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Showing posts from 2008

Gonzo's Pants

I've been meaning to write about this for over a year now. My parents' neighbor is solidly insane. A little while ago my parents had a fence built, dividing their property from his. The neighbor (let's call him Gonzo) was solidly pissed off by this since he didn't realize all that land was my parents', and in retaliation, he tied a pair of soiled pants to a clothesline facing the property line.

Gonzo told them that the pants meant "kiss my ass," but like abstract art, I believe threats are open to interpretation.

For example, there's no reason to think this symbol doesn't also mean "I'm naked," "I'm clearly bat-sh*t crazy," or even "I'm protesting the child labor that went into making these Gap khakis." In all likelihood, all of the above answers are correct.

The reason I bring this up now is that it's been over a year since the pants went up and... they haven't moved. I appreciate Gonzo's co…

Spam Bot85

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In my travels through the internet I occasionally wish to give out an email address that I have no intention of checking. For this very purpose I have created my very own spam address: SpamBot85@gmail.com.

Now, uh, let's say for argument's sake that through a constant barrage of the worst the Internet has to offer, our friend Spam Bot85 may have spontaneously developed consciousness. (Let's also say, for argument's sake, that this was in no way my fault.) Everything Spam Bot85 knows is based entirely off of Viagra ads, Oprah's weight loss solution, and cheap top name replica watches. Within seconds of becoming sentient, Spam Bot85 knew that he was too flaccid, fat, and unfashionable.

Luckily for Spam Bot, it also turned out that sexy singles in his area wanted to meet him... and some old college acquaintances were looking to reconnect. He also won a $50 gift card to Applebee's and he's earned several advanced degrees from the University of Phoenix. Spam…

A Nice Doomsday for a Gay Wedding

I was sure that after I wrote about the end of the world in the last post it would go away forever, since that's what happens to most things that I write about. But no, the end of the world made a repeat appearance in my life yesterday, and seeing as how doomsday is one of my pet interests, I'm giving it another 700 words.

At an end of the semester class party, a classmate mentioned that she had a list of things to do before the world ended in 4 years. She called it a bucket list, but it might more accurately be referred to as a Four Horsemen list, aBoomsday list, or of course, a Galactus list. I'm a great lover of lists, resolutions to live your life to the fullest, and challenging yourself in potentially catastrophic ways, so naturally I'm all for the Galactus list project.

I was especially impressed since the thing she had already checked off the list was getting married. That takes some chutzpah. She also revealed that she's getting divorced now, as she can still…

Final Countdown

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Cue the music.

Sarah's friend Jamie told her, while studying for finals, that she hoped the world would end in 2012 so the grades for the semester wouldn't matter.

Now I'm all for the world ending, and if the Mayans called it, all the better. But before wishing the world explodes, implodes, or gets eaten by Galactus, there might be a few easier ways to weasel out of finals.

1. If you have to send in a final paper via email, send in a corrupted file. You give your professor a correctly named file, say "Ezra's Legitimate Term Paper," and through no fault of your own, it doesn't open. By the time your professor realizes this and asks you for a new copy, you've just bought yourself a few more hours of work, sleep, or praying for the world to end. Sadly, this is only a stall tactic, as you will eventually have to turn in a real paper, assuming your assignment wasn't just to send a corrupted file to a professor.

2. Get sick. Standards for what constitu…

Words to Live By

Perhaps some of you have seen this little exercise on Facebook in the past few weeks. It goes something like this:

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence along with these instructions in a note to your wall.

And voila, you now have a random little bit of information from one of your many tomes to brighten your day.

But that's not really enough for me. I mean, you have this scrap of text, but what are you going to do with it? I then decided that I would do this exercise, but take the sentence as my personal motto for the rest of the day.

The book is called Guyland. It's about how from ages 16-26, white American males are wastes of space with no responsibilities and no desire to grow up. While it's in no way whatsoever applicable to me or my equally lazy, waste of space friends, it's still a good read.

Page 56, line 5. "Each of us cuts his own deal with it."

I figure basing my life around a random…

When Ninjas Attack

I recently made a deal with all-powerful Atheismo that if I survived a particular encounter I would write two blog posts this week. I lived, so I'm making good on my promise.
About two years ago I was back at Whitman, and Sarah came to visit for the weekend. At the same time, the other inhabitants of the Monastery, Chris and Alex, were called away, leaving us to hold down the fort on our own. In the middle of the night, Sarah woke up and thought she heard footsteps around the house. We shared our house with Abel, a depressed house painter from Oaxaca who lived in our basement and loved blasting ranchero music through the floorboards and drinking immoderately, so I assumed that any movement would surely come from him. I probably slurred something to the effect of:

" 'sjust Abel... gobacktosleep'kay?"
But as Sarah's hearing is much better than mine and her wake-up-ability at important times is stronger, she persisted, and we listened to more footsteps, which,…

Humans are Terrible People

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I didn't see Ralph Nader speak today. I don't get to see him speak most days, but today I came closer than usual, so I think it's noteworthy. Ralphie Boy came to speak at Sarah's law school today and along with my Whitman friend Anthea, we almost got to see him speak.

Here's what happened. Sarah had class in the place where the talk was going on, so she just stuck around and saved seats for Anthea and me. So far, so good. Except before Anthea and I could make our way through the long line to get into the room, a couple of girls ahead approached Sarah:

2 Girls: Are these seats saved? Sarah: Yes, sorry! 2 Girls: You can't save seats. Sarah: ...What? 2 Girls: You can't save seats. It's the rule. Sarah: Actually, there isn't a rule about saving seats... 2 Girls: (They ignore her and they promptly remove her stuff out of the seats, toss them at her and sit down.) Sarah: (Freezes in shock.)
So by the time Anthea and I got into the room our seats were definite…

The Adventures of Johnny Crazyfists - Episode 1

I'll do a real post later, but I've been meaning to put this up for awhile. This is a project I've been working on with my old college roommates Alex and Chris for uh... nearly a year. Figured I'd show it off. We're working on episode 2 right now, which features a trip to the old west and no fewer than six prostitutes!

See/read more here: www.johnnycrazyfists.com

Weapons of Self-Destruction

Let me tell you about the Internet: first you take everyone in the world, then you wire 'em all together and see what they want to talk about. Turns out, it's sex. But the great thing about the Internet (getting to talk about sex with a whole bunch of people) turns out to also be the worst thing about the Internet, as all the people you don't want to talk about sex with might just find out what you're doing. The Internet is probably the most perfect tool for embarrassment ever. It's like a friend that you can whisper all your darkest secrets to, who'll then promptly tell them to anyone with a password, a good amount of curiosity, or dumb luck.

Let me tell you a cautionary tale about the Internet: first, take some private conversations (thankfully not mine). For argument's sake, let's say that these private conversations of yours have been automatically recorded and archived through Gchat's chat history. And again, for the sake of argument, let…

America the Radical

My apologies for the weeks of silence. Many things have happened since the last post, very few of which will be remembered a year from now, perhaps with two notable exceptions. First, Sarah and I hosted an epic housewarming party, and secondly (but not less important) Barack Obama was elected president.

Having spent a good chunk of this year out of the country, I think I have a pretty good read on what makes America awesome, and what makes it suck. In short, America's awesomeness comes from the spirit of rock 'n roll. America was founded by a bunch of people who didn't have anything to lose and could afford to say, "f**k it, let's not have a king." America does best when things are crappy enough that we can do the right thing without caring about the consequences.

Example: It's 1932, everything's completely f'd up. But FDR's like, "alright, yeah, this sucks, but let's get some radical social programs out there. Maybe that'll …

Desperately Sikh-ing Stigma

Through a delightful series of events I found my head being wrapped in a turban yesterday. It turns out UC Davis has a vibrant Sikh Student Association who were eagerly exhibiting their mad turban skillz at an activity fair. Aside from the normal enjoyment I get when people pay attention to my head (ask anyone, I love haircuts) I was especially excited to finally expose the town of Davis for the racist cesspool that it is. In the vein of "Black Like Me" I would undergo a near complete transformation (putting on a turban) and be the object of intense prejudice until I got bored or had to go to work a few hours later (whichever came first).

Turbans are actually pretty comfortable, as it turns out. My head didn't get hot at all, despite it being definite t-shirt weather, and the wrapping of the cloth around my dome felt snug, but not unpleasant. Kinda like a turtle neck for your head. Fast head movements took a bit of getting used to, since I was balancing a bit more w…

Naughty Girl Moment

Once again, I love the train. I went to the Amtrak station to take the westbound 737 down to Berkeley to meet up with my dad for a matinee of The Dark Knight and was lucky enough to get to the station with 5 minutes to spare. When I arrived there was a young, skinny guy wearing a wife beater and jeans, absolutely belting songs. He was just finishing up one as I got there and when his iPod shuffle transitioned into “Tonight I'll be your naughty girl” he followed it without flinching.

I confess, sometimes I sing softly to myself while walking down the street, or I might treat passersby to an especially breathy rendition of “Eye of the Tiger” while nearing the end of a run, but I’ve never done anything even remotely this bold. I don’t even thing I could sing that loud in the shower. (People who have lived with me may be able to dispute this point.) But the thing that made this an exercise in awe instead of in public embarrassment was the fact that he was easily one of the three b…

How to Shame Friends and Impress Enemies at Your High School Reunion

If, like myself, you're one year out of college, that means you're also five years out of high school. I understand that high school might not have been the best time for everyone, so it is imperative that you make a good impression on your former crushes and current targets of Facebook-stalkery. I like to keep a couple of things firmly in mind to make sure I let everyone know how great I'm doing.

1. Jobs (Or in other words, how badly you're doing.)
Everyone you'll see will have only had a year to get their life together after earning a mostly worthless BA from an expensive liberal arts college, so you'll be on pretty much equal footing to begin with. But since you all want to stay as idealistic as possible, the winner of the vocational contest will go to the person who is making the least amount of money doing the least desirable work.

Good idealist jobs: Unemployed, interning on a remote organic lettuce farm, working for a nonprofit that encourages the homele…

Mom and Pop Crack Shop

Raise your hand if this has ever happened to you:

You're biking home from your local organic foods co-op after a mostly successful shopping trip and you can't shake the nagging feeling that you didn't get everything on your list.
Bread? Check.
Butter? Check.
Crack cocaine?

No! You forgot to get the crack! It's terrible right? How else will you get your 1-2 servings a day of things that are low in carbs but high in crack? But wait! Two strangers walk past you right outside your house, and you know since one of them is wearing a flashlight for a shirt (bare-chested with an illuminated LED hanging from his neck) that these are crack fairies sent from Heaven to help you.

Sure enough, as you pass, Flashlight-Shirt says, "Do you want some crack?"

Saved.

This just happened half an hour ago. More than anything else I was just surprised... for several reasons, actually.

1. Did they actually have crack, or were they looking for some common ground with me?
"No, I don&#…

People Worth Staring At

I don't think ugly is really that proper of a word to describe people, so I'll try to pick another. How about "interesting?"

The people in San Francisco are really interesting. They're textured. They're different. They're like hunks of drift-wood, or carrots that kind of have faces, or used furniture that "has a lot of character." The people in San Francisco have a whole lot of character. When I was in college back at Whitman, I was used to seeing hoards of young, attractive people every day. But if I can lob a criticism at my college friends and classmates, it's that they usually didn't have mohawk pony-tails, toothless mouths that collapsed on themselves, or unexplained bald spots and facial hair. In short, they were very nice, smart, attractive people, but they weren't ugly-- err, interesting-- so they weren't worth staring at.

In San Francisco you can stare at people. The people cry out to be stared at. And listened to…

America's Bounty

Everything is free in this country. If you want something and you don't care when you get it or what it looks like, odds are you can get it without paying. Everyone just has so much stuff they don't know what to do with it. Over the last week, Sarah and I have scavenged the following from next to dumpsters, the side of the curb, and people's lawns:

A wooden table and four matching chairs
An electric mixer and two metal beaters (separate places)
A mostly working bike (only one flat tire!)
A mostly non-working bike and a wheel that almost fits it (separate places)
A sauce pan
A lid for another pan
A five speaker stereo system, a sub-woofer, and a stereo receiver (separate places... but then they all went to the side of my curb when I couldn't figure out how to connect them.)
A double papasan chair... I didn't actually know they made those, let alone gave them away to grad students.
A desk (Sarah's- heavy, wooden, not that much fun to move)
Another desk (mine- rickety, …

Naked America

During the last couple of weeks (have I already been back for that long?) I had the pleasure of partaking in that most American of traditions, going to the mall. It was exhilarating and deeply unsettling. But the strangest part about it was trying to pinpoint what about it was so strange. There were malls in Malaysia. Good ones too. Malls that could easily dwarf the one I wandered into. So why did the humble Arden Fair seem so intimidating? I think it might've been that everyone in it was pretty much naked.

I don't mean this as a judgment on the "clothes" people around here are wearing, though that's certainly a part of it. All of the people I saw from the food court to the Mac store hid so little of themselves. That's right. I'm invoking both meanings of naked. Levels, baby, levels.

The girl in front of me at the cheese steak fastfood chain (don't judge, I was hungry) talked about nothing important on her cellphone as if she were surrounded …

Lesser-Abled Super Squad, Away!

As I took the train from Emeryville to Davis, I had a moment to flip through the safety pamphlet tucked into the back of the seat in front of me. It's pretty much the same safety pamphlet as with planes, with the one notable exception being that it has safety instruction in Braille embossed all over it. It seems like a good idea, right? Amtrak certainly doesn't want to have a lawsuit about how it left a blind guy on the train because no one told him what to do when his tray table caught fire.

But let's think about this a moment further. One of the directions (for the sighted) was "Help disabled [or perhaps it was 'less-abled'] people first." And of course, stamped over this message in English was its apparent translation in Braille. I'm the first to admit that my Braille might be a bit rusty, so I'll propose two possible things it might have said, each deeply troubling.

Possibility #1: Direct translation. In Braille it simply says the same thi…

Home

On Wednesday, I came home.

The things of note that I ate:
Hot pastrami sandwich at Max's
The rest of the hot pastrami sandwich at home
Tortellini con pesto at Lococo's
Some kind of pizza and some garlic bread wedges, also at Lococo's
BBQ chicken tacos at Maya Restaurant
A sandwich
Chocolate truffle birthday cake
Another sandwich
Potatoes
Granola
Bagels (also in sandwich form)

Things that I have yet to eat:
A milkshake
A different kind of sandwich
Gnocchi
Pie
A burrito
Pancakes
Garlic bread

Things that I probably won't eat:
Curry
Fish

Things that I miss eating:
Bowls of noodle soup that I could drown myself in
Roti
Rice (but it shouldn't be too hard to find)

There's a lot to love about being home. The food is about 10 times better on the whole, so even though it's 5 times more expensive, I still come out ahead. Everything is ridiculously easy to do so far, since very few interactions involve money going to or coming from government bureaucrats. Everyone's English is really good …

Four-Night Stand

No matter how you cut it, Malaysia was a very intense, very involved long-term relationship. We both had a lot of issues and, well, things got messy. We stuck it out for as long as we could and in the end we decided it’d be best if I went my own way, and Malaysia stayed in Southeast Asia, attached to Thailand and parts of Indonesia. It turns out I was also really easy to pick up on the rebound.

Oh, Tokyo! You’re everything that Terengganu wasn’t. Your food is so good I want to cry a little. You’re expensive and classy but still fun. Your mass transit is a breeze to get around on (albeit a little tricky to navigate at first), and best of all, you don’t care that much about me. You give me room. Terengganu was a smotherer. I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere without someone asking “Where are you going?” “Did you eat rice?” “You can speak Malay?” It asked me questions but never listened to the answers. But Tokyo… Tokyo couldn’t care less about me. It’s there if I need somethin…

Dear Ezra, It's Just a Kidding. Love, Malaysia

Malaysia ended. In spite of feeling like it would last forever, it did not, since nothing does and nothing can, in fact, last forever. Malaysia was no exception. It ended quietly, all things considered. After the fake wedding everything else seemed comparatively tame. I was present for Sarah’s big blow-out assembly and there was also a goodbye snack in Kuala Terengganu with all of the ETAs and low-level officials. In case you’re ever wondering, low-level officials who are filling in for mid-level officials at events that no officials actually care about really do give the best speeches. The guy didn’t really know any of us very well so some highlights were:

"And there’s Gwynne who can only eat tofu… and Chris who is a lawyer and will bring down the American legal system… and Joe. Joe always reminds me of that black guy. You know, that very funny black guy. That actor-" at this point we were all thinking of Chris Tucker, who Joe is a dead ringer for- "Jack Black…

Wedding Drums

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Sarah's school, in it's infinite wisdom and love of the absurd, threw us a big goodbye party in the style of a traditional Malay wedding. What better way to send off their ETA couple than with an exuberant, bizarre, and beautiful faux wedding? It turns out there is no better way, and so we had hundreds of students, teachers, and faculty from both our schools come dress us up, cheer us on, and take pictures of us until their cameras exploded from overuse.

I honestly think that the number of flashes that went off in my face might be affecting my memories, but I'll do my best to run through the highlights of the "wedding" ceremony.

First, I got dressed in the traditional songket, which for us had to be bright pink. Sarah and I agreed a few weeks ago when her school first brought up the idea of a faux wedding ceremony that we would do it right or not at all. I can say emphatically that pink was the right choice, as it established from the get go that there was no w…

It's Good to Eat the King

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One great thing about Southeast Asia that I will surely miss is the royalty here. Sure, America has the Pitt-Jolies, Burger King, and Budweiser (the King of Beers), but their crowns are all newly minted. If you want some royalty that you can really look up to, you need to go East. Without further ado, I give you:

Durian - The King of Fruits

After my encounters with Durian, I found a new credo to live by: only show interest in things you're prepared to eat. If you pay attention to anything in this country and it's even remotely edible, it'll only be a matter of seconds before someone chops it up and offers you a steaming plate of it. I thought I was pretty safe looking at Durian. People don't usually try to eat things that would kill you if it fell on your head, are impossible to carry without imposing reckless, widespread acupuncture on the hands, and smell like a full port-a-potty. If that's not nature's way of saying "do not touch," I don't…

H-E Double Breadsticks

I mean this in the most positive way possible, but I think Malaysia might have been my own personal hell.

Alright, that still sounds dark, but I promise now, this will be the most upbeat idea of hell ever.

Lemme see if I can define my terms secularly before I go any further.

Hell: a place that sucks.
Heaven: a place that doesn't suck.
Purgatory: a place that kinda sucks for a while.

So back in my old life stateside (which may or may not have been just a dream, I'm not sure) I could at times, be lazy. This is apparently a well-documented issue in people, with it's own mascot, ranking in the top 7 sins, and cultural heroes. My Malaysian hell punished me for my laziness above all else. The brilliant thing about this hell is that I got exactly what I wanted. Don't want to work? You don't have to! But the catch that you'll actually end up craving work. Working will be the highlight of any day, and you will wait hours upon hours just for the chance to do good work …

Broken in Malaysia

I eyed the car's dashboard. Whenever we hit a puddle, the emergency indicators would all light up for several seconds.

"That's a really good metaphor for this country," I told Len.
"This car was made in Japan," he said.
"Yeah," I said, "but it was broken here."

There are the places that make you and the places that break you, which then allow you to become remade somewhere and someway else. I came here to be broken, even if I didn't realize it at the time.

There is a short 10 minute video of the first time the ETAs met their mentors and their foster parents and it makes me want to cry a little every time I watch it. In the interceding 6 months since the video was made, nearly all of us have lost weight and/or muscle mass, aged approximately 5 years, and lost the child-like glint in our eyes. I wish I was making this up. You can actually compare the footage of how we looked then and how we look now and have no choice but to conclude t…