Erik Pignata's Stock Pot

Cook, teacher, student, Gankmore-journalist. Erik's email: pololiau_2000 (at)

What is black and white and red all over? (August 14, 2020)

A newspaper
A zebra with a sunburn
A wedding groom that has overspent his credit card
A penguin in a blender
A skunk that is embarrassed about her smell
A 1950s era cold war newsreel
A parked police car in bloods’ gang turf
A badger with a rash
Carrot Top forming a dance ensemble with his family for an off-broadway interpretation of The Black Swan
A snowman shopping on Black Friday
NASA’s Mars Pathfinder images of Mars
A murder of magpies trapped and drowning in a Slurpee machine
Salt-N-Pepa twerking with the Kool-Aid guy
A very formally dressed boiled crab
A Holstein cow sporting her superman cape
John the Baptist wearing a piano tie
A civic-minded Dalmatian staging a protest in Tiananmen square
Two nuns in a chainsaw brawl
Oreos dipped in ketchup (or catsup)
A karate master visiting a house of ill repute
A chess set in Lenin’s tomb
The Los Angeles Police Department conducting a routine traffic stop
An escaped convict hiding in a large vat of Smucker’s jam
A track and field referee with a javelin in his head
A dove ice cream bar served in a raw beef heart
A mime in the front row of a Gallagher show
An American election without any liberals
A panda bear mauling a strawberry vendor
Conan O’Brien dressed in a train conductor uniform for some reason
Moses’ Casiotone keyboard after leaving Egypt
A squad of British troops in a cross-walk
A priest with hemophilia lying on a bed of nails

Letterman style top ten list: New Names for the Washington Redskins (July 14, 2020)

10. The Washingtons Dryers and Folders (with a Chinese mascot)

9. The Washington Total and Complete Pricks

8. The Cherry Pickers

7. The Border Walls

6. The Washington Comptrollers

5. The Oh-Bomb-ers

4. The Washington Wooden Teeth (factually, hippo teeth and some from cadavers)

3. The Washington Complete and Total Dissociation with Reality

2. The Tea Baggers

And the number one top ten new name for the Washington Redskins:

1. The Swamp Dwellers


72 Reasons I am Considering Moving to Scotland, as an American - awhk! (April 21, 2020)

1. Highlander, Duh! Braveheart, duh, even though it is historically inaccurate due to
the use of kilts.
2. Scotch and beer are groceries, not luxuries. The only time you have a drinking
problem is for not buying the next round, or worse, not taking a drink when offered.
3. No arms race. Besides battle axes.
4. Speaking of arms, you are more likely to find medieval arms at a farmer’s market
than kale.
5. It is always shitty weather, so no one bothers you about what you should be doing
due to it being nice weather.
6. Skirts. Men wear skirts, and it is manly to do so. Skirts! Think of your scrote if
you have one - genius. If you don’t have one, sorry I get paid more because I do. But
not really.
7. There is no such thing as PC. Period. Scots hate everything and everybody and
themselves and all of it. PC cannot take hold in that environment, ever.
8. No immigration problems are discusssed ever. Maybe trolls, but who needs goats
anyway? Who will keep the bridges safe from goat ilk?
9. Fuzzy cows.
10. Consider the Black Annis and how much I’d like to be her, you know, to do my
part for my new country of origin. Look it up! Yep, the Black Anus. You know
what I mean.
11. Loc Ness Monster. You knew that one would be on the list.
12. No one cares who the leader of Scotland is, or what they have to say. Refreshing.
13. No one will bother me there about diabetes, cancer, weight gain, cholesterol, heart
disease, lung cancer . . . none of that sort of thing goes on there. This is largely an
assumption on my part.
14. People live in castles. Not like, “I’ve built a castle ‘cuz I’m an eccentric douche”
castles, but more like “I need to delay entry of people into where I live so I have more
time to crush them with rocks or pour hot oil on them so I can then set them alight
with flaming arrows,” kind of castles that people live in.
15. I have no family in Scotland.
16. No one there is interested in diversity and inclusion. Doesn’t come up.
17. No one there, due to the lack of melanin in their skin, has to atone one of these
days for people with the same melanin deficiency enslaving for profit for way too
long another group in the past of other ones due to the abundance of melanin in their
skin. Not to mention the continued fall-out that arrangement has created even to this
day, notably by the people with less melanin, not more.
18. Speaking of melanin, Scotland doesn’t go rogue and bomb people with more
melanin than them every ten years or so, and isn’t famous for the biggest bomb-on-
the-melanin-abled of them all. That’s right, I’ve simplified America’s racial problem
into the melanin-abled and the melanin-challenged. Those are the only terms I’m
recognizing from now on when speaking of it, whether I move to Scotland or not.
19. I forgot what I was going to say. Damn scotch!
20. Poker, the all-american game, is legal everywhere, unlike in America.
21. No Hollywood. No infomercials that I’ve seen before, so there is that. Corporate
take-overs are not like likened to patriotism.
22. To keep Scotland going, there is no need to keep taking and taking, Scotland just
keeps to itself. Screw imperialism, I’m with Mark Twain on this one.
23. Sheep herding is still cool and the use of Corgis is encouraged therein.

24. Showering frequently is largely optional.
25. Barley is about as close to a vegetable is you are going to get regularly. Barley
either stuffed into meat or doused in gravy of some kind. Or both.
26. People that are handicapable, or people with diabilities, or actually come to think
of it, people. Let’s call them cripples. We are all cripples in one way or another, face
it, it is a commonality of the human experience. I want to bring that word back, its
honest and direct, and I bet it is already in common use there. Or maybe they use
some super cool scottish way to say it I’ve never even heard of ‘cuz I’m not there yet?
27. Oprah doesn’t hang out in Scotland. Nor her shared manservants with Satan, Dr.
Oz and Phil.
28. Smoking isn’t a crime, social or otherwise. People either smoke or they don’t.
29. You are European for some reason! Fancy.
30. Cowboys aren’t called cowboys, and they aren’t known for shitty poetry, assless
chaps (although to be fair all chaps are inherently assless, redundant), or lousy coffee.
I think they are identified by their first names, primarily, maybe last if you are trying
to show them respect because you don’t know them very well.
31. There better not be a fucking Starbucks! And if there is, especially more than one,
they better fucking have whiskey involved on a regular basis, or I am soured with this
whole concept to be sure.
32. No metrosexuals.
33. Pizza is still a novelty.
34. No stucco. Maybe cow shit. Quaint.
35. No Manifest Destiny. Enough already.
36. God has not been accused of shining His light on Scotland.
37. I’m pretty sure Scottish representatives give a crap about the communities they
come from, and like, represent them, even on political issues sometimes? Maybe?
38. It’s like they have this whole other language. But not. Cool.
39. Grass is still a viable building material. I want mowing my roof as a chore to
consider and maybe even planting wildflowers on it in there too. The original roof-
top solar. Sorry, I’m busy today mowing my roof!
40. Never have to see a baby on board placard, ever.
41. All National sports involve throwing something large and heavy.
42. Bagpipes are known to irritate the fuck out of anybody listening, but they are
played anyway, regularly. Boo-yeah. So fucking irritating.
43. No Ebonics.
44. Children are still free to pursue childish things.
45. No one talks about the molestation problem in Scotland. I want to live in a world
without molestation.
46. No freedom of religion. Either worship God the way they say . . . or don’t. It’s
probably a lie anyway, suit yourself.
47. The name of the country is just the one name of the country. That’s it. It doesn’t
have common names that could mean the country, or the continent, or two continents.
Well, I guess that there is that whole U.K. and British Isles and England thing. Just
forget I brought this one up.
48. The National Anthem doesn’t feature bombs bursting in air.
49. Bezerkers.
50. Whomever the Scots stole Scotland from aren’t bitching about it anymore.

51. No Yuppies. No Preppies. No tea-baggers. All moms are soccer moms. No red
or blue states. No joggers or hot yoga. They invented goat yoga unintentionally.
52. Not a single zombie apocalypse on record. Never. Unlike Oklahoma.
53. I’m guessing they have tequila available there by now.
54. Did I mention drinking isn’t a problem there, ever? I mean, come on. I could
have just stopped there. Why seventy two reasons, I mean, really?
55. No one is protesting at veteran’s funerals because god hates fags. I shouldn’t have
had to even bring that one up. I cannot believe that I had to . . . Ahck!
56. Although Scotland suffered under the yolk a temperance movement, beer adjuncts
to get beer corporations through the dark times were not preserved in the craft and
weirdly now the staple despite their nastiness and even with all the ingredients to
make beer widely available.
57. If Scotland has a balanced budget, great. If not, who cares? I hope to never hear
about it again.
58. Not once will I be in a discussion about taking back Christmas for Christ. He can
do it if He wants, I want to be left out of the discussion, please.
59. They don’t mess with the Middle East. In fact, stealing oil in general is not a
National Policy.
60. No one cares if you are muslim or arab or jewish specifically. They are too busy
hating everyone to be bothered by such specifics.
61. No Border Wall.
62. No scrubs. A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me.
63. You are more likely to get stabbed by a sword, hacked with and axe, or
bludgeoned by a mace or morning star than shot by a handgun, and that ain’t bad.
64. Soccer isn’t a child’s sport.
65. They invented golf, and golf involves drinking and driving if done properly. I like
doing things right, or not at all.
66. Fuzzy bunnies, like fuzzier than the cows.
67. Not French. No hipsters. No creme fresh interpretations on the “classics.”
68. Is divorce even legal? Who needs it when you can just deposit your spouse’s
murdered body in a bog. Plenty of bogs.
69. No sodomy laws. In fact, Scotland has deleted the term sodomy from its laws.
70. No one is described as 70-years-young. You’re just old, nothing wrong with that.
It is the opposite of wrong, right? What are we trying to hide?
71. The range of emotions in Scotland is either happy or angry. No guesswork.
72. The National Animal is the unicorn.


From the archives:


The Big Apple
February 11, 2016

So, my work asked me to prepare a dish for a Jamaican-themed potluck.  I’m a pretty big jerk, so I should be up for it.  If nothing else, as it is in the Caribbean, I’m going to make sure and exploit a lesser-nation for some much-valued imperial goods.  I might even introduce Malaria, decimating the local population such that I have to import people against their will that happen to have a resistance to the virus due to an unrelated genetic defect in the hemoglobin.  Should be a good potluck for February.

One plus one equals two.  Ah, the old adage.  But does it really?

Have you ever met anything, anything, that absolutely is so much like another that you can say of it that it is exactly the same?  One plus one equals two is a culturally biased statement based on a broad assumption.  It works because we assume it works.  Like money.  We all just agree that money works, so it does – but it is still based in a human construct of a social and intellectual world that only exists due to our agreements on assumptions in our gray matter.  Ask a wildland firefighter – mountain money is measured in toilet paper, not the green stuff.  It only works when we agree it works.

There are other ways to view the world than one plus one equals two.  What if the whole world, or universe even, is one, and all else is simply subparts, a fraction of the one?  How does one plus one work if the assumption is that it takes all to make the one, and moreover, the one combined is obviously greater than its parts?  Imagine such a holistic view – it still makes sense for what we perceive.  Count the stars.  Does each star, with its history of cosmic rampancy and unique memoir of planets and asteroids and plunging comets, so long and thanks for all the fish, equal, exactly another?  A red giant, expanding in a planet-engulfing fury; a white dwarf, taking a billion years to die . . .

So there are types of stars, then?  My apologies.  Comparing and contrasting and compartmentalizing is the way to go . . . yellow dwarf, blue giants, green clovers, and purple horseshoes.  Did you ever think about how stars had to die to even make the rest of the elements?  Stars had to die to make you, and you are worried about dying, charlatan.  Try not to do this on a Monday.

Your body is a microcosm of this notion of where-is-the-one.  It takes many, many cells that are each unique yet all just enough like each other to gather into a liver.  A vesicle protruding out of the organ – where does liver end and vesicle begin at a cellular level?  At an atomic level?  Protons and electrons and their requisite bosons and you get the idea, don’t you?  You are sharing electrons (and undoubtedly smaller specks of universe) all the time with everything else – from some level, you have to admit that there is no you and there is no air and there is no planet and there are no boundaries – there is just the universe and all its bouncy boundary-free particles – we make the boundaries on assumption to explain the thing to ourselves, but, just because we are able to reduce it into a way that we can talk about it to one another and write it down doesn’t make it the way that it really is.

Might as well unabashedly attack the scientific method while I am at it.  If the whole method is to reduce it down to as few variables as possible – when the fuck does that happen except in the scientific method?  That is, when is the last time you did something that only had one variable?  The method is measurable in numbers bound to assumptions, it’s repeatable, well, yeah, ‘cause we removed all variables except one, and it teaches us how stuff acts when you do funky shit to it in a lab.

But, I’m not doubting that it works.  We do the best we can with what we got.  Both mathematical and scientific pursuits let me type this mind-miasma up and it won’t be long until I just speak it or just think it, all depending on your notion of “long,” thanks to the very same assumptions I am attacking like a jerk.  Nanotechnology and all its ramifications may just make it so I never have to use a public toilet that a dirt-bag left a turd in; I don’t doubt we’ll do marvelous things with that kind of progress, and maybe abolish the semi-colon with such technology.  Recognize that all I’m reminding myself and others is – we may be limiting ourselves by forgetting the ratchet-steps that led us here.

Do you know anything about Newtonian apple-science and how it compares to Einsteinian A-bomb stuff?  Neither do I – my degree is in recreation and leisure (no snickering, bitches – with an earlier degree in Culinary Arts, I can throw a hell of a party)!  Apparently, NASA knew enough about both to go with Newtonian to get to the Moon instead of Einsteinian (hey, the Moon, wasn’t I talking about that sexy beast?  You know, I tried mooning the Moon, but, the illusion didn’t go away – so I gave the Moon the finger . . . but, I digress . . .).  Sure, Einsteinian was a little closer to what was really going on, but, hey, Newtonian worked.  Fuck ya, kiss the big apple.

So, we could just keep plodding along, with antiquated one plus one equals two, and reducing reactions to one variable, blindly ignoring what the experience through starting with the basic assumptions has taught us.  I mean, hey, we couldn’t even switch to the Metric system, and everyone stopped talking about it, with its outlandish matchings with our fingers and all – how on Earth would we switch to more realistic models of math and science at this point?  We probably need nanotechnology, to get us some supercomputers millions of times faster and data-storinger (you know what I mean), to even make the switch – and meanwhile the rest of us dolts will be content to stick with the monster-truck jams and Cock-ta-gon bouts.

One more thing on one plus one equals two, before I go.  I’m going to go out on a slightly racist limb here and do the old Aristotle compare-and-contrast, the root of all prejudice (that and Sanford and Son), if you don’t mind.  It’s been explained to me that the reason, say, a Chinese dude beats the shit outta his son for getting a 97% on a quiz?  It is because in Chinese characters – the building blocks of the language – the assumptions that we all build into them squiggly lines on paper what we make words with – language, the mold into which one’s mind is poured, formed if you will – to write a Chinese character, you need to get the whole thing right.  You can’t figure out what someone wrote if they don’t get all the stinkin’ parts right . . . 100%.  There is no 97% or you’ve said something else.  Holistic.  Suck the marrow on that word new-age-touting hippies and tell me what it means.

I say beat him.  This is the humble haole, and thanks, Chris, for letting me get that off my chest.  It’s good to be back.

Like a Big Pizza Pie
January 26, 2015

Do you know the difference between a conservationist and a developer? A developer wants to build a house in the woods, a conservationist has a house in the woods. Ba-da-pah.

We think what we know is the height of knowledge – very dangerous. However, everyone that has ever thought, thought that. I’ve lived long enough to know that no one saw the phone as a means to stream porn. It just sort of happened. To say we’ve figured anything out is dangerous and by all accounts thus far just plain lazy.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t do the best we can with what we’ve got. But, all those conservationists and developers agreed that wildfire was bad for houses in the woods. So, fire was suppressed for years. Policy on wildfire was to suppress it – a policy practiced so successfully that fuels have built up in forests to the point that now, when fire, a natural part of the woods does burn, it burns so hot as to destroy the very system we tried to protect. Total, absolute suppression of wildfire actually endangers the woods more than letting fires burn. So, remove the fuels?

When I lived in Germany, I remember hearing about how the forest-meisters (funny looking guys with lederhosen, felt hats with feathers, and stripy socks) had removed all the ladder-fuels from the forest to likewise protect the developer’s and conservationist’s interests of not having fires destroy the woods and the houses in them. This led to an absence of rotting detrimus; also endangering the woods. The Black Forest was dying because they took out all the stuff that makes black dead stuff.

It wasn’t too many years ago that the guy who drained the swamp and cut down the trees to promote farmland was the town hero. Or, that the notion of “rain follows the plow” was solid soil science.

My point being that these were all agreed-upon practices that in retrospect were terrible decisions - illusory. What sorts of illusions have we all agreed upon now that are equally terrible? Like, that gal in the office (I probably need more diversity and sensitivity classes) that wants everyone to use that stuff that kills 99.99%-of-germs hand sanitizer during cold season. I suppose if it is cold season, we can hunt them . . . well, I’ve got news for you – the innocuous germs you are killing are the very ones keeping the 0.01% pathogens at bay. I’m not saying sanitizing surfaces is bad, it has its place. I do it when I make beer. But, a very under-studied field is parasitology. We tend to focus on the kingdoms of life we can see. Symbiosis in the woods, like a particular squirrel that buries a particular nut in the roots of a particular tree, with said nut loaded with squirrel-spit which is loaded with micro-organisms that the tree-roots depend on, is not something a lot of corporations are paying for research on.

Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about was the moon illusion. Did you ever notice how the moon looks bigger on the horizon than it does further along in its path? There are many explanations for why this is. I’m not going to go into all of them. It is a fun-fact that some people do not report the moon illusion at all, while others report it goes away if one views the moon while hanging from one’s heals, or by bending over and peering through one’s legs. I guess I know what I’m doing this weekend. Theories abound – bordering on lunacy . . . ba-da- pah.

One, its perspective (or the “ponzo illusion”). There’s stuff on the horizon, there’s not stuff in the sky, so the stuff makes the moon look bigger in relation. Well, thanks for playing, but, it turns out people have tried looking at the moon on the horizon blocking all reference, and it still looks big, and have likewise tried to use a fake “horizon” to look at the moon at its zenith, with it still looking small. And, what about a big moon on the ocean or a drive through, say, plains in Texas (do you know my favorite part of Texas? The middle – every direction is out)? No reference and it still looks big. Also note that the illusion goes away in photographs, photographs filled with reference points.

A favorite text-book theory: refraction. The light overhead refracts less than the light on the horizon, or, there’s more crap for the light to travel through when coming from the horizon than from the zenith. The bending of light makes the moon appear larger. This is half-right. Refraction is occurring, but, this should make the moon look smaller, not larger. Oh, well. Not refraction.

The most interesting to me, though, is the notion that the brain “makes” the moon look bigger on the horizon because we think it should be closer to us on the horizon, and further away up at the zenith, based in evolution of us as a species and yadda-yadda, because its travelling and we “know” that things that move get smaller as they go away. The illusion is reportedly stronger in children than in adults – hard-wired or something? Well, great, but the illusion isn’t only with the moon – all celestial objects including a setting sun can trigger the illusion in our brains, so why would we be hard-wired to think a travelling object starts bigger and gets smaller and then gets big again? Weird.

Another favorite is the flattened-dome hypothesis. This one goes like this. There’s how the moon actually travels (a “larger sky” dome) and how we perceive the sky (a “flattened dome”). The difference between the two paths is the cause for the illusion due to convergence of the flattened dome with the larger sky dome at the horizon. This one may be getting closer in that the illusion is due to the brain, and what “size” is, and what “up” is, and so on. Spectacular conclusion, huh? Illusion is caused by the brain? Thanks, internet articles on the moon illusion.

So, this is pololiau, the humble haole, telling you to be careful thinking we’ve figured out anything yet, when all our egos should be figuring out is that we aren’t very successful at figuring things out. Maybe the moon illusion is due to Satan?


Reinstatement, Part I

It has been a long time since I wrote one of these. Two years, in fact. Two years ago, I was working in a truck dispatching office, just to gain much-needed clerical experience and to make ends meet after graduation. Two years ago, I was living with my in-laws. Two years ago, I was about to throw in the towel on Federal jobs, and go back to cooking – I have this friend who is a restaurant manager in Frisco and was looking for a kitchen manager. Anyway, two years ago, the Feds did hire me, and ever since, I have been working on the Bridgeport Ranger District in Bridgeport, California. It only took eight months of applying for positions and being rejected. It only took four months of dispatching trucks. It only took two months of being on active duty in the military during Desert Shield, thus giving me veteran’s preference (ha! I am a wartime veteran, and all I did was sling hash and flip eggs in Germany). But, damn it, now I am a bureaucrat!

It has been a good gig, here at the Ranger Station. I work the front desk (or, you could say, it works me). I attend to about 22,000 visitors annually: by phone and in person mostly, but also by mail and email. The bottom line of working at the front desk is to be nice, no matter what. In fact, that is the first thing I tell my incoming seasonals during their training each summer, “No matter what happens, be nice.” Sometimes it is more tiring than working in a kitchen for twelve hours straight, all that being nice, but at least my feet don’t hurt as much.

Starting with that first winter in 2005, forty thousand acres of proposed wilderness were opened to snowmobiling. They tried to get people in the office to go out and help patrol boundaries and look for green sticker compliance that miracle snow year, but, very few agreed (note: the boundaries to be patrolled are those between the open area and the Emigrant Wilderness on the Stanislaus National Forest, and a boundary with our own Hoover Wilderness. Mechanized travel isn’t allowed in the wilderness. Also signed and patrolled are zones in the open area that have the Pacific Crest Trail running through them. A buffer zone has to be created with bamboo poles that read “No Snowmobiling.” This seems silly, since the trail is under snow, but I have known myself and others to be silly, so who am I to point fingers?). With poor response from the district office employees that first winter, it was decided last winter (an altogether dismal snow winter I might add) that I would help Law Enforcement with these patrols.

Don’t worry; although this is a catch-up article, we are going somewhere, too. Have I ever steered you wrong?

So, before I could go do patrols, I had to become an FPO. Have you ever gone to those websites that have clever new words on them? I have a new word for you I have made up: acronimization. This is the process by which one starts to use the acronyms of his/her organization as if they are actual words; often losing what the fuck the letters stood for in the first place. An FPO is a Forest Protection Officer. As I have said, I have only spent two years in this organization, and I deal with the public daily, so I still know what all the acronyms I use stand for – lucky you. So, what? What the hell is a Forest Protection Officer?

It turns out that every employee of the Forest Service could right tickets; they are all FPOs in theory. However, to emerge from the chrysalis, the Federal worker pupae must use the magical forty hours of training (its like royal jelly) to get the authority to write tickets. I was thusly blessed last year – now I am a junior lawman. Lawperson? FPO.

This is kind of ironic, if you know anything about my life. If I had submitted a senior photo, my high school yearbook caption would have read, “Most likely to rebel to authority and least likely to submit a high school photo.” I always resented the man; how the hell did I become the man?!? I have been relaying rules to people every day, and countersigning permits as the Authorized Party/Vendor. As I said above, a year ago they gave me a ticket book! I can issue tickets for a Class B misdemeanor on Forest Service Land (so if you piss me off on private land, I guess I will have to beat you into submission, teabag your ass, and drag you by the curlies to the nearest forest). Class B misdemeanors are up to $5,000 and/or 6 months in jail.

This FPO training was necessary because how can I patrol the wilderness boundaries without the bite of tickets? And, you know what the silly thing is? The money allocated for the managing of the front desk can’t be used for snowmobile patrols . . . it has to come from grant money for the snowmobile program. Do you know where the grant money comes from? The green sticker program. So, by buying the required green sticker for riding an OSV (Over Snow Vehicle, there I go, acronimizing again) in the state of California, you paid me to learn: how to ride a snowmobile, how to ticket other people on snowmobiles - and you paid for some sweet Polaris 600 152” track mountain paddle sleds to do it on, too. Thanks.

But, all of this was the clever lead-in to what I really wanted to talk about.

So, last summer, the district went into fire restrictions. On this district, you can camp almost anywhere you want to, for no fee. All we, the bureaucrats, want from you is for you to visit a Visitor Services Information Assistant (have you ever noticed the relationship between lower-level job positions and the disproportionate length of their titles?) like myself at a ranger station and for you to also fill out a California Campfire permit for any flames outside your vehicle. Any flames – the permit actually states that a campfire is defined as “. . . a fire which is used for cooking, personal warmth, lighting, ceremonial or esthetic purposes that is not within a building , mobile home or living accommodation mounted on a motor vehicle. Campfires include wood fires, charcoal fires, and portable gas stoves using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized fuel.” I could write you a ticket for not having a campfire permit and, say, using a lantern. No, really – I could do that. But, I usually would use such a contact as an opportunity to educate and inform the public about the campfire permit program and smokey and such, then issue said contacted public a permit. Or, I would shake you down for heroin and plant some if I don’t find any. Whichever.

But, as the topic sentence of the last paragraph points out, we were in fire restrictions last summer. Thus, if you wanted to have a typical campfire or charcoal fire, you could only do so in a designated camping area; you know – where you pay a fee, there are little numbered posts, it is on a map saying “Happy Springs Campground” or whatever, and the like. So, since I was an FPO, I ran around to “dispersed” camping areas: that is, cool places that don’t fit the above description people camp for free at around here and can usually have fires and beer and weed and sacrifice virgins to their goat headed gods and all that and nobody comes to fuck with them. However, if campfires aren’t allowed, and you are having one, that my friend will more attract THE MAN than a friggin grey-speckled moth. I wrote a cubic fuckload of tickets and heard lots of great stories about why they were having illegal fires. Before you get too judgmental recall that I have spent the last two years, 8-4:30, answering questions like, “Can I have a fire?”, and issuing campfire permits to those of the public smart enough to actually come into a ranger station (or smart enough to call on one of those newfangled devices called the phone, so don’t whine about how far away we are from where you want to camp, or how our hours are when you work, shithead – I was a cook and could have found the time to make a stupid phone call). So, as Johnny-lawman-without-a-gun-besides-the-massive-one-in-my-pants (FPO), I was not very patient with the excuses. Sign hard, please, there are three copies.

Finally, we are to the point of the story. When you issue a ticket to someone, you are basically saying that you could take them into custody, but you are not – by signing, they are agreeing to either pay the fine, or show up in court. They are released on their own recognizance. If they don’t pay, they are automatically sent a court appearance notice. If they show up for court with a supercool excuse, and the issuing officer is not present, the judge could decide that it must not have been very important and just dismiss the ticket.

So, a couple of people I issued violation notices to did not pay, and were on the list for showing up on the court docket. I went to the Sacramento Federal Magistrate for the Eastern District of California. For once, I was on the prosecution’s side of the courtroom (the DA and me are like this). Court was so packed that day that I was hanging out in the jury box with my newfound law enforcement homies and the bailiff had to keep going out in the hallway to get more people inside as cases were resolved. I looked across the sea of faces to see if the people I issued tickets to were there – all I got in return were evil scowls. Imagine that! Poor nonexecutive branch bastards. It was an interesting morning. In fact, the experience was so interesting, that now that I have developed this lead-in, I will continue the rest in another article. But, don’t worry; I am not going to wait two years to write the next one. I am only going to wait until the first week of next year. Because I am going on vacation through New Year’s Day, and yesterday I was offered a new position with the Feds that I applied for – and I accepted. So, I won’t be doing this front desk stuff anymore come February. And that, my friends, gives me the month of January to wrap up stuff here at the desk and write more Gankmore articles. But, since anyone who reads this stuff probably doesn’t stop by the stockpot very regularly (since I don’t write these very regularly), Chris will be the only one waiting. For the rest of you, the other one will already be posted by the time you are reading this.

Happy Hallowthanksmas everyone! Look for the exiting part two in the first week of the New Year!

Reinstatement, Part II 

If you haven’t read Reinstatement, Part I, yet – do so at this point.  Then, come back to this one. 

O.K.  What the hell was I talking about?  Oh, yeah.  My day in court. 

So, there I am in the jury box, and the Law Enforcement Officer that I work with in the summer and winter kept asking me to see if any of the people I wrote tickets to were in the “audience.”  They weren’t – but those evil stares made it hard to take in the faces for very long.  My eyes were mongooses against cobras, they had to keep moving, before I got the stinkeye from someone (or as the Hawaiians would say, “befoah dey make da pi lau eye brodda”). 

We sat in court from eight o’clock until about one-thirty in the afternoon.  The docket was something like 27 pages.  It was a long court session, with many of the tickets being for the same thing I had written them for – riding an ATV without a helmet, fires in restricted areas, unattended campfires, etc.  The judge was such a super patient dude; he kept explaining arraignment rights to people over and over again, and each time he made it sound fresh and like he was actually interested in helping the person before the bench.  Believe me, after answering the same questions for two years, I can appreciate his position.  He could have easily made it sound like rote drivel, but he didn’t. 

From this experience, I knew I wanted to write an article.  Because, you see, I wasn’t the defendant; nor was I really the prosecutor (the DA had a small well-dressed army with piles of paperwork for that).  I was merely a somewhat-involved observer.  I would like to help you with the getting-a-ticket-process. 

First, though, I am going to go on an interlude.  I tend to do that, especially when I am mainlining meth in my armpit.  The whole purpose of making the Forest Service (or the Bureau of Land Management) was to use the land for the greatest good, for the greatest number of people, for the most years possible.  Now, you know as well as I do that some individuals of some land management institutions act like it is the agency’s land, not the public’s, and moreover that the public is some sort of nuisance.  I could run the front desk like a petty fiefdom, but, I like the idea of multiple use and conservation; that most Federal land can be used for the greatest good.  Many people confuse “conservation” with “preservation.”  The Wilderness System and the National Parks are much closer to “preservation.”  In acres, these are a marked minority of Federal holdings.  Most Federal land open to the public is managed in a “conservation” manner.  You can mine, collect pine nuts, cut wood, camp for free, get naked, fire off guns, ride horses, and all sorts of other things on the greater majority of Federal land – that is “conservation.”  Indeed, there was a Multiple Use Act that basically congressionally mandates that as many people get to do as much as they want as long as we can find compromises between them, and they don’t mess things up too much for present or future generations. 

Why do we need agencies to let us use land that is already ours, though?  Why are there regulations at all?  If you are asking such questions, than you really haven’t thought about it much, or you give people a lot more altruistic credit than they are due.  When the Wild West had “free range” (and hadn’t many regulations), the places that had water holes were taken up immediately.  So, sure, there was lots of free space for stock, but only a very few controlled all the water.  You also run into the “tragedy of the commons.” It is in your best interest on unregulated land to take as much as you can before your neighbor does the same, or you will experience deteriorating returns.  Put another way, if people played nice together, I would be out of a job.  But, lucky me, y’all don’t play nice. 

Now that my soapbox interlude is over, I will go back to the ticket stuff.  So, first and foremost, avoid a ticket all together by, 1) figuring out what agency manages the place you are going to, and 2) contacting that agency either prior to going or as soon as possible upon arriving.  It is not the agency’s responsibility to put up signs everywhere people might be – it is people’s responsibility to find out.  When you put your fishing line in a creek, are all the fishing regulations listed every fifty feet, in seven languages?  Or, are you expected to pick up some fishing regulations on your own?  That is why I have had a job for the last two years – to provide information to people visiting this district.  All you have to do is show up and ask, “Where can I camp with sheep?  What can I light on fire?  Do I need any permits to be naked?”  Then, listen to and follow what you hear.  It is important to show the place you are planning to go to the person you are asking these questions, to insure that you are talking about a place they manage.  For example, the National Forest System of Lands is divided into regions.  Regions are divided into Forests.  Forests are divided into districts.  Typically, when you visit a ranger station, it is also a District Office.  This district office will definitely know the regulations for the district, might know the regulations for the forest, but probably won’t tell you much about another forest – and won’t know anything about another region (twelve miles down the highway from our district office, you are on not only another forest, you are in a different region). 

Let me anticipate a common misconception of Federal land agencies.  Many believe that we should all “just have the same rules.”  Or, they believe by stopping into one office, all answers for every branch of government (including state and county) should be answered.  This just simply isn’t so, with good reason.  Do you know who would be in charge of all those answers and rules?  The president and/or congress.  Is that what you want?  Do you want the rules governing a patch of land near you determined by someone in Washington, D.C.?  Or, would you prefer local control?  Local control means varied rules, depending on the specific needs of different communities and resources. 

Have you ever heard conspiracy theories about a team of black helicopters that is ready to swoop down and take away your civil rights, or make you vote republican, or gang probe you, or something?  This just couldn’t exist.  How can I be so sure?  I work with the government – we just don’t have things together like that.  You should be especially wary of theories that involve cooperation of two or more agencies. 

If you have read this far, you must be really interested in fighting that federal violation.  Or, you enjoy my endearing, glowing verbiage.  Maybe you enjoy navigating numerous changes of the subject.  How should I know?  But, let’s get back to the ticket help.  

First of all, be especially nice and cooperative with the person issuing the ticket.  Every time I write a ticket, I fill in a probable cause statement.  This serves two purposes: it reminds me of the particulars of the ticket in case I have to go to court, and it builds a case for the judge.  The judge actually reads my statement.  So, if you are so blindingly cooperative that I have no choice but to write it down, the judge is going to read what a wonderful citizen you are.  This could equal half of the total ticket amount reduced, maybe more! 

Don’t argue with the officer issuing the violation.  Believe me; it takes one afternoon of writing a few tickets, or even hanging out with someone who is writing tickets, to hear the same damn stories over and over.  We just aren’t interested – once we start writing the ticket, it isn’t going to stop (well, maybe for a blow job).  Moreover, we could write everyone in camp a ticket for an illegal fire, or we could just write one.  That all depends on you and your buddies.  It might not be prudent to make a macho, testosterone scene with people who live for that kind of shit – and are armed with pistols, rifles, handcuffs, and radios to bring more badasses.  Plus, you being a dickhead is absolutely going in my probable cause statement, which the judge is going to read.  “Mr. Johnson, it says here you were a dickhead!  Can you tell me why you were a dickhead to the issuing officer?” 

When you get the ticket, find out exactly where the court will be held.  Look on the ticket and find the CFR violation number (Code of Federal Regulations).  Find out exactly what you did wrong.  Then, call the court clerk and find out when other people will be arraigned for that same thing.  Go watch what they do before the bench, and see what excuses work and what excuses don’t.  Pleading guilty, but with a helluva excuse, goes a long way – if you pull it off correctly.  If not, you will only owe the ticket amount, so you have nothing to lose.  Even just saying, “I was wrong, I know that; I learned my lesson” will work sometimes. 

If you show up for court, and the person who issued the ticket isn’t there, use that in your argument.  Appeal to the judge on this one.  “The officer isn’t even here, your honor; how important can it be?” 

If you plan on pleading “not guilty,” and going to real court, then do so.  The arraignment is not the time to start your trial.  Just plead not guilty and move on. 

Dress at least as well as the issuing officer dresses. Do you really want to be out-dressed by civil servants?  I partied at my brother’s house all weekend before going to court, and still put on some Oxfords, slacks, and a button-down.  I like cutoffs and tie-dyes, too; but give me a break! 

If you can’t make the payments all in one swoop, they will work out something with you.  I saw the judge give three to six months for people to make payments by.  Believe me, they understand. 

You might want to weigh the cost of the ticket vs. the cost of going before the magistrate.  There are only so many magistrate courts, and where you go depends on where you had the offence.  I issued a violation to some people from Idaho this summer, that hadn’t called the office beforehand, didn’t read the Forest Order posted on the door about fire restrictions, and then, asked while they were in the office about having fires in a campground.  Of course, my seasonals said that fires were jim-dandy in campgrounds.  The Idahoans proceeded to drive past 3’ x 5’ signs stating “Fire Restrictions” in red letters on yellow background, with pictures depicting a wood fire and a charcoal fire with angry red lines through them, and a camp stove with an “o.k. with a permit” sort of thing going on.  Their excuse was, 1) they had a fire in a ring of stones, so they assumed they were in a campground, and, 2) they didn’t see any signs and the office told them fires were hunky-dory.  Such excuses wouldn’t work in front of the judge, but, more importantly, which is better: paying the $375 dollar ticket, or flying back to Sacramento from Idaho on the court date?  They sent angry letters and phone calls to me, my boss, the Law Enforcement Officer, and the ranger – and ended up paying.  Sign here, press hard please. 

So, I don’t know how helpful all of this is.  I don’t know how entertaining this article was.  I do know that there is an awful lot of land out there to do your thing on, and with a few phone calls or a few minutes of your time you can avoid the man altogether.  I still might show up to give you some Smokey stickers or shake you down for heroin, depending on if I got laid the night before or not (if I got laid, I want your smack).  I and most bureaucrats want you to enjoy your national land.  Most things are allowed; just stay away from the things that aren’t.  You won’t know which are which unless you ask. 

This has been a report from the desk of pololiau.  Thanks for stopping by. 


September 22, 2005


Our founding fathers, the terrorists, had a pretty good idea – the separation of church and state. I like that one. It is too bad that in the last fifty years it has been increasingly ignored. Some leaders of today think that we need more religion in politics, you know, to prevent the country from falling apart or something. Seeing as how “In God We Trust” on money is new to the Union, and the “under god” line in the pledge of allegiance was added way after the founding fathers were dead (in the 1950s), and didn’t really become popular until the last couple of generations (those very generations responsible, supposedly, for our collapse), and for more than half of the history of the country there wasn’t a stupid pledge; seeing all of this, I was just wondering if the people who think we need to blur the Jeffersonian wall between church and state had considered that the injection of their religion into politics over the last few decades has in fact been the catalyst for the said deterioration of morals. I doubt they have considered that. It is probably just a coincidence, but one for me that holds pleasurable irony. In god we trust? Churches are always looking for handouts – I don’t think we should trust god with money anyway.

Here is more marrow to suckle in the keeping of the “under god” allegiance jazz: some Christians fight to keep the “under god” line in, when their book of books says that it is a no-no to use god’s name in such oaths. This is not especially surprising because for a bunch of people that aren’t supposed to worship false idols, I sure see a lot of crosses (most likely historically inaccurate crosses at that, the Latin cross [X] being the favored for crucifixions at the time. But what do I care, it is your crazy religion, not mine, go bomb some abortion clinics to feel more accepting). I see them around necks and in front of holy buildings, so I guess some rules in the bible are o.k. to ram down other people’s throats, but other rules are more what you would call suggestions (not that I am bitter). As Dennis Miller would have said before he turned into an ultra conservative prig, I don’t want to get off on a rant here about the inconsistencies of Christians. It is too easy for one, and since Christians are human beings, and human beings are merely walking flesh bags of contradiction, I in my almighty wisdom will allow such transgressions. No applause, just send echecks to my NeTeller account, if the lord can spare any cash. Remember, my User ID is “User ID” and my password is “password.”

So, that was some forward thinking, back in the day, the separation of church and state. It was feared that the two would jade one another – too much power and corruption to marry. One is for running the country; one is for running spiritual life; strive to keep that hypocrisy separate but equal. Hey, I don’t have to tell you, you tell me. Since the revolution, though, what was the last really progressive, out-of-site, blow the tubes thing that we did? We abolished slavery, but, weren’t we the last nation to do that? Women finally got the vote – after Russia – Russia got to space first, too, didn’t they? M-tv was kind of hip there for awhile. Hmm. That’s what we need, then. A really kick ass revolutionary idea. Let’s put America back on the map, besides by stealing the name of two continents for our nomenclature, not that we are self-centered or anything.

We need the separation of business and government.

I know, I know, it isn’t very revolutionary, since we already have that, sort of. The President has to buy any gift over $200 dollars lest it become a permanent addition to the executive branch (shoot, good ole national park workers can’t accept anything over twenty dollars at office parties, even from each other). Let’s not be timid, now is not the time for weakness. I say we put an end to political lobbying. Sure, we all love what campaign contributions do for us: the phone calls at dinner time, the clogged mailbox, the fair and unbiased television commercials, the radio ads that bring a swelling to my breast and a tear to my duct, the informed and interesting door to door flotilla in the ocean of love for their unique and perhaps overlooked and tragically misunderstood exceptional white guy, all will be dearly missed. It is a cross (bada bing you zany zealots, thanks to your savior for the expression) I am willing to bear, the loss of such channels of communicating the candidates to me. I am sure that that is all the “campaign contributions” money is going for, well, besides those nifty hats. We can have an election without the hats, yes?

In fact, do we really need candidates? Would it be such a horrible thing if we voted for bills directly (besides signing the clipboard on your way out of Whole Foods)? Imagine if we all felt like we were part of the process, responsible for our own government even. Do you feel like the guy you vote for represents your views? Do you feel a connection with those that govern you, like we are all on the same team? Who are these people representing? I don’t know anybody who feels like their views are in the majority and being held true by a politician. Is there some other society that our representatives are looking out for? My guess is: the corporate society. I could be wrong, but if special interest groups don’t get anything out of the money given, then why do they give the money in the first place?

What is so wrong with a democracy instead of this representative crap? Yes, the founding fathers were frightened of the mob. But, they wanted church and state to be separate too, and we aren’t doing such a good job with that. Further, I remember them saying something about pragmatic figuring it out as we went along, and not being squeamish about tearing it all down and starting over if necessary.

Oh, mob rule, so scary. Mob ignorance, mob complacency, and mob apathy are much scarier – you could make quite a golem with that kind of mud. Look, most of the mob doesn’t vote anyway, so don’t worry about a bunch of ignorant blunt heads throwing a left-handed monkey wrench in the cogs. Come to think of it, we already have that; it’s called Capital Hill (insert rim shot). Enough already. Keep the wall between church and state, and then get a new load of bricks to keep the damn lobbyists out. Campaign contributions = legal bribes, just as sure as there is nothing friendly about friendly fire. I hope I don’t get shot by the limousine, motel whore, and champagne union for destroying their congressional fed meal ticket. If our representatives just cannot live their lives without campaign contributions, then let’s try and do the job without them. Judicial proposal, review, and ratification could use this new-fangled invention called the internet, perhaps you have heard of it. Death to the republic! Long live the democratic revolution!

Don’t get me started about the Electoral College. I mean, they throw a nice keggar, but come on, do we vote for the President or don’t we? No, we don’t. Apparently, representatives actually know more about which president we want than we do ourselves. What a fantastically liberating system, it actually liberates us from making the decision; we get to vote, but not for real. It’s like pushing around that kiddy shopping cart in the grocery store, its virtual voting.

So, here is my earth shattering, revolutionary, terrorist plot. Keep God in the spirit world, cut the strings between business and congress, and let’s give democracy a try, just once in the life of this republic. Hey, universal suffrage, forget about it. -- pololiau

September 17, 2005

The Blame Game

A wise man once said, “One should only criticize another after walking a mile in their shoes. That way, you will be a mile away, and have their shoes.” Sage, savvy advice. Unfortunately, advice I am not going to follow.

So, just when I make a valid point about the president, that he is our leader and is thus responsible for everything that happens in this country, he shoulders the blame. Granted, this is after two weeks of such comments as, “Good job, Brownie,” and, “Everything is proceeding exactly as it should.” Do you ever get the feeling that some evil puppet master has his hand up the Bushwhacker’s ass, and is manipulating him to say just the right trigger words, giving the “purple” people just enough to stay “red?” Or, is calling the pres a puppet boy too cliché? I feel like he is aptly named; like someone is hiding in a bush next to him, much like in a tawdry romance. If the camera would just pan out, you would see a mildly quaking shrub, and hear harsh whispers, “No, no, you idiot. Just, um, tell them it is your fault, yeah, say, ‘It’s my fault, because I am your leader. They will eat it up.’”

I try to watch at least one speech each president makes, kind of like watching one football game each season. Except, the one football game I usually watch is the Superbowl, more for the free beer involved. And, watching the Superbowl usually involves talking uproariously during the game, and coming to a silenced focused state to view the commercials. So, I guess the one speech of the president is not very much like the one football game thing I try to do at all, now that I have drawn the analogy. In fact, drop that one for me. I’ll just move on.

I did watch what the president had to say about New Orleans and such, because my wife happened to flip to it. So, what the hell, I listened. I don’t mean to piss any of you off; what with the blame being his a point in one of my articles, but his attributing blame to himself bothered me. And, not just because I think he was just telling us what we wanted to hear. Nor because it ruined the impact of the article, making it look kind of weak in retrospect. Here is what bothered me about the speech.

He said that he accepted full responsibility for the slow response of the government, because he is the leader and the blame rests with him. Then, he said there would be an investigation to get to the bottom of what went wrong. Do you see what I see? If he is accepting the blame, then the investigation would be finding out what HE did wrong, getting to the bottom of HIS shortcomings. This is not what he said would happen.

Let us suppose that I took your car without asking after promising your car was safe in my hands, drank heavily at the local tavern, took off at redneck brickyard speeds, and wrapped said vehicle around a garbage scowl at the pier. Let us then suppose that my initial response to your inquiries was, “Your car? I borrowed your car? First I have heard of it.” Then, for two weeks, I said, “Oh, yeah, your car. It was lightly damaged, through nobody’s fault, it was a completely blameless accident, but everything is moving along as needed. You are in totally capable hands.” Then, because one of our mutual acquaintances tells you I might have been responsible, I say, “I am totally responsible. I am to blame. You know what I am going to do? I am going to hire some people to look into what went wrong.”

We know what went wrong, George. If you are to blame, tell us the whyfors and whatnot. We want to know that you know what you did wrong.

You know when George says that the inept response to the disaster wasn’t race / class related? That should scare the hell out of white people from sea to shining sea. Not that I am advocating mindless fear, but, that means if terrorist did attack (with no warning, the way they like to do it) with some sort of really big bomb or dam destruction or something, is this the sort of response we can expect? Imagine six radioactive or pestilence/chemical ridden days, without food or water, much less medical treatment, no matter how much money you have in the bank or what car you drive or who you vote for. My mom always said that the measure of the person is how they treat the less fortunate than themselves.

How did I mire myself in these political articles, anyway? I don’t even like journalists. When I was in high school, I hung out in the click that wasn’t very fond of clicks. Now I am some sort of self loathing journalist. I can’t help but write about it, though; the guy just drives me nuts.

The thing that drives me crazy is not that our leader sucks. Leaders have sucked ever since some bushman (very punny) stood up from the clan and said, “I will be in charge of the water hole.” My cultural anthropology professor said we could have saved everybody a lot of grief if that guy would have got a fire heated stick jabbed right through his heart the instant that idea was put forth. If we just would have remained scattered tribes . . . well, beer did come from the domestication of grain (in fact, I believe that production of beer is why everyone stopped hunter/gathering in the first place, once the water hole issue was settled. Then it was discovered that bread could also be made from the harvest). As I have brought up before, we just haven’t changed that much from thousands of years ago. You read about what any people bitch about, it stays the same over the ages. The kids don’t listen, taxes are too high, our leader sucks, at least we are a bit better than those people, and why can’t we just get away from all this (and have beer, too). The thing that drives me crazy about our leaders is that they think our society is the best ticket on the planet, and everyone else should bask in our glow.

What is so special about this place? We built it on the blood, theft, and exploitation of people – as many have done. We continue to operate world wide on the fond, beloved premise, “Gimme it, it’s mine!” just as so many others do. We can’t feed our own poor, we are extremely violent, filled with sexual hang ups, our political process is so obviously rigged, and family as we have known it is dissolving for the worst. Many countries are more productive and in better health, with less. If everyone on the planet lived as we do, it would take three and a half planets to sustain us. We are happy to bomb people, but baulk at cutting back on greenhouse emissions or ending world hunger. What is the shining example we wish to set for everyone? I am not proud of my country, but I am not ashamed, either. We are just a bunch of average fuckups, like everybody else. It is the pretending like we are somehow more blessed, more entitled, “more better” than the rest that makes me irate. Everyone, do me a favor, just stop it. Get over yourself.

I know why, I think, this idea is so attractive to us. It is what I like to think of as the “rock star fallacy.” It is the bastard child of manifest destiny, I suppose. The rock star fallacy is that anyone in this country can become anything they want to be. I am not saying that becoming anything you want is not possible. The fallacy is that it happens all the time. That, with the right moves and solid direction, all your dreams will come true. That becoming a rock star is somehow easier/guaranteed in this country, whereas in other countries it is impossible, hence the immigrants moving here all the time.

In fact, overcoming class barriers is done the same here as in any other countries. Most people who go to college come from parents who themselves went to college. Most home ownership is achieved by the children of land owners. Political leaders and CEOs are, for the most part, carefully sculpted and prearranged. Again, just like other countries. We are not special. That is everyone’s mantra for the day, “we are not special.”

Incidentally, the rock star fallacy also keeps people from being too hard on the rich, because they may be one of them some day. As you approach that bubble, as you gain enough power to do something about disparity, you must have somewhere along the line redefined yourself – realigned your views – to more closely resemble those with the power you so covet. People become the games that they play so you fake it until you make it, to marry two warn out statements into an all new, somehow worse than the sum of its parts statement. By the time you are the rock star, you are no longer a part of the class you came from, thus no longer are a representative of that class. Why on earth would you bite the hand that feeds you?

I would like to end on a positive note. The pres did say something I can agree with. He said that as we rebuild, we need to rebuild higher than before. So, everyone, you heard the presidential order, get higher. Crack open a cold one, or whatever you do to get off. God bless America.

Editor's Note:  I'm actually behind a Column. It's a good feeling.

September 15, 2005

Fear ID

This time, I really am going to talk about Real ID cards and immigration. No, seriously, I am giving you Scout’s honor, although I was only in the Boy Scouts for about two weeks.

O.K. So, Real ID cards – let’s recap: 1) Will replace current de facto ID such as your birth certificate, SS card, and driver’s license by combining them all, and more, in one fast acting maximum strength card, 2) will make us all much safer from all our woes (now with 20% more safety for the same price as the leading brand), and 3) will be just one more step in the war against immigrants.

Hey, hold on a second. Aren’t we at war with terrorists? Well, if you read the legislation on these fine, shining-example-of-freedom cards, it (that is, the hell spawn bill that created them into law) gives the office of Homeland Security the right to supersede any local authority when placing barriers against illegal immigration. Further, immigrants remotely suspected of hanging around on a corner near terrorists are pretty much terrorists (and if it happened in the last five years, so are their families). And, who does a card like this really single out, terrorists, or immigrants?

Fear sells, as someone so eloquently put recently. Fear makes laws pass without opposition. Fear makes lots of things happen – I could spin off on the other things, and probably will in later articles, but I am earnestly trying at this point to stick to the whole immigrant-hating slant of the Real ID, for I cooked alongside illegal and legal immigrants for twelve years, and currently dispatch people who will definitely be jabbed up the rusty snowflake by this change in attitude to identification.

Real ID won’t stop terrorists. If anything, they will use it to their advantage. It isn’t like a terrorist applying for ID in this country will have a red card, while everyone else has a green one. A red card, that when exposed to the atmosphere, flashes really blinky lights and alerts everyone with ominous background music. No, the terrorists will have the same, if not better, cards than everyone else. It is their job, you see, to terrorize, so they will have figured out the angles and will be playing them. You, on the other hand, will be the one that accidentally washes the damn thing, or the one on mushrooms when the buzzer goes off, or at least the one standing in longer lines everywhere identification is necessary.

It is immigrants and law-abiders who this card is intended to, and will, harass.

Intended? That may be too strong. I don’t know what Homeland Security’s intentions are. I am guessing that they are bumbling fools, relying on people’s stupidity, ego, guilt, and greed to catch them, much like our local police forces. Not that I am not a bumbling fool – I don’t want you to think that I think I am superior. It is because I view myself as an equal that I know how complacent Homeland Security checks are. Aren’t all the leaders of that organization just a bunch of Bush cronies anyway?

There is this lake, Folsom lake, by, you are so smart, Folsom prison and the town of Folsom. Now that I have written the word Folsom so much that it seems misspelled, I will tell you that you used to be able to drive across the dam, yes - it was the dam road. They closed that damn dam road after 9/11. No vehicular traffic. Yep, pretty safe. Of course, boats are still allowed on the lake . . . Are you familiar with an iron ranger? An iron ranger is one of those steel cylinders (almost always painted oxford brown; hey, I am a rec. major, I know these things) that you slip your envelope of payment into, with a license plate number and so on on the outside. This is the crack security preventing a boat full of explosives from blowing up the dam. If I were going to do the job - which I am not Big Brother, I like lakes and Sacramento – I would most likely take a water approach anyway. But, with the way it is set up now, it almost forces you to do so, because the road is closed.

I bring this up only to shed brilliant light on the point that simply going through the motions is what allows terrorists to exploit the system in the first place (i.e. Box cutters. I unwittingly smuggled a lame on a plane. A lame is a razor sharp device for slashing the top of bread. Thank whatever is holy to you that they confiscated my nail file. But, the razor got through unnoticed. Feds-1, Pololiau-1; tie game.). What was the dam line of reasoning here? Was it, “Terrorists love car bombs . . . Uh, oh, we have a road across the dam. That’s it, no more cars. Whew, everyone is so much safer and a job well done. Let’s cut some funding, and send it to Iraq?” Even if I did not use a boat, couldn’t I fill up an SUV with explosives and still drive up to the dam? Well, maybe that is a silly notion, because a) what SUVs are actually four wheel drive anymore, and b) where am I going to find an SUV in this country? We all love our troops too much to wantonly burn up fuel like that – oh, but the war is about freedom, not fuel, sorry, my bad (place emoticon relaying cynicism here).

Illegal immigrants will not be able to get one of these cards, unless they do so illegally. Gosh, and we all know how hard it is to come across a fake ID card, just ask a high school student. Entire industries are based on immigrant labor, folks. Why are we so scared of immigrants anyway? To an Indian, everyone else is the immigrant – and they have every right to be scared of the rest of us. I know, scared we will shut down those casinos, very funny. But seriously, this xenophobia started back when Europeans were the immigrants, and “forging a new nation.” I love that one, it makes eating macerated corpses and stealing land from small-pox decimated, abandoned villages sound so noble. Or how about the other trick: land-grabbing, then claim the place by sheer numbers. Hello, Texas and California. Well, of course it is ours, look how many of us there are here. Did you know some Manifest Destiny supporters thought that god wanted us to have all of the Americas, all the way up to the Eskimos, and all the way down to the Galapagos? God sure is a greedy bastard.

But, what the hell was so scary that all the land had to be “ours?” Productivity was the heralding call, because the “savages” weren’t doing anything with it anyway. Stupid redman. Do you know the reaction of the “savages” to European views of plants and animals? They were deeply disturbed by the tendency to view everything as a commodity, as dead: a tree as board feet (or, pencils and grape stakes in the case of the giant sequoias), a cow as walking meat. How could “they” not value life itself? Stupid paleface.

So, what continues to be so scary about illegal immigrants? They pick food, haul food, cook food; build houses, clean houses, landscape yards; make clothes, pay taxes, and don’t vote. That is scary. Definitely the people we want to try and piss on/off. They do drive without insurance, just like every one of you did your first job (most likely your first job involved one of the industries above). Like flipping burgers really pays for gas, rent, electricity, food, and $400 dollars in car insurance a month.

Insurer: “Wow, you don’t make very much money. That puts you in a higher risk bracket. You rent where? Ooo, that’ll cost you.”

What rate do you suppose an illegal immigrant would get if they did go to see the insurance company?

They are just people, people coming to live here just like everyone’s lineage that lives here did at one time or another. Even the Native Americans strolled across the Bering Straight, right? Illegal aliens only do what they do because the system is set up to make it easier to come here the way that they do now. We go through the motions at the borders, nothing more. If it were easier and cheaper, or sometimes at all possible, to come here legally, many would choose that route. We leave them with little choice (well, besides “don’t come at all”). Is the point then to make national ID cards available in one color to citizens and another color to immigrants, thus tracking the “more likely” terrorists? Is that the direction we are going? There is nothing like some apartheid for the new millennium. If you were a terrorist, which kind of card would you try to get?

Everyone, just do me a favor. Stop being so goddamn scared of immigrants. They are much more scared of you than you are of them anyway. Talk about living your life in fear: imagine the constant fear that you could be deported. It costs so much money to get back! What a pain in the ass. Come to think of it, it will pay to get a Real ID forgery, just so you aren’t deported (since it is all in one card now, it will be easier to forge citizenship). Chalk up another security job well done. C’mon, government people, it is a card. When was the last time a card stopped anyone from doing anything? $120 billion dollars later, spent by the states, and we will still have terrorists and illegal immigrants - with nice, new, totally passable Real ID cards. Money well spent.

Homeland Securer: “Everybody, get some rest. Whew, we are safe at last. They won’t try to get in here again, I can tell you that much. Let’s cut some funds to the parks.”

Well, I don’t expect I changed anyone’s viewpoint. We fear most in others what we loath in ourselves. If I read an article on how wicked abortion was I would still be convinced that it is none of my business (am I afraid that I make it my business too much? Is that what the cosmic mirror is telling me?). So, if you want to hate immigrants, go right ahead. I am sorry I bothered you. Make sure and get the “hates immigrants” wallpaper and chip on your Real ID. I’ll get a little pocket sized scanner and stay away from you. Do I need to add that no one was scared of immigrants in recent times until the Soviet Union collapsed? Do I really need to go there? Well, I did. But, that’s it. I’m done. Talk to you next time.

September 8, 2005

Hurricane, Schmurricane (Or as the Pres also says, where’s the ‘Cane?)

Here we are again. Before I get into lots of stuff I’ll most likely regret writing someday, my journalistic streak becoming like trying to appear nude in Penthouse and it being discovered that I used to be Ms. Universe or something, I wanted to share a bit of wisdom that I have come up with.

Whether you are a Christian or not (I’m not, I am a practicing pagan, praise Pan), the goal spiritually is to immerse yourself in God, right? You want to be upstairs with the G-man, no? Well, even in my heathenistic (and usually hedonistic) pursuits, it appears that getting to God face to face – and then losing yourself – seems to be a pretty good goal (to steal a line from my man Steve Martin, then I want to go to Europe). So I have devised a plan. I will post all of my credit card, bank card and account numbers here, complete with my nifty passwords, like “password” or “******” (I’m just so clever it is frightening), and I am going to encourage all of you to post them all over the ‘net for me. Shoot, I want the more deviant to spray paint them around town – or better yet, get them branded into your flesh. Then, as people take my identity, I will have none left, and be closer to God. Incidentally, I will also be a pauper, thus more like Jesus, too. Thank you in advance for playing your part in my spiritual advancement, which can only help matters, right? I mean, it is a win-win situation for everybody.

Anyway, that being said, is anyone else disturbed that their taxes are supporting a government that has proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt to the world, that within six hours we can bomb brown people anywhere on the planet, but in six days we can’t feed black people in our own country?

I used to argue with a guy in my university classes that I would like my world leaders to at least have a grasp of English that competes with, if not a grasp that exceeds, my own (such as our leader’s reference to “fetuses” as “feces”). He would become very upset at this, pointing out that such extemporaneous feats merely hit home what an intelligent guy he is, for he only makes those mistakes when he is talking “off of the cuff.” And, he would usually interject that Bush is a really good pilot. As the saying goes, a battle of wits with the unarmed; I should know better.

Well, a hurricane hit a place where the biggest danger of it hitting was levees breaking and flooding the area. What happened? The levees broke and there was flooding in the area. What did our man the Pres have to say about it? “The levees broke? Really? We didn’t know there were levees there. They are broken? Huh. Sucks to be them. Did it flood?” Granted, this is not a poor grasp of his native language, per se. But, it once again proves what a fucking dolt our leader is.

And, just don’t do it: don’t tell me it wasn’t his fault. While Reagan was in office (here we go with my scarred childhood again), it was decided that he was busy doing something else while guns were being sold to terrorists to support other terrorists (o.k., “freedom fighters,” whatever you want to call armed thugs, Sherlock), and thus had no blame in the affair. Is this the same route for our current Mr. Pres? Oh sure, we elect a figure head every four years, but he doesn’t represent the country, or anything. You know, things happen. What, the President is responsible for everything? Come on, you’ve got to be kidding. Pololiau, you are taking this leader thing too far.

Well what, then, I ask my gentle readers is the point of having a President? Two things I thought our beloved, bespeckled country was based on, Money Talks and The Buck Stops Here. We love rules; we love figureheads (well, besides kings. Um, well, the King of kings is o.k. But, not in school). We want to know who is responsible. Well, ever since my buddy Reagan was in office, the powers of the President have been expanding. In reverse correlation, his actual blame factor seems to be receding.

So, here is the good that I hope comes from the tropical storm madness. Ever since 9/11, excuse my French, but the journalists have been a bunch of pussies. Criticism of the government is one of my favorite parts of journalism – it should be for the news companies, too; such a wellspring. However, the Twin Towers Tragedy seems to have silenced many. With good reason, I know the story, crooked Bush oil money and war coffers have been pushed around, greasing the horribly smelly gears of the nine white evil men that control everything in this country (if not the Solar System – that means you, too, Pluto! I don’t care if you are a planet or not, America owns your ass!). You talk bad about the leader, you get fired and blacklisted. But, have we not seen two preventable tragedies in one presidency? Come on, people walk out on movies for less gaping inconsistencies. So, I am hoping that this (and gas prices) will be just enough catalyst to make it o.k. to trash talk the president. The needle seems to be on its way to the other side of the gauge, the pendulum knocked over a peg and is careening through the sand to the other side of the museum, Yin is finally going to bite Yang in the butt, and my mood ring will be in balance once again. In fact, I want so much shit talked on government, that I simply will stop watching the news. Not that I watch the news. I just want to be sick of watching it, if I did, because of all the negative issues people have with ole Georgie boy. I mean, I am a pretty nice guy, but how can slightly more than half the country not see what a corporate shill (and proud of it) jerk-off this man is? Don’t get me wrong. I have a deep problem with authority, thus don’t like any president, ever. I would have called George Washington “Old Muttonhead,” a historically documented nickname before you get all woozy. But, come on, this Bushman . . . what were you thinking? Yes, you; you know you voted for him instead of Horseface. Don’t lie to me, I’ll know.

Has anyone ever read Internet articles about constructing one’s own island? They are quite intriguing, and it can be accomplished with used water bottles and houseplants. But, if I made my own island, then the authority would be me, and I would have to sit around and bitch about me all day long (I got someone to do that for me through the holy constructs of matrimony). Well, as long as the losing my identity thing works out, at least I’ll be closer to God.

Editor's Note:  The column keeps coming in.

September 1, 2005

You Say Tomato

I grew up in the Central Valley of California. I live there currently, through what I consider a series of unfortunate incidents. In fact, I do not live far from the house I grew up in – just a couple of miles away. This area is known as “Morada,” which means purple in Spanish. However, I was never very purple, and am still not so. It is the main suburb of Stockton. When I was a kid, one had to drive through farmland to get to the outskirts of the town. Now, the outskirts of Stockton abut Morada, and it doesn’t take long to get to the smelly underskirts.

Farmland, however, still abounds in the area. As I have alluded to in the past couple of weeks, I have a fantastically exciting job – I am the night dispatcher of trucks (which amounts to paper pushing and answering the phone on graveyard). The company I work for has two fleets going simultaneously but somewhat discreet from one another: freight and fruit. “Fruit” drivers haul farm goods to plants for processing (although peaches, tomatoes, and walnuts are all commodities they haul, despite the name), while “freight” drivers can haul anything – but for the most part are hauling all the other aspects of canning. What could these aspects be, you ask? I am so glad you brought that up.

The process starts with steel and tin coming in from Korea, via a company called “USS POSCO.” The metal travels in a coil from the port to Pittsburg and/or to Antioch (you probably wondered what the hell people were doing in these towns – so did I. Now we know) where is turned into sheets. From Antioch, it goes to all kinds of can companies: Ball and Silgan are the two main ones we deal with, but there are many others. These places turn the sheets into cans, empty cans. Then, these cans are hauled to the processing plants scattered about the farmland. This is where the “fruit” trucks are hauling stuff in, and the “freight” trucks haul stuff out. What they haul out, of course, are pallets loaded with filled cans, called “brites,” because no one has put a label on them yet. They are shiny, get it? Complex terminology I deal with here . . .

So, the “brites” are taken to various warehouses. Another leg rears its head, here, for the cans need not only to be labeled, but also put into boxes. We have many loads from Weyerhaeuser in Elk Grove carrying what are called “fiber hauls.” These are stacks and stacks of flattened boxes, ready to be stuffed with canned goods (or anything else your company wants to fill them with; you can put your weed in them, I suppose). It is nice to note that some places exist, like APDS in Manteca, that will label your cans and put them in boxes, and ship them, and track the shipped goods via ecommerce technology.

I wanted to share all of this, not because of its seat gripping, enthralling, nearly-piss-you-pants nature, but because the whole industry raises some interesting points for the consumer. To elucidate these points, let me talk again about the “homeland,” and tomatoes.

You see, tomatoes can be grown just about anywhere, but do the best as a crop in five countries – the United States being the leading producer. Of the four or five states that grow tomatoes, California grows the most: indeed, Central Valley production accounts for 1/3 of worldwide production. To be fair, China grows a buttload (that is the equivalent of two shitloads) of tomatoes – and my figures may be dated. You can knock yourself out researching it – get back to me before I lose sleep. For some more figures that you may or may not trust, it’s up to you really, something like 80% of tomato production comes from the Fresno area. If you have never been to Fresno, you really should go some time. It is always nice to remind yourself of how lucky you are not to be living in Fresno. Take the family with you. Oh, it might not be that bad. It might be worse. My friend used to make the reference of “Dante’s Infresno.” I find that apt.

When I was growing up, there was a tomato plant nearby. Ahh, the smell of tomatoes being canned. Foulness. It smelled like Mom had done something horrible with the broccoli, and was using rotten cabbage to rectify the situation, with undercurrents of Lysol and bleach. The memories of childhood; is anything more precious? Then, as now, tomatoes littered the off ramps and any other sharp corner (by sharp I mean gentle turns) around town. Anywhere truck routes are you will find tomatoes on the ground. The streets may not be paved with gold, but . . . well, in Italian, the tomato is known as “pomo d’oro” or “golden apple,” so I guess you could make a case for opulence.

Anywho, now I find myself working right next door to a place that hauls tomatoes in and out twenty-four hours a day. When I ride my bike to work, I see the tomato-sauce-laden corners. As I have said, our drivers are hauling tomatoes from the field to the canneries (not the one by my old house, it is shut down) as well as hauling the brites to various distribution and labeling centers. Whew, we have finally made it to the point of the article.

Tomatoes aren’t grown all year. The canning season runs from about July to October. So, the cans of tomatoes that you buy in the store are most likely from Fresno in the summer. Companies bid on the brites, then put their labels on them. Thus, it does not matter what the label on the can says, they all come from the same damn place. This goes for organic canned tomatoes, too. You can buy the 2.89 can of organic tomatoes, or you can buy the .79 can of tomatoes, most likely they came from the Central Valley, probably the Fresno area. Now, there are rules to the “organic” or not thing (and I am sure the wind follows the rules so it won’t get sued). I am just saying: between two cans of tomatoes, or two 100% organic cans of tomatoes, you might as well buy the cheaper one. They were all hauled with a bunch of 6-mile-to-the-gallon trucks anyway. Maybe opt for the one that uses recycled paper labels? I don’t know how to be more “ecogroovy” than that. Can your own damn tomatoes, hippie.

The other point is this. Since anyone can bid on the brites, a company doesn’t have to own trucks, or a label machine, or a warehouse, or farmland, or really anything but perhaps a phone and a computer (an address, I suppose?) to sell you cans of tomatoes. There are label stipulations, of course, all that nutrition and ingredient stuff (ingredients: tomatoes). So, if you decide you really like “Sunshine Goodness Farms of Honesty and Clean Living” tomatoes, you are probably fooling yourself, because this is just some private label corporate shill that is selling you the same product that you can get at Bill’s Can World. Sunshine Goodness Farms just dressed up the label based on market research known to trigger you to like them better than “Bottom Shelf Brand – The Choice of Welfare Moms and Alcoholics.” Face it, though, they all come from Fresno.

While I am on the subject, don’t get me wrong, I like two buck Chuck. But, that is another thing we haul: big metal containers filled with wine. Two buck Chuck (a brand of wine sold by Trader Joe’s, labeled in Napa Valley, but grown in Ceres just outside of Modesto, which is about 20 minutes from where I grew up) is quite possibly the most successful wine ever. But, it is born of the same principle: grow the stuff, ship it somewhere else to process, label it / market it in a way that consumers like, and reap the rewards. How many of you would buy a fine Modesto wine with a super cool label, even if it was only two dollars a bottle? Many are influenced by Trader Joe’s image and store loyalty. Having worked in restaurants for twelve years, I have tasted four dollar wine, and I have tasted one hundred and eighty dollar wine, and let me tell you, my palette is about as sophisticated as the WWF, because they both just taste like wine to me. Sometimes I really like a wine, sometimes I don’t – and my preference seldom reflects the price. I mean, I don’t usually buy the screw cap kind, or anything, you understand; I believe wholeheartedly that mad dog / Boone’s farm varietals should only be purchased with change found in the laundry, amongst the old French fries in you car, and possibly an ashtray. Further, I like to keep it in the bag for that aura of mystique.

I have had ninety dollar wine that tastes crappy, you know?

So, spend your money on an excellently marketed label, see if I care. I have a phone, an address, and a computer. The next can of tomatoes you buy might be from my company. Maybe Chris and I should start selling “Gankmore Tomatoes: Because Consumers are Easily Hoodwinked.” Never - ed.

This is pololiau reporting, and I gotta tell you, I want some pasta and marinara sauce like nobody’s business. No, I won’t be using tomatoes from the road. I already told you, my garden is loaded with them. When does Trader Joe’s open?

August 28, 2005

A Rose By Any Other Name

O.K. So we were talking about terrorists and Real ID cards. We were talking about fear selling and Skylab and such. Some of you shouldn’t read any further, because I am going to explore some ideas here. Free speech is not looked on very kindly these days, and according to terrorist legislation, simply engaging in a political, social, or other group that espouses any notions against the State or the Government counts as two of three steps towards being a terrorist act, so by you visiting this site and reading my article, I guess you are a terrorist-in-training.

But, that is exactly what I want to talk about. What is a terrorist? Who the hell are we at war with, anyway? Before you get your underthings and uglies all bunched up, let me tell you that I am a war-time veteran, so don’t give me that crap about love it or leave it; I served in the army for “it,” so leave me alone, shithead. Last time I checked, the war was about “Iraqi freedom,” and if that means I have to give up my own right to freedom of speech – what is the point?

First of all, the term terrorism came from the Reign of Terror in France. They referred to themselves as “terrorists,” but it sounds better in French. The name, then, labeled someone within the government or society effecting change against a situation. As we know today, somewhere along the line it has come to mean someone outside trying to infiltrate, or at least a deviant inside with an explosive chip on his shoulder. Let us reflect on the earlier meaning of the word. People using propaganda, the threat of violence, and the disruption of lines of supply, hmmm, sounds like terrorism – to the people in charge, the people who do not want change. To someone who wants to change what is happening to them by an oppressive ogre, such tactics are the instrument of Freedom Fighters, or separatists, yes? It depends on who is doing the labeling, this terrorist tag. British Parliament no doubt considered the antics of the Sons of Liberty as terrorist actions; acts of sedition. And, let me say that I thank the Sons of Liberty for their terrorist activities, because I get to write this without much fear of a car battery hooked up to my testicles or a public beheading.

To someone from the area we are currently invading and occupying, the term jihad is a good thing and brings up warm feelings, whereas the term crusade would bring up ideas of boatloads of stinking, diseased, armed hooligans looking to steal gold and rape women. Of course, when we think of jihad, we think of a bunch of crazies in a demolitions-filled school bus.

To make matters more confusing to me, our public enemy number one is someone Bush and the Superfriends supplied with arms to stop communism in Afghanistan when I was a kid. It is fun to go back and watch Rambo III, all the “commies” are the enemies, yet all the middle-eastern-types are the repressed and need our help (it is poignant to note that in order to hide from Soviet pursuit, they hole up in caves). I like to think of the little kid he befriends as Osama Bin-Laden as a teenager, learning all those Green Beret tricks and Dukes of Hazard arrow shenanigans. Then, he is heartbroken that John Rambo returns to the states, and won’t stay to be the father he never had . . . it’s all Rambo’s fault, you see, the torrid state of the middle east (but, that’s only because I have lots of time on my hands working graveyard six nights of the week. You do not have to entertain such fantasies; I’ll do it for us).

Let’s talk some more, if you don’t mind; it is my article, last time I checked. Did I refer to the Sons of Liberty as terrorists? I didn’t mean to do that. I meant to say that all the founding fathers were. And, before you even think it, don’t give me that “but they did it for a just cause” line. Patrick Henry, the Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death guy, owned slaves when he said that. Moreover, he did not grant the slaves freedom in his will, when he himself died. So, who was he talking about, anyway? Save your moral speeches; my point is this: the guy thought he was doing the right thing. They all thought using terrorism was the only outlet they had to the Crown taxing them for a war to protect the colonies, if I remember correctly. They used propaganda, violence, the disruption of trade, the destruction of government buildings, all before war was declared.

And, of course, once war is declared, you can do whatever you want in the current definition of terrorism without it being considered a terrorist act. It is only before war is declared that nasty guerrilla tactics are terrorism. This is interesting, because we declared war on terrorism. But, wait; does that not by definition of terrorism make the terrorists no longer that? If we are in a legitimate war, then they can do all kinds of nasty things for the cause, right? Let me remind you of Hiroshima and Nagasaki before you start in with the World Trade Center death tolls, o.k.? One man’s jihad is another’s crusade. One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. Further, the modern ideas on terrorism say that aiding terrorists is terrorism, which our president’s Dad did on numerous occasions, right? Sold arms to terrorists? So, our president’s Dad is a terrorist (good thing the president isn’t an alien, they could both be deported for that). But that’s o.k., as I have said, so were our founding fathers. And you are two-thirds of the way there by reading this (I am attempting to coerce you through my glamorous wit, and it is happening in the United States).

Did I say I was going to talk about ID cards? I guess I’ll get to that one later. This is starting to turn into a Flash Gordon serial, or something, so don’t worry, the next article will be on a much less political subject. In fact, I was going to talk about cans of tomatoes. “Your focus determines your reality,” as Qui-Gan said to the young Skywalker, and I focus on lots of tomato trucks these days. I am so sick of trucks. But, as I said, we can tune in next week for the thrilling days of tomato can adventures.

Then I’ll speak on those damn ID cards . . . stupid oppressive database heads. Bush wants to track us like tomatoes. Shit, am I marrying the two concepts? Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that. This is pololiau, and speaking of tomatoes, anybody need any? My garden is loaded with them, and you can only eat so much salsa. Unless, of course, you are an immigrant from Mexico . . . am I marrying the two articles I haven’t even written yet, again? Sorry, let’s just call it “foreshadowing” so I look impressive and literary and all that. Maybe it will get me an A. Oh, wait, I already have a degree.

Editor's Note:  Two columns in two weeks! Nice to have Erik's commentary back on Gankmore.

August 25, 2005

Fear Sells

It is a moot point that news stories are often sold through fear. Fear is a great selling mechanism; indeed, Monroe’s Motivated Sequence begins with establishing something to fear. “Halitosis” and “Athlete’s Foot” used to be bad breath and ringworm. We did not know there was a problem until someone made it a problem. Unfortunately, it was not made a problem to help humanity; it was made a problem so that a product could be sold.

If you already know this, fine, but if not, I am sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings. News people are in the business of selling news – and, of course, commercials on the news program. Hell, it is worse than that: they are selling all the products for that station and that station’s holdings. This should not be startling news to anyone, and I am not trying to use fear to sell anything, I am just talking over here. But, since the same four or five white guys own everything in this country . . . a healthy dose of night terror keeps the public tuning in (and thank goodness we all know what to be scared of).

I grew up at the tail end of communist fears. They were going to (or had already) infiltrate and destroy our “way of life.” They were going to start a war with us, any minute, and nuclear missiles would be flying everywhere. Of course, in my preadolescent cynicism, I could never quite figure out why we were so scared of commies, when a), my country was the only one that had ever nuked anyone, and b) my country seemed to be spreading its values over a lot more of the world than commies were (I used to watch a lot of Star Trek when I was a kid; weren’t those enterprisers ALWAYS breaking the prime directive? Kirk liked to do it with his penis – Spock, sometimes, too). It always seemed like the commies had a lot more to fear from us, with good reason.

Anyway, everyone was really afraid of commies, not your Chinese variety, but the “Ruskies.” Turns out, they never were much of a threat, and the attempt to keep pace with our arms only succeeded in them making some really nasty germs (germs are much cheaper than nukes) and their political collapse. Seems like we were afraid of Iran for a while there, too, with those pesky hostages – I believe Reagan and his buddies (i.e. Bush and the Superfriends) sold some weapons to them anyway, to pay for the suppressing of this and that on our continent and that America in the other hemisphere. We were scared they would decide to govern themselves freely – like, come up with their own ideas of government. I think the general fear (pun not intended; well, maybe it was) was that after free elections, the people might want to be commies. Or Canadian, or something.

But that was a long time ago, in the years of my youth. Today, the news is all about terrorists. God, are people freakin scared of terrorist, or what? When I lived in Las Vegas, people were actually buying plastic for their doors, and gas masks, and all that. Kind of like when Skylab was falling, and people sold hub caps to strap on your head (sorry, another blast from the past). That fear; people entrenched in that constant fear of the “terrorist threat.” I am sure that it sells lots of papers; papers with lots of ad space. Maybe if we could get the Skylab to fall on some commie terrorists . . .

My mom is convinced she has West Nile Virus, thank you very much News Ten . . . like she didn’t have enough to worry about with the constant terrorist threat.

Did you know it looks like we will all have Real ID cards in three years? I believe the public is overwhelmingly against National ID cards (don’t we keep voting them down?), yet the bill became law in May with almost no opposition. Why? Because someone used the old “coattail it with war money and Tsunami relief” trick – who wants to argue with that? And, throw in some terrorist fear (dovetailed with illegal immigrant fear) and you got yourself a law. An unfunded law; but the states can take care of all of that, right? Yeah, all the states in the Union have plenty of money, last time I checked.

This article is getting kind of long – I do have some more on my mind about terrorists. As an added bonus, it involves the ID cards. So, even though I like snappy endings, I guess it is o.k. to just peter off once in a while.

Consider yourself petered.

Editor's Note:  After a very long break, Erik returns. We couldn't be happier.

August 16, 2005

O.K. readers, it has been a long time since I have written anything for the Stock Pot. So, the flavors have had a long time to blend. That’s alright; that’s the point.

But, let me throw something new in the pot.

I feel like I have finally broken free. I have actually worked for a month doing something besides cooking. That is, I have collected four weekly paychecks based on exchanging my energy for money when that energy was not directed towards cooking anything. Or, washing dishes for someone cooking something (I did some of that in my career). So, instead, tonight I was doing a lot of stapling. I am guessing a lot of you out there have done office work in the past, but for me, as I said, it is kind of new. I go through about a row of staples a night. For some reason, I noticed the box the staples come in. It advertised the staples sticking together better, and having superior penetration power. I mean, come on, they are staples; let’s not get to into “space age” technology jargon. How much have staples really progressed since they first figured out that glue thing, anyway? The more I thought about this, the more it got me going.

We just love this word progress. Granted, I get to rant and rave to so many more people because of progress. But, this is my point. By what are we defining this progress? Is it more technology that we want? Are we headed in some direction that we like? As my man Einstein said, if stupidity got us into this mess, why can’t it get us out? Can a paragraph be mostly made up of questions, and still be grammatically correct?

I would like to think that we are “progressing” to some fundamentally better level – we, people, are becoming better people. But, this does not seem to be the case. Women had the vote in ancient Egypt; it took us a while to get around to that. Their culture didn’t have those pesky race hang-ups, either. Many “primitive” societies work about twenty hours a week, thus have lots of time for recreation and family time – the very thing all of us long for right now. This entire country was taken from its owners because the owners “weren’t doing anything valuable with it anyway.” What have we done with it that is so valuable? The farmland in California is giving way to duplexes and strip malls in every town of the central valley. Is that progress? It’s a progression towards something . . . something hellish. Someday soon, there will be one long housing development / shopping experience from Corning to Bakersfield (Corningacresfield?). Those pesky Indians sure weren’t doing the right thing, keeping the rivers wild and moving around so as not to impact the wildlife to the point of extinction. Isn’t that exactly the state of some of the most valuable land now, the undeveloped land? Boy, greedy eyes are looking to that.

I mean, I don’t want to pick up a book of Indian lore, move to San Francisco on a bus, and learn to play the flute or anything. I’m just saying, if we are going to continue on with this Great Nation of ours that was built on the blood and theft of those with lesser weapons technologies (and white blood cell counts), and what nation isn’t – the good ones, anyway – let’s do something with it towards being better people.

I think progress is a bunch of hooey, excuse my complex lexicon.

I mean, think about it, every religious leader just wants everyone to stop poking each other with sticks, and for a change, try to be nice to one another (besides just at christmas). So if we are progressing, why do avatars keep showing up with the same damn message, for christ’s sake? I’ll bet you can find some ancient Greek writing that reflects my own bitchiness, probably a part they decided to leave out of the bible. And, if we had given a fuck about letting Indians preserve their oral tradition and stopped trying to cram them into Christian clothes and schools, I’m sure you would find some story like this in that culture, too.

I think the staple box is just trying to justify a meaningless pursuit (and beat out the competition, of course, I am sure it is so fierce that those staple executive guys don’t have time to read articles like the Stock Pot) of “progress” because somewhere back with Manifest Destiny we decided that progress = good. No matter what you progress to. Well, I’d like to throw my digital cellular GPS I pod compatible portable text messenger picture phone right on the toe of the next person who thinks that. Only, unlike our hunter-gatherer-family-unit friends, I have to work three times as many hours in a week as them just to pay for all this progress, so I can’t afford that kind of violence.

I’m pololiau, and I just want to know where the hell we are going with all this crap. Especially with the laser-chiseled staples.

Editor's Note:  We don't make enough of a big deal about the Stock Pot around here, but it's one of my favorite columns in the world. Erik and I were going to cross paths a few weeks back, but it didn't happen, but our loss is your gain, as we're proud to have a fresh edition out to you, dear readers.

September 24, 2003

Some chick emailed me about the gankmore site.  Said she could help our presence globally by inclusion in more search engines.  I told her to go fuck herself.
Here is what has been brewing in my mind.
I was in class the other day.  Some student asked something akin to will-this-be-on-the-test.  I am majoring in recreation and leisure.  Cooking once held a deep fondness in my heart, and still does.  But I do not want to end up being 69 years old and baking in the belly of some Las Vegas hotel, or some San Francisco hotel for that matter.  If that is the way that life goes, I will aquiece, but not without some effort to do something else with my life.  The prospect of looking my grandchildren in the eye, and saying, "yep!  I baked!" leaves a bitter bit of bile in my mouth. 
I broke my finger about two years ago.  Suddenly being out of a professional kitchen, with doctor's orders to lie about all day on pain killers (it was a spiral fracture that required an operation and the insertion and later bloody removal of metal pins), I had some reflection time.  At the time I was contemplating moving to Vegas and taking Culinary Arts Management, or Hotel Administration - both extensions of my Associates in Culinary Arts.
Before moving to Las Vegas to attend, however, my wife, my mother and I all drove back to Kansas and the Ozarks.  We tried to visit as many National Parks and Monuments as possible, as well as some State Parks.  I began wondering if such parks had hotels near them - so maybe I could work in a hotel, then go to the park.  Then, I moved on to contemplating those parks that might have hotels in them.  You know, drive to work every day by going to the park.  Pretty cool for someone who has worked around friers, ranges, and grease traps lit with flickering, nasty flourescents.
Once I arrived in Las Vegas, I realized the city has four parks within an hour, one only fifteen or twenty minutes, of where I rent.  Moreover, the College of Hotel Administration has a Recreation degree, with park management in mind.
Now, more than a year from my move date and after securing a baking job and going to the Community College, I am finally taking core classes towards a major at a university.
Anyway, that was a long background to "while I was in class the other day."  Why?  Because it struck me that many of these people are taking classes only to secure a degree.  Don't get me wrong, I want a degree too, but I am actually interested in recreation and all it has to offer as a profession.  I have been paid next to nothing comparative to everyone but homemakers and farm laborers for the work I have produced.  This hotel work is fine, but my degree amounts to dick.  I work with people who don't even have a firm grasp of speaking English, much less writing English.  Presumably they should have High School Diplomas, but I guess that is waivable, like everything else. 
So here is some guy taking up my air and my class time that I have gone through all the days of my life to attain - I feel privileged to have Ph.Ds in recreation (believe it or not, they exist) telling me what they have learned.  I want to know because I know that you just might find yourself in a situation out there where you kick yourself for not paying attention in class.  And this yahoo is asking, "will we be tested on this?" as if that is the only thing that is important.
Even beyond the learning for your tenative future aspect, the class itself has many writing assignments, in class assignments, and outdoor assignments; test scores comprise maybe one tenth of the grade. 
My point is that when I was in a junior college, I was surronded (for the most part) by people who were paying to be there for a personal reason.  Now, I estimate at least 50% of my classmates were under some sort of pressure from Mom and Dad to pick a major, and thought recreation sounded cool.  To pay them just respect, attainment of a degree, any degree, does look good on a resume.  But why go through all the trouble, especially once you reach your core classes, if you have no interest in learning?
And a degree in recreation offers nothing in the way of huge bank rolls or anything; mostly it is for government work or nonprofit organizations.  Why anyone would sit through classes they don't want for a degree that won't make them any money just to please their parents and society is beyond me.  At least go major in business or something.  Why bother the idealistic?


Editor's Note: Smith got married to Kelly, changed his last name, moved to Vegas, and after 21 months on hiatus, returns with a new installment of the Stock Pot. You might not want to read this if you're eating. December 30, 2002

Here's what I was thinking about writing for The Stock Pot.

The other day I was working with a couple of coworkers at the Rio Hotel and Casino here in sunny, sunny Las Vegas.  I am a baker there.  A relief baker.  So if anyone goes on vacation, or takes a couple of days off, or a department gets behind, I commando in and help out.  It is challenging and I am getting sick of the challenge, but that's another story.

The story I would like to share sparked off in my head as I was filling one of innumerable carrot cakes with that cream cheese icing they use.  Meanwhile, these two ladies were cranking out some mousse into moulds for the freezer.  I don't know who started it, we all talk like sailors in foodservice, even the grandmothers - but one of them brought up that some of "those people" sometimes leave their soiled toilet paper in the trash can, instead of flushing it down the toilet.

I gently explained that while this seems absolutely revolting to someone who has been spoiled by really, really good plumbing, did she know that most of the dust in Mexico City (the largest city in the world) is pulverized human feces?  Because people still go take a crap in the fields, it drys, and blows back in on the wind.  If I didn't have a toilet, I woud probably crap in the fields, too.  Helps the 'taters with flavors.  In fact, most of the world uses excrement to fertilize fields.  When I lived in Germany, "honeypots" were in wide use (containers of untreated human leavings) by farmers, and we were cationed to clean that produce extra handily.  So if you don't have a toilet to begin with, of course you are going to crap in the field.  Or crap in a pot and dump it in the field.  It takes a lot of fields to feed the biggest city on Earth.  And that's a lot of honey pots . .

Anyway, back to the nasty bit about the brown paper in the wastebasket.  Here's what I think.  "Those people" didn't grow up in a culture that had sophisticated grey water sewage treatment.  Instead, they had pipes leading to a pond.  That's right, all those marshes and wetlands our forfathers happily and with glee drained were perfect filtrate systems for human excretions.  Algae, trees, grass, fish, the whole bit will take it right up and make oxygen and water.  If you don't believe me, just ask Chris Lull.  See, Chris and I met in a little town called Arcata.  Arcata, because sooo many SoCal people were churning up to go to school, was having a waste management problem, and faced building a big high tech water treatment facility.  Instead, they turned an old landfill into a marsh, a series of pools of water, filled the water with algae, water plants, fish - now birds come to nest in the wetlands, and they even built goddamn ! shacks to sit in and watch the turd parade, and charge admission!  I shit you not.

So back to the toilet paper, for the last time already.  If a city the size of Mexico City flushed all of its paper into the toilets, paper would clog up whatever water their sewage drains into.  Makes sense, doesn't it?  If you live where the disposal of waste water is facillitated by dumping it into wetlands, and you don't have a great plumbing system to begin with, you would probably be cationed from a young age to just throw the paper away and burn it up outside with the rest of the paper.  Yes, that's right, I told her, these same women are talking about the nasty Americans, "those people" who's mothers didn't raise them right, because there they go, just flushing all that disgusting used T.P. into the local pond, Lake Mead.  

This raises an interesting side note.  Many women and children in developing countries gather all the dung they can, to burn for cooking and heating.  This robs the crops of livestock fetilization (I assume they use their own, and don't dry it out to cook with.  That's pushing the ole cultural envelope).  The tragedy is that the animal dung and their own can be churned around, releasing methane.  Enough methane, in fact, to produce enough energy to purify and deliver drinking water from the very wetlands they already are having to cook with the cow patties to get rid of the diseases their own waste is contaminating the water with.  The beautiful irony.  Then the "slurry" can be used on crops with all the fertilizing benefits, and no pathogens.  In fact, we could use the same technology here.  Our waste could be harvested for methane, the most efficient of all fossil fuels, and enough methane can be generated to r! un the water processing station itself, with some left to sell to the power company.  Or have a water company bar-be-que.  Or heat a homeless shelter, or some shit like that. You get the picture.


March, 2000

As the short intro printed above alludes to, and by the weight of the name of this segment of the Gankmore Co., the Stock Pot, I am a cook.  I have cooked in many different settings; right now, I am focusing on one of the disciplines of the pastry chef .  Dough holds a fascination over me, and has for some time.  Further, I am developing a friendly working relationship with it, in many of its infinite forms. The present sees me working in an upscale Italian restaurant.  I make many forms of pasta; also cakes, custards, cookies and crusts.

Recently we hired a new cook.  To set the background, I am attending a local junior college.  I am studying Culinary Arts.  One of the classes this semester is Restaurant Management.  For the main project, I must use whatever resources necessary to secure two pastry chefs for interview.  This is because I stated my career goal as being a pastry chef.  So, having achieved marginal success in questioning my current colleagues, I asked the new cook if he had any knowledge of pastry chefs I could
talk to .  He raised his hand, as if to say that he was my man.

This is one that has bothered me for some time, and I am going to unload on you, the public.  Well, at least the portion of the public that has a computer and actually comes to read what I have to say.  There is a major difference between a cook and a chef.   There is all the difference between a cook and and a chef.   Imagine a dishwasher in a restaurant.  She or he can wash the dishes, silverware, pots, pans, and glasses like nobody's business.  I mean, they are so together, they have plates before you realize you
need them, toilet paper in the bathrooms before some lady has to 'drip-dry', and are scrubbing down the walk-in refrigerator whether you think it needs it or not.  Somebody like that, you, as the chef or the cook, you teach to do 'prep'.

Some of you may not know what that is.  I forget such things; professional kitchen talk is a second language to me.  Food comes to a restaurant in various forms.  The greater percentage of it must be processed, prepared, or 'prep'd, in some way, for rapid utilization on the 'line'.  The line is where the cooks cook food to put on plates to hand to wait staff, to bring to you the patron.

So this able bodied dish washing scub-a-holic is so super- motivated that he or she is trained to prep some carrots.  Chop the broccoli.  Boil pasta.  Eventually, some line cook parties down or gets sick or quits or shoots to much junk.  So, the dishwasher turned prep cook learns the line.  Maybe just salads first.  Then sandwiches.  Sauces.  Sandwiches.  Meats.  Usually the meat cook is the 'first cook'.  They call the timing.  They let you, the line cook, know when to bring up that pasta, sandwich, sauce, side; in order for all the plates to go out at the same time and temperature.  Those are the stations ( besides the pastry cook in the back! ) of most restaurants you have attended.  A sous chef has worked them all at one time or another.  Plus, a sous chef orders, hires, fires, plans, purchases, manages, acts as spokesperson, schedules . . . the list goes on and on.  That is a chef.

So back to this new guy.  I cook.  I have cooked in every station on the line at one time or another in my career.  I have preped and dished.  Now, I am baking and making pasta.  So what exactly did this guy mean when he said he has been a pastry chef before?  And why, if he has been a pastry chef, has he been hired to do prep at our restaurant?  Maybe he is only in it for the money.  Ha, ha.  No offense to the individual, but I am working hard in school and in my career to honestly earn the title of chef, because it means something to me.  It is French, for chief.

I have worked for good chefs and bad chefs.  I have likewise worked for good managers and bad managers.  I know what they feel like.  This guy feels like a line cook to me.  Lots of you out there may call someone who cooks a chef.  I have corrected many people when they slap such an unearned title on me.  I don¹t want to call myself that until I am that.  Bricklayers aren¹t architects.  Secretaries aren't C.E.O.s.  Can civilization function in its current fashion without bricklayers, secretaries, or cooks?  Of
course not.  Will it tumble if we call ourselves that which we are not?  Certainly not.

This is the stock pot, however.  What did you expect?


December 13th, 1999

One of the most prevelent, but least pointed out, themes in science and religion is the concept of the one.  That is, isn't all of the all the same thing, and objectivity as well as subjectivity only exsistant in the mind?
And the mind is, although it seems to you and me to be you and me, simply the same stuff as everything else.  It just happens to be spinning and whirling in neat little collective patterns that create an illusion of

What the hell kind of science and religion am I talking about?  Well, we will go there right now.

Chemistry.  Protons, neutrons, and electrons.  That is it.  That is what you study.  Oh sure, they spin in this orbital or that, thus producing a matrix of this element or that.  And those elements do a merry dance with
one another, forming more spins and swirls that give us ever increasing complexity.  Until you get to . . .

Biology.  What is the first thing you learn about in Biology?  I will tell you.  Cells.  The part that makes up the rest.  The first living things, and still the most numerous, are unicellular things.  That idea still works.  Oh, sure, we have come a long way since then.  But cells as beings in of themselves are still hanging out.  We are a collection of cells, working together as tissues, to build organs, that function as systems, to make more complex organisms.  Some say that the sum is greater than the parts; a pile of the chemicals that make a person in a jar, right next to some jugs that are the 80% water that we all are, is argueably not as dynamic as all of that stuff together in an electron exchanging mass. Not as dynamic to your eyes.  But since value is a product of your mind, which will die, and of your society, which is in flux, what "good" is that arguement in the first place?  A person, or the pile of stuff that goes into chemically making that person, or the equal mass in unicellular fungi, or in gold, for that matter, would all look different and take on different value from the point of view of an electron microscope, or from the point of view of space.  And if you didn't have eyes in the first place, or weren't even there, what really is the difference?  If you aren't there to generate a judgement call, what then?

Religion.  What is the goal of religion, anyhow?  To return to that which created you.  To be lovingly embraced by your God of choice.  You pretty much have to die in some sense of the world to get there.  Your you, right now, the spitting, scratching, sinning one, has to die.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually, to be truly free . . . right?  You have to stop being what you are being.  You have to stop believing that that collection of thoughts, prejudices, cells, fluids, emotions, desires, is really you. You have to see it for the jar of otherwise "useless" chemicals and jugs of water, animated by a collective exchange of negative particles, that we define as life.  That we define . . .

I mean, we still haven't really defined that one, have we?  Or intelligence.  Or language.  We make some good stabs, but always the definitions leave something out; leave me wanting.

Religion and science both teach us that nothing is what it has been explained to be.  That we are horribly biased and way off track.  Something that is green isn't green, rather it is reflecting a stream of wave/particles that is interpreted by electrical impulses within our craniums to be called green.  That nothing is really solid, the things all around us are just whizzing and humming with dynamic potential, that we next to these objects are hurtling around an axis of the planet, around the sun, and all of the solar system around a central point in the galaxy, and of course the galaxy itself is in motion.  So nothing is solid or still ever, no matter what our electrical impulses tell us.  Or spiritually, that this isn't the real exsistence.  That this is a shadow, a middle world, a netherworld, or a training ground.  Real life is nothing like we think it is, and the sooner we give up all that we think it is, the better.

So on this point of the one, science and religion are close indeed.  It is all the same stuff, that we will go back to being that same stuff, as soon as we shed that which we think we are.  That in fact we as we know we cannot possibly know what we really are, because we are really all of it, and to know that, we have to stop knowing anything.  Yes, actually being able to know limits one from knowing the most important knowledge - that there isn't really any knowledge in the first place!  Knowledge is simply another of countless dances of electrons in your head.  Without anyone to read or understand anything I have said, what does it become?  The same thing it was in the first place, a dance of protons, neutrons, and electrons, which I hear are dances in of themselves, and have no greater meaning than that which we all agree is theirs to possess.


October 13th, 1999
There's nothing you can know that can't be known . . .

Is that how the lyric goes?  All I know is, the concept of knowledge has got me a little edgy.  Here is what I've been thinking about.

Everyone has come to the realization in the Beatles song, that it has all been done before.  English teachers will tell you that all the plots in all the books and movies we dig so much are from The Billman Shakespeare; likewise, theatre freaks will point out that the Greeks did it before him. I really don't want to know what the greeks were doing, but whatever it was, the Romans copied it, and we all see what the Pope is doing.

That isn't what I was really thinking about, though.  Greeks, Romans, and English dudes.  I was thinking about thinking.  We learn how to think, right?  We learn letters, and rotely memorize putting words together, and
then one day we learn the concept of a word.  Well, the same thing happens before, during, and after this with thoughts.  We put sensations together, identify them as "our" sensations, and form some sort of "thought."  How we
do this is another stack of articles; I'm only speculating.  It seems that about the same time we form these words and sentences, we form these thoughts into words and sentences.  Thus, how do we express these thoughts
without translating them into words?  The transition happens; it must, at some point in the receptors of the brain.  We see or hear or smell or feel or taste whatever it is on a level that isn't words.  We convert the
experiece into words to express it; not only to others, but to ourselves as well.  Well, I can't speak for all my readers, but I don't find myself sitting idly expressing raw thought without translating it into words very often, if ever.  Sometimes, in fact, I search for the word to make the thought more real, more internalized, with this external "word trick" I picked up way back when.

But, the clincher, didn't all these words come from the Iranians and Iraqians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Popes, the Shakespeares?  Not only are our physical surroundings, our technology, and our biology evolutions of the
past's trials and errors, the very essence of how we express such thoughts to ourselves is heavily riddled with that evolution.  We are seemingly inescapable products, not only of our present surrondings, but of the resolution and indeed the continuation of struggles rooted in the past.  We are inexplicably linked in every conceivable way to everyone and everything that is now and has been.

Having said that, and thought it, we are spinning and shaping the ebb and flow of everyone and everything, and every thought, that comes next.  And after and after.  I am certainly not proposing thought police.  But I
thought it might be nice of you to police your own thoughts.  What are you shaping?  Who or what are you molding?  Don't worry, we'll find out real soon.


December 7, 1998

Before I go into this, I just wanted to say that I’ve been steadily disappointed with SNL for over a decade.  For some reason, I tried watching again last night.  They decided to invoke John Lennon’s and Jerry Garcia’s ghosts into their lame ass skit.  It was disturbing; and made me wonder if Garcia was ever asked to perform as a musical guest. [Editor's note: Garcia played SNL twice with the Grateful Dead, John Lennon never played SNL, as far as I know].  It also made me wonder who still thinks it funny to make fun of either John or Jerry, and if the term Rest In Peace need apply.  Not that, as I have mentioned, I confuse SNL for people who are funny or people who care.

Anyway, the new one.  Why does Jodie Foster look like she has to pee for most of Contact?  Maybe its because she has to gear up for the 18 hrs. without a toilet in the pod, and is just getting her urinary system ready for the rigours demanded by the end of the film.  This one is on the familiar subject of linguistic tribulations.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a truly remarkable place.  One of the first solid hikes I undertook in the park was from 6,000 ft. to 10,000 ft. up the southeast rift zone of Mauna Loa to the Red Hill House.  On the hiking map provided upon entering the park, and on the sign when Red Hill is reached, the name is declared Pu’u ‘Ula’ulu.  Now I knew that pu’u means hill or protruberence, and that ula translates red.  At the time, I didn’t worry about what ulu meant.  I guessed to myself group or something, plus I had read somewhere that hale means house.  Red hill something or other was good enough for me at the time.

Later, in some driving about the vast miles that comprise this most wonderful place, I found myself in the wake of a wide, recent lava flow.  All of it disseminated from Mauna Ulu.  Now, mauna is mountain.  That one I’ve known for some time.  Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea are visible from my yard on clear days, and the thing they share in common is being the two largest mountains on earth (measured base to summit, not sea level to summit).  But here was ulu again.  And Mauna Ulu is red.  Reddish, at least.  I knew it was time to get a dictionary.  Specifically, if the point isn’t clear, an hawaiian-english, english-hawaiian with a little grammar dictionary.  So that is exactly what I did.

Ula means flame or the hawaiian spiny lobster.  ‘Ula, with the apostrophe, means red.  Or sacred.  Ulu means to grow or spread, or to be possesed/inspired/stirred by a spirit, god, ideal.   ‘Ulu means breadfruit or bowling ball.

So where did that leave me?  Seriously questioning what I thought I knew about hawaiian.  Pu’u ‘Ula’ulu.  I found ‘ula’ula, meaning really really red, or ‘ulu’ulu, which means a gathering or assembly.  And don’t forget ule’ulu, which means breadfruit penis (that’s the literal translation; we are actually talking of the breadfruit’s male flower.  But breadfruit penis is somehow more poetic).

So I began wondering if Pololi’au indeed meant what I thought it did.  Pololi au means “I’m hungry”.  Pololi ‘au would mean hungry for travel by sea, hungry to swim.  Pololi a’u looks like hungry swordfish, or my hunger/hunger mine.  But I’ve been writing it Pololi’au.  This isn’t a word listed in the New Pocket Hawaiian Dictionary.  All the better; I’ve been looking for that perfect pen name with allure and mystery.  Even if it means being steeped in allure and mystery myself.

So the question here is really about what I can learn about the glottal stop.  That’s the apostrophe-similar in sound to the - in oh-oh.  Very subtle.  It, as we have seen, effects meaning as well as pronunciation.  It is a slight pause.  The way I speak hawaiian, I need lots of glottal stops.  If only I can get the speakers to use them more liberaly, because let me tell you, every pause helps.

Thus, check out the glottal stop between the a and u in Pu’u ‘Ula’ulu   See the similarity I do?  I know that the Red Hill isn’t the Red Hill bowling ball or the Red Hill breadfruit.  But the Red Hill possessed/stirred/inspired by god is getting closer to the mark.  Pololi au and Pololi’au look like the same word to me, just as ‘ula’ulu and ‘ula ulu would be the same.  Whether the pause is indicated by a space or a glottal stop seems unimportant; but a space and a glottal stop would change the meaning.

All this probably means more to me than you; it should, I worked very hard to come over here and be totally confused by a foreign culture and language. To think that my life here is going to involve not only teaching “park visitors”, but also the children of Puna.  Ten or fifteen years from now, I’ll look back, and realise I’m still totally confused by a foreign culture and language.  How do I know this to be true?  My own culture hasn’t ceased to fill my noggin with bedlem.  People who at their core aren’t totally confused are faking it, and are probably up to no good.  Not that those of us not in control aren’t.

This is the humble haole, Pololi’au, and I’m either hungry, hungry for the sea, or hungry for the breadfruit penis.  That depends on your use of the glottal.  Last translation of the article: “glottal stop” is ‘okina or ‘u’ina.  Kind of nice that one translation of glottal stop has two in it.  I’m crazy about this language.

December 2, 1998

Pololi’au here.  As you are all doing with me, we bob afloat in that rubbish filled ocean called the holidays.  Seeing the iconography associated with christmas such as snow men and reindeer in the tropics is just plain wrong.  Especially since one usually is viewing the images in a tank top and shorts.  Luckily, I was on top of Mauna Kea for a supposed Leonid meteor shower on the 16th of November, and put the iconography hang-up out there.  Astronomers on staff that night didn’t help me in that way, but did help me in another.  With the constellation Seven Sisters.

Called subaru in japanese, for ‘getting together’, it is a constellation that rises with the coming of the winter solstice.  That’s the longest night, around the 22nd of December.  As “our” christmas is an amalgamation of many other solstice celebrations besides the mass of christ, showing a deep reverence all people on the planet have for such celestial events that tell one when it’s best to grow things to eat, one would expect a different slant on the familiar business here in the islands.  With the witnessing of Subaru on the rise, I set out to ask some hawaiians I know what their ancestors did to get all fired up about days changing from getting shorter to getting longer.

O. K.  First of all, in ancient Hawaii, from October to February, everyone just stopped their day jobs and started competing and playing and partying.  This is a superabundant environment; it has it’s advantages.  Kapus were the taboos of the chiefs and priests, and this time of year saw a lifting of kapus.  They also moved an image of worship around the lower part of the island clockwise, while in the uplands, another image worked it’s way counterclockwise.

The best part, in my humble haole opinion, was the lifting of the aku kapu (a taboo on eating a certain type of fish, the aku).  To lift the kapu, the priest had to eat a fish eye along with that of a human sacrifice.  If you couldn’t find a human sacrifice, no problem.  The chief is just as excited as everyone else about the holidays arriving, so the priest asks the chief to put a kapu on leaving one’s hut.  Then, the chief and priests need only to lure out one who is unwary . . .

So when you’re shopping and scrambling, inundated for yet another year with the special stress of the season, think for just a few moments in jarring contrast of a green, warm, lush makahiki luau with aku and pork kapus banished for a few glorious months, framed by tree ferns and coconut palms.  Where the shopping is for what to pile on the offering cart, the scramble is to the beach to paddle and surf and swim in the warm waves, and the stress is keeping inside that awful night of kapu.  If you can picture that in whatever cold part of the country you are reading this in, you can appreciate what shivers up my spine and clogs my logic centers when I see the fake snow in shop windows.  It isn’t the iconography that makes the holiday.  But it sure can seem that way.

November 19, 1998

Aloha everybody. This is from the desk of the humble haole, all the way from the rainy side of the biggest isle in the group of islands that comprise our fiftieth state. As you may or may not know, the Hawaiian Islands contain plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Due to invading species of plants and animals (like Homo Sapiens Sapiens, and all sorts of critters we’ve carried with), many species are endangered. It seems like just by the nature and placement of their origin, any endemic species here are by definition endangered. I’m certainly no expert, but plants and animals totally isolated on lava rocks, surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean seem in danger to me no matter what sort of silly schemes humans come up with to increase or decrease their chances.

I live in Puna, a district of the Big Island of Hawaii. Puna is marked by many relatively fresh lava flows, and is considered a dangerous place to be as far as lava flows and earthquakes go. It is also economically impoverished. The reasons for this are surely complex; I’ve no intention of pretending to be able to simplify them, or pretending to know the reasons. For the purpose of this article, we’ll call the abundance of fresh lava flows reason enough to focus on.

Now, the economy isn’t just slow in Puna, it is slow all over the Isle of Hawaii. But to an already kinda impoverished area, recession has brought slow times. Now, farming seems like the way of the future. To sell this produce, one must ship it elsewhere. Here is the problem. Irradiation. The people voted in an irradiation plant.

I don’t know if this seemed like a good idea because of the jobs involved in building and maintaining a plant, or the increase in “viable” produce able to be sold; but I do know that impoverished areas are often fielded for radioactive works, and make no mistake, irradiation is the bombardment of food with gamma rays. Things with a half-life, you know; radioactive things make gamma rays. They want to bring that stuff here!

The reason for lava lows in Puna is one of two active volcanoes. Kilauea and Mauna Loa are both active, and Kilauea is currently erupting. Kilauea has been erupting since the eighties. Yes, I mean smoke and lava and earthquakes. In fact, one of the reasons for Puna’s poverty is the engulfed town of Kalapana. The atypical black sand beach framed with coconut palms was swallowed, the town was razed, and the prime surfing bay is no longer a bay, but instead a long walk over black sharp rocks to the ocean. Kilauea literally adds real estate to Puna daily; this is ultimately how the islands formed in the first place.

So we could argue pro/con irradiation. We could argue pro/con the building of places that handle substances that we know pose dangers to health in poverty areas not rich ones. We could even talk about the one road in and out of Puna being used to handle noxious stuff to and from the major port in Hilo.

But the bottom line is, it is never going to be a good idea to build radioactive things on actively erupting things, never.

-- Pololi’au