– BirdsEye brand frozen food actually contains birds’ eyes.
– The Dog Recipe cookbook.
– Ambien in owl food.
– Sparrow lungs replace capers in veal scallopini.
– Meerkats employed as drug lookouts.
– The plan to bomb Iran with live pigs.

Stocking our big boxes.

May 20th, 2006

I’m fortunate enough to live on the north side of Russian Hill. I watch the freighters cruise into the bay from the seat at my Mac.

There’s one now: a Hanjin Lines behemoth, containers stacked twelve high, bow to stern. The captain cranes his neck like a little old man driving a ‘56 Olds, straining to see over the steering wheel. No question, those Chinese ships are loaded with goodies that we, then the Japanese, once provided our citizenry.

Most of those steel boxes are tightly, optimally packed with consumer electronics. Flat-screen TVs, the kind that until the late 90s were made in a big factory in Ohio by $20-an-hour workers. Those very men and women who are making $9.65 an hour at the same location, now that it’s a Wal-Mart.

A year or two ago I watched Yvonne Smith, the communications director at the Port of Long Beach, being interviewed on Frontline. She wielded a clipboard. She was asked how much freight in dollars came into the port from China in the past year. She riffled through the bills of lading. $36 billion, she said. What kind of goods? Consumer electronics, shoes, machinery, clothing. Then, how much had been sent from the Port of Long Beach to China? A shorter search of documents — $3 billion. And what were those goods we had exported? Cotton, hides, and waste paper for recycling. Into what?

Cardboard boxes and packing crates. For the TV sets, shoes, lathes, shirts. Look through your yellow pages. You’ll see the rest of the list.

In 2007 the Chinese will be selling a car in America — the Chery (yes, one R). They’re said to be quite small. Will there be Chery dealers or will you pluck them from the shelves at Wal-Mart?

Stay tuned to your fortune cookies.


May 19th, 2006

While bicycling, if I see a crushable package on the street — a cigarette box, styrofoam cup, plastic milk jug, etc — I run it over it. Just nip it with a front tire. The behavior is a leftover from crushing ants and beetles as a kid. It’s hardwired. If I aim for a crushable and miss, I might well circle back. Such is obsession.

There are things I will not crush. A whiskey bottle. I don’t value the whiskey, just my tires. And I brake for small animals. But I once spotted a gift-wrapped package on Pacific Avenue jutting from beneath the back bumper of an SUV. The package was the size and shape of a shirt box. I’m glad I skirted it because just as I was having the crush/don’t-crush debate, I noticed a girl standing anxiously at the curb, waiting for me to pass. I went by and she retrieved it. I looked back to see her and her mom carrying an armload of gifts up their walkway. I like to think I didn’t destroy it because it was obviously something of value. Part of my decision, though, might have been the trajectory of my right-side handlebar with the car’s back window-post.

A little while ago, as I rode down the hill to my apartment steps, I saw an American flag lying in the middle of the sidewalk. It was a small, hand-held kind, attached to a wooden dowel. Possibly an immigrant supporter — or non-supporter — was waving it this week. My guess is supporter, this being San Francisco. I was a good fifty feet away, rolling at walking speed. My mental process maps perfectly with the way I order a sandwich: the burger or the grilled chicken? I never know until the millisecond I must act. Both possiblilites exist until the waiter actually arrives, then I find out what I want.

I rode my bike over the flag.

In the military, I was as jingoistic as any other teenager in my platoon. Then Nixon and Reagan came along and showed us the wormy underside of the rock that was America. Still, the flag, you don’t mess with it.

I did a little post-desecration thinking. Blogging became my metaphor, probably because I’m new to it. The most prominent blog entry is the most recent. It’s not likely to be the best, it’s merely top of mind.

For me, that little flag was the headline. But it didn’t stand for America. Only for the most recent posting — the current administration. Certainly the worst this country has ever seen. If a worse one comes along, America is gone.

Some readers will deem this particular blog entry to be as foul as the gang this country suffers under. If so, gather your fellows, impeach it, and vote it out of the blog.

Oops, spoke too soon. There, now I’m at 14%. Oh look, 28%. Holy Moly, 55% of my brain is engaged. I CAN’T BELIEVE IT, NOW THE READOUT IS AT 128! No, that’s my heart rate. Ah, shift modes. Good. 61% of my brain is firing. That’s about as high as I’m going to take it because prolonged brain maximization is dangerous at my age (five years older than the President). It doesn’t matter, though, because the Elliptical Brain Trainer ™, using 90% of its computing capacity, knows this. The EBT automatically shorts out neuronal feedback loops and kills any knowledge that could endanger my comfort and standing in the community. Warning: always protect your transverse medulla (where belief in a supreme being is located) by taking two EBT brand Flax-seed Oil Tablets whenever brain use exceeds 50%. Keep them in the handy cup right beneath the TV screen.

“I’m torn,” the Vice-President’s daughter says, “because I’d really like to marry my life partner, Heather Poe. But I love my truck almost as much. With its 8.3 liter, V-10 Viper engine, it comes in at 500 horsepower at 525 foot-pounds of torque. It’s got a 6-speed manual Hurst shifter, 22″ polished aluminum wheels, and it can top 150 miles-an-hour.”

Mary Cheney, as both John Kerry and John Edwards have noted, is gay. But she is respectful of the wishes of the nearly 50 million gay haters who provided her father with his job security.

The wedding is set for next September, when new truck models will be available to fill out the wedding party. The October 2006 issue of Bride Magazine will feature the event as its cover story. It is rumored that the magazine will garner $27 million in Dodge advertising for the issue. Mary will wear white, but the truck will remain it’s original color, Burled Carpathian Walnut.

The couple will honeymoon in the commercial vehicles bay of Skyline Motors Auto Repair, in Rawlins, Wyoming.

– Grand Tetons are sagging.
– Ozone hole combover.
– Magnetic field is out of warranty.
– Continents drift in and out.
– Dinosaurs return for old-timer’s game.
– Relaxed-fit equator.

May 15th, 2006


Those are the words of reality televison’s first star, Lance Loud. To those unfamiliar with “An American Family”, the cheesy genre might have been spawned by Fox. Instead, it was PBS — in 1973. Like all inventions the show was, ahem, inventive. The mediocre clones and huge profits were made by the carp who cruised in later.

The concept was frugality itself — a film crew chronicles the majesty and mundanity of a family’s life, following them into the bedroom, the bakery, the lawyer’s office and, in Lance’s case, the gay scene. Producing on the cheap was a necessity for public television, but the corporate people learned real quick. This kind of show carved a lovely gulf between a production’s outgo and its income. Money may not know art, but it knows what it likes.

Lance came out in the second episode. Never before had a homosexual been treated as an authentic member of our culture. At that time, the public vaguely understood these people emerged from somewhere — but a standard issue California family?

Strangely, the revelation just happened as it would in reality. Whoa! Today, producers would know better. Build the suspense. Had modern corporate strategizing been commonplace in the 70s, a revelation of such magnitude would’ve been held until the seventh episode. The idea that major players in reality TV are complete unknowns to a show’s creators — no, assemblers — is unreality itself.

The Heisenberg principle, that the act of observing alters the observed, left a family embittered. Late in the twelve episode series, Bill and Pat Loud divorced. Lance’s four siblings wanted nothing to do with televison after that. I always think of germs, trying to relax in their little germ easy chairs. After a long day of flagellating they glimpse the big eye at the business end of the microscope (how like a television logo) and rue the moment they volunteered. “Yes, I’ll jump into your droplet and entertain the folks at home. It’ll be fun!”

I don’t need to say more about the genre. Most of you probably know it better than I do. But I’ve seen enough to know the best was the first. Not for the participants — although that may be true as well — but for the viewer. If you think “Survivor” was the dawn of reality TV, “An American Family” is probably rentable through Netflix or somewhere. As might be “Lance Loud: A Death in an American Family,” which chronicles Lance’s death, at fifty, from HIV and liver disease.

Recently, I’ve dedicated myself to creating the most tasteless reality show possible. Here’s what I’ve come up with: “From Baster to Baby.” Five very different men — races, heights, widths, aptitudes — contribute sperm samples. We witness the sperms as they sprint thanks to the magic of intra-fallopian micro-cinematography (you’ve seen it on Nova).

Because the samples have been fluoroscopically coded for our viewing ease, people can cheer for the issue of their favorites. Skinny Black Man. Portly White Guy. Muscular Asian. Near-Sighted Fijian. Hunchback of Indeterminate Provenance.

The fun part is, the camera shuts off just as the egg comes into view. We do not see the conception because God has to keep a few secrets — plus it’s good for promoting the second part of the show, which doesn’t begin until the mother’s water breaks.

Nobody knows what will be. All we know is that five guys and one woman will be set for life. And the reality TV standard will have reached exciting new lows.