Thursday, December 27, 2007


I realize that I can't avoid making new technologies a part of my daily life concessions.  I still have never text-ted anyone.  Mostly because I have no dependents or friends under 25.  I remember the days when if someone was particularly gabby you would hold up your hand in the thumb to fingers representation of a mouth and move them rapidly together with that knowing look of exasperation on your face.  Lately, the hand gesture has turned into a wildly punching thumb as you point with your other hand to the person intently focused on their tiny phone.

Texting I can avoid.  That is, until I have children, but by then there will be a new more ridiculous method of unnecessarily bothering your friends and family.  Maybe you will just wiggle your nose like Samantha in Bewitched, or your index finger like the "Redrum" kid in The Shining, and we will all go around wiggling things in the air as we communicate to people miles away who are wiggling back.
This wiggle hypothesis seems very plausible to me, and brings me to a form of wiggle inducing technology that I can't avoid.  The SENSOR.  I realize that motion sensors are not new, but they have been recently infiltrating our public restrooms.  Forcing us to change our behaviors in strange and very public ways.  I find myself waving my hands beneath a faucet or in front of a towel dispenser, and a good portion of the time nothing happens.  Either the sensor is broken or there is a manual valve or crank that I didn't notice before the frantic waving began.  The interaction with restroom fixtures that yield no results really takes something out of me.  Like a swing and a miss.  I stand in front of the mirror with my hands, slowly at first and then more vigorously, attempting to activate the sensor that I know worked for the guy ahead of me. Maybe his hands were larger.  Maybe there was a sweet spot that I wasn't hitting.  Or maybe it is equivalent to a vampire looking into a mirror and getting nothing in return.  Maybe sensors only work if you have a soul for them to sense.  With this abstract bit of melancholy running through my head I leave the restroom with dirty hands and little pieces of my soul back on the tile floor.

Okinawa gave me a glimpse into the near future of sensors in America.  All the restrooms are wired for touchlessness.  It goes with their collective neuroses that keeps them behind filter masks as they walk the streets, and also why public restrooms dot every corner.  Of course this is all based on observation because I lacked the essential tools for communication, but it is my feeling that to relieve yourself in an alleyway may get you a life sentence.
Technology in the Japanese restroom goes far beyond the extrasensory.  Emma excitedly reported on her return to our table at an Izakaya that she had used the dryer.  Apparently a button on the toilet activates a butt dryer beneath the seat.  Other buttons on the keypad trigger a seat warmer, bidet and flushing sound to cover bodily noises.  I left Japan without ever experiencing the wonders of the Roboto toilet (domo arigato), given that my lodging was equipped only with the antiquated western style.  I did, however manage to attain sensory overload.  The culmination of which was when I inadvertently tripped a sensor in the Narita airport and a jet of foamy soap landed on the crotch of my pants.  Soapy residue leaves a dark stain that doesn't seem to evaporate as readily as the occasional water splash.  Unfortunately my choices in shirts of late had left me with little fabric to drape in front of a seemingly leaky personal faucet.   I stood in line displaying a soapy crotch waiting for the airplane to take me back to the comforting dark ages of my America.
To be continued... 


Monday, December 10, 2007

Beach Junk Girl

So, my co-worker Emma enjoys bringing dead things home with her from her days outings. Much like a cat or an 8 year old boy. Don’t get me wrong I find it as a strangely admirable trait. If only I could find the beauty in a fruit bat with maggots vying for space in a desiccated orifice. Well, appreciate it enough anyway to invite it into my home.

She not only gets excited over carcasses, but even refuse, mostly of the flotsam nature, however my first experience with her collecting habit occurred on the side of a forested slope. She wrestled a round object from the viney understory and held up the most horrific doll's head I had ever seen. It’s stringy hair was wet and greenish brown. One half-lidded eye resembled a severely beaten prostitute.

“I’ll cut off her hair and put it in my garden with the others.” She said


A few weekends ago she found an endangered sea turtle skull on the beach. Without hesitation she picked it up off the sand held it to her nose and grimaced. At that point I would have put it back and felt fulfilled just to have seen it. She never lost her grip on the rotting sea creature. In fact when I mentioned that it probably was not a good idea walking around carrying the severed head of an endangered animal she promptly set it in her shoulder bag. We ended up driving home with it rolling around in the back of the van. Greasy rot wafting up front every now and then with the breeze.

Now, we are housed in hotel rooms. Thankfully separate rooms. For a week she stored her prize in the bathroom sink.

“Yeah it’s bad when I go to brush my teeth in the morning and there’s this smelly turtle head sitting there.”

Like her need to collect unusual beauty, her determination was admirable. Two weeks later however, the head found its place just beyond the margin of the tree line behind our hotel. The only really viable option for that situation, but I anticipate more turtle heads in her future, maybe one will be a keeper.

I did not truly appreciate her eye for the discarded and decaying until she came back from a weekend trip to the northern beaches of Okinawa proudly displaying what she called “One Legged Orphan Beach Junk Girl”.

“Wow” I said.

It truly takes talent to make art of this substance. And by that I mean depth and creativity. As for substance I think I noted a doll leg, flip flop, rusty lure, bobbers, plastic webbing, beach wood and coral. Mercifully nothing that could be described as a vertebrate.

To me the sculpture seems somewhat of a self portrait.

“If only I had kept that old doll head” she said contemplating the pinnacle of her creation.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

For Your Happy Time

So there are a lot of ideas lost in translation here in Japan, but not the official beer of Okinawa. Yes, above the the stars of Orion's belt read the words "For your happy time". I couldn't say it better.
"Ichi biru o kudasai" I say and the waitperson looks at me with the uneasy expression that says "why is this Japanese man having such a hard time ordering a beer. He must be slightly retarded."
Anyway, I've come to the happy realization that living in a country without being able to read or speak the language isn't as big a barrier as it seems. All you need is a handful of useful nouns, the phrase "toriwah doko deska" (where is the bathroom?) and the disposition to dismiss obvious road warning signage as inconsequential having no idea what it says anyway.
Life in Japan is good.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Christmas Past

In the spirit of the holiday season into which we are rapidly shuffling I present this melancholy sigh of resignation from a man who is currently seeing better days. It reminds us that thank goodness we get another chance to achieve holiday cheer.


I thought I liked the holidays. No, not the sight of shoppers shopping or those god damn bell ringers ringing but I liked getting together with friends for holiday parties and kitschy, tacky, whatever you want to call it traditions like Christmas trees and obnoxious lights and stuff, but this year the season is starting to grate on me. People seem to keep pushing their holiday cheer on me and I'm not talking about rum soaked eggnog (yum). I am talking about reason for the season rhetoric and office gift exchange bullshit and worst of all, crappy in-laws.

First off, I am an atheist. Most people know this, assume it or if forced to guess, would guess correctly. Why then do they send me Jesus loves you crap. So you think I'm going to Hell? Fine, I can deal with that, but quit trying to "save" me because It isn't happening. Just be kind to me, wave, and think to yourself that it was nice knowing me whilst you ride your angel wings to the promised land. Is that too hard? I don't like gifting. There I said it. I am not saying this because I don't like to give people things. I say this because I do not wish to deal with the stress of the annual holiday crap exchange just so that I can give someone the thing that they really didn't want and if they did, would have purchased for themselves already. It's not like I'm Amillionairheart and can afford to give people stuff they can't buy for themselves. It's pretty much whatever the hell Fred Meyers has on the bargain rack on Christmas Eve.

The greatest thing about the holidays is the quality time spent with my beloved family and friends. Good food and drink and an evening of socializing with my favorite people always makes me happy. What sucks is when all that potential gets ruined by some shady ex-in-laws and some shadier future in-laws. I mean nothing kills a party faster than your cousin's ex-husband talking openly about his current deadbeat dad status and watching him attempt to relate to his kids and fail miserably. Then when you think things can't get any worse your 23 year old sister shows up towing around her 40+ year old boyfriend. People ask me, "Ty why do you hate him?" and I say "I don't hate him, I just hate 40 year old unemployed squatters who fail to shower, and I especially dislike those hippies when they date my sister".

Just when all of this nonsense is getting to be too much, I realize that it is time to get my tree. One of the joys of the season, decorating one's home. So I bring a tree home and commence festooning the spartan interior of my modest abode with all the loud colors and assorted baublery associated with Christmas. Then I focus my attention on installing the tree into its sentinel position; presiding over the seasons activities. There becomes a problem however, the tree stand, of which I purchased last year, and has perhaps 3 weeks use upon it, expires in the most frustrating of manners, upsetting my tree repeatedly and ultimately upsetting me completely. It now resides in my front lawn, a tangled mass of disfigured metal.

So you can see, I am having my own Ho Ho Horrible holidays and it is only getting worse. At least I don't have to answer any more "So where's your wife?" questions this year.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Into The Wild

So maybe JBs animosity toward small furry animals is not that unfounded. I tend to think that some folk just need the comforting illusion of controlling their environment. For your own evaluation I submit this passage regarding another encounter between JB and the wild. Not only does he find fault in evolution, but he seems to have an irrational terror of the natural world.


I was riding my bike home from work yesterday. (Wow, first time I've had something to call work!) Anyway, I saw a man walking his German Shepard, but I didn't think much of it. That's what people do. But then, as I passed the pair, I heard a bark. And it wasn't a friendly bark. This one was laced with aggression and malice. I could hear the sound of claws darting across a sidewalk, followed by the grunt of an owner in tow. Naturally, I felt the rush of adrenaline. This was fight or flight time. So what did I do? I breaked! What in the world is wrong with me? I hear a man-eating machine coming after me, and rather than pedal away to safety with ease, I feel the best response is to stop, dismount, and challenge the beast mano y perro? Fortunately, the owner was strong enough to control his pet. Still, I am left with the disheartening knowledge that evolution is wrong for letting me live.

On Skunks, Vermin, Gaia and the Open Halls of the Soul

This post was submitted by my good buddy Jimmy B. He may well become a frequent contributer to Dark Cedars. In a future post I will shed some light on my friend's so thinnly veiled anger toward the other species (as in "man vs. everything else") that populate the mother organism Gaia.


Here's a true story I wrote in the beginning of November. I share it with you now.

Two skunks (a mother and its young offspring) had been terrorizing the village of Hamilton for weeks. They seemed particularly fond of our property, so we took steps to seal the gaps in the foundation, under the deck, etc.

I was surprised to learn that the village doesn't have a publicly-funded animal control service. I was unsurprised to learn that it is illegal to discharge firearms in village limits. I mulled over my remaining options: rat poison, explosives, ... but the local consensus favored trapping and relocating the skunk to the ample wilderness nearby. The internet even offers instructions:; it must be safe! I've been told that you can actually put a trapped skunk in the trunk of a car without risk of spray. I'm dubious of this claim, so instead I asked to borrow a friend's truck.

Just before I was ready to borrow another friend's vermin trap, Sarah nearly stepped on the big skunk, which was curled in a ball on the edge of our lawn. We monitored it for about a day - was it sleeping or was it dead? Sarah left work with a coworker one day to throw rocks at it. When the beast didn't respond, they started poking it with a stick.

Sarah left the job of relocating it to me. Imagine, for a second, carrying a dead skunk across your property with a shovel. Its tail is just feet from your face. I don't care how much rigormortis has set in - the paralyzing fear that it will suddenly resurrect itself and unleash its spray never leaves you. I'm still having nightmares. Nonetheless, I'm pleased to report that the corpse has been resting peacefully on our front curb over the weekend, patiently awaiting removal by village services (they take care of dead pests, not live ones).

Sarah thinks she willed the skunk to death. I've just enjoyed watching the shock and horror on the faces of runners as they jog past our house. Hopefully the skunk problem is solved... but I'm afraid. I don't know where the baby skunk is. I've attached a picture of our dearly departed. It's so cold here that it looks like we've just pulled the thing from our freezer.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

More on Music

So back to my good friend Chad S. (or as Bryce would put it the Chadinator). Chad as music DJ. I feel we need a little more background on why Chad S. would be a good candidate to represent the NW music scene. This will be evidenced with archival digital letters sent during a simpler time. Ty was behind a desk, Chad was a Californian.

I totally see Chad S. as the ideal Mercury delivering the NW essence to the icy stoop of Upstate NY. I may have only heard one show, but that show was filled with many heretofore forgotten musical trivialis featuring Kurt, Courtney, Art Alexakis (kidding). Anyway hopefully Chad S. has archived a few other shows and I can post them here when I decide to shed the "expat" moniker.



So what? I buy one (ok, two) Everclear albums in my youth and I'm forever branded a bad judge of music quality? A few months ago, I saw that the Secret Machines were making a tour stop with Interpol in Seattle. I sent an email suggesting that you guys attend the show - it was supposed to be technically impressive and the Secret Machines are a quality band. Ben, not knowing this band, then listened to a couple tunes (or, perhaps, 10 second exerpts?). He promptly concluded, "this sucks!" I now own the Secret Macines album and can say without hesitation that it does not suck. It's high quality, in fact. Very diverse in sounds. Some tracks have Zepplinesque drum beats. Some have Pink Floyd psychadelic elements. Others are more poppy - but not in the disgusting sense. I am convinced that Ben's verdict was driven by two simple facts: 1) I suggested the band, and 2) he will not forgive my aforementioned Everclear transgressions. He's committed similar rash judgements in the past. Take Tenacious D, for example. I suggested, shortly after their album came out, that you should all check it out. I cited both the quality of musicianship and juvenile humor. He hated it. Several months later, we put the CD on in Ty's car, and we all dug it. Next thing I know, Ben's demanding that I watch the Tenacious D Masterworks DVD, since it was the "funniest thing ever." Long live the D! So, I humbly resubmit my suggestion to you. Give The Secret Machines a listen. Don't dismiss it on account of one or two poor musical decisions I've made in the past.

PS - does anyone who claims to do something humbly actually have an ounce of humility in what they do? Discuss.

At least your first compact disc purchases do not include Michael Jackson's "Dangerous" and "12 inches of Snow" by Snow. I guess I don't understand why there is a perception out there that Chad likes shitty music? I am guilty of thinking it also. I mean not that you are Greg or anything and secretly hate music, but for some invalidated reason, conventional wisdom says Chad's music sucks. This is proven false time after time when I go to his house and peruse his selections. Many are of high quality. I guess it is just one of those hard dying prejudices that perpetuates sans foundation of proof. I blame Ben for this actually. He seems a worthy scapegoat being that he is a minority and all. He is always in my ear saying stuff like, "Yo Chad's all up into some whack meyouzak, no what I'm sayin' Dog" and "That C-Sparbs is wiggity home fry, Mean that dogz all spinnin' some crazy messed up noize in the hizzy" I am not sure why Ben doesn't chastise my musical tastes? I'm sure in my musical library one could find more than enough fodder to lob lameness grenades in my direction. They could explode lameness shrapnel at me and I could end up lame.

PS- No

Chad - I am not against you musically. If I were I would have no legs to stand upon. As an example lately I find myself listening to two main types of music 1- Classical and 2- Techno/trance. Now where does that put me? I'd say in the oddball zone. Not quite the oddball zone that Ty occupies with his alien asian girls vintage records spinning on an ancient record player, but odd none-the-less. The thing is the odder one gets - the more they start to approach the cool/eccentric zone. These two zones overlap somehow. Sort of like someone driving around in a stock Pinto - are they odd and lame or cool and flippant?
So listen to whatever the fuck you wanna listen to - even everclear if it strikes your fancy.
And I also say no to the humility question.

Woody, your tastes in music seem to be approaching mine as well. I often switch between Classical (say the Bach Cello Suite, or Some Chopin) to what is referred to in the Electronica Genre as IDM (Intelligent Dance Music - which really means possibly less than danceable music). IDM is produced by such groups as Plaid, Autecra, Matmos, and Aphex Twin... If you've ever seen the movie Morvern Caller then you've heard IDM, as long as you didn't have the sound turned down. Man I just revealed myself as a huge dork again.

I humbly stand by my baseless accusations. Reading Ty and Woo and knowing Bryce and my musical tastes and how they have changed and become very original and are likely to continue growing and mutating into unpredictable animals, I would like to say that you Sparbs are like a tree standing by the river, as in "you shall not be moved". I respect the way your musical tastes have stayed true to the path of a 90's grunge follower. You will always have your Nirvana collection prominently displayed like a bon jovi fan struting around his mullet. You will be the go to man to discover the newest to the genre like the White Stripes and Secret Machines. You have my utmost respect. Not in musical taste, but your unwavering predictablilty. That said, y'all should check out Jason Moran "Same Mother". This piano playing fool rocks.

Yeah, I would call Bryce and Ben musical progressives. Their tastes seem to be evolving much like dinosaurs evolved into jesus. But tell me oh masters of the learned, just where is the real missing link, the saviourosaurus. Do not dinosaurus's deserve deliverance? (say that ten times fast) My musical tastes have, by contrast, devolved. Lately I have been listening to the wanton throbbing of wet cabbage struck against hollowed hickory logs. It's breathtaking and sensual.

Oh! So you've been listening to IDM lately too Ty.

Hmmm. Would you also argue that it is this lack of personal evolution that has led me to reject all Darwinian Theories - including the dinosour to personal lord and savior hypothesis? In my defense, I offer a sampling of non-rock albums I've recently purchased. Natalie MacMaster- a masterful blend of Celtic music and bluegrass. Aimee Mann - folksy pop that will put a smile on your face. N.E.R.D. - I suppose it's a blend of hip-hop, rock, and funk. Whatever it is, I love it. In fact, I'd say the rock I'm most attracted to these days makes me want to dance a little bit (Beck, Franz Ferdinand). Yeah baby, I've got the moves. I've always been an ignorant fan of classical. I mean, I like it, but I couldn't identify composers and whatnot. Last Christmas, we went to Handel's Messiah, and I quickly concluded that I hate baroque. Going into it, I thought the sudden high-low note changes would appeal to me - given my affinity for grunge. Turns out, however, that it just produces a violent reaction that makes my body ache. Halleluja! I also attended a Wagner opera a while back. Call me a jewish anti-semite, but I find the musical bombast of Wagner highly appealing. The overture to the opera was just a beautiful piece of music... but, it was also widely used in my beloved Bugs Bunny cartoons. Thus, with a giddy child-like smile on my face, I could not refrain from muttering "Kill the Wabbit, Kill the wabbit!" Those sitting next to me were not amused.