Thursday, September 28, 2006

Gerona, Catalonia

We arrive by plane from Brussels and the place looks just like my original home (San Joaquin Valley, California). Since I speak enough Spanish to get by it feels great to be there. We book a hotel for a couple of nights and then go to the nearest café for dinner. I get the menu…hello!’re not in Spain, you’re in Catalonia…they have their own language, which sounds like Spanish (or Castellano, as they call it) but ALL the words are different. I can’t read a word of the menu and my Spanish isn’t good enough to ask the waiter to translate from Catalan to Spanish. At least the waiter was kind enough to speak Spanish; a lot of the older folks would only speak Catalan. Given the history of the place, they're a bit touchy about their language and culture, rightfully so. Anyway, I’m reduced to pointing and not having a clue what I or the kids are ordering. The entrée comes: an egg, on a bed of rice, topped with ketchup…at least it’s recognizable. I’m thinking this must be some weird dish specific to this café. The next day as we're walking through this fantastic medieval city, I notice the entrées lined up at the café windows, and they all serve ketchup/eggs/rice--a local favorite.

One thing I thought very cool about the place is that the people, teenager and adult alike, promenade along the downtown streets before dinner (which isn't served until about 8). They are for the most part well scrubbed, well dressed, and a delight to watch, which is the whole point, I guess.

We were there during the Christmas holidays and I also noticed all these shops with signs that say ‘Bon Nadal’, which means something like ‘good birth’ in Catalan. So, I’m wondering, if they have so many maternity shops, where are all the infants? It takes me a few days before I realize that it’s the Catalan equivalent of Merry Christmas. Yep--just another dumb tourist.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Caverna del Diablo

Mazatlan: The Devil's Cave used to hide soldiers guarding ammunition during the revolution. Now, during the crazy days of the annual pre-Lenten ‘Festival’ it serves as an overflow drunk tank—it’s so called because it ‘smells like the devil’. I took our driver's word for it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

It all starts with you

So here I go from extolling the virtues of virtual consumerism on Amazon and hyping my favorite TV show to beating the drum about this radical anti-consumerist tract. How can two such divergent sentiments possibly co-exist? Perhaps I’m not just a consumer or a radical, but an armchair rad-sumer (that was supposed to be funny, in print it just looks stupid, oh well).

More relevant than ever, The Revolution of Everyday Life, written by Raoul Vaneigem in the late 60s, is a far easier read than the similair work by Debord, The Society of the Spectacle. It attempts to dissect the complex web of consumerism that we’re all caught up in and provide a few pointers to what an authentic life looks like in the face of such a sophisticated and effective onslaught—an onslaught that amounts to a commoditization of human life. Call him a leftist, pinko, or whatever, his call for a return to a more spiritual approach to life seems ironic but is not. I think it’s just an example of how we all yearn for the same things, regardless of the stories we tell ourselves.

Monday, September 25, 2006

4 8 15 16 23 42...

...are the magic numbers.

I never watch TV, except when I do. Usually, I prefer to relax in the evenings with literature and classical music (on the radio at 88.7, KAGU, it just keeps on rolling). Now that may seem pretentious, but I’ve found that if you try hard enough, you actually become pretentious, and then it’s OK, sort of.

Enough of that…it turns out that watching a hit TV show on DVD is a splendid way to keep up. You can watch a whole season in a matter of days. I find the pacing of a weekly TV show interesting as it’s so different from a movie, and something you don’t really notice until you watch the TV show like a movie, a really long, digressive movie. An unfair comparison perhaps: a movie has about 2 hours to wrap everything up, a TV series keeps on rolling until the ad $$ dry up.

Lost is kind of like a cross between Mysterious Island, The Magus, and Survivor (with guns). With one cliffhanger after another, all you have to do is click to the next episode to see the (partial) resolution. I’m totally hooked, but after 25-30 episodes of season 1 and now most of season 2, I’m getting a little bit itchy as to what it’s all about. I mean, how can long can they string this thing out? The downside of watching via DVD is that the next set of DVDs is a year away, so you forget a lot about the show.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Never buy from Amazon…

…fooled ya, I buy loads of stuff, always from the Amazon marketplace. With almost anything, but especially with the likes of CDs and books, the Amazon marketplace is the place to shop. The marketplace is a clearinghouse for a zillion independent sellers worldwide of your favorite items, usually at a huge discount. I purchased a CD from Argentina once and it came in 3 days-how do they do that? After 20-30 or so purchases I’ve only had a couple of bad deals: one from the Amazon warehouse, a double CD that was missing a disk and the other a book that had the correct cover but was a different book inside (the book only cost about $1 plus shipping, so whatever).

TV on the Radio

...are pretty weird and take a lot of getting used to, but it's time well spent. Totally original, I've never heard anything quite like them. I think I prefer the last release Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes just because I'm used to it now. Their latest album Return to Cookie Mountain continues the weirdness. Nothing is quite as odd as the sound of the first song-great lyrics though-sort of like a sympathy card to someone...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ivan Illich

You’re about 20, in school, taking philosophy courses here and there, and just not getting it. And every so often, the instructor assigns a book that, well, you still don’t get but somehow never forget. Illich’s Tools for Conviviality is one such book.

He prose can be relatively dense and difficult to decipher, but not always:

‘I believe that a desirable future depends on our deliberately choosing a life of action over a life of consumption, on our engendering a lifestyle which will enable us to be spontaneous, independent, yet related to each other, rather than maintaining a lifestyle which only allows to make and unmake, produce and consume - a style of life which is merely a way station on the road to the depletion and pollution of the environment. The future depends more upon our choice of institutions which support a life of action than on our developing new ideologies and technologies. (Illich 1973a: 57)’

Yea-he's the man-pick up a used copy at Amazon or read more about him here.

---"Man must choose whether to be rich in things or in the freedom to use them” Ivan Illich

Saturday, September 02, 2006

La Puerca Gigante

Kerry got a piglet that was oh so cute, until it grew and grew and grew…I’m told that it’s small as far as pigs go-hello!’s huge. It has a name, but I call it in my fractured Spanish ‘La Puerca Gigante’ for obvious reasons. Kerry says it looks like a really fat dog running around the yard; I think mini-hippo is closer to the mark. When this thing is barreling through the yard, you stay out of the way, way out.

Friday, September 01, 2006

El Gallo Giro

If you like Mexican food, this is the place. I could eat here everyday, and sometimes I do. Here you have taco truck authenticity in a sit down setting.

I especially like the self-serve salsa bar, as it's the best salsa bar in town and one of the best I've seen anywhere. Today they had guacamole, carrots, salsa fresca, salsa roja, salsa verde, mild salsa, a fresh chipolte salsa (the best of the lot), and a pickled jalapeno/onion mix. It changes from day to day; some days they’ll have a fresh jalapeno/onion/cilantro mix or a genuine habanero salsa (really, really spicy, so be careful, but oh so good!).

They are located on the corner of 3rd and Freya, attached to the gas station.

The plastic building...

…is where I live during the week. Some people don’t like it ‘cause it doesn’t fit in with the historic architecture on West Riverside--they do have a point. Taken by itself though, I think it’s magnificent and very cool. A splendid example of 70’s architecture and a building Spokane loves to hate. My daughter Kerry took the second pic to contrast the dark exterior with the flood of light within.

Yesterday Kerry took me down the stairs to the west of the building that lead the way into Peaceful Valley, an old, quaint neighborhood on the river. There were homeless kids (actually young adults, I suppose) living in the woods along the stairway. When we went back to the plastic building it felt very peculiar that they were in the woods and we were ‘safe’ in this plastic citadel.