I’m going to refrain from here out from the occasional apologies due to my inability to post due to other commitments. It must be getting old. So instead I’ll just post what I can when I can and get on with it. I’ve got work, so do you. Onward.

Sometime this week, I’m gonna start posting regular links to things I like and believe might make good holiday gifts. Some of these might be rather obvious; some might be a bit surprising. Hope it’s helpful.

I’m also going to begin occasionally posting entries consisting of little more than a few links to things I think worth reading. A bunch of these have stacked up while I’m traveling, so those should start popping up soon.

Also, I’ve got pics from another half-dozen countries. If I can ever sit in one place long enough, I really do intend to share.


Sarah Palin, Performance Artist

I’m not sure what’s most brilliant — the way Palin’s own babbling sounds a bit like the turkeys? The oddball way the guy keeps turning and checking her out over his bloody work? The genius of doing a chirpy TV interview framed as a two-shot with mundane slaughter? Add it all up, and it’s damn near performance art.

I suggested years ago that the GOP had secretly been taken over by brilliant dada artists.

By 2010, they’ll be nominating stoats dressed in ermine and wearing little crowns.

Blame China

.. at least if you’re wondering where updates here disappeared to.  I’ve been in Beijing and Shanghai for much of the last month, and for some reason this entire site is blocked behind the Great Firewall of China.  Not sure why; it’s not like I’ve posted a gazillion things about Tian’anmen Square, Falun Gong, or Taiwan (although if their censor-bot just picks out flagged text, I’ve just made the site that much harder to reach).  But there it is.  Couldn’t update, couldn’t sneak in a back way and post a one-line note saying I couldn’t update, couldn’t even see the front page at all.

China is highly weird that way.  The massive, arbitrarily porous information wall is hard to make sense of — I could, for example, access the Wikipedia entries on Tian’anmen Square protests easily by typing in the URL, but searching with the term in some engines made the connection to the server instantly reset — and the effects are equally strange.  I don’t have time to say much, as I’m posting from a fairly shabby signal in Kowloon, Hong Kong at the moment, but there seems to be a whole generation in China who know virtually nothing about the 1989 protests, for example.  This would be harder to imagine if amnesia in the U.S. weren’t so pervasive, even with incomparably greater (if still flawed) media freedom.  But still: weird.

Short take just on the experience: Beijing, incredibly friendly, rich in history, would go again in a heartbeat.  Shanghai… um… I really liked Beijing.  Let’s say that.

ps I finally got a chance to pull that annoying auto-starting video off the front page.  That went up shortly before I lost access, and I didn’t realize it was auto-starting until I learned of it a couple of weeks later.  Must have been super-annoying for anybody popping back in more than once to see if anything had updated.  My apologies.

Not Quite an Earthshaking Revelation (But Something You Can Help With Anyway)

Not sure if it made the news in the States, but yesterday there was a significant earthquake in Iran.

It was big enough we could feel it here in Dubai.  Not surprising, really.  We’re right across the Persian Gulf from the Iranian coast, comparable in rough terms to Cleveland being across Lake Erie from Detroit.

Whole office buildings cleared out in some areas here, as people ran into the streets.  Things stayed fairly calm here in my hotel, which is to say some of us walked outside.

No real damage here, but a real tragedy across the water.  Buncha homes destroyed, 4-6 dead (reports vary), dozens injured, more to come.

Now, something incredibly obvious, but I’ll say it nonetheless.  It’s just a weird thing about human experience.  I’ve seen earthquakes in Iran and elsewhere on TV before.  And you feel for the victims and send a few bucks and stuff, but it always seems so far away.  You kinda have to map their tragedy onto something you can understand, and when you haven’t been somewhere, you have to work a lot harder.  But when your own butt shakes in the same quake, that’s a different thing.  So now, even though I’ve never been there, earthquakes in Iran will always feel a little more real and human.  But the next time a quake whaps Sichuan, China, maybe not, still.  Until I’ve been there.

Sometimes people ask: why travel so much?  That’s why.  You get your butt shook sometimes.  You get hugged sometimes.  You get a flower from a kid, or you get a dirty look from an old lady, or you fall off of something, or you get stuck in the rain.  Sometimes you make a new friend, sometimes a really good one.  But whatever happens, that part of the world gets more real, and you get a little more connected to it.

There’s a real selfishness involved, of course — even if all of your experiences are somehow only of giving and helping others, you’re still getting.  It could easily degenerate into high-end solipsism, unless you really make an effort, and even then it still might.

Part of that effort is doing stuff like this.  It’s a tiny part, but it’s still important.  And if you want to help, too, with the relatively small quake yesterday, pick “Disaster relief emergency fund” but “Where most needed” might be an even better option.


PS I’m writing this from a hotel room with a view of the Burj Dubai, which will be roughly a half-mile tall when it’s done.  And we just had a tremor that was scary from the 10th floor.  Oh, man.