Friday, December 23, 2005

An Ode to Breakfast, Sugar and Tasty Treats

I don't understand folks who don't or won't eat breakfast. This was't really an issue for me until I started eating breakfast in lieu of dinner (that is, I had breakfast at breakfast time but I also had what one might classify as breakfast at dinner time). My appreciation for breakfast food has grown 2x fold now, of course. Just this week I've had home-made pancakes twice (for dinner), eggs, cinnamon toast, etc. What's not to like?!

How can the general populous not want to consume something as tasty as eggs and salsa, pancakes, or sugary cereal? We're talking about 250,000,000 Americans of whom 35% are obese because they sit on their fat asses all day and eat candy and complain that exercise is too hard. But they won't eat a bowl of frosted flakes?!?

I mean hell, the health sites are all saying you should eat breakfast to lose weight. The cereal industry even changed the names of their cereal to make it sound more appealing to those poor sugar-fearing souls. Sugar Smacks became Honey Smacks.

What the hell world do we live in? What's scary to me is that people are actually FOOLED! They think the cereal actually has less sugar in it or is better for you because the "Honey" version says it has 8 essential vitamins. For craps sake people, do you think some crazed magical bees came and put a special antioxidant pollen into your specific box of cereal? It's still sugar, it's still from Kellogg's, and it still tastes fucking great. Eat up America!

But lo and behold, that's NOT the only change in the cereal aisle. How about Post's brilliant marketing campaign to take the guy named SUGAR BEAR and change his pride and joy cereal, "Super Sugar Crisp" to "Golden Crisp".

I'm not fooled. The Sunmaid raisin lady did not sanction this cereal with her special golden powers and the bear still looks like he's so jacked up on sugar he's ready for a few cases of the new Coffee-based Coke.

The question becomes: are the American people scared of breakfast because the sugar cereal characters are actually crazed lunatic ax-murderers? If so, why is it ok to feed the cereal to their children but not for themselves? Come on people, get with the program. Eat your sugary breakfast and be happy. Doesn't it beat starving until 10am and then giving in to that urge to eat a Snicker's bar?

But I stray from my original point. Breakfast is a necessity. Make some time in your day for 1 week straight to eat breakfast. Challenge yourself. Don't you feel better? Your metabolism gets going, the juices start flowing and the body comes alive. No need to skip that morning coffee if you're one of the millions of caffeine addicts out there.

If you're feeling really spunky, make yourself some scrambled eggs. It takes approximately 90 seconds longer than getting out a bowl, milk, spoon and cereal and tastes just as good. Toast up an english muffin. Even the frozen waffle section of the grocery store has some lucrative offerings these days. Blueberry, banana, even chocolate.

Really, if you're going to eat that donut at the office then why are you fretting about a chocolate Eggo?! As in all things, routine and moderation. If there's one thing I've learned in my 3+ decades on this planet it's that the Spaghetti Monster wants to help you. With his noodly appendage he has created breakfast and therefore you should take advantage of the fruits of His labor.

Save The Kittens

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

eight To four Every Day

So am I used now?
a permanent scar
finding just bitter
in the sweetness of war
See we shot the wad
dumped the load
nothing but blanks
kissing the toad
damaged goods here
complacent and bored
brain's not thinking
the squash is gored
cockles and mussels
it's all up for sale
highest bidder
leaves the taste stale
so leave now please
before it gets bad
and the money goes too
with the sanity I had
you see I'm not really worthy
of those things you say
I'm as lazy as the next one
lately bored of play
all those smiles you flash
the sly-fox tooth grin
just makes me delay
a loss with a win
so call me a pessimist
that's given into fate
but i say i'm a optimist
who crashed the iron gate
i tried driving forward
tried 'making the best'
but all i'm now feeling
is i'm under house arrest
how long can i read
the stories of the world
and not be out living
becoming unfurled
it's been a great ride here
please don't get me wrong
but i'm not really grateful
i worked for this long
and don't look for thanks
or cheery goodbyes
or hopeful engagements
or false starts and tries
no, no, i'm done now
i've had quite enough
and i'm ready for life again
not this substitute stuff
i'm feeling quite sick
on a near daily basis
and it makes me sad
to review my current stasis
here i go now, here i go
i won't sit here anymore
i'm getting up and leaving
i'm opening up the door
i'm putting my first foot through
put back what i'd borrowed
and here goes the rest of me,
so... I'll see you tomorrow.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

An Open Letter to Those Who Cause Anxiety

I have the following helpful suggestions for anyone out there who's judging anybody else. In no particular order:
  • I'm not embarassed by my life so don't try to cause me to doubt because you're insecure. If you cause others to be ashamed, you know who you are.
  • I'll make what I like and do what I want and you can enjoy it or kiss my small, fuzzy white ass.
  • Don't take what others like because you know they like it; especially the last one.
  • And don't eat all the and put the box back in the pantry. That's rude. And it's passive-aggressive.
  • Learn to relax. Lay down on the ground and close your eyes and stay there for 5 minutes.
  • Learn to drink just 1. Learn to smoke just 1. Learn to eat just 1. Learn to... you get the point.
  • Be gluttonous if you want but don't complain about it afterward.
  • If you see someone taking a nap let them rest. They probably know something about peace of mind that you don't.
  • Go fly to the other side of the world, come back and re-think whatever hypocritical bullshit enters your mind.
  • Make your own life. Make your OWN life. Make YOUR OWN LIFE! MAKE YOUR OWN LIFE! Stop stealing mine. Stop stealing OURS. Stop stealing theirs.
  • Still not happy? Seek a professional. That's not a date. That's not a boyfriend or girlfriend. That's not a spouse. That's not even a good friend. It's a therapist. Deal with it.
  • Long-term self-pity will get you nowhere. It's good for a day of cathartic healing. It's good for a week of cathartic healing. It's not a lifestyle. Think again.
  • You have value and are capable of contributing to the universe as a whole if you give it some effort. We all are.
  • Thanks for anything you do that's thoughtful.
  • Take up Transcendental Meditation rather than Person-to-Person Aggravation.
  • Watch less television. You'll feel better. You'll be more educated. You'll learn how to live life. You'll probaly also be less violent, more focused and generally a better person.
  • Exercise more and complain less and you'll be happier. Remember when you were little and your Mom said something like "what's gotten into you? Go run around the block"? Take that under consideration literally.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Observations Of A Day During Mad Mahattan's Hectic Holidays

More fur coats than you can imagine. More than a 1860's mountain-man trading post in western Oklahoma. More than a 1920's glorified movie. More than we, in sunny California, imagine that society has the gall to bare.

Rich, chocolate Godiva cocoa. Steaming in my hands as the snowflakes fall like frozen confetti. It's warmth surrounds me; my liquid-brown shield against the unfamiliar elements of winter.

Blue and black Sanford & Son t-shirt that wasn't in my size. It said, "You Big Dummy" and had Red Foxx's head on it.

Men in suits, men in street clothes, men in all forms of attire. And all trying to look so 'chic' by not wearing hats. Men without hats. It's 23 degrees, fellas, time to give up on the perfect hair.

Woman on the subway, jolly, happy, leans on the upright pole taking a break from a happy day in the big city. But that ass. It extends 5" out from her sacrum and leaning into the pole just accentuates its extreme size. And now another. A pudgy white woman with an ass the size of a small metropolis. What is it about Manhattan? As I sat in the office kitchen for breakfast she piled her plate with pasty. As I sat in the office kitchen for lunch she waddled in with McDonalds. As I walked through during the "2pm Snack Break" she was eating an ice cream sundae. It's not for lack of taste. What aspects of this life can we control and which aspects can we not?

Old woman with a red dress on the #3 Express train heading south. Flaming red dress, black wool coat, and a green hunting cap with animal fur ear flaps. And she looked regal. Ready for the cold of winter. Ready to walk 10 blocks from the subway down the frozen streets of Brooklyn. Ready for another evening in the city.

The shining, bright, clean and crisp Maserati dealer next to the Maybach dealer next to the Ferrari dealer next to the Mercedes dealer on Park Ave just north of mid-town. Surreal but reminiscent of this society's focus.

"45 and a Bullet" at Floyd off Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn. A Colt 45 beer and a shot of Jack Daniels or Wild Turkey.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Pulling Your Brain Muscle

When I was assumed to be not paricularly bright recently it occured to me that all of us, in our professions, at some time or another, make an assumption that one of our fellow 'peers' is not the swiftest knife in the drawer. Sometimes those assumptions prove correct, but other times they are far from it.

On this particular occassion an instructor of a technical training course essentially ignored my pleas for help when a particular technology was not functioning correctly in a lab. Normally, I could see why he ignored me. After all, most of the time I'm sure that his students asking questions during lab are the same ones that are supposed to be 'computer professionals' but can't install Microsoft Word. But in this case, he was wrong. I've been fixing computers since I went to my Aunt and Uncle's house in 1987 and fixed their Mac 512ke. I'm a geek at heart and love the systems. So if something seems 'off' to me it's usually because it is. I'm not saying I'm always right. Far from it. Nor am I implying that I can fix every computer problem. But to say that I would take the time out of my day to say something is dead wrong when it's really not? Not bloody likely.

So the teacher eventually was proven wrong and a solution was found and the class moved forward. No harm, no foul. I certainly didn't blame him. But a few hours afterward I realize that the flaw is usually within the accuser. I know that I often make false assumptions about 'end-users' that I help. And I also happen to teach Yoga and make assumptions about a practitioner's ability to, say, concentrate on breath or be as strong as their minds have the capability to be. And often I'm proven wrong. Even more so, I'm usually the one with the 'fault'. Why just this morning after a solid yoga practice the prior afternoon I awoke and promptly stretched and yawned in such an idiotic manner that I pulled a major muscle in my back. And then this evening I had such a good practice, despite the pain, that I was the 'class demo'. Amazing.

Perhaps the answer is that some of us are wrong and some of us are right and some are skilled and some are not. And you know what? None of us is one of those all the time. We're fundamentally flawed and that's what makes life so wonderfully insane, painful, ecstatic and joyful every minute of every day. You just have to learn to smile when you stretch up your arm to answer the question you know you have the right answer to... and you pull your shoulder doing it. Maybe you've just pulled your brain.

Monday, December 05, 2005


I think perhaps New Yorkers just don't understand how incredible it is that places like Veselka even exist, much less on every corner of New York's Village. In a world of bad diners and strip mall clubs it's amazing to visit NYC just to taste some of the thousands of privately-owned, tasty and unique restaurants.

Veselka is unique. A world unto itself serving "xmas borscht", kielbasa that's not greasy, beets, cabbage and pierogi's. And that's 1/20th of the menu. And then you can finish with your own personal pumpkin pie? Did I mention you can stuff yourself for about $15? Just kill me and send me to Ukrainian heaven!

Did I mention it all tastes good? This is a world where the 2nd Ave Deli is just steps away and people think nothing of it. Attention people of New York: visit the Olive Garden one day and then Subway the next. Then meditate on that for a while and smile at how fortunate you are! Everyone else: wag your tail and give 'em your best turned-head-glossy-eyed puppy look and see if you can earn a round-trip ticket to New York City.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Put forth your best effort
and what do you get?

'Taint meat on the table
Ain't bacon there in that stable
So you'll have to fulfill yourself

In other ways.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


One day you walk down the street
and a giant sheet
of particle board
ugly and hard
slams you in the face!
End of race.
What a disgrace
you are
a failure.
You've got a worthless tenure
so just drop dead why don't you?

So now you're dazed
and nearly
at your dumb self.
As if
you might have been raised this way,
with that glazed look in your eyes.

Now spies.
They're everywhere. Here and there.
Out to get you. They'll break in. Shhh... quiet. They'll hear.
Is it them again?
Is the key rattle him or her?
Have a beer.
Drop a tear.
You'll feel better.
Put on your favorite sweater and get some fresh air.

Summertime lulls.
Peaks and... dull moments.
Capture in time
snapshot in a mind
that was once clouded.
It's clear, despite the smoke,
that all is
worth saving.
You're amazing. You're the king.
You want to dance and shout and sing
so you do.
Boo! You're back from the smack.
The whack.
Made you whacko.

Baskin' in the glow.

Fall is all about now
so it looks golden and crisp
minus the sugar bear
and without a care
you walk down that same street
unphased now; the power of your own two feet.
Breathin' in the fresh air
powerful but threadbare
and smiling.

Looking to sup
You're but a pup
in a world of old dogs.
Lap it up.
Maybe whacko
but always yourself.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Day of the Sweaty Monkey

Part 1: The Day of a Social Monkey

Have you ever reviewed a day that seemed so simple and in retrospect is anything but? It is my current feeling that I am a complete socialized monkey following a series of motions that are interrupted only by fleeting thoughts or actions involving exercise, yoga and the un-named spice of life. And I think I'm "ok" with that.

  • Awoke at 5am after a restless night of sweaty dreams and cats impeding any comfortable positions
  • Consume Cinnamon Life cereal and read section A, B, C of LA Times.
  • Drove to work to meet with co-worker in the parking lot. Got there early, went inside and finished reading the paper
  • Walked outside 20 minutes later; combined into one car and drove to Los Angeles
  • Traffic
  • Arrived at 7th and Figueroa, went to Starbucks and talked about anything but work. Drink tall Americano. Grinned.
  • Stopped at bank (deposit, withdrawal, minor robbery, etc.)
  • Started working on servers: adding, removing, moving, lifting, installing, configuring, cabling, tunneling.
  • Ponder what a corporate mind-fuck it would be if I were in the office
  • Hungry... eat peanut bar from vending machine because it's the least evil not the most tasty.
  • Phone call #1 about a broken network in Japan
  • Phone call #2 about a broken network in Europe
  • Tear open middle left finger with power screwdriver. Bleed profusely.
  • Phone call #3 about an invoice for something ... blah blah blah
  • Phone call #4 -- when does work get done again?
  • Phone call #5...6, 7...
  • Break for lunch: sushi in a big way
  • Respond to the 6,495,293 emails received during lunch despite being 'off-site' for the day
  • Outgoing call to announce that there's no way to finish all the work so it would continue that night (tonight)
  • Drive home from Los Angeles
  • Got home, throw on running clothes and pant, stumble, limp and sweat your way to freedom -- 5K
  • Arrive home sweaty. Decide to wash car (can you say A-D-R-E-N-A-L-I-N-E ?). Virgo tendencies take over. Must clean outside, inside, rugs... ugh...
  • Car washing complete. Considered laying down but thought better of it. Made lunch for the next day, prepped dinner, and basically got life in order for the next day
  • Record transactions from morning in Quicken
  • Decide that procrastination is not helping; begin the 'evening' work
  • Quit working at 5:30pm to head to yoga
  • 1.5 hrs of absolute lovely Iyengar bliss
  • Mandatory cup of post-yoga herbal tea
  • Drive home to the 'prepped' dinner. Boil water, make pasta, heat sauce, cook fresh sausage.
  • Call beautiful woman and smile at how long this day is
  • Eat dinner, read magazine
  • Come to realization that crosswords are not my forte
  • Resume working. 1 hr. 2 hrs. Finish work. Send massively detailed email after pouring through web code.
  • Brain is fried.
  • Blog
  • Read the latest geek news

Part 2: The Night of a Sweaty Monkey

This part hasn't happened yet but I have amazing ESP so don't doubt me.

  • Shower because I've exercised TWICE today and not yet bathed and I smell like a sweaty monkey
  • Realize that I am a sweaty monkey but even sweaty monkeys like to smell nice
  • Read for 10 minutes before passing out
  • Another night of restless sleep -- what's my deal anyway?
  • Get up, rinse, repeat minus driving to LA, minus two workouts, minus temporary insanity.

Bored yet? Well, who told you to read a log of my day!? Eeeek! Eeeek!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The World is Ending

Well, forget any chances for world peace, folks. This pretty much ends all chances. Personally, bring on the cancer.

Oral sex linked to oral cancer

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Avoiding oral sex is one way to avoid getting cancer of the mouth, Swedish researchers say.

Dentist Kerstin Rosenquist compared 132 cancer patients with a control group of 320 healthy people. Her finding: Thirty-six percent of the cancer group also were infected with the Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV, vs. just 1 percent of the healthy group.

The result is in line with a French study last year, which found that oral cancer patients infected with HPV had three times more oral sex than those who did not have the virus, Swedish Web site The Local reported.

The virus also has been linked to cervical cancer.

While oral cancer is most common in middle-aged men, "in recent years the disease has increased among young people and we don't know why," Rosenquist said.

"We can speculate over whether the virus is one of the factors," she said.

Rosenquist also advised people to visit their dentist regularly to catch oral cancer in its earliest stages.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Triple Shot

Grande Americano on an empty stomach
83 degrees
oh so accomplished and entering the sprint
the race is on
brain vs. heart
both executing their respective duties so authoritatively
with no desire to slow down
pumping and processing

If your standard race
has one starting gun
then this one
has three

How lovely to crave
raw human emotion.
The desire...
when were we
last driven
by something
other than ego?
It's recommended in
The Big Book of Real Life

Now the caffeine creates two
side effects
one is a stomach churning --
we'll live with that.
the other is
a false sense
of extraordinary clarity

not to say
we're blinded
right now
but perhaps
that last ride
on the carousel
made us dizzy,
just maybe.

so we work;
use those digits so
and choose
to be optimistic
that when the speed
(within reason)
all will be
as it should be.

cheers to that.
and stay off the decaf.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Life in the Kitchen

It was that bottle of Pepe Lopez "Silver" that your friends polished off with such zeal for life.

The 'to-die-for' Lasagna that came as some kind of divine inspiration.

Or maybe that one talk that saved your relationship

The phone call that made you feel 17 again as you sat on the kitchen counter and smiled and giggled and felt the butterflies.

Perhaps the Drunken Viking looking confused but cheery and toasting as the background of friends created some new martini concoction.

Conversing with Parents. Grandparents. Children. Partners. Spouses.

Cleaning after a dinner party, a small gathering, a SuperBowl fiesta, a seder. Working alongside another in close quarters and distracting each other from the reality of the chore with smiles and conversation.

Making sausages, red bits flying around like some distorted home-makers meat packing plant ala Martha Stewart.

Baking cookies. Thinking of Mom.

Frying eggs. Thinking of Dad.

Cooking up the future. Creating life.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Monkey Land

I pledge my allegiance to the united monkey frontier.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Evil Carousel, Pleasant Carousel

It's my belief that the carousel is evil. Before you accuse me of being un-American or just downright nuts think about the carousel's you've seen in your lifetime. Do the 'artists' who create this monsters of amusement understand that tigers do not always bear their fangs and horses should not have dilated pupils and bared choppers? Why can't the animals be... well, regular animals. Do we really want to subject our children to a rabid panda bear leper colony escapee?

At the Irvine Spectrum this past weekend I saw a carousel which defined all that is wrong with society. Call me a social pariah if you will but the "Carnie Code" of legend really applied here. The masks on the swirling rooftop were something out of a twisted Greek-tragedy-meets-Bride of Chuckie context. The animals looked as though they were running, desperately and with a look of deathly fear, from the Island of Dr. Moreau. And the children on the carousel (granted, there were only two because the remainder were likely eaten alive by one of the more ferocious animals) looked fearful. No, not happy. Fearful.

So I'm doubting the whole concept. But what else is new? It's a world where men are trained to kill by an administration who believes the 10 Commandments should adorn our courthouses ("Thou Shall Not Kill" ring a bell?). We feed on a soufflé of endangered species and wonder why we don't sleep well at night without the crickets singing us to sleep.

But at the pinnacle of it all is the knowledge that we can change the very ferocious nightmare that haunts each and every individual with the blink of an eye. Simple action yields simple happiness. We're just monkey people after all. The whole shabang yields to pleasant vibrations with a smile that's true, a warm embrace, a reassuring touch, or a deep kiss. And afterward, ride the carousel to the other side one more time and see if it looks a little more inviting. Sing on Brother, play on drummer.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Tales of the Sea

Crazy tales from the sea in today's LA Times I wanted to share because they're plain old whacky. And who doesn't need more wackiness in their life?

Pirates Attacking Cruise Ships! What the hell year is it again?

200-lb fish on a Southern California Highway?

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Wardrobe of Wines
I opened my wardrobe this afternoon to throw on some clothing before hosting a small dinner party. Lo and behold there were 3 bottles of wine staring back at me. I stood for a moment, dumbstruck. It wasn't for knowledge of HOW the wine got there. I'm well aware and it's a story I'd rather not recount at this point. Hidden from a time I thought I had long since cleared from my mind. Just goes to show that a welcome surprise can come from the least likely source. In a view that could be looked at as happy or sad the wine is most definitely worth more than the wardrobe itself. Probably more than the clothes as I've not been shopping on Rodeo Drive lately. I just smiled and laughed aloud at how silly life is. There are few pleasures in life as wonderful as being profoundly shocked by providence.

So I opened one of the bottles for dinner. A lovely red table wine from Mayo vineyards in Sonoma. Tannins linger on the tongue not overwhelming the palette but present enough to say, "Thanks for taking me from the wardrobe!" Along with my homemade lasagna (courtesy of a slightly modified new Cooking Light recipe) and a finish of truffle brownies it was a perfect accompaniment.

Lovely finish to a day where I cleaned the sinks, vacuumed cat litter and endured 3 hours of Iyengar yoga and came out feeling splendid.

Friday, November 04, 2005

TV Pizza Joint

Just 24 hours ago I found myself in a bit of a quandary: what does one do to fill the time between work, a bit of psycho-analysis and teaching yoga? A common situation. So common in fact that the answer immediately came to me: eat.

Of course, eating is the answer to almost all issues in life. The other common answer is exercise. The 3rd most common is recreational drug use, however I felt that smoking a bowl of crack was not the answer to this particular dilemma. So eat it was.

I entered what was, on the outside, a newly built brick-oven pizza place. The last time I had brick-oven pizza I was on a date in Washington, DC and I remember only one particular thought: at my salary level at the age of 23 (at the time mind you) I really shouldn't be buying beer at $6/glass. But what the hell.

Well, the salary issue no longer being the chief player I sauntered up to the counter and ordered the house special pizza (personal size despite the temptation to take some home in lieu of actually cooking something healthy for the next 2 nights). It wasn't until I sat down that I realized I was in the most disturbing of environments.

Every table had it's own 10" flatscreen television and a remote hooked to a cord (lest we give into the temptation to steal white 9-button remote controls from pizza restaurants across the country!). And at each table were children. Drooling. Watching TV and mindlessly stuffing pizza into their oversized American mouths. A very scary scene I tell you! Something out of a badly written "Brave New World" but without Aldous Huxley's brilliant futuristic vision. This was very much stuff in a "Year 2005 Pizza Place with No Taste" atmosphere. It was worse than "Jaws" and "The Ring" combined.

I'm not so sure that the children themselves, or even this false feed (TV feed, fat feed, brain-wash feed) frenzy was to blame. Worse than them by far were the hideous parents. One couple actually put their 4 children at their own "booth" to argue over which channel to watch as they sat at a high table on bar stools. This was Thursday night. Time for family bonding. Discussing the latest at school. And here they had absolved themselves of responsibility for FOUR children. All to be fed a healthy dose of pepperoni and Disney channel.

Another Mother saw an open booth (it was quite crowded... of course, who wouldn't want to be in on the scene?!) and encourage her child to quickly hasten toward to the open spot to gain the table. Then she looked at me and said, "It's got it's own TV!" as if proud of her ability to separate herself from the situation. After ordering she praised her daughter for so quickly obtaining her spot at the booth. "Good work," she said.

I could sit here, midnight Saturday morning preparing myself mentally for tomorrow's intense yoga workshop, and analyze the situation further. But it seems to really speak for itself. Need there be further commentary from this peanut gallery? I think not. But I'll let you order some pizza and watch some tube while you think it over.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Cruisin' the Yangtze in the Land of Strange Meats

Having landed back in the USA I reflect back now on the Great Chinese Adventure and think to myself, "Well, that was a learning experience." It feels strange to return to a world where everyone can communicate without excessive confusion.

I have now eaten nothing but salad or vegetables (ok, I admit I had a ham sandwich but I love pork products so give me a break) since my return just to 'flush' my system of the fried goop I was somewhat 'forced' to consume.

The last days of the trip were extremely busy. Shopping for bargains in the markets of Shanghai (Yang Xiang -- sounds like a Chinese rock band!) and tasting the virtual limitless amount of teas available in the local shops.

Of course, the biggest piece of the journey was the river cruise up the Yangtze River. The Yangtze winds through the 3 gorges which are most definitley breathtaking. And where the cruise was a bit slow (never been on a cruise before and though this was a river cruis I don't plan another anytime soon) activity-wise the scenery was absolutely astounding. I kept busy the rest of the time doing yoga (it felt very Chinese), reading and playing Chinese checkers. When in Rome...

So I come back a man richer for the experience and poorer for having purchased 3 oil paintings, a new carry-on suitcase, some tea, cashmere sweaters and candles. All in the name of contributing my part to the 9.5% yearly growth of China's GDP. Given the conversion rate I think the country of China actually owes me money at this point rather than vice versa. I'll keep my eyes peeled on my Visa statement for the line item that says, "Credit from People's Republic of China -- Thank you, please come again".

I could go on and on describing the randomness of this country but I have photos to put up that should pretty much speak for themselves showing the beauty of the country. And in 20 years when the Mongolian BBQ Goat has faded from my memory I'm sure that the ideals of a gorgeous Fall trip to the Eastern cities and Western Yangtze will remain.

Monday, October 24, 2005

An Open Letter to the China Bureau of International Tourism

To Whom It May Concern at the China Bureau of International Tourism,

I am currently on vacation in your country and thought, given your focus on improvement for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, it might be helpful to you to receive a letter from an 'outside' perspective about what I've found most wondrous and most disturbing during my travels here thus far. Please take the following suggestions with a grain of salt.

1) Cheap and abundant massage is a good thing. I believe the fact that I got a head, back and shoulder massage for 30 minutes followed by a foot massage for 30 minutes for a total cost of $7 USD is a definite winner. Keep up the good work.

2) Dehyrdrated bengal tiger paw from a decrepit street vendor is not an item that most westerners are actively seeking. Perhaps a slight curb on the use of endangered animals as 'street fare' would be recommended prior to the Olympic games?

3) Ability to purchase 15 DVD's for $10, cashmere sweaters for $10, and freshwater pearls for pennies on the dollar is truly astounding. Thumbs up to that.

4) Beijing Zoo needs some work. The pandas look bored and overpampered.
Note: Perhaps start in the small mammals section. I believe you will find most westerners offended at the fact that you have four gorgeous white artic foxes in a cement cage measuring 3' x 3'. Also, you may want to reduce the urine smell from that area prior to the Olympics as well.

5) Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City are every bit as magnificent as I thought. All are absolute monuments to mankind and the country of China in their own right and I think your spending $3 billion Yuan (RMB) to rennovate these great areas prior to the games is paying off. Good work communist party!

6) It's come to my attention you might be beating down some religious groups with extreme physical violence if they don't agree with your views. Hint: maybe not such a good idea for international relations.

7) Love the Jasmine tea. However some westerners do find it possible to drink more than one glass of liquid at a time. I will provide some examples of what it is possible to have on the table in Europe or the USA: Water and Tea. Tea and Beer. Water and Beer. Beer and Water. Water, tea and beer. Water, tea, beer and wine. Wine and water. Etc. Etc. Please look into this matter as thus far we seem to be limited to one item exclusively.

8) Local Chinese restaurants should be given priority for feeding visitors to your country. They are much tastier than the 'tourist' spots and cheaper too.

Our fried salty prawns and spicy peas last night that we chose by pointing to pictures in a menu were considerably better than the pre-chosen menu of sweet and sour mystery meat and bok choy that we had for lunch with the tour. I would be happy to create a guide for you based on the following criteria:
a) The less English in the restaurant garners higher star ratings
b) The more heads and tails on the food garners higher star ratings
c) Eyeballs on the food garners higher star ratings
d) Availability of multiple beverages garners higher star ratings

I know this seems opposite to western sensibilities but I think if people are exposed to items a-d they will see the light. The restaurant 100 meters from our Beijing hotel gets 5 stars based on the above. There is no English, everything is whole, everything looks at you, you can get beer and tea and it's absolutely lip-smacking delicious.

I won't burden you with further insights into the small items I've encountered (ex: older Chinese ladies climb the Great Wall and then find they can't get down) as I'm sure you can sort them out for yourself.

Thanks for taking my suggestions into consideration and the best of luck to you in the coming 2 years preparing for these great Olympic Games! If I had cable I'd surely watch on TV, but alas, I do not.


Gary Penn
US Citizen and fan of China
Author of "My Food Is Looking At Me: A Star Rating Guide to Obtaining the Best Cuisine in China, Bar None"

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Everything Name Here Has the Letter "X" In It

On a recent sunny Fall afternoon in the streets of Beijing, a young man made a keen observation that seems worth repeating. "Every phrase, restaurant, sign and street name here has an 'X' in it," the man said. That'll do pig, that'lldo.

Sitting here among the somewhat-lacking-in-grandeur buildings of Beijing I can't help but think to myself, "Self, what was this place like BEFORE they started 'fixing it up' for the Olympic Games 2008?" Truly this place is a world apart from Shanghai. The buildings are run-down, the people noticeably poorer, the pace slightly slower. And yet, we're still speaking about China. In a country of 1.3 billion people (most of them in cities), there are... well, a lot of Chinese people speaking Chinese. Also of note is that the people still seem generally wanting to help and aiming to please. Maybe it's the 100 Yuan bill talking (it's worth all of $12 USD but it stretches a loong way here) or maybe they actually want to help. Hard to tell but I'm taking the optimistic approach and picking the former. And where the city is 'older' than Shanghai at least there is culture within the city aside from shopping. We spent the morning and afternoon at the Emperor's (and Empress's more importantly) Summer Palace. An IMMENSE palatial estate that dwarfs any of the temples in Japan in size and scope but not in physical state (note: it IS under re-construction for the Olympics).

Identity-wise, this IS China. We're talking rows upon rows of restaurants and they all serve the same food (one guess for you what type of food it is). But that's not a bad thing. It's just China. And that speaks volumes when you see the people who move about this country daily. They are a world unto themselves. Seemingly trapped in a time-warp for 40 some-odd years and then suddenly thrust into the throws of westernized capitalism in the last 15. An odd mix of not-so-tantalizing and faded photos of "Shrimp with Black Bean" adorn the windows alongside miniature gadgets that claim to play MP3 and MP4. Given a 9% growth in their GDP annually, it would not surprise me if they have MP6 advertised before the rest of the "western" world.

I've sat amongst private family conversations in Lasaunne, Switzerland (before I learned French) where I understood not a word of the flowing French aroundme. I sat just 3 weeks ago in the lovely home of a Dutch family in Hardewijk, The Netherlands where the torrid (and frankly less than beautiful) sound of Dutch left me numb but smiling. And I've sat in many a business meeting listening to Japanese as though it were a bad mockery of Wierd Al Yankovick making light of Asian pop songs. But none of these language barriers are quite as foreign as Chinese. I'm struggling to pronounce the words "Thank You" (Xie Xie in transliteration) but I'm laughing all the way. Does English sound as foreign to the taxi driver as Chinese does to me? And if it does... well, what must he think of German?! And for the love of God, can somebody buy a consonant instead of a vowel? No wonder I can't pronounce anything.

Speaking of German, our hotel is flooded with them. I've come up with two possiblities:
1) There is a popular and timely sauerkraut and wurstli cook-off competition here in the coming days
2) Beijing is a popular tourist destination for Germans
3) A tour company booked a lot of Germans in this hotel

Lastly, massage here is cheap and abundant (more so in Shanghai but here too). Had a nice Thai massage last night at the hotel. Any society offering 60-minutes of massage for $35 is one that I need to return to.

Tomorrow it's the 'official' start of the tour. Up until now it's just been aplay-it-by-ear adventure. So that means Tiananmen Square and the like. Think it's time to go eat more Chinese food.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I thought Buddhism was the way...

Born into Judaism...

I checked yoga's relation to Hinduism...

Found peace in Buddhism...

And settled on Spaghettism

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Romance Novel Spoofs

This is absolutely hilarious. In the midst of a miserable month, this ended it on a bang.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Ready to be done

I'm ready to be done now you see
Don't know what else there is to be
All around burnt and raw inside
Come in, I'll show you, I've nothing to hide.

Hole in my household
No attraction in my life
Slipping on the foothold
Already found a wife
It's all too much, too much to say
I see evangelicals and for them I pray.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Moving to Corona del Mar

It's final. I'm moving to Corona del Mar. Forget about waterfront homes, I'm prepped for a home ON the water. Crazy Germans...

Friday, February 11, 2005

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Two great links

I see so many amusing things that friends pass to me that I decided to start posting them. Here are two great ones:

Fire on the Mountain

Long distance runner, what you standin there for
Get up get out, get out of the door.
Your'e playing cold music on the bar room floor.
Drowned in your laughter and dead to the core.

There's a dragon with matches, that's loose on the town
Takes a whole pail of water, just to cool him down

Fire, fire on the mountain
Fire, fire on the mountain

Almost ablaze, still you don't feel the heat
It takes all you got just to stay on the beat
You say it's a livin, we all gotta eat.
But you're here alone, theres no one to compete

- Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia
- Fire on the Mountain