Archive for November, 2008


I’ve started mentally composing three different posts for this blog in the past few days (I’m pretty much constantly editing in my head by the way, no matter what else is going on around me, a sick compulsion that I blame for my insomnia, absentmindedness and at least one failed relationship), but have abandoned each post as they all deteriorated into frothing rants against a certain senatorial campaign and their lying and cheating and thieving and baffling desire to actually make the world a worse place while they chase personal gains and burden the rest of us with their pathetic Napoleon Complexes, all of which they’ll most certainly regret on their deathbeds and are probably causing various antecedents to spin in their graves as we speak, but I digress…

Instead, I’d like to publicly thank Maryn M., Lori B., Bryan M., and Skullateral Damage, who answered my pleas for donations of various items for my impending visit to Burma. Anyone that’s had the staggering free time to read even part of one of my Burma travelogues mentioned below will know that traveling there is at once a fascinating and moving experience. I’m very excited to go back and be a little better prepared this time.

With that, I’m afraid I’ll be mostly off the grid, at least on this blog, through the end of the holidays. I may be posting a bit over at while I’m on the road, but it’ll be trivial at best. Between pacifying various vacation-related indulgences and the little (Thailand) to no (Burma) internet access I’m expecting to encounter, there’s really not going to be much opportunity for filing substantial reports from the road.

Please check back here after the holidays when I hope to return to my whimsical-as-usual posting schedule. Thanks for reading.

Uncategorizable | 15.11.2008 12:05 | Comments Off on Etc.

Destination Burma

As some of you may know, I am leaving on November 17th for a five week trip to Thailand and Burma, A.K.A. Myanmar. I’m doing Thailand for the beach, warmth, food, $10 massages and to do the exploring I didn’t do the last time I was there. I’m doing Burma, because, well, there’s really no other place like it on Earth.

Burma has a very long, complicated, heart-breaking history, to put it lightly. The past 15 months have been particularly harsh, with the anti-government demonstrations of 2007 and the cyclone in May of this year. The last time I was in Burma (2005), due to tight work schedules, I only had a mere 10 days to frantically race through four of the country’s primary destinations. I wrote an exhaustive, and, if I may say so, awesome travelogue about the trip for anyone who has about two hours to spare (Introduction, Yangon, Inle Lake, Mandalay, Bagan, and Yangon with an interview with a local). I also took some of the best pictures of all my travels.

Like most people, my trip to Burma had a very profound effect on me on many levels. The people and the country are really amazing, as is the unthinkably oppressive government and poverty. While on my last trip, I was beseeched daily, mostly by children, for things like pens/pencils, shampoo, and American coins. Adults often wanted to trade with me, asking for small flashlights, fold-up knives, wrist watches and clothes. An associate of mine from Bangkok, who goes to Burma frequently, reports that cheap earrings, hair ribbons and bracelets are much appreciated too.

I intend to go to Burma this time prepared for these appeals. I’d like to bring a small stockpile of everything mentioned above. I’m writing this post because I need a little help, particularly with the clothes, flashlights and watches. I’m asking for donations of these items, new or used. Since I’m traveling feather-light as always, I don’t have a whole lot of space in my bags, so I don’t need much, but if you can spare just a few items, it would be deeply appreciated. Unfortunately, since I am not a non-profit entity (quite the opposite in fact, in case you need a freelance writer – like right now), so you can’t write this off, but I promise to return with tales of how your donations were used and pictures whenever possible.

As for clothing, I want to bring mostly t-shirts, but a few caps and pants (khakis and jeans) would be nice too. T-shirts and caps emblazoned with US city/state names and sports teams are greatly coveted. Please keep in mind that, compared to us Americans, the Burmese are mostly on the smallish side (the fish market ladies pictured above notwithstanding), so I can only accept small and medium sized items.

Again, I’m leaving November 17th, so if you’d like to offer anything, please contact me by leaving a comment here or at the email address provided here. Thank you in advance for your help.

Off-topic | 6.11.2008 12:55 | Comments Off on Destination Burma

Get out the vote!

Last Thursday I joined about 4,000 people at the Minneapolis Convention Center to see the “Five Days to Change Rally” with Bill Clinton, featuring Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar.

Now I’m passionate about this election. So passionate that it’s been keeping me up at night, cursing loud enough for my neighbors to hear, while listening to an all-star cast of professional weasels and failed lobotomy patients exalting the likes of John “McRage” McCain, Sarah Palin, Norm Coleman and Michelle Bachman. Under normal circumstances, if it would guarantee an election sweep for Elwyn Tinklenberg, Keith Ellison, Al Franken and Barack Obama, I’d give my life savings. I’d cut off a minor appendage. I’d stop drinking Strongbow. That’s how much I care about this election. But, quite frankly, by the end of the rally on Thursday, I’d have given the same things just for a chair, 800 milligrams of Ibuprofen, and my mommy.

What a marathon, ill-conceived, demoralizing clusterf*ck that rally was. Counting standing in line, most people had been there for well over four hours by the time we limped out of there.

What took so long? Well, it turned out to be a little more than three exciting speakers. Most of that time was taken up by listening to the exact same speech paraphrased eight times, imploring, badgering and brainwashing us to spend the final five days before the election door knocking and calling people to get them to vote. It was, to put it kindly, f*cking absurd.

First we were talked at four times, starting with two teenagers, then a parade of officials including Mayor R.T Rybak and Congressman Keith Ellison. Then there was a 15 minute break. People in the crowd were already getting antsy. Looking at their watches, shifting their weight to relive the discomfort of standing on concrete. Some sat on the floor.

Then it was time for the main event. Whoops not yet. Actually, we heard the same volunteer sermon four more times, including from former VP Walter Mondale and, finally, Amy Klobuchar.

When Amy left the stage, there was a hopeful hush. Was it time for the Al and Bill Show? No, it was not. Instead, they played a babbling, 20-some minute video-taped speech by Al Gore, given almost a month ago when he swung through town.

Then there was a 20 minute break. Who the hell were all these breaks for? The audience was suffering from fatigue, boredom and in my case debilitating lower back pain. We didn’t need breaks, we needed dinner. Indeed, people were throwing in the towel and leaving. Many others were sitting or full-on sprawled out on the floor. This picture, taken during the second break, fails to capture the sea of people that had collapsed to the floor, because when I took it, I was too weak to stand myself. When volunteers and organizers mingled through the crowd trying to get people fired up chanting and clapping, most of us only had the strength to look up and scowl. They were losing the crowd, a crowd of rabid supporters, very fast.

Finally, Al and Bill came out together and, between the two of them, managed to breathe a little life back into the audience. They gave great speeches, but the momentum was hopelessly gone. The two were still on the stage waving their goodbyes as people lamely hobbled for the exits, elbowing past and avoiding eye contact with organizers with clipboards wanting to sign up volunteers.

My back was sore for two days. I might have volunteered if I hadn’t already felt that I’d done all I could physically do for the campaign by simply standing there until the bitter end.

So, since I did not door knock or call anyone, I’m posting this reminder for everyone to get out and vote tomorrow. We can’t get this ass-stomping done without everyone’s vote.

Also, I’m posting this to remind future rally organizers that their audience is not a bunch of indestructible robots. Next time, cut the goddamn running time in half, if you want anyone to leave the joint with anything on their minds other than food and convalescence.

Events, Making the world a better place, Rants | 3.11.2008 15:21 | 3 Comments