in love and divorce

we make legal arrangements for a while
and make-believe that we're enraptured
my left ring finger says:
'you are the real me'

but you aren't
no one is


but the river (water woes)

i want to see the river like i'm meant to,
in reverence empassioning moonshine,
my arteries are rushing on without me
their winter woes are never on their minds

i was blind, but now i
blindly make conjecture
-through flood season
onto memory banks
and cameras can't ascertain at all
on the bridge, from the shore, what we see
the rushingrivers soundingsinto fall

how dark and deep and dangerous
my ideas about the water there
but the river just doesn't care

like it used to


squirrel's (corvallis, or)

squirrel's tavern on a monday night.
by joel. photos by amber (amber's blog).

if it's a week night and you didn't plan dinner, you may want to head on down to squirrel's tavern on 2nd street. their atmosphere is tasty, their decibel level is palatable and their burgers are deliciously spot-on. squirrel's does everything you wish those fast food blokes would do for just slightly more cost. here's a little taste of what that's like:

salad (surprising)
we got a $3 side salad, which we fully expected to consist of iceberg and tomato cubes. surprisingly, this little dish contained fresh dark green lettuce, sprouts, croutons, tomatoes and red onions - everything we would have asked for. dairy-free folks beware: the salad was also covered in multiple kinds of cheese.

squirrel's served us a tasty, juicy and flavorful burger (medium rare) for $6. this is the sort of thing that you dream about when you see a burger king ad, only to be disappointed each time you visit a franchise location. squirrel's can deliver, ladies and gentlemen.

we weren't in the drinking mood, but found that they had reasonable prices on pbr (a must for downtown) and no less than a dozen micros on tap. there's a draw-back here: there isn't a happy hour, which, at $4.25 a pint, makes this a one-drink location for beer snobs.

do you need a cheap, laid-back mcmenamins-style burger joint? are you interested in chatting while your drink your beer, instead of shouting over the music and the general roar? on any non-concert night, squirrel's is your joint. check it out soon.

bonus points:
+1 soy-free french fries.
+1 free wi-fi.



the half-life, much like half-caf "coffee," leaves me with a scorching caffeine headache and an insatiable lust for living large. ladies and gentlemen, i am a full-time food service worker.

it's one of those things that follows in a long line of other things: laziness, college, debt, no job skills, desperation, deep-frying chicken (always and forever in that order). i may have to remind you as i often remind myself that this is life, it's all we have, and it's brilliant if you want it to be.

the world (at last sighting).

p.s. if you'd like to read some of my recent work, you can find my food column here.



in the beginning of this story i was jumping to my certain death off a moving train. i've been posting short segments that narrate the events of our time as novice freight-hoppers. use caution: they're out of order.

a train that you could hop but probably shouldn't. photo: freefoto.com

i would not advise dying without first consulting your doctor. it's silly and irresponsible. if you do, however, want to read about a couple of boys from the western suburbs doing bad, bad things that get them killed, you can follow along with this completely extraneous story. here's a bucket list of items you probably want to accomplish before you leap to your death off a moving train. (trust me, i'm an expert):

play hide and seek
we were discovered on the first afternoon by two railroad employees doing a routine check of the train. "do you have any animals with you?" was their initial question. the clipboard, on which they needed to initial the 'all-clear' for this unit, was mounted on the wall behind us.

the railroad employees seemed cautious and benign. i offered them a beer. in fact, even after the railroad folks discovered us, michael and i kept on riding that train. the fellows had switched on the air conditioning for us, a step we hadn't taken before because it periodically made the unit's diesel engine kick on.

the days were long and hot. we huddled down below the windows, mostly only emerging after dark. we weren't quite sure where we were. we did remember recently being in denver, colorado...

dine gourmet
 michael and i had the luxury, of spending some of our time leaping off a temporarily stalled freight train and searching for food nearby. i went to safeway. there i got peanut butter and cookies and sprinted back to the surprisingly-hesitant train.

after we ran out of money, our little grocery trips got a touch more interesting. innocent by-standers in the line for subway sandwich in a rural kansas town caught sight of a long-haired northerner in short shorts, running shoes and a pink bandana as he lept into the trash can and rummaged for exactly 15 seconds. back at the train, michael and i nibbled on scraps of sandwiches and a quarter bag of sun chips.
don't die in kansas
in hindsight, we really should have planned for this. we stashed our bags, complete with one guitar (r.i.p. blue) and two laptops, in the bathroom of the unit and went out searching for food-laden dumpsters across a thickly planted field in the rural kansas sun. turning to see our train was moving, michael and i sprinted after that sucker...

and lying in the gravel below the tracks, i found myself struggling to come to terms with my injuries. skinned knees and shredded jeans for sure; but there was also some bruising around my legs and one hip felt displaced.

next came the memories: i had run after the train, trying to grab on an external ladder. i had succeeded in gripping it, but  had let go to avoid being swung beneath the wheels by the forward energy of the moving train. i looked back to see michael was having similar problems. my second jump had been a rush, and i actually felt grateful that my momentum had sent me head-first into the gravel below.

while watching the next train pass, i turned around to see that michael was gone. he had lept aboard on a wild guitar and backpack chase.

and i found myself alone, standing in the dust, bleeding in the sun in a rural kansas field.


the trouble with gmo's

gmo corn being harvested. photo by scott olson/getty images.
gmo's (genetically modified organisms) and gmo foods have made quite a stir lately. in the news, california's proposition 37, if passed next week, will require all vendors of food made with gmo ingredients to label them. even though almost every other first-world country requires labeling of gmo foods of gmo foods, it is not currently required in any state in the united states.

genetically modified foods are edible organisms that have had their dna spliced with the genetic code from another organism. they arrived on the scene in the us around 1996, and they really took off. after fifteen years with no gmo labels on our foods, though, many grass-roots groups are advocating for all that to change. so why the big fuss now?
the fuss
gmo foods in the us are limited to a list of just a few species, but pervasive ones. according to the institute for responsible technology, "currently commercialized gm crops in the u.s. include soy (94%), cotton (90%), canola (90%), sugar beets (95%), corn (88%), hawaiian papaya (more than 50%), zucchini and yellow squash (over 24,000 acres)."

in the united states, corn, soybeans and canola are some of the major building blocks from which food scientists construct many processed foods. in fact, the center for food safety says gmo's make up about 70% of processed foods sold in the us (source). it's sometimes hard to document exactly which ones they are, though, because they're not labeled.

the current legal gmo's haven't been genetically modified to produce higher yields, better nutrition or even drought resistance. according to the non-gmo project, "virtually all commercial gmo's are engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide."

the existence of herbicide-resistant crops means that farmers can spray weed killer directly on the food and still have a harvest to yield; and that's exactly what our friends at the monsanto corporation have been doing for over a decade (see monsanto's description of round up-ready crops).

ingesting round up on a regular basis sounds to the untrained ear like a recipe for disaster; and there's some evidence that it is. thirty peer-reviewed animal studies found that gmo foods caused problems in the liver, kidneys and blood, along with  the development of abnormal immune responses and reproductive abnormalities in the animals that ate them.

more importantly, a lifetime study on rats released last month in the peer-reviewed journal food and toxicology suggested a new side effect of gmo foods - cancer. the rats that consumed gmo foods from the monsanto corporation along with the herbicide normally sprayed on them (round up) developed large tumors in various places in their bodies.

gmo studies like the ones mentioned above are very controversial. the usda considers a lengthening list of genetically modified foods to be safe for consumption. the companies that develop the crops consider them great for profit margins. more than that, there aren't any long-term studies that specifically focus on the physiological reaction or human beings to gmo's. could 70% of our processed food really be cancer-causing without us knowing about it?

guinea pigs
rats develop must faster than humans, and gmo's have not been around long enough for us to see the lifetime effects on human beings... yet. true, as many scientists and chemical company representatives have pointed out, much of the most conclusive evidence linking gmo's to cancer comes from just one study. and yet, this one study is the only peer-reviewed study that has run long enough to test if gmo's and their complimentary herbicides (like round up) cause cancer when ingested. time, and many, many more studies will have to tell if the results have will be duplicated.

for the moment, however, we are right in the middle of a lab experiment of our own. the american food system is so inundated with genetically modified foods that it has become taboo to label them. we, the uninformed consumers, are the test group; the control will be certain western european countries that won't touch the stuff. and in fifty years...

more conclusive studies need to be done before we can say whether gmo foods are safe for human consumption. in the meantime, however, you may be interested in escaping the grand-scale experimentation at play, there are ways to diminish the genetically modified foods in your diet.
here's what you can do
want to avoid getting cancer from the food you eat? though gmo foods are un-labeled in the store, you can get get a pretty good idea of what is and isn't gmo if you follow the following guidelines:

  • go to the farmers' market!
    here's a great chance to talk with the farmer who grew your food. ask him or her how they feel about gmo's, and find out if they use gmo seed or animal feed. there's an online list of 120 oregon farmers markets here.
  • buy organic at the supermarket.
    if the food you're buying has a usda organic label, it is legally required to have 95% organic ingredients. you can find more info on the national organic program website. while gmo's officially cannot be marketed as usda organic, there is no system in place to test for gmo contamination in already certified foods.
  • do a little readingmany companies in need of a little marketing boost have voluntarily paid for a certification process to ensure their foods are gmo-free. the non-gmo project has a list of gmo-free products here. you can also check out the center for food safety's non-gmo shopper's guide.


moving trains

the last time i mentioned one of my freight-hopping trips, i left off about the part where michael and i were huddling down in the moonlit sprawl of a freight car full of scrap metal. this was kinda cool and all, but we were starting to get somewhat discouraged by the realization that this train wasn't moving.

i stole this picture from the internets in case
anyone was having a hard time
imagining a scrap metal train car.
as discouraged as we were with not-moving trains, somewhere in the future michael and i would have trouble with trains that moved too much. on this night, however, we decided to make the critical decision of hopping on the next moving train we saw (more or less). this looks a lot easier and a lot less terrifying than it is.

we stayed outta sight. the engineer came through at the beginning of the train. these guys have radios and can communicate to a variety of anti-freight-hopping sources. engineers, however tend to be nice. maybe we should have...

avoided the bulls. being an amateur, i mostly focused my bull-avoiding energy on being paranoid that this would happen to me. there are plenty of sites online wherein "expert" hoppers give you all kinds of advice. i had not read any of those sites. we definitely put some effort into...

staying loose. it took a couple of different tries to get a train that was going out of the yard. once we did, however, we discovered that one of the engines (called "units" in the train hoppers dictionary) was unlocked. i guess this is standard procedure for one of the two major freight train corporations in the u.s.

in the unit, we found a chair with dashboard controls, a small bathroom, a mini fridge, and a case of water. we were on our way in style... but where?

we slept on the floor, sleeping bags rolled out beneath us. peering out at times at the darkened lanscape hastening by us. where is all this going? my caffeine-deprived brain barely managed the question as i drifted into a restless sleep.

a midnight train going anywhere? this was just like that journey song about the streetlight people.


dear corvallis

source: http://last-lost-empire.com/blog/?p=1318
dear corvallis,

do you feel like your vote doesn’t count? me too! the more i have studied history and examined current events, the more i have been convicted that something is wrong with the structure of politics in the states.

the way i look at it, the option to vote for the “lesser of two evils” doesn’t constitute much of a choice. the current state of affairs locks political contenders in to receiving financial support from large, non-local banks and corporations, which then have leverage over them once they are elected. we need candidates, both locally and nationally, who aren’t forced to raise extremely large sums of money just to make it into office.

this is why i want you to consider voting for corvallis citymeasure 02-81. the measure is an advisory to the city council – one that communicates an important truth both clearly and concisely. we, the citizens of corvallis, don’t agree with the u.s. supreme court’s finding that corporations should have the same rights as individual people; and we want to amend the us constitution to reflect this.

i realize that, just because the citizens of corvallis may vote in favor of this measure in a few weeks, a constitutional amendment won’t form overnight. many cities around the country have already taken similar steps toward ending “corporate personhood” and making individual votes count once again. now it’s corvallis’ turn. let’s move toward freeing up our representatives to focus on serving us, their constituents, and making them less accountable to the highest bidder.

long live democracy!


they are a-changin'

i found out today that i'll be moving to downtown a little later in the month. this is a dream come true for me. i have wanted for a long time to live right at the center of a city and take long walks day and night.

it would be a little cliche to say that i haven't updated this blog because i've been so busy. many, many blogs and websites have scattered and apologetic entries form months ago topping their pages - just hundreds of thousands, if not millions of abandoned slices of an infinite(!?) cyberspace.

the truth is that i haven't updated this blog because, lately, i have been a voracious velociraptor with literally hundreds of things on each day's to-do list. here's a little taste of what that's like:

...swim practice...
...suppress democracy...

...turning off alarm clock...
...spice bun...

...much too busy to blog.
well, at least now you know what i've been up to. man, i should have live-tweeted at least half of it. what about you? ant comparable adventures?

as ever,

joel (the dinosaur)



terrorism (n)
the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.
this definition has been helpful for me in getting back to the roots of the word and the concept. i used to think that the word 'terrorist' meant someone who would kill or harm un-armed civilians to make a statement - you know, like flying planes into buildings and stuff.
yet many of my friends are "terrorists" for blocking the doors to banks or disrupting the logging plans of one company or another (and even the state of oregon). none of them did anything to intimidate anyone, yet they bear a government-assigned title which renders them as enemies of society.

the fbi defines terror like this: “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” (source)

force against property for social objectives? this means you never have to become violent or even threaten violence to be a terrorist in the u.s. 
the department of homeland security, which lists the protection of u.s. economic interests as a major component of its mission, sicked thirty riot cops on us for standing in front of the bank with signs (may 1, 2012 in eugene). this dhs group is operated out a fusion center known as the oregon terrorism information threat assessment network, which  focuses on the "sharing of threat-related information between the federal government and state, local, tribal, territorial (sltt) and private sector partners."
private sector partners. the department of homeland security answered directly to the bank we were protesting!

when i protest, i put myself directly in the way of fully-armed and potentially violent men and women with the power to charge me with any crime they so desire. my experience protest, on the whole, has been self-sacrificial where it could have been intimidating, positive and kind where it could have been negative and vicious. 

for me, one model protestor is martin luther king jr., who spoke out against an unjust war and domestic systems of racism and classism at great personal cost. another is jesus, who stood up against a still-iconic empire and made the mold for non-violent resistance. jesus emphasized the greatest way to love was to "lay down your life for your friends." hardly a terrorist.
the first time i saw a police officer point a gun at me, i had feelings of sheer horror that reached down to my toes. i saw officers strike un-armed women with their clubs and the feelings of fear reached their height. for effective terrorism, you can't beat the u.s. government. as my friends always say, 'the state has a corner on violence.'

will potter writes a catchy little ditty about the canadian government's efforts to re-brand long-standing domestic environmental groups as "terrorists".


23 flavors

the first thing i'll do when i get home is
stick my feet in boulder creek
'cause he's led me beside stagnate waters
and grass that's greener lingered on the other side

the first thing i'll say when i arrive is
'where is the salsa?'
and 'pass the chips'

but the Lord is my shepherd
so what i want i shouldn't
where i've been i wasn't
and what i've done i haven't

he's restored my preoccupation with the metaphysical
and dogmatically directs my political affiliations for his name's sake

yea, though i may
sleep all day
- my mind might slip -
and my clothes could fray,

i will fear no evil
for night is coming
and, at night,
we shine

your rod and your staff, they
batter my ignorance of pastoral metaphor
the deepest dark is all around, about,

but i don't need a Shepherd
i won't be wanting living all alone
'cause i really only wanted to be home


that one time when we planted a garden

this sign talks about possible future watermelons
(see plant in cage). also featuring grapes (left) and
raspberries (center).
i had a wild idea. i approached the friends and family members with a proposition: what if we planted our very own garden? it would be great, they said. here's how it went down:

in december we selected the plot  - a rectangular section of my parents' backyard in tangent, oregon. this area had been used for gardening before, but was currently growing an enormous crop of weeds.

our task for january was to fill up the garden plot with a thick layer of leaves. luckily, my parents' yard has about a dozen deciduous trees in it. this task had already been done (to some extent) for several previous years. this year, i jumped in and got some of my siblings to help out.

i set up a compost bucket right outside the kitchen window of my parents' house. we were going to need a lot of compost, so we started early. we tried to compost grass clippings and table scraps, but no meat.

we started tilling up the ground in late march. this proved to be a difficult task, as the ground was still significantly mucky. it was also difficult when the gas tiller we were using lit itself on fire. from then on we had the pleasure of tilling using a hoe. it was a great workout.

we started planting in march, but most of the seeds and sprouts that we put in the ground failed to survive the frosts. through this we learned to get specific advice from experienced folks about what to plant when, and not to just trust the vague color-coded maps on the back of the seed packets.

we also got chickens. aren't they cute?
my parents asked us to take them back.

we really got to planting in april. new plants replaced their old, frost-killed comrades. we planted six rows of corn and several cucumbers (spoilers: the cukes didn't make it). the compost pile, newly developed and labelled 'compost, yo', had started to toast its bad self. it smelled gross.

we set down black plastic cover a big area of the yard to create an annex garden, hoping to kill the grass and simultaneously prevent the weeds from spreading their seeds over this area. the idea didn't fully work, but we planted watermelons there anyway. we dug out the ground in the planting spots and replaced it with weed seed-free soil, placing watermelon seeds (and a few more cucumber seeds) a couple of inches deep in it and covering around the plants with our very own compost after they sprouted.

 the peas came out in june. though bunnies had been munching on the sprouts intermittently in the previous months, these deliciously sweet vegetables survived.

at this point, we were mainly focused on watering and weeding the garden. my sister rachel watered most every day. she's quite something, folks. we also started harvesting the peas. they tasted tasty.
a plant tries to grow in our very own garden.
come august, we had begun to set about the business of harvesting tomatoes, beans and basil. eating our very own vegetables gave the feeling of great accomplishment.

note: our garden is currently full of weeds. this is due to a few reasons which we have already identified. we really should have covered the ground more and spent more time weeding early on. the real success of this garden is that we have learned how to succeed more triumphantly next year.

amber weeds tomatoes in our very own garden.
vincent warren comments this week on assange, manning and the importance of the freedom of the press to democracy.



we don't exist

we don't exist in a vacuum, as convenient as that might be. because we're alive and co-habitating on earth, any disconnection we can conjure tends to be of the artificially motivated and anti-humanitarian bent.

you might hear writers, thinkers and speakers articulating a particular human condition as an 'inter-mingling of destinies.'

it's true.

schisms turn to rifts, and erupt into chasms. gravity has a way of working with gale-force winds, and tree-clingers fall, limbs ripped from the icy branches in an awesome display of 'just because.'

houselessness and poverty are states of being which are becoming increasingly ciminalized in the u.s. in cities like boulder, co, sleeping outside is a crime punishable by ticketing. in trendier cities like san francisco and berkeley, california, it is a punishable crime to sit on the sidewalk.

source: endhomelessness.org
cnbc reported "18.4 million vacant homes in the u.s." last year, while the annual homeless assessment report to congress recently reported the documented the emergency shelter stays of 1.6 million houselesss human beings in the states.

there are least eleven open and available houses for every person freezing on these streets.

 houseless people are often considered a problem for which the government is constructing creative solutions - yet survival fires, urban gardening and unlicensed makeshift shelters are almost universally illegal in the states. houseless folks are not hitting bad luck in nature; it's society that's kicking them out and holding them back.

it's true that in the states there are not enough jobs. money is tight; and yet resources are far from scarce.

even though there is enough food to feed them, enough clean water for them to drink and enough sewers to carry away their waste, the poor and houseless are subject to a cycle of supply and demand engineered to maximize profits for landowners.

dec 30: with violent crime still on the rise, the oakland police
department owns up to its true priorities and mobilizes to evict
houseless people from a foreclosed house. flickr: @geekeasy
worse than any economic condition, the enforcement of property ownership has separated those who could not (literally or figuratively) inherit land and scattered many into hiding. a commonly voiced isolationist maxim advocates for living "off the grid," but...

we cannot continue to trust and invest in a system that causes this kind of division. we cannot continue to endorse and proliferate capitalism:

  • because in our system money is no longer "facilitating exchange" in a manner that is beneficial to human beings.
  • because our trees and our soil are not, in fact, capable of withstanding infinite expansion.
  • because the token american export is swiftly detonated explosives.
war and poverty are not so different; both are inflicted by the rich and powerful on the poor and disenfranchised through forcefully insistent intermediaries.
what these two oppressions have in common may be the us empire's ultimate undoing: because the rich insisted on agitating the poor, the class war has already begun.

"a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death." - martin luther king jr. (1967)