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Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Last Weekend. Sunny day.
Hijacked by Diane, Eric and Silvio.
Forced to tour Plant World.
Was told we were going to a nude beach
So I brought my camera.
Had to shoot vegetation instead.
Felt like Georgia O'Keeffe.

Yellow Splendor

Floral Stick

Twisted Croton

Ghost Tree


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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Pointless Challenge

What's a reasonable number of push-ups for a grown man to do?

I ask the question because I aim to top it. I would like, within a year's time to be able to do an "unreasonable" number of push-ups. Not for any good reason, but just to test a theory.

I heard an old wives tale years ago about a young lad who was told to carry a newborn calf around the barn each morning. This wasn't terribly difficult for him, but each day, as the calf grew, his challenge increased. But the increase was so slight each day, that he grew stronger and was able to compensate... and after a year, this young man was able to carry a full grown cow around the barn each morning.

I don't have a barn, or a cow. So push-ups seems like a suitable urban update.

Now, I'm sure many of you will ponder my Bummerman physique and say ten push-ups is my outside limit... but I encourage you to think bigger. I may never carry a cow around a barn, but I want to surprise myself with some physical feat that requires me to practice a tiny bit each day. If I start with a low number and add one each week, I could replicate the wives tale method.

So... Give me a number. And then someone else should tell me that I can't do it. I work better when I've been given a challenge, and told I have poor odds of succeeding.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

RIP Alice Coltrane

Pitchfork Media had this to say about the life and career of Alice Coltrane, both of which ended this last weekend.

I will say that she taught me that the harp wasn't necessarily a sissy instrument... which later paved the way for me to enjoy Joanna Newsom. Thanks for that. And I'll always enjoy the collaborations with Pharaoh Sanders.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

RIP Green Ford Taurus

Yesterday, I finally dove in. Into the deep end. Into the churning black waters of carlessness. After months of perseveration, I finally sold my car to some guy named Keith who presented me with a fat roll of eighteen $100 bills. Later that day, I noticed that I could buy a 50" high-definition plasma TV for the same amount of money. Weird to think that I could effectively trade one for the other. Don't think that's going to happen though.

To celebrate, I took the bus with Olaiya to the U-District. During the long, slow bus ride, I fantasized about a bus that never has to stop, but instead works like a conveyor belt that you jump on to and off of as needed. Anything to avoid stopping every 3 blocks. Then I started thinking I should take cabs. I seized on this idea, but thought, cabs are too expensive. I should just buy a car so that I can drive wherever I want, as fast as I want! Oh, wait... That's exactly what I don't want to do.

My final memory of the Taurus will relate to one of the many expensive repairs it required in its final year. Each time I committed to selling the car, it seemed to suffer some malady that required hundreds of additional dollars going the wrong way. I felt like I was just digging myself in deeper and deeper.

The final straw was a water leak that turned the back seat floor into a small but surprisingly deep pond. Since it was a structural issue, I decided I needed the dealership to assess/repair this problem. I know that paying for dealership repairs is tantamount to crawling backwards into a gay leather bar wearing nothing but some chaps. But if you're going to be reamed, at least get reamed by an expert. They found $2,000 worth of suggested repairs, but told me the leak would be fixed by replacing the windshield, the pollen filter and the cowl... a mere $500. Ouch.

I went back the next evening and paid the bill. As I drove it off the lot, I started readjusting all the little things... Seat back two inches, rear view mirror tipped up slightly, side mirrors recalibrated... check, check, check. Then I looked in the storage cubby next to the driver seat and found (gasp!) an opened tri-pack of Trojan Spermicidal Lubricant condoms.

My first thought was, "Ew! WTF!" How the hell does someone "accidentally" leave an open box of condoms in my car? Is this an example of the sad state of professionalism at Ford Dealerships across the country? Or an example of the brilliant wit of Ford mechanics? Were they telling me, "Hey buddy, you just got screwed!" I couldn't decide, but I definitely wasn't going to go back and raise hell with the service window clerk.

The next day I told this story to Dingo, Walaka, Quiet Grrl, Just Jon, and others. They raised the possibility that some mechanic had used my car the previous evening on a date, perhaps having sex right there in the back seat! I had just figured it must have fallen out of some grease monkey's pocket. Someone even speculated that a technician might use condoms for some kind of repair work requiring a waterproof sleeve for his (ahem) tool.

I laughingly showed the box to Olaiya the next morning. Sleuth that she is, she immediately noticed the yellowing paper edges. We looked for expiration dates... Oct, 2003. Hmm... Seems unlikely that our friendly socket jockey would be dropping his 3 year old condoms in my car. Suddenly I got this uncomfortable feeling that I must have lost these years ago, and when the mechanic took out the seat and pulled up the carpet, he must have found them and deposited them discretely in the storage cubby. I looked at Olaiya, I looked at the condoms, I felt a sense of panic trying to remember when I would have lost a tri-pack of Trojans. I felt like an unfaithful husband, confronted with tangible evidence of my infidelity, regardless of the fact that these condoms came from a time three or more girlfriends ago. Olaiya let me off the hook with a minimum of wriggling.

A couple of days later, as I went through the paperwork I had on the car prior to selling it, I saw that I purchased the car in the Summer of 2003. If the condoms expired in '03, they were probably used and lost in '02. They must have belonged to the previous owner! Steven J., you dirty boy. You lost your condoms, and for a moment at least, I had to take the rap! If you want to reclaim them, they're in the dumpster behind my apartment.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Some of us feel a little S.A.D. these days. Irish Molly claims that she's read research proving that January 24th is the most depressed day in the northern hemisphere. I dunno if that's based on number of suicide attempts, Ben and Jerry's sales figures or what, but I tend to believe it. It's tempting to think that as days get longer after the winter solstice that we should be on the upswing. But experience tells me that we sink to our nadir sometime when January turns to February, the holidays are long gone, and it's colder and wetter than ever.

I had to admit to feeling down myself the other day. And I was looking about me and it seemed like something of an epidemic... like a flu bug that everyone catches. Walaka (a man strangely immune to depression) was about the only person I could think of who wasn't suffering. And I thought to myself, why is it that I live in a northern climate again? Why don't I move to California where it's always sunny and 70 degrees is cause to wear a ski jacket?

I think the answer is that I like a little death in my life. I enjoy living in a city with undeniable seasons. When Spring comes, I feel the burst of life, like sap suddenly unfrozen and running freely, like blossoms beginning to burst out of their wraps, like cocky Parisians making love on April's park benches. When Summer comes I enjoy the fullness of green, the bloat of prosperity, even the white hot August wilt. And when Autumn falls, apples drop and soups percolate on stovetops and I look forward to wearing hoodies 6 days a week. And when the Winter cloaks us in the Gray Death, I embrace it. I need to lie fallow, to hibernate with movies and fatty foods, to give myself a break from the pressure of creativity, self-improvement and productivity. I think the seasons offer us a wise perspective on human existence; they stage the cycles of life for us and encourage us (sometimes with depression) to see the value in dormancy as well as growth.

I think America's S.A.D. crisis comes from people pathologizing the depression instead of accepting it as part of the circle. We don't really live in a place that normalizes the Winter blues. Instead we push ourselves to triumph over adversity 24/7. I wish people good luck with that. I'll see you on the production line sometime in Spring. Until then, I'm taking it easy, refertilizing my brain by decomposing all the leftover bits of moldering leaves and acorn husks, and treating myself to a bottomless cup of hot cocoa.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Stave It Off's Top Ten Movies of 2006

The Oscars are coming, and no doubt they will crown some assfeast of a movie as the best film of 2006. Screw the Academy. Before they get that chance, Stave It Off is proud to present it's 10 Best Films of O6.

Unfortunately, I have to admit to missing tons of notable films last year. I was unable to see, and thus judge, either of Clint Eastwood's WWII flicks, The Illusionist, Linklater's Through a Scanner Darkly, Volver or Duck Season (two Spanish language films sure to make a few top 10 lists,) quirky hits The Science of Sleep or Stranger than Fiction, African history lessons Last King of Scotland or Blood Diamond, The Queen, sex romp ShortBus, blood romp Apocalypto, English charmer History Boys, Brad Pitt vehicle Babel or Peter O'Toole vehicle Venus, For Your Consideration (which I am ironically unable to consider) or the Curse of the Golden Flower. I know it's weak to wax expert on a subject while admitting to so many holes but 2006 saw a sharp decline in the number of movies Stave It Off was able to watch. I also skipped The Departed, which will probably win best picture Oscar, because I have zero interest in gangster violence films. Perhaps I'll eventually see some of these and modify my post. Pan's Labyrinth, a film which opened on December 29th in select cities and will open January 12th in Seattle, is being relegated to 2007. Early reviews suggest it will be a lock for our best of 2007 list!

But first, the Bummerman's official list of WORST movies of 2006.

To qualify, I have to have actually seen the movie... this means that even though Santa Clause III or Little Man were probably the worst films of 2006, I'll never know. So here are the five worst wastes of 2 hours and 10 bucks that I can admit to in the last year:

5. Da Vinci Code - Almost saved by Ian McKellan, ultimately ruined by Tom Hanks's hair
4. Snakes on a Plane - Indescribably bad
3. Fast Food Nation - I've never seen a lamer attempt to tack characters and plot onto a non-fiction essay
2. Ultra Violet - More akin to Red Sonja than Kill Bill
1. Eragon - Worst. Script. Ever.

And now, to further delay the list, here are my special awards for 2006! This list mostly exists to honor those films that had solid, redeeming traits, but just didn't make the cut.

Sexiest scene featuring Macy Gray: Idlewild
Least sexy naked scene ever: Borat
Least comprehensible use of the English language: Mos Def in 16 Blocks
Best subtitles: Nightwatch
Best use of Mexican wrestler masks: Nacho Libre
Most mediocre film that would have been considered great 30 years ago: Inside Man
Best use of John Leguizamo's charm: Ice Age: The Meltdown
Best libertarian manifesto posing as comedy: Thank You for Smoking
Most charming dialogue between Lilly Tomlin and Meryl Streep: Prairie Home Companion

And finally, here are the top ten "go see 'em if you haven't already" flicks:

10. An Inconvenient Truth - So sad to think about the election of 2000 and remember how much hope there was in making America and the world a better place.

9. Art School Confidential - I love Jim Broadbent. Darkest comedy of the year!

8. X-Men III - Likely the end of an incredible run of superhero soap operas.

7. The Prestige - Leaving all the manflesh aside, it's the dark and crafty Chistopher Nolan that gets this film into the top 10.

6. Dave Chapelle's Block Party: not exceptional as a comedy or a live concert, but in documenting a school of brilliant artists that collaborate and respect each other.

5. The Fountain - Profoundly sad and beautiful.

4. V for Vendetta - Wachowski brothers surprisingly kept some of the best parts of Alan Moore's script. Kudos!

3. Children of Men - Heartbreakingly real, as only the best science fiction can be.

2. The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada - Barry Pepper should win Best Actor hands down. Tommy Lee Jones has made the best straight drama of the year.

1. Little Miss Sunshine - Best time I had at the movies all year.

(Edit: As of January 14th, here are the new rankings)

10. X-Men 3
9. The Prestige
8. Art School Confidential
7. Block Party
6. Children of Men
5. V for Vendetta
4. History Boys
3. The Fountain
2. The 3 Burials of M.E.
1. Little Miss Sunshine


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

World Leaders

It's weird to see the country swoon over the death of former US President Gerald Ford, who's legacy (I had always thought) was pardoning Nixon, falling down some stairs and quickly being ushered out of office and out of the limelight forever. Has there ever been a less publicly active ex-president? Given that most Americans under 40 actually remember Chevy Chase's stumblebum impersonation better than Ford himself, it's interesting to see the honors and respects being paid to him post mortem. I'm not trying to attack the man. I think he inherited a pretty crappy situation, tried to make the best of it, and (along with Jimmy Carter) was part of the last generation of presidents that actually tried to tell the truth. My Dad always had some respect for Ford, probably because of that humble, honest affect. He certainly didn't fit in with the GOP's other icons: the egomaniacal Nixon or the smarmy Reagan. Mostly though, I'll remember Ford as a man who didn't try to do much... which America apparently respects.

Meanwhile, a man who probably did a little too much during his time in office also just died. Hearing that Saddam Hussein was hanged seems like the season finale of some bizarre reality television show. I still can't quite believe Saddam was tried and convicted and executed. At some level I guess I thought I was going to wake up and read the news that the jury had found that the most suitable punishment for Hussein was to be reinstalled as President of Iraq. He probably thought that too. I guess the joke was on him. Now that he's dead, and apparently the execution was a mockery, complete with chants of derision by certain attendees (all of which was secretly videotaped and leaked to Al Jazeera,) we'll find out if the Sunnis make a martyr of him and the sectarian violence escalates. Apparently you can get the video on the internet and see his actual hanging. I have no interest in watching it though. Al Jazeera's homepage featured this poll. Interesting to see how close the results are.

Should Saddam Hussein have been hanged?
Yes : 38.4 %
No : 46.9 %
I don't know : 14.6 %
Number of votes: 38444

I wonder, if human lives are the ultimate currency, if Saddam's reign will be remembered as a Stallinesque horror show, or if the instability and chaos born of his overthrow will seem far worse.