Strange Fruit

In China, Watermelons Explode Like Landmines

According to NPR, farmers in China have been giving their watermelons too many “growth chemicals” resulting in weapons-grade produce. This development, however, will make this years melon harvest a very dangerous affair. One doctor described treating a severely injured rural peasant whose entire body was peppered with melon seed shrapnel. The young farmer lost both legs. He barely survived the incident thanks to the swift actions of family members and the doctors intervention. “These melons have caused serious injuries and are potentially quite lethal.” Dr. Wu told NPR.

 In response, the Chinese Central Gov,t has turned this years entire melon crop over to the Chinese equivalent of Food Not Bombs, for the purpose of feeding China’s urban poor, adding “In this particular instance, they need not choose.”

 Can Humboldt’s organic gardeners match that? Can we weaponize weed? Will my next joint of Sour Diesel blow up in my face?

On The Money

Financial Advice for the Working Class

Memorial Day

 Where would we be without Memorial Day? How would we know when to start wearing white again? How many workers would go postal without a three-day weekend between Presidents Day and Independence day? How would tourists know when to put on their dorkiest clothes and hop in the camper? Without Memorial Day, summer could sneak up and goose you out of your pale, flabby wintertime hibernation. So, I guess its important to make a big deal about it.

 Whether or not you go to one of those somber ceremonies in the cemetery, remember that people die so you can continue to enjoy this holiday. Think about it. If we hadn’t lost a single soldier in battle since WWII, what would Memorial Day look like today? When was the last time you visited your Great-Grandfather’s grave? I mean no disrespect to the dead, but after 70 years, most of us have kind of moved on.

 The President would probably say something, some geezers would get together, but the rest of us would have nothing to remember. We’d just know that it was a day to think about all the guys who died on “the Sands of Iwo Jima” to defeat Hitler. We’d know it was also for soldiers who died in all of those previous wars, but then we’re not really talking about “Memorial Day” so much as “American History Day”.

 To do Memorial Day right, you need people who remember. You need mothers who remember sons, widows who remember husbands, children who remember fathers and mothers, and people who made it back alive who remember those who didn’t. So, even if you still don’t understand how we ended up in Viet Nam and can’t think of a good reason to continue the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. Remember, ultimately, its all about Memorial Day, keeping it alive, and keeping it fresh.

Other holidays pay their own way. Nobody forgets Christmas. Retailers can take that to the bank. Fireworks manufacturers, pumpkin growers and turkey farmers have all found ways to capitalize on holidays people like to remember. Memorial Day on the other hand requires enormous government subsidies…more than the Farm Bill, more than the bank bailout, more than Social Security and Medicare combined.

 Does that seem like a lot to spend on just one holiday? With everyone clamoring to reduce the National Debt, can we really afford it? We clearly need a three-day weekend at the end of May, to keep everyone from going apeshit with Spring fever. I’ve always felt that working people paid way too much for that one lousy day off, but with our nation falling deeper in debt every day, it grows ever more clear that we cannot afford the thinnest social safety net, and Memorial Day.

 How much of a burden would your aging parents be without Social Security and Medicare? How much worse would it be to have a kid with Down’s Syndrome without SSI? These programs save lives, and make life bearable for so many more. Outside of the three-day weekend, Memorial Day doesn’t do anything good for anyone. The people who have the most to remember on Memorial Day, really wish they didn’t. They’d just as soon have a barbeque with the people they remember. So if you want to balance the budget, cut Memorial Day. Its a no-brainer, really.

When people start to forget about Memorial Day, we can rename it Barbeque Day. People will remember that. Retailers of grills, patio furniture and the Cattleman’s Beef Association will happily remind them. Problem solved.

There’s a view of Memorial Day that’s On The Money.

Word Power #1

Building Your Vocabulary, One Word at a Time


in vag in ate (in ‘vaj in ate) v, to fold an outer surface to an inner surface.

 I’ve yet to encounter this word out side of a dictionary, but I think its time has come. Think about it. Why do we turn our clothes inside-out, when we can accomplish the same thing by simply invaginating them? When you push the flaps of a cardboard box down into the box, so as to leave the top open, you have invaginated the box. When mystics talk about being “on the outside looking in”, they can call that “an invaginated world view”. . Clearly, this word has plenty of uses in normal life, and I encourage you to use it liberally, use it often, and use it correctly.

 Use it in the interest of gender equality. We have plenty of words with the root word “penis”, like peninsula, and penetrate. I don’t know any other “vagina” based word. Vagina is even more fun to say than penis, and with widespread use of “invaginate” we could end this gender imbalance. This linguistic revolution could invaginate the world (wasn’t that fun to say). While it takes an enormous team of rocket scientists to penetrate the heavens from that peninsula called Florida. Anyone can fill a n invaginated box with invaginated clothes…perhaps left over from that big invagination party last night. How much fun was that party? I’ll leave that to your invaginated imagination.

I don’t get out much, but…

CMKT 4 Live at the Ink People’s Center for the Arts

Understanding, as I do, that people with interesting, engaging hobbies tend to spend less time absorbed in random blather on the web, I hesitate to share this with you, but I attended an interesting workshop at the Ink People’s Center for the Arts in Eureka this past Tuesday.

The Dekalb Ill. Circuit-bent rock trio CMKT 4, helped everyone in attendance build a pretty darned good sounding acoustic instrument pick-up from a few plastic bottle caps, a brass piezoelectric disk, a panel mount guitar cord jack, and a short length or wire. They have clearly made hundreds of them. They sell finished pick-ups, or contact microphones, the technical term for them, for $20, significantly less than the retail price of a similar mass produced product.

They also sell kits to build your own. These include all of the parts, including pre-drilled recycled plastic bottle caps, for $15, and also includes a beautifully illustrated assembly manual. A plaid suit-wearing character, Crème Dementia guides you through the assembly process in great detail.

Just so this isn’t wasted on you, here’s 3, 20 something guys, producing a high-tech consumer product, mostly out of post-consumer waste, and marketing it at a very competitive price, to support their band. CMKT4‘s contact mics have a certain diy aesthetic, and are just a little bigger than competing mass produced products, but for quality, durability and price, they make a very competitive product. Of course now that I know how to make them, I sure won’t need to buy another.  Here’s the one I made:

While CMKT4 did not have a cd to support their current 30 day tour, they’ve kept themselves afloat with contact microphone sales, and workshops teaching people to make them. They’ve given workshop/concerts at over 20 “Hacker Spaces.” Apparently in these places people share tools and try out ideas. They have sprung up all over the country and CMKT4 has worked the circuit on this tour. They rounded it out with performances, and a booth at both the Detroit and San Francisco “Makers Festival” sponsored by Make magazine.

As I said earlier, CMKT4 is a “circuit-bent” rock band, meaning that they augment the basic rock band arrangement of guitar, drums and bass with a whole bunch of modified electronic toys and homemade “bleep boxes”. A number of their instruments seemed to involve the tortured souls of talking teddy bears, “Furbys” and various “See and Say” educational toys. All of these toys sprouted numerous, knobs, switches, light, sound and touch sensors that indicated that these devices have undergone substantial customization. It kind of sounded like all of these talking stuffed animals had had strokes. Some babbled incessantly, some screamed intermittently and some just kept repeating themselves. This chorus of demented toys forms the foundation of CMKT4‘s sound.

 CMKT4‘s heavy churning rhythm section propels this swirling, spitting, chattering cacophony forward with a sound somewhere between Nirvana and the soundtrack to Eraserhead. I had a great time.

So, are you done playing with that Talking Elmo, kid?

A Poem

You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover

As an autodidact, I’m not exactly scholastic.

And I’m obstreperously iconoclastic

I’m provincial, eristic and habitually bibulous

In appearance I’m nothing short of ridiculous

My modus vivendi offends the bougeois

Supercilious myrmidons that they are

They often assume that I’m less that linguistic

I like to remind them, that’s just jingoistic

Savage Henry Savaged

In the last 9 mo Savage Henry Magazine has published 33 of my original essays. As the SoHum Bureau Chief, I covered the Southern part of Humboldt County, wrote a financial advice column called “On The Money, and more. Unfortunately, contract negotiations broke down between us earlier this month. As as result, you won’t see my work in Savage Henry in the future. Instead, you can now find it here, but without all of that unfunny rubbish written by the SH editorial staff.

So, if you want to keep up on the story of one woman’s sad decline from Jewish-American Princess to White Trash Redneck, read the bland musings of an insecure barista, or just enjoy stories about their most recent trip to Vegas, by all means pick up the latest issue of Savage Henry. On the other hand, if you liked any of the dozens of short essays I wrote for them, look for more of those here.

Pabst Blue Ribbon’s Gone Hollywood

Pabst Blue Ribbon’s Gone Hollywood
Pabst Blue ribbon Brewing Company announced plans to move its headquarters, once located in Milwaukee, WI, currently in Chicago, IL, to LA. What does this mean for the future of this stalwart blue-collar beer, currently enjoying popularity among 20something hipsters? Has this new popularity gone to its head? Is PBR just the latest Midwestern dreamer to move to Hollywood seeking fortune and fame, only to end up as somebodies pool boy? Only time will tell, but in the mean time, look for good ol’ PBR to undergo some kind of image makeover.? For one, look for the red white and blue label to change to red, red and blue at first, then red, tan and blue. Maintaining that pallor was easy in the windy north, but in LA even the termites have tans.

Will PBR change its name? Lots of Midwesterners change their name when they move to Hollywood. How they change it often reveals their strategy for success. Percy Bartholomew Rothschild, putting on airs, PBR might pass himself off as a put-on heir. I doubt ol’ PBR could pull it off, with so many generations of pro-wrestling and country-western music in his veins. How about Peter B. Rosenberg? Being Jewish can be an advantage in show biz, ask Whoopie Goldberg. Actually converting, however, is a lot more of a hassle for guys than for women, I don’t know my Talmud well enough to know how that applies to beer. I suppose PBR would have to be Kosher. Maybe something less ethnic, Paul Becker Ross…punchy, tight, would look good on a marquee, yeah, I think that’s the one Look for a buff and tan Paul Becker Ross down at Venice beach working the phones on his new career in the very near future.

What will this mean for the price of PBR? You can certainly expect the price of PBR to rise in coming years. Everything costs more in LA, and PBR is gonna need cash flow. PBR will need new clothes, a new car, some swanky new digs and some spending money. You know, money to blow (for blow mostly). Sure, They’ll launch a major rebranding effort, and a cool new label, but inside, it’ll still be the same rust belt factory sweat beloved by budget-minded buzz-seekers across the land for over a century. It will just cost a lot more. “PBR firmly believes that we can maintain the loyalty of today’s 20 something hipsters as they climb the corporate ladder into higher income positions. These people can easily afford the new upscale PBR, and the familiar taste will remind them of the care-free days of their youth.” said a spokesmodel for PBR’s future image consultant Locke, Downe and Cheney. Look for the rebranded PBR, with a bold new look, dripping with LA bling at a gas station, liquor store or bait shop near you. For those 20 something hipsters who refuse to climb the corporate ladder, look for PBR’s new bargain off-brand brew, CBL (Cheap Beer for Losers) at all the same outlets.