Sunday, April 30, 2006

a tale of three Pondicherries

Recently, I was looking at a map of southeast Asia, and the city of Pondicherry caught my eye on the northeastern coat of India. The problem was, this seemed too far north for the Pondicherry I'd heard of, the former French colony on the southeastern coast of India.

So I turned the page to check the full map of India, and no sooner had I learned that there were two Pondicherries on the east coast of India than I noticed a third one on the west coast.

So there you have it -- three Pondicherries.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Lee Raymond's favorite Yellowman album

I heard today on the radio that Lee Raymond, the CEO of Exxon, makes over $13,000 an hour (if you were to break it down that way).

Saturday, April 22, 2006

the Tale of Galong Galong Galong

It began one chilly night in New York City, around the year 1990. I was walking down St. Mark's Place when I overheard what was recognizably a Yellowman song emitting from a boom box held by a shadowy figure in a dark corner. The funny thing was, I didn't recognize this Yellowman song, and even stranger, he was singing about how "Michael Jackson make me crazy". That encounter with that song left a deep impression on me, and the heady combination of Yellowman singing about Michael Jackson was one I could not shake, even if I wanted to.

Fast forward to 2005. There comes a time when a man feels the need for a new Yellowman album -- not that the old ones have lost their luster, but a certain adventurousness kicks in. I remembered the song, but I didn't know the name, nor the album it was on. An extended Internet search revealed that it was, appropriately, "Beat It" from the Galong Galong Galong album.

Since there was no guarantee the whole album was worth one song, I decided to buy a used, discounted copy from a third party on Amazon.com. I hadn't experienced any problems buying this way in the past. I guess there's a first time for everything.

The day the CD arrived I feverishly popped in in my player and turned up the volume. Imagine my astonishment when Country Music started pouring out of my speakers. Was this some kind of a sick joke? The cover and CD said Yellowman, so evidently someone burned these hee haw ballads right over King Yellow.

When I e-mailed the vendor, he responded with some kind of "What? I've never heard of this" line, and asked me to return the CD. I did, but never heard from him again, in spite of bombarding him with e-mails. So I proceeded to crack down on him with the full force of Amazon.com ethics enforcement. My money was refunded, and I eventually ended up buying a new copy of Galong Galong Galong.

It's not a spectacular album. It's sort of average. Stick to "Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt" and "King Yellowman". But retain the memory of that clever song emerging from the dark shadows one chilly night in New York City.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

various forms of danger

Late, late last night -- or early, early this morning -- I thought I felt the ground moving, and I wondered if there was an earthquake. I've had this experience several times now: I'm usually half-asleep, and can't be sure if it's the ground moving, or me moving, or vibrations caused by a truck, or a completely imaginary event.

When I woke up hours later, I rolled over to look at the weekend paper Lisa had brought in. The front page headline was about the anniversary of the great San Francisco quake of 1906. An old black and white photo showed a collapsed building in Salinas, but the article explained that, unlike San Francisco, nobody died here.

Even so, it made me pause to realize that April 18 will mark the 100th anniversary of the worst earthquake disaster in U.S. history, and that it occurred in the wee hours of the morning, before 6 am.

Later this morning, while I was preparing coffee and unloading the dishwasher, I overheard a report on CNN, which Lisa had on in the background. There was mention of a terrible car accident on the Long Island Expressway that had been fully captured on video by a new kind of camera installed on the bus behind the car. The man in the car survived, and was interviewed; Jill Claybrook of Public Citizen was also interviewed. Then they showed the section of the LIE where the accident took place, and added that it's one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in the state. At the end of the report the newsman said, "From Old Westbury, New York..." I took that as a sign to call home, which I was planning on doing anyway.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

fine organic wine

Who among us has not heard the ads for Ecowine.com a hundred times while listening to the Thom Hartmann show? Anyway, I decided that this year, instead of giving money to the local NPR affiliate, I would support one of the advertisers of progressive talk radio. It must be admitted that, at his best, Hartmann is better than NPR, and more like an AM version of Pacifica at its best. So it was with pleasure that I purchased a three-bottle sample pack from Ecowine.com -- organic wine from France, geared toward the California market.

The pack consisted of two reds and a white. We have so far only tried the reds. The first one we opened was "Chateau Bousquette", appellation St. Chinian, from the Languedoc. I must say we were both impressed. This wine is at once very French-tasting AND organic, so critics of organic wine (Monsieur Gazpachot) take note. Not sure what kind of grapes, I can only say it came in a Bordeaux bottle.

Tonight we cracked open the Merlot, and while ok, we both agreed it wasn't as good. In some ways it was similar to the Bousquette, but it was somehow less balanced. This one was "Domaine de Bajac" out of the Pays d'Oc.

All in all a good experiment, and based on the quality of the Bousquette I would buy this organic wine again.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

on a bright note

There is so much bad news lately politically... But on a bright note, Italy has just elected Romano Prodi, which seems to signal a return to rational government. It's incredible to hear Berlosconi flail his arms and pull out all the stops. And equally unbeleivable that our government doesn't immediately recognize Prodi as the new leader.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Lately I've been exploring the sandy, scruffy banks of the Salinas river along the edge of San Lorenzo Park. There's a trail I almost forgot about, which is good on a mountain bike, and smaller side trails to remote picnic and meditation spots along the river. Anyway I was on the other bike path to Pine Canyon when I saw a strangely familiar lavender inflorescence. Close inspection confirmed what it appeared to be: Tamarisk -- a beautiful but perniciously invasive shrub of Mediterranean origin. I had seen it once at a recreation area in San Diego County, and I had heard and read about a number of times. I don't recall ever seeing it around here. Maybe it's been here all along, but I think it's just as likely to be Monterey County's latest invader.