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Archive for the ‘Festivals’ Category

Apparently, there is no lack of national pride when it comes to crazy, and you even get to pick the nation.

 

Thank Quetzalcoatl the world did not end last week, or maybe that it didn’t in spite of the Mayan god of sketchy predictions.

 

         Maybe they just left early for Christmas.

 

My original intent, like many other wannabe writers—otherwise known as bloggers—was to post a bit about the pending cataclysmic demise of the planet BEFORE it was to occur. But, then I figured, why not wait to see if it really happens, and in the meantime, spend that valuable pre-apocalypse time consuming ample quantities of my holiday liquid alcohol delivery system (a.k.a. eggnog with brandy).

 

The idea was not that I might forestall the inevitable, but rather that I just wouldn’t give a shit if it happened, having been fortified by copious amounts of high ABV% adult beverages.

 

It is not that I have not been preparing for this long predicted, but apparently, faulty prognosis for some time—well, not like some people (read on)—but I have been by gathering reports from all over the globe as to how people were getting ready.

 

Before we get ahead of ourselves (since we now appear to have plenty of time), what specific scientific studies got people worldwide to discuss even the possibility of such a dire outcome, like the end of life, as we know it?

 

Long before the modern Mexicans developed the ritzy hotel zone of Cancun in the Yucatan region of Mexico, there was a vibrant civilization of native people, known as Mayans, who predicted the end of the world thousands of years in the future (yet somehow neglected to foresee their own near-extinction coming a hell of a lot sooner).

 

    chichen itza pyramid

 

This area is now famous to hordes of tourists who come to see massive pyramids with tiny little, steep steps. Years ago, Number Two Daughter and I risked life and limb as we semi-crawled to the top, while the wife-person stood at the base, checking to see if my life insurance covered me for non-union Mayan construction techniques. 

 

BTW, nowadays—probably thanks to a post-Mayan Mexican OSHA—tourists are no longer permitted to climb the steps to the top. My guess is that sunscreen-coated roly-poly Americans were coming off there like bowling balls, causing untold havoc and destruction amongst the unsuspecting visitors below.

 

Makes sense to me...

A cryptic carving was once discovered during an archeological dig that was subsequently “read” by experts, and by read, I mean, by scientists who study this stuff and get to make facts up because they attended years of boring classes and have seen all the Indiana Jones movies.

 

“They” claim the carving revealed something called The Mayan Long Count Calendar, which spanned over 5,000 years, starting back on 3114 B.C. (which I think means Before Computers were around to Google stuff on Wikipedia).

 

As you probably heard, the dates on that calendar came to an end on December 21, 2012, which either meant everyone on earth would perish in a horrific, fiery death…or possibly that it was time to run by the hardware store and pick up a free calendar at the check-out counter.

 

Since we are still here, for all I know some ancient Mayan’s kid made these carvings while dad was out hunting woolly mammoths.

 

But, the media loves a good doomsday scenario, so there has been a plethora of publicity mentioning that we are about to perish.

 

The Mexican government—which covets tourism like their economy depended on it—used the Mayan Long Count Calendar to create ads in travel magazines to lure visitors to witness the beginning of “new cosmic cycles.” The tourism agency predicted over 50 million visitors to the Yucatan for this (non?) event, which are many times more tourists than in a typical year.

 

In other words, come lay on the sun-drenched beaches, drink cheap beer and stay for our apocalyptic party.

 

Some people took a much less festive view of the predictions, or it would seem.

 

I read of a survey of Americans taken last summer, which found that 12 percent of the people polled were said to be “worried,” and found some credence in the cataclysmic calendar predictions. 

 

This was in spite of numerous attempts at debunking by science luminaries such as Neil deGrasse Tyson (the guy who keeps telling Jon Stewart that his globe on the Daily Show opening sequence is rotating in the wrong direction), and Andrew Fraknoi (who has lamented that our schools don’t teach “skeptical thinking” skills).

 

As a result, some people went to great (and sometimes very expensive) preparations for what they thought was coming.

 

Some guy in China spent about $160,000—his life savings—to build a very un-seaworthy looking ark, powered by three diesel engines.

 

         Chinese raft ark

 

There had to be alcohol involved in this project.

 

Another guy in China constructed a three-ton steel ball, 13 feet in diameter, which he supposedly designed to withstand a volcano, tsunami, earthquake, or nuclear meltdown.

 

         Chinese ball ark

 

Looking at the picture, it barely survived putting it in the water.

 

Some people are flocking to a small village in the French Pyrenees, waiting for a spacecraft rumored to be hiding behind Bugarach Peak; waiting for the spacecraft to do what, I am not sure.

 

         As good a place as any to wait.

 

Television shows such at the National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Preppers and the Discovery Channel’s Doomsday Bunker convinced one guy, with his wife and six kids in Utah (why is it always someone in Utah?) who created a hide-away with 2,500 pounds of grain, eight chickens, and 14 guns.

 

Let’s see; given the family of eight, plus the eight chickens, they seem to be two guns short.

 

Others may have wished to consider a Tsunami Pod, which cost $450,000, but does include a flat-screen TV.

 

My favorite source of really reliable preparation is the Apocalyptic Prophecies magazine, which presented the case for the world ending on December 12, 2012, yet the cover label instructed shop keepers to display the issue until February 11, 2013. Now there’s real conviction.

 

         Just in case we were wrong...

 

Looking out the window, it appears you have avoided falling over the final cliff.

 

I, on the other hand, may still face a dire future come Christmas morning, tomorrow, when the wife-person learns that I eschewed holiday shopping based on what I thought were well-grounded reports of the end of the world.

 

After all, it was on the internet.

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While I’m still surfing the wave of memories of all my Fiji fun, there are just too many tales to tell today.

 

   Must be time to go home.

 

I don’t want to wear you out before your weekend, what, with all of your Kentucky Derby and Cinco de Mayo plans.

 

Do they even make a tequila-based mint julep?

 

So, in the meantime, here is me modeling the latest (and probably the oldest) of Fijian headwear. But, for some reason, none of our wonderful Fijian hosts seem to be wearing one of these. As a matter of fact, no one else is wearing one of these.

 

    Coconut nut inside? SPF 100?

 

Maybe it has something to do with all the liquid that used to reside in that bottle in the picture above.

 

And, after your wild weekend of revelry, should you awake with a super-sized headache, you can always blame it on the additional 14% of gravitational pull on your gray matter as a result of this Saturday night’s Super Moon.

 

Let the merrymaking commence.

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I live with rats. Desert rats to be specific.

 

No, I am not referring to those underground dwelling, flea infested, feces-feasting rodents. I am talking about a group of family and friends that really love hanging out in the desert.

 

The desert that inspires creativity, like the imaginative structures and signage on Guru Drive, outside of Gerlach, Nevada.

 

         Twilight Zone out in the Nevada desert.

 

The same desert where the days can be sweltering hot and the nights can be freezing cold—all within the same 24-hour period.

 

The same desert that, on occasion, gets obliterated in blinding dust storms.

 

The same desert where you often can’t tell where the road is and you get buried up to the axles.Who needs water? We got the Blue Bottle.

 

The same desert where the only water you have is what you pack in—which is the lesser of other problems in that we mostly drink straight gin—“we” being me and Lon.

 

The same desert where weirdoes often go to escape something (we used to spend time in Saline Valley, north of Death Valley, where the Manson Family was known to frequent).

 

The same desert where you need to be comfortable pooping more-or-less out in the open (a 5-gallon bucket with no bottom, fitted with a toilet seat works great).

 

We love being in the desert, and if you’re not a desert rat, you probably won’t get it.

 

Some of the desert locales we have been known to enjoy include:

 

The aforementioned Saline Valley—with wonderful hot spring pools, which have been lined and are kept clean by fellow desert rats.

 

Baja Sur, where the spectacular setting of the stark desert slopes into the inviting Sea of Cortez.

 

The high desert of northeastern California, specifically the north end of Eagle Lake.

 

And, the much publicized Black Rock Desert, known mostly for the mega-popular, bucket list priority, annual Burning Man event. Yes, this is the famed hippie hangout, known for the mud-covered participants, off-beat “art,” the actual burning of the man (hence the event name), and for certain spectators, topless women. Many, many topless women.

 

You will have to look for this place.

I lived for 21 years just a short drive away from the Black Rock playa.

(Pronounced “ply-ah,” and not as in, That guy’s a real “play’ah.”)

 

I was fascinated in the concept of the event and would have liked to see all the…uh…art, but I have yet to attend the now-massive happening, and probably never will.

 

It’s not that we don’t love that part of northern Nevada.

 

We used to venture out there at least once a year for the amazing ceramics out at Planet X Pottery. While the wife-person and our two daughters would wander between John Bogard’s rustic buildings that served as his art gallery, I would take advantage of his generous offering of Great Basin Brewing Ickey beer and various barbequed meat-like objects.

 

We also used to go soaking in the ponds of naturally occurring hot springs and camped near the otherworldly looking Fly Geyser, before the area became too popular and was fenced off.

 

 

        This really exists out there.

 

And, I was also lucky enough to have been out there the day the Brits broke the speed of sound for the first time in history…in a car. On October 13, 1997 RAF pilot Andy Green drove the ThrustSSC rocket car to 763 miles per hour, without leaving the ground.

 

The Thrust SSC project has since been superseded by the current Bloodhound SSC car, which they hope to top 1,000 miles per hour…in a car.

 

This is a picture of the car I witnessed out on the Black Rock “ply-ah” go Mach 1.

(Pronounced “mock,” not as in, Hey, “Mack,” where you are going in such a hurry?)

 

         Only does 763 miles per hour.

 

 

In the next picture are three vehicles; two of which I recently rode on while on our trip to Great Britain, and one of which they hope will go Mach “Holy Shit That’s A Fast Car.”

 

 

         Something new, something old, something blue.

 

 

But, bucket list or not, at this point I can do without seeing Burning Man. Unless you were one of the original 20 people out on Baker Beach in San Francisco, back in 1986, you and I missed the genesis of the event. 

And, once they moved it to the Black Rock desert, I should have gone out there in the early years when the participants numbered in the hundreds, and then, low thousands.

 

Nowadays, the event has become a full-blown bureaucracy, with an official LLC designation (limited liability company). This year’s week-long event, which starts in late August, has already made headlines with a “ticket fiasco,” in the issuing of the tickets towards the current limit of 58,000 people.

 

And, they hope to get that up to 70,000 people in the next few years; a far cry from those first 20 folks on the beach in San Francisco.

 

So, discussions of free spirit, open expression, and evocative artwork have been overridden with talk of ticket lotteries and scalpers. Apparently, once they opened the ticket purchase process the tickets went fast, but not to many of the previous attendees who are the ones who create and construct the artwork that the event success is based on.

 

The organizers claim,

“Nobody knows where all these tickets went.”

The whole thing has seemed to take on a noticeable negative turn, leaving some to question whether,

“…this might be the "jump the shark" year for Burning Man, when the artists are overpowered by those merely hoping to see topless women.

 

Wait, did they say the artists were being overpowered by topless women?

 

Me—if I ever decided to venture out there—would be there for the articles…I mean the art.

 

 

           Has this event gotten too big?

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It’s not about the politics for me. It’s all about the beat.

 

Nice, ah...Honda S-2000 Being of the male variety of the human species I get easily distracted.

You know, the “Oh look, shiny object” syndrome.

 

Of course the term “shiny object” is just a metaphor for a whole manner of visual diversions that will draw me off course; some of which might involve the female variety of the human species, which I will leave at that, given the wife person may be lurking on the interwebs.

 

But, it is not just the stuff I might happen to see that causes me to lose track of my intended activity.

 

If I get a good whiff of any of the three major food groups in the vicinity, it’s off to the races I go.

This would include pizza, chocolate, and beer.

 

There aren’t many auditory amusements that will stop me in my tracks any faster than the sound—and often a visceral sensation in the chest—of a substantially-sized, booming drum circle.

 

I admit it. I am a percussion fanatic.

         See Frank drum.

Since I would make a lousy Blue Man Group groupie (no, I’m not going to take a bath in blue dye) I love me a good drum circle.

Luckily, the annual Whole Earth Festival on the U.C. Davis campus always has one, or more, drum circles that go on day and night.

By my count, it is made up of the 99%, hippies—young and old—that is.

 

But, that is not until May, so what to do in the meantime?

 

Well, if you want to go to one of my favorite places on the planet, aim your sights for San Sebastian, in the heart of the Basque region of northern Spain.

 

They are celebrating La Tamborrada on January 20th, which is advertised to be a midnight-to-midnight drum session in honor of San Sebastian’s patron saint. Also, there is mention of an homage to 19th –century maids who tapped on buckets while at the city’s well.

 

One YouTube video I found was a bunch of white guys wearing white outfits and tall white hats. Thank goodness they were not of the pointy variety. But, that is one helluva knife the bandleader is waving around.

 

If the drumming finally gets to be too much (blasphemy), the Lonely Planet announcement of this festival mentions,

“After two long and loud nights, you’ll probably appreciate some quiet time on the city beaches of La Concha, which are among the best in Europe.”

 

By “best,” might they be referring to what the women are wearing on those beaches…or not wearing?

Makes me wonder if this is one of the Lonely Planet guidebooks by that Leif Pettersen dude.

 

Now what was I supposed to be doing? Damn those shiny objects…

 

       shiny object car

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I pass to you verbatim, which was passed to me.

 

“On TV, Dr Oz said that to reach inner peace we should always finish things we start.

We all could use more calm in our lives during the hectic Holiday season.

I looked around my house to find things I’d started and hadn’t finished;

So I finished off a bottle of Merlot, 

a bottle of Chardonnay,

a bodle of Baileys,

a butle of wum,

tha mainder of Valiuminun scriptins,

an a box a chocletz.

Yu haf no idr how fablus I feel rite now.

Sned this to all who need inner piss.

An telum u luvum.”

 

             Bizarro cellphone flask

 

Season’s greetings to everyone of us.

 

Cheers.

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I mentioned the other day that I was heading up to Lake Tahoe to, among other things, catch the somewhat rare, ruby-red, total lunar eclipse.

 

With the weather prediction of early morning temps around 10ºF who wouldn’t want to load up the night before on medicinal anti-freeze?

 

Mine happened to come in a bottle labeled Tahoe Moonshine whiskey, a local product.

 

And the best place to do that was that the annual Ullr’s Night of Sacrifice at a local casino. As I’m sure all my thousands of readers will recall, last year I reported on my pilgrimage to the place where we pray for massive amounts of snow dumpage for our outside winter obsessions, e.g. downhill sliding—or as practiced by more competent people than myself—downhill skiing.

 

As it was, spirits from the local micro-distillery was not the only adult beverage flowing in great quantities.

 

The Official Girls of Grand Marnier were there offering Shot-Skis.

 

(For those unfamiliar with that device, eHow offers instructions on constructing and using yet another alcohol delivery system.)

 

Not surprisingly, the GM Girls begged to take a picture with me.

“Oh, alright, if you must,” I said. “Maybe we should stand closer. Much closer.”

 

The photographic evidence notwithstanding, my hand was NOT on her…ah…lower, backside area.

 

What the picture does not show is the wife-person standing about four feet away, with her mostly empty glass of Marker’s Mark and Diet Coke, in the fully cocked—and ready to fling at my head—position.

 

             GM girls and me

 

But, I digress. I was up there to view the lunar eclipse in the crystal clear clarity of the high elevation sierra sky.

 

At about 5:00 A.M. (for some reason, my eyes could not focus on the time) we put on 12 layers of winter clothing and packed up the necessary survival gear, and by necessary, I mean, a thermos of hot chocolate and 90-proof Ullr peppermint cinnamon schnapps.

 

We crossed into Nevada and drove along the east side of Lake Tahoe to a beach called Logan Shoals.

 

After a short walk with minimal stumbling over the rocks in the pitch darkness, we waited and watched and waited (thank goodness for our thermos of body warming and numbing magic potion) until I was able to capture the picture, below, of the full lunar eclipse over the west shore of Lake Tahoe.

 

Originally, we planned on hanging around to catch the selenelion and syzygy, the rare condition when both the sun and the fully eclipsed moon can be seen at the same time, where,

“the sun and moon are exactly 180 degrees apart in the sky; so in a perfect alignment like this, such an observation would seem impossible because if the sun is above the horizon, the moon must be below the horizon and completely out of sight (or vice versa).

 

But, since our “provisions” were consumed and our feet were frozen, we did not hang around and decided to head back to California and the warmth of the great indoors. I’ll take their word that it did happen.

 

After the night before and the morning of, I can summarize the story by saying; a good nap was had by all.

 

      LT eclipse on lake Dec 2011.jpg

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Poor, poor fruitcake. Before you call me a fruitcake, why not take a moment to consider one.

 

The fruitcake, that is.

 

Yes, the often maligned and frequently regifted fruitcake.

 

Last week I was given a virgin fruitcake by the burly and bearded Ghost of Christmas Cooking—and by virgin, I mean that it was just out of the oven and yet unadulterated by alcohol.

 

(Trust me, that is coming.)

 

Before you question what evil deed I encumbered onto this person to promulgate the bestowing of such a burden, I must admit, I asked for it.

 

O.K. now would be an appropriate juncture to intone on me the moniker of a certifiable fruitcake.  Hey, what can I say, I actually like them. Well, under certain conditions.

            A handle of rum should just about handle it.

So, the task at hand is to create the correct conditions that consist primarily of adding an appropriate quantity of rum. As you can see from this picture, I figure a handle of Myers Dark Rum would be just about right.

 

As I pondered the significance of this holiday treat, I wondered if there was some global connection that would tie into the theme of this blogsite (which after three years, I am still trying to figure out, myself).

 

Well, we know we can usually depend on Wikipedia to provide a plethora of information, some of it even true. 

 

As to the history,

“The earliest recipe from ancient Rome lists pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, and raisins that were mixed into barley mash.”

Since the original recipe had a barley mash base, is it such a surprise that later versions included copious amounts of whiskey and other spirits, given the simple distillation process of one into the other?

 

The oldest “living” fruitcake supposedly still in existence was made by Fidelia Ford, from Ohio, on November 27, 1878.

Yes, that is 133 years ago. It even once made an appearance on the Tonight Show, with Jay Leno. Apparently, the family is unable or unwilling to dispose of the now historical artifact.

Or, more likely, they have been unable to find a waste depository with a hazardous material rating sufficient to accept this item.

 

One company sells an item that ensures you won’t end up with some pseudo-food product, which you can’t figure out whether to eat, store, dump, or leave somewhere out on the street.

 

         But can I fill it with rum?

 

 

Back to the online reference, worldwide variants are listed from around the planet, including from various European locations, Canada, the United States, and certain Caribbean countries.

 

Since I was recently in Scotland, I was drawn to the Scottish Black Bun recipe. This is obviously a lesser version on the traditional pasty, as it calls for only one tablespoon of whiskey. Apparently, the Scotts prefer their whisky to be served neat.

 

But, for some reason—I’m sure well founded—it is the tropical nations’ take on this baked brew of barley and booze that are clearly the most desirable to emulate, and by most desired I mean they are soaked in plentiful portions of rum.

“Fruit cake in Trinidad and Tobago is a traditional part of the Christmas celebration. The cake incorporates a large quantity of raisins and rum and becomes a staple dinner item between the Christmas season and New Years’.”

 

And, a little further to the north,

  “In the Bahamas, not only is the fruitcake drenched with rum, but the ingredients are as well. All of the candied fruit, walnuts, and raisins are placed in an enclosed container and are soaked with the darkest variety of rum, anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months in advance. The cake ingredients are mixed, and once the cake has finished baking, rum is poured onto it while it is still hot.”

 

It seems like just two years ago (maybe because it was two years ago) I went looking for a local “sporting event” which utilized this infamous Christmastime baked good, but instead found frivolous, yet fascinating fruitcake facts.

 

Like the folks in Manitou Springs, Colorado, who fling fruitcakes great distances from Old Gaelic German catapults in the Great Fruitcake Toss.

 

Or the truly environmentally oriented gang over at the Great Fruitcake Recycling Project, who are doing their level best to save the earth, one fruitcake at a time.

 

Probably the most interesting factoid from their operation is that,

“Each year, over 50,000 gallons of rum and assorted spirits are extracted in the recycling process.”

 

Speaking of processing gallons of grog, I gotta go back and pour some more on my Christmas cake, or as we call it around here, an alcohol delivery system barely disguised as a dessert.

 

If you don’t hear from me before Thursday—which is a distinct possibility—have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

 

It’s probably going to be a cup for the cake and a cup for the kitchen crew.  A cup for the cake and a cup for the kitchen crew.  A cup for the cake and a cup for the kitchen crew.

 

Repeat as necessary. Oh yeah, I already did.

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