Friday, May 18, 2007

Earthworm Envy!

I met Idaho folks Brandon and Amy by a campfire at the fine You Sabai cooking school in Northern Thailand. Their travel writing, videos and omelet reviews (yes, omelet reviews) will crack you up and make you think. Think David Sedaris, Rolf Potts and Wes Anderson in one package.

Read I'm still Poor, Eating like a Yuppie who shops at the Boise Coop", or check out their beautiful short film of the morning alms ceremony in Luang Prabang.

Trust me on this one. Amy and Brandon are true Rucksack Wanderers, flat broke and enlightened, armed with a camera, a lap-top, a wicked sense of humor and the truth.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Last Great Explorer...

On one of my last days in Bangkok I ate lunch with the explorer Steve Van Beek, who told me about the Last Great Explorer, Wilfred Thesiger, who crossed the Empty Quarter of Arabia, lived amongst the Bedouin and finally died four years ago at the age of 93. I'm reading Thesiger's classic travelogue "Arabian Sands" in front of a roaring fire tonight, and went online to post an excerpt that struck me as particularly profound - and I will post it below - but I just went to Wikipedia to confirm the year of Wise Old Wilfred's death and came upon an even better quote that deserves to come first:

"The long-term effect of US culture as it spreads to every nook and cranny in every desert and every mountain valley will be the end of mankind. Our extraordinary greed for material possessions, the ways we go about nurturing that greed, the lack of balance in our lives, and our cultural arrogance will kill us off within a century unless we learn to stop and think. It may be too late."

Damn straight.

And now here's the second quote, which works quite well in contrast with the one above:

"In the desert I had found a freedom unattainable in civilization; a life unhampered by possesions, since everything that was not a necessity was an encumbrance. I had found, too, a comradeship inherent in the circumstances, and the belief that tranquillity was to be found there. I had learnt the satisfaction which comes from hardship and the pleasure which derives from abstinence: the contentment of a full belly; the richness of meat; the taste of clean water; the ecstasy of surrender when the craving for sleep became a torment; the warmth of a fire in the chill of dawn."

That's an eloquent articulation of a sentiment that I've been trying to get at in my writing and in my life for a long time. I hope that by transcribing Thesiger's words I can learn to write half so well as him.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Swimming Upstream (More Truth)

It's an absolutely gorgeous spring day here in Kingdom Country - buds popping, birds singing, frogs humping frantically in the pond.

Josh Kearns just wrote a piece called The Crisis of Too Much Energy that will spin your head. Here's an excerpt:

"All you need to understand is that the real energy crisis is that we have too much energy. The way politicians, the media, corporations, economists, etc. make it sound you’d think we don’t have enough now, and that we’re really anxious about the future when our energy needs will be even greater because of population growth and economic expansion and stuff like that. But this is a just a good test for my rule of thumb about reality: whatever they’re saying on the TV news – on Fox, on CNN, etc. – is probably just about the opposite of reality. I mean if you watch the news and play a game of “opposite day,” like we did in third grade, then you will have a better idea of reality more than fifty percent of the time."

Click here to read more. It's the best thing I've read all week. And when you're done with the article, scroll on down for sweet pics from the Himalayas.


Sunday, May 06, 2007


Read the quote below, and then sit down and think about it for a while. It's from the excellent Little Blog in the Big Woods, which I recently added a link to under the heading Cantankerous Wisdom.

"Any attempt to live "green" or "sustainable" by definition includes taking the time to think, and see- every day. It's partly the hurry that is killing us- we zip right past obvious disasters in the making, and explain we just don't have time to do anything about it anyway.

We have to. It's not a matter of philosophy anymore-

The hurry is killing us. No exaggeration; no hyperbole, no paranoia.

Killing us."

This is the truth.
Slow down.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

New Article! "The Way to the North Sea: Teuri Island" at

"For two years I lived in Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s four islands, a place Jack Kerouac once called a wasteland of the world. Of course, Kerouac never actually crossed the Pacific to see Hokkaido for himself, and if he had, he would have found the sort of place he loved - frontier country, split by open highways and empty rails, with brown bears in the mountains and salmon rushing up the river-mouths.

Japan’s wasted lands lie to the south, where the bullet train blasts through sterile encrustations of square apartments and glass-walled office buildings, where salary men and their Louis Vuitton wives live walled in from the world, divorced from Shinto traditions of intimacy with land. For decades engineers and politicians have planned to extend the bullet train to Hokkaido, but for now the North Sea Road is still wild at the fringe.

I want to tell you about my favorite place in Hokkaido, although now that I think about it, Teuri Island isn’t part of Hokkaido at all. It’s a smudge on the horizon off Highway 233, a rock in the Sea of Japan on the way to Vladivostok. Over a million seabirds breed on Teuri each summer, clinging to nesting-cliffs raucous with joy. “There’s fish to eat and babies to make,” the birds scream. “We’re here, we’re alive! Here and alive!' "

Click here to read the rest of the article (and learn where to find the best sea urchin roe in Japan).