Archive for August, 2010

Septic Tanks is Yanks, or how we were swindled out of 200 Renmin B at the Forbidden City

29 August 2010

The first thing they will ask you without a doubt is, “this is your first time to China?” The second is “have you visited: <insert local tourist trap>?”  Frankly I’d never had much interest to go to the Forbidden City, but the invitation arose and I figured that I might as well tag along.  Promptly off the subway we got turned around, stumbled into a fantastic book shop with some amazing graphic novels which eventually it was explained to us, are generally only sold in sets.

But we managed to find some loose volumes and having dropped the equivalent of a few dollars on some great books we reoriented ourself back toward the palace, by way of a bank receiving shipments from an armored truck attended by teenagers packing heavy intimidating fire-power, and thronged into the seemingly endlessly nested sets of gates and courtyards packed with swindlers hawking all manner of chintzy merchandise (tops, flags, books, postcards “free taxi rides to the great wall”) and well versed in the fine art of gouging tourists a gauntlet we (or at least I) managed to pass through relatively unscathed.  L. shelled out for the pair of flags that were thrust into his hands, only to have one snatched back angrily when he paid what seemed to be the asking price (priced individually but marketed in bundles, again).  When we finally arrived at THE gate–the one of everlasting harmony or whatever–we were let down to realize that the ticket agent had just closed up.

A helpful gentleman came striding up with a handful of tickets and offered to scalp us a set with the most modest of mark-ups.  Reluctantly, exhaustedly and heat stroked we took him up on the offer.  Perhaps a bit reassured by the police van next to us holding an officer that stared on at the whole affair blankly.

Of course.  Walking up to the gates, just as the huge wooden doors were being swung shut, we dashed forward tickets in hand.  They had expired yesterday.

On our way back out, still clutching our ticket and both amused and irritated at our own ridiculous foolishness, a woman came up waving postcards. “That ticket is no good tomorrow,” she asserted knowingly.  We traded it for a stack of what have to be the most expensively purchased cheap-ass generic postcards now in existence.  I believe they call that “paying it forward.” An amazing perpetual racket, who knows how many times that individual ticket has made its rounds around the rubes.

I almost feel sorry for him, said R., that’s a terrible job that he has.

I’m not so sure.  200 Yuan for a few minutes work, sounds pretty good to me.

The cicadas and the azure-winged magpies ever trilling and chuckling at our misfortune.

I Cannot Stop Looking at this Picture

24 August 2010

And not think that it reminds me, a lot, of this.

Today is Volcano Day.

Lots more of that here.

Be seeing you.

The Under-celebrated Jumping Gall Cinema of Yolo County

15 August 2010

Those ones aren’t even moving.”

“It does seem a little long.”

“You’re reusing clips. I think you need more footage to justify the length.”

Honestly.  Every one, the critic.

Friday afternoon, a simple dream:

Take the many several aggregate minutes of jumping gall video I’ve lately been obsessively collecting–crouched over the sidewalk, eye, iphone, hand lens–the bikes and joggers bending around my operation full of wonder–shooting–to gather these up against a Sun Ra soundtrack.

Missed by most, the oak-shaded sidewalks of the lower Sacramento Valley are alive for a few weeks in August with animated sesame seeds, pop the earbuds, shut your trap, and you can actually hear them crackling.  It sounds, maybe, like a light rain in the searing summer heat or a pot just about to boil, but actually it doesn’t really sound like either of these it sounds like jumping galls: thousands of little cynipid wasplets wrapped in jackets of tumorous oak leaf cells hopping around like crazy.  What are they doing?  It’s not clear that anyone really knows for sure.

You have to pay attention to this sort of shit, or otherwise you are, frankly, wholly lost.

Note that nothing is sped up there.  These girls move fast.

Here would be the place to mention Kinsey and parasitoids and the rest, but it’s 20 minutes past my bedtime.

Incidentally, neither of those versions of “Rocket Number Nine” were the one I was imagining, I of course was thinking of the frenetic schizoid Space is the Place version:

Seriously though.  With a budget of $0, what did you expect?

Holding Pattern

9 August 2010

“Windwave” Michael Oppenheimer

Always with the pelicans.  Remember when it was the atmospheric scientists that were the vanguard of neo-atheism?