Friday Fives – more about the Tap


Your favorite book?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  You know that already, though.  Let’s mix it up, then, and say ‘Lamb: the gospel of christ according to his best friend Biff’.  I really, really like this new author.  Well… new to me.

Your favorite movie?

Big Fish.  Re-reading over this, before I hit ‘publish’, maybe I should have said ‘Spinal Tap’.  There is a 2 page diatribe down there on how great the film is, how great the actors are, and how incredible it is that they wrote and scored and improvised the film.  But… you know that movie.  You may not know ‘Big Fish’.  It is perfect storytelling.  The cinematography is stunning.  Can you imagine if Tim Burton tried to make something joyful?  Just for once?  Well, with Big Fish, he did.  Don’t worry, it still has his wife.  (Shakes fist in the air).  Don’t just watch the movie, just go buy it.  Get it in blu-ray, too.  You really want the full cinematic experience, if you can.  Don’t have blu ray yet?  Buy it… just for this movie.

Your favorite adaptation of a book to a movie?

 Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.  So good it is freaky!  Depp goes FULL Hunter Thompson in this role.  Not just window dressing, either.  HST was in full cooperation with the film… well… as cooperative as someone like HST could be.  Depp lived with Hunter for months before the filming.  They became fast and close friends.  So much so that when Hunter died, Depp paid for the whole ‘launching his ashes into space from a Gonzo fist cannon that was several stories high’.  Yeah, that isn’t a typo or urban legend.  It happened, and all thanks to Johnny.  They had a kinship all along as they are both from Kentucky.

 Your least favorite adaptation ever of anything to a movie?

Being a book guy, I am always supposed to say ‘the book was better’.  However, I have almost universally enjoyed adaptations of my favorite books into movies.  I like to see the creativity of filmmakers trying to capture such an ephemeral thing.  For example, the last ‘Alice in Wonderland’ movie with Johnny Depp.  Everyone shit on it.  There are good reasons to shit on it – it WAY over featured Johnny Depp, and of course since it was Burton the lead role went to his wife.  He does that EVERY FUCKING MOVIE.  Though my praise for Depp’s acting in ‘Fear & Loathing’ is effusive… he isn’t too good in this movie.  Too hammy, just chewing up scenery being all proud of himself for looking clever.  We can blame Burton for that, though.

But… I loved it (Fear & Loathing, that is).  Here is why – everyone has told that story in various forms of film.  It’s a classic.  The Burton one, though, is a totally different telling.  It takes a story never told… which is what happens if Alice goes back to that world as an adult.  What happens?  Who is there?  Did anything, or anyone, change?  Did it ever really happen?  I think that is cool and creative.  I haven’t seen the second one, but I will.  I waited on purpose.  Since it was reviewed to badly, I knew I could wait and just buy a bluray copy for $10.  I like those (as opposed to just watching it on Amazon) because you get all the featurettes and behind the scenes stuff.

 Your first ever novel/comic book/movie character crush?

  • Editors note: Long diatribe warning

The guys in Spinal Tap.  I mean, it is just some British actors playing dumb, right?  Not remotely!  The actors are all American, and improvised the entire movie, AND wrote AND performed those songs.  It went so well that the fake band accidentally became a real band.   They released albums and recorded new music and even toured.  If you look at all these starlets today, you see Spinal Tap was more real than any of them.  Think Rhianna writes her own songs?  Think she can play and instrument?  Think she actually sings in concert?  Spinal Tap wins on every level.

In fact, those guys went on to do more movies together, and the guys wrote an entirely new music act for ‘a Mighty Wind’, which is actually a great folk album.  Got to see them live, and they played both Spinal Tap songs and a Mighty Wind songs.  That movie (another Chris Guest project) was also entirely improvised.

Why do it?  They are crazy rich.  The bass player is 40% of the voices on the Simpsons.  He probably has 100 million in the bank, and he is schlepping around from city to city playing these silly and perfect songs from 30 years ago.

My favorite thing about these guys when they did press for Spinal Tap (not known as a classic when it was released, but a stupid and pointless low budget art film)… they only did it in character.  You never got to interview Chris Guest or Michael McKean or Harry Shearer.  You could only talk to Derek Smalls, Nigel Tufnel, and David St Hubbins.  Now… we know Chris Guest as a genius filmmaker, and Harry Shearer as most of the Simpsons.  Back then, in 1980?  A bunch of improve yahoos.  Michael McKean was only known for playing Lenny in Laverne & Shirley.

Can you imagine how they got that film financed?  “I need 5 million bucks to make a movie with these unproven and unknown actors.”  Who will compose the score?  Who is your screenwriter?  Who is going to actually record the songs they pretend to sing?  You know, like we did with the Monkeys.

Well… about that.  No script.  No musicians.  No songwriters.  No famous actors.  We are just going to throw it to some improve guys. There is no screenplay, they are just going to make up the dialogue as we film.  They will write the songs themselves, and play all the instruments in the recordings.  It’s about a fake British heavy metal band that is washed up.”

Has that ever been done before then?  Roy Scheider is quite famous for improving the line ‘you’re gonna need a bigger boat’ in Jaws.  Everyone looks to that moment to prove his genius.  One sentence.  BFD.  If it were Chris Guest’s crew, they would have made up all the dialogue, built the boat themselves… and fought a real fucking shark.

 I mean, I know it is a masterpiece now… but at the time I bet they got laughed out of Hollywood.  Now, hopefully, you recognize the great McKean from Better Call Saul.  Jesus, is there anything these guys can’t do?  Listen to ‘listen to the flower people’ and tell me that song is not as good or better than anything of that era.  Also, full disclosure… I finally got my band to learn ‘Big Bottom’.  We played it at our last gig.

*bonus news, the guy behind these films, Chris Guest (Spinal Tap, Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, For your Approval, a Mighty Wind…) has a new film out soon.  It’s called ‘Mascots’, and will be on Netflix soon.  Like everything Larry David does, you can assume it will be all improvised, and wonderfully stupid.

Friday Fives – we are bad for your health edition



What are five good health habits for one to have? 

Look at me.  Do I look like I need to be giving health advice?  Speaking of that, yesterday… I watched the same news channel report on NEW news about red wine being bad, and it being great.  This was inside 3 minutes of each other.  The anchor who reported the initial story said in his wonderful dry way “and this study will be valuable for approximately a week, until the next story comes out saying it’s all good again”.  That was the end of the morning news.  The commercial that came on immediately was a tease for their 9 am show saying “new benefits of red wine… bla bla bla”.

All the more reason you need to be watching Tom Green every morning, on news 2.

So, how about if I choose four things that CONSTANTLY change in the media about whether they are good for us or not.  Red Wine, Coffee, Eggs, Salt.

Name any four things that you want to do before you die?

See the Aurora, skydive, get back to Italy for a while, and get back to Thailand for a while.  Maybe ever.

Name three songs to which you know all the lyrics?

As a guitar player for 30 years, I know hundreds.  Impressed?  How about this, I can name 3 Dylan songs.  Why is that impressive?  Most songs have 3 verses and 2 choruses.  Not most songs… all songs.  Dylan songs have 8 to 10 verses.  It’s insane!

What were you doing two hours ago?

Driving in to the office.  I live way out in nowhere, America.   Dirt roads and such, and it’s an hour drive in.  I don’t mind it, though.  I get a lot of reading done, via books on tape.  Currently listening to ‘Secondhand Souls’ from Christopher Moore.

If you could smash and break one thing and one thing only, what would it be?

Willie Nelson’s ‘Trigger’, the most important guitar on earth.  It would be a Buddhist lesson for us all about impermanence and attachment.  Plus, just look at this thing… it won’t take a Hulk to smash it.  How nervous is his guitar tech every time he has to change the strings?

Plus, Willie is an epic stoner… so I can’t imagine he gets too emotional about anything.  Before I smash the guitar, though, I would give it to Martin and the Smithsonian to study and copy and x-ray and do whatever they want to do with it.

I got to finally see Willy live this year.  I was genuinely as excited to be in the presence of Trigger as I was with Willy.  What an iconic pair!

Friday Fives – Springfield edition


When they say there are no dumb questions, how do you challenge that fundamental assumption?

Thanks to the internet, it is kinda non issue now.  Example; when I was a kid, I thought that dinosaurs were just a theory.  Remember, I was raised Catholic, and they really don’t believe in dinosaurs.  If you ask a Christian, the party line is that dinosaur bones were placed here on Earth by the devil to trick us into not believing in Jesus.  No, really.  They tell people that.  So…um… yeah.  Those are the people running the Earth.  The Catholic church is the largest landholder on earth.

these things may be common knowledge, but they still need to be brought up from time to time.

Been to the Vatican?  I have.  It is big business, and a corporate HQ on every level.  I can talk all the shit I want, since I was raised by these asshats.  Am an atheist now.  I think the Catholics make more Atheists than GW Bush made Democrats.

Oh, since I am ranting about this… did you see Spotlight?  It’s the movie about the original investigation that unraveled the priest rapings.  Did you stay to the end after the credits?  You know how the main bad guy Cardinal was busted and kicked out?  Guess what happened after?  The pope (JP2) hired him to be a Cardinal… and so he was in the running for Pope… AFTER all this was worldwide exposed.  Everyone like JP2, he seemed so nice (especially compared to Darth Pope, his successor).  Well, I have a beef with JP2.  He went to Africa and told Africans that condoms don’t stop aids.  Motherfucker.  The entire continent is being ravaged by aids.

Cardinal Law (the one who the movie was made about, and was kinda the center of the entire global rape conspiracy) is STILL a Cardinal.  Yes, they say things like ‘disgraced’ cardinal… but he is STILL in office.  That means that motherfucking rapist asshole is STILL in the running to be pope.  Remember, it wasn’t just that priests were raping.  It was that the church knew for decades and looked the other way.  I don’t get why.  I mean, it’s obvious no one wants that kind of publicity, but why not discreetly get rid of these guys?  As an atheist, and aspiring Buddhist, I don’t believe in heaven or hell.  I do believe that these motherfucking monsters will rot in hell.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out that ‘Cardinal Law’ would be a great name for a sitcom.  Two Vatican cops working the beat.  One is old school, by the rules, and other is a reckless roustabout.

In closing on this rant, I really like and respect this new pope.  If this guy was around when I was a kid, I might still be Catholic.  He is a good man, and he walks the walk that he talks.

  • wow.  I had no idea that was rant was coming.  It was like the post where Fife Symington’s name come up and I went on a 5 page bender.  Wonder why I will never, ever, ever be a Republican?  Study Fife. Fuck that guy, too.
  • *** let’s just take this offline.  I want to say I am not anti-church or necessarily religion.  I think the community aspect of it is wonderful… at the local micro scale.

 What is your best “Adulting like a player” move?

I have no idea what that question means.  May I refer to an old post I wrote about ‘adult content’ warnings.  That means, as you know, boobies.  Sadly, boobies aren’t real adult content.  That is just nature we have been repressed into being ashamed of. Real adult content is chores and going to work every day and mowing.

What is something under $50.00 that makes your life better?

 A song.  I am amazed that I can be driving to work and think of a song.  I can then own it and be listening to it 30 seconds later for $1.29.  I know this sounds a little ‘get off my lawn’, but getting music used to mean biking 4 miles to Tower Record to buy a new cassette for $10 (which was exorbitant 35 years ago).  Think of it, the price hasn’t changed for a CD or full album online – it’s $10.  Also, worse part… cassette audio SUCKED.  You notice there has never been a hipster movement bringing back cassettes.  For some reason, the technology always cut off the top end.  There was simply no treble for 25 years.  I suppose it was compression that isn’t different from what CDs do.

What was okay 40 years ago but not okay now?


What is your most unusual life hack?

I have been advised by my legal counsel that answering ‘arson’ again here would be ill advised.  This is prolly more peculiar then unusual, but I am pretty obsessed with keeping my phone clean.  Not the physical thing itself, but the computer. I use two different free cleaning apps, make sure to restart my phone at least twice a day, and pull my battery out about once a month.

In fact, stop what you are doing now and pull your battery off your phone, if you can.  Yes, I know you don’t want to take the case off, but do it.  See, as long as your battery is in, your phone is on.  Always.  It doesn’t turn off, it just ‘sleeps’.  That means TONS of apps are running 24/7.  Also, to save space on your phone, dump the Facebook app.  That thing takes many megs of storage.  Like, 30 CDs worth.  And… it is always spying on you.  Literally, they just found out it ‘listens’ to everything you do on the phone… every text you make.  A lady found she was talking to a friend on the phone.  When she got off the phone and went to Facebook, she got ads based on her conversation.

I know this sounds like tinfoil hat discussions, but it’s true.

Facebook says that its app does listen to what’s happening around it, but only as a way of seeing what people are listening to or watching and suggesting that they post about it. 

The feature has been available for a couple of years, but recent warnings from Kelli Burns, mass communication professor at the University of South Florida, have drawn attention to it.

Professor Burns has said that the tool appears to be using the audio it gathers not simply to help out users, but might be doing so to listen in to discussions and serve them with relevant advertising. She says that to test the feature, she discussed certain topics around the phone and then found that the site appeared to show relevant ads.

 I am not saying don’t use Facebook.  I use it every day, but not that stupid app (that is also snooping on your pics and texts and web history).  I just bookmarked

Lastly, I know of what I speak.  I worked in the cell phone business for 20 years.

Friday Fives – cover your ass edition


I know this is a sacred topic to most music snobs.  I know this, because I am one, too. Let’s face it, plenty of times, the cover is better than the original  Like ANY time that ANY band did ANY song that was a Lou Reed song.  I thought about this piece as an idea on the way home.  Without doing any research, I wrote down several that came to mind.

Then, and only then, did I consult the interwebs.  What I found online were obvious, and so a little disappointing.  What I think the internet lists generally chose were versions that were more successful.  Me & Bobby McGee is the perfect example of this.  Janis KILLS that song!  It truly became her signature song.  It is super tragic that it didn’t come out until a week after she died.  Still, it will always be her song.  Is it better?  It’s not better than this bootleg version I have that I can’t find online. It’s just Kristofferson and an acoustic.  It is more spoken work, and SO sparse… it really tells a more powerful tale.

I did find this excellent demo from Janis, though.  No production or overdubs… just her catching where to lay the syllables against the chord changes.  It’s pretty sweet.

Another song that tops the list is Hendrix’ over of ‘All Along the Watchtower’  Also, it is great.  Interestingly, it ws Hendrix ONLY hit.  Did you know that?  He didn’t break through with Foxy Lady, or Purple Haze.  Sure, the freaks found him that way… but the way America discovered him was covering Dylan.

Africa  – Toto/Mike Masse

Local Colorado guy, plays bars and does covers (just like my stupid band).  Except, this guy is incredible.  Watch this video below.  Dude has 8 million hits!  We are actually going to see him finally play live at Lodo’s in Highlands Ranch

Btw, since we are talking about this song… this is pretty great.  It’s Dax Shepard and his wicked hot and talented wife making their own video for the song.  It’s dumb.  Really, really dumb.  But… they get it.  It’s a great watch.  Between these two clips (both over 8 million), Toto is cool again.

Black Magic Woman – Fleetwood Mac/Santana

I know you don’t know this is a cover.  It wasn’t a Santana song, but Fleetwood Mac.  Now, we are not talking about the Fleetwood Mac you know, run by Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks.  No, this was WAY before then when they were a British Blues band.  Here are both –

Fleetwood Mac (the Peter Green version) 1970

There is nothing wrong with that version.  In fact, it probably could have been the famous version except for Peter.  See, Peter Green was a genius, and also nuts.  Nuts.  Not nuts in a romantic way… I mean nuts in a way that he literally disappeared for 30 years.  The only thing to compare it to is Syd Barrett and the whole Pink Floyd mess.

Here is the Santana version (1971).  Oh, recognize any of these guys?  You should.  They all quit Santana’s band to form Journey.  To me, it is superior because I feel it really found its legs in the Latin inspired groove that left like it should have been there all along.  I mean, we are singing about voodoo, right?

It is interesting to note this cover is only a year later.  Can you think of a modern parallel to that?  I can’t.

 Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen/Bruce Springsteen

God, I love this song.  I am honestly not much of a Bruce fan.  I don’t think I have a single CD of his.  Yet, I regard this song as probably the best rock song ever written.  Here is that song, in all of it’s 1977 glory.

 Now, how can I put this on the cover list?  First off, it’s not a cover.  Second, the song is absolutely fucking perfect.  On every level.  Well, this guy Bruce Springsteen does a pretty good cover.  Really, I count this version below as a cover because it is so stunningly different and beautiful.  Also, I think it took balls of steel for Bruce to take his biggest hit and tear it apart.  This newer version is an elegy of sorts.  The original version is about being young and perfect and getting ready to breakout and have all the opportunities in the world.

This version below, though, is a resignation.  Note, fast forward to the 4 minute mark.  Bruce just goes full Bruce on this version.  Not that ‘America is #1 ‘Bruce… but this telling is from the guy who wrote the line ‘end up like a dog that’s been kicked too much’.

Am I Evil – Diamond Head/ Metallica

To me, there just is no discussion.  There is Metallica’s version.  That is it.  So, here is the original, and I think it mostly sucks… because of the singer.

While the guitar riff rocks perfectly cromulently… this singer guy is full glam.  There nothing evil here at all.  Below is Metallica’s take.  This song couldn’t possibly be more Metallica than it is.

 Let me put this in the parlance that my 16 year old self would understand it.  He would say the original was simply ‘gay’.  Now this one, below… this is just the sound of pure fucking evil.  When my parents found my Ozzy records and growing my hair out… they worried.  They thought this (song above) was what I was listening to.  Kinda funny how incredibly tame Ozzy compared to this.  The only subversion in Ozzy’s records is serious and thoughtful Christianity.  Below the full proper evil version from Metallica.

Rusty Cage – Johnny Cash/Soundgarden

There is nothing wrong with the original.  It’s great.  However, Rick Rubin and Johnny Cage change the meaning  of every single word with their new telling… yet they don’t touch a word.  Here is the original.  Sadly, it does not feature Chris Cornell singing.  Very very few Soundgarden songs show him singing.  Instead, in Soundgarden, he only screamed.  anyways here, here is the original.

WAIT… before you even hear the song… look at this frame.  Even in the still, he is screaming.

See, told you.  Why even have lyrics.  It is just him screaming for 15 years in Soundgarden.  YET… he can sing his dick off.  He may have the best deep voice in all of rock, and literally no one knew.  Listen to this secret acoustic outtake of ‘Like Suicide’  When I heard this, I was frustrated.  It was like the first time I heard him to Seasons.  I thought ‘wait, he can sing?  He could sing he whole time?  Why the hell did he never even try until he was ‘retired’.

Sorry, back to my point.  Rick Rubin (who, to me, deserves as much credit as Johnny Cash here) and just let’s Johnny go all Johnny Cash on it.  This was towards the end of Johnny’s life.  I believe June had already passed… and you can hear Johnny dying a little in every verse.  Luckily for us, Cash knew his time was very limited.  So, he and Rubin spent his last years together just recording at a gonzo pace.  Here this.  Feel this.

And if that doesn’t give you feelings… watch this video below.  I assume this was made post Johnnys’ passing.  It is fucking beautiful and perfect on every level.

This may be the beautiful and creepy and perfect video ever made.  Though this has nothing to do with covers, it is a good place to leave you for the day

Hot Damn! I was Correct… again!

You know I love to gloat.  Rarely, though, is my turnaround time this quick.  Some quick background; most of my pieces percolate in my head for a few months before I finally sit down and write them out.  This amazon piece below is a perfect example.  I have been meaning to write this piece on Amazon reviews for years now.  We live out in the country, so we use Amazon Prime… a LOT.  I long ago learned that a ton of their reviews are shit.  Specifically, never trust 5 star or 1 star reviews.  So, I wrote this piece below (finally) just a few days ago.  Check the time stamp – Aug 27th, 2016.  Set it, and forget it.  I have put up 2 or 3 more travel pieces since then.

My piece was called, quite plainly, “How I read an Amazon Review”  In that piece, I posit that far too many reviews are plants.  Maybe I was just paranoid, but it has served me well.

Then… TODAY (Aug 31st 2016) I read this in the shitter, on

I Get Paid To Write Fake Reviews For Amazon

I like  I read them daily, and obviously we have very similar sensibilities.  I want to remind you again, though, that I was writing in this style a decade before Cracked.  Still, though, they are great.  So, I am happy to throw them a plug… especially when it validates my nonsense theories.

Read their piece, and then read mine.  Wait… read mine first.  Theirs was far better researched than mine.  But, I don’t have staff.  Enjoy them both, and come back here to read to often if you want to get the news before popular cultures catches on.  Since I am not a paid shill for cracked or amazon, or Rush… or any of that… I might as well mention that Cracked and Buzzfeed both have great and free aps that are perfect bathroom reading companions.  I like them both because they are both snarky, smart, and self aware… but without being bullies about it.

I am Correct.  I was Correct.  I shall be… Correct!

Travel Thaiaries – what’s the food really like?

This piece is one of about ten so far on our trip to Southeast Asia, please start here.


When I talk to people about traveling to Thailand (or anywhere), they inevitably ask ‘what is the food really like’.  I have those same questions.  I think the food aspect is the best part of traveling.  You may also know that other regions’ foods are generally not like what we eat here under that banner.  Meaning – you won’t find chimichangas in Mexico.  You won’t find much pizza, or good pizza, in Rome.  ‘Pizza’ in Rome is basically naan with some olive oil and maybe a sliced tomato.  Actually, naan is far superior. You won’t find sesame chicken in China, either.

But what about the greatest dish of all time, Paella?  Yes, that is everywhere in Spain, and it will make you a better person.  What about the second best world dish, Pad Thai?  Does that actually exist in Thailand?  Yes.  Yes it does.  But, do they make it weird there, like with hairy oxen anus parts?  No.  That is why Spain doesn’t get credit for eating like we think they do… because we don’t get Paella here, sadly.

That is the best thing about Thai food.   It is what you expect, and want, and it’s great!

Unlike perhaps anywhere else I have been in the world (both Northern… and central Arizona)… Thai food in Thailand is the most similar to what you get here.  It isn’t just super good, it is what you expect.  Also, quite wonderfully, pad thai is street food.  You can get it from a lady in a hot dog cart on the side of the road, and its good.  And it tastes like you think it should taste.  It looks like you think it would look.  And it’s a buck!


If your response to that last sentence is “I am never going across the earth to eat street food from a cart”, then stop reading now.  Then, stop traveling… now.

Wherever you go on earth, eat the street food.  It is good, cheap, and it is what the local people eat.

Thai food is awesome, and it’s what you would expect.  Even though I consider myself adventurous… that was a nice thing for me.  If you break into people’s homes in Thailand, to see what they are really eating… it is Pad Thai, it’s basil pork fried rice, Massaman Curry, and the like.  They will ask you to leave, eventually.

I take pains to point this out because how a family eats in Mexico looks nothing like what you have ever had at a Mexican restaurant. It’s great, and maybe better.  Italian food was far better than we expected, but much simpler and tastier than what we have here.  Yes, everything has noodles, but I don’t think we had a single tomato based red ‘spaghetti’ sauce once.

If you go to China, though, and break into people’s home… they are not eating Sesame Chicken.  They are probably eating hairy yack anus.  I know what you are thinking; isn’t it incredibly dangerous and rude to break into people’s homes to get an ethnographic feel on food habits?  No.  Remember, no one else carries guns around the world.


So go and eat the street food wherever you go.  Go and eat what the locals eat.  We were in Cambodia, and asked our driver to take us to where he eats.  For the first three days, he kept taking us to places where he figured we would want to eat.  He (the guide) and our driver would just sit in the shade.  Our meals were like $12 each.  We knew that wasn’t how locals ate.  That is a month’s wage in Cambodia.  We finally got him to take us to where he eats, only if we promised not to tell ANYONE.

Cambodia (neighbor of Thailand, and most famous for having Angkor Watt) is super duper poor, as they just got out of a 40 year civil war that killed everyone.  These wonderful and sweet and resilient people live on something like 50 cents a day.  So, what’s for lunch?  I don’t know what it was, but I can’t rule out the fact that it was hairy yack anus.  Whatever it was had been an animal at some time, as evidenced by the hair on the bones in the soup.

*** postscript – you will note once you leave the US that most countries don’t refrigerate much.  Outside of North America and and wealthier European countries… people don’t use fridges at all.  Even when I stayed with families or places that had perfectly good electricity… you don’t see fridges.  You will go to markets and be outside in the blazing hot sun and all manner of meats and flies are there for you to choose from.  Around the world they don’t need fridges.  They buy enough food for a day or two, and simply eat what’s in season and available.

Stop being such a pussy and just try the crickets once.  Only once, though.  That shit is gross!

That’s why they call them ‘ruins’

There is a reason why they call them ‘ruins’

This is one of about a ten part series called ‘The Travel Thai-aries®‘.  I am about two years into this project, and still getting fresh ideas and memories.  Before reading below, please start here.  It is a brief pre-requisite read that will assist you and I greatly.

When you get to Cambodia, or any ancient site, you get to see this. It is pretty goddamn great.

ankgor wat

photo credit – me – Nov 2014

Then, you read it was discovered SO long ago. How amazing must that moment have been? You are just some French explorer (the French factor in heroically, in Cambodian history) wandering through the bush. Then… you stumble onto that in the jungle. I kept thinking what a transcendent moment it must have been for those first explorers when they stumbled upon these amazing ancient cities.

It’s romantic, isn’t it?  Guess what; they didn’t see anything like that above.  Analogy time (I can’t help myself).  Ed note:  really, he can’t.  It’s quite a bother for all of us.

for reference – here is the iconic ‘Furthur‘ bus in it’s heydey – 1965


Here is that same bus after it sat in the woods on Kesey’s property for 30 years.  Some would say this bus started the LSD revolution of the mid 60s.


Angkor Wat was that times 20 (600 years untouched in the jungle).  What does the famous hippy bus have to do with anything?  That destruction is simply what nature did to a man made structure in 30 years.  Here is why nothing survived after 600 years to be more than about 50 feet tall… look at these roots.  My god, they look like props in a horror movie.


Anyhow… just think what the people of it’s time saw. People smarter than us have done that work, and we have an idea that it looked like this.  If you are cruising Siem Riep in 1200 AD… you get this (below).


Angkor Wat wasn’t discovered by the outside world until 1860 (US Civil War era).  The nice folks who found Angkor Wat didn’t find that above.  They found this, below.


Actually, this has been partially reconstructed.  Point being, what they found in 1860 was mostly a bunch of rocks.  Through the magic of MS Paint, I chopped the top.  This is what they likely found.  No structures, just rocks.

angkor wat

Still pretty cool, mind you… but nothing like the sites we get to see today. All of these sites were in rubble. Weather, the jungle, time, and raiders destroy everything… quickly. I am sure it was still a great moment to stumble across this stuff in the jungle, but nothing that made you say ‘this is the most significant place and find in history.’  See, nothing in front of you is higher than the tree line.  Sure, it was 1,000 years ago.  Now, it is just rocks in the jungle.  That is why no one finds this stuff for ages.  Even in a plane, you would miss probably 90% of this stuff before it was restored.

Most of these sites have to be put back together. It is VERY expensive, and VERY time consuming. To put these things into the shape we get to see them (and by extension we assume the shape they were in during their heyday) they have to:

  • Identify every single piece that goes to the thing.
  • Dig it up. It is something that was made?  Or… just a rock?
  • Number it
  • figure out exactly where that went
  • how it went… exactly. Imagine putting a puzzle together where every single piece is grey.  Oh, and was out in the yard for 600 years.

Do you see a vision of transcendence? I did, too. It’s pretty great for us.

Think of putting together this puzzle, but it isn’t square. It’s 3D… in the shape of a castle, we think.  But, every piece is colored identically and someone threw away the box.  I mean… maybe this was a great castle.  Or… maybe this was a giant 12 story human foot.


The point of this story is that this is still very much a living work in progress.  The Ankgor Wat you go see in 5 years will be a prettier and better reconstructed one than we saw.  It is like the Sagrada Familia.  It has been being built for over a 100 years… and will still be under construction in our lifetime.  This is significant.  Most iconic world heritage sites are not changing.  Stonehenge and the Roman Colosseum look exactly the same today as when your grandparents saw it.  They will look exactly the same when your grandchildren go see it.  In 5,000 years, if there is still people, those two sites will mostly look the same.

Where do you get the millions needed to rebuild these?  France has been basically carrying Cambodia and their heritage sites for a couple of hundred years. When the Khmer Rouge came in and started destroying absolutely everything and everyone… the French smuggled out super valuable stuff to hold it safely. Then, they gave it all back… unlike England.  There are a bunch of charities now helping under the banner of the ‘World Heritage Sites‘, which is run by a wonderful multi-country initiative called ‘Unesco‘.  They are kinda single handedly holding the Earth’s most precious human creations together through awareness and fundraising.

*** tangent

 Wanna see the world?  Don’t have the time to travel around the world? Go to an English museum.  They used to run the world, and they have all the coolest shit.  Unlike France, England has kept all their cool stuff.  We got to see, and even touch, the actual motherfucking Rosetta Stone.  It unlocked ancient languages in a single swoop.  It could be the single most important human artifact on all of Earth.

I tell you this because there is a super duper cool aspect of this ‘in progress’. Go to Cambodia now, do it. They are wonderful, and need the money. The Cambodia you go to tomorrow will be different from the one your parents went to. Well, not your parents… but your friends’ more interesting parents. Your parents didn’t get to travel the world, because they had to raise your dumb ass. Instead of that trip to Rome for your mom and dad, you got braces. Best appreciate them.

Cambodia keeps getting better. Mind you, they have only been open to the world for about a decade or so. They are not ‘free’, either. Not in the sense you and I think of. They can’t leave Cambodia.  You could move to Cambodia, though, I guess.  This guy pretty much says “I dare ya“.

*** tangent too

Speaking of the French, America needs to stop talking shit about them. From what I learned, and this is anecdotal after a week in the country – France has carried Cambodia. They protected Cambodia, the bankrolled Cambodia, and they hid all of Cambodia’s cool shit when the Khmer came a killin. Remember, they bankrolled the US fight for independence against England.  Without France, you have no United States.  Without France, Cambodia would still be civil-warring itself into oblivion.