Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

538 Photos of My Vacation

It's going to take a lot to get me through another DC winter so below I've posted all 538 photos I took on vacation. When I'm pushing close to the edge, I'll look at these and be able to live another day until my sailing trip in May '06.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I Escaped Just in Time

My friends John and Emily were supposed to leave Buenos Aires on Saturday the 27th but they may be stuck there for weeks because of a pilots' strike. Some people might think that's great news, but it's like overstaying a party. They have to take unpaid leave and pay for an apartment until the pilots go back to work.

Strangely, the only press reporting it today was China and Cuba. From the China People's Daily:

"Striking workers from Aerolineas Argentinas (AA) Monday blocked the road to Ezeiza, the country's main international airport after the company fired 168 pilots and mechanics.

Hundreds of passengers had to walk with their luggage for more than a kilometer to reach the airport because of the pay strike which has entered its fifth day at the AA, owned by the Spanish consortium Marsans."

(Link). (Pictures & article in Spanish).

Monday, November 28, 2005

Countries That I Never Need to Visit

When I'm on my death bed, if I've never set one toe into the following countries, I will not utter one complaint.

- Korea. I'll be fine with doing a google image search on "korea" while eating rotten spicy cabbage instead of travelling there. And I'm talking both north and south. I picture this country being one giant sterile, watered-down version of China. UPDATE: MARCH, 2007: I HAVE FINALLY VISITED KOREA AND I LIKED IT. I TAKE BACK THIS CRITICISM OF IT.

- Central African Republic (CAR). Isn't this the country where one of their dictators used to eat the hearts of children? (No, that wasn't Idi Amin). From what I've heard, this country is like a poorer, more boring Sudan without all the news coverage.

- That tiny little piece of land that's technically "Russia" but is just south of Lithuania in mainland Europe. WTF is this hunk of shit sliver of land? Someone told me Descartes or some other famous philosopher was born here, but I picture it being like a never-ending Newark, New Jersey ... just poorer, and with dead fields in between all the rusting machinery.

- El Salvador. Is there any charm to El Salvador? Are there even any archaelogical ruins in this arm pit of a country? Not to be cruel, but I picture this country as endless numbers of scruffy chickens, snot-nosed hungry children and cess pools. No thanks.

- Kyrgyzstan. This is the country that has intitutionalized wife kidnapping. No joke. I saw a documentary on this bullshit. It's so much a part of their culture that entire families participate in stealing women to give to their sons. I know a lot of other countries are horrible to their women, but Kyrgyzstan seems to do it in such a pissant backwards way it just makes me want to eternally curse their name.

- Singapore. It's not the lashings or death to drug smugglers that makes me have no interest in this vapid city state. In my mind, this country represents all the dull parts of humanity: conservatism, uptight religion, greed and intolerance. You could re-create Singapore if you rounded up all the right wingers in the US, gave them the isle of Manhattan, issued them guns, and then programed everyone into humorless robots.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Food de Buenos Aires

(Click to enlarge)

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Our Buenos Aires Routines

All six of us are settled into our daily routines. This usually consists of waking up at around 11:30 AM, going to some outdoor cafe and drinking espresso and eating sandwiches (with the crusts cut off) in 70 to 82 degree weather. I found out the reason that they call this city "Good Airs" (Buenos Aires). There is *always* a breeze blowing through the high rises and low buildings, swishing the leaves of the trees against concrete. It's the most pleasant weather I've ever lived in.

After our brunch, we stroll through the city smoking Lucky Strikes and stopping into little stores or visiting the regular tourist spots. A few days ago, we went to the cemetary where Eva Peron is buried. Then we head home for a two hour siesta before we begin our evening. It hasn't been too hard to organize our group, considering that there are just six of us. Four are staying at one apartment while the other two are about five blocks east.

We've been having a cocktail hour at around 6:30 or 7:00 PM, in which we sip sparkling wine or cosmos with fruit juice instead of cranberry to wash down empanadas. Each night we've tried to make reservations at the best restaurants in the city at around 10:00 or 11:00. We arrive at dinner and eat for about three hours and pay usually between $20 and $35 each.

Then we head out to some dark-wood bar and lounge around 'til 3:00 AM, then go to bed, wake up and start the whole process over again. How could this not be everyone's version of heaven?

Fat People Mostly Exist in the USA

That's one thing that always strikes me when I travel abroad. I've seen one fat person since I've been here and he stuck out like a sore dick. The reasons are thus: 1) everyone drives everywhere in the USA because most folks don't live in cities; 2) people overeat; 3) people are lazy and; 4) people are stoopid.

On another note, the idea that turkey makes you sleepy is a myth. (Link.)

And while I'm on my anti-American rantlet, here's a Thanksgiving prayer from the late William S. Burroughs.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Hola Argentina! Somos Turistas de los Estados Unidos!

Tango dancers in La Boca barrio.

My lovely wife.

We ate at this cafe.

We rented this car for 70 pesetas but it wouldn't start. Piece of shit ...

Laundry hanging out to dry.

This was the rudest person I met. She wouldn't even give me the time.

The Argentinos love some guy named "Maradona". So much so that his name and face is on everything. Even shot glasses.

This was some drunk fisherman guy. I never even saw him move.

Buenos Aires Dog Walker

This professional dog walker carrying 15 dogs is a common site on Buenos Aires streets. You have to like a culture that loves dogs this much. This is the reason that there is so much "poo poo" all over the sidewalks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ass Fountain or Dry Wipe?

There's a lot of mystery surrounding the above piece of porcelin in our bathrooms. For some reason, it's called a "bidet" but our group has applied a more appropriate name: the ass fountain. There are several dilemmas and misunderstandings that we all have with the ass fountain. Below are our main issues.

- Is one supposed to dry wipe with TP AND use the ass fountain? If so, are you supposed to leave you butt wet for the remainder of the day? A dripping crotch can't be good for the ladies.

- Some ass fountains have a little soap holder. This implies that one is supposed to wash his/her ass with soap with bare hands. Doesn't this defeat the whole point of the ass fountain? I mean, if you're going to rub your bare hands on your unclean ass, it can't be very sanitary.

- How is one supposed to position oneself over the ass fountain? The porcelin edges on top are not ergonomic like the toilet, so it doesn't seem equipped for sitting. Are you supposed to make contact with thigh on porcelin or are you expected to hover while the ass fountain does its business?

Dear creator of the ass fountain: please include instructions, with diagrams, preferrably.

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Few Things I've Learned About Argentina

- They like antiques. Not all cultures have an obsession for ancient things like these people. I've heard that you can't even find antique shops in places like Japan unless you go to a museum. Not so with Argentina. We went to a gi-normous outdoor/indoor market with lots of old relics like the 1920s seltzer bottles pictured above.

- They don't like George Bush. "Argentinos" certainly have no problem with people from the USA (phew), but several people have made it clear that W is "el diablo", as one older cab driver put it.

- They sometimes liken their country to the USA. This has happened twice since we've been here. I think it may be some sort of pride in how well they live compared to the other countries in this region.

- A currency devaluation does not mean the economy is bad. The only other country in South America I've been to was Peru, and believe me, this is NO Peru. This place feels like Europe. There are almost zero beggers or homeless people, unlike much of the rest of this continent.

- Cranberry juice does not exist south of the equator. Don't even think you're going to prepare cosmopolitans for your friends if you come here. BWOCJ in Argentina.

- They love dogs. There are dog walkers everywhere walking 15 to 20 dogs at one time. I'm not exagerrating. This is a significant feat, and I mean that from a dog owner's standpoint.

- If you order steak, that's all you'll get. See below:

Three Hour Dinners, Polo Matches, & Sparkling Wine

I could get used to this country, Argentina. All I've done is lounge around in restaurants, eating steaks the size of my head, watched a polo match, wandered around antique shops, smoked Lucky Strikes, and drank sparkling wine; and I don't think we've broken the $200 mark yet.

The polo match was surprisingly fun. The crowds are very sedate and civilized: no shouting or cheering---just hanging out and watching men and beasts battle each other on lush green grass. Beforehand, we hung out in a white linen tent for two hours getting "ready" for the match by swilling bottles of bubbly. I might as well have 10 days of being bourgeois; I'll never get it back home. You know how right-wingers always say, "If you don't like the US, then leave."? Well, I might just take them up on that.

"El Campo de Polo", right in the middle of the city.

The beasts of the game.

I've felt like this marionette at times.

This'll be me when I'm a 65 year old ex-pat.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

My Life as a Teetotaler is Finally OVER

Here in Buenos Aires, I finally stepped off the wagon at one of the nicest restaurants I've been to. I found it appropriate to quote Jack Nicholson from the Shining upon my first sip of Malbec wine. This (MP3) was my exact toast, just substitute "five months" for "two and a half months". And I was a good boy: I had two glasses of wine and a beer and did NOT get blotto. I promise.

While we're at it, let me tell you about the French restaurant where it occurred. First off, I rarely eat French food when I'm in the USA because of the price. But since we're in Buenos Aires, we decided to find the nicest French restaurant in town and order as much food as we could stuff into our cakeholes. By the looks of the dark wood interior and all the older people dressed up, I'd say it's one of the fanciest places I've ever stepped foot in. And the food was amazing. I found out that the Spanish word, "Mollejas", does not, in fact, mean "mussels", but "sweetbreads" (calf brains); and they turned out to be pretty good. I'll spare all the details, but the best part was that our party of six ordered everything we could: appetizers, two bottles of wine, entrees, desssert, espresso, you name it. And the bill, with tip, came to a total of $33.00 per person.

As Johnny Rotten said, "A cheap holiday in other people's misery."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Open City, Open for Bidness

Open City restaurant/bar/cafe, which opened two days ago and is located at the corner of Connecticut & Calvert in Woodley Park, is the third in the Tryst & Diner (T/D) line. The owner, Constantine Stavropoulos, clearly has a refined eye for restaurant design because he pays attention to the details. I've always loved the ceilings in his places. I hate restaurants that look great, but looking upwards reveals saggy, brown-stained office tiles. In this sense, Stavropoulos has cut no corners.

The coffee is the same as T/D, which is arguably the best in the city. The menu has the standard Diner-type selections, but they've tried to combine all the best from T/D so it's more of an any-time-you-want stopping point. I suppose all their food is as good as the T/D varieties. My only complaint is that their "Classic Martini" lists Grey Goose vodka as the main ingredient. Are there no standards in this world? A classic martini must be a gin martini. A fictional person, James Bond, was the one who created the vodka martini as recent as the 1960s; but the gin-based cocktail had been around since the late 19th century and was created by real humans. But that's a rantlet for another post ...

The upshot is that I can now walk to 161 places to eat or drink instead of 160. Seeing how much business T/D have, I expect my neighborhood's 161st to be around far longer than the prior 160 try-hards.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

It still amazes me that people sit in traffic for hours every day.

I drove up to Maryland during rush hour tonight. It's been a while since I've had to do that, and every time, I'm reminded that this miserable little world even exists---stopping, going, stopping, creeping onward, to and fro, back and forth, day in, day out, all over the world---surrounding all cities ... for HOURS each day.

What drudgery. Isn't this a quality of life issue for people?---draining the souls of the commuting classes? Who would choose that? Obviously millions upon millions. People consciously choose to live in places that force them to live in a boring-ass, back-and-forth Abu Ghraib on four wheels. Thank god my commute lasts 15 minutes on two wheels (smug tone in my voice).

Sheesh. I really need a vacation. I'm starting to sound negative. Thank god the plane for Buenos Aires departs in about 22 hours.

Monday, November 14, 2005

"The roughest, toughest race on the planet."

It's barely two days into the Volvo Ocean Race and sailing has proven to be the most hardcore sport in the world. Just a few snipets:

- Three yachts---including the USA boat, Pirates of the Carribean---have been battered so bad they had to head to Portugal for in port repairs. Only four yachts remain in race, heading from Spain to Cape Town South Africa.

- One navigator said that their boat was stopped in the water and crew members were in the water cutting away ropes from the keel.

- A skipper reports a fire on board.

- Brasil 1’s navigator emails that, “Within hours of the start we were in 20-30 knots of wind, harnesses on, as the boat started to take off at speeds of up to 30 knots down steep waves. Last night we had a few squalls of up to 40 knots and the sea was very rough, six to seven metres, so sleeping and eating was almost impossible."

- Two crewmembers of one yacht got swept along the cockpit with so much force that they took out the steering wheel, steering pedestal and the safety frame.

- Another sailor emails, “Just got called up half way through writing this with a 46 knot squall!!! Am just now back in the navigation station, four hours later after getting the reacher down, getting it packed and stacked, getting the new sail up and then frantically bailing out the back of the boat, where we have a hole in the deck where the steering pedestal has ripped off... This is seriously hardcore..."

In addition, the only thing they can eat is freeze-dried gruel and they only sleep in two to three hour stints. Makes my day sailing to Thomas Point Lighthouse and back seem like child's play.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Volvo Ocean Race Starts Tomorrow

This'll be the first time I've followed an around-the-world sailing race and I'm so damned excited. I've been trying to keep up with all the info about boats, skippers, statistics, crew, etc, but it's a bit overwhelming. One thing that blows my mind is that all the competition yachts are 70 feet long, and can sail at a max speed of 30 knots! That's about 40 miles an hour! I can't imagine trying to control a yacht that size at that speed. One minor disappointment is the USA's yacht, the Black Pearl. I mean, I liked the Pirates of the Caribbean as much as the next guy, but it's just wrong that Disney is sponsoring something as hardcore and genuine as a sailing circumnavigation. That pisses me off.

Throughout the whole race I can keep daily tabs on what's happening, even if they're in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The race will definitely get me through winter, and in April '06, they're stopping in Annapolis and Baltimore so maybe I'll get to swill champagne with Paul Cayard.

Sailing harkens back to days of yore, when the sea was treacherous and uncharted, and a sailing yacht was the only vehicle that could conquer it. Not sure what I'm talking about? This photo explains it:

Yea, you got it ...

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Evolved for a Suburban Living Room

Humans are animals. We're products of evolution as much as the giraffe and the coelacanth. Designed by millions of years of evolution to use our brains to cope with the enviroment around us, all humans should be adapted to combat some of the harshest assaults on our bodies and intellects the earth can throw at us. That fact is the reason why I am constantly nonplussed at the way many humans look.

More than 30% of the strangers I see every day look as though they have evolved directly to be able to merely survive in the environment of a suburban living room, office or automobile---but nothing else. Not to be cruel, but why the hell do so many people look like pure-bred doughy-ass, milk-fed pussies? How does evolution explain this? We're all products of nature, so why has nature created so many useless pieces of waddling flesh?

Like the bunny rabbit or the three-toed sloth, much of humanity makes absolutely no survivalist sense.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Chesapeake Bay Photo Contests

Below are three of my photos that I've submitted to two separate Chesapeake Bay photo contests.

A Mennonite fisherman hauls a 329 pound mako shark at the Ocean City Fishing Center in Maryland.

Fisherman Bruce Johnson determines the species of a catfish he caught on the Potomac River. He tells me that the catfish looks wasted away for its size. Bruce has a master's degree in channel catfish.

A blue crab scuttles along a pier in Mayo, Maryland.

Who knows if they'll choose any of mine, but top prize is $500!

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Culture of Empire and the Irish Potato Famine

No famine has ever occurred in a democracy. More proof of that is the Irish potato famine, which people usually describe as just having "happened", instead of being the result of 50 years of British undemocratic rule and exploitive economic policy. While reading the Wikipedia page about the famine, I came across an eerie line:
"Even today, such crises tend to be far away from centers of power such that the subjects of empire, almost by definition, are of distant cultures, languages and religious beliefs. Within the imperial culture, the reportage of a crisis among its subjects more often uses dismissive and dehumanizing terms, and treats otherwise urgent matters with little relevancy or interest."
The United States has an empire that is unprecedented. Its elephantine bureaucracy and military have become so cumbersome and overextended that it's only possible to serve the most narrow of interests.

Re-read that quote. I think it hints at many things to come, and many things past.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Captain Kidd Adventures

Today I got an email from my friend, Ian, who lives in southeast Asia and maps landmines for a living. Occasionally, he'll send me random emails, trying to rope me into some odd adventure or other. His most recent urgings have been some of the best.

Ian's Proposal: He claims that he and his friend have found maps that lead to Captain Kidd's lost treasure, and he wants me to join their hunt for it. He sends a long chain of emails between he and his friend, followed by the following maps:

Ian writes:
"I would assume that the only way any treasure could remain hidden is if it is buried very deep. Last night I was schmoozing with the Australian director of a large Bulgarian gold mining concern. He has access to magnet survey equipment. He is quite interested. I know an organization that has large loop two-man metal detectors (which could be used to detect anti-tank mines about 1-2 meters down if the soils are not too ferrous "iron rich")."
The best part of all this is that he's really not kidding. If he had others willing to get involved, he would drop everything and get to it. I've seen him do it before.

Hmmm ... I wonder what's buried in that "cache site" ...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

"Pushed Out"/"White Flight"

How come when poorer black residents have to leave a neighborhood it's called "being pushed out" while when richer white residents have to leave a neighborhood it's called "white flight"?

Certainly the riots of the late 60s and resulting poverty pushed out richer, white residents. It wasn't fair; they were forced out. Surely they had to leave their communities behind, and all that unfortunate stuff. But "white flight" is always used in a pejorative sense. And what about the richer blacks that left with the whites in the late 60s? No doubt, it happened, but it's somehow absent from the modern discourse on the subject.

Now, poorer black residents seem to be fleeing higher property taxes and rents. It could be properly called "black flight", right?

This could all be a confused rant that blurs the line between class and race, but nonetheless, it shows that many terms are loaded or euphemized to a degree to render them useless.

Just a thought.

Update: Mari says, "Because a- for the poor alternatives tend to be few and crappy & b- deciding when you are going to move and picking a place is far different than having an eviction crew put your stuff out.

Yes, there isn't much in the way of black flight because how do you measure it and separate it from normal movement? I guess one could track all the black doctors and lawyers who used to live in Shaw and figure out where they may have relocated. But who is to say they didn't move out cause the mizzuz wanted a driveway for her car?"
Thanks, Mari. Good points, all of them.

Archipelago: Portraits of Life in Hawaii

Just got back from an amazing lecture and photographic slide show at National Geographic headquarters.

They showed hundreds of portrait-like close-up photos of all the spectacular wildlife on a handful of atolls in the northwest island chain of Hawaii. These atolls are not open to visitors. In fact, Nat. Geo. photographers had to go through a year-long process to obtain permission from NOAA to visit most atolls---a process that included only being able to wear soft, brand new clothing that had gone through a freezing process in order to prevent introducing new and unwanted species to the islands.

It blows my mind that there is that much life that will only be seen by human eyes a couple of times, ever. In many cases, there were species that existed on a 65 acre atoll, and nowhere else on earth. But it's not immune to human impact. They showed several slides of beaches strewn with washed up human garbage---plastic lighters, buoys, bottles, etc. The birds accidentally feed their chicks some of that plastic and they end up dying. Other than that somewhat tragic fact, it really makes you realize how enormous and untouched the earth is, and how lucky I am that I live in a city where I can bike eight minutes and see such a thing for only five bucks.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Death to Bike Thieves

Anyone whose bike has been stolen has felt like the flyer below. I saw this photo a few days ago and since then I keep re-reading it. It somehow makes me feel vicariously vindicated for wrongs done to me. I just can't wait 'til someone in Buenos Aires pickpockets me and ends up with my dummy wallet. That'll make my day.

Posted in public, somewhere in Portland, OR:

photo by

I love the line that goes, "My God the fucking of your shit that will ensue."

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

My Favorite Nautical Quotes

To prepare myself for winter, I redesigned my sailing blog and added a list of nautical quotes at the bottom. I searched the internet for hours on Sunday and these sum up my sailing philosophy best.

"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails". -- William Arthur Ward

"Men go back to the mountains, as they go back to sailing ships at sea, because in the mountains and on the sea they must face up." -- Henry David Thoreau

"He that will not sail till all dangers are over must never put to sea". -- Thomas Fuller

"There is little man has made that approaches anything in nature, but a sailing ship does. There is not much man has made that calls to all the best in him, but a sailing ship does." -- Allan Villiers

"A small craft in an ocean is, or should be, a benevolent dictatorship". -- Tristan Jones

"Confronting a storm is like fighting God. All the powers in the universe seem to be against you and, in an exraordinary way, your irrelevance is at the same time both humbling and exalting". -- Franciose LeGrande

"Bad cooking is responsible for more trouble at sea than all other things put together". -- Thomas Fleming Day

"Any damn fool can navigate the world sober. It takes a really good sailor to do it drunk". -- Sir Francis Chichester

"Only two sailors, in my experience, never ran aground. One never left port and the other was an atrocious liar." -- Don Bamford

"One of the best temporary cures for pride and affection is seasickness". -- Henry Wheeler Show

"There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes". -- Old Norwegian Adage

"The sea---this truth must be confessed---has no generosity. No display of manly qualities---courage, hardihood, endurance, faithfulness---has ever been known to touch its irresponsible consciousness of power." -- Joseph Conrad

"Wind is to us what money is to life on shore". -- Sterling Hayden

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