Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Lock Up The Pimps

There's an excellent series in the New York Times right now about child prostitution in Cambodia. Last year the author went to Cambodia and purchased a girl for $150 and returned her to her family. A year later he went back to find her and she was back in the brothels, addicted to speed. That was depressing, but Part 5 (below) in this series is very encouraging.

Poipet is a border city that I've travelled through. It's this little crap-hole on the Thai-Cambodia border. 10 story casino-hotel complexes rise out of the dust, surrounded by thousands of workers (men, women and children) carrying hundred-pound loads on their heads across the border. My friend who lives in Phenom Penh says a lot of women go into the brothels because sex is much easier than that type of back-breaking physical labor.

From the New York Times:

Sex Slaves? Lock Up the Pimps

Poipet, Cambodia

Optimism and sex trafficking don't usually go together.

Yet despite the widespread belief that sex slavery is intractable and inevitable, it isn't. Look, prostitution itself will probably always be around, but we could largely stop the buying and selling of the teenagers who are routinely held in bondage in brothels from Calcutta to Belize.

If this is an optimistic column, one reason is that I had originally planned to use this space differently. I had thought I would find and write about whoever had replaced Srey Neth, the teenager I had purchased for $150 and then freed a year ago.

So I climbed to the top floor of the Phnom Pich Guesthouse (past the sign asking guests not to bring in their machine guns or hand grenades) and found the room that used to be Srey Neth's world. But now the entire floor is empty.

It turned out that the police had raided the guesthouse right after my columns a year ago and arrested Srey Neth's pimp. So now the local sex traffickers are more careful about peddling virgins.

There's a lesson there. In the long run the best way to address the problem is to educate girls and raise their status in society. But a law-enforcement model - sending traffickers to prison - is also very effective in reducing the worst forms of sex slavery.

"It's pretty doable," said Gary Haugen, who runs International Justice Mission, a Washington-based organization that does terrific work in battling sex trafficking. "You don't have to arrest everybody. You just have to get enough that it sends a ripple effect and changes the calculations."

He added wryly that his aim is to "drive traffickers of virgin village girls to fence stolen radios instead."

With that aim in mind, the West should pressure nations like Cambodia to adopt a two-part strategy. First, such nations must crack down on the worst forms of flesh-peddling. (A U.N. report estimated that in Asia alone, "one million children are involved in the sex trade under conditions that are indistinguishable from slavery.")

Two girls, age 4 and 6, were being quietly offered for sale in Poipet earlier this month. That kind of child abuse can be defeated, as has been shown in the Cambodian hamlet of Svay Pak, which specialized in pedophilia. When I first visited it, 6-year-olds were served up for $3 a session, but after foreign pressure, those brothels are now shuttered.

Second, they must crack down on corrupt police officers who protect the slave traders. Here in Poipet, local people whispered to me that one brothel kept terrified young virgin girls locked up in the back, awaiting sale. So I marched in the brothel's back entrance and looked around.

As it happened, this brothel was undergoing an expansion, which will make it the biggest in town, and the back rooms were all undergoing renovation and empty. But then the owner rushed in - and introduced himself as a senior police official.

I asked him if he imprisoned young girls in his brothel, and he replied: "That's impossible, because I work in the police criminal division, and so I clearly know the law."

Getting countries like Cambodia to confront the sale of children is easier than one may think. I'm generally very suspicious of economic sanctions, but the U.S. State Department's office on trafficking has used the threat of sanctions very effectively to get foreign governments to take steps against trafficking (such as the closing of the pedophilia brothels at Svay Pak). But it shouldn't be just one lonely office in the State Department demanding crackdowns. Where's everybody else?

On a reporting trip to Cambodia in 1996, I met a 15-year-old Cambodian girl who had been kidnapped off the street and imprisoned in a brothel. Her mother finally tracked her down, and they had a loving reunion in the brothel. But the pimp had paid good money for the girl and refused to give her up. The police protected the brothel, so the mother had to leave without her daughter.

That girl, now probably dead of AIDS, haunts me still. It was partly shame at not having intervened then that led me to breach journalistic custom last year and buy the freedom of the two sex slaves I wrote about. The solution, though, isn't to buy individual girls - that only makes trafficking more profitable - but to put traffickers behind bars.

Nearly a decade after I interviewed that girl, this scourge is poisoning more young lives than ever. I'm optimistic that we have the tools to wipe out this modern slavery - but do we have the will?

Different Instrument

Replacing a guitar's strings does wonders for its sound. Those old, darkened strings were making it sound muted. It's amazing the differnece new strings make.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Pit Turtle

Last night I had a dream about fishing. I woke up and immediately recalled something that happened to me when I was about 10 years old. I woke my wife up to tell her about it.

This is the story I told her (the story below is not the aforementioned dream I had last night. Telling someone about your dreams is boring).

When I was 10 my granddad and I were obsessed with fishing. He'd always take me to this one lake were we'd catch tons of catfish and bluegill. On occasion we'd hook a turtle. This one time we hooked a massive snapping turtle. I remember it being almost as big as me, but of course, to a 10-year-old everything seems bigger than it really is. With 20/20 vision in hindsight I realisticly think that we'd hooked a very large snapping turtle.

Anyway, we caught this behemoth snapping turtle and for some reason I wanted to take it home with us. Not to eat or anything but just to have and look at, I guess. For some reason my grand dad agreed so he hauled it into the boat and twisted the hook out of its mouth with a pair of needle-nosed plyers. Here were are, a 10-year-old and his granddad in the middle of a lake in a row-boat with a dangerous beast scrambling around trying to attack us.

All I remember about the boat ride to shore was that my grand dad (aka "Daddo") was literally fending the snapping turtle off with a stick while he rowed with one hand to shore. I can't remember how long the boat trip was but the whole time this turtle was in the stern of the boat fighting and trying to bite the shit out of my grand dad while he fought it off like it was a rabid dog. All this, just so his grand kid wanted to take the turtle home.

We got it home and put it in a trash can so I could look at it for a while. After a time we drove it down to the nearest duck pond and let it go.

That, among other reasons is why my grand dad was my first hero.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

We're just a Minor Threat

So much rock music has that irritating contrived anger in it. Not that the people singing don't have anything to be pissed about; I think there's legitimate anger welled up in everyone regardless of your background. No anger is better than another. Anyway, on to my point.

When I was in high school I listened to two bands: The Doors and Minor Threat. The latter band is amazing because people just don't play music like that anymore. Maybe never again. The anger is so pure and honest. The best music for after work.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Crispin Glover

Ok, I knew Crispin Glover was crazy but not this nuts:

Monday, January 24, 2005

January 24th Called Worst Day of the Year


It's Jan. 24th, the “most depressing day of the year,” according to a U.K. psychologist.

Dr. Cliff Arnall's calculations show that misery peaks Monday.

Arnall, who specializes in seasonal disorders at the University of Cardiff, Wales, created a formula that takes into account numerous feelings to devise peoples' lowest point.

The model is: [W + (D-d)] x TQ divided by M x NA

The equation is broken down into seven variables: (W) weather, (D) debt, (d) monthly salary, (T) time since Christmas, (Q) time since failed quit attempt, (M) low motivational levels and (NA) the need to take action.

Arnall found that, while days technically get longer after Dec. 21, cyclonic weather systems take hold in January, bringing low, dark clouds. Meanwhile, the majority of people break their healthy resolutions six to seven days into the new year, and even the hangers-on have fallen off the wagon, torn off the nicotine patches and eaten the fridge empty by the third week. Any residual dregs of holiday cheer and family fun have kicked the bucket by Jan. 24.

“Following the initial thrill of New Year's celebrations and changing over a new leaf, reality starts to sink in,” Arnall said. “The realization coincides with the dark clouds rolling in and the obligation to pay off Christmas credit card bills.”

The formula was devised to help a travel company “analyze when people book holidays and holiday trends,” said Alex Kennedy, spokesperson for Porter Novelli, a London-based PR agency.

It seems that people are most likely to buy a ticket to paradise when they feel like hell.

“People feel bleak when they have nothing planned, but once they book a holiday they have a goal, they work toward having time off and a relaxing period,” Kennedy said.

“When you imagine yourself on the beach it makes you feel positive. You will save money, go to the gym and come back to the optimism you had at the end of 2004,” she said.

While most cases of the winter blues are not severe, 2 percent to 5 percent of those with SAD cannot function without continuous treatment.

However, it's extremely rare to find anyone with the disorder within 30 degrees of the equator, where days are long and the sky is bright year-round.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Brew in Brooklyn

A good friend had his birthday on Saturday so I took him on a tour of the Brooklyn Lager brewery. The story of its creation is really interesting. The guy who started it was a journalist for Associated Press and was living in Iran in the '80s covering the Iran-Iraq war that was raging there at the time. Since Iran is a dry country he was going crazy being a non-voluntary teetotaler. He found some pamphlet published by Aramco oil company about how to brew beer in your bathtub. His brew attempts were successful but after a car bomb went off outside his apartment in Tehran his wife convinced him to move back home to Brooklyn. There he decided he liked making beer so much that he quit his journalism gig and opened the Brooklyn Brewery. And it's good stuff, too! No cheap-ass rice syrup like most mass-produced beers. Cheers!

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Brooklyn Actually Gets Pretty

I'm stuck in a snow storm up here! All this stark urbanness just got quite beautiful. I love that seige feeling that a blizzard brings. All the neighborhood bars only have neighbors in them and you can't do anything but get drunk celebrating a friend's birthday. Woo hoo!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Sea of Cowboy Hats

The inauguration is today and getting off the train yesterday was a nightmare. It was packed with tuxedo-and-cowboy-hat-wearing Republicans and their covered-in-fur wives. Probably 1500 of them, going to some ball at the Marriot in my neighborhood. They all looked so smug and had absolutely no idea about Metro etiquette. I was stuck in the station for 20 minutes standing behind people fumbling with Metro cards and not standing to the right on the escalator. These aren't things that upset me normally but to watch these fucktards was really sickening. Oh, and they all smelled like rich lady perfume, a miasma of the shit, wafting upward from underground out into the street. Disgusting.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I wuz born ina small town....

... no I wasn't---unless you count suburbia as a "small town"---but for a while I thought that small town charm was dead in the US---that the small town was now made up of an unused center, surrounded by a massive, sprawling Wal-Marted exterior. (Wal-Mart is the Starbucks of rural America, btw). I thought this until this MLK weekend when I visited Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. I'm not gonna do the googling for you but trust me on this one.

It's in a valley surrounded by nice views, victorian houses and little restaurants and shops. I couldn't believe my eyes. It looked like a place where a David Lynch movie would take place. I fully expected a midget to talk backwards to me or a severed ear to be lying in the grass somewhere. A blue river runs through the middle of town and some sort of facotry billows out clouds that creep through the valley. I felt like I could even stay there for a few days. I wonder if I'd get bored of that life? Not if I move there when I'm 55, I guess.

Memory Drive

While planning for this June's sailing trip, I re-read the story I had in Chesapeake Bay Magazine last summer and got all excited. There are things worth living for after all.

This was the un-edited version:

In August, two old friends and I took a four-day sailing trip on the Chesapeake Bay in my sloop, the Lonnie Bruner. I’d assembled the hardiest crew I could hope for. Colin claims to have slept hanging from the side of a mountain. Jason has a natural knack for predicting the weather. And they’d been around boats as kids. Jason’s boating knowledge was honed on his father’s top-heavy Bayliner. He’d cut his teeth under the command of his dad who shouted at him for breaking insignificant boat accessories or ordered him to scrub the head. Colin had earned his maritime wings by capsizing a catamaran, and had been resourceful enough get the sail vertical again. These were the types of mates I needed to fight the filth and the fury of the Chesapeake.

As we left the marina in Rhode River, our routines began. Colin was at the helm, teak in hand, staring at the GPS and commanding the rest of us to trim the sails. Jason was keeping himself busy making weather predictions, eyeing the chart book and musing at the seamanship it took to get a sailboat to move. And I was doing nothing. I’m the captain after all. My hard work is usually done when I take my sunbathing friends out. Since my crew was willing and able to do the work of the boat, I spent my time fretting about the weather, slicing pepperoni for my crew, and sipping the occasional beer.

Our first destination was a secluded cove on the eastern side of the bay at Tilghman Creek. It’s the cove at the point north of St. Michael’s. On the way we sailed past Bloody Point Lighthouse. This rust bucket tower has been leaning sideways since the late nineteenth century. Sailing past was eerie. It was the same feeling you get when driving past neglected, boarded up houses in some forgotten neighborhood. It’s amazing to think that such a thing was once manned twenty-four hours a day. We hit eighteen knots of wind for four hours. It was the kind of wind that heeled the boat up and made us put on our lifejackets. Coming toward the cove we were ready for light winds.

When we anchored in the cove it was dark. We decided to cook dinner on the adjacent beach since there were no people or houses around and we weren’t worried about anyone hassling us. We slogged through the water seventy yards to the beach carrying a grill, charcoal, lighter fluid, and four ribeyes in plastic bags. We ate a sandy feast of medium rare steak and half cold beer on our private beach. We felt so privileged.

Our next day’s destination was Harrison’s Sportfishing Center in Tilghman Island. Getting there was one of the most harrowing parts of the journey. At the end of the day we were sailing in pitch-black darkness and had to spot a series of bouys around the tip of the island. There were three bouys we needed to round in order to avoid hitting the shoal and running aground. At night, and under strong winds this tested our skills. We couldn’t see one of the three bouys because there were no lights on it and we were running the risk of slamming right into it. The solution was for Jason to grab the spotlight and climb out to the bow which was slicing into the waves and putting up a drenching sea spray. With me perched on the windward gunwale, Colin at the helm shouting to Jason on the bow, and Jason trying to hold the spotlight steady, we spotted the hidden bouy and barely avoided hitting it dead on. As we rounded the tip of Tilghman, Jason joined me at the windward gunwale. Soaked in sea spray, we headed for Harrison’s.

As we eyed the lights of the Fishing Center in the distance, the wind was behind us and there was little work for the final stretch. Within minutes we were in a rollicking karaoke bar. Before I knew it I was on stage belting out country music into the karaoke microphone. It was a nice way to end our long day on the water.

Saturday was a cloudy sail and we headed for Herring Bay to do some bottom fishing. At the mouth of the bay we anchored amongst twenty other bottom fishermen. We caught about twenty perch, hauling them in, shrieking at the top of our lungs to the amusement of the more seasoned fishermen around us.

That night’s dinner was a feast. We opened a bottle of champagne, fired up the fish and steaks on the grill, and gorged ourselves. As we finished our dinner it was getting dark so we decided to go exploring on land. Walking down the beach, we stumbled on a rusty rowboat submerged in rocky sand. Not having a dinghy, we dug it out with our bare hands until we managed to lift it. We found some wooden planks in the woods and so began our two hundred yard paddle back to the Lonnie Bruner. Feeling like Tom Sawyers, with bay water streaming like a fountain though a hole in the bottom, we used our makeshift paddles to get back. Jason rocked the boat until it capsized and down it went. We had to swim the rest of the way back.

On Sunday we made our way home. As we motored, thoughts of the coming fall and winter came to mind. Even though I felt exhausted from the trip, and didn’t feel like being cramped on a boat anymore, I knew memories of this trip would be a comfort in the coming months. The thoughts of this trip will get me through this winter and should make the leafless trees and cold, city wind somewhat bearable as we head into 2004, and will prevent me from wishing I was living someplace else.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

I Ain't No God Damn Son of a Bitch

I used to be so scared of The Misfits when I was a kid. I'd see their picture in skate magazines and think, "This is the scariest band ever." Anyway, they seem so inocuous now, don't they? Maybe it was my upbrining: my parents had disallowed me from listening to music they didn't approve of and I actually believed in satan and stuff like that. Misfits looked like the closest thing to satan I could think of. Now I'd probably said they're on par with Blues Explosion in frighteningness. 20/20 in hindsight, eh?

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Fish in a Jar

Does anyone besides me eat pickled herring from a jar? I have not met a soul who does. Actually, they're called "Herring Party Snacks". With every bite there's a little Polish disco happening in my mouth. Those little onion slices are thin flavor explosions. And lord, they're in "wine sauce"! I'd like to get an entire jar of that. Believe.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

1st Best 1st

I mentioned the 2nd best 1st page of any book a few posts back. Here's the 1st best 1st page of any book:

"Some years ago---never mind how long precisely---having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear
of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats
off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me."

Monday, January 10, 2005

Life is Long

In my war against cliche (which could be a cliche in itself, I guess) my latest target is "Life is Short". What fool ever thought up that crap? Life is long, my friend. Very long. By what criteria could anyone rightfully say that life is short? Compared to a giant sequoia? Maybe, but aren't we one of the longest-lived species in the animal kingdom? I think so. I mean, I'm 31, and I will certainly live far longer than I have lived up until now. I feel like I've been here forever! It was so long ago when I was 10 years old that I can hardly remember it. Just the thought that I might live past age 60 blow my mind. When I'm 60 there'll probably be spaceships zooming around instead of cars. I can't believe I'm gonna be around for so damn long. What the hell am I going to do with all that time?

Fun Facts!

I found some fun facts about alcohol:

The founder of MADD no longer belongs to the organization. She resigned after it became increasingly anti-alcohol rather than simply anti-drunk-driving.

Bourbon is the official spirit of the United States, by act of Congress.

President Lincoln, when informed that General Grant drank whiskey while leading his troops, reportedly replied "Find out the name of the brand so I can give it to my other generals."

The Manhattan cocktail was invented by Winston Churchill's mother.

Methyphobia is fear of alcohol.

Before thermometers were invented, brewers would dip a thumb or finger into the liquid to determine the ideal temperature, neither too hot nor too cold, for adding yeast. From this we get the phrase "rule of thumb."

The Soviet Bolsheviks were strict drys and quickly imposed national prohibition following the Russian Revolution.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Blind Spots

Do you e'er find yourself 100% aware of your surroundings? Like, for example, you know to step 8 inches to the side because someone is coming up to your left and you know they're in your blind spot? I'm not talking about driving. This is when you're walking here, there wherever. Maybe it's something about living on a really busy street. Does anyone else even think about blind spots when they aren't driving?

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Virgin Hooch-lantic

My god. Could Virgin Atlantic get any cooler? --->

Virgin Atlantic Airways has teamed up with Bombay Sapphire to create what is believed to be the first-ever onboard cocktail bar.

Cabin crew on flights between New York and London will hand out a cocktail menu to Upper Class passengers during the first drinks service.

A dedicated mixologist will be stationed at the onboard bar creating the cocktails. Flight attendants will deliver the cocktails to Upper Class suites or passengers may also to come and sit at the bar.

"We have offered a successful cocktail service in the Heathrow Clubhouse for some months and would like to see if there is a demand for a similar service onboard," said airline spokeswoman Lysette Gauna.

The mixologist will be in a Bombay Sapphire uniform. He has received extensive safety procedure training to enable him to work onboard an aircraft but will not perform any additional duties throughout the flight.

Hanky Miller

This is the second best first page of any book written. Sorry for the hyperbole, but it is. I just ran across it and it makes me want to re-read this. Too bad I can't find my copy.

"It is now the fall of my second year in Paris. I was sent here for a reason I have not yet been able to fathom. I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I thought that I was an artist. I no longer think about it. I am. Everything that was literature has fallen from me. There are no more books to be written, thank God. This, then? This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word. No, this is a prolonged insult, a gob of spit in the face of Art, a kick in the pants to God, Man, Destiny, Time, Love, Beauty ... what you will. I am going to sing for you, a little off key perhaps, but I will sing. I will sing while you croak, I will dance over your dirty corpse ... To sing you must first open your mouth. You must have a pair of lungs, and a little knowledge of music. It is not necessary to have an accordian, or a guitar. The essential thing is to WANT to sing. This then is a song. I am singing."

No one will ever write like this again.

Up In Da VIP

I'm starting to get a taste for the attitude of those who think of themselves as VIPs. At my new job being a VIP matters very much. When there is some mucky muck lawyer board member who wants to get their way, and they cannot get it from me, they call my boss to complain about my decision until my boss tells me to give in. It doesn't matter that going that extra step for the VIP is ridiculous. No. This matters not. Just do what you're told. That person is powerful.

I hate this whole mindset not just because of the obvious inequality it represents or the snobbery that's involved, but because of the idea that a VIP can push around a small guy and get what they want. Whenever. Lawyers try to finagle and manipulate me every day at work and it's such a degrading feeling.

Monday, January 03, 2005


Sometimes I feel like a complete nihilist.

Sunday, January 02, 2005


Below is a poem Allan Ginsberg wrote about US bombing in SE Asia. A lot of it seems to describe the current situation in that part of the world.


a lot of mouths and cocks,
under the world there's a lot of come, and a lot of saliva dripping into brooks,
There's a lot of Shit under the world, flowing beneath cities into rivers,
a lot of urine floating under the world,
a lot of snot in the world's industrial nostrils, sweat under world's iron arm, blood
gushing out of the world's breast,
endless lakes of tears, seas of sick vomit rushing between the hemispheres
floating towards Sargasso, old oily rags and brake fluids, human gasoline--
Under the world there's pain, fractured thighs, napalm burning in black hair, phosphorus eating elbows to bone
insecticide contaminating oceantide, plastic dolls floating across Atlantic,
Toy soldiers crowding the Pacific, B-52 bombers choking jungle air with vaportrails and brilliant flares
Robot drones careening over rice terraces dropping cluster grenades, plastic pellets spray into flesh, dragontooth mines & jellied fires fall on straw roofs and water buffalos,
perforating village huts with barbed shrapnel, trenchpits filled with fuel-gas-poisen'd explosive powders--
Under the world there's broken skulls, crushed feet, cut eyeballs, severed fingers, slashed jaws,
Dysentry, homeless millions, tortured hearts, empty souls.

April 1973

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