Thursday, July 20, 2006

Who's got time for popcorn and ukeleles?

They are all different
Originally uploaded by Rune T.
Not a question that comes up too often, but lately I've found time for popcorn and ukeleles.

I was at emdot's last weekend during an electrical blackout and i was wondering what time it was. I would have just looked at my cell phone but couldn't find it just then.

-emdot said "Why don't you just call popcorn from the land line?"
-i said "ha. popcorn - what the hell are you talking about?"

That's when i first learned about "popcorn" time. emdot explained it to me, about how from anywhere in California one can pick up the phone and call 767-2676 (POP-CORN) and get a recording telling you "At the tone, the time will be ________ and _______ seconds........beep." For some reason I thought she was pulling my leg. But sure enough, I called and was soon listening to the robo-voice updating the time in ten second increments. Once convinced, em further revealed that one could call POP (767) followed by any four digits (POP-TART, POP-FART, POP-ARTT etc.) to reach this time service.

So, thus enthused, on my return from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles, I tried it out this a.m. But instead of the time I heard a different recording, something to the tune of "The number you have reached is not in service, please check..." I tried again to make sure and still no luck. hmmm.

Emdot had been pretty sure that "popcorn" worked for all of California. A quick google brought me over to a nice little history of the "speaking clock" over on wikipedia (link), that let me know, among other things, that while the 767 prefix works just fine for Northern California, Southern California has its own prefix, 853. I immediately looked to see what these numbers spelled out on my phone's keypad. ULFCORN didn't do much for me, nor did VJDCORN. I finally settled on UKELELE (853-5353). I know, the more popular spelling is ukUlele, but calling UKULELE will probably get unfortunate soul out of bed depending on when the call is made.

There is more info over on wikipedia about the "speaking clock" in general, such as how it has been operating in Sweden since October of 1936 (HEJ-SVEN?) and that in England comedian Lenny Henry's was the speaking clock's voice as part of a fundraising effort in 2003.

I'm trying to thing about whos voice i'd like to hear next time I call. Right now Danny Devito, Truman Capote, Darth Vadar and Charro all come to mind.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Syd Barrett - R.I.P.

Originally uploaded by Bollops.
Was sad to read the news today that Syd Barrett had passed away a few days ago. If you don't know who he was, maybe you've heard of Pink Floyd, the band he co-founded in 1965. Most people know who Pink Floyd are, but not so many have ever listened to their debut album, that fantastic masterpiece of psychedelia, The Piper at The Gates of Dawn.

My friend John Dragonetti first turned me on to this record sometime back in the early 1980s, and it was amazingly fun to listen to back then. And it still is, even though I don't tend to partake of the psychedelic substances so much these days. There is an enduring sense of joyful anarchy in Barrett's lyrics and songs that has stood the test of time. Songs like "Apples and Oranges" and "Bike" will always be up there near the top of my list.

There are obits all over the web right now, but there is a lot of good info on Syd over here at Wikipedia.

Syd eventually withdrew from the band due to mental problems, most likely brought about from his use of psychedelic drugs. I found it ironic that on the same day his death was announced, the Los Angeles Times is running this story on the potential for psilocybin (from hallucinogenic mushrooms) to be used to help addicts and people with terminal cancer attain feelings of spiritual transcendence. I have no doubts that this is possible, but as demonstrated by Syd, too much of a good thing might not be so good. The story mentions that subjects in the trial who took psilocybin were only given a one time dose, and many reported that the experience was "among the five most profound events in their lives, rivaling the birth of a child." I'd be interested to see studies on the different experiences of medicinal psilocybin users vs recreational psilocybin users.

The Times article concludes on a funny/scary note:

"David E. Nichols, a Purdue University chemist who synthesized psilocybin for use in the study, said the effects of psilocybin could vary greatly, depending on the mood of the user, and could be dangerous.

"If you take psilocybin and go watch 'Friday the 13th,' I can guarantee you won't have a mystical experience," he said."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Alhambra Drive-by Memories

Alhambra Drive-by
Originally uploaded by 7-how-7.
A while back i made this shot for Ko Matsuo (zeebouz on flickr), a friend of mine who lives in Tokyo who I knew in high school when i lived in Athens, Greece. At some point I thought that he had mentioned that he had lived in Alhambra, CA as a kid. So I shot the shot when i went out to Alhambra to eat with John and sent Ko a link, and then I got this response:

"hey , Steve !!
Yah , I remember the name Alhambera !
Rings a huge Bell !!! I must have past by or hung out there
many , many times in the ancient past .......
I lived in San Gabriel , I guess it 's really near by (?)"

So then I wondered why I had thought Ko had lived in Alhambra. But I figured I was just confused/confusing.

Then, later the same day, I got another e-mail from Ko:

"hey , again !
I just had a really cool experience !
Every Sunday morning at 5:30 AM I go out
to a coffee shop near by and
get me a small pizza and a few cups of coffee .
Same thing every Sunday morning ....
Well this morning after I emailed you
I went to the coffee shop but
for some reason I ordered
a toasted english muffin for breakfast ..
and I took One bite of the muffin and all of a sudden
all these memories came flooding inside my tiny brain !!!!
Major Flash Back !!
Yes , Steve ! you were RIGHT !
I used to live in Alhambra from
kindergarten to 2nd grade ... back in the 1970 's ..
the cool thing is that I now clearly remember that
the First breakfast I ever had
arriving at the house in Alhambra was
a toasted english muffin !!
Really cool how the Subconscious works !
I guess I sent you an email some moons ago
that I lived there or something .... I haven't thought of the place since ..
Know wonder huge bells were ringing !!
I guess I am going senile or something !
getting OLD man !!

anyways , if you hadn't mentioned Alhambra
this experience wouldn't have been so intense"

I love the way this memory emerged from a bite of english muffin. makes me want one for breakfast tomorrow...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Day Without Juice (and bread and produce and...)

On tuesday, on a trip to the Trader Joe's near my house, I kept seeing signs like this. This one was the first i noticed, because i was heading for the tangerine juice and found this instead.

Next stop - frozen aisle. Same story - most of the trader joe's frozen pizzas were out of stock - due to no deliveries making it through. probably a good thing, i get plenty of lipids as it is.

For me, seeing these signs in my local grocery really made the memory of monday's Day Without An Immigrant march that much better - because here it was, bits of lingering evidence that many of those people who were out there marching for change were also some of the people we all depend on, people who drive trucks full of our food to grocery stores every day, people who make our juice or package our bags of greens. It was the symbolism of the march made real - and transported across town from McArthur Park to my neighborhood store.

so - sign of the times, or no? i'm guessing that signs like this will probably become much more common in the next couple of years.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

National Poetry Month: Final Installment...Rashomon Style...

upstream downstream
Originally uploaded by placeinsun.
Wow - the month flew by - as months do - and as i write this there are maybe one hundred and ten (or less) minutes remaining in the month of April. So not a lot of time remains to get people pumped up for National Poetry Month.

and besides, May, which is just around the corner, is Date Your Mate Month, National Hamburger Month, and Fungal Infection Awareness Month. (really. try google and see.)

But despite the plethora of upcoming reasons to celebrate, we should probably just concentrate on the here and now, and appreciate the few fleeting moments that remain with us as part of National Poetry Month 2006.

and so rather than rounding out the month with just one poem, i thought it would make more sense if we rounded out the month with just one poem.

Meng Hao-jan was something of an old-school (689-740 C.E.) chinese poet.

here is a William Carlos Williams translation of his poem Night on the Great River:

Steering my little boat towards a misty islet,

I watch the sun descend while my sorrows grow:

In the vast night the sky hangs lower than the treetops,

But in the blue lake the moon is coming close.

and here is the very same poem, in another translation by Kenneth Rexroth:

We anchor the boat alongside a hazy island.

As the sun sets I am overwhelmed with nostalgia.

The plain stretches away without limit.

The sky is just above the tree tops.

The river flows quietly by.

The moon comes down amongst men.

and finally here is a third translation by Gary Snyder:

The boat rocks at anchor by the misty island

Sunset, my loneliness comes again.

In these vast wilds the sky arches down to the trees.

In the clear river water, the moon draws near.

I love how each interpretation of the original poem is so wildly different (and similar), in the same way that the four versions of the same story in Rashomon reflect, well - who can say exactly what they reflect - other than our own way of seeing/saying what we perceive or need to preceive as "the truth".

And i love that we can all examine the same exact poem/incident/newspaper story, and the variety and randomness of our individual lives insures that as much as we are all, in some way, looking at the same page, we are simultaneously looking through a set of eyes that is never quite in focus for anyone but ourself.

Happy National Poetry Month !

(poems from The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Is that "You Tube" in your pocket or...

Went to a cook-out yesterday and at some point a few of us started taliking about all the cool/funny/strange stuff we'd been seeing over on You Tube lately. So today i poked around some more and was thrilled to find this clip of the band 999 singing "obsessed". I think i had seen this video all of twice after it came out in the early 1980s and some corner of my brain always wanted to see it again. So when I found it today i was really excited.

Then I watched it.

the song sounds Ennio Morricone-ish, and they were kind of going for a "spaghetti western" look. kind of. ( western looking clothes do not a sphaghetti western make. would british video makers make "fish and chips westerns"?)

Anyway - the "cinematography" was atrocious - though no worse than most of the other music videos shot in that really horrible early 1980s style. in fact the whole thing is just rediculous.

I love it.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

National Poetry Month, Part Three

found puzzle
Originally uploaded by 7-how-7.

Since we are still in the midst of National Poetry month, here is another, this time from Denise Levertov:

The Secret

Two girls discover

the secret of life

in a sudden line of


I who don't know the

secret wrote

the line. They

told me

(through a third person)

they had found it

but not what it was

not even

what line it was. No doubt

by now, more than a week

later, they have forgotten

the secret,

the line, the name of

the poem. I love them

for finding what

I can't find,

and for loving me

for the line I wrote,

and for forgetting it

so that

a thousand times, till death

finds them, they may

discover it again, in other


in other

happenings. And for

wanting to know it,


assuming there is

such a secret, yes,

for that

most of all.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

National Poetry Month: Part Two

The Launch
Originally uploaded by Cheezit Addict.
Robert Francis' Catch, a poem about poetry (and more), is one of the very first poems (maybe the first, if we leave out "Casey at the Bat") that I encountered before high school that I looked at as anything more than something I had to read for school.

It was (in retrospect) exciting to me that this guy Francis, instead of sitting down and cranking out some dry monograph like "Poetry: Form, Function and Comprehension of the Creative Tendency in the 20th Century", had instead written a poem about poems, about writing poems, about understanding poems.

And that opened a door for me, because before that I kind of remember thinking "Why don't all these poets just say what they mean? Haven't they ever heard of prose?" And then i went "ooohhh! just like i can play baseball, i can play with words as well. Ergo, there's more than one way through the woods on a skinned horse." (okay maybe that wasn't my exact reaction, but you get the picture.)

Nowadays a poem about poetry may not be such a big deal, given that there are now countless songs about music and movies about film and even a show about nothing. And while those self-referential types of expression have probably been around as long as people have been expressing themselves, this was the eye-opener for me.


Two boys uncoached are tossing a poem together,
Overhand, underhand, backhand, sleight of hand, everyhand,
Teasing with attitudes, latitudes, interludes, altitudes,
High, make him fly off the ground for it, low, make him stoop,
Make him scoop it up, make him as-almost-as possible miss it,
Fast, let him sting from it, now, now fool him slowly,
Anything, everything tricky, risky, nonchalant,
Anything under the sun to outwit the prosy,
Over the tree and the long sweet cadence down,
Over his head, make him scramble to pick up the meaning,
And now, like a posy, a pretty one plump in his hands.

Robert Francis

Monday, April 10, 2006

portrait of the bubbleblower as a young man

Who knew ?

Who ever imagined ?

An alley where the brick walls are plastered with the masticated then discarded remains of thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of wads of bubble gum ?

Over on flickr emdot posted this shot of a self-portrait that someone created using wads and wads of yicky sticky gum.

Which would have been plenty enough excitement for me for one day, but she also included a link that explained that this portrait is located in San Luis Obispo's Bubble Gum Alley, (more shots here) where people have been smushing their gum onto the alley walls since the early 1960s.

Wow. I love that this place exists. Why doesn't every town have one of these? It seems that after the smoking ban was implemented here in L.A., the city council would have at least set aside some space for "Nicotine Gum Alley" or the "NicoDerm CQ Patch Park", right?

And it seems like this might be a good solution for Singapore as well. If they would just de-outlawify bubble gum again and designate a specific area of the city for its disposal, they would simultaneously crush the seemingly uncrushable blackmarket in bubble gum AND create new revenue streams with the resulting rise in tourism/bubble gum tax receipts.

keep your fingers crossed...

Friday, April 07, 2006

National Poetry Month

Someone (thanks emdot) recently alerted me to the fact that April is National Poetry Month. Now I tend to be one of those people that appreciates poetry if someone takes the time to send me something or recommend something that they think i'd like, but these days i rarely (never say never) seek out a book of poetry on my own. Generally when looking for something stimulating to read i'll almost always choose some non-fiction/biography or highly-entertaining crappy science-fiction pulp-dripping drivel.

But don't get me wrong. i'm not a completely uncultured ignoramus. More like a half-wit. And even half-wits like poetry. Poetry is great! On the occasions when i do take the time to sit down with some good poetry and chew over the words - i'm always forced to remember that some of my favorite poets can express complex thoughts and create powerful images and subtle impressions with just a few carefully choosen words that would take me a completely awkward run-on-sentance about the power of pithyness to even begin to express and i think you can see why i won't even begin to try.

Over time I've gone through stages, read some of the beats, like me some Rumi, read me some Levertov now and then. And of course haiku, since it seems so simple when it really isn't.

So throughout National Poetry Month i'm going to be posting the occasional poem here, and will be choosing a photo from flickr (maybe mine, maybe someone else's) to go along with it. Today a short senryu from Elizabeth St Jacques:

the black hole
in her Colgate smile

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Plane Clash

Plane Clash
Originally uploaded by 7-how-7.
Okay – when I logged into my e-mail this a.m., I saw this headline on the bbc: Terror fear over Clash fan's song. (For some reason that link isn't working like that, so see the link at the end of this entry.

My first thought was that this story was going to be similar to those “Bible Belt Teen Suicides Possibly Probably Maybe Caused By Devilicious Heavy Metal Muzak”.

So I read the story expecting to learn that the house of some alleged terrorist had been searched and that his iTunes showed that he had listened to “The Guns of Brixton” 666 times before committing some horrific subway bombing and that the authorities were attempting to make a connection between the music of a rebellious/progressive youth culture and terrorism.

Instead what I read was that Harraj Mann, an English mobile-phone salesman of Indian descent, had been arrested and pulled off of an airplane because the taxi driver who had driven him to the airport had thought his behavior was somewhat suspicious. Among the allegedly suspicious behaviors exhibited by “Mr. Mann”, the red flag seems to been raised because he listened to and sang along with the Clash song “London Calling” on his way to the airport.

Okay – now I understand that terrorism is a real possibility and that the police, in order “to protect and to serve”, have to check things out when someone makes the allegation that someone suspicious has just boarded an airplane.

What gets to me is the climate of fear that has been created post-9/11. It’s gotten to the point where if a 23-year-old Englishman of Indian descent listens to and sings along with a 27-year-old Clash song on the way to the airport, he is reported to the police as suspicious. I wonder, what if an Englishman of Swedish descent had sung along to the same song? (The CNN version of the story mentions that he also listened to “Procol Harum, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles” en route to Durham Tees Valley Airport. I have to admit that if I were the driver I might have asked the authorities not to make an arrest but to at least delete the Procol Harum songs from Mr. Mann’s iPod.)

As to a climate of fear on this side of the pond, in the U.S. there have been numerous stories regarding unwarranted surveillance by the FBI and Homeland Security. Remember the case of Homeland Security monitoring Vegans who were protesting in front of a Honeybaked Ham store? Or the FBI photographing anti-war activists in Pittsburgh who were opposed to our invasion of Iraq and were guilty of advocating pacifism? or the outing of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame by the Bush Administration as political retribution for her husband publicly contradicting the administrations false claims about Saddam Hussein seeking uranium in Africa?

Okay so maybe all of this isn’t really connected. But in a way it is. In England people are being detained for singing ancient punk rock chestnuts. In the U.S. Homeland Security is watching people for picketing a store that sells hams. The “War on Terrorism” seems less focused on tracking down the likes of Osama Bin Laden and more focused about spying on citizens who don’t quite fit the popular perception of what is “mainstream”, including vegans, environmentalists, pacifists and those who oppose the Bush administration’s war in Iraq. Which tends to make some people, like me, a little bit nervous, as it evokes the days of the COINTELPRO.

But enough for now. Go out with friends tonight and bravely sing Clash songs at every karaoke bar in town. Just make sure that one of your friends sings only Dave Matthews Band tunes in case you need someone to bail you out of the big house.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

more art than i could possibly eat

detail: Lab 101 mural
Originally uploaded by 7-how-7.
This Saturday, April 1st, Lab 101 gallery down in Culver City plays host to the opening of "What's New", featuring some pretty great work by the likes of:

Mike Aho
Todd Bratrud
Rik Catlow
Mel Kadel
Travis Millard
Brett Millard
Josh Rios
Matthew Rodriguez
Dennis Hodges
Michael Sieben
Tim Brown

and some guest artists thrown in for good measure.

But the gravy on the cake is that also included is a huge site-specific mural, covering two walls, which was created in a collaborative effort between the artists. (see photo for detail of mural) The mural, which will be on display through April 28th, will be painted over and seen no more once the show comes down. So hurry.


Lab 101 Gallery
8530-B Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90932

April 1st 7-10 p.m.
Show runs April 1st - April 28th

Monday, March 06, 2006