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Spent today in Yellowstone National Park. Mostly it was closed -- we missed it by a couple of days, as it closed for the season November 5. Apologies to all in Seattle we failed to see (especially [profile] bevsob: I was really hoping to say bye before we left the country) but I came down with an awful cold in Olympia and spent four days on [profile] goldfish42's sofa.

We saw a bald eagle, stayed at Chico Hot Springs, saw bison and elk and muledeer and a coyote and we heard a pack of wolves howling the sun down. We saw -- and smelled -- mineral hot springs and the multicolored travertine years of flow have created.

Sunset was glorious: oranges and tangerines glowing on the underside of beautiful clouds. I love the way the trees here are outlined sharp against the sky.

Next phase!

Oct. 6th, 2007 03:43 pm
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Advice to the wise: do not attempt to move house, start a honeymoon, finish an article, do your taxes, organize a wedding in a different country and pack for moving to that country all during the same week while you're pre-menstrual. If you insist on doing so, please make sure you have a Doug on hand for when the crying jag hits its second hour. Also be aware that your responses to things like your tenants telling you they are moving out a month earlier than hoped will be less rational than desired.

This is our last day at the lovely Boardwalk Apartments. I will not miss the "little boxes on the hillside" sameness of the apartment blocks here but I will miss the water and the agapanthus and the ducks out the window over breakfast, and dinner on the balcony in the fading sunlight watching the geese fly over, and watching swift brown squirrels race up trees. I'll miss the chipmunks and other cute life when I leave America.

We leave for Peru tomorrow morning at 8am. Doug is taking the modem back to the cable store now and I will only have sporadic access for the next two weeks. After that, we'll be at Doug's sister's for a little. Those of you with my US cell number, it will still work for the next two months but the home number is gone as of today.

I am still surrounded by boxes and debris. Many of you know how much I resist change and that my usual panic at disorganization would have been in overdrive. I'm doing a little better now but I must get back to it.

I doubt I'll ever get to these, but have some notes towards future entries: one, in which your author discusses Jack Goldsmith's testimony about secret memos and the Ashcroft debacle, rendition, torture and what it means to be an American today; two, the upcoming film Rendition and what it says about freedom of speech as a paper tiger but one we cannot live without; three, the ethics of Jewish responsibility and your author's challenges as a secular political activist brought up Jewish while reading Rabbi Jonathan Sacks' To Heal a Fractured World.

I'm sure there will be updates from the road but in case there aren't, have fun, y'all and catch you on the flipside!
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Nothing quite like your favorite café deciding that today is loud guilty pleasure 80s music day to knock the edge of your moping. So far, "Video Killed the Radio Star", Devo's "Whip It", some unidentified Meatloaf and now "Call Me".

Definitely getting into it.
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Things are sort of starting to settle down here. I've had another week of extraordinary busyness and some emotional upheavals on the home front (if I owe you e-mail, please be patient for just a touch longer).

I'm trying hard to focus on the positives, so here goes:

Favorite new bookstore: Bird and Beckett on Diamond (thanks to [personal profile] anthologie, who had her reading there last week). I managed to buy not only her book, but Blessed Unrest, which I've heard discussed on NPR and have been looking forward to greatly, and The Dream of the Poem, a book on Hebrew poetry in Christian and Muslim Spain from 950 to 1492. Anyone who's read my series from when I was in Toledo in 2003 will know my fascination with this era.

Favorite new relaxation space: Watercourse Way, which Doug took me to one night. Oh my. We had the Moroccan-themed room with our own spa, sauna and plunge pool. It's a gorgeous place, beautiful music. You hire rooms, pay by the person and then lock the doors. I couldn't help but think it's exactly what we need for those Friday night soaks, [profile] fizit. No more of this silliness where it's women-only because we're in the Japanese baths public space.

Favorite new band: this is a hard one, because I've just experienced three awesome groups. DeatHat, a haunting sound that would fit right in at Woodford; Klezident Evil, which plays klezmer and, yes, video game soundtracks; but for pure raucous entertainment, I'm going to have to vote for SmashUp Derby, who I saw today at the San Jose Pride festival. I rang [profile] nihilla and [profile] crystal_storm to play them bits of this: George Michael's "Faith" vs The Cure's "Closer"; Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" vs U2's "Bloody Sunday"; and many more awesome LIVE mashups. I think my favorite was "Smells like Teen Spirit" with "Billy Jean" sung over the top of it but it's a hard choice. There's heaps of songs to download at their site. Go play.

Favorite new area of SF: Okay, this is really just an excuse to mention that we went up to SF to see Helen Lawson-Williams, who I went to primary school with, and who was in town for work. But we did end up wandering around Caffe Greco and popping into the Apple store up there, and checking out Chinatown and it was a lovely day out.
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Back from the handfasting... and no, the joke above is not mine.

My plane was four hours late getting into Seattle so Thursday night's plans were stuffed. Went dancing to blow off some steam but the delay was still thing we needed. Friday we went to Pike St Markets for breakfast and then spent the afternoon at the FolkLife festival. Rather handy that the wedding coincided with one of the biggest folk festivals in America. We watched [profile] bevsob perform funky acrobatic tricks and listened to Flodd (they call themselves tango pop but it sounds like klezmer to me). We also saw Bev's little red studio (beautiful! *envy*) and met and chatted to a friend of Bev's named Raven who showed us her emporium filled with erotic art and erotic Lego.

We tried to keep out of each other's way and off each other's toes -- Doug was somewhat nervous about the handfasting speech and I had a lot on my plate. Saturday morning, we had breakfast delivered and then I looked up gluten-free bakeries while Doug finished getting dressed. Stopped at Da Vinci's bakery on our way and picked up divine strawberry and custard tart so I had cakey things to eat at the handfasting, not knowing that their "cake" was going to be individual chocolates I can eat anyway.

It was all lovely. [profile] puzzlefox is a sweetheart and her man's not bad either. Met lovely folks. Doug took photos when he wasn't being part of the ceremony and handed the camera to the groomsmaid's partner when he was.

That night was another planning disaster. Went back to the hotel room to collapse for a while with hopes of going out to the bride and groom's again for hot-tubbing, ended up having awkward discussions, not getting onto dinner until 11, having gluten issues with the food and then finally getting to the hot-tub past midnight to find everybody had gone to bed.

Sunday we had brunch with everyone, at this awesome vegetarian place called Café Flora and then Doug and I went to the Experience Music Project which was amazing. I remember writing about this place when it first launched. I could lose myself for hours in the oral histories of the musicians. One of the most amazing was Linton Kwesi Johnston talking about conscious decisions to pattern the rhythms of his poetry off the bass in reggae rather than iambic pentameter after reading Black Panther Literature.

Photos when I get an opportunity.
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I think, disturbingly, that "they" have found a reality TV show that I may just have to watch. On the Lot is a Steven Spielberg/Mark Burnett co-production where the contestants are wannabe film-makers and the prize is a $1 million movie contract with Fox. Very interesting.
Also, Play! a video game symphony is coming to nearby San Jose. This is one that my old friend and game music composer Stephen Schutze would love (hi, if you're reading. Been enjoying the updates from Japan!). The performance includes music from: Final Fantasy, Super Mario Bros, Halo, Metal Gear Solid, Battlefield 1942, Sonic the Hedgehog, Daytona USA, The Legend of Zelda, Prey, World of Warcraft (of course), The Chronicles of Riddick, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and more.
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Yes, I'm talking to you, [profile] bevsob and [personal profile] signifier.

Doug and I are heading Seattle-wards for [profile] puzzlefox's wedding.

We'll be at The Grind Thursday night and then Pirates of the Caribbean, and I believe the wedding is Saturday. Any chance we could catch up for a Sunday brunch or Friday lunch?
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So, David Hicks is back in Australia (I won't use 'home' because the connotations of safety and comfort do not apply to his continued solitary confinement in a prison cell somewhere in Adelaide). I find the word "freedom" used to describe his experience "restrained" on the plane trip over somewhat bizarre. But I guess when you've been tortured and so on without trial and not walked "more than 10 metres in a straight line in 5 and a half years" we're talking about freedom of movement here more than freedom of person.

I have nothing much to say about Hicks' innocence or guilt. His treatment since his arrest, the entire existence of Guantanamo Bay detention center, the fact that he had to give up all legal challenges and claims that he was tortured to get out of that hellhole, that's just disgusting and embarrassing. Or it ought to be.

I just finished reading a book my Aunty Joan recommended to me, Underground by Andrew McGahan, which paints a dire image of Australia's future. It asks how the Australian people that said no to conscription twice and refused to ban the Communist party are now so complacent as greater and greater nationalistic fervor and increased "security" takes the place of sanity.

Not for the first time, I find myself asking whether Osama bin Laden is really worse than what the "Allies" faced in World War II and how it is that they managed to fight that war without resorting to torture and becoming our own worst nightmare. Of course, there's a scary answer to that: the Americans did resort to something amoral and indefensible. The atomic bomb. Were they ever censured for that on a world stage? I have no idea.

Meanwhile, just so we're clear that I don't think it's all rosy over in the Middle East, Iran is locking up American-Iranian dual citizens, on suspicion of fomenting unrest, confiscating their passports and never mind the trial. Iraq, we all know, is a mess -- doesn't look like the "occupation" is helping much. Afghanistan has accused America of randomly shooting civilians and the Americans have admitted it (and said sorry, guys, it was a mistake), while trouble brews again between Afghanistan and Pakistan. And let's not forget Darfur -- although, to be honest, why not? Everybody else has.

Real change is needed. I need to think how I can contribute in light of my delicate immigration status...
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You see someone riding a Segway on the footpath in the wild and your new motorbike helmet has a flip-top head and is Bluetooth-ready (I'm getting the black cherry model) (yes, we bought the MP3).
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I have huge problems with the idea of the G8. I don't think there should be a ruling class like this making decisions for the rest of us. But when those decisions are good things, like reining in the runaway idiocy of their corporations and trying to save some space for us to *live*, I approve.

When the US tries to veto sections of the proposal on climate change because it disagrees with aiming for a 2 degree global increase this century and halving emissions and disagrees that maybe the UN is the right forum for this, it raises *my* temperature.

Did you not notice that California is already having temperatures in the 90s in the first week of May?

Guys! Drop the damn politics! Who cares if you lot are anti-regulation and want it to be voluntary? We tried it your way. Look where it got us! Time to try this way. And no one likes your little undermine-anything-with-global-conscience tricks. Some of us, amazingly, want to work towards global harmony, rather than participate in the Third Crusade. We *like* the idea of a body like the UN (even if it has to be rebuilt) and the ICC. Okay?

Our resistance is as global as your capital. Just you remember that.

Ah, who cares? You'll all be dead from drought, tornadoes, hurricanes and overcrowding. And maybe a bunch of you will freeze to death in a few winters when there's no more oil to run your heating. Oh, except that'll only happen to the poor, right? So it won't bother you slimy policy-makers.
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Over the weekend, we went to Big Basin State Forest for FireDrums V. It was a magical weekend, mystical and wild, even if it was emotionally draining at times.

I lit my poi for the first time ever and Doug and I did a quiet little Beltaine ritual in front of the big fire, just us. I read runes for people. I left my smudge stick in the ground at one point and came back to discover it had been taken up and passed around the whole huge circle of about 200 people.

I met some lovely people the second night there. Shireen, who helped teach the beginner poi class, and Cara, who helped me do my first spin with actual fire and then did the most incredible firehoop routine with a partner doing rope dart through her hoop.

Doug spent most of the night taking amazing photos, except when Tina was off taking amazing photos, and then we spent some time dancing to the drums and holding each other close (and having a couple of intense conversations, but that's typical of a Beltaine weekend).

We met a woman named Allison who is an e.r. nurse who offered to help Tina out with volunteer work, which was wonderful. And now, it seems, I have to go get myself a Tribe account, because everybody asked me "are you on Tribe?" in the same way that everybody in Oz asks "are you on LJ?".

Check out the rest of Doug's amazing pictures. Ignore the way the site looks. One of this week's projects is sorting out my personal, poetry and professional web sites and how they all integrate because right now, it's ugly.


Apr. 29th, 2007 11:58 pm
mordwen: (Default)
I-80 collapses after tanker crash

I was just on this stretch of road yesterday, driving back from Alameda (where we had Anzac day lunch at a New Zealand restaurant with [ profile] mizchalmers) to San Francisco to buy lovely Moroccan furniture from La Kasbah.

Just for the record people, I'm safe and sound and far away in the South Bay again.

We had a very normal Sunday: I made pancakes and fresh strawberry sauce, we had organic maple syrup and lemon and sugar, and then we had a BBQ in the afternoon with caipirinhas and yummy food and then I played Scrabble with Doug and then headed down to the hot tub with the teenagers where we just spent a few hours having D&Ms and I got to walk that interesting line between step-mom and friend.
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Sitting in the only decent coffee shop in Silicon Valley makes for interesting ear-candy. Just about every day there's another Google-staffer, Apple-staffer, Yahoo-staffer or start-up hopeful talking with friends about some issue they're having or some breakthrough they've made.
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We live near an elementary school. Every morning I can hear a young child reciting the pledge of allegiance to America. It's odd. It's everything I disliked when I was at school about nationalism at school. It's everything I disliked about flags and Anzac day and all that.

I'm surprised at how much it feels like I'm in a country at war where Australia, involved in the same war, doesn't feel that way. I see American flags everywhere, on many more buildings, on so many streets, huge flags. Yet there are actually fewer cars with American flag stickers than there were after last year's Invasion Day when the "Australia Day" crowd sported their Aussie flags emblazoned with "young and free" on the backs of the cars. Suddenly those words meant something very different. Originally about our youth as a nation compared to the old world and our freedom as an independent land, it became a statement about hedonism and a national pride of a very different sort.

No, what's surprising here are the yellow ribbon stickers on cars, how many people have children in the service, loved ones. But it no longer seems to be about hoping someone will return home in the sweet way I always saw it when it was a real ribbon and an oak tree. Now it seems like a statement of allegiance to an attitude of warfare in a divided nation.

And every day on NPR, there's some new aspect of the war, whether it's an interview about the documentary baghdad e.r. or analysis about what's happening right now in Kabul.

Meanwhile, nothing seems to have changed in Iraq itself. The sexism and internecine religious warfare continues: this week's horror story for me was this one: a woman converts to Islam for love and is stoned to death by her family for it, which sets off a chain of vengeance killings.

Meanwhile, Yeltsin is dead, Halberstam was killed last night in a car crash. WiFi is riskier than we thought (no, really?) (via [ profile] patchworkkid) and this [ profile] postsecret scared me today, even though it's nothing I didn't suspect:

Welcome to your nightmares, children.
mordwen: (Default)
In a discussion about road signs here, Doug and I agreed that the major difference between Australia and America is that in Australia, everything is forbidden unless expressly permitted while in America, everything is permitted unless expressly forbidden.

There is a lot to be learned about gun control from this, methinks.
mordwen: (Default)
Last night, Doug and I took his new toy for a wander over the mountain, on winding roads through redwood forests and oak and something called chaparral (which I'd never head of). We eventually followed San Gregorio creek down to where it met the sea, watched the sunset over the ocean (this sounds more romantic than it was: the winds were freezing, and I huddled in the car while Doug shivered and took photos for practicing with in Aperture).

Then we drove down to Davenport along the coast in the twilight to the roadhouse, filled with organic goodness. We started with divine local scallops in a tangerine sauce with citrus greens and then "entrées" (what these crazy Americans call mains -- I mean, honestly, this is one of the stupider language choices I will simply not get used to) were clam chowder and farmer's salad (Doug) and a Chef's Cioppino (a Californian dish that started with the Italo-American community who threw whatever leftover fish they had from the catch into a fish stew to share) for me. The stew was amazing: clams and mussels and salmon and prawns all stacked up with an aromatic soup. I tasted Doug's Cricket Cola, an organic local cola somewhat like the NZ Phoenix cola at home, and had a glass of Santa Cruz Tempranillo, a little sharp on the tannins but good. We finished with a crème brûlée to die for and hot chocolate. Mmm.
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Everything is HUGE in the USA. Walk into a store, of just about any kind, and it will be seven times the size of any Australian equivalent.

This does mean more of everything. It's a guzzling culture of unbelievable magnitude. And I can see how it seems hard to resist it sometimes. Freeways are everywhere. Malls are huge, stores are packed to the rafters with so many choices it seems the only choice is between options rather than refusal. I got sucked into the BevMo "five cents for the second bottle" sale and forgot to look for organic wine. I now have two T-shirts from HotTopic (with cute fairies on them) because I was out shopping for a prom dress with a 16 year old. They're still 100% cotton, but chances are they're sweatshop central. Doug tells me that even when it says "Made in the USA," that can mean Guam, where the US labor laws don't apply.

I did find an audio bookshop for [ profile] rickybuchanan which has 5000 books for sale and rental. Check it out and tell us if you need anything, okay? It doesn't look like they ship to Oz but they do have the whole catalog on the site.

As for the power part of this post, that relates to puzzlement over the whole "polarized plugs" thing, which, it turned out, has nothing to do with polarization of electricity in the positive/negative sense (thanks for the confusion, grmph). I spent some of this morning poring over Wikipedia and other online references trying to understand why some US plugs are polarized (have a larger pin [1] on one side than the other) and some don't. I already knew that some plugs here have no 'earth' (what they call the ground here). It turns out that one pin is 'live' (the Americans call it 'hot' while the Aussies call it 'active' apparently) and the other pin is actually neutral in most places, and the neutral pin is connected to the ground, apparently. So, the polarized plug grounds the power. Why you wouldn't do this at all times, I have no idea, but then I come from the land of 240 volt power and plugs you can only put in at a particular angle with permanent ground pins on most plugs and added switches at the wall for extra safety. My understanding today is that Australian and UK sockets won't even send live current unless the ground pin opens the socket up ready for it. Nice work. Yes, I am a geek. What can I say? I like learning new things.

Annoyances include the Vodafone mobile (cell phone) that was supposed to be unlocked and isn't, so I won't have a mobile for a few more weeks, the news that I can't use my Australian prescription for contact lenses here and that a US prescription would cost me a fortune(but OPSM delivers internationally, so that's an option), and feeling very left out of the last minute organization of the Melbourne Social Forum. You should all go! And also that I still haven't posted about Cirque du Soleil's Varekai (definitely go if you haven't already) and the last few days in Melbourne town which will now be posted and back-dated, it seems. Sigh.

Oh, and people kill each other here with alarming regularity. And the war. It scared me from afar, the way this president talked. It scares me more from close up. This is Unsurprising. On the other hand, we have decided to name our dishwasher Dubya as it also makes a lot of noise without actually achieving much and no matter how much it pretends, nothing associated with it ever truly seems *clean*.

Good things include spotting a guy at the local den of caffeine with a red triangle across the back of his black MacBook and making his day when I became the first person to recognize it as the anarcho-syndicalist flag. Chatted with him and he seems like a good political contact to have. Tech geek, activist, the usual.

[1] They call it a blade here.
mordwen: (Default)
Travel is one of those liminal events that leads to contemplation outside of the self. In the interstitial space between point A and point B anything is possible; everything is indeterminate. You arrive at your destination and life coalesces into solidity. My entire flight, Schroedinger's cat was not a theory: the cat, stowed in the cargo hold where I could not check on her, was both alive and dead, all at once and in every way. She is, of course, just fine. She has discovered her litter and eaten smoked trout (spoiled!) and is prowling the apartment, staying close to the walls.

My head swims with jetlag. At some point later, I will write about my last days in Melbourne, and specifically about the Centre Pompidou video art exhibition at ACMI which was amazing.


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