Month / January, 2003

I Blog therefore I Am Not?

It seems that if you write a blog, you are more apt for something bad to happen to you. Every time I turn on the blog somebody is closing down shop, because of something they said that hurt somebody’s feelings, because something “happened” in their personal life, or because they are just plain exhausted from writing. Even I, Funtime Ben, have had a previous life on a previous blog, that because of a past relationship I chose to leave. It seems that this blog idea is a double edged sword, with your ability to affect people, you also receive the responsibility of affecting them and yourself.

As I travel around the blog universe each morning, I follow links and once every so often a writer has gone missing. Their blog the shell of what it once was. What happened? I wish there was a way to take a blog to a forensic laboratory to explain to us blog causes of death. “Oops, she talked about her husband’s skid marks. He couldn’t handle it and she had to put the blog down.”

Where is the the weblog graveyard?

I remember, back in the olden days, reading letters from people and remembering lines months after. Reading letters was a far more powerful medium than spoken language. With the advent of e-mail, letters diapered and “snail mail” became a novelty reserved for birthday cards and bills. “Snail Mail” was permanent, you had the letter, blogs feel like they are going to be there forever and then (poof!) they’re gone.

Is it any wonder why the book is always better than the movie?

In blogland Dooce lost her job and then, if that wasn’t enough, recently got stuck with a $1,926.10 bill, for her 25GB throughput. I can’t really comprehend how she could have used 25GB, but I don’t doubt that she did. Yet she hasn’t stopped. She continues to write and provide people with her writing. She has succeeded as a blog author. When she gets herself into a jam, her readers help her out. Now that is a community if I ever heard one.

As I continue to read Rebecca Blood’s book The Weblog Handbook, I am struck at the power these weblogs have. With seemingly very little effort, you can publish your thoughts, feelings, rants, diary entries, questions, ideals, political views, findings, and history all with the press of a button. It is the most powerful medium when considering the cost to influence ratio.

So, I would like to take this time to say that this website is an expression. It is a place where I can voice my ideas, concerns, opinions, fears, poems, photographs, essays, ramblings, political views, humor, stupidity, questions, love letters, grocery lists, and fortune cookie messages. I don’t mean to offend you and if I do, I apologize, but I will continue to write this blog, because I want to. I urge you all to talk trough my comment box and my e-mail address. Disagree with me, tell me I’m wrong, show me the light, but by all means don’t read me and get upset without telling me publicly or privately that I offended you. I am a crass bastard, who often bumbles over the line of decency… Please pardon my behavior.

Send a Message

“Democracy and violence can ill go together.
Evolution of democracy is not possible if we are not prepared to hear the other side.”

-Mohandas K. Gandhi

I don’t believe in war. I don’t think it ever makes anything better. Hate will only breed more hate. I know there are people in this country who are angry, I know there are people in this country who have lost loved ones, but that does not make killing people in other countries alright.

FACT We [the CIA] trained Osama Bin Laden to kill.

FACT We [the United States Government] gave weapons to Iraq.

We have tried over and over to fix the problems in the middle east with violence, and all it does is bring us more violence. What if we, instead of waging war, listened to the people of the middle east and heard there complaints with our foreign policy. What if for once we put down our arms and fought a battle with love and compassion?

“Hatred ever kills, love never dies; such is the vast difference between the two.
What is obtained by love is retained for all time. What is obtained by hatred proves a burden in reality for it increases hatred.”

-Mohandas K. Gandhi

I ask you, please do not support this administration and it’s continued policy of intolerance of people throughout the world, if you don’t agree with it. Let’s show the world that we are better than the terrorists. We don’t need to kill others to show our strength. We are a county of progressive minded citizens, now let’s start acting like it.

Please take out a moment of your day to read over Not In Our Name.
True Majority

030127-ghandismile-sm.jpg

One of my favorites.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t because of something you said, or did, I just want the option to get the hell out of here (if the shit goes down). The idea came to me one night as I was talking to one of my old roommates about the election, as they were recounting ballots in Florida, in 2000.

HER “I swear, if Bush wins, I’m going to leave the county… Move to Canada, or something. If he wins, it’s going to be bad, really bad.”

I don’t think she knew how bad it was going to get.

Soon after September 11th I thought to myself; I want to leave New York, get the hell out of here. Run Ben, Run… I didn’t. I stayed in Brooklyn and rebuilt my life with an overwhelming groundwork of fear, brought on, largely, by military helicopters passing overhead.

The helicopters have stopped flying overhead.

I am still nervous. More so in the past few weeks, by a president who has backed himself up a tree and must now go to war to save his approval rating and his foreign authority. Our country is in a bad way. Other countries are now revoking their support for a war with Iraq and Bush seems as if he doesn’t give a damn.

Cowboys shouldn’t have nuclear weapons.

I have this recurring daymare as I walk up 16th street toward Union Square. There is this brilliant flash of light and the buildings all around me crumble. People scream in horror as the first nuclear bomb is detonated in the Empire State building. Waves of fire, like breaking waves on the beach, incinerate everything and I get washed away in yellow flame. Everything goes black.

You might say that this is a foolish thought to have. You might say that there are far more things to be afraid of. You might say everything is going to turn out fine… you may be right, but I think things are going to get worse before they get better. I don’t think we have heard the end of Osama, or his followers. Until we start having foreign relations that benefit other countries as it benefits ours, we are going to be hated throughout the world. We get richer as other counties get poorer and it shows.

So, I’ve decided to get Dual Nationality with England.

I want to give myself options. I am getting nervous about this administration and what it might do, to me and others I care about. I am just starting to lose faith in my county (is all) and I would rather leave then put up with leadership I don’t believe in. Not to say I won’t fight for what I belive in, but it seems at the moment my county isn’t listening. They are, fingers in ears, refusing to listem to the concerns of the electorate.

I am tired of being tired.

A Chinese Meal

Yesterday and I went to a chinese restaurant, after she got her hair cut and styled like a Charlie’s Angel. We ordered two hot and sour soups and a chicken chow fun, enjoying them both thoroughly. After the meal we got Chinese fortune cookies as is custom in most Chinese restaurants. Mine was delightfully odd for a fortune cookie Don’t expect romantic attachments to be strictly logical or rational!. Wow weird right? Not after I read ‘s…

Joys are often the shadows, cast by sorrows.

I think somebody is trying to tell us something.

An Apple a Day

and other meaningless observations.

Oh Kdunk, how our words resonate in the foothills of my mountain of plumpitude. I feel fat. well, not fat exactly, but I feel if my holiday eating had continued in the direction I had been directing it, I would have resembled a manatee (and a fat manatee at that).

This holiday season I went nuts, thanks in part to a fantastically cold winter and a snugly coutch, I squandered butter on mashed potatoes, extravagantly partook in alcoholic beverages, I ate chocolate cherry cordials shrugging them off with words like…

“It’s the holidays. As soon as they are over, I will stop eating this shit.”

The holidays are over and I am just beginning to stop eating this shit. I ate myself into such a stopper, that last Monday night was the first time I had had fruit in over a month. A FRUIT! I thought you were supposed to die if you didn’t eat your fruits. I knew it was bad, when I bit into the apple and had forgotten how good they were. I had so many candy cherries and gummy peaches, that I had forgotten what the taste of a real apple was.

I was appalled at my own behavior.

A grown man eating Snickers bars and parading about with a second helping of Tin Roof Sundae. I should have been ashamed, but I wasn’t [at the time]. Everybody was doing it. A scoop here, a nibble there, and before you knew it everyone was partaking in sinful delights like it was their last days on earth. A group mentality of more.

You have to look objectively at the whole mess and think, “it’s not so bad”, but then again, didn’t you eat that entire pumpkin pie by yourself?

For shame!

Audible.com doesn’t Say what they mean

Now, I know this entry wont appeal to many, but I had to write it, so I decided to post it as well.

Apple computer, a little while back, created a fantastic application for organizing music and creating MP3s called iTunes. iTunes revolutionized how mac users organized and stored their digital music. MP3s became the audio format de jour for computer users. I, myself, started to encode all my CDs to MP3s like a wild-man, hoping one day to have all my music surgically implanted into my brain, so much like fine lady upon a white horse, I will have music wherever I go.

So, in Apple’s latest revision, iTunes 3, they added support for Audible content. Audible.com is a website that offers audio books, that have traditionally been available on tape and CD, through a very legitimate downloadable MP3 like format.

Audible charges a monthly fee [$14.95 or $19.95] to access their books [1 book and 1 subscription or 2 books and 1 subscription respectively]. This service, if you are familiar with peer to peer file sharing, is completely unlike Napster and the like, because it is licensed by the audio book companies to deliver their content. You are not breeching copyright laws with their downloads.

I signed up to investigate for myself Audible’s service, here is what I found:

  • The sound quality is good, not great. They encode their content at 32kbs which is suitable for voice only and bottomed out when listening to Garison Keiller’s News from Lake Wobegon, when the audience laughed or clapped it sounded like I was listening to the radio through a fish bowl.
  • They have a lot of content. I was delighted to see that they had such a wide variety and selection. I was particularly impressed with their unabridged section.
  • Very easy to use. On Mac OS X (Jaguar) I didn’t have to install a thing, it worked flawlessly — which brings up a very good point.
  • This is no MP3. Don’t think, that just because this looks and feels like an MP3 it is one, it certainly isn’t. Your fist tip off should be the .aa file extension. Your second tip off should be the prompt in iTunes for a username and password. This baby isn’t your old play me whenever, wherever you want and burn me onto whatever you want format, oh no, i’s the download me, play me whenever, but only be able to bun me on to a CD once format. That’s right. Only once and only as an audio CD, no MP3 CDs here, as I said earlier, this is no MP3 and it wont play, unless your MP3 CD player supports the Audible format, which at the time of this article none of them do, for distribution reasons.

If you are an avid iPod user, you will not notice any of these restrictions, you can put them on and take them off your iPod as many times as you like and the iPod remembers where you are in each individual track, so even if you start listening to another story, it can come back to the exact spot you left off. I don’t know, however, what happens if you stick another iPod onto your computer, the audio file may not copy.

This is what disturbs me about the Audible format, the audio files don’t feel like they are mine. If I went out to Barnes & Nobles and bought Catch Me if You Can on audio book CD [$44.95] it would be better quality, I could back it up onto another cd, make MP3s of it, load it onto my iPod, whatever, it’s my audio.

With the Audible format, Catch Me if You Can [$29.95] is approximately a 25 minute downlad on a DSL connection, if you have a modem, don’t even think about it. The 117Mb file is a heafty little bastard, but does contain over 8 hours of audio. The plus is, you get to hear your book almost imediately and it’s not taxed (sorry NJ residents). If you are a Member, you are saving almost $30 off the Barnes and Nobles price, which is nice. Unfortunately, Audible’s advice to “Download this program to your computer and then burn it to a CD or transfer it to your iPod.” doesn’t work, because it’s over 8 hours and won’t fit onto a CD, nor can I cut it up, because iTunes won’t let you. No CD for this track, oh well, there goes that flexibility.

The service does have it’s benifits over the audio book CD, but it also has some major disadvantages. I think the most pronounced flaw is the only allowing you to burn 1 audio cd of the content you legaly purchased from a liscenced merchant. If the audio track is not that big, that is.

Sure, there are ways of getting around this format’s copy protection, that any hard-core computer user can figure out in no time, but we shouldn’t have to. If we buy content online, we expect to retain the flexibility that we are accustomed to. In the long run these proprietary features of the Audible format hurt its acceptance in the marketplace and frightens away would be consumers.

I may stay with Audible.com, I may not, but I thought it important to share my experience and inform yall with the help of my meddling.

Friday Cup of Coffee

This is sort of me talking out-loud here people, so feel free to interject.

I have been web logging for more than a month and a half and I’m just wondering, what happens now? Where does this baby of mine go from here? I’m not going to get paid for taking my clothing off, that is strictly reserved for teenage girls.

What is my angle?

Im not expecting any great deal of praise for my efforts, but I can’t stand still for long, I have to move forward and make this thing a special place like I said I was going to in my ‘early days’. I want to have a blog that inspires, that informs, that reaches out to people and makes them feel connected.

I have broken down and bought that How to blog for the posers book by Rebecca Blood. I feel like an ass for doing it, but it might actually be a good read, so why not burn the $12. (Note to self: write book on blogging and get on the band wagon) (Note to self: Title the book Note to Self and pat self on back for ingenuity)

Unrelated topic.

My father is British. He has, as it were, English teeth. His teeth are a celebration of a history of bad personal hygiene and faulty genes. It’s not his fault, his country was unaware of such advances as fluoride, or toothbrushes with bristles. Be that as it may, I have inherited those total bastard genes and those total bastard genes have given me teeth so weak that every time I went to the dentist they found a cavity. No, I’m serious, every single time. So, until I was 18 I had to take fluoride at the dentist to, in theory, strengthen my hereditary tooth weakness.

It wasn’t the fluoride that rubbed me the wrong way, I could appreciate the dentist wanting to foster the strength of my teeth through all means available, but it was the flavor that eventually got to me. My dentist only had one flavor. That one flavor, much like the one ring, was evil. That one flavor was Pina colada. I would like to meet the man behind that fluoride flavor and tell him the stress and sorrow that that horrific little taste did to me. Not that, if given the choice, I would have wanted another flavor to become so disgusted by the thought of it still puts shivers down my spine. Pina colada is a disgusting flavor on it’s own, but put that flavor in a small child’s mouth, a child I might mention who had never had a pina colada before, and you are creating an adult who would bite his own arm off than even fain interest in that alcoholic drink.

I am damaged goods people. Damaged goods.

Site for the weekend:
The New York Public Library’s Image Gate. This site is by far one of the most amazing accomplishments on the internet. See for yourself. My favorites Union Square, Mohonk, and Telephone.

The Thinking Machine

It’s The Little Differences

If you’ve never lived in new York, or haven’t lived here long, you might not be aware that this metropolis is made up of very distinct cultures that have their own style and identities. I’m not talking about the obvious ones, sure Times Square has a different culture than the East village. That is obvious, I’m talking about deep rooted differences in the basic cultures that these areas are based on.

Still not following me?

Take for instance Chinatown, located downtown near the governmental seat of the city, however in Chinatown you wont pay any tax on anything. Why? We don’t know. By law they have to, but somehow, someone along the way said “Screw that noise” and the guy next to him said “Yeah! Scew that noise!” and it caught on, so now they don’t. (I can’t exactly back this up with any concrete evidence, but you come up with a better explanation)

So, on Friday walking past some discarded Christmas trees on the upper east side and I noticed that one of the christmas trees had been thrown out with all it’s lights still on it. Now, I have never intentionally thrown away christmas lights. I have found huge balls of Christmas lights from the following year and thought better of unraveling them and simply replaced them. But never thrown them away. What am I made of money?

On the Upper East side, however, it didn’t phase me at all. It’s the Upper East side, I expect that if not more. I was expecting an entire decorated tree, complete with shinning star set on the curb, with a french poodle pure-breed wrapped in a Channel dog sweater politely evacuating on it. On the upper East side, you are dealing with the cultural elite, until you hit 100th street and the whole guise of good taste goes right down the drain. The upper east is the haughty front end of cultural white noise that parade in glass houses and throw tiny stones.

Find that in the tourist books.

Later that weekend I went to a fantastic dim sum place in chinatown which was like night and day to the Upper East. Chinatown, as I mentioned above, is a bizarre ecosystem that exists in it’s own little world. Where fish markets still sell fish on the sidewalk, where you can buy a fendi handbag for $10 complete with a certificate of authentisity, where you can still have lunch for $2. Chinatown is old New York, it has been largely untouched by the dysneyfication that has hit much of central New York City. This Dim Sum place was incredible. waiters and waitresses zipping by with steaming carts festooned with bamboo steamers puffing jovial tufts of delicious smelling scented steam. (eh?)

As soon as we sat down, there was a smiling man in a suit politely thrusting plates of steamed chinese broccoli and stir-fried noodles, asking us “very delicious?” (Not much of a question I know, but in the context it made perfect sense). It wasn’t the food that made me think it noteworthy, but as we delighted in the dim sum, the Chinese wait staff delighted in quarter pounders with cheeses in the kitchen… I was astonished, but then again, you eat Chinese food everyday and see what you want to eat.

The whole experience left me appreciating the little differences that cultures can have, even in such close proximity. Manhattan might be a little island, but it sure feels like its own little world at times, completely detached from the rest of America. What a frightening thought.

Thank you, You’ve been Helpful

The other night, I got onto the train with , going back to ‘s place in Brooklyn. It was about 9, but the train was full all the same. We had gone out for Mongolian food with one of her work friends and had eaten enough ginger scallion stripped bass to make the ride to her home a sedate one. The train arrived as soon as we got to the platform and we rejoiced in our luck.

Now…

and I have only been going out for about 7 months, give or take a few weeks, and are still very much hands on. You know the type, always giggling about something and constantly remarking about “how lucky we are.” On a normal day, I will sit next to , if the seating permits, or stand over her, if not. In front of us lay a dilemma, or more accurately a person who presented a dilemma.

If you are not a New Yorker, or don’t ride on the Subway you may not be aware of METROPOLITAN TRANSIT AUTHORITY‘s campaign of not putting your bags on the seats. They basically compare it to taking a shit in the unsuspecting mouth of a stranger, if not worse. Which, if there are no seats, may be an accurate comparison, which made the fact that somebody was using a seat for her bags a slight discomfort.

The fact it was a MTA worker, made it infuriating.

The additional fact that, not only didn’t she move her bags, she looked strait at me and stared with the bitchiest smirk on her face seemingly saying “what? You want this seat? Well, I work here, it’s mine.” I, however, doubt she would have been as succinct, or as grammatically correct.

I guess I should have expected it.

I don’t want to give the impression that I think all MTA workers are all assholes, they’re not. Not only that, but most get a bad reputation that don’t deserve it. But sometimes… Sometimes… There are some assholes in the world. You just want to…

Ahh, forget it. Let me get on with my life. Sometimes it’s necessary to remind oneself what really matters. A seat on the subway isn’t one of them.

…I really think so

There are a lot of places I would never have expected myself to be in. A bar in Highland New York celebrating my friend’s Steve’s engagement whilst a stripper with track-marks flailed about and her boyfriend/bouncer asking patrons not to grab her extremities, was one of them. Eating all-you-can-eat buffet style chinese food on Long Island at ‘Kings Buffet’ with my girlfriends 70+ year old parents not only matching my appetite, but surpassing it, was another. But if, and this would have been a huge if, you had said I would be at the establishment I was in on Saturday night I would have called you crazy and might have even thought less of you for thinking it.

You have to understand the circumstances of how.

was getting ready to go out dancing, her friend Nikki had decided the night before that she wanted to go out ‘disco dancing’ and had said sure. was pulling out all the stops, she was wearing a shirt cut in half held unmodestly together by a set of safety-pins exposing just enough cleavage to make me not going dancing an impossibility. I was dreading the idea of a huge club filled with sweaty perfumed strangers and was trying to use mental telepathy to secretly attack Nikki’s immune system, but she called and said she wanted to party, and I hung my head in shame being unable to persuade her drift into a coma like sleep.

We headed out to Manhattan to meet up with some of ‘s coworkers at John’s Restaurant , an overly pricey old-school italian restaurant on the east side. I had accepted, by this time, the fact that I would have to dance at some point later in the evening. I’m not a dancer by nature, but like a cornered mongoose I will [lash out] if cornered, or threatened. We met up with ‘s friends and had a pleasant dinner, while edgy waiters barked questions to us like bread bearing Gestapo. At the end of dinner, with still no sign or phone call from Nikki, we headed with ‘s work friends to a bar nearby for drinks and some Hip-hop music.

Now dear friends, I will be the first to admit that I am not a party animal. I have, regrettably, never appeared in a ‘When Girls Go Wild’ video drinking a beverage off of a young lady’s nether-regions. I’m just not built for that kind of throw caution to the wind haberdasher lifestyle, but I can drink a 450 pound Rumanian woman under the table, no problem. I received part of this gift from my German Mother and owe part of it to shut-in roommates who drank too often in college. A bar, regardless of what music they may be playing, is like a second home for me.

That sounds worst that it actually is.

called her friend Nikki up and Nikki said she didn’t feel like going out disco dancing, I was so relived that… I felt like dancing. remarked, as a pissed does “Well, I don’t know what to tell you about that.” Which in language roughly translates as “Well, I spent 2 hours getting ready to out dancing, because you said you wanted to and you decide that now, at 11:30, that you don’t feel like it? Up yours sister.” (or something to that effect) We stayed at the little bar for an hour or two and I even danced, now that the pressure had gone and also to show that I wasn’t bothered by dancing anyway, and the phrase floated across the bar “Why don’t we go for Karaoke?”

God no. Karaoke? I mean that was like my staple determiner of a person’s detachment with reality. The only thing I ever shared with a Japanese businessman was a fondness for raw fish, and wasn’t ready to share ‘like a Virgin’ Tokyo style. If I went to a Karaoke bar, what would people say about me? But before the gong of reason could be rung, we were heading out to a Karaoke place on 2nd Ave.

I will not bore you about all the specifics leading up to the the singing, only to explain that I found myself singing backup to Chumbawamba’s ‘Tubthumping’ and my girlfriends cleavage shirt full aflutter screaming into the microphone. “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never going to keep me down.” and me singing “Don’t cry for me Danny boy”.

From shiqu to geek in 3 hours, from clubbing all night long to a small dingy blue room drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and giggling about the next song we would be delighting at, it dawned on me that maybe we’re not so different the Japanese businessman and I. Maybe we could learn something from other cultures and celebrate our differences…

What the hell am I talking about? The Japanese are still an insane culture that wears shoes too big and has cartoon characters with overly big eyes. Screw them and please help me track down my dignity!