an hour ago.

Ditto, last night, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" came up -- and again, I'm sure I've heard it millions of times -- but I can't hear it in my head. Maybe this is a problem for Oliver Sacks.

* * *

Since reading "Crack in the Edge of the World," I've developed a kind of weird fascination. Relatively, perhaps, it's not that strange -- I know a girl who's fascinated by Vicks, which strikes me as considerably more bizarre -- but I've become moderately obsessed by the Salton Sea.

It's just an aside in Winchester's book -- an inland California sea created by human error, that became a failed resort, a wildlife refuge, and an environmental disaster. I knew little about it before reading "Crack" (actually, nothing at all; my only points of reference were the film, "The Salton Sea," which I've never seen, and the Hot Snakes song, "Salton City," which is pretty great). After reading those few paragraphs, I couldn't get it out of my mind.

And so:

#14 -- "Greetings From the Salton Sea" by Kim Stringfellow

This traces the beginnings and decline of the sea, and goes into efforts to reverse/halt some of the damage. It's quite good -- I feared something overly scholarly/technical, but my shattered attention span was rapt throughout (granted, again, this may be due to the recent obsession).

It's filled with photographs, which are shocking and haunting. Much of the area -- now abandoned -- looks like scenes of present-day Chernobyl, desolate and forgotten. Dead fish and birds, empty and ruined buildings. It's quite shocking that this is just a couple hours from San Diego, rather than in the shadow of an abandoned Soviet nuclear plant.

Didn't do anything to curb the obsession -- I've actually, quite seriously, been toying with the idea of taking a few days to go out there. For some reason, this really is something I need to see.

For further reference: here's the book's website. Lots of photos here. Watch out for the naked dude.

And then, the Salton Sea Authority -- those in charge of restoring the area.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Summer Game

For the first time in a really long while, I'm actually feeling the urge to go to a Braves game. During Spring Training, I had some touches of nostalgia for my early teens, when I'd spend spring and summer devouring every bit of baseball literature I could. I've been thinking of names I haven't thought of in years -- Cesar Cedeno, Andy Van Slyke, John Lowenstein, Al Bumbry. It's kind of a pleasing feeling.

This post isn't about that nostalgia. It's about the most ridiculous baseball game I've ever been to.

Spring of 1999 -- I was doing double duty as Managing Editor and Entertainment Editor of the Boulder Planet, and with staff reduced to almost nothing, I was doing neither job well. I was inundated with press releases, and if I could pass off one of those releases to some other schmuck co-worker, I counted that as an accomplishment. If there was anything remotely sports-related, for instance (and by this point, I was counting "so-and-so likes to golf" as "sports-related") it went to the sports editor, Kynan.

One day, Kynan left me a note about one of those press releases. "Did you notice we've been invited to a bourbon tasting?" Not just a bourbon tasting, but a bourbon tasting in a Coors Field luxury suite, during a Rockies game.

We RSVPed, and began making plans. With a level of journalistic ethics best described as "questionable," we promised all sorts of coverage, and told them that the story would have cartoons -- so that we could get the staff cartoonist, McClown, into the game.

Finally came the big day -- and to add to the festivities, I turned in my resignation (the polite term -- a more accurate description would be "threw a temper tantrum and quit") that week. Being semi-responsible, we took the bus down from Boulder.

When we got down there, it was getting pretty cold and blustery -- one of the hazards of April baseball in Colorado. We fortified ourselves at a Fado's (it was long enough ago that I thought a Fado's was a novelty) for a few hours, then trekked over, still not really believing our good fortune.

We got in with no problem -- the stadium personnel treated us like functioning human beings, rather than the booze-seeking monsters we truly were.

We went up to the luxury box. It was truly luxurious. We noticed that everyone was dressed rather nicely -- we were dressed in bourbon-drinking clothes. Cheap turtlenecks, jeans, ski jackets. No matter. We were welcomed politely, and most importantly, given complete access to the free bourbon and free food.

And we took advantage of it. Bourbon was consumed. Beer was consumed. Mexican food (medium quality, but FREE) was consumed. Occasionally we watched baseball -- I remember nothing of the game, except that they were playing the Padres, and I was vaguely aware that "gee, I get to see Tony Gwynn," and that the snow was coming down harder.

The bourbon in question was Bulleit Bourbon, at that point a brand being launched by Seagram's (I think). The story was (and this is all very blurry by now) that it was an old family bourbon, now being reissued. As such, there was a representative of the Bulleit family there.

We sat through some speeches about the bourbon -- I vividly remember Kynan, already glassy-eyed, pretending to take notes -- and then returned to milling around, occasionally telling the bourbon-family guy that he was a "great human being," etc.

Unfortunately, the game was snowed out -- though that may actually be a good thing, since if we'd continued at the established pace, we'd be dead now. We were given freebies aplenty -- fingerless gloves (?), a bucket (??), and bottles of the bourbon. On the way out, plenty liquored up, we appropriated a few more bottles -- no one seemed to mind.

After a few photos in the bus station (and they're hilarious, but possibly actionable, so I'm not posting any), we rode home through the snowstorm -- passing out bourbon samples to our fellow passengers, Kynan leading everyone in a chorus of Mojo Nixon's "You Can't Kill Me." A grand time was had by all. I don't know if I've ever been that drunk.

Baseball's never been the same since.

(coda: since the game was snowed out, we did use the tickets as rain checks later. But that's a whole other story of irresponsibility. And I probably need legal clearance from Kynan and McClown.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Old Haunts

The cold weather has finally broken, replaced by moderate temperatures and lots of gloom. We're supposed to get hail later today. Hooray.

In the meantime:

#13 -- "The Fracture Zone" by Simon Winchester

I normally would prefer to go a bit longer before reading another Winchester book, and I've read so many Balkan books over the years that they sort of run together. But I saw this in a used bookstore, and I'd wanted to read it for a while, so half-applied rules went by the wayside.

Glad they did -- "The Fracture Zone" is excellent. It seems to be one of Winchester's lesser-known books, written before (whoops) after he hit it big with "The Professor and the Madman." It deserves a wider audience.

It's the chronicle of a trip through the region in the late 1990s, from Vienna to Istanbul, during NATO's bombing of Belgrade. That trip itself recreated a trip Winchester took decades before.

Along the way, he goes off on tangents and tells tales of the region's history -- all very interesting and entertaining. He's both fascinated by the history and sympathetic toward the present -- a great observer.

Over the years, people have occasionally asked me to recommend a good "starter" book on the Balkans (and sometimes I've recommended them without being asked). This one goes immediately to the top of that list.

Monday, April 09, 2007

I Know I Shouldn't Laugh, But...

...in the ongoing examination of the Iranians' treatment of the British sailors and marines, it comes out:

The youngest captive, Arthur Batchelor, 20, sold his account to the Daily Mirror, and described how guards had mocked him, calling him “Mr Bean”...

Those nasty Iranians! That's totally unacceptable. I can't wait to see the language Blair and Bush use in condemning this particular outrage.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Project: Mersh

I've had the attention span of a gnat lately -- the floor by my bed is littered with barely-started books, theoretical projects around the house haven't even got off the ground, I've got the ingredients to cook many fine dishes but can't be bothered, I haven't started making beer, I've barely been able to pay attention to hockey.

The one thing I have accomplished, thanks to boredom, the recent acquisition of Photoshop Elements, and listening to a couple old hardcore records:

The first ever Post-Pessimist Association t-shirts

Edit: I originally had the "Zazzle" embed link up here - but it covered the links to the right. Just go to the Gallery and you can see the preferred products. If you go into "all products" you see a few other things -- one is a joke, one is a test-run of one of the shirts, and they're being removed. It's just a slow process.

There's three t-shirt versions, the black double-sided one, and then two white single-sided (same design -- but one's a ladies' style ringer) shirts for those who don't want to spend a ton of dough for the black one.

Both styles are inspired, one way or another, by a couple of my all-time favorite hardcore bands. The black style also works in the face of the PPA's official hero.

Thanks to my brother and Anonymous LP for their patient help with my many Photoshop questions.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Picking Up the Threads

Didn't mean to take so long to get back to this, but technical problems got in the way. Here's some more of the photos of the Georgia Mental Health Institute grounds -- including some of the stuff that predates the old asylum.

Again, this article gives some handy background -- the property (along with a lot of nearby properties, and in fact much of Atlanta) once belonged to Asa Candler, who got very very rich selling Coke (the drink, thank you very much). This area was originally a farm, and Candler's son, Asa Junior, built the above mansion.

From a distance, the building looks well-kept up. It's only when you get close that you notice that it's boarded up and overgrown in many places.

This is some sort of anteroom, and the only part of the building easily entered -- it seemed to be off a garage of some sort.

Another view (and yeah, I know I showed this one before, but I love it:)



The Candlers had a ridiculous amount of features on the property -- a zoo, a golf course, swimming pools, gardens...

...and a greenhouse.

I seem to recall reading somewhere that the greenhouses were still in use until fairly recently, but I can't find any confirmation.



Not sure what these two photos show -- the gardens? The zoo? It looks like something out of "The Prisoner." There was a path leading down, but it was sort of overgrown -- if I'd been wearing jeans and boots instead of shorts and flip-flops, I would have taken a closer look.

As I said before, the grounds are pretty decently-maintained -- around crumbling, decrepit structures. It's all peaceful and strange at the same time.

Off to the side is this building -- probably a caretaker's office. Again, at first glance it looks as if it's in use. When you get closer, you see the broken windows, peeling paint, falling gutters.

I'll definitely have to go back up there at some point. It's pretty obvious that there's much, much more to see. The holy grail would be a trip down into the underground tunnels beneath (mentioned in the article), but I have a feeling that's a pipe dream.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

All's Well

A few people have inquired -- yep, there was a shooting at/near my workplace today, but I wasn't involved in any capacity. I'm hale and hearty. Very weird scene though.

Back at work after four days off, four days of accomplishing nothing except for eating bacon and screwing up my internet. I learned a little something, too. Last week I did a two-day juice fast -- the "two-day detox" thing. I can now confirm that you shouldn't follow up the two-day detox with four days of indulging your every whim in the eating and drinking departments. My stomach feels like death.

Apropos of nothing -- a story that came back into my consciousness last week.

Late summer of 2003, I was in Croatia, taking a slow bus down the coast from Pula to Split. About two hours into the ride, there was a burst of Croatian that I couldn't understand -- and two words I could, "Johnny" and "Cash." Then they played one of his songs.

About a half-hour later, they did the same. Then another half-hour after that. It wasn't hard to figure out that something had happened, and given Cash's advanced age, it wasn't hard to guess what.

So all down the coast -- until the radio was turned off so that they could play a Tom Clancy movie dubbed into Croatian on the in-bus television set -- we heard the same news bulletin followed by the same song, every half-hour.

The song they chose to pay tribute to Cash, to sum up his life?

"Personal Jesus."

Weird.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Tap, Tap

This thing on?

The (self-inflicted, apparently) home internet outage has been resolved, and things are back to normal, I think. Some more stuff to come soon.

The past few days really drove home just how addicted I am to being connected. Unfortunately, it's not making me rethink my life or anything. I briefly contemplated a week-long hiatus from blogging, but I sometimes manage that without even trying.

Anyway. New stuff soon.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

BaconFest!

As opposed to Sausagefest, which you find in any Atlanta bar on a Saturday night. (RIMSHOT!)

Some years back, I spent a summer working the early-morning stocking shift in a Boulder Barnes & Noble. I dearly hated stocking the diet books, which flew off the shelves, and thus needed to be replenished almost daily. I shared this with my mother, saying I was going to puke if I ever saw another copy of "The Zone Diet" -- she suggested (as I wasn't a terribly healthy eater) that perhaps I should try one of them out. I responded that I'd write my own -- "The Beer and Bacon Diet."

I never followed up that idea. But Friday, the Wall told me that she would be attending a BaconFest over the weekend. A BaconFest with BEER.

Left to right: The Wall, bacon, DJ Prey)

So yesterday, I headed down to Dad's Garage, joining the girls for bacon. And beer.

Recipe for a good time.

You'd be amazed how much bacon and beer you can consume, even as you're feeling yourself get unhealthier by the minute.

Frolic!

Celebrity sighting: that's Sir Francis Bacon there! The real thing, I'm presuming.

The Wall went to the bathroom, saying as she left "Don't put anything in my drink." Where I come from, that's a challenge.

Chicks dig the PPA, and kept on asking to have their photos taken with the famous blogger. Or something. She's wearing the Bac-ini, I shit you not. (Made with turkey bacon, she told us, if you want to make one at home.)

Don't ask me. I really have no clue.