If you’re reading this I’m already in the air. It’s been an incredible visit to Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. But now I can barely wait to set foot back in Cali and tell you all about it.
I’ve always wanted to go to India, and here I am in Mumbai. Life is good. There’s a holiday here called Diwali, known as the Festival of Lights. Imagine it as the Hindu version of Christmas: shopping, lights, and family dinners. But instead of Santa Clause stories are about Vishnu and his wife Lakshmi; instead of Jesus offerings are to Ganesh.
I’m staying in Bandra, Pali Hill which is where many of the Bollywood stars live. We took a walk around the neighborhood. Here are some of the lights we saw.
A cool new site just launched all about producing educational coding music videos. The idea is that if you’re going to get a catchy song stuck in your head, why not have those lyrics teach you HTML, the language of the web?
It’s called Learn HTML With Song, and it’s made by a San Francisco coder, Diane Presler, with more than 20 years experience as an HTML teacher. Here’s an example of one of their videos. Continue reading Check Out My Guest Posts on Learn HTML With Song
Decompression is a street festival celebrating the return of Burning Man participants. It’s a way for those who’ve returned from the Playa to get one last whiff of that Burning Man magic while giving tourists a chance to see some of the art, mutant vehicles and outfits still freshly covered in dust.
I’ve attended Decompression for years now, but it was my first time going after my freshman year as a burner. I found myself seeking people who’ve been there, not because I wanted to be exclusionary. I’d arrived several hours before my friends, which meant approaching strangers. It was easier to approach burners because I knew they would be likely to practice the principle of radical inclusion. I met some beautiful people in any case.
Below are some of my favorites moments.
The San Francisco Mission Brass Band
I’ve seen these guys around San Francisco and they always get people dancing. When they began playing in the park, I followed them. It reminded me of a miniature version of the way burners will follow the best DJed art cars around the playa, circling them and creating an impromptu dancefloor.
Some of the many beautiful people showing off their radical self-expression at Decompression. You may think of these as costumes, but I prefer to think of them as outfits. One of the principles is radical self-expression, so we are encouraged to wear clothes that stand out, rather than fit in. They only way to truly fit in at a burner event is to dress in a way that’s not quite like anyone else.
Black Rock Roller Disco
One of many things I wanted to try out at Burning Man (but didn’t find the time) is the Black Rock Roller Disco. I was so happy they were at Decompression. There were some amazing skaters there, doing coordinated dances. After I got on the skates myself and realized how uneven the asphalt is, I was doubly impressed.
My Future Best Friends Will Be Good Dancers
I saw these dancers and they were so good that watching them made me want to dance too. So I told them and they welcomed me into their circle until my camp arrived. They were the members of Future Best Friends Camp. They gave me a necklace and made me promise to give it to my BFF. It was nice to see a camp still giving playa gifts (I brought fingerlights to give away). When I make it back to the playa, I will be sure to visit their camp. Who knows? Maybe a future best friend is there.
Art and Other Ephemera at Decompression
At every Burning Man event, there will be art that lights up and museum-worthy mutant vehicles playing music.
Hope to see you there next year!
I have a hedonist friend who would rather die early from a sustained binge of wine, women and bacon than to devote a second of his resignedly short life eating vegetables and lifting weights.He smirks in condescension when I praise yoga. He thinks it’s a bunch of superstitious mumbo jumbo and—worse yet—exercise.
It may be those things.
But it also feels effing fantastic.
Sure it may be a “practice” and a “discipline” but yoga is the discipline of getting in touch with your primal self. In yoga you are trying to find that part of yourself that is more animal than human, the part of you that is wild and naked and doesn’t give a damn, but it goes even deeper than “animalistic” in the primitive sense. The cat does not know she is a cat on a human’s rug. She doesn’t know that the sunbeam she leans into comes from a giant ball of fire a billion miles away. She knows this: Mmmm. Stretching good.
That’s the goal in yoga. To forget your woes, forget your chores, forget your name. Think only of how to perfect the stretch, nothing else. And as you do, the stretch rewards you immediately by loosening and relaxing your body. The “rigorous discipline” of yoga includes commands like: straighten your back a little higher, relax your shoulders, let your weight pull your forward. You go where your body needs to go, following the pace of your breath.
It is such a stupidly simple task that our human brains could never master it like a cat could. We insist on thinking of the bills or the knitting or who farted. It is shocking how difficult it is for a human to simply lean into the stretch and think of nothing but that moment and the lovely physical sensation happening in the body. How sad and ridiculous that I should get so excited when I’m doing it well: Will ya’ look at that? I’m breathing and balancing on one foot at the same time…and thinking of nothing else! Wait, thinking about thinking of something else is thinking about…shit.
The odd mingling of “highly challenging” and “relaxed leisure” has the same effect as a mind-numbing cell phone game: your brain is being challenged, but in a safe space, free from the perils of the other decisions you make throughout the day. It’s easy to get hooked on a combination of comfort and challenge. Of course though yoga has the same appeal as an addictive app, its affects are the opposite. The app may leave you frustrated and bottled up, and so tuned out of the world that you miss your train stop. While yoga makes you feel fit, relaxed, invigorated and alive.
Yet unlike your prescribed garden-variety vegetables (see what I did there?) or the workout routine that makes you regret consciousness, yoga is never a chore. Yoga is gluttonous. Everything is slow; your very breath is savored. But even as I admit yoga is a luxurious use of time, it feels so good that there has never been a time in my life when I regretted doing it. It is the ultimate indulgence—even the cat doesn’t devote an hour or more lying around and stretching.
What could be more hedonistic than that?
Next time you’re wacked out on wine, women, and whatever is your third vice of choice, fill your pleasuremonger cup to the brim by topping it off with this video.
Small Bits of Beauty Between Temescal and West Oakland
My friend Jennifer has a tumblog, Mission Walks, where she chronicles the stuff she sees when she walks her dog (Poe) through the Mission. One thing I love about her blog is the spontaneity. It’s not that she sees the most interesting things you’ll find in the city. Instead each small item captures the weird and random detritus of a bustling metropolitan ecosystem. Maybe you didn’t know, but I too have a Bay Area tumblr blog wherein I strive to take a photograph of everything I see that makes me excited to live in the San Francisco Bay area. Sometimes I feel like the photographs I take on my own tumblog can’t capture how amazing NorCal is because each photo of each item is isolated. The odd things I find could be miles and weeks apart. But they’re not. Today on my walk to the post office and I decided to document all the little things. Many of these things aren’t spectacular on their own, but together these tiny things fill my world with joy on a daily basis.
For example, I was pleased by how thick and strong this vine was (just South of the post office near 51st and Shattuck). It was so thick I imagined a skinny girl could climb right up the wall. Is this worth photographing? Probably not, but seeing this lush vine made me one point happier. The vine was enough, but I was equally amused that this tightly entrenched plant, which basically covered the majority of the building, was not on the hallowed brick halls of a fraternity house, but on the side of a parking garage. A FREAKING PARKING GARAGE. I can tell you, in Florida they don’t grow vines on the side of parking garages. I don’t know why. But California is relentlessly verdant. The Berkeley Wal-Greens actually has a green wall, because it too is covered in vines. Passion flowers, their odd stamen waggling like the antennae on an alien specie, frequently grow on the wire fences of parking lots. Few people keep lawns; you’re more likely to see an abandoned garden that’s continued to thrive and is slowly taking over the property.
A short walk in Oakland will reveal attention to beauty. When I reach the post office, there’s a small shady bench surrounded by mosaics tucked away behind an otherwise generic shopping plaza. On the way back I pass the huge building that the owner allowed muralists to cover. There’s graffiti and sticker art everywhere. All of these things were created by fellow humans, expressing themselves. The city itself is speaking to me, through the voice of its art, from the writing in the sidewalk to the architecture.
My desire to capture the random awesome of an Oakland walk started with this truck. The art on the truck isn’t outstanding compared to some of the paint you see in Oakland, but I was intrigued by the random WTFness of the artist’s placement of the ice cream cone.
Though I like the quick and dirty nature of this graffiti (in style, it reminds me a bit of Josh Petker), there’s tons of great street art in Oakland so normally it wouldn’t make the cut of stuff I’d blog about. But there’s something else going on in this moment, and it’s that for no explainable reason there’s a toy rabbit chilling on the ledge of the truck.
The next thing I spot that’s photo-worthy is this art car. By far not the most elaborate art car I’ve seen around here, but really a car that’s been used as a canvas is a rare enough thing in the rest of the US that any art car is worth noting. The hood of the car had a painting of Munsch’s The Scream (sorry bad photo doesn’t do it justice…too much sunshine).
But here’s the thing. You might think this random bit of awesome was several blocks from the previous one…but in fact that truck you can see in the second picture is the same one with the beanie baby and the ice cream king. And when I look up in the distance, I get the Oakland hills.
Again, this isn’t a breathtaking view that you would download and set as the background on your desktop. But it is quite nice. So this is one sweeping moment in Oakland: two very different kinds of street art and lush vistas in the distance. Here are some of the houses I passed on my walk, which Map My Walk tells me was .88 miles.
With the fancy houses and artsy cars and hella hills and beanie babies, life is feeling good. Like Alice in Wonderland, Oakland is a Fairyland of whimsy. Curious and curiouser… But what’s this? While standing across the street from the second house, I realize someone has left a note wedged to a telephone pole. Remember how exciting it was in grade school to get the opportunity to read a note someone meant to pass along to another classmate? This is like that. It’s exactly how the protagonist of To Kill A Mockingbird would hide notes in the hollow of a tree, if Scout Finch were older and maybe a homeless junkie.
Of course I read it. Most of it contained professions of love, written in handwriting I’d associate with a thirteen year-old girl. The rest of the note indicates that she is going to purchase some entertainment for the evening, and has already acquired an evening coat appropriate to the occasion. Ah the rumblings of sweet love. How she woos!
OK, I admit that maybe this note is an example of the kind of thing that drives the baby-mamas to live in Berkeley and shout “NIMBY!” And true, this isn’t thought of as a “good” neighborhood. I think of the miles upon miles of boring, good neighborhoods in the monoculture where I grew up, and tiny bits of beauty like this were few and far between. It’s worth mentioning that even when Oakland is filthy, on the same streets with the soiled condoms and the broken glass, there is so much culture and beauty.
This post was inspired in part by Radical Self-Reliance and Rich People at Burning Man by Rosie.
If Burning Man is a city, then those who spend the week following its ten principles are the Black Rock City citizens. Likewise, those who know nothing of the principles and come just to party the weekend the man burns are known as tourists. It’s easy to be irritated by the people leaving solo cups in the port-o-potties while burners are cleaning the playa of other peoples’ tiny sequins and bussing out all their own trash and recycling. After all, if there are too many tourists, Burning Man ceases to be a participatory event. It becomes little more than Coachella with nudity. My first run in with a tourist was obvious. It was just after the man burned Saturday night, when the tourists come in droves. I’d just met the fabulous, beautiful Dawn, whom I was looking forward to connecting with back in the Bay Area, when this guy offered us a beer. Let’s call him Bob. Bob was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, odd attire in a space set aside for radical self-expression. Continue reading The Burning Man Principle of Radical Inclusion: Take It to the Tourists
Photos from San Francisco Pride, Sunday. We started out at the Indie Oasis stage, because some of our favorite San Francisco DJs were working that stage: A Plus D of Bootie and the couple who DJ’s Fringe in the Haight. Unfortunately, they were blowing out the speakers in order to compete with the nonstop spectacle in every direction, so every song sounded terrible. After hanging out there for way too long, we found another stage that was thoroughly delightful. We danced through to the last song.
I like candid shots, so most of these aren’t posed. I also like to take photos of some of the people who aren’t getting as much attention as seven-foot drag queens in mirrorball leisure suits, etc. Which is to say, this collection of photos in no way captures the bounty of glitter, feathers, and gender-fucked awesome sauce that is the San Francisco Pride. Nor can my camera capture the perfect summer sunshine and cool Bay breezes or the camaraderie strangers found dancing together. It’s just a sample of the few of the things I enjoyed in our one little corner of the SF Pride festival.
Were you looking for more substantive social analysis of queerness in our times? Check out last year’s article on why I prefer the word “queer.”
Click on any photo to engage the slideshow and read the captions.
South Carolina Mayor Prefers Drunk Drivers to Lesbians
My jaw dropped when I heard the recording of South Carolina mayor Earl Bullard’s reasoning for firing his lesbian sheriff…and replacing her with a guy convicted of drunk driving.
He was caught on tape saying, “”I would much rather have somebody who drank, and drank too much, taking care of my child than I had somebody whose lifestyle is questionable around children.” Bullard now smugly denies it.
This stuff still happens people.
Here’s a handy image quote I made so you can easily share this odious quote with all your fake Internet friends.
There’s still a lot of confusion about net neutrality and why it matters. And no wonder people are confused, even the media often gets it wrong. Take for example this recent statement from Real Time With Bill Maher.
There’s a big misunderstanding about what net neutrality actually is. What’s happening is you have certain companies like Hulu and Amazon, they’re streaming videos, and that actually takes up a lot of bandwidth. And so what they’re trying to do is make it such that those people pay more. Why should they pay as much as the woman on Etsy selling hair bows?
The point of regulation is not to be neutral. It’s to protect the little guy. It’s to create competition. Where we don’t have competition right now is with broadband providers. There’s very few of them. We need to have more competition in this space so that all of this flow continues to flow. I actually think a lot of politicians don’t really understand the issue. People making the rules really need to be under 32 to get this right.
Monica Mehta on Real Time with Bill Maher, proving she is over the age of 32
Bill Maher goes on to verify he too has no idea how the Internet works with two simple words, “good point.”
Nope, noppity nope. Mehta’s heart may be in the right place, but her facts are painfully wrong. You can listen to Monica Mehta’s quote on net neutrality here, it begins at 47:30 and goes on for a minute…one little minute, and yet this statement is riddled with problems.
Now to unravel all the ways she got it wrong, so you don’t make the same mistake.
1. Mehta is Confusing a Web Host With an Internet Service Provider (ISP)
Big companies do pay more for streaming video. They pay that money to their web hosts, which provides the computers where their websites live. Granted, a big company like Netflix probably owns their own servers, but they are definitely paying a lot more for bandwidth than some seller on Etsy.
(Further showing her lack of clarity on this, the gal on Etsy pays $0 to a web host—instead she pays Etsy to use their site and then Etsy pays a web host, but that’s nitpicking and besides the larger point.)
Every person who visits a web page is downloading data from the web host, so the more visitors a site has, the more they will have to pay in bandwidth fees. These transactions are between the company and the web host, they have nothing to do with the Internet Service Provider (e.g. Comcast).
Comcast is not hosting the sites for these big companies, they simply provide the pipe that sends it into your laptop and living room. They are a middle man, and in the tradition of middle men everywhere, they now want to charge extra fees. Net neutrality is about not allowing them to do that.
2. Those Opposed to Net Neutrality Aren’t Advocating Government Regulation
This isn’t “government regulation” any more than it is when we cover our eyes and allow factory farms to self-regulate. So when she says “the point of regulation is not to be neutral” she is further confusing matters. Comcast is not a regulator. They are a business, looking to profit.
In this particular case, they want to charge Netflix more because Netflix competes with them as a cable provider. It would be like Barnes & Noble marking up the price on all copies of The Idiot’s Guide to Amazon.com. That’s all fine and dandy until Barnes and Noble is the only bookstore in town, which is the case for most Internet Service Providers.