Corrupt power structure, or Benevolent Dictatorship?

May 24th, 2008 § 2 comments § permalink

fifteen minutes before the opening of the afternoon visa session, i joined the loose assemblage of peoples around the chinese consulate. returning veterans of the morning session clued me in:

i must queue on the right
for the deli machine
which dispenses the numbers
that determine the order
of being seen.

so, i took my place by the entrance, seemingly at the head of the line. yet before i know it, there were 20 people competing for the spot i had occupied alone, an amalgam of me and 19 elderly chinese.

on the other side of the glass doors two security guards were preparing for the onslaught. i could make out the russian names on their tags. the shorter one ‘A.’ had braces, the other ‘R.’ a cigarette in his mouth, and neither was older than 20. their clothes were oversized and since they huddled behind the machine which dispenses the numbers, i imagined them as meat clerks by the deli counter.

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About

May 2nd, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

CHINA

For the summer of 2008, I hold the post of visiting fellow at Peking University in Beijing, China. Consequently, the present focus of the blog is to share this experience in real time. In this regard I also point you to my friend [Eric Fogg's Blog](http://thepeoplesdaily.blogspot.com)

TOLERABLE INSANITY

My goal is to share original content in the form of discrete vignettes. The style aims at communicating the revelation in asynchronous real time as to share the pleasure of first discovery, that elusive eureka orgasm.

SCIENCE

Science occupies most of my time. I want to share my fascination with science through explanatory entries, initially focused on what humans on the social plane can learn from biology of molecules.

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the diplomatic period

February 3rd, 2007 § 0 comments § permalink

for a while i’ve been signing electronic communication with ./peretz. it’s a personal reference to a summer spent in a portland basement working at an open source non-profit. it’s also an obscure reference to ./ command line prefix used in linux to execute a non-executable file in a directory with execution privileges. essentially, it’s a trick to activate a disguised script and i thought it was a clever way to affect activating myself in signature. due to my policy of constant turnover in all unessential habits, i’ve been phasing this out.

recently i received an official document, titled attestation en anglais with a typo. the final punctuation before the sigature was ./ . i immediately wrote back to alert the authorities of this typo. the secretary to the french ambassador to nepal wrote back:

The “./.” at the end is called “the diplomatic point”.

google can’t confirm, but it makes complete sense for a diplomat to use this command line trick to mark the writing executive.

Traffic Court

December 19th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

Today I had the pleasure of sitting through traffic court. My case was 50th in order and I got to see about 30 people all of whom pled “guilty” or “no contest” to an average of three charges per person. 20 people or 40%, got bench warrants as “no shows”. Some were deemed a flight risk and assigned $15,000 in bail. Most, as the judge passed them to Madame Clerk, were termed mere “standard procedure”. Of the ones that appeared, most missed their first appearance date and had the additional “failure to appear charge” with a $235 fine. “Set by Sacramento. So, direct your complaints there,” said the judge. Next most common was possession of marijuana with a fee of 158$, “the only misdemeanor for which the California legislature actually bans jail time. Don’t ask me why,” remarked the judge. Speeding, running stop signs, illegal left turns, no insurance, and everybody pled “guilty” “guilty”, “guilty, your honor”.

Most speeding infractions were eligible for traffic school for an additional 24$. (Only one person declined.) Those who could not afford to pay had the option of “working it off”. One woman who came with a small child was there because she did not work off her fine the first time around. “I was pregnant, your honor.” She was given an additional six months to account for a 540$ fine.

The case which compels itself to be featured started out quite uneventfully; a charge for “illegal u-turn”, on the highway as it turned out 178$; and “failure to keep a logbook” 540$. The judge asked the tractor trailer driver who evidently was responsible for keeping some kind of record, “How bad was your log?” “I failed to record a filling stop, your honor.” The judge continued scanning the report, “I see there was an accident. So you learned the hard way not to make a u-turn on the highway. How serious was it?”

The driver then leaned into the microphone and gently placed “fatal” on the record. The judge seemed puzzled how a fatal accident could yield two minor infractions. It was the first time he’d seen it. My read of the rest of the audience uncovered a lack of concern. Everyone was tending to their own sweaty palms. Imagine this black man in a suit, in a rural courtroom, confessing that his truck got caught in the median and stuck out across the highway and a human lost his life. “He ran across my triangles and flares, your honor.” “Hmmm, the report does attribute the responsibility for the accident to the other driver. Strange… but, it’s not up to me to make the determination. I just add up the numbers. How do you plead?” The driver pled “no contest”, so that later he can claim not to have pled guilty. “That will be 718$ will you be taking care of that today or delaying for an additional court fee of 30$?” “I’ll be taking care of that today.” And with that he bowed his head and left the courtroom.

My arraignment was called. I pled “not guilty” and demanded a Trial by Written Declaration. Uneventfully granted with a continuance for two months for discovery. I was the first to plead “not guilty”. And then I left the courtroom.

Murder in Moscow

April 16th, 2006 § 0 comments § permalink

My San Francisco today was punctuated by a call from a Moscow tomorrow.

“I’m coming back to the homeland,” the voice announced on the telephone. “I got a ticket for the 27th of April. 468$ one-way on United. I’ll be back in New York. Ah! Amerika!”

It was my friend Crazy Alex (who long time readers of this blog may recognize.)

He is my compatriot and fellow (now alumni and therefore no longer) rebel at a Boston area liberal arts university. Our shared homeland is Russia, where he has been living for the past three months (ironically since the week he was sworn in as an American citizen.)

He mumbled something about surveillance and asked me to call back on Skype. 50 rings later.

“Yeah, so … you might want to write this down … I was talking to Masha on cell phone why I am choose to leave this motha, as my mama and papa chose for me some years ago. A late stage bomzh [homeless drunkard] walking his bomzhikha by the ear in my direction. You know the type, potatoes face for him, radish instead of face for her, smells like sewage dweller, dirty like chimneysweeper.

“I notice behind them kid of street, most probable sniffer of glue , younger and more vigorous version of same sort. He has a beer bottle in hand clearly poised for some misdeed.

“His cohort with drool having out of his mouth and a drunk swagger that has almost completely extinguished his youth trails him by 5 meter.

“As the first overtakes the bomzh couple, he swings his bottle. The bottle breaks. The potato falls. Radish face steps aside. When the accomplice arrives, the two continue to mull the body on the ground without regard for any audience member.

“Now Masha speaks into the phone: ‘Hello! Why are you quiet? You don’t want to tell me why you are leaving?’

“This reminds me that I have a voice, which I apply in a loud threatening way to the characters I describe, ‘You call that murder? I show you murder’. And I take out decorative Katana I bought earlier as goodbye gift for my mama, and unleash madness I did not know I have but for special occasion. The two wimps run as best they can. The two of us that remain, myself and bomzhikha character already know what we had witnessed was an arbitrarily executed reduction in Moscow population.

“I told this story to my friend Nastya also, before I call you, and she said: ‘That’s why I want to leave. I wish I was able to exact civic justice as you did and then flee because of your Blue Pocket protector,’ referring to my American passport.”

The moral of the story as I see it, is that while we may not all have the will power or diplomatic immunity, or a katana sword on hand, the least we can learn from Alex is to act on the present.

By the way, Action Alex is entering the San Francisco job market. He can work finance, but prefers theater and the occasional odd job.

fuck the police, is not something you whisper

December 20th, 2005 § 0 comments § permalink

i’m working living studying in the first gleaming biotech building of a new campus our university is building near the largely vacant eastern dockyards of san francisco. from this first tall building, form the higher floors, i have a visual span of the entire downtown; on another side, i’m eye level with the highway (close enough to point a radar gun and outsource my services to the state police); looking east there is a clear line of sight accross the bay to the creaking mechanical bulls unloading freight at the flourishing dockyards of oakland. our dockyards are largely abandoned, but their skeletal remains are very much the dreams of urban explorers.

one humble warehouse across the street houses the burningman hq. on a recent expedition with friends, we mounted one fence and climbed underneath another and emerged in a graveyard of machinery. on the waterfront stands a vacant monstrosity, grafity skins its interiour and exterior. it is spacious like a hangar so it’s unclear when you enter its dim interior whether other people are there, other urban explorers.

i say this, because it only became apparent later after we boldly proclaimed the space as ours alone, that there were two other people in the warehouse. two “urban youths” were casting rods out of a large gap in the side of the buiding and … actually catching fish.

one of the boys had the same tall skinny lazy perch as snoop dog, and a cap over his cornrowed head. on his long neck in two inch high letterering dark tatoo ink spelled out: FUCK THE POLICE.

“wow, that’s not something you whisper.” i said. and he laughed as he showed us his catch of yellowperch.

among their belongings, i also spotted a stack of stickers which have sprouted all over town. i found this image on the internet now, and reproduce it below:

as seen on cl

as seen on cl?

no means to call for sympathy

October 16th, 2005 § 0 comments § permalink

i was riding a bike through traffic
when my cell phone flew from my pocket
a car smashed it into many little pieces.
i picked most of them up
except for the very little ones
because more cars were on their way.

the concept concept

July 15th, 2005 § 0 comments § permalink

the concept concept is an elusive one and requires further qualifications. it’s a concept propped by a series of assumptions, delivered in a necesserally raw form, practical only partly, and even then in small yeild.

the cactus concept yeilds toothpicks. whatever the means and costs of the industrial production of toothpicks, it is of note that nature makes them as nature does — naturally. mexican omelletes contain prickly pear cactus nopalitos as an ingredient and you can purchase it in abundance at our local street grocers with the spikes removed. where labor is cheap, the labor of removing the spikes may be worth the product, but perhaps there is a machine for this task. if there is or isn’t, there should be one, with the following specifications:

- roll along the flat nopalitos surface stripping spikes
- sort spikes and select longer (adequate ones)
- discard short spikes and debris
- produce both despiked nepolitos and spikes

sell spikes as toothpicks.

this, in turn, yeilds the cactus martini concept:

- cactus liquor (or adequate substitute)
- gin or ouzo
- garnish with cactus flesh staked with aforementioned toothpick

in making it, which i will as i get the right ingredients in place, it will survive its concept concept tag, since it will maintain all of the qualifications.

when i hire a cocktail photographer to represent it resting on a sophisticated urban bar counter, document the mixture, and sell it as a book on concept coctails, it will cease to be.

transition with a touch of otherworldliness

January 16th, 2005 § 0 comments § permalink

while taking a walk with his mobile’s earpiece, rupurt swatted an innocent male horsefly (though he later mistakenly identified it as a wasp) which was, at that moment of contact with the palm of his hand immediately preceding the swat, in precisely the same mental state as the person of whom rupert was talking was presently experiencing–abject boredom in the most significant moments of life. for you see, malbert was dying and the whole town knew about it.

it was a

January 16th, 2005 § 0 comments § permalink

… tail onto a laughter that was a creature that no longer had one.