the true valentine loves not the vampire

This whole Valentine’s Day story is quite baffling because there’s a whole bunch of weird history behind it. It turns out the Giant Octopus of the Vatican doesn’t even really know who Saint Valentine was. This is an organization that professes it has a hotline to God via the Pope guy who happens to be in the chair at the time. Or something like that. So if they say they don’t have any solid info on Valentine’s connection to Valentine’s Day or love? Then you’d better believe they don’t have anything at all in the archives where they also keep the plans for the fusion device. But it’s okay, because we at TAP already know the true answer.

We heard tell at the Bankers Hill Bar & Restaurant located in San Diego International Airport Terminal 1 from a man wearing a Tony Romo jersey and drinking red zinfandel. He swears on his soul that he was vacationing in Bucharest in 1985 at the height of Ceaușescu’s brutal power. He spied a dark cloaked man giving chocolates and flowers to random women at the hotel bar. Thinking this man a dangerous threat and rather drunk, he armed himself with a rolled up Leninist newspaper and followed the cloaked man into the grim night. He made it twelve feet from the hotel door before being accidently knocked unconscious by a nine year old girl on a bicycle. He awoke weeks later deep in the Transylvanian Hills.

There, he proceeded to conduct a hasty forced interview with a vampire. The vampire stated that in fact Valentine’s Day originated as an excuse for vampires to drink more blood then during the other 364 days of the year. The seduction, the lust, the red color, the focus upon bleeding somebody dry, was all an excuse for vampires to consume their extra fill. The man, petrified, demanded meekly to know if he too would die that day. The vampire chuckled, and said no. For the original Valentine’s Day traditions were long gone. Instead, vampires had transformed into vicious corporate shills. They made such a killing on cocoa and flower farms that they were able to bankroll the invention of synthetic blood to sate their appetite. In particular, this one vampire confessed to working for Goldman Sachs Business Development Branch and had a supposed “killer” idea on this thing he kept calling “see, dee, oohs.”

Anyways, who or what, precisely, is the dreaded Giant Octopus establishment? To those who voted for Hilary it’s Trump’s business buddies in NYC, the 1887 KKK, etc, etc. To those who voted for Trump it’s the people in the media, DC, etc, etc. If you voted for neither of them the establishment is one of sixteen different Giant Octopi that occupy your darkest dreams. Like vampires. Or employees of Citibank. Or celebrity award shows.

Did you know the Grammy’s and the BAFTA’s were both on last Sunday? They’ve got so many award shows they have to cram two major ones into one night on different continents. How many awards can celebrities give to themselves? Don’t they know that celebrity awards are the pinnacle of the Giant Octopus’ many magical apples!? Don’t eat it, dear God, don’t eat it! The apple causes the downfall of us all! It laced with haughtiness.

Hey speaking of apples, and love, and whatever else, what does it say about humanity that the original Valentine’s Day love story ends with the downfall of all humanity for an eternity?

Anyways, but if you’re me, the Giant Octopus establishment is everything that tries to remove coherent thought from your brain for any particular purpose that benefits anybody not you. Whether it be an attempt to get your vote, your support, your time, your eyes, or more often than not, your straight cash.

America will spend $20B on Valentine’s Day this year. Or twice what the NFL makes in an entire league year. Or three times the national cancer budget. Why? There are 365 days in a year. Yet this is apparently the day that if you don’t get your mate candy, flowers, or whatever, it means you’re apparently cheating on them, or are possessed by the devil. Which is a mean thing to say, because even the devil is all about this day. It’s why he always dresses in red velvet. Go watch the Japanese anime cartoon.

Anyways, there’s certainly no connection between the Valentine’s guy and love. And yet there are references as far back as Chaucer and Shakespeare associating Valentine’s Day and love. So somehow this thing happened. Somehow humanity has a centuries long tradition of picking this one day over the other 364 for the purposes of affection.

I don’t get it, but I’ll accept it as reality. And that, as always, there just might be something wrong with me in that I wish this day didn’t exist. But even if you accept this as cultural reality, what I cannot wrap my mind around is the Giant Octopus having it’s claws in the 2/3 of Americans that probably shell out substantial gold for this event.

Folks who won’t eat genetically modified crops and recycle their used pencils are all of a sudden all too comfortable paying a 600% markup to Mars Brand Incorporated, or some faceless hedge fund LLC that owns a series of flower mills in Columbia and Kenya paying 3 cents an hour minimum wage. Nobody has a gun to anybody’s head making them buy candy this one single day. Why not buy candy on April 17th? Or cut some fresh wild flowers from a field on June 3rd?

Don’t give in into the Giant Octopi! Don’t give into the vampire! Do something different for your special person. Don’t let the vampire be your valentine instead. I don’t know what that different thing would be, you know your mate, you just find a way to make it happen. But I’m guessing, a good starting point is to try and do something that doesn’t involve spending any cash. That’d be a good start.

White Christmas?

Within the confines of the hovel at my new gig I can hear music played lightly by the gal next door. This is a new concept for me as at the last place playing music without headphones was banned under penalty of confining one to the cubicle overnight while a merger of Bieber and Kanye was played via massive loudspeaker for eight straight hours. Needless to say, nobody violated this regulation. But here it’s considered okay.

This doesn’t bother me as much as I would have expected. Half the time she plays classical music which is soothing to hear as I grind away and contemplate what’d be like to actually one day have a job I enjoy. Sometimes she plays weird pop rock or whatever and I have to break out my headphones to drown it out with music of my own. This is fine too. But being the season, she’s progressed to the occasional Christmas music.

I’m not sure if I can handle this. Christmas is a long 12 days away. A lot of Christmas music is great, classic stuff. But when you really think about it a whole bunch of Christmas music is terrible. The ones where somebody whines about their relationship during the Christmas season are the worst. Nobody cares people, dating is just as much a wheat thresher in May as it is in December. Live with it.

But also, to me Christmas music is an intensely personal experience. At the height of its powers, it evokes memories of childhood where we would all pile into the van to drive to Grandma and Granddad’s place. In the dark, cold Christmas night my Dad would invariably switch over to Christmas music on the radio for the length of the drive. These are nice memories. All my grandparents and my Dad have moved onto the next realm, so the music is especially poignant. As it is, Christmas music almost becomes kind of sad for me, like a requiem.

Lots of people aren’t in the Christmas spirit either this year I guess. Go ahead and read anything online or in the papers recently and apparently the universe is over. Earth is finished. Christmas is cancelled. You’re a walking bleached skeleton. By June of this year, machines or aliens (or both) shall be our masters, dogs and cats will have lived together and procreated creating a master race of pet, The Walking Dead will have somehow become a good television show, and Trump will have become that guy in Star Wars with the wrinkled creepy monster face.

Gee wiz, I had no idea we were that doomed? Though I sadly suppose it’d be the same hysteria regardless of what loser won this last election. Hey you know I didn’t vote for either of them, both of them were terrible, but I never (and still don’t) had it in my mind that either one of them could actually destroy anything. Go read the Constitution, or contemplate how little Obama has been able to accomplish after eight years.

The way I look at, is to default back to my Grandma and Granddad. For you see, they did four Christmas days at war. Think living under Trump or Clinton would have been bad? Trying living through Christmas Day 1942. Unless you happen to live in Syria, we cannot comprehend the struggle and terror of those Christmases where whole cities and countries were being swallowed whole. My Granddad did Christmas Day 1944 under fire at the front within the Battle of the Bulge. Merry Christmas! Signed, your friend, Adolf.

This was a war that killed 300K Americans, probably around 100 million worldwide. One in nine Americans served in uniform. The equivalent number today is if four years from now 30 million Americans were in the military. This is beyond our comprehension.

So later on in their lives I have this idea that Christmas 1956, 1972, or 1986 was always very special for them. They could go back and look at their kids and grandkids and remember just how bad it’d been. Instead of all that nightmare, they could lean back on the couch, sigh deeply, and truly appreciate the joy of Christmas that surrounded them. More than anything, that war defined a whole lifetime’s existence.

Of this, I offer as further evidence the 1954 movie White Christmas. If you haven’t seen this movie, gather the kiddies and those you love, and watch this movie. It’s just too wholesome good not to watch. It’s got a great fun plot, decent music, good dancing, and is basically just an enjoyable time. But at its heart this is a movie about two guys who got shelled together doing everything they can to aid their former general and his failed business. And they get hundreds of their war buddies to help out. It’s a story where memory of the war bleeds through.

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I think that White Christmas connection lasted about seven decades. In an equally godawful presidential election of 1972, you could have voted for Nixon (liar, lunatic) or McGovern (dreamer, lunatic). But regardless of who won, you would have remembered that after Christmas 1943, it couldn’t be much worse.

And indeed, Nixon rightly got his ass kicked out of office and the country somehow didn’t implode. And if your neighbor in 1973 had voted for the other guy, then that was okay because they’d been 19 miles to your left on the front lines and so they were an alright dude regardless of who they voted for.

Now, 75 years later that type of deep societal connection is just about gone. There is literally nothing holding the vast majority of the American psyche together. This is another bother for me with Christmas music. All the good ones were written with this 1956, 1972, or 1986 mindset. These songs were written for people who’d literally been through hell, and could fully enjoy the Christmas meaning and spirit.

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“Merry Christmas, Motherfuckers!”

Who would write an appropriate hit Christmas tune today? No Kanye rapper or Bieber-like-man-child has it in them. Even if they did, would anybody listen or would people just hear it and get sad because they’re too mentally wrapped up in what Trump said about the percentage of glycerol in Twinkies on Twitter?

Do you hate your neighbor and fellow human? Maybe you should. Let’s hate everybody! Christmas spirit? Nonsense! Christmas is yet another day on the calendar to contemplate how awful everything is.

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“Hmm, 60 million have had Christmas ruined because I should never have run.  Hmm, eh, fuck it.”  [lights cigar with $1K bill inside $27.3M mansion]

I have in mind, to write this Star Trek episode. It’s a Christmas episode special. In it, Kirk, Picard, Spock, and Data roll down to some waste planet accompanied by four Red Shirts. They go exploring around. Red Shirt 1 accidently blows himself up with his own phaser. Red Shirt 2 dies from food poisoning after last night’s failed turkey mole dish (true story). Red Shirt 3 gets dragged behind a rock by what the audience sees as a crab-like shadow.

Red Shirt 4 whilst walking upon a ledge gets scared by a monster neither he or the audience can see, and he falls off the cliff to his death. So then there are Kirk, Picard, Spock, and Data investigating the ledge where Red Shirt 4 fell.

Data scans the area and he’s like, “Captain, my scans show there to be zero evidence of alien activity in this sector. It is thus reasonable to conclude, that Ensign Timmy was alone here. Before he fell.”

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Spock nods, and he’s like, “I agree, Captain. Fascinating. It is thus logical to conclude, that whatever Ensign Timmy saw, was contained solely within the confines of his mind.”

spock-speaking

Then Picard, looking straight at the camera, earnestly, with campy Christmas music playing, in a scene worthy of 1979 says, “Why, it would seem, that even in this Christmas season, our darkest fears can overcome us, blind us, and lead us across a fatal line. Perhaps, it is time, during this season above all, to look deep within ourselves. For our own optimism, our own guidance, our own Christmas joy.”

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And all four guys nod happily at this revelation as the music reaches its crescendo.

Then, out of nowhere a giant crab monster jumps out from behind a rock. It attacks Kirk and rips open his shirt.

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Then the crab pulls a knife.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ9FdpLfL98

Kirk spends four and a half minutes going hand-to-hand with the crab monster, ultimately beating him to death with a rock. And Kirk’s screaming and panting over the mangled crab monster corpse. Picard, Data, and Spock are just looking at him, like, “Dude, calm down.”

Eh, either way.

White Christmas? My friends, it is your choice. In the next 12 days you’ll be bombarded with the black, the dark, the unpleasant. Choose the White. Choose optimism, to love your neighbor, to be kind even to your enemies. This is what it’s about. We need more of it. Now more than ever.

the balance with life

For the first time this year, American deaths by drug overdose will overtake deaths by car accident.   If you loosely add in the suicides per year that can directly be traced to drug use as the primary causation, you enter an era where over 50K people a year are dying this way.  No other cause of death not related to old age or cancer (fuck cancer) even comes close.

In one of the mid-sized counties just north of mine, they have a sign on the way to the airport that logs death’s per year specifically from opioids / heroin.  It’s over 60 lives already this year.  That county is not that big, folks.

When it’s not playing psychotic referee to the sewer that is Washington politics, The Washington Post can actually output some high quality journalism.  They’ve run a multi-part series examining this issue in detail.  You should read each part, alongside a shorter but similar piece by BBC Magazine.

In many ways, I’m a freedom based lunatic.  And so for years I’ve been of the impression that the way to end the drug war is to legalize all drugs.  Let folks get high, whatever, tax it, and offer treatment.  However, I’m beginning to wonder if the growing drug lethality upends the game on this issue.

Science, reckless doctors, and pill companies have created drugs that are exponentially more powerful than what was available even 15 years ago.  Where it was once extremely difficult to get clean once you were hooked, it might now be nearly impossible to recover once you’d trained your brain to accept modern opioids.  When you add in the ultra vicious horror story drugs like fentanyl (which apparently is so lethal it can get into your blood if you even touch it), and whatever other death dealing nightmare synthetic drugs science will soon create, it seems we’re at a bit of a crossroads with all of this.

You can probably do a few lines of coke in your day, or smoke hundreds of joints, and come out mostly okay.  With this shit, you can literally die on the first hit, or after just a few months find yourself hooked for life without a way out.

When you add this to the already everpresent overmedication of anti-depressants, and whatever other societal ills you can think of, it becomes quite the balance with death.  It’s moments like this why I barely care about the presidential election.  Nobody has answers for these types of problems that are literally killing tens-of-thousands of Americans a year.  Neither political party is interested in proposing deep core type solutions to tackle these problems.  Instead, they’re chasing that sound byte.  Idiots.

I find more solace in those identified within these articles who are on the street, helping every day.  The elderly councilor aiding dozens in addiction classes, the local mayor putting his ass on the line to identify and fight the problem, a young man who lost his friend and now battles to save others.  When our national leadership is garbage, and the topic is as dark as this, it’s hopeful to know that folks are still fighting to save others with ferocity and compassion.

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Behold the potential cause of America’s downfall.

what if Rose had killed Jack?

I normally don’t fall victim to clickbait with the expectation that my immortal soul depends on it. But I have to claim ownership of this setback because I have some weird type of morbid fascination with this Titanic film. As in, if I bump into it, I’m likely to watch a bit of it, but yet feel I can’t stand the film.

First off, if you want to understand why this movie plays doppelganger inside your brain, you need only take an hour of your time to have the guys at RedLetterMedia explain it all in their own dark-twisted-hilarious way.

[rare TAP caveat; some of you might be offended with these guys, so don’t say I didn’t warn you; on the other hand, Roger Ebert wasn’t offended after watching them, but what does he know?]

Second, you can read this surprisingly delicious Washington Post article that still made me hate myself just for clicking on it.

It basically goes through the questions of why Jack just didn’t ride out the cold on a piece of wood that could have held both of them.

But, ponder if you will, how much better this movie could have been if Rose had actually killed Jack.

For example, what if as they’re floating there, Rose surprisingly goes full blown black widow. In the most unprecedented plot twist since Hitler turned out to be the disguised black guy in Casablanca.

They’re floating there and she gets this evil smile and she’s like, “Well Jack, I guess that’s it. You’ve played your part. I’m free of Cal forever. I couldn’t have done it without you. You were the best. But now it’s time for you to go. Goodbye Jack.” And she starts to remove his frozen fingers from the wood one at a time. Leo’s hypothermic, so he can’t move, but you can see in his eyes that he’s freaking out. Then he goes floating away. And Rose just leans back on the floating wood, sighs, and waits to be rescued.

The advantage of ending the movie this way is that in 1997 it would have caused 343 million teenage girls to vomit in the aisles or in the garden outside the theater. This kind of thing appeals to me. Plus, who wouldn’t want to kill Leo.

But if you ask me, the Washington Post article has the best little nugget, of how this would have actually played out:

 “Rose lives on in a cheap house with Jack, and goes on to bear a child or two. . When Jack takes her out with her kids, she notices a wealthy family laughing and walking into an upmarket restaurant. Meanwhile Jack, fatigued by age and experience, almost weakly asks her what’s keeping her, as he walks towards a cheap fast food joint. The rifts slowly get created, and there’s no more ‘high’ of the first few days of love to get her through.”

Yup.

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eh, you both know that one or both of you is going to die in this movie right? I knew it, why didn’t you?

Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto, and that one great shot

If you want to discover what really matters to a cubicle goon of the modern era, gaze kindly upon whatever framed pictures they possess inside their hovels.  This impact is magnified where I work, for we have no windows.  It could be 70, sunny, with a bird, squirrel, and komodo dragon frolicking playfully together outside in the grass.  But inside for us, it’s the same stale air, harsh light, and incessant office sounds.

A lot of people put pictures of their family there.  I’m a weirdo who lives alone with his dogs, but I suppose I could put pictures of them in there, or of my Parents, Brothers, and Sisters.  But I guess I’m too much of a closed book for that kind of public display.  So instead I’ve got two pictures in there, the first a few folks may have seen me post a while back, which is essentially my Parents’ backyard.

The second photo is of Kiyomizu-dera.

 

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I breathe every part of this photo: the forest, the winter haze, the isolation, the distant pagoda (Koyasu Pagoda).  This is Kyoto in February.  This is Japan.

The dirty little secret of this shot is that to my left, right, and behind me is a sea of humanity.  My Parents had come out to visit me for my birthday that year.  And I took them to Kyoto and Nara, because it had to be done.  I haven’t gotten into it at all on this blog, but I lived in Japan for three years.  I guess it’s just too close to the heart to write about much, or something strange like that.

Anyways, I’d been to Kyoto before and so we visited some of my favorites, but Kiyomizu-dera was new for all three of us.  We’d visited Chion-in that morning, for that was the one place in all of Japan I wanted to show my Dad (more on that later, eh, maybe).  Then we cabbed it south to Kiyomizu-dera probably after just randomly picking it off a map.  The place was mobbed, almost subway style.

 

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Looking back west toward Kyoto

 

Started in 778, the main temple buildings date from the early Edo period, about 1630.  Elaborate temples and a return to emphasis on traditional Japanese religion were among the Shogunate’s many methods to get out of the business of perpetual civil war.  It’s awfully hard to be in the sword killing trade when Shogun needs that seven year temple building project completed in three years.  And you don’t want to disappoint Shogun, do you?

Translated as “Pure Water Temple” it sits atop of mountain waterfall that you can still drink from in various attempts to cheat the Gods / Nature out of the path they’ve set for you.  What do those dudes know anyways?  All they do is make all the rules of the universe.  And rules are meant to be broken, right?  [shakes fist at sky]

My memory is truly horrible (photographs help save me), so I’m not sure where we went next.  But given the time of day, we probably went back downtown for dinner.  Which knowing Kyoto, it was undoubtedly unspeakably awesome.

 

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Kiyomizu-dera Main Hall; this was taken after the crowds had begun to thin out

 

 

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looking east up the mountain you really get a good idea of how perched the temple is upon the heights

 

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looking up from the base of the Main Hail through the branches of a random unrelated species of Japanese tree; these pillars stand as is despite the fact that they didn’t use a single nail in the construction

Halloween costumes – when did this go off the rails?

When I was a young useless lad, mine own dear Mother made me and my Brothers into orange Crayola crayons by hand. These costumes undoubtedly took her hours to make, but probably cost $8 in material. And nobody’s ever forgotten them. But now this quaint, wholesome activity has been conquered by, by what?

First off, let’s start with a little history. Halloween is a cult Pagan festival honoring the dead; likely in a creepy grinding ritual that back in 553 BC probably involved a pile of bones, human sacrifice (which seems to defeat the purpose), or at the very least a bunch of club beatings.  They probably did this for three days straight, because what the hell else was there to do back then?

In order to quickly attract converts, the Catholic Church allowed the adoption of Pagan rituals into the Christian calendar. Depending on how you count, this emerged as All Hallows or All Saint’s Day around 1400 years ago. Thus the original purpose of involving the dead, leads us down the road of horror, vampires, fear, boy bands, gargoyles, Miley Cyrus, etc.

But this costume thing is only about 150 years old. And it always seems to have taken on a rather tame tact that gives one the impression that the culture mostly left to whole violent death concept behind. Here’s a photograph from 1924, not too many decapitated horror movie themes going on here:

1924

In my youth days, I remember the parents walking around in street clothes. All the kids wore either homemade or rather bland costumes which were actually street clothes just slightly altered. Maybe other kids wore ridiculously elaborate costumes back then and I just never saw it? I’m not sure, we didn’t exactly live in a rich neighborhood and so who knows what folks were wearing on the Giant Octopus mansion street.  Maybe those kids went around in $600 Monopoly Man costumes?

The Monopoly Man

“Terribly sorry Sir, but my Father is very wealthy, as the saying goes, and states that if you peasants do not provide me with the very best candy I am to slice you.”

 

But as to my home,  I just remember loving the simplicity of it all.  The family and neighborhood flavor of it.  When you’re wearing a homemade crayon around, your expectations of life are formed accordingly.  And I’m the better for it.  So are my Brothers.

Well, that was fun, for those days are over.  When did this go off the rails?

Culturally the planet’s gone from:

 

Pagan death ritual => Catholic soul day => wholesome costume culture / candy day => what?

 

What’s it now? Well, here’s a pair of screenshots that I think answer’s that question. And I hate the answer.

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1) sex

2) sex

3) Diz-Nee

4) Mon-Nee

5) Other generic Giant Octopus product

6) Mon-Nee

7) sex

 

Uh, [shakes head], I want my crayon costume back.

peppers unto happiness

My Brother gave me a Thai red pepper plant last spring because he is well aware that I like spicy cooking that melts my brain.  Unfortunately I travel so much for work and have so little direct sunlight into my place that the plant didn’t reach full quality this year.  Maybe next year if I leave it outside.  But I took three smallish peppers to cook with tonight before I leave again for work tomorrow and through the weekend.

 

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I yanked a pair of Indian recipes off Saveur so we’ll see how this goes.  I’m cautious but looking forward to trying some new techniques.

 

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As you can see, the addition of four random habaneros should tell you how wrong my Bro was about my preferred level of spiciness.  I also have all those usual Indian dry spices.  And some cayenne, which I have sitting atop a spice pedestal under a white light ready for action.

 

But the below is his work, both in terms of growing, photos, and bottling.  He’s above my level of pepper awesomeness.  I’ll try and get there.

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bottles

His peppers are: “Ghost, Thai, Scorpion, Choc. S.B., Trinidad Perfume, 1 Reaper”

His bottling is a Caribbean recipe.