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Bread, fish and scarcity

April 5, 2013


Somewhere off the Alaskan Peninsula, in the barren 525-mile expanse that separates Kodiak from Dutch Harbor, I realized that we would soon run out of milk and bread. Being in such a remote location we would not soon be able to resupply on these basic provisions. As the boat cook, it was my job to plan and keep track of our food supplies, I hadn’t realized when I stocked up in the tiny village of Sand Point just how long we would be out and just how much milk and bread the crew would consume.

I alerted the captain and the crew that we had about two days of milk left and four days of bread if we continued consuming as we had been. I suggested that we should slow down eating and drinking these staples to make them last longer, but this turned out not to be the case.

In the face of scarcity the crew started drinking more milk and eating more bread than before. It was as if, and likely was, that the realization this “resource” would soon be wiped out, pushed the crew to “get theirs” or risk being left with nothing. I too found myself eating more peanut butter and honey sandwiches than before, with the thought, these guys are eating so much if I don’t snag an extra sandwich here and there I might not get anything.

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The absurd cool of assault weapons

February 22, 2013

10364166_lAs the debate over a renewed assault weapons ban seems to be taking a back burner for more politically feasible gun control measures, I find myself debating with myself why I actually find ARs, AKs and the like so attractive. I have long been a gun-liking lefty. My fondness for firearms of the tactical variety likely has more to do with my Americaness, than any well reasoned argument I’ve concocted. For as long as I can remember I’ve been bombarded with violently-cool images of tactical weapons in action.

Guns are cool. Like many cool things they are completely unnecessary for the vast majority. Having played with a few AR-15s over the years, I can say—with guilty indulgence—they are one of the coolest weapons on the market, a coolness that is just as much form as it is function. Capable of handling military-grade armor-penetrating 5.56×45mm NATO rounds—designed for mass bleeding, tissue fragmentation and death—while firing at 200 rounds per minutes with an effective range of 400 yards-plus. All with a military-chic M4-M16 aesthetic built of aluminum alloys and cutting-edge polymers.

They’d actually be great weapons to use in the violent removal of a tyrant for most of them can be easily converted into fully automatic carbines. Yet at this point guns would be counterproductive in the removal of the last bastions of tyranny in the United States, and the citizenry with the most private arms often have the worst politics.

I’ve said these instruments of death are cool but with full understanding that cool is often absurd.

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Xtratuf: Now in China and selling shoddy boots

August 24, 2012

I wrote this article for the September 2012 issue of Pacific Fishing. Pick it up at newsstands, or if you’re not in a fishing community on the Pacific Coast of the the US, check it out here.

For decades there has been no footwear more ubiquitous to commercial fishing in the North Pacific than Xtratuf boots. From San Diego to the Bering Sea, fishermen have relied on their durability, comfort, and support as a consistent tool for the trade. Xtratuf has built a near monopoly with their well-crafted, fully waterproof uppers and slip-resistant soles, giving them a steady, inelastic demand. In my short four years commercial fishing, I have never seen anyone wear anything but Xtratufs.

At the start of this year’s Southeast Alaska seine season, I picked up a new pair after my old pair succumbed to the grind of near daily use fishing for salmon and Dungies for a year and a half. I noticed something was a little different, the boots lacked the classic oily residue, and the logo was without the “Made in USA” and red, white, and blue patriotic banner.

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Outside-in Photo now on Tumblr.

July 13, 2012

There’s an old cliché about the verbal value of a single picture. Day-to-day, my life is rather mundane, yet is is often set in amazing landscapes. With that, I’ve just launched Outside-in Photo on Tumblr. I write a lot attempting to capture the environment and scenes of my life on commercial fishing boats with long-form projects, so short entries aren’t a priority. But I’m equipped with a camera, time and sporadic Internet and cell phone access.

My day-to-day is also an awesome setting for photography. While working there is no time to snap shots, but when I have a minute to spare a camera is often in my hand. Baristas become bosses at new south Berkeley cafe

June 11, 2012

At the intersection of Adeline and MLK in South Berkeley, six baristas have opened the Alchemy Collective Cafe.

Located in a small storefront at the Firehouse Art Collaborative, one block from the Ashby BART station, the alchemists are attempting to set themselves apart with the best caffeinated elixirs in the area.

“This isn’t something that’s prepackaged,” Payam Imani, worker-owner and a grad student at the Academy of Art, said, as he stood watching fellow alchemist Christopher Myers construct a table from reclaimed materials. “It’s something that’s constantly being built and shaped with our own hands. It’s about the process as much as it is about the product.”

For the past year, the Alchemy Collective has served single-cup drip coffee at Phat Beets Farmers Market in North Oakland and at the Arlington Medical Center. While they were waiting to find a space that would fit their needs and their budget, the worker-owner baristas were running a full-service coffee cart at the BioFuel Oasis.

Read more at One Sees a Tree, the Other, a Canoe: The Humor and Struggle of International Solidarity

May 21, 2012

The Zapatistas have lingered in the imaginations of progressives and radicals around the world since the coming out of their rebellion in 1994. People from nearly all leftist persuasions have taken the struggle of the impoverished indigenous communities at the end of Mexico to be one of their own. This, to a degree, has been welcomed by Subcomandante Marcos’ prosaic communiqués and has been a key component of building significant international solidarity. Yet, perhaps to an even larger degree, much of what is understood of the Zapatista struggle is largely a product of these same outsiders’ imaginations.

Irish writer and activist Ramor Ryan, author of “Clandestines: The Pirate Journals of an Irish Exile,” uses a seemingly benign and common water project to delve into the complexities of Zapatismo and of its associated solidarity activism in his book, “Zapatista Spring” published a year ago this month by AK Press. Over the past 15 years, dozens of water systems have been constructed in Zapatista communities with technical help from solidarity activists. The projects have not only had the pragmatic goal of bringing potable tap water to villages which before lacked that basic convenience, but also the heady goal of building solidarity between the Zapatista base and foreigners.

The cast of characters Ryan presents fit the archetypal activist spectrum, from a socially inept yet passionate anarcho-dogmatist and a less ideologically driven, type-A career organizer, to a radical punk sex worker and an academic Chicana in search of her roots in the Lacandon Jungle, among others. The group is far from harmonious and the internal problems of the outsider activists themselves drive the narrative for a good portion of the short work. For an anarchist and self-proclaimed revolutionary, Ryan’s humor, empathy and nondogmatic take on politics and personal folly is refreshing. Throughout his narrative, he invites the reader to laugh at him, laugh with him and, most importantly, encourages fellow activists to laugh at themselves.


San Francisco International Film Festival reviews

April 5, 2012

Here are a couple short reviews I wrote for the San Francisco Film Society’s upcoming SF International Film Festival (April 19- May 3).

Somebody Up There Likes Me (2012)

Somebody Up There Likes Me chronicles the unremarkable yet ageless waiter Max Youngman through more than 25 years of failed marriages, betrayals and unlikely success. Part sedentary Candide, part shiftless Dorian Gray, with a mysterious blue suitcase in place of a portrait, Youngman bumbles through life’s follies with dispassionate ease. Acclaimed independent writer/director Bob Byington delivers another sardonically offbeat comedy, backed with original music by Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio and a strong supporting role by Nick Offerman (of Parks and Recreation fame). Read More

Dead Again (1991)

Split between black-and-white sequences that take place in 1948 and full-color passages set in a present-day 1991, Dead Again is the neo-noir thriller that helped propel director/star Kenneth Branagh’s crossover from Shakespearean renown into movie stardom. Mike Church (Branagh), a brassy Los Angeles private investigator, takes the case of “Grace” (Emma Thompson), an amnesiac haunted by nightmares. Hypnotist Franklyn Madson (Derek Jacobi) claims Grace’s nightmares are actually flashbacks to a past life in which she was brutally murdered. Read More


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