Friday, November 28, 2008

Release the Bats!

I have written about the ghost-town of Ruby before, but failed to produce any photos of the bats that live there. The bats migrate from Mexico and live in old mine-shafts in the ghost town, a few miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. Some 'bat experts' estimate there are upwards of a million bats in the mine shaft. Every night for several months the bats exit the mine shaft right on sunset to go feed. Slowly the bats start to come swirling up out of the shaft, until 1000s upon 1000s flock out creating a gust of wind. Occasionally the odd bat loses its way (if not being picked off by a hawk), hit something and stuns itself, then regains composure. The whole process takes about 30 minutes before all the bats have exited. Sundog, the caretaker of Ruby (I'll get to a separate post on him one day) harvests the bat poop in the mine shaft, otherwise known as 'guano'.

And in fitting tribute, here's the Birthday Party circa 1982 doing 'Release the Bats'...

Cabazon Dinosaurs

Finally I managed to stop at the Cabazon Dinosaurs during daylight hours, but again not during 'non-business hours', gah. About 2 hours out of L.A. you see these on the I-10 freeway. A few years back some 'creationists' bought the dinosaurs for a little over a $1 million, in order to teach passers-by about how dinosaurs were intelligently designed. They also featured in Pee Wee's Big Adventure...

A great story on the Cabazon Dinosaurs on why everyone thinks America is full of wack-jobs from the L.A. Times

This also reminded me of passing through Pismo Beach briefly earlier this year, where I learned of the 'Dinosaur Caves', where some guy managed to construct a giant dinosaur by the beach that led to a diamond-studded tunnel down to the beach/caves

Brown began constructing a large concrete dinosaur to attract tourists vacationing up and down Highway 1 during the booming post war years. A doorway in the side of the dinosaur opened to an 80 foot long tunnel path studded with fake gemstones for atmosphere. Natural holes to the sky provided light for the foot journey through the old Caves of Mystery to the beach. Brown named them Dinosaur Caves, reportedly regaling tourists with tales of dinosaur remains found in the caves. Because neighbors objected to the dinosaur, Brown never completed construction, leaving the dinosaur headless for more than a decade. A fire followed by a bulldozer brought about an end to the creature in the 1960's. Brown continued his lapidary business until the caves collapsed, along with a large portion of the bluff, in the early 1970's.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hair Banditry

So it gets better, as the story below describes. What is even weirder is that I ride past the jail he is imprisoned in almost every day...

Arrest of Alleged 'Hair Bandit' Startles Friends.

Michael Howard's arrest New Year's Day has confounded his relatives and business partner, especially because of the charge: that a hair fetish allegedly drove him to chop off women's hair on the streets.

"It's very bizarre," said Howard's older brother Jack, a Los Angeles County probation officer. "We don't really understand it."

He described his brother as a family man and bicycle shop owner who had lived a stable life and had never been in trouble with the law. However, he said, family members noticed a dramatic personality change in mid-December that they believe was triggered by drug abuse.

Jack Howard said he called authorities after the "Hair Bandit" attacks were reported in the media, but would not say why he suspected his brother.

"That was not an easy thing to do," he said. "But given my position and experience, I've got to think about victims."

Police say Michael Howard, 47, attacked six women and a young girl in the Long Beach area and East Los Angeles in the last two weeks of December. He is accused of grabbing them from behind as they sat or walked along major streets, then shearing their hair with scissors or a knife.

Gian Simonetti said his friend and business partner never mentioned any fascination with hair in the 25 years they worked together.

"He surprised everybody," said Simonetti, who owns Simo Cycle--a custom bicycle shop in Huntington Beach--with Michael Howard. "I thought it was crazy, and feel sorry for him."

Howard, who lives in Norwalk, had been struggling recently with drugs and had not worked a full week in six months, Simonetti said.

He Likes the Sound of Scissors
"He was always coming in late," Simonetti said. "I've been going to his house, trying to get him to come out."

Though Howard's brother and Simonetti did not learn about the suspect's alleged hair fetish until recently, a woman who described herself as a longtime friend said she knew Howard had paid women as much as $200 to let him cut their hair.

"He liked playing with it, brushing it, everything about it," said 51-year-old Vicki Parker, who said she had been a prostitute in the past. "He says he likes the sound of scissors cutting hair."

Howard was ashamed and didn't know what to do, she said. But she called him a "wonderful person" and said she never felt threatened.

The suspect had been depressed over his father's death and his failing business, she said.

"He was just not in his right frame of mind," she said.

Raised in Inglewood, Michael Lynn Howard became interested in bicycles as a boy working a newspaper route. He started fixing and building his own bikes, and teamed up with Simonetti soon after high school.

A stocky man with a rough complexion and goatee, Howard was married for several years but never had children, his brother said. More than 10 years ago, the suspect purchased a clay-colored stucco house with a manicured lawn in Norwalk.

His neighbors said Howard is quiet
"It was mostly 'Hi' and 'Bye' with him," said Hector Montenegro, who has lived next door to Howard for four years.

"He's very private," said Christene VonRavensberg. "I don't think he liked the neighbors."

On New Year's Eve, a sheriff's deputy spotted Howard as he was allegedly holding a woman in a chokehold at a pay phone in East Los Angeles. The deputy chased Howard, who climbed into a nearby car and tried to run him down, authorities said. The deputy responded by firing several shots, but the suspect drove away, police said.

Police arrested Howard the next day at an apartment building on Pine Avenue in Long Beach, where he had gone to see a friend.

The victims ranged in age from 12 to 45, and all but two were Latinas, police said, adding that some of the women suffered neck injuries.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Scott Carbaugh said Howard is a dangerous criminal whose alleged crimes were sexually motivated.

Howard was charged Thursday with six counts of second-degree robbery, one count of committing a lewd act on a child and one count of assault on a police officer. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 15 years in state prison.

He is in Los Angeles County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bail and is scheduled to appear in court for arraignment Jan. 17. Authorities say they are still checking for additional victims.

Deputy Public Defender Michael Concha said prosecutors have taken a leap by charging Howard with a lewd act on a child in addition to the robberies. "There's no sexual molestation here at all," Concha said.

Sheriff's Det. Joe Purcell said he believed that violence might have occurred if an arrest had not been made.

"It's a strange case," the detective said. "It's the first time I've ever heard of something like this."

Many Fetishes Grow Over Time
Hair fetishes are rare, but people who engage in them could collect hair for sexual gratification, said Al Cooper, a Stanford University psychologist and clinical director of the San Jose Marital & Sexuality Centre.

"There are a million different kinds of variations, whether it's fingernails, hair or underwear," he said. "Hair is not the most common, but it is not unheard of."

Cooper added that fetishes escalate over time in about half the cases.

Some women in the Long Beach area were relieved at the arrest. With her long chestnut hair pulled into a knot behind her head, housewife Veronica Alvarez waited for a bus Thursday on Long Beach Boulevard.

"I'm glad they caught him," she said. "I don't know what I would do if he came up to me. I would scream, and I would fight him

The Devil Wore Red

I have needed to replace the Bianchi for sometime, it was always a little small, advertised as a 57, but really a 56, when in reality I need a 59.

Enter the Medici. Out with the real Italian, in with the non-Italian-Italian sounding-fully kitted-out in Italian parts, ah, I forget where I was going with that

Somewhat interestingly, Medici bikes were made only a few blocks from my current residence. East L.A. pride on two wheels

Medici Bicycle Company is the name of an American bicycle manufacturer established by Gian Simonetti and Michael Howard when they left another bike manufacturer, Masi California, in 1978. Located near Los Angeles, the Medici catalog included mostly road bikes and frames.

The name Medici was chosen to for its association with Italian European Enlightenment. The Lion Rampant symbol was used for decals on the bicycle frames.

In the mid-90's they lost the rights to the Medici name, but continued on as Simonetti Bicycles.

So now on to the best part, one of the owners of Medici was put in jail a few years back for "hair banditry"...

Californian man locked up over hair cutting spree

When police finally came to Michael Howard's home they came across quite a lot of hair.

They discovered a thin carpet of it covering the floor, huge mounds of it on the bed, piles of it in the closet, and to capture that perfect hairy moment, photos of severed ponytails lined up as neatly as bodies in a morgue.

Californian police then deduced they had finally caught up with the notorious "Haircut Bandit".

For three weeks in December of 2001, Howard cruised the streets of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, casing bus stops and park benches for women with ultra-long tresses.

Before he was caught, Howard chopped hanks of hair or entire ponytails from the heads of nine victims, aged 12 to 45.

Investigators began closing in on the bicycle repair shop owner on New Year's Eve when a deputy sheriff saw him approach a woman at a bus stop and shear off her waist-length hair.

He escaped, dropping his scissors and his hair trophy, but police nabbed him the next day.

On Thursday, Howard entered a surprise guilty plea and was sentenced to eight years in prison for his hair-raising rampage.

His attorney, deputy public defender Gregg Hayata, says Howard became fascinated with hair as a boy and that as an adult, the sound of scissors cutting hair sexually aroused him.

But the lawyer says lust never interfered with his leading a law-abiding life until December 4, 2001, the first time he went into the street and attempted to shear some locks.

Mr Hayata says his life began to spiral out of control after his father died and his business began to fail.

"I think the combination... made him start experimenting with drugs... and he just lost control of it," he said.

Before his highly publicised foray into hair banditry, Howard was known as a cycling fanatic who had learned to fix and build custom bicycles as a youngster, a passion which led him to open a bike shop with a high school pal.

Howard, who was once married, owns a home in a suburb south of Los Angeles, and has been described by neighbours as quiet.

Family members say Howard underwent an extreme personality change in the weeks corresponding with his haircut spree, that they attribute to cocaine addiction.

Police also unearthed reports from friends that Howard had often paid women as much as $200 to let him cut their hair.

They confiscated more than 40 hair fetish videos depicting people getting haircuts.

"There were naked women getting their hair cut, videos of (Howard) cutting women's hair, some of a couple who had each cut each other's hair and shaved each other's heads," one police officer said.

"There was a Spanish game show where, if you answered the question wrong, they would cut your hair."

They also seized photos of the apparently consensual bobbing of a woman's long hair and of a row of about 15 neatly severed ponytails.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dragon fruit!

The things you learn during drunken conversations in your backyard. I had noticed some flowers on the cacti that half-supports the old servants quarters in our backyard a few weeks back. I realized they were night-blooming flowers that close back up in the daytime. A much more gardening aware friend pointed out today that they are dragon fruit. Sadly I didn't get any shots of them fully open, and it seems its now too late in the year to flower again.

"The pitaya (also known as pitahaya, dragon fruit, huǒ lóng guǒ (火龍果/龙果), strawberry pear, nanettikafruit, or thanh long) is the fruit of several cactus species, especially of the genus Hylocereus. Native to Mexico and Central and South America, these vine-like epiphytic cacti are also cultivated in Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia. They are also found in Taiwan, Israel, and southern China. The pitaya only flowers at night, they are large white flowers that are often called Moonflower or Queen of the Night."

Circle of Dead Pilgrims 2 @ Fort Pigeon

The annual Circle of Dead Pilgrims made its return to Fort Pigeon. In fitting style one can only refer to the classic 15 seconds of glory: "I like food" by the Descendants.

I like food, food tastes good!
I like food, food tastes good!
Juicy burgers, greasy fries,
Turkey legs and raw fish eyes
Teenage girls, with ketchup too!
Get out of my way, or I'll eat you
I like food, food tastes good!
I like food, food tastes good!
I'm going to turn dining
back into eating
I like food, food tastes good!
I like food, food tastes good!

True story, we once broke my best friends bed as 4 of us jumped up and down to "I like food" on repeat for 30 minutes. On to the photos!

The full crew on the porch
The new rooster made an appearance without fear of the traditional thanks-taking crowd
The kitchen looking healthier one year on - still no hot water
The oven made a return to the game in fine form, working fully for the first time in many years. And to think only 13 months ago I was vacuuming rat feces from it
A small selection of the food on show

Up punx, eat rich!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

For those in Tucson

A tribute from a friend Donny at the EF! journal here in Tucson

In the early morning of September 15, Sali Eiler was brutally raped and murdered in a ramshackle cabin outside of San Jose del Pacifico, in the southern mountains of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Sali’s death has come as a crushing blow to many activists in the US and Mexico.

Sali, 20, was living in Oaxaca City at the time of her death. She had been living and working with the Indigenous Popular Council of Oaxaca-Ricardo Flores Magón (CIPO) off and on since the Summer of 2007. CIPO is a community-based organization that stands up for the rights of poor and native communities in Oaxaca. Most recently, Sali had been acting as a witness for people facing repression. Before her death, she had been staying with the family of a witness to the murder of Earth First!er Brad Will in Oaxaca City in 2006. Because of her unyielding commitment to defending the human rights of Oaxacans in danger, Sali recently noticed that she’d begun to be followed around Oaxaca City. It’s unknown if this had anything to do with her death.

When not in Mexico, Sali lived primarily in Tucson, Arizona. Born and raised in Eugene, Oregon, Sali’s primary home for the last few years has been Tucson.
Sali has been involved in a wide array of campaigns. In 2003, going by her forest name, Ratty, she was active with the all-womyn treesit in Unit 6 of the Straw Devil timber sale in her native Oregon. Two years later, Sali was the youngest persyn arrested defending an area known as the Biscuit timber sale—the largest timber sale in US history.

More recently, while in Tucson, Sali was heavily involved in No More Deaths, a group dedicated to helping immigrants crossing the Mexico-US border stay alive by leaving water in the desert and monitoring various known immigrant trails. Sali was primarily a coordinator of supplies for the Mariposa crossing, outside of Nogales, Sonora/Arizona. She devoted her time to organizing food deliveries to a camp on the Mexican side of the border where immigrants are brought after they are caught illegally crossing through the US.

Sali was also a contributor to the Earth First! Journal, writing about indigenous resistance to illegal logging in the mountains of Oaxaca. When in Tucson, she brought smiles and laughter to the Journal’s mailing parties.

In addition, Sali sang in the Tucson-based punk band, Cizaña. I had the good fortune to play drums in Cizaña with her. We just completed a three-week tour through Mexico in June, letting Sali off on the southern end of the tour to travel back to Oaxaca and resume her work with CIPO. The outpouring of support since Sali has died from the people we met on that tour has been amazing. She is certainly one who touched an incredible amount of people very deeply.

Sali’s body was discovered on September 24, 10 days after she died, by a man who was feeding some dogs and smelled something disturbing. She was identified within a day, but the Mexican government did not seem interested in investigating what had happened. Instead, friends of hers in Oaxaca, traveling to various locales and calling other friends on the phone, connected the dots and located her killer.

The killer showed up at a popular squatted community space in Mexico City with stab wounds and bruises (inflicted by Sali during his attack on her). After punks at the squat questioned him and verified information with people in San Jose del Pacifico, Sali’s friends were convinced they had the murderer. They threw a party on September 26, explicitly to get the psychopath in a certain place at a certain time. The killer showed up, was confronted, admitted to killing Sali and promptly had the living crap beat out of him. Eventually, the beating stopped and the scumbag was handed over to the police.

Those of us who knew Sali well will remember her as an inspiration. While only 20 years old, she had been traveling since she was 15, living exactly the life she wanted to live. She was one of those special people who know what they want and seize it. She was full of energy and passion, obsessively belly dancing at every chance she got, playing her banjo when she found a moment and injecting a sense of light-heartedness into the lives of those around her. At a memorial in Tucson the night many of us found out about her death, I couldn’t suppress an image of Sali seeing all of us devastated and mournful, coming up to the circle with a wry grin, saying, “Shiiiat, y’all are some suckaasss. Get up and dance, chikitossss!”

A few days after the news of Sali’s death spread among her friends in the US, the body of Kirsten Brydum, a San Francisco-based activist, was found in New Orleans with multiple gunshot wounds in her head. Kirsten was an organizer with the Really Really Free Market in San Francisco. At the time of her death, she was on a speaking tour with a group seeking to link anarchist projects around the US. Many people die every day, but it’s so hard to function when these genuinely good people, coming from the same general community of activists, die in so narrow a timeframe.

It can be tempting to speculate that the US or Mexican governments were somehow involved in both of these deaths (as some have done), but we need to realize that, broader than a focused government crackdown on specific activists, general violence against wimmin remains a tragically widespread problem. It’s so crucial that those of us who perpetuate patriarchy and male dominance actively address those issues—within ourselves and our communities. Too many wimmin have suffered. For the sakes of Sali, Kirsten and wimmin everywhere, this needs to stop.

Donny still finds it hard to believe that he’ll never see Sali again. He’s hoping she’s somewhere with lots of space to belly dance.