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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Your Cell Phone Makes You Look Fat


You heard me; your cell phone makes you look fat. That’s the only thing that I could think of that might convince people to lay off their phones just a little bit. Telling people that cell phones may cause cancer didn’t do anything to damper our enthusiasm for this gadget. Money seems to be no object when it comes to this technology as most customers seem thrilled to pay almost anything for the latest model in addition to a frighteningly high monthly service fee so any economic disincentive is unlikely to get people to hang up and join the human race. The only thing else that I an come up with is this childish insult.

It shouldn’t bother me or anyone else that you spend your entire life punching itty-bitty keys and staring at a Lilliputian screen on what has done more to change modern society than anything since the automobile. The tiny miracle of the cell phone has also become almost everyone’s best buddy. It does bother me especially when we are sitting together at a table in a restaurant and you are playing with your new toy. Is there ever a time or a place when using your phone is not appropriate? I don't go to church but do people use their phones there? Is it OK for your doctor to check his messages while he's operating? That can't be any more dangerous than you texting while driving.

Now that I’ve told everyone that their cell phones make them look fat there probably will be a stampede to buy phone cases with vertical stripes to make folks look thinner. Or is it horizontal stripes that do that? You'd think that this would be something that I'd know since everything in my wardrobe was purchased to make me look less plus-size, even my umbrellas.

I’m far from being some sort of hippie Luddite. I get it; cell phone technology has revolutionized countless aspect of our society. This doesn’t mean that we have to hold it in our hot little hands every waking moment.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sex or Violence?

I saw a movie poster at a kiosk today, some total piece of crap with Liam Neeson—if that isn’t being too redundant. In the poster he has his arms at his sides with a pistol in his hand. This made me think that perhaps we should be as prudish about guns and violence as we are about sex.

Let’s look at the movie poster again and imagine the furor that would erupt if instead of a pistol he had his cock in his hand. The entire nation just about lost its mind when we saw Janet Jackson’s tit on TV for a nanosecond yet someone getting decapitated with a chainsaw in a movie doesn’t provoke the slightest whisper of disapproval…and we wonder why we live in such a violent society. Imagine if we had the same taboos concerning graphic depictions of violence as we do for the very natural act of sex between a man and a woman (or other logical combinations). I wonder how the film industry would react if only people 17 years or older were able to see movies in which a violent death is shown on screen.

I’m no prude nor am I a hypocrite; most of my favorite films and TV series are rather violent in nature, but then again I’m an adult. I just think that blood and gore and violence does a lot more damage to the psyche of young people than graphic depictions of sex. Which is more vulgar: someone cutting off someone else’s head with a machete or two consenting adults performing a Dallas Fuck Rodeo? I don't know what a Dallas Fuck Rodeo is so you‘ll have to use your imagination an invent your own sex act.

I’m writing this in a café and on the TV they just showed a trailer for the movie Red (rate PG-13) in which every character in the movie had a gun or a bomb. Just after this commercial there was another for some hair removal product that showed a beautiful woman in a thong bikini. The trailer for the horribly violent Bruce Willis piece of trash could be shown on American TV but not the one with the woman with the absolutely spectacular ass. There is something wrong with that. There is something wrong with us.

What harm could possibly come from having fewer slasher movies? Why do we think that it’s OK for young people to watch a movie in which someone is stuffed head first into a wood chipper but not OK for the same kids to watch a nice, wholesome oral sex competition or an orgy in a Russian college dormitory?

If we treated violence like we do sex in movies producers would think twice about making so many gratuitously violent films. We’ve even changed movie ratings so there isn’t as much of a stigma attached to an adult film as there used to be. Now instead of an X rating—something that connotes hardcore sex—we give horrifically violent movies a more gentle-sounding NC-17 rating. We've made it really easy for producers to pump out incredibly violent movies whose target audience is young adults. Just what a violent movie would have to show to earn an NC-17 rating is a little fuzzy but even a hand job will do it in the sex department.

Monday, April 13, 2015

From My Bicycle

Another bike ride, another XIV century castle, at least that's when it was begun. In Albalat dels Sorells just outside of Valencia. I was riding in honor of the Paris-Roubaix race on mixed surface roads north of Valencia. I had never seen this castle before which tells me that I need to stop riding over the same roads day after day.
 A couple kilometers down the road.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Tale of Two Cities (or one city and a suburb)

Ruzafa neighborhood in Valencia
Kent, WA

Two equal areas: one is a typical suburban housing development and the other is my wonderful neighborhood in Valencia. It would be difficult to calculate exactly how many more people live in the lower photo than the suburban area but one thing is apparent: there are no businesses in the top photo, it's strictly housing while everything at street level in the city photo is dedicated to retail. Lengthwise these photos represent over one kilometer which encompasses an almost infinite variety of choices for the city dweller. In the Valencia photo there are probably over 50 restaurants, and that is being very conservative. I would have to think very hard to come up with something that I couldn't find in this small section of my city. 

How far would you have to go to get to a major supermarket, a pharmacy, two fruit and vegetable shops, two telephone company outlets, a shoe repair shop, an appliance store, a couple of shoe stores, a newsstand and internet café, a hairdresser, a yoga studio, a stationery store, a second-hand store, and a tobacconist? I can walk to these places without crossing a single street. If I cross over the street to the four blocks adjacent to my block there are over a dozen cafés and restaurants, three banks, two variety stores (or "Chinos" as they are called here), a Latin American grocery store, two pre-schools, a surf shop, two bakeries, three dentists, a printing shop, a copy center, a tailor, a boutique beer store, a launderette, two car repair garages, an auto parts store, a hardware store, a furniture store, three travel agencies, an electrical supply store, and an architectural firm. All of these businesses are less than about two hundred meters from the front door of my building.

How is this possible? It’s all about population density. An average city block here has around four buildings on each side and each building has about six floors of apartments with two apartments on each floor. This translates into 190 apartments on one block. That means 190 families living on the land used for perhaps ten suburban homes.  Being very conservative let’s say that there are only two occupants in each of the 190 apartments on my block and four people living in each of those suburban homes which means 380 people on my block and 40 people in an equal area in suburbia—almost ten times the density in the average Spanish city block than in the 'burbs.

I spend the better part of my life inside the boundaries of this urban grid which represents the neighborhood of Ruzafa (the biggest building you see towards the left is the food market, the epicenter of the hood). 

Of course, in my neighborhood everyone walks. If you need a bicycle there are five bike-share stations within the confines of the area represented in the photograph with another 5-6 just on the outer boundaries. Just why anyone even bothers to own a car here in Valencia is a mystery to me. I think that most car owners could probably just rent a car once or twice a month and save themselves a lot of expense and headache because if there is one thing my neighborhood doesn't have it's parking, which just isn't my problem these days. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Life Filter

I'll get no argument when I say that we’re slammed with a daily tsunami of choices, staggering amounts of information that pour over us in a wide range of formats. We have access to almost every movie, piece of music, magazine, and book in the world. It’s an exciting time to live but one filled with trivialities vying for our attention, distractions, dead ends, and many, many things that should be an insult to our collective intelligence. We all need some sort of a filter, or at least I do. I definitely need a filter to insure that I spend my time with things worthy of an adult mind. Things worthy of an adult mind do not include that video you posted on Facebook of your uncle getting hit in the crotch with a football.

In Haruki Murakami’s novel Norwegian Wood one character refuses to read any book written in the last 25 years to shield himself from the glare of vulgar popular opinion. This is an interesting concept but I had to read a 250 page book I didn’t think very highly of to find it. See what I mean about needing a filter? We would have more time to write the great American novel if we weren’t spending so much time reading mediocre novels. And then there are all of the tech trends that rob us of our valuable free time.

We probably just need to lower our expectations. Instead of that masterpiece of music, film, literature, or science we dreamed of a few years ago we need to set our sights a little lower. Not there, a lot lower. We still have room for a lot of creativity but without being too ambitious. Think of War and Peace reduced to a 140 character Tweet which would mean that the Cliff Notes would be about 50 characters for those of you who are too busy to read the original. And 140 character communications not being brief enough, the supremacy of Twitter is being challenged by a new tech upstart with a messaging system that limits users to a single vulgar noise. Seriously Twitter, 140 characters? Who has that kind of time?

We now live in an age in which more young people have selfie sticks than library cards. I don’t know if this is true but if it is then there really is no hope for us as a species. “Selfie” is short for “selfish” or “solipsistic” which is a philosophy that the self is the only existent thing. “I think, therefore I am” in our era can be replaced with “Hey everyone, look at me!”

Workers spend something like 81 days a year on emails alone. Just think what it would be like to do away with this terrible waste and spend all of that time looking at cute cat videos or posting Facebook pictures of your food. Imagine a world in which we needn’t even get out of bed in the morning because we can just watch the big screen while eating a pint of ice cream. Living in the Information Age is exhausting so it makes sense never to get out of bed.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

...Best Weather in the History of Valencia

After ten days of rain and gloom summer is March! I was finally able to get in a bike ride yesterday although after two weeks of idleness it felt like shaking out a dirty rug instead of training. The good news is we have yet another long holiday next week and I'll have lots of time to train.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Worst Weather in the History of Valencia

Maybe not but it's the worst spate of weather I have experienced here.We really need the rain and I never complain about the weather here but I'm missing some bike rides. I've learned my lesson about riding in the rain after almost breaking me elbow last summer (or maybe I did break it?).