Saturday, December 20, 2008

An Alternate (Better?) Reality

After events of the past week, there's a part of Fosco (the very gay part) who kinda wishes RuPaul were actually our new president...

Merry Christmas from a gay-friendly US.

Friday, December 19, 2008

New York Serenade

By the time you read this, Fosco and Oz will be in New York City (weather permitting... sigh). You may remember that, in his post on Oz's birthday, Fosco alluded to a "more elaborate" celebration to come. Well, this is it: a pre-Christmas weekend in NYC. Plans include sightseeing, art, and lots and lots of good food.

But do not fear, dear readers: Fosco has a number of dispatches ready to auto-post over the weekend.

Check back early next week for lots of pictures.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's Christmas In Your Ears!

Maybe it's the threat of theapproaching meltdown of our entire society, but Fosco is kinda getting into the Christmas spirit this year. And you can too, if only you listen to some good Christmas music. To that end, Fosco has chosen ten great Christmas songs.

[N.B.: all of these tunes are available on iTunes!]

  • "Once in Royal David's City" performed by Sufjan Stevens. Stevens's box set of five Christmas EPs is the gold standard for contemporary indie-pop holiday music, including both traditional and newly-written songs. It's hard to choose a fave from this box set, but Fosco is really drawn to the somewhat obscure carol "Once in Royal David's City." The box set includes two versions: one with full-band and vocals and one solo piano. It's a beautiful song either way. And be sure to listen to the other tracks.
  • "Christmas for Cowboys" by Jars of Clay. It hurts Fosco to put this one on his list. He hates Christian rock, especially when Christian rock acts try to "cross over" onto the secular charts (like that bitch Amy Grant!). And Jars of Clap Clay definitely attempted the crossover in the mid-1990s (and Fosco neither forgives nor forgets). However, all that being said, this is a really great Christmas song. Fosco has a soft spot for the cliches of cowboy life (loneliness, wide open spaces, etc.) and this song serves them all up with a hearty side of Christmas gravy (yum!). In my head, the video for this song features Jake and Heath.
  • "Coventry Carol" performed by Allison Moyet. A Christmas classic performed by one of the great voices.
  • "Wonderful Christmastime" performed by Tom McRae. You know this song as written and performed by Paul McCartney. Like most of Macca's music, it's cheesy and chirpy and impossible to banish from your head. I hate it (and so does Todd, I know). But McRae's stripped-down, melancholy version completely changes things for me. It turns out that a really good song was buried under all that synth.
  • "Ho Ho Hopefully" by The Maine. There aren't a lot of good new Christmas songs being written now, but this is one of them. It's not overly cheerful. But it's also cautiously hopeful. Which seems to be about the right attitude these days. In fact, Fosco is willing to recommend the entire holiday EP (available on iTunes) from this band.
    Oh, and the chorus has killer harmony:
    Ho ho hopefully this holiday will make us believe that
    We're exactly where we're supposed to be
    And we're ho ho hoping that
    We all come back and as a matter of fact I know
    We're exactly where we're supposed to be
    Together by this Christmas tree
    Aw, shucks.
  • "Carol of the Bells" performed by The Bird and the Bee. Another classic carol, reworked into an electronic bonbon.
  • "Yule Shoot Your Eye Out" by Fall Out Boy. This one goes out to all of you who plan to spend Christmas hating your ex. A great chorus:
    Don't come home for Christmas
    You're the last thing I wanna see
    Underneath the tree
    Merry Christmas, I could care less
    Fosco saw them perform this one live a few days before Christmas in 2006.
  • "All That I Want" by The Weepies (you have to follow the link and shake the snowglobe!). Fosco heard this song last holiday season when it was the centerpiece of the JCPenney television campaign. It is such a good song that Fosco listens to it during the year!
  • "Last Christmas" by Wham!. Yes, this is an old song. It's also one of the most frequently covered contemporary Christmas songs. Fosco particularly enjoys the covers by Jimmy Eat World and Ashley Tisdale. However, Fosco was recently surprised to find that the original is actually the best version out there. Granted, the '80s synths sound a little dated, but George Michael's voice makes this song.
  • "There Are Much Worse Things to Believe In" performed by Elvis Costello and Stephen Colbert. Fosco is happy to recommend any of the songs from Stephen Colbert's Christmas Special (especially the Willie Nelson song "Little Dealer Boy"). However, Fosco thinks this song stands above the others for clever writing--both lyrics and music. Fosco thinks this is actually a song that could enter the Christmas canon. In it, Stephen makes a good case for Christmas spirit compared to the many worse things one could believe in:
    There are cynics, there are skeptics
    There are legions of dispassionate dyspeptics
    Who regard this time of year as a maudlin insincere
    Cheezy crass commercial travesty of all that we hold dear.
    When they think that
    Well, I can hear it
    But I pity them their lack of Christmas spirit
    For in a world like ours, take it from Stephen
    There are much worse things to believe in.
    And with that sentiment, Fosco advises you to listen to some Christmas music.

I'm over Obama.

So Barry O has chosen Bear icon Rick Warren to pray at the Inaug. I suppose this isn't a huge surprise, except to those of us who briefly confused the word "progressive" with the word "pragmatist." Realistically, same-sex marriage is still seen as an issue on which it is possible for reasonable people to disagree and Barry is certainly making a fetish of "disagreeing without being disagreeable." Barry is sharp and he knows the best way to "govern from the center" is to kick the gays in the crotch. It's probably the right move politically.

For those of you who don't know, Rick Warren heads the Bareback MegaChurch in SoCal. He's written some book (about marine biology, I think) called The Porpoise Driven Life. He was an outspoken (and mendacious) supporter of Prop H8. Apparently, Rick Warren is some kind of "new evangelical" who is willing to take on climate change and global poverty. That's fine with me, as far as it goes. I guess that's an improvement over some evangelicals.

But at some point, wouldn't it be nice to see the words "new" or "change" applied to a movement that doesn't have the "same" "old" attitude toward the gays?

I can see your death...

Everything about America is now best expressed using a red and blue map, even your risk of dying from a natural hazard. For the purposes of this map, a natural hazard is anything weather- or geology-related (tornado, flood, earthquake, rockslide, snowstorm, Jim Cantore, etc.) Or, if you live in Kentucky, a natural hazard is what God sends to punish the gays. Either way, your risk of dying in one can be calculated (especially if you are gay--okay, not really).

At any rate, scientists have done the work (so you don't have to!) and have produced the following "death map":

Just as on any recent political map you've seen, blue is good and red is bad. The blue counties are counties in which people are less likely than average to die of a natural disaster. The red counties are more likely than average. The white counties are average. Gets it?

A few noteworthy observations:

  • The lovely Bay Area is a big blue splotch (including Santa Cruz). What that says is that, even with our earthquakes, we're still outliving the rest of y'all.
  • There is further evidence that Utah sucks.
  • Getting stabbed by a smack-addicted tranny hooker is apparently not a natural hazard, because Las Vegas is a white county.
  • Alaska and Hawaii are not included because neither state has ever reported a death from natural hazard (although that Greg Brady surfing incident was a close call).
  • Arkansas is almost completely red, presumably because ATV accidents often involve some natural component (e.g., tree branches, dirt ramps, ponds, raccoons).
You may now plan the rest of your life accordingly.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

From the Annals of Delayed Warnings

There was a pretty large-scale vandalism attack last night at UCSC, with all kinds of nasty stuff. The culprits remain unknown, but (sadly) there are plenty of possible suspects, including

Luckily, however, the UCSC Public Affairs Office wants to keep the campus community safe. Well, sort of.

From the warning email sent out to the campus community today:
A number of acts of vandalism occurred on campus early this morning, including broken windows, damage to UCSC vehicles, and graffiti.
In addition to these acts of vandalism, a number of "road spikes" were found on Meyer Drive. UCSC Police have inspected campus roads and believe they have found all of these spikes, which are designed to damage tires of moving vehicles. But they are urging members of the UCSC community and public at large to use extra caution while driving through campus.
Road spikes? Yikes! I'm glad the UCSC community received this warning.

EXCEPT... the warning email was sent at 4:45 PM. For those of you who are keeping track, that's approximately FIVE HOURS after Fosco drove through campus today (including Meyer Drive) to run several pre-vacation errands. Thanks for the heads up, though.

Your Santa Cruz Postcard

Q: How can you tell when it's winter in Santa Cruz?
A: The tropical flowers are still blooming.

Suck it, snowmonkeys!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Incoherent Ravings of a Nazi (Not Tom Cruise!)

It's like that Paula Abdul reality show--Fosco knows he shouldn't pay attention, but he cannot look away. That's how he feels about the whole neo-Nazi cake imbroglio which is churning the blogosphere today (even here at Fosco Lives!). Obviously, it's just not reasonable to get upset and spill so much (virtual) ink whenever some white trash troglodyte does something half-witted. And yet, there is just something about this story that makes Fosco want to try to work through it (again and again...).

Well, things got even more inexplicable today as little Adolf Hitler's father spoke to the national press. Some highlights:

"I think people need to take their heads out of the cloud they've been in and start focusing on the future and not on the past."

"There's a new president and he says it's time for a change; well, then it's time for a change."

"Yeah, they [the Nazis] were bad people back then. But my kids are little. They're not going to grow up like that."

"Other kids get their cake. I get a hard time. It's not fair to my children. How can a name be offensive?"
Maddening. I think it's pretty clear that this guy is not playing the same language game as the rest of us. I mean, there is absolutely no evidence of a semi-coherent worldview behind these statements. And by "semi-coherent worldview," I don't mean a logically-rigorous philosophy of life (who amongst us has that?); rather, I mean something more like an everyday understanding of reality. What is this guy? Some kind of schizophrenic? It's just so fascinating!

A Holly Jolly Christmas

Fosco knows that plastic is evil and dangerous and unsustainable, but at Christmastime it's also a bit cheery (and we all need some cheer...). And that's where Christmas figurines/knickknacks/tchotchkes/ornaments/decorations come in.

(BTW, if you want to see some really gorgeous Christmas knickknacks, check out this post on John Mackey's blog. Not only are his photos breathtaking, but we also have a great deal of taste overlap. John Mackey is who Fosco would be if he had a good camera and a steady hand. Alas.)

But anyway, Fosco wants to share with you his annual Christmas display (atop his Theory bookshelf). In case you're wondering, that giant white-ish glacier behind the figures is another row of books seasonally camouflaged with "snow."

Yes, it's the stars of the Rankin/Bass stop-motion animation Christmas special "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1964). For some reason (and it's not really the plot), this special has become a Gen X holiday touchstone, bringing ironic joy to millions of aging hipsters every holiday season.

Let's have some closeups:

That's abdominal abominable snowman Humble Bumble with aspiring homosexual dentist Hermey. You can see that Hermey has already defanged Humble Bumble.

Here we have famous polar explorer (and Bear icon) Yukon Cornelius. And yes, that's the snowman narrator, an ice-crystalled version of the legendary Burl Ives (who is holding both and umbrella and a banjo!). Oh, and that's some random elf nerd. I think he's the one who sexually abuses Hermey in Act I.

Finally, we have the stars of our show: Santa, Rudolph, and the polka-dotted Misfit Toy Elephant (were children in the '60s so unimaginative that a polka-dot elephant would have been a misfit?). Why isn't Rudolph's nose red, you ask? Because, as you may remember from the show, he covers it with dirt to make it look normal. And sure enough, this figurine actually has a black nose cover that can be removed to get to the red light-bulb nose (not pictured).

And for your enjoyment:

A (Hypothetical) New Addition to the Fosco Family

It's possible that Prop H8 isn't an entirely bad thing...

Now follow the logic here:

  1. Once we allow same-sex couple to marry, then (as Fosco noted earlier) Fosco and his boyfriend Oz will want to get married.
  2. And once we allow same-sex couples to get married, at some point gay couples are going to want to use advanced genetic engineering to make babies with each other.
  3. And once that happens, it's only a matter of time until Fosco and Oz jump on the bandwagon and want to produce a child that is a genetic combination of them both.
  4. And that leads inexorably to this:

Behold: the genetic combination of Fosco and Oz, as created on the website MakeMeBabies! (thanks, Mere, for the idea).

Of course, you may be forgiven for misrecognizing this as a baby photo of one of the Jackson Five (Marlon? Tito? Frito?). Is it just me, or does MakeMeBabies! think that either Fosco or Oz is Black?

At any rate, this horror-child must be avoided at all costs. And that's probably the best reason to support Prop H8.

Your Santa Cruz (Mountains) Postcard

From the Santa Cruz Sentinel:

Take that, South Bend.

Little Nazis Everywhere

See that kid? The first surprise is that he's a boy. The second surprise is that he's named Adolf Hitler. Consequently, the third surprise is not much of a surprise: he lives in a mobile home.

Sadly, this rural New Jersey (really?) toddler has come to the attention of America because the local supermarket refused to frost his name on a cake (apparently, the decorator didn't want the cake to end up on Cake Wrecks [UPDATE: Unbeknownst to Fosco, Cake Wrecks ran with this story yesterday and was sorry.]).

More interesting, of course, is the window on this trainwreck of an American family. Sadly, authorities allowed these people to have three kids:

JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell, Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell and Adolf Hitler Campbell.

Good names for a trio of toddlers? Heath and Deborah Campbell think so. The Holland Township couple has picked those names and the oldest child, Adolf Hitler Campbell, turns 3 today.
And yes, "Honszlynn Hinler" is not a typo. It's also not the name of a Nazi (as far as Fosco can tell). Were they trying for Himmler?

Skeptical? Luckily, the local paper also included a photo gallery showing the kids' birth certificates (as well as some of the decor at the Campbell home--yes, it's as bad as you think).

Hold on. Let's just stop for a minute. Where the fuck is Child Protective Services in New Jersey? How does this not qualify as child abuse? Fosco almost wants to call this one in himself.

Fosco estimates that young Adolf has about two or three more years before his upbringing turns him into a permanently-twisted, repulsive little monster. The clock is ticking, State of New Jersey...

If you like music...

In the last few years, Fosco has felt lost when it comes to new music. He just doesn't have a good source for music recommendations anymore (although some of his friends are frequently helpful). And so he was excited to see this SF Chronicle story:

On the face of it, this seems to be exactly what Fosco needs: a guide to the "hot artists of '08"! Even better, the article is organized with a "If you like X, then you'll like Y" format. That sounds helpful.

Turns out: it's not. Not helpful at all.

All you need to know about the lameness of this article can be summarized in the following excerpt:

If you like U2 'Achtung Baby' [...]
then try Coldplay 'Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends.'
If you like U2, try Coldplay? Oh, ok. Thanks. Never would have thought of that. This "Coldplay" sounds like a pretty obscure band. Any other advice for people who've been living on the moon for the past ten years?

That's like saying:
If you like Madonna then try Britney Spears.
If you like the Beatles then try Paul McCartney.
If you like Bob Dylan then try Bruce Springsteen.
If you like Michael Jackson then try Janet Jackson.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Your Africa Update

One of the things that Fosco learned this past academic quarter is that there is no excuse to ignore the Third World. As residents of the richest country on earth, we cannot pretend that our lifestyle has no relation to the rest of the world. Governor MooseMunch may not know that Africa is a continent, but the rest of us have no excuse. Recently, Fosco has begun to educate himself about Africa. In what will become a periodic feature here at Fosco Lives!, here is your Africa Update:

  • Fosco has recently become very interested in Nigeria. The city of Lagos is one of the planet's most interesting (and most horrible) megacities. The best place to start your reading about Lagos is "The Megacity: Decoding the Chaos of Lagos" by George Packer from The New Yorker. A second accessible step would be the novel Graceland by Chris Abani. It's the story of a young Elvis impersonator trying to hustle a living in the contemporary slums of Lagos. The premise may seem too clever by half, but it's a surprisingly powerful novel. It's also written in English, which alleviates some of the potential translation problems.

    The recent political news from Nigeria? Strangely enough, their Supreme Court just ruled on the legitimacy of their 2007 presidential election (sound familiar?) in favor of the sitting president. President Yar'Adua plans to use this decision to consolidate his hold on power. Although Yar'Adua is apparently mildly anti-corruption (which, in Nigeria, is pretty remarkable), some observers still question the possibility of a clean Nigerian government. As Professor Yusufu Obaje notes:
    Any serious administration must address this issue of political illiteracy. As long as this is prevalent in our society, we cannot have free and fair election in Nigeria.
    Fosco is fascinated by this idea of political literacy--something that everyone seems to assume is prevalent in the US (probably more so than it is).

    Last Nigeria item: from naijablog, a video of "Ikotun, an unloved and anonymous part of Lagos."

  • Welcome to Zimbabwe. Things here aren't very good right now. As you may have seen on the news, there is a widespread cholera outbreak. Zimbabwe's ruler, strongman Robert Mugabe is an absolute monster, but is he to blame for the cholera? Well, it depends. If you are a member of the reality-based community, the outbreak is clearly a result of the water and sanitation policies of Mugabe and his government. However, if you are a member of Mugabe's delusional government, then the cholera is actually a biological attack launched by either the British or the US State Department. This type of rhetoric would be funny, of course, if thousands of people weren't dying of an easily preventable disease.

  • Finally, steel yourself to read about this recent massacre in the Congo. Sadly, this massacre has exposed the farce of UN peacekeeping efforts in the area:
    And yet, as the killings took place, a contingent of about 100 United Nations peacekeepers was less than a mile away, struggling to understand what was happening outside the gates of its base. The peacekeepers were short of equipment and men, United Nations officials said, and they were focusing on evacuating frightened aid workers and searching for a foreign journalist who had been kidnapped. Already overwhelmed, officials said, they had no intelligence capabilities or even an interpreter who could speak the necessary languages.
    Before you consign the Congo to memory oblivion, allow Fosco to note that this country is as populous as France. At some point, we are going to have to take the mental responsibility to think about places like the Congo.
[UPDATE: Please note the new list of "Africa Blogs" in the right column of Fosco Lives!]

Death of the Lorax

He was shortish. And oldish.
And brownish. And mossy.
And he spoke with a voice
that was sharpish and bossy.

"Mister!" he said with a sawdusty sneeze,
"I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues."

Just days after giving up on mediation, the UCSC tree-sitters quietly left their perches and the bulldozing began. For 13 months, protesters had been occupying several giant redwoods on the proposed site of a new UCSC biomedical building. Today, construction began clearing the site.

In some ways, this makes Fosco very sad, as

  1. He loves redwoods (especially 100 year old ones, like the ones being razed) and doesn't want to see them cut down.
  2. He is completely uninterested in anything biomedical and wonders why we need another building for it.
  3. This is another defeat for campus activism.
And yet, at the same time, Fosco has to note that THIS WAS THE STUPIDEST PROTEST EVER.

Think I'm wrong? Then tell me just what this protest accomplished? By my reckoning, the tree sitters
  • alienated the entire Science Hill community with urine/feces dumping.
  • isolated themselves from the rest of the student community through their extreme actions (and their actual physical isolation).
  • provided an easy target for caricature and eye-rolling.
  • had absolutely no effect on UCSC's LRDP.
Seriously--the protesters couldn't even get something out of mediation! Not one thing! Instead, after mediation broke down, the protesters gave up the protest entirely. So what do they have to show for their 13 months? Maybe a couple of woodticks.

Nice work, UCSC hippies.

From the Annals of Interior Decorating

From the HuffPo:

"Like those drapes? Lynn picked them out. And do you see how we used the Japanese shoji screen to make the desk feel like it's in a private alcove? That was Scooter's idea. Honestly, you would not have believed the terrible feng shui that Al Gore had in here. Myah."

Shoe Update: Bush says "Bring 'em on."

Fosco just watched a Bush interview, aired on MSNBC (left-leaning news!), in which the President commented on the shoe-throwing incident:

GWB: "This happens. It's the sign of a free society."
Really? Well then pucker up, Mr. President, because Fosco has a closet full of old Doc Martens for you!

Geertz, Levi-Strauss, Timberland

Fosco and Oz were watching football Sunday morning (morning football? Welcome to PST.) when Fosco stepped out of the room for a bit. When he returned, Oz had the TV paused (TiVo!) and had a big grin on his face. Oz: "You have to see this!" And then we watched George W. Bush get shoes thrown at him.

Yes, it's funny--no doubt. But equally funny has been the media coverage. Fosco particularly loves how every media outlet (and he's followed this story pretty obsessively for a day now) has to explain how being hit with a shoe is an insult in Arab culture. For example, here is the NYTimes explanation:

Hitting someone with a shoe is a deep insult in the Arab world, signifying that the person being struck is as low as the dirt underneath the sole of a shoe.
As opposed to how Western cultures view being hit by a shoe?

But the NYT as cultural anthropologist is even more helpful. Here is their explanation of the reporter's shouted words:
Compounding the insult were Mr. Zaidi’s words as he hurled his footwear at President Bush: “This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!” While calling someone a dog is universally harsh, among Arabs, who traditionally consider dogs unclean, those words were an even stronger slight.
Again, the NYT wants to make it clear: being called a "dog" is not a flattering thing. Now we know.

Although, while I make fun of this Kindergarten anthropology, I suppose there is a purpose. For one thing, it limits the Bush Administration's opportunities for spinning the incident. Just imagine:
White House Spokesperson: The liberal media has clearly misunderstood Mr. Zaidi's message and intention. It is our understanding that, in Iraqi culture, the giving of footwear is a traditional sign of gratitude. Clearly, Mr. Zaidi intended to thank Mr. Bush for bringing freedom and security to Iraq. And do I need to explain that the nickname "dog" is a popular way to express affection within African American hip-hop or college fraternity subcultures? The President would like to reply to both Mr. Zaidi and the Iraqi people: "You're welcome!"
But anyway.

The other thing that interests me about this incident is the ineffectiveness of the President's Secret Service detail. Seriously: I've always been told that the Secret Service is, like, a gang of ninjas. Why didn't an agent jump in front of the second shoe? Why didn't they push Bush to the floor? Why didn't they tackle the reporter? Actually, I'm a little surprised they didn't shoot the guy before the second shoe left his hand. Is it possible the Bush's SS just doesn't care that much anymore? Are they already on Christmas break?

From the "Bah, humbug" files.

Saturday night, Fosco and Oz decided to get into the Christmas spirit by taking a drive over the mountain from Santa Cruz to San Jose. There were three objectives for this trip:

  1. Use a recently-received Borders gift certificate to do some Christmas shopping (at the tony Los Gatos Borders Store).
  2. Drive through the amazing Christmas lights display, "Fantasy of Lights," also in Los Gatos (while listening to Christmas music!).
  3. Arrive at Westfield Valley Fair mall in San Jose around 8:30 so as to miss the dinner rush at California Pizza Kitchen (a restaurant that played a surprisingly large role in Fosco and Oz's early courtship).
And how did all of that work out? I'm glad you asked.
  1. As Fosco parked the car at the Los Gatos Borders, he realized that he did not bring the gift certificate. And so, Fosco and Oz decided just to head for the "Fantasy of Lights"...
  2. ...along with everyone else in a fifty-mile radius. After sitting in a slow-moving line of cars for a half hour, Fosco and Oz reached the sign that read "Your wait from this point will be 45 minutes." Fosco did a Uie, so as to...
  3. ...arrive at CPK in San Jose at 8:20. Table for two? One hour wait.
And while Fosco and Oz tried to kill time testing colognes in Sephora, their hearts just weren't in it anymore and they drove home hungry and empty-handed. Fosco was especially hungry after Sephora because Marc Jacobs For Men smells just like panang curry. Yum!

Aside from the panang-whiff, Fosco ended up feeling pretty Scroogey. How was your weekend?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Your Santa Cruz Weather Update

Yes, it's hailing.