Sorry y’all, still alive. But just barely.

Actually, that’s not true at all. Today I’m invincible. Exhibit A: listening to the Essential Clash album – specifically, as I type, Rudie Can’t Fail. And that’s me, Rudy, indestructible, drinking booze for breakfast. It’s important to keep this in mind as you read on. Or if you’re as smart as Moreno, you won’t read on at all, but rather find Rudy Can’t Fail on your iTunes and do that crazy Dervish dance they do at the Indian weddings. Somebody throw me a chapati!

Fuck, this is such a good album, now we’re on Lost in the Supermarket – one of my favorite tracks to play when I used to close up the cafe.

old rogerBut come on, let’s get serious. Last week I wasn’t nearly so cheerful. My stomach was a battleground, my asshole a firehose, and every hour or so I’d vomit up parts of my small intestine covered in psychadelic, nuclear pink pepto bismol. It lasted for about four days. I can write in jest now, but let me tell you, when you’re sick, when you’re really sick, when it’s fourth of july in your stomach even though you’re sucking that bottle of pepto like your momma’s tete and you have to take a piss sitting down ’cause you’re afraid you’re gonna faint if you’re on your feet for more than three seconds … it really doesn’t get much worse. And the horizon is always invisible – you forget what it was like to be healthy and the very notion of recovery doesn’t even present itself because an existence where your are not drenched in sweat and upchucking every color of gatorade they make into that blue plastic trash can seems somehow transcendent and only plausible in literature.

crazySo what got me through it all? Besides a very loving nurse, some former San Diegan, Manhattan transplant cultural critic/prof named Mark Dery (whose blog I stole this pic from). He had dropped me a note via the blog just a week or so before I packed up my bags and moved down here asking me if I knew Perry Vasquez or Jim Miller. As it turns out, a very good friend of mine had just finished working with Vasquez on a song (mp3) inspired by Keep On Crossing. And just the week before, I had finished reading Miller’s first book, Under the Perfect Sun:The San Diego Tourists Never See. So obviously, I had meant to write back, but during the move I got discombobulated and it wasn’t until a few months later that I disovered Dery’s blog, Shovelware with this post offering a copy of Cabinet to whoever gave the best advice for his upcoming trip to Mexico City. Competition was stiff, but Oso Can’t Fail.

And so it came to be that on my second day of near death illness – when I actually was moaning in misery – my girlfriend came upstairs with a manila envelope from New York City. I spent the next two days reading every single article and staring at every psychadelic picture from page 1 to 102 of issue #16. Here is what I learned:

  • Vladamir Nabakov had a theory of a colored alphabet, which wasn’t based on synesthesia, but rather that each phonetic letter is represented by a distinct description. Accordingly, the rainbow is kzspygv
  • I read the first 2728 objects listed in the bible in order of appearance. Frankincense was oft repeated.
  • “Steak” can now be cultivated from single tissues, which means it is theoretically possible to strictly adhere to the Dr. Atkins diet without ever killing a thing. I’ve been meaning to write about vegetarianism for a long long time now.
  • Our old computers are being disassembled in Guiyu, China by rural immigrants
  • Hyperbolic lettuce is just sold in supermarkets and doesn’t really exist naturally. I also learned that a traditional soccer ball is made of hexagons gathered around central pentagons where as a “hyberbolic soccer ball” would be an array of hexagons gathered around central heptagons.
  • After a car bomb, at least in Lebanon, the only part of the car left over is the engine which is sometimes projected as far as 100 meters from where the bomb initially exploded.
  • New security requirements are influencing a new aesthetic in federal building architecture: “Another thing is that now when we ask for 50-foot-setbacks for federal buildings, there’s more green space, and this is good for the environment. In a sense we are starting to see blast-resistant sustainable buildings.”
  • Original jigsaws were cut out of wood and were, at first, a turn of the century pasttime of aristocracy. Cardboard jigsaw puzzles were not made until the great depression when they became a full-blown craze of evening time escapism.
  • The Cabinet National Library is located just outside Deming, New Mexico and was built by “artists, professionals, a doctor, a graduate student – in other words, exactly the kind of crew that so thoroughly fetishizes the customs of the working class that traveling to a barren desert in the middle of nowhere to dig for long hours in the blazing July sun actually qualifies as “vacation.”
  • When the Swedish pavilion of the 1998 Lisbon World Expo offered pagers to fair attendees so that they wouldn’t have to wait in line to enter the exhibit, they gladly and obediently took their contraptions and waited outside regardless. As human we are terrible accustomed to waiting in lines.
  • Reading Dery’s piece on the Psychogeography of Southern California was especially satisfying … lots of gems of knowledge and description, but one fact I wasn’t completely aware of: “In 2004, the median cost of a single-family house in San Diego county hit $565,030, a jaw-dropping increase of $152,700 in a single year. At the moment, only 11 percent of San Diego county households make enough money (at least $131,740 a year) to qualify for a loan to buy such a home – a record drop of 10 percentage points from a mere year earlier …” Talk about a housing crisis.
  • “Before 1991, any Moroccan with a passport could travel freely to Europe.” I also learned that northern Morocco, like nothern Mexico, has their maquilas. One photo shows a grid of mask covered shrimp peelers. “The shrimps are brought to Morocco from Europe to be peeled and returned for consumption.”
  • I learned about the fascinating lives of the cross-dressing, bisexual, female pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonny.
  • The famous Jolly Roger pirate flag, flown during the 1716 to 1726 golden age of piracy, in fact had many variants including my favorite, the Old Roger which is pictured at the beginning of this post.
  • For the second time in the same week I came across the Catalan terms seny and rauxa: “Seny I think of as reason with a little r; it’s basically practical sense or smarts and it kind of boils down to money. There are a thousand bad jokes about how stingy and miserly the Catalans are. Rauxa is the mystical, irrational side of Catalan culture.”

Cabinet is a lot of fun. If you know The Believer, it’s somewhat in the same vain, but glossy, a little smarter, and a little less witty. At $10 a copy, it’s not cheap, but if I get the urge and I see it on a shelf somewhere, I’ll probably pick up the next issue.

In other news, today I turn a quarter-century and yet I once again feel younger than yesterday. I have started writing much more on Global Voices – a more than noteworthy project run by Rebecca MacKinnon and Ethan Zuckerman at the Berkman Center.

I’ll be compiling daily links having to do with the Latin America blogosphere and writing occasional features about LatAm news like this one on the recent Zapatista activity. What in fact surprised me most about the reactions I read on the newest communiques was just how little reaction there was. The Zapatistas used to be the darlings of the post-Communist Left, but no one seems to care any more what happens in Chiapas. For those of you who are interested in Chiapas and the EZLN, I came across an excellent mailing list at UT Austin.

Anyway, for those of you who read blogs in Spanish, if you come across something noteworthy, please let me know at osopecoso At

How you get so rude and reckless
Don't you be so crude and feckless
You've been drinking  brew for breakfast
Rudy Can't Fail

I know that my life makes you nervous
But I tell you I can't live in service
Like a doctor born for a purpose
Rudy Can't fail
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