Friday, March 27, 2009

Watership Down Meets Black Hawk Down

The strangest Intertoob video of the year so far. And of course it's from Japan...

Post Script:

I showed this to some acquaintances at work, and the first thing that they took note of was the use of camels to depict Afghanies/Persians/Arabs(?). Obviously that pushes a button here in the US, where black people were once commonly represented with apes or monkeys in cartoons and in political art going back to the 1800s. So, that left me wondering if the Japanese have any history of using animals to depict different racial groups.

From what I've seen, it doesn't look like it. Apparently the original Cat Shit One was set in Vietnam, with Americans as rabbits, the Vietnamese as cats, Japanese as monkeys, and so on. The choice of rabbits for US soldiers is apparently a bit of word play. The Japanese word for rabbit is usagi, which can be broken down into "USA GI." The author's explanation is that he used cute animals as a means of shocking viewers as he feels that movies have desensitized people to depictions of violence against human beings.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Columbia River Gorge

Ancient basalt flows

17-million years ago a series of rifts opened in Eastern Oregon and sent flood after flood of fast-flowing basalt lava cascading across the landscape, eventually burying the region beneath more than a mile of stone.

Later came epic floods of ice and water. During the last glacial period, an ice damn burst, emptying out a small inland sea that covered much of Montana. The result was a three-day deluge that began with a 300-foot tsunami sweeping across the plains of Washington and blasting out the Gorge.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Newport, animals

My day on the coast

Crab pots

So, I stood on a pier and watched the sea lions fight it out for space on the docks. The larger animals dominated of course, driving off the small ones whom they did not like.

That’s just how it is out in the wild. No mater how uncomfortable it makes us, it’s all about dominance and submission.

Of course we westerners, those of us raised in European Judeo-Christian influenced cultures, pride ourselves on our egalitarianism. We are all the same; we are equals in the eyes of the law and in our worth before society. Or at least that is the standard that we aspire to.

It’s very different of course with sea lions, and just as different with the monkeys at work. Their lives are lived within the blunt structures of family hierarchies based on strength and lineage. Dominance and submission order their world each and everyday, and any failure to acknowledge this reality can quickly earn a monkey a mauling.

These impulses, however, predate us and our primate cousins, stretching back through the reptilian branches of evolution to our invertebrate forbearers. While on the coast, I watched a pair of Dungeness crabs battle each other over choice living space. It was a lot like sumo wrestling, with a plenty of shoving, heaving, and locked forelimbs. The loser immediately ran off and beat up the next lower-ranking crab, driving him out of his hole.

So how different are we people? Hierarchical submission and dominance are still encoded to a degree in the cultures of the Far East, and I am curious just how successful we westerners have been at vanquishing or suppressing these impulses in our day-to-day lives. Have they simply grown more subtle, or have we moved beyond these drives on our way towards some transcendence of biology.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Beer Episode

Weihenstephaner! They have Weihenstephaner here! I thought that all beer pretty much tasted like horse piss before I first tried Weihenstephaner while living in Bavaria. Weihen was the local beer of choice in our small region of the Free State, and it got me hooked on quality brews while I was living on the eastern side of the Atlantic. It's got that distinctive mouth taste of malted wheat and the weihenstephaner yeast that makes German wheat beers superlative.

I suppose that it's not a complete surprise that it can be found in Oregon. After all, this was pretty much the ground zero of the micro-brewing revolution that took place during the 80s and 90s. Good taste in beer abounds here.

Full Sail Amber, made by a small brewery out in the Columbia Gorge, is one of my favorite local beers. Normally the beers of the Pacific Northwest are a little heavy on the hops for my liking, but FS Amber has a balanced hops blend that keeps the bitter aftertaste mellow and pleasing while presenting a full mouth taste of malted barley.

The Samuel Smith oatmeal stout is an English dark perfectly matched to cold winter nights. It's smooth, full, and just a little smokey, with no hint of hoppy bitterness.

Sessions is Full Sail's attempt to recreate the classic pre-Prohibition American lager. It honestly tastes like Coors or Millers, only with flavor! Lot's of flavor - the kind of malt melody that the mass-produced commercial products only hint at.