Sunday, April 30, 2006

End Capitalism!

End Capitalism!
Originally uploaded by Corbie.
...But since capitalism is still showing no signs of going away, I worked both days this weekend to make some extra money. Not that it's ever really extra, but you get the idea.

Yesterday, I did a couple of birthday parties. I haven't been doing too many parties lately, just one a month. It's not that I've been consciously staying away from them, but time just keeps slipping away when I'm not looking. I'm glad I worked yesterday though, because I got big tips at both parties. The second guy even tipped me in advance, which was a first. He wanted to make sure his son's party was memorable because it was his last one in this country before moving back to Korea (I think...). The most memorable thing about the party for me was that about 6 or 7 (out of about 10 or 11) of the kids acted like they had ADHD. Make that ADHHHHHD. There was lots of random screaming and tackling throughout the hour or so I was there. Lots of bouncing and interrupting too. I told the kids that if they behaved I'd let them zap things with the tesla coil. It sort of worked. Surprisingly, nobody got electrocuted.

Today I supervised the weekend work crew at my main place of employment. A group had rented the site for the weekend, so we had to work around them for most of the day, much delaying the cleaning of the dining hall and some of the cabins. There was a little key SNAFU this morning as well, due to the fact that the keys I had wouldn't fit into the locks on the doors behind which important office equipment, like the fax machine, lurked. Luckily there is a guy who lives on site (the night watchman, actually) and has a whole ring of keys that do fit in the locks.

Now, bloated with the effects of capitalism and the cool zucchini fries that Jen whipped up, I'm back home. The big kids are away. It is quite quiet.

This coming week there are no kids at camp, so I'm doing odd jobs. How odd? I don't know yet...

Friday, April 28, 2006

Ringneck Snake Looking Up

Ringneck Snake Looking Up
Originally uploaded by Corbie.
Spring, feeling like summer, has popped out of nowhere, pushing the clouds away and drying out the ground. There are still puddles here and there, but it's actually possible to sit down in the woods without getting a butt full of mud.

The snake in the photo is one of my favorite local snakes, a Ringneck snake. They don't get much bigger than a pencil, but they are beautiful and velvety smoothe to the touch. This one was hiding under a board in the garden, and was one of three different kinds of snakes we came across this week. I saw a total of six Garter snakes, one of them dead on the road, and two California Kingsnakes, or more accurately 1.2 Kingsnakes because one of them was just a small section of Kingsnake left behind by some larger predator. The live Kingsnake was hiding under some rocks by the reservoir, and despite about twenty minutes of carefully digging and moving rocks on my part, remained hiding under the rocks, no doubt sticking out its little forked tongue at me from the shadows as I gave up. The sudden warmth really sapped the campers' energy as well, leaving them whiny and lethargic as we hiked to and from the reservoir. They rallied a bit whenever we found some new reptile (Garter snake, Skink, Alligator lizard...) but then went back to complaining of tiredness.

Okay, time to get off the computer and do something more useful...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Western Skink

Western Skink
Originally uploaded by Corbie.
Skinks are perfect little reptilian jewels, smoothe and shiny, with impossible looking tails. I found this one curled under a board earlier today as I wandered around after lunch. Other animals of interest today were a baby scorpion, a couple of Garter snakes, the mangled remains of a deer near the front driveway, and a number of frogs, newts, and Western Fence lizards too cold to run fast enough to get away. Most of the kids in my group had a great time looking under rocks and boards, and many of them will go home with pictures of the deer carcass. I'm sure their parents will be thrilled.

A couple of days ago, M, Jen, Willow and I went on a long hike at Almaden Quicksilver park. Willow demanded to be carried for most of the hike, so Jen and I traded off carting her up and down hills. Without the bigger, noisier kids along, we actually got to see some animals with ears. A rabbit made a brief appearance early on, and later we saw a number of deer. Best of all was the Bobcat who quickly disappeared up the hill to the right of the trail about twenty feet in front of us. It was the first time any of us had seen one in the wild. I can now cross it off my "animals I haven't seen yet," list.
The recent rains have left the hills carpeted in new grass and wildflowers, making me wonder why I don't go up there more often (oh yeah, too busy).

The day before, M, G, and I went up to see the Faun Fables "Transit Rider" show at The Independent in San Francisco. Dawn and Nils, with the help of Jenya and Matt (ex-Mumble and Peg, who opened the show as Fuzzy Cousins) are touring with a somewhat altered version of their theatrical meditation on transition. Lots of other musicians got up and did short, salon-style songs and skits beforehand, making it a show of epic proportions. The new cd was also on sale, as were some Fuzzy truffles, handmade by Fuzzy Cousins. The chili-tequila one was a work of art in itself.
This was the first show of a tour that will last a little over a month. They'll be back in town at the end of May. Go see it. Check out their website for dates. Check out the fan-run MySpace page to listen to some music.

Now it is evening. I'm listening to "Still Valley" by Mirror as sort of an antidote to the constant chaos. Not that chaos is always bad, but there must be balance.
Sophie, when asked to put her dishes in the sink:

"We don't have to! We're superheroes!"

And, talking to Baby O:

"When you're ten, I can kiss you on the lips, you stinky farty mister."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Happy Earth Day! Remember to use things again and again. There is treasure in the trash. Don't let the landfill mountains topple down on us. Don't let the air become more dangerous than it already is. Water shouldn't come with warning labels. Personal accountability is a good thing. I'm tired of seeing plastic bags, cigarette butts, and fast food wrappers tumbling along in the breakdown lanes of the freeways. It's interesting that many people assume that somebody else will come along with a little dustpan and broom to clean up after them. Be the dustpan. Be the broom. There are not many people more arrogant than those who fling things out of car windows while driving. Royalty of the roads, with the rest of us as servants? I think not! And remember, every purchase comes with a past and future. Where was it before it was yours? Where will it go after it was yours? If you can't be responsible for it, maybe you shouldn't have it in the first place.

It is a hard job for humanity to learn to coexist with all of the other forms of life on this planet. From our track record, that is obvious. If things don't change, the irresponsibility of some will lead to disaster for us all.

I leave you with Edward Abbey:

"If wilderness is outlawed, only outlaws can save wilderness."


"The industrial corporation is the natural enemy of nature."

Remember, corporations need money to survive. Vote with your wallet.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Funny Hands

Funny Hands
Originally uploaded by Corbie.
I went up to San Francisco yesterday to trade in some cds at Amoeba and catch the eX-Girl show at the Bottom of the Hill. I traded in about 40 cds and only got a $90 credit slip, prompting me to ask, "is this it?" The cd buyer explained that lately everybody has been dumping large quantities of cds, no doubt because of the availability of free music online. This, in my opinion, is one more argument against file sharing and online song sales. It's bad enough that cd sales have to suffer, meaning less revenue for struggling musicians (I've heard all sorts of justifications for online swapping, which I won't get into here... at least not now), but when I can't get a decent return on my trade, it makes me irritable. I can't afford to keep up with my cd habit any other way these days (of course, that's one of the justifications for online swapping - vicious circle, anyone?). It's the independent artists who suffer the most too. The major labels make sure that their carefully groomed "stars" continue to rake in the green, at least until their "flavor of the month" status is terminated.
I guess this is just another example of how technology complicates our lives. I did manage to get some good cds with my credit, so I guess I can't be too grumpy.
Afterwards, I drove over to Aquarius records, in the vicinity of which I listened to nearly a whole Pearls Before Swine disc while looking for parking. Once inside, I met up with G, who was talking with Jim Haynes. We hassled Jim for awhile, bought some cds from him, got a quick bite to eat, and went to the Bottom of the Hill, getting in on the KALX guest list (kind of ironic, actually, considering my rant above about supporting musicians - I do own all of the eX-Girl cds though, and somewhere on the desk in front of me is an eX-Girl mouse pad, so pththtpth). The opening bands were not too impressive, but eX-Girl were their usual selves, with bizarre costumes and plenty of frog paraphernalia on view. The japanese comedian who introduced them last time was here again. He has guts doing comedy in a language he's not very familiar with. In a way, that makes it funnier. eX-Girl's set seemed short, and most of the songs were familiar. The only real surprise was that bassist Kirilolo is now their guitarist. Perhaps she got tired of her instrument?
Their schtick about being aliens from planet Kero Kero ("ribbit ribbit," in English) was still firmly in place, as were the syncopated movements and their obvious enjoyment of what they do. Short tour this time though, with only dates in Washington, Oregon, and California. No new cd either.

Notice I said cd, and not music files. Be a patron of the arts and send a little money to your favorite band(s). They may not be here tomorrow if you don't.

The luddite has spoken.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Another one from the "where are they now?" files:

When I was 21 or so, I was briefly the "singer" for a band called Backslide. We were all heavily influenced by 80's punk bands like Antisect and Amebix - sociopolitical lyrics, rapid-fire drums, shouted/roared vocals, abrasive, downtuned guitar and bass... you get the picture. We rehearsed in drummer Max's parent's front room in Atherton. Tim, the bass player, and I shared lyric writing duties, and he wrote all the music (if I recall correctly). The guitarist was a guy named Dan - I can't even remember his last name now. We never recorded anything other than a few rehearsal tapes, and only played two shows, one of which was in some kid's room for his birthday party ("stage-diving" from tables - table diving?), and another was at a venue called Pena Moai (or something like that) in East Palo Alto, during which we succeeded in driving a large portion of the audience away. By that point there was a girl called Jimena singing as well. I can't even remember why we decided to call it a day as a band. Max went on to play in Spazz, and probably a lot of other bands that I'm not thinking of right now. I'm not sure where Dan ended up. I think he worked at Tower for awhile. I think I saw Jimena at some protests later on. At some point, Tim moved to Ireland.

I got an e-mail from another old friend last week in which he mentioned that Tim visited him (with his kids - it seems that everybody has them now) and that he raps now. I googled him and found this, and this. Not bad, actually, and that's coming from someone who doesn't usually listen to rap. The sampled strings in Juggernaut are cool.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Chris and John at Gilman Street

Chris and John at Gilman Street
Originally uploaded by acrofish.
Acrofish keeps plumbing the archives. I don't think I've even seen this picture before. This is what I looked like in the late eighties, happily sitting inside the hallowed halls of 924 Gilman, punk mecca and weekend hangout place for many years. I don't know why Chris was grabbing his butt.

Gilman St. is still there. I've been there a few times over the last decade or so, but it's not quite the same. For one thing, I'm now old enough to have fathered most of the new crowd, and most of the bands I used to see have long since broken up or divided themselves, amoeba-like, into other bands. The new bands just ain't as cool. Sometimes you can't go back. Still, I have many good memories of the place, whether it was the actual music (mostly punk, with the occasional metal, indie rock, or experimental band thrown in to liven things up) or playing leap-frog or wallowing in the trash flung into the audience by early Gilman house-band Isocracy. In exchange for free entry, I even volunteered there a few times, working the door or stage managing.

Check out the current state of Gilman St. here. I scrolled through the calendar and only recognized a handful of band names. Some of them are still at it, I see...

Sometime later, Acrofish would get tired of the smelly denim jacket I was wearing in this picture and tear it into little pieces. I safety-pinned it back together and continued to wear it anyway. It eventually disintegrated for good when I finally tried to wash it.
A supernatural lagomorphic fertility symbol visited our house last night and hid a bunch of colorful little shelled fertility symbols all over the front room. This morning, Willow gleefully found them.

Now, it's raining hard enough for me to hear the constant patter of water on cement. Happy Spring, whether it be about resurrection or renewal. It's all the same concept anyway.

We're all just accumulations of stories.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Tuesday and Wednesday were filled with rain, so we all got muddy as we slogged through the woods. I found a small Garter snake and a baby scorpion (at least two kids mentioned the latter as a highlight of their week during our last class) in the chaparral on Tuesday, and on Wednesday the weather gods allowed us to have a slightly dryer night hike. Thursday brought some much needed sun. For the all day hike, I took the same trail I've been taking for the past few weeks. We visited the dead mole that I first discovered last week, and found it to be a bit more decomposed. Everything is a teaching tool. There are all sorts of lessons to be learned from dead moles.
The kids themselves were pretty well behaved this week. The teen volunteers were generally competent too. Makes for boring reading, I suppose...

Jen is out with a friend right now, and Willow is sleeping. The older kids are at their dad's place. I'm off work all next week, so we have lots of plans to get things done around here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Abyss

The Abyss
Originally uploaded by Corbie.
The rain is causing subsidence and most of the hiking trails have rivulets of water coursing down them. In places, shoes sink into the mud. In other places, as one can see in the photo, the edges are eroding away. This is a chasm caused by a landslide some 15 to 20 years ago. The edge is once again being redefined by the elements. Large chunks of saturated soil have slipped downward. There is a trail that goes around the slide, but a big chunk of it has slipped away as well.
I think some of the kids would have walked right up to the edge if I had let them. Where is the survival instinct?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

In Gowan Ring, Rio Theatre, 4/8/06

Saturday offered us a hint of real Spring, with mild temperatures and no downward rushing moisture. I took Willow to the park while Jen took care of some errands, and as usual she spent some time tossing rocks into the creek, which is currently swollen and chocolatey with sediment.

In the evening, I went over the hill to see In Gowan Ring, Nick Castro, and Whysp at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz. The show was actually held in the lobby of the theatre, with the main auditorium off-limits. When I got there the door wasn't open yet, so I wandered over to Staff of Life to look for a snack. I got something called Primal Strips, a kind of vegetarian jerky which I decided must have earned its name due to the fact that the only way to open the package is to tear it open with your teeth. By the time I got back to the Rio I still hadn't accomplished this. At least it gave me something to do while waiting for the music to start.
When things finally got going, I discovered that In Gowan Ring was actually a full band this time, with Bee using his newly made lyre guitar accompanied by Nick Castro and his band. Afterwards, he showed me another guitar he'd built (the one on the left in the photo) using a leaf-shaped bowl he'd found at a Goodwill store. They started off their set with Mad Michael (aka Crazy Man Michael), which has been a favorite of mine for years, continued with a sublime selection of newish material, and ended it with a Changes song. After a five minute break, they all came back for Nick Castro's set, which included originals and traditional material (the most notable being Willy O'Winsbury, a song I've heard many versions of over the years). It's a shame that more people didn't show up. This is the kind of music that more people need to hear and appreciate - A welcome sidestep from the endless march of time and the so called "progress" it brings. Bee's softly sung songs often seem to be flowing into the present through a window in time left open somewhere in the middle ages. Nick Castro's songs are more rooted in the present, but similar in feel.
They were followed by Whysp, who continue to sound like Incredible String Band. I love the fact that they have a sitar player. They're a lively bunch, with lots of rattling and shaking and strangeness.

Today the rain was back for awhile. We worked in the yard a bit and I finally got locks on all of the big reptile cages. The new cage door on the Monitor cage is much easier to open than the old one, and Jen said she saw Willow trying to open it the other day, so now the Monitor and Python cages have locks. Just in case...
The diaper changing conversation:

Willow: I see my poopoo!

Me: why?

Willow: It's the colors of the wainbow! Green and red and...

Friday, April 07, 2006

It's raining again. As much as I love the rain, I wish the sky would produce something else for awhile. Maybe Oobleck.

One of the volunteers who helped out with my field class this week tried to describe to me an epiphany she had while on the long hike yesterday. She said that she was looking out over the forested landscape after we'd wrapped up the solo hike, and it all just sort of clicked for her. She couldn't really describe the feeling in detail, but I could tell she had made some sort of connection with the natural world. Helping people find that connection, I think, is the reason I do this kind of work. We don't often get to hear that kind of feedback though. If the teenaged volunteers can't put it into words, then the fifth and sixth graders are even less likely to be able to verbalize their feelings beyond saying what they liked and didn't like. Our closing circles at the end of each week are always much less profound than I would hope for. It's sometimes frustrating that more kids don't wake up and smell the wilderness.

This week, before the closing circle I told an old folktale about the relationship between mice and Douglas Fir trees (look at a Douglas Fir cone and you can see that between each scale there is a little protruberance that resembles the hindquarters of a mouse). The story involves talking animals and talking trees, and a Douglas Fir being rescued from a forest fire by rodents. After I had finished it there was a moment of silence, interrupted by one of the kids raising his hand and asking, "was that a true story?"

It's an uphill battle sometimes.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Morning Deer

Morning Deer
Originally uploaded by Corbie.
Here's a moment of peace to keep in mind when things are less than peaceful. My commute to and from work is often the only time I have to myself during the day. This deer was grazing on a sparkling lawn as I pulled into the parking lot at work this morning, so content that it didn't pay the least bit of attention to me.

A fleeting moment, but a powerful one.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

It's still raining. Everybody is still sick. The boys both stayed home from school today. Jen is running a fever. I think I'm getting off light this time, with a bit of a headache and some tiredness.

Being outside invigorates me, even when the rain is turning all of the trails to swamps. I took the kids out in the rain to do a community study in the chaparral this morning, and we very well could have done it in a boat. The whole area was under two to three inches of water and the hills were all waterfalls. Mice were running everywhere, probably because their burrows were all flooded, and the mud was woven with worms. I managed to recapture the same scorpion our group found last week, and the poor thing was glad to have the warmth from my hand. So was the tiny Fence Lizard we found. It didn't want to let go when I released it. The kids were all freezing too, so we cut things short and went back to camp.

More than a few of the kids this week are complaining of stomach pain. A few people have gone home with fevers too.

There are small landslides everywhere. The road was partially blocked this morning. More trees and boulders have made their way onto the road, and the maintainence crews have been hard pressed to keep things cleared. Old-timers say this season has been quite ridiculous. More records are expected to be broken soon.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Originally uploaded by Corbie.
Everybody is sick. The boys actually took naps this afternoon. Sophie has snot coming out of her nose, Jen feels awful, I have a headache and feel more tired than I should, and Willow...

Yesterday evening she had a febrile seizure. She had a fever and had been complaining about not feeling good and wanting to throw up, and then at about 8:30 or so she leaned forward like she was going to throw up and instead went into a seizure, with her eyes rolled back into her head and all of her muscles twitching. Jen held onto her and I called 911. By the time the fire engine and the paramedics got here she was through the worst of it, but totally exhausted and not responding to us. They strapped her car seat to the top of the stretcher and wheeled her out to the ambulance - it was a moment that will stick in my mind: Willow sitting upright like a princess on a litter, with a small, yellow umbrella held over her head to keep the rain off, her face serene with exhaustion and incomprehension, lit by flashing emergency lights.
Jen got in the ambulance and I followed in the van. At the hospital she was more herself. They gave her some tylenol, checked for possible urinary tract infection (okay on that count), and cleared her to come home.

Right now she is getting checked out by her usual doctor. Apparently febrile seizures aren't that uncommon - they tend to happen when a fever increases suddenly. It scared the hell out of us though.

Then, at work today, some mystery kid called 911 from the pay phone out front. By the time I left, they still hadn't figured out who.

On the way home I got pulled over for having a cracked windshield (from that damn tree on Highway 17 a few months back). Of course I had to have big smears of charcoal all over my face. We often do that at work with the kids, utilizing burnt Redwood stumps. If I don't look in a mirror before I get in my car, it doesn't get washed off. The cop looked at me and asked, "are you doing an art project on your face?" Never one to be a smartass in such situations, I told him the truth.

Oh, and I got to use AAA on saturday while M and I were helping Baby O's mother move. I was changing a tire for her when the car fell off the jack. It was only at this point that I realized the bolt one is supposed to place the jack against was quite bent, making it impossible to jack the car up again with the resources available to us. The towtruck driver that came used at least three different jacks to finish the job.

After all was said and done, we went and got Ethiopian food. That was the best part of the weekend. There was even enough left over for me to take it for lunch the next day while putting in some overtime as weekend work crew supervisor at my school.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Some news:

First the good. Bela Tarr's seemingly doomed production of his latest film, The Man From London, is back on track. Better late than never, I say.

Now the bad. Polish science fiction author Stanislaw Lem has passed beyond the horizon at age 84. His legacy still lives, of course. Authors do achieve a kind of immortality, don't they?

My work week was a flurry of rain and mud, with a cold and a stomach bug giving me minor grief along the way. Highlights included finding a tarantula and a scorpion under the same rock, and a generally good group of kids. That said, it is sobering to occasionally discover that some of the kids don't retain a single thing I say to them. One girl couldn't articulate to me a single thing she'd learned during the week. Hmmm.

Last night, I met up with an old friend who I hadn't seen in eleven years . She's living in the guest house at her aunt's place. The house was beautiful, nestled up in the hills and with plenty of wood paneled floors. It was great to see my friend too, and we tried our best to fill in eleven years of history for each other. We've both gone through a number of changes, although she's basically the same person I remember from way back when - full of energy and interesting anecdotes. It was good to reconnect. When we used to hang out we were teenagers and young twenty-somethings. Now forty is waiting to ambush us. There's a distinct sense of unreality about it all.
It's a good thing I ran across her when I did though, because she's moving to the desert. Of course she invited all of us to go stay out there if we're ever in the mood for a desert adventure.