Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The U.S. Navy Wielded .50 Caliber Guns at Me

You're not going to believe me, but a few days ago I bone-headedly got into a stand-off with Navy men in bullet-proof vests pointing .50 caliber deck-mounted machine guns.

While sailing off Annapolis, Pat and I had spotted an anchored Navy warship and wanted a closer look.

It didn't seem like other boats were afraid to sail near it, so we chose a course just south of the warship's bow. Shortly afterwards, a patrol boat began chugging toward us like a diesel-powered pit bull standing down a wind-powered piss-ant.

We kept drinking our beers and peered through binoculars, not fully understanding what was coming at us.

Navy Patrol Boats normally keep their weapons pointed toward the sky when they're not in use. That's how their boat looked when it started toward us, but as it got within 100 yards, a soldier walked to the bow and lowered the weapon parallel with the water.

Lowered the weapon.

We then realized the gravity of the situation and changed course immediately -- adrenaline pumping in my ears.

Pat managed to snap the above blurry picture when they were closest, before I started screaming to tack. Notice the guy on the bow, holding a gun that's longer than my living room couch (the barrel is off the picture).

It's against the law to sail near a US Navy warship, but I had no idea HOW near that was.

And the US Navy uses plain old force-down tactics when it feels threatened. I had the first Navy Jack flying from my stern, but no matter!

They didn't hail us over the radio. Didn't shout over the bullhorn.

Your United States Navy DOES NOT FUCK AROUND: if you try and steer a course toward one of their vessels, you WILL back down. Unless, that is, you're not scared of dying by a big bullet.

(Here's the anchored warship from afar):

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I want to have a kid.

Today I saw a father gripping his three-year-old son's hand, walking him past a raving crack whore sitting sprawled out on the sidewalk.

The spectacle stopped me in my tracks. I stood there with a smile, watching the dad stiff-armedly lead his young child past this poor woman's bloodshot eyes, scraggly hair and loud, spittle-flying rants. The kid was brave. Didn't cry one drop.

Perhaps a boy's first experience with human social reality?

Perhaps something that shouldn't occur until the young teen ventures into the city for the first time (aged 22).

Regardless, that scene is what the suburbs were built to prevent.

For years I've been on the fence about having a kid, but now I want one. Not because of witnessing that weird scene, but it definitely reinforced what I'd already been thinking.

The Kid Idea has been rolling around my head for a while, so I've been noticing their existence like never before. It's like kids are coming out of the woodwork -- 70% of my neighbors pushing strollers? Damn, where did that come from.

And no, for now -- maybe forever -- I am NOT moving to the suburbs. I swear, in the 30 or so countries I've visited, the USA is the only place where people look askance if you want to raise kids in a city.

I want my kids to understand what the world is truly like, at least before they have sex for the first time. Don't get me wrong, I love the suburbs -- grew up in Loco MoCo -- but how is Playmobile-land going to teach my children anything about crack-crazed hookers? CNN is no substitute for the real thing.

It's either full-on rural countryside, or urban overcrowding for my upcoming family. Swear.

Or, once I actually have the baby, I may relocate to Silver Spring in nine months flat (I wouldn't put it past myself).


Sunday, May 20, 2007

I spent the weekend in Detroit ... Detroit, Texas that is.

I now own a bleached-white cow skull straight from Detroit, Texas -- the place where my father grew up.

He told me it hasn't changed much since the 1940s and '50s. The population is less now (776) but it's still mainly building-less swaths of green trees, scissor-tailed birds and empty storefronts.

I'm not the kind of person who thinks much about his ancestry, but I'm probably the most "native" person you'll meet.

My great great grandmother's first name was Sophronia and was half American Indian -- born in 1850. I know this because I visited her grave stone this weekend. According to records, my bloodline dates back to before the USA was an actual country. Now you know why I hate immigrants so much. (kidding)

"Texas Pride" is what we've all heard, but down there the reality feels more like a type of "National Pride" -- that Texas is its own country.

And it's not hard to purchase a dirt-encrusted cow skull for $7, which now joins the rest of the dead animal parts decorating my apartment.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Kim Jong Il is (apparently) the Son of Partisans

True story:

I lived in a group house in Rockville back in 1997 where we had a shrine to Kim Jong Il, the dictator of North Korea.

Of course, it was set up for ironic effect, but nonetheless it was complete with a scattering of foreign coins, candles and toy fighter jets mounted on tiny plastic airplane stands.

We were amused by the North Korean propaganda my Russian friend Anya smuggled to us for comedic effect, and so we decided to take it to another level with a bona fide shrine.

But now there's youtube for all my North Korean entertainment needs -->

Throughout that video I kept thinking about Christopher Hitchens' new book, God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.

He mentions how god believers and their ideologies are similar to totalitarian belief systems like North Korea's. (He's one of the only journalists to have visited).

I really should read his book, shouldn't I ...

Spending less time in the city ... more time on the water

It's amazing how many people hate the water, dislike hanging out and drinking on boats, and detest leaving the city.

If it were up to me, I'd spend most warm days sailing or putting gear onto the boat.

Today I tested my hardware skills by installing a hard-wired VHF, which hunched me over for hours in a battle against tangles of wires and wrenches.

Every soldered something on a floating vessel? (that's pronounced "sodder"). Manhandling knives and dripping hot metal is how I spent today, and it felt GOOD.

Don't get me wrong, I love clacking bullshit onto this computer, but putting electrical equipment together with my hands is one of my favorite ways to usher in summertime.

And this will pay off. Below is a picture from last week when I flew my sun-damaged spinnaker. My friend Pat was onboard and asked me how I learned to put up a spinnaker. Sailing for Dummies, my friend. That's how.

(Side Note: This is an open invite to all my loyal readers to join me on my sailboat. We can work out the times. You know how to reach me. - LB)

Friday, May 11, 2007

How It Feels to Play a Distorted Guitar at Full Volume (for the Layperson)

It's a shame that most people have never played an electric guitar on full fuzz distortion through an amp that's turned so high that the cops come.

I'll try and convey what it's like to you, the layperson.

When you play a power cord at full volume -- especially the first time it actually sounds GOOD -- there's little else on Earth that feels similar.

I re-visited this phenomenon while listening to the Smashing Pumpkins' album, Gish, with my friend Pat. We both agreed that learning to play the songs from Gish on guitar for the first time was one of the best feelings from our earlier days.

It's a rare exhilaration and power you feel when all the strings are tuned right and you can make it sound half-rhythmic, then put the volume "to eleven", so to speak. I've been trying to figure out how best to describe that feeling to the non-guitar-playing public, and finally came up with a proper analogy.

The only comparable feeling I've experienced in my life was back in 2004 in Cambodia when I fired 30 rounds from a fully automatic AK-47 machine gun at a firing range. Not joking. That's the same feeling. It's a combination of wielding something very loud, very powerful, a tad dangerous, and very annoying to most people in your vicinity. In short, awesomely awesome awesomeness.

So if you're musically disinclined, get yourself to a firing range and go nuts. Either that, or just take some guitar lessons, lazy-ass.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Wondering if I'm no longer left wing ...

Not saying I'm a right-winger, but a few clues (below) lead me to believe I've stepped away from the left, maybe for good.

- It makes me feel good when I hear stories of people getting rich. I also tend to think that when poor countries get rich (like Thailand), it should be applauded (not referred to as "spoiled" as opposed to "unspoiled" paradises like Myanmar).

- I don't think Africa's problems are because of colonialism. I used to get furious debating this topic, but come on, people, it's 2007. You can only blame something that happened decades ago for so long. Plus, I just read that Malaysia and South Korea were at the same level economically as Kenya and Ghana back in the 1950s. Wow.

- I don't think poor South American countries are that way because of CIA coups. Despite what Noam Chomsky tells you.

- If Hilary is nominated by the Democrats, I'm voting Republican for the first time ever.
God, who wouldn't. Does anyone actually like that c-word?

- I'm convinced that the Department of Education is the biggest useless money-suck that's ever existed.
Ok, I'll admit I don't know that much about this issue, but my libertarian friend Matt made a very convincing argument.

- I'm convinced that 95% of free market solutions are better than 90% of government solutions.
This point is as self evident as arguing that the Sun is a star.

- It doesn't bother me that Wal-Mart pays Chinese very little money.
People always stress over this one, but they never bother to find out what $3 per day can buy in China, not in the USA.

- I don't think economic inequality is a problem.
Look around the world and you'll see poor people living next door to the rich. This reality has rarely caused much violence through history. Any example you give is always the exception, not the rule.

- I think immigration policy should be decided by national legislatures, not by those who succeed in crossing international borders illegally.
I'm also fairly convinced that some length of wall on the southern border is a good idea.

- I think all environmentalist doomsday predictions should be looked at skeptically.
Like anything, it should come down to evidence. I'm not saying environmentalists are always wrong, but very often they are. One name: Paul Erlich. Thank you.

Phew! That's a relief to write these down in this public forum. In DC, it can be a risk to voice any of these opinions and not be called a fascist. I hope I still hold enough left wing views to stay out of the right, but it's not looking so good. Because damn, I remember how fun it was to believe that a people's revolution was just around the corner. Ah, those were the days ...

But really, no one gives a fuck what I think.

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