Thursday, February 21, 2008

Perfect Endings

It has been a while since I've really geeked out on a music post. Since I use a link to this blog as my signature in posts on the über-music geek site, where I download all my live bootlegs, I figure I should write something about music every once in a while. The guys and girls over there are probably getting sick of clicking on my link and wondering why the hell I think they would be interested in my boring travel journal or what I think about Michelle Obama.

So anyway, I haven't been to a great show for a little while and don't really have a review to write or anything. (I do have a Pogues show next month with special guest Billy Bragg that has me drooling on the keyboard just writing about it. I expect nothing less than tears while I'm watching that one.)

But I was thinking about something last night while I was listening to one of my new Wilco shows from the Riviera Theatre in Chicago, where over five nights they performed the complete Wilco album catalogue plus some extras. They were performing a great version of "Dreamer In My Dreams" off of Being There and I thought, "This is really one of the best album-ending songs ever."

I'm not usually one for the "list of best ever (blank)" but I did start thinking about my favorite album-ending songs. I think mostly because great album endings are rarer than great openings. Even some of my favorite albums can kind of end on a low note for me. "Reservations" from Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is a fine example of that.

So I offer up my list of favorite endings. I want to hear other people's as well. That's another goal for this post, to get more people commenting on my blog than usual. I don't always write things that are real conducive to commenting since I'm usually just ranting.

There are no rules to these lists except they have to be the last song on an album. You can throw five or ten or 20 at me, any era and any genre, in no real order. Mine has no order to it, just songs that come to me as some of the best songs to ever end a record.

"Song" - Album - Artist

"Dreamer In My Dreams" - Being There - Wilco
"Beyond Love" - Mind Bomb - The The
"Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards" - Workers Playtime - Billy Bragg
"40" - War - U2
"Things The Grandchildren Should Know" - Blinking Lights And Other Revelations - Eels
(Untitled) - Green - R.E.M.
"The Underneath" - A Star For Bram - Robyn Hitchcock
"Purple Rain" - Purple Rain - Prince
"MLK" - The Unforgettable Fire - U2
"Thank You For Hearing Me" - Universal Mother - Sinéad O'Connor
"Sometimes" - Diesel And Dust - Midnight Oil
"Fool's Gold" - The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
"Peace Train" - Teaser And The Firecat - Cat Stevens
"Both Sides, Now" - Clouds - Joni Mitchell
"The Home Front" - Talking With The Taxman About Poetry - Billy Bragg
"Keep Me In Your Heart" - The Wind - Warren Zevon
"Every Little Counts" - Brotherhood - New Order
"Better Be Home Soon" - Temple Of Low Men - Crowded House

I'm sure I could think of more, but this is pretty much my go to list of great endings to what I think are also great albums. Well, Brotherhood is just an OK album, but the way it ends is priceless.

What are your favorite last songs?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Uppity Obama

So the right wing nutcases are licking their chops and going after Michelle Obama now that she has said something that offends their sensibilities. Type in her name to the Google News and about half the items that come up are from the National Review attacking her. They really don't have anything better to do over at that rag. And now McCain has jumped into the firing squad.

Oh, John didn't do it himself; he doesn't want to be seen attacking a woman. So he sent his wife out to take a few swings. In case you haven't heard it already, here is what Michelle Obama said:

What we have learned over this year is that hope is making a comeback. It is making a comeback. And let me tell you something -- for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment. I've seen people who are hungry to be unified around some basic common issues, and it's made me proud.

Can you guess which part the far-right is jumping on? I highlighted it for you just in case. Of course most of the media play the tape of only that line and not the broader paragraph.

Like I said, John McCain sent out his better-looking half to do his dirty work. This is what Cindy McCain said:

I'm proud of my country. I don't know about you, if you heard those words earlier — I'm very proud of my country.

Well goody for Mrs. McCain. I'm sure she has every reason to have always been proud of her country. I probably would be very proud to be an American if I were her, too.

Cindy Hensley was born into a wealthy Arizona family and has lived nothing but a life of privilege. She was a rodeo queen and a cheerleader. There are no student loans to pay off in Cindy's life since her parents were overflowing with money.

Michelle Robinson grew up with loving parents to be sure. But she grew up in the lower-middle-class south side of Chicago and both of her parents had to work, her mother as a secretary and her father for the city water department. She worked her ass off to get to go to the best high school in Chicago and eventually the Ivy League.

I'm guessing that Michelle had to go into a lot of debt to get her law degree. Cindy Hensley had a trust fund waiting for her when she got done playing quarters with her sorority sisters.

You know what happens to drug addicts from the neighborhood where Michelle Robinson grew up? They get thrown in jail, even for simple possession of drugs.

You know what happened to the drug addict Cindy McCain when she was caught stealing prescription meds, from the clinic she was funding with some of her millions, in violation of federal law? She got her high-priced lawyer to get her off without any jail time or even a felony conviction. Then she fired the guy who turned her in. Yea, America had been good to the wealthy Cindy McCain.

She has never had to deal with the consequences of her actions. She has an affair with another women's husband and gets to keep him. And by coincidence she happens to marry someone else from a connected and privileged family.

So yes, Cindy McCain has every reason to be proud of America. She has never had to work at anything, has been given everything and took someone else's man because she could.

Michelle Obama has worked for everything she got. No doubt she had to see white men who didn't work half as hard or were nearly as smart get promotions and advancements ahead of her. It is also no doubt that as a black woman in America that she had to work three times as hard as anybody else just to get a fair shake.

You would think that someone like Cindy McCain, who has adopted a child from Bangladesh, might have a little more sensitivity about how hard it is for a woman of color to get an even chance in America. She should be ashamed of herself.

But no. Cindy McCain is just another cookie-cutter, ex-cheerleader blonde bimbo member of the right-wing privileged class.

And to them Michelle Obama is just another uppity nigger.

I'm still waiting for my first time feeling proud of my country.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Day 8 (Part 2) - Riding With A Chicken To The Lap Of Luxury

We said goodbye to Cambodia after pulling away from the border control dock for the second time, having gone back to retrieve our errant Frenchman. I figured we should keep our eyes on the guys running our boat if they can lose track of a passenger when they only had ten of us.

Within about a minute of pulling away from the Cambodia dock we again headed to shore and docked at the Vietnam border station.

We must have gone only about 500 yards. We unloaded again and were led by a guy to a small building with a waiting room similar to that of a small town bus station, with a couple rows of plastic seats. There was a guy sitting behind a window at the front of the room. The man who had led us from the boat collected our passports, visas, entrance cards and gave them to the guy at the window. Once the guy in the window made sure there was a passport from everyone the first guy led us out of there and we walked to another location. As we came out of the building more young girls selling refreshments were waiting for us. They walked alongside trying to sell us sodas, water and beer mostly, but also bananas and snacks. Even though we were in Vietnam now they made it very clear they would take Cambodian Riel and American Dollars.

After walking about a hundred yards we were shown to a little shelter with a couple picnic tables lined up next to each other. It looked just like one of those picnic shelters you can find at any public park, except for the three or four guys in green uniforms standing around.

They kept shooing away the kids trying to sell us stuff, though it seemed pretty good-natured and they obviously knew the girls.

We didn't take too many pictures while we were waiting, this being our first time in Vietnam and not knowing if taking pictures at the border station would be frowned upon. I did take a picture of Lisa that was really about trying to get a picture of a soldier in uniform (they weren't like seriously guarding us and didn't appear to have guns) and of the guy in the distance with the cart. He had pulled up while we were there and most of the kids went running over. He seemed to be selling little toys, stickers and maybe some candy to the kids.

After about twenty minutes or so, and a random bag check for two of our fellow boat mates, we were on our way again. And after buying a beer from one of the girls on the way back to the boat.

Less than 45 minutes later we arrived in Chau Doc. Unlike when we arrived at the public dock in Phnom Penh and were set upon by tuk-tuk drivers, the dock in Chau Doc was empty and quiet. It was at the backside of a hotel so there was no public access. A woman from the hotel came down and met us. She asked where people were going and if they needed transportation. I had found some limited information on-line about how to get from Chau Doc to Can Tho, where we had to get to that night, and all I really knew was that we needed to get to the station to catch a bus. I knew the name of one potential bus company, that it might cost around $5 and should take about three hours, but this info came from one posting on message board and wasn't that recent.

The lady at the hotel told us she could arrange for our bus and that they would come pick us up, getting rid of the need to hire a tuk-tuk to take us and our luggage to the station. It was exactly $5 just like I had read and the bus would be by in 30 minutes. The name of the bus company was different but I didn't have any confirmation on that anyway.

We got picked up in some sort of older 4x4-type vehicle with one other passenger inside so we were a little confused.

The lady in the front seat was a Vietnamese woman who lives in California and was visiting her sick mother in Saigon. She had come to Chau Doc for the day to pray at her old hometown temple.

We realized when we pulled into a gravel parking lot with a bunch of passenger vans lined up that we we were just in a shuttle that takes you to the station. We got out and the driver of the jeep got our luggage, I think Lisa had the tickets taken from her by a young man who then grabbed our bags, shoved them in the back of one of the vans and herded us inside to our seat. This all happened in about 20 seconds. The 15-seat van was about three-quarters full and we were the only non-locals.

The kid who had taken our tickets and our luggage jumped in, slammed the sliding door shut and we sped away. We made a couple of quick stops to pick up a couple other people, with the kid sliding the door open for them to jump in as the van slowed down. We were squeezed into our bench seat next to one other guy and Lisa was trying to see over the seat in front of us to get a view out the front window. She can get carsick if she can't see out the front.

It was after several minutes that I realized the kid, a lanky guy who looked about 19 or 20, was with us for the duration. After several more stops of people getting on and off I figured it out. He was actually the conductor of the van. Passengers would jump on and he would collect their money after asking them where they were going (I assume, no one else spoke English for the entire ride).

Despite the cramped seat this was great. We were on local transportation. All along the route people got on and off, the van never actually stopping mind you. When we approached someone's stop they would get by the sliding door, the driver would slow down, the kid would slide the door open and the passenger would jump out to a running stop.

The same happened thing in reverse for boarding passengers. The kid would scream with his head hanging out the window at someone standing by a stop, presumably asking them if they wanted on this particular van, say something to the driver who would then slow down, the kid would throw the door open and put his hand out to help the person on the van as they made a running jump.

It was awesome.

The driving style, though, was a little scary. The driver, a middle-aged guy, just booked it down the road weaving side to side around the motorbikes, bicycles and other cars on the road. He would honk to tell people to get out of his way. The conductor kid seemed to have a job in this regard too. He would hang his head out the window and scream at the other drivers on the road. Not really sure what he was saying to them, but it sounded like this to me:


The whole ride was like this, weaving back and forth, going into the other lane even when it seemed as though the oncoming traffic was a little too close to be doing that. Lisa had a tough choice - keep looking out the front window and be scared shitless or don't look and get carsick. She chose the heart pounding over the nausea, since it may have been seen as rude to puke in the middle of the van.

Shortly after we had pulled out of Chau Doc we started occasionally hearing what sounded like a clucking noise. I think for a minute Lisa and I both thought we were hearing things until we realized that both of us were hearing it. Somewhere on the van there was a chicken.

After a while all the seats on the van were taken. Someone got on and I wondered where the hell they were going to put him. The conductor reached under the seat in front of us, pulled out a little plastic foot stool and plopped it down in the tiny little aisle-way between the seats and the door. He would have three of these set-up eventually.

By the time we got close to Can Tho the 15-seat van we were riding in was carrying 18people.

And a chicken.

Prior to arriving at Can Tho, the kid said something to someone in the back row. Over our heads he was handed the chicken in what looked like a wicker bag. Apparently we were approaching the chicken's stop. And we were. He handed the bag to someone in the front row who jumped out at the next slowdown.

After the chicken was handed forward Lisa leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Do you think what the guy said was 'would you please pass the chicken?'"

I could hardly keep myself from laughing out loud, snickering under my breath.

We arrived at Can Tho, the biggest city in the Mekong Delta, and everyone jumped out. Being the only tourists in the van, all of the moto and tuk-tuk drivers surrounded us when we got off. Some kid told us he would take us to our hotel for $1 and I said OK. He then jumped on motorbike without any trailer whatsoever. I explained to him that there were two of us and we had luggage, which he had seen. He kept insisting it was no problem but there was no way I was getting on that thing with my suitcase. It seems that they wanted to have two of them take us on their motorbikes, Lisa and her bag on one, my bag and me on the other. That just wasn't going to happen.

So another guy said he had a tuk-tuk and he told us $1 per person. He grabbed our bags and we piled in. Unlike the tuk-tuks we had been on so far, this one was a two-seater instead of four. So the luggage was kind of balanced on the front ledge of the thing with me keeping hold.

We were going to the Victoria Resort hotel. We had no luck booking a room at some of the smaller and cheaper hotels we looked into all those months ago. Seems rooms can go quickly and far in advance in Can Tho. We were only going to be there one night so we bit the bullet and booked a room at the Victoria for a lot more money than we were spending anyplace else on the whole trip. It was also a little more Western tourist-centric than we like in our international travel.

We pulled through the front gates (yes, gates) in our tuk-tuk and stopped by the entrance. We were met by a bellhop who seemed surprised to see a tuk-tuk in front of the Victoria. He took care of our bags and we gave the driver $5.

We were told to sit down in the lobby and we were brought cold towels and water. We didn't even have to stand at the desk during check-in. They brought us our room key, sent us upstairs and said the luggage would be brought up in a minute.

So after a day of traveling that took about eight hours and involved a tuk-tuk, a boat, a 4x4-type thing, a van and another tuk-tuk, it ended with us walking into one of the nicest hotels I've ever stayed at in my life.

This was our room, a corner suite:

Along with fresh fruit and flowers.

And a cute gecko above our bed to keep us company.

Yea, this might be a nice place to stay.

Next - The floating market of Can Tho

Cambodia Afterword - Colonialism Is Alive And Well

Since we just left Cambodia in my seemingly never-ending epic series of posts about our trip to SE Asia, I thought I'd take a bit of space up to write about my impressions of our too short stay there.

Although we only spent about a total of four-and-a-half days there, Cambodia seems to have stuck with me more than anyplace else we visited on this trip. I think it has something to do with the abject poverty, landmine victims, Aki Ra's museum and the street children working so hard to sell us trinkets. As well as the amazing sights of Angkor Wat that encompassed these harsher realities. I was also fascinated by the resilience of a country that is still emerging from fairly recent unfathomable horrors. They are a damaged people but their perseverance left quite an impression on me. They are survivors in every meaning of that word.

I was also struck by how well we were treated there. It seemed so amazing to me that the Khmer people could actually be nice to Americans and the French, people whose past governments played such a large role in the destabilization and devastation of Cambodia that directly led to the rise of the genocidal rule of the Khmer Rouge. I'm not sure that if the roles were reversed the Americans would be as forgiving. I've found that the citizens of other countries around the world seem to be better at knowing the difference between the people and their government than most Americans. Lucky for us Americans who like to travel, especially over the last seven years.

It probably does help how they feel about us that we go there and spend money. And tourism in Cambodia seems to be booming, which appears to be helping a lot of Cambodians. Unfortunately it seems to be helping a lot of foreigners even more.

I think if you plopped me down in the middle of Cambodia and I did not know anything about the country, I would probably assume I was in a place that was controlled by a colonizing or occupying nation. From the things we observed with our own eyes and things we were told by people like our driver Mr. Ya, I realized that a lot of the wealth being gathered in Cambodia is not being done by Cambodians.

Both hotels we stayed at in the country were French owned. The roles of the native people at both properties were that of the bellhops, maids, waiters and cooks. I cannot speak to how well they are paid or treated. From Mr. Ya we learned that most hotels in Siem Reap are owned by foreigners - mostly French, other Europeans and a lot of Koreans. The Irish bars in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh are owned by expats. The FCC restaurants and hotels are either European or American owned, and from the visits we made there it was obvious that a white man was the manager.

The Cambodian people have to fight for the scraps that fall to the floor from colonial table. Reagan's trickle-down economics at its finest.

And so many of the tourists seem to get snippy with the poor people who are trying to make a few cents off of them. The same people that happily pay for overpriced beer at the FCC or a $50 hotel room get uppity with the poor tuk-tuk driver that just wants to make a dollar or two for a valuable service or the girl that is asking for a nickel for a banana.

At Angkor Wat an older woman was selling various souvenir trinkets by the exit. She would ask everyone if they would buy something from her. Granted, she would stand right in your way and try to really get your business. A young British guy who, like everyone else there, had been asked probably a million times that day to buy something decided it would be funny to make fun of the locals. He answered her question with, "Do you have any happiness?" in a really snarky way. She seemed confused, not understanding the joke of course, and he went on that if she didn't have any happiness for him then he didn't want anything. He found himself really amusing and had a really nice smirk at the expense of someone just trying to eke out a living. I wanted to smack his smarmy ass.

You know, it got exasperating for all of us, facing the onslaught of hard-selling at every stop. But there is no need for that kind of nonsense. When you are guests in someone else's country you should act like it. I saw many tourists wave off the sellers with a flick of a silent hand. This seemed to be the most common among the French who, along with us Americans, should be the people that are the most empathetic to this country's condition.

Sitting in a restaurant in Siem Reap one night I watched a young tuk-tuk driver trying to pick up a fare from people walking out the door. Most would not even acknowledge his existence when he asked if they needed a ride. He was doing it in such a polite way too. I felt so bad for him.

I already wrote about how some of the girls selling snacks on the boat from Siem Reap were treated by some people.

These were just a few of the instances we saw in only a few days.

It might be the dire need for money that is why they put up with so much from tourists. But I'd like to think it is the unbendable spirit of a people that have overcome so much.

Hopefully, one day that same sprit will help them break the chains of colonialism that ended on paper but has far from disappeared in reality.

Friday, February 08, 2008


I didn't participate in the Super Tuesday this week, even though I live in New York and we were one of the almost two dozen states voting in the presidential primaries.

It's not that I hadn't planned on voting, I really intended to go to the polls this week. The problem is that New York is one of the closed primary states. This means that you have to be registered with one of the political parties to vote in their primary. I really don't like to declare myself a member of a party so I have always registered as an independent. In several of the past states I have lived in, like Illinois and Washington, you can vote in the primary without registering with a party. You just walk up on Election Day and the poll worker asks you which ballot you want. I like that way of doing things. It seems more democratic.

I decided I would change my registration to the Democratic Party so that I could vote in the primary. Unfortunately I was not aware of when the deadline to do that was and I missed it. So that sucked. Not just for me, but also for Dennis Kucinich. My not being able to give him my vote would probably cut his total by a third. Poor Dennis.

Well, it didn't matter anyway since Dennis dropped out before Super Tuesday. It did get me to thinking who I would have switched my vote to if I had been able to vote.

It pretty much comes down to Barack Obama.

There are several reasons I suppose. After the last seven years this country really need a leader who can speak the English language, or at the very least pronounce the word nuclear correctly. We could also use someone who is such an uplifting orator, as Barack is, instead of a guy who smirks and accuses all of us who disagree with his policies of being traitors or "surrendering" to terrorists. Or I should say, "Trrhrrst" since Bush doesn't actually use vowels to say that word.

But for all of Obama's good points those aren't really the biggest reasons to vote for him over Hillary. No, it's because he's not a Baby Boomer. With the exception of Kucinich, I don't want Baby Boomers in charge of anything anymore. They had their chance and they fucked it up.

Bill Clinton, our first Boomer president, kicked the most vulnerable of our society off of welfare and gave that money to big corporations, including no-bid contracts to Halliburton. Let's not even forget that he ruined any chance to do any good by not being able to keep his dick in his pants. And instead of fighting for the rights of homosexuals like he promised, he signed the ridiculous "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy that has continued the persecution of gays in the military. He also signed the "Defense of Marriage Act" in the dark of night.

There is not enough room on my blog to rehash what is wrong with the current Baby Boomer in the White House.

The sad thing is that I'm exactly the kind of guy the Boomers could have won over. I wanted the Boomers to fulfill their generation's promise. The generation that spoke out against the Vietnam War and for civil rights, human rights, equality for women, reproductive choice and a host of other things in which I strongly believe.

But these are not the same people.

I would have loved to vote for the John Kerry (technically not a Baby Boomer) who sat in front of a Senate committee and asked them how you "ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake." The same John Kerry who renounced him medals.

But this is not the same John Kerry who ran for president. The John Kerry I got the option of voting for is the one who said he didn't believe in gay marriage, life begins at conception and played up his war hero statue for a war that he had previously called a mistake.

I also would have crawled over broken glass to vote for the Hillary Rodham who spoke out against the war at her college graduation and urged her generation to fight the status quo. Is that the person who is running for president? Not by a long shot.

No, running for president is the Hillary Clinton who voted in favor of Bush's horrible war mongering, sat on the board of Wal-Mart, and supports a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning.

To answer Buffalo Springfield's question, "Stop, hey what's that sound," it is former idealists selling their souls for power.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Day 8 (Part 1) - Cruising The Mekong Out Of Cambodia

We spent our last morning in Phnom Penh very lazily hanging around the pool/garden drinking coffee and writing in our journals. We had a long day of traveling ahead of us, so we didn't really do anything until we had to go catch our boat. It was now November 16th.

Would have left and gone to do something if I knew I was going to have to listen to the yuppie dickhead (still keeping his poolside laptop vigil) bitching to a poor travel agent over the phone. He was complaining about the price of a ticket to Singapore he was trying to buy for two days later. International yuppie businessman didn't seem to understand the concept of last-minute plane tickets being more expensive.

We caught a tuk-tuk up to the boat dock and went into the restaurant/bar that doubles as the waiting area. The German expat who sold us our tickets had told us to get there a half-hour early and he would meet us there to walk us through the paperwork we needed to fill out. This was an international boat trip we would be taking this time, so there were entrance and exit forms to complete. We already had our Vietnam visa, as you have to have it in advance if you want to travel there.

We didn't really need anyone to help us with the paperwork, but Lisa figured the German was fishing for tip. It didn't really matter since he ended up not showing anyway.

After the paperwork I went across the street to a shop and bought some water, beer, soda and bananas for the trip. It cost something like $8.50 and I gave the guy a ten. As was usual while we had been in Cambodia I got my change as a combination of U.S. Dollars and Cambodian Riel. Anytime something had cents in the price we always got paper riel instead of American coins. It is amazing how many bills it takes to equal 50 cents. The only reason this sucked was that we were about to leave Cambodia and I didn't want to have any more riel since I wouldn't be able to spend or exchange it.

The time came and we headed toward the boat. Lucky for us they had two boats going that day since they had more people than could fit on one. We ended up on the less empty boat with five middle-aged French tourists, a young Australian couple and a Vietnamese girl. So we had plenty of room to spread out. This boat was about a quarter of the size of the one we took from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and much more comfortable.

The trip down the Mekong River was pretty uneventful. There didn't seem to be as much life along this part of the Mekong as there had been on the Tonlé Sap.

A couple of hours later we got to the border. We pulled up to the Cambodian border checkpoint and we all had to unload.

Just like leaving a country by air, we had to stand in line to have our passports checked.

For some reason, when I got my passport checked the guy gave me somewhat of a hard time. He kept flipping through my passport really carefully. He then asked me why my Vietnam visa was only stapled in my book and not pasted on. By way of example he showed me the way the Cambodian one was glued on the page in my passport. I told him I didn't know and, "That's just the way Vietnam did it."

This really weirded me out in a few ways. First, my wife had gone just in front of me and her visa from Vietnam was in there the exact same way as mine. He didn't ask about hers at all. Second, how the hell would I know why it is only stapled? Does he think I put the visa in myself?

But mostly I was asking myself, "Why the fuck does this guy care about my Vietnam paperwork? He's the damn Cambodian border agent. This really isn't his problem or concern."

I think the guy was just in the mood to bust balls. Gets kind of boring sitting there checking passports all day long.

On our way back to the boat there were young girls selling drinks and snacks. Aha! A way to get rid of some riel. I bought us a couple of bags of some chip-like product and managed to unload the rest of my riel.

We jumped back on the boat and it pulled away. Well that's it for Cambod.....

Wait! Suddenly the French passengers start going crazy and run up to the front of the boat yelling at the driver. They were down a man it seemed.

The guys running our boat didn't appear to take a real close count, nor did the French people. We turned around and went back. There he was, standing on the dock.

All passengers now on board, we cruised down the river out of Cambodia. One of the crewmen took down the Cambodian flag that had been flying on the boat, leaving only the Vietnamese one that was flying from the other end.

Next - Afterword on Cambodia and then on to Vietnam

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Writers! Come Back!

A really long night last night. I spent my evening with medical students out in Brooklyn, helping them learn the finer points of communicating with patients in a workshop that I run. Coming home to Manhattan on the nights I'm working out there is always a long journey because the express train that goes directly to my stop is no longer running in Brooklyn. So it always involves a transfer, and waiting for two trains instead of one after 9:00 can add an extra 20 minutes or more to the trip.

Last night was even longer due to the rain and bad luck. I decided to get off the train at 57th Street and take the bus that runs right in front of my apartment because I didn't want to do the ten minute walk from the subway in the rain. Unfortunately, when I came out of the subway next to Carnegie Hall a concert was just letting out. Which meant that instead of the usual kind of late night bus ride, with a mostly empty bus and short stops to let one person on or off at a time, I had to endure one that was more like rush hour. It took something like ten minutes to load the bus at the stop in front of Carnegie and the bus was crammed full by the time we pulled away. And it took forever to load and unload at every stop.

I did at least have the company of brand new Robyn Hitchcock and Billy Bragg shows, freshly downloaded the day before, to keep me company.

I finally got home and my wife went to bed, I made myself some food (nothing like eating dinner at 11:00) and settled in to watch The Daily Show and Colbert Report. Really, a nice way to end a long day. At least it usually is.

Both shows have been somewhat hit or miss since they went back on the air without their writers. But it has been nice to see new episodes the last few weeks and there have still been some great comic gems. Last night, though, really marked the low point since they came back.

Colbert has been doing this fake feud thing with Conan O'Brien with both claiming they gave Mike Huckabee a "bump" in the primaries. Kind of amusing, Colbert is usually pretty good at doing the mock dueling egos thing. And Jon Stewart got involved in the joke last week, again to mild amusement. But then they had to go and ruin it.

Last night they got Conan, the least funny man on TV besides Jay Leno, to actually come on both shows. The only reason the joke was still funny was that I didn't have to actually watch Conan to get it. I really have never understood how a guy who oversaw a really funny era of the Simpson's can have such a lame talk show.

On The Daily Show, Colbert and Conan showed up and they started to have a mock fight until they decided to wait for the show to be done taping. On Colbert, Stewart and Conan showed up and started a mock fight until they decided to wait for the show to be done taping. Both times I felt like I was watching some lame-ass skit done at the office Christmas party of the lame law firm I used to work at in Seattle. It really looked like fucking amateur hour on Comedy Central.

I was in this far so I decided to check out the continuation on Conan's show, hoping beyond hope that there would actually be a payoff joke to this high school talent show. There wasn't. It was just a bad fake fight with dumb pratfalls and sight gags that went on longer than a bad SNL sketch and ended with some stupid video from Huckabee, another unfunny person who thinks he's funny.

For the love of god, writers please come back and save Jon and Stephen. I know they crossed the picket line and have no reason to be forgiven for that. But they are allowing themselves to be sucked into the dark abyss of Conan O'Brien's unfunniness.

Don't do it for them, do it for the rest of us. It's now a humanitarian crisis.