Tuesday, August 9, 2016

thriller propaganda

Interesting point in recent New York Times Book Review:

American political thrillers, like American politics, can be awfully jingoistic. In the works of Brad Thor and Brad Taylor and similar writers, a heroic America often comes under existential threat from a bellicose Russia or China or North Korea. . . .  American thrillers function as a kind of propaganda, demonizing foreign enemies. . . .


Saturday, May 28, 2016


On the 1% chance Trump wins in November, I've been reading Christopher Hibbert's biography on Mussolini, because a couple pundits I trust predict a Trump presidency would be less like Hitler and more like the Italian fascist.

Anyway, there are a couple quotes that cracked me up because they're so absurd, despite the horrible history of WWII.

In the "Diplomat" chapter, section 4, p. 109, an Italian ambassador complains to the Germans about lack of openness on the Nazi's aggression plans, a Nazi diplomat says that decisions "were still locked in the Führer's impenetrable bosom."

Later in that same chapter's section, p. 112, Mussolini is bitching about the Germans: "Give them enough sausage, butter, beer, and a little car and they won't worry about sticking their bayonets into people."

Speaking of Nazis, I would argue that the current state of American/European neoliberalism is a distant second to the Third Reich, with our history of slavery and Native American genocide. Plus, capitalism exploits the worst aspects of human nature: cut-throat competition, wasting of natural resources, and the rewarding of greed. Not to mention that in a couple hundred years we've treated Mother Earth like shit so that by 2200 we'll probably enter another Dark Ages. Seems like the id of the human race always reigns supreme and leaves devastation as its legacy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Portland, OR: day 5

I didn't do much on Monday. Like Sunday, there was intermittent rain all day.

For breakfast I went down to the Skipping Stone Cafe for another large single pancake -- I could only eat about two-thirds of it. I was talking with the waitress and I mentioned that the cafe was briefly featured in Friday night's episode of Grimm and she said the crew eats in there a lot.

Around mid-morning I headed down to Voodoo donut based on the advice of a coworker of mine from San Francisco. I got a Portland cream-filled donut. It was delicious!

For lunch I grabbed a salad again at the Fred Meyers supermarket.

I spent the afternoon back at the hotel reading Amelia Gray's Gutshot, a strange short story collection. I could've went to the Japanese Garden, which is only about a mile away, but when it rained, it was ugly, plus the only other thing I wanted to do in town here was go to Lloyd Center to hang out at the ice rink, but I'm saving that for Tuesday because I'll have tons of time to kill with checkout time being noon and my flight not taking off until 11 PM.

For dinner I went down to 10th Street (I'm staying near 20th Street). I was in the mood for a gyro. Haven't had one since I lived in Berkeley when there was a Greek restaurant around the corner from my cottage. I bought my $5 lamb gyro from an Egyptian food truck (way cheaper than Berkeley) -- the whole block was full of food trucks, most only open from mid-morning to mid-afternoon for the lunchtime rush. It was kinda cool how were all on the perimeter of the block, facing the sidewalk; the interior of the block was for parking.

I took the gyro back to the hotel and ate it while watching the Manchester United match from Sunday. I don't know if I ate it too quickly or what, but I did not feel good for the rest of the night. I eventually had to go across the street to Walgreen's to pick up some Rolaids. I crawled into bed at 9:30, listening to some podcasts. Around 10:30 I crawled under the covers, praying I didn't have to fly 3,000 miles with an upset stomach. Does United tack on fees if you use more than one barf bag?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Portland, OR: day 4

On Sunday I went to the Chevron convenience store again and got a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. The rest of the morning I did laundry because when I travel for more than a weekend, I do laundry halfway through so it's less stuff I have to pack. What's awesome about the place I'm staying is that there is a laundry room in the main building across the street. Today was the first day raining, but it was all good -- the laundry was only $1 for the washer and dryer each, and somebody left detergent, which had more than enough for my three small loads.

For lunch I picked an Italian sandwich with Boars meat at the Fred Meyers supermarket. Washed it down with a 7.5-ounce Pepsi. I had picked up an eight-pack at Fred Meyers when I first got here.

In the afternoon I took the blue light rail for about an hour to the Gresham City Hall. During the ride I saw a couple tents pitched on the verdant hillside. Looked like people were living there.

After I hopped off the light rail, I took a bus to the only Planet Fitness listed as in Portland. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, going to the gym doesn't sound like much a vacation, but it was almost 90-minute trip to get there and I wanted to see the other side of the city. I think it would be called the southeast side (my hotel is near the northwest side, I believe). Though I think the Planet Fitness is lying a little. It looked like they're just outside Portland, in the suburb of Gresham.

I had left my keys with my Planet Fitness ID back in Philly, but fortunately the girl at the desk was cool enough to let me exercise. I did upper-body weights.

On the trip back, I got off about a mile before the hotel and picked up a Qdoba chicken burrito. This was around 5 PM. I wanted to get it sooner than later because they closed at 7 PM, and I assumed around closing time there would be slim pickings.

At the hotel I showered then watched the DC United match while I dined on my burrito. The rest of the night I just stayed in.

Portland, OR: day 3

It's Monday morning. Let's see if I can remember what I did on Saturday.

Because I thought the Skipping Stone Cafe might have a queue, I went to the Chevron convenience store around the corner and picked up a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios.

Then I hopped on the light rail to Washington Park, which is the same stop where the Oregon Zoo is at. I headed for the 4T trail. Here's the beginning of it:

It was about a mile march to Council Crest Park, the highest point in Portland.

I thought I could catch an aerial tram, but I had to keep walking the trail. I went about another mile on the trail, then took a shortcut on a roadway, though it didn't feel like a shortcut, 'cuz it went on for a while -- probably another mile.

I eventually found the aerial tram, it was next to a hospital. Too much information time: thank god the building the aerial tram was in had a bathroom. I had to go something fierce. I couldn't really find anything on the trail, and there were a fair amount of people on the trail.

Anyway, the tram was a short ride, no more than 2 minutes. I tried taking a picture of the approaching tram.

I thought the ride was free, maybe a service of the hospital, because the operator didn't ask for a ticket, but when I got off I saw a ticket vending machine. I didn't buy a ticket. Does that make me a bad person? But I did buy a ticket for the Portland Streetcar.

The Portland Streetcar isn't part of the TriMet network that runs the light rail and buses. The Streetcar takes you through downtown. The one I was on went through the university. One part was really neat, it cut through a shopping district where people were sitting, sipping on their java outside of a coffee shop. There weren't any barriers or anything. The Streetcar snaked over the red bricks a few feet from the shoppers and sippers. Pretty cool!

Eventually I got off the Streetcar and hopped on the light rail. I went to the Fred Meyers supermarket near my hotel and got a salad for lunch.

My hay fever was acting up, with itchy eyes to the extreme, so I took about a 75-minute nap in the afternoon.

For dinner I wanted to go to a local Italian restaurant, but you needed a reservation. So I stopped in at a local pizza joint, Hot Lips, but they were all out of meatball sandwiches. I checked out SFNY Pizza, where I some slices Friday night, but they didn't do meatball sandwiches. I settled on a BLT from Jimmy Johns; I really didn't want to eat there 'cuz I hit it up all the time in Philly, but I was running out of time. I picked up some Lay's BBQ potato chips at the Chevron too.

Around 6:30 I headed to Providence Park for the soccer game. The Timbers played RSL. Good game. The home team was down 2 for a while. The match ended in a draw.

Great thing about your hotel being several blocks from the soccer stadium is you don't have to worry about driving or waiting for the train. Woo-woo!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Portland, OR: day 2

Before I get started, I forgot to write up something that happened on my first full day here . . .  Thursday, was it? After eating dinner at Qdoba, as I was ambling around downtown, I was standing at a stoplight and the road to my left was blocked off except for light rail. Some sedan goes through the green light but didn't see the two concrete barricades until the last second. He hit the brakes, though they didn't screech or anything, and the car never stopped moving. The driver-side window has halfway down, and front passenger window was all the way down. The driver goes, "Whoa, whoa!" His girlfriend/wife in the passenger seat, who looked like the crazy sister upstairs neighbor on that Jessica Jones Netflix TV show, screamed at him, calling him a "dumbass". Oh, and I think there was at least one toddler in the back seat.

Anyway, on Friday I hiked down to the Skipping Stone Cafe again. I ordered sausage links and a biscuit. The biscuit was huge, probably equal to three or four biscuits you have at Thanksgiving. Should've taken a picture. I finished it and the three sausages, though.

Like Thursday, I caught the bus back to the hotel. The rest of the morning I worked on yesterday's blog post.

For lunch I hit that sushi place. It wasn't as good as the first time I was in Portland. Maybe because this time it was at the height of the lunch rush. They just didn't have the nigiri sushi I like. Everything comes around on a conveyor belt. I ate two shrimp, two tuna or salmon, and two octopus or squid. The lemonade I washed it down with was perfect -- not too sweet, not too diluted.

In the afternoon, I walked downtown and took pictures of the Portlandia statue.

Afterwards I saw this crazy traffic sign:

What's that noise all about?

Then it was off to the Oregon Historical Society museum.

It was nice. They had an exhibit on Chinese immigrants and the hardships the U.S. government put they through. Reminded me of Lisa See's Shanghai Girls. And sadly things haven't gotten much better with Hispanics at the latest scapegoat.

Several blocks away was the exterior they use for the Portland police station on the TV show Grimm.

Before heading back to the hotel, I took some pictures of the Timbers stadium, since it's a few blocks from the hotel. Can't wait for the game Saturday night!

For dinner there's a pizza place across the street from the hotel called SFNY, which stands for Straight From New York. They sell slices, so I got a plain and a pepperoni. It was pretty funny, when I asked for the plain, the cashier asked, "Cheese?" It's like they're speaking a different language out here!

After dinner I watched an episode of Grimm and read some of Stephen King's Cujo. I fell asleep around 10. My bio-rhythms are still on East Coast time. You wouldn't think that would be the case; after all, I lived on the West Coast for two years. Maybe I prefer the Atlantic Ocean over the Pacific. . . .

Friday, March 18, 2016

Portland, OR vacay: travel day, and 1st day here

It's about 11 AM on Friday, March 18. Thought I would catch up on what I've been up to. I'm a little rusty on writing anything outside of an email, so the prose probably won't pretty -- just the facts, ma'am.

Wednesday I got up and drove straight to mom's house so I could park my car in her driveway. I didn't want to leave my wheels in Manayunk because I'd be taking up a spot for almost a week when parking is at a premium there, plus there was a chance it could get stolen; somebody seeing it in the same spot over the weekend might deduct that I'm out of town.

At my mom's house, I was going to take the bus to the train station, since it's at least a mile away, but my sister's husband, Bill, was next door helping his dad brew some beer (his parents live next door to my mum) and he drove me to the train station.

I got down to the airport in plenty of time. For lunch I had a bacon cheeseburger at Chickie & Pete's. Never ate there before. It was pretty, pretty good.

The flight was supposed to take off at 2:25 PM, but it probably touched off the runway closer to 3. The connecting flight was in Chicago. For dinner I popped in a Wolfgang Pucks and bought a hummus wrap. Never had hummus before -- it was all right . . . tasted healthy.

I landed in Portland around 8 PM PT. Like when I spent a weekend here in September '13 (when I was living in Berkeley, CA), I took the MAX red line. It's a light rail. This time around I bought a weekly transpass for $26. Not too bad, it works on the buses too.

It's about a 45-minute rail ride to my hotel, the Park Lane Suites, in the city centre. I stayed here last time. There's the main building on the one side of the street, and more rooms in a separate building on the other side of the street. I'm in the latter. I just may be in the same room as I was last time, room 227 on the second floor (duh).

Yesterday, Thursday, I slept in a little then went to the Skipping Stone Cafe. It's about a mile from the hotel.

Back in '13 I tried a pancake and a biscuit. They're both huge and I only ate about half of each. This time I got just the pancake.

Crazy thing about Portland, it only costs $3. I still couldn't finish it, though I did get about three-quarters down in my gut.

For the mile trip back to the hotel, I didn't walk too far. I caught the 15 bus, which drops you off a block from the hotel. I didn't have to slide the transpass when I got on -- you just show it to the driver. That's one of the things I love about Portland! Things are simple here.

After showering I hoofed it about a mile from the hotel to Powell's book store. I picked up  a travel guide and a book about moving here, since I'm thinking about it.

I grabbed the 20 bus back to the hotel and for lunch I wandered around looking for a sandwich. I popped in to a nearby supermarket, Fred Meyer, but their sandwiches had too much meat on 'em for my tastes. Before I left security had to escort one customer out of the store. He was a white male, late 40s or in his 50s, about 6'5", bald on the top of his chrome, and he was no more than 20 pounds overweight, though it looked like muscle that had turned to flab. He called one of the Fred Meyers employees a bitch and told her to her job. He seemed a little unhinged. I thought a scuffle might break out 'cause he sounded unnecessarily angry, but he left without incident.

I eventually bought a ham and swiss cheese sandwich at another nearby supermarket. More upscale than Fred Meyers; I think it's called Zanders. It was $5 for a half sandwich. Overpriced, but it was good. I ate it in my room.

After lunch I watched the Manchester United and Liverpool UFEA match.

For dinner I walked a mile to the nearest Qdoba. Yeah, I know I can have their chicken burrito anytime in Philly, but it's soooooo good.

Afterwards I ambled around looking for a sushi place to eat lunch at the next day. One of the busy streets I went down (well, by Portland standards, it was busy -- 10 people on one side of the street) had a closed Subway. Apparently a customer threw a chair (I saw marks in the vertical part the counter) and tried stabbing the cashier. The attacker got away. I was talking to one of the bystanders and wondered if the knifer was the same guy from Fred Meyers this afternoon, but the bystander said the Subway cat was a black guy.

As I was leaving, I saw this same guy as the one outside the Powell's book store in the morning. White guy, he was about 6'3", thin, had piebald hair, was wearing a suit jacket and had, I would guess, at least $300 specs. He had noted my Timbers cap and claimed he had family in Manchester, England and played goalie there for a god awful team.

Anyway, outside of the Subway, he gave one of the bystanders the finger and said that guy was an asshole. I did notice that unlike in the morning he didn't have a leg brace on over his jeans -- you know the kind, goes from groin to ankle, with velcro straps. He still had his guitar case and supermarket cart full of crap and knick-knacks.

I eventually found that sushi place. I think it's the one I went to last time I was here. Then I headed back to the hotel. Really tired. All told I must've walked close to five miles. Plus in the afternoon I picked up some allergy medicine. My hay fever is acting up. When I was here in '13, I went back to California with some allergy where my voice was messed up for weeks. Could have something to do with my broken nose when I got hit by that car on March 1, 2012 and my deviated septum. Hopefully if I keep taking the Walgreen's version of Zyrtec I'll be fine.