Things We Don’t Hear About in America

by on Dec.21, 2010, under television, Travel

I was watching the British TV show Misfits (highly recommended, imagine Skins with superpowers), and one of the characters mentioned his “ASBO.” So I Googled that and found out about Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, handed out in the UK for minor offenses and restricting the recipient from engaging in specified behaviors. From that Wikipedia page I jumped to a memorandum submitted to Parliament by the National Association of Probation Officers, describing some of the most outlandish of these orders. Like:

A 13-year-old was served an order banning him from using the word “grass” anywhere in England and Wales.

In February 2003, a 16-year-old boy was banned from showing his tattoos, wearing a single golf glove, or wearing a balaclava in public anywhere in the country.

A 26-year-old West Lothian man has been made the subject of an ASBO after playing the Band Aid single “Do they know it’s Christmas” dozens of times daily to the annoyance of neighbours. He has been banned from “playing loud music, stamping his feet and dropping objects.”

And my personal favorite:

The oldest recipient of an order to date is an 87-year-old who among other things is forbidden from being sarcastic to his neighbours.

All under Labour governments! Just imagine what the Tories will do.

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Things That Look Like Other Things IV

by on Dec.25, 2009, under Movies, Travel

Earlier this week, with the assistance of the gentleman from the last post, HJ and I rode into the Grand Canyon on the backs of mules. It’s neither entirely wrong nor entirely right to call it more luxurious than hiking the canyon, but relieved of watching your footfalls, you certainly have a much better chance to watch the landscape change than do the hikers.

South End of Indian Gardens

And change it does. From the piñon forest at the top, you descend through full-on deserts and semi-arid scrub.The Colorado River at the canyon’s bottom leads through varied environments, from red rocks naked and Martian to lush riparian habitats. The uncanny effect of moving vertically through these zones*, finding them nested one right atop the other, put me in mind of Gus van Sant’s 2002 film Gerry, in which Casey Affleck and Matt Damon do little else but go for a walk, get lost, and nearly both die. One of the most unsettling elements of the film is that though the two men remain on foot the entire time, the location shifts dramatically over the course of their hundred minutes, from sand dunes to salt flats, from Utah to Jordan to Argentina. The shifts aren’t subtle, visually, but they go unremarked upon; the effect amplifies the characters’ dangerous inattention to their path,  and heightens the feeling that they’ve come unmoored from their world and their lives.

the landscape......changes

the landscape changes

This, in turn, put me in mind of another movie in which a critical element changes without comment (save, perhaps, the film’s title):

Luis Bunuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire gives us a sexual battle between a couple that is really a triangle: Mathieu must content with the temperamental nature of his elusive Conchita, made more so by her portrayal by the Betty-and-Veronica pairing of Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina. As with the landscape in Gerry, the character of Conchita appears played by two different actresses with neither comment nor easily comprehensible logic.

This episode of Things That Look Like Other Things has been brought to you by things that do not look like themselves.

Extra credit, Gerry: “Nothing Happens To No One, The Death Trilogy of Gus Van Sant” by Holly Myers at n+1

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Political Correctness

by on Dec.22, 2009, under Travel

Quirt“Does anybody know what this here implement is called?”

Mumbles. Crop. Whip.

“No, see, in the interest of political correctness, The Man has prohibited us from ever using the word ‘whip’. So we call this a ‘mule motivator.'”

The chief of the Grand Canyon mule rides had the expert comic patter of tour guides, refined and rehearsed through day-in, day-out operations, leavened with cowboy poetry. Funny to hear ‘political correctness’ (at base, an ironic way of stating your opposition to civility) lingering on. He had his laugh lines down to a science (HJ’s mule was introduced to her as “Suicide”; her name was actually Marcy). This one stuck out–weird if you follow it through. Is it politically incorrect to say ‘whip’ because it suggests the stain of slavery or just the abuse of animals?

Technically, the implement is called a quirt.

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How to Visit the Eureka Valley Sand Dunes (and hear them sing)

by on Sep.08, 2009, under Travel

Back in college, on full moons in summer, we would drive to the next valley down, take off all our clothes, and slide down the sand dunes to hear them sing.

I’ve returned to the dunes nearly every summer that I’ve lived in Los Angeles. It’s a long haul, but it’s awesome to introduce new visitors to the dunes. And the experience holds up in its own right.

The Eureka Valley Sand Dunes are good for a visit any time of day or year, with the caveat that in the winter, the rain may wash out the roads. This is my method…
(continue reading…)

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