For all her achievements and triumphs, America just hasn’t been the same since the good ol’ days when the Emperor ran the show.
It was a brief sliver of eccentric history (or ‘eccentristory’ – I’m copyrighting that title) that should never be forgotten. And for some who live in San Francisco, where Emperor Norton breathed the free air of his glorious domain, it’s a cause worth championing. If nothing else, he was a testament to the spirit of the San Franciscan penchant for enfolding the quirky and unrepentantly goofy into the city’s lore. This wouldn’t have happened in Omaha.
Consider this an education on the potential of the politic of passion, a reimagining of a man’s place in the society that – to his mind – has clipped the wings of his security and left him abandoned in the ether. One cannot be defeated if one is the champion of one’s own self-proclaimed might. Kudos to Emperor Norton for making up his own rules, and Super-Kudos to San Francisco for buying in.
No one knows for certain the details of his origin story, but we do know that Joshua Abraham Norton came to us from somewhere in England via South Africa in 1849 after receiving a hefty bequest of $40,000 from his late father’s estate. He parlayed that money into a successful dance around the real estate market, building his fortune up to a cool quarter-million within a few short years. But Mr. Norton was always on the lookout for the next big opportunity. In this case, it drifted beneath his nose in the form of a news release from China. Read more…
The air was as thick as a steak and almost as full of blood. Lieutenant, Junior Grade Dieter Dengler stared at each of his fellow P.O.W.s and wondered which of them would be up for the escape. There were three men from Thailand, one Chinese man, and an American “kicker” named Eugene DeBruin, all of whom had been working for the CIA’s Air America, covertly delivering food and supplies to refugees in the early stew of the Vietnam War. The other man was First Lieutenant Duane W. Martin, the only other American serviceman among them.
The Chinese man, Y.C. To, was suffering from a fever – he wasn’t likely to keep up. But postponement of the escape was not an option; one of the Thais had overheard a guard mutter something about taking the seven men out to the jungle and shooting them, making it look like they’d been trying to flee. Now the flee would have to be.
Dieter was the one who drew up the scenario. He’d slip out of his restraints while the guards were eating, grab some weapons, then let the bullets fly. Dieter had trained for this. He was ready.
As a boy in Wildberg, Germany, Dieter had always dreamed of being a pilot. He’d never met his father, and was raised under the tutelage of his grandfather – the lone citizen of his hometown who had not voted for the Nazi Party. Dieter packed up what little he had and made for New York City, where he lived on the gritty streets for a week before popping into the local Air Force recruiting station. Read more…
People often ask me whether or not I worry about running out of interesting topics before this thousand days is up. My response is always the same. “Of course not,” I tell them. “I haven’t yet written about toilet gods.”
Well, today I throw caution at the swirling fan and cash in on one of our species’ most notably bizarre predilections: assigning a higher power to the place where we poop.
Modern religions have spent too long on the proverbial fence, blindly adhering to its monotheistic principles and paying no mind to our spiritual doody needs. There is no patron saint of having eaten too many spicy enchiladas last night, nor am I aware of any Hebrew or Muslim prayer to combat lactose intolerance. We must look to the faiths of the ancients for this.
In old-timey Japan, bodily waste wasn’t buried underground and forgotten. It would be collected and spread around the fields, acting as a fertilizer and completing that grand circle of life that most of us would rather not think about. For this reason, the kawaya kami (toilet god) was a god of fertility. Not the fun kind of fertility that we usually (but not always) reserve for another room in the house, but the food/crop sort of fertility. Sometimes family members would sit in front of the toilet and eat a bowl of rice in order to appease the god.
The other big plus in praying to kawaya kami was for protection. Collecting fertilizer material from toilet basins was dirty work, but also a bit on the dangerous side. There was the risk of tumbling into the muck and drowning, which is probably the worst way to die this side of inhaling next to Ann Coulter. Kawaya kami – if properly appeased by your consumption of malodorous rice – can save you from such a fetid fate. Read more…
This year the news has been splattered by alarming weather reports like a silent film soundstage wall after take thirteen of an epic pie fight. Much of the western world has been grappling with weather that we in Edmonton call ‘regular winter’. I’m not trying to minimize the unusual meteorological hip-check nature has bestowed upon my more southernly friends – after all, up here we’re well stocked with snow tires, city plows and vehicle block heaters. The folks in Texas, not so much.
Perhaps the most common and least valuable platitude here is “it could be worse.” The bone-scraping cold and soul-squishing wind are brutal, but at least they’re unleashing their fury during the vacuum of the winter months. When the silver light of spring shows up, nature’s insipid polar fart will be nothing more than a series of old photos, buried deep in the tomb of distant newsfeeds.
In 1816, there was no such relief. The winter was winter, but spring and summer were slaughtered like calves en route to becoming veal marsala, cut down in the prime of youth. Historically they call it the Year Without A Summer. Its effects were cruel but the wonky residue may have given birth to the Old West, the Model T, the Book of Mormon and the Depression-era fad of spooky horror flicks. That’s a hell of a weather pattern.
It all began with the massive eruption of Mount Tambora, located on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia. This was one of only two VEI-7 eruptions in the past millennium – and that scale only goes up to 8. This occurred on April 15, 1815, and while the 100 cubic kilometers of solid earth the volcano blasted into neighboring communities caused a virtual apocalypse for locals, the ash and toxins pumped into the atmosphere would sneak up and bitch-slap the rest of the planet several months later. Read more…
In traditional French haute-cuisine (which is defined as French food that is neither fries nor onion soup nor yellow bottled mustard), sauces are the most crucial part of the dish. If you think of your entrée as Star Wars, the sauce would be John Williams’ indelible score. French food without sauce would be like Italian food without tomatoes, Chinese food without rice, or traditional American hot dogs without anus-meat and scads of unpronounceable chemicals. It just isn’t done.
Any great tradition in gastronomy deserves a semblance of order from which the chaos of creativity may embark. The first man to attempt to reconcile the numerous sauces in which French cuisine was swimming was Marie-Antoine Carême, who was very much a male despite ‘Marie’ being his first name. Carême was a celebrity chef in the early 1800’s who concocted hundreds of liquid pleasures in which he could smother his chicken, beef, or whatever. His kitchen-mate, Dennis Leblanc, summarized Carême’s work into four primary sauces.
The Mother Sauces.
Auguste Escoffier, who rolled into food-fame a full century later, altered the list and proclaimed there to be five Mother Sauces from which all other sauces would derive. Escoffier is the architect behind what we now call French cuisine. He invented a number of dishes, from fraises à la Sarah Bernhardt (strawberries with pineapple and Curaçao sorbet, and how the hell did I just type that without drooling?) to plain ol’ Melba toast. But his epic tome, Le Guide Culinaire, left his strongest fingerprint on the edible art of French cooking – those amazing sauces.
Béchamel sauce, named for the marquis de Béchamel, is a white sauce made from a roux of butter and flour cooked in milk. Béchamel was the chief steward to Louis XIV. I don’t know what that means, though I suspect it has nothing to do with bringing him wine or grabbing him an extra pillow from the overhead compartment. It was an honorary title, as the marquis was a successful businessman and patron of the arts. In French society, having a vineyard or a province named after you was alright, but a rich creamy sauce? That’s top-tier respect, baby. Read more…
I think it’s safe to say that I will probably never be fantastic with money. After five years of earning the mellifluous bounty of government dronesmanship, my savings account barely contains enough money to pay for the tumbleweeds that would best represent just how barren and empty it is. I took a microeconomics course in college, but all I remember from it is that I can’t stand microeconomics.
But I have accepted this tiny personal shortcoming. I’m aware that my eyes gloss over when I read about someone trying to forecast the Dow Jones or speculate on commodity futures outside of the safe, easily-explained parameters of the movie Trading Places.
And honestly, I still don’t fully understand all that stock market shit at the end of the movie.
But that’s partly why I’m here, slapping a kilograph upon this vast public yonder every day – I’m trying to learn something. Sure, some days I stick to subjects I know, like mixtapes or fugitive glue, but it’s nice to get knuckles-deep in a hearty stew of new information and previously-unexplored concepts. And since the only way I know how to balance a checkbook is on the top of my head (and even then, it’s a longshot), maybe digging into some economic concepts would be good for me.
Maybe this will push me over the edge into the chasm of fiscal responsibility. Gone will be the days of splurging on autographed dental floss or souvenir merchandise from the 1995 movie Batman Forever. Now I’ll crack the code, re-work my investment stratagem and live my life in the black.
Not that I’ll be giving up this snappy denim number anytime soon.
It all begins with Veblen goods. Read more…
If my beloved reading audience will allow, I would like to shill for a minute. While we here at 1000 Words Labs earn enough from our side income as puppeteer-superheroes to make sponsorship unnecessary, we nevertheless believe in paying tribute to those wondrous businesses who fuel our survival throughout these 1000 days. They aren’t ‘sponsors’ per se; we’d rather not sneeze ads all over our articles and risk offending our readers’ sensibilities. But while these companies in no way officially endorse the intermingling of consonants and vowels on this site, they are worthy of a mention, simply for their commitment to being awesome.
Naturally the first unofficial sponsor was a brewery, because only a moderate state of drunkenness can make an endeavor such as writing a million words for no money seem logical. Rogue Ales fit the bill, since they are the only company brave enough to brew a beer using bacon. But eventually my heart steered me a little closer to home, to the finest legal intoxicant to call Alberta home, the sweet, sweet nectar of Big Rock beer. My stomach has become somewhat jealous of the attention my liver receives on this site (and my taste buds are always happy to be whores for my art), so I feel a food tribute is in order. Since I spend almost all my restaurant money at Da-De-O’s New Orleans-style diner here in town, and since the hands of Wiki-fate were gracious enough to serve me a mess o’ Cajun Cuisine, today my stomach gets top billing.
This is where I get the stomach-strength to give up a life for this project.
I should point out that I spent one of my formative years toiling in the kitchen of another, now defunct local Cajun place. I suppose it’s in my blood, despite the fact I’ve never set foot in the state of Louisiana. I’ve always been a New Orleans Saints fan and wanted my own airboat too. Go figure. Read more…