Still Alive

Just a quick note showing the world that I’m still alive and kicking — living happily out in SoCal and not writing nearly enough… hopefully will have some new stuff up here soon since my recent trip to Jordan/Israel/Palestine left me with lots upon which to ruminate. Until then, huzzah!

Metal Mashup 2: Al Son del Bodom Beach Boom (Children of Bodom vs. Daddy Yankee)

This is an interesting mix of some classic melodic thrashy death metal with rrrreggaeton!
Children of Bodom – Bodom Beach Terror
Daddy Yankee feat. Miguelito – Al Son Del Boom (El Heredero)


Download MP3 here Creative Commons License
Al Son del Bodom Beach Boom by Alex Yule is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Note that this is still a work in progress, just created it and looking for feedback on how it fits together, but most importantly how to mix/eq to bring out the parts better (so far my only real edits besides slicing have been a volume envelope that changes throughout the song). But its definitely 90% there — a ‘rough cut’, since most of the actual mashing is done.

Another thought would be to redo the mashup using the acapella of Al Son Del Boom, but I think the drums are already minimal enough to work, and in certain parts they add a lot to the song. And it would be a huge pain in the arse.

Please let me know what you think! Can’t get better otherwise…Al Son del Bodom Beach Boom

Foucault is METAL

A  hilarious bit from a conversation with a friend about Foucault being a badass and post-modernism (whatever that is):

Jack: I like postmodernism, but I usually take the radical end out and think it terms of history

me: history?
Jack: Yeah
9:03 PM Postmodernism thinks it has found the tr00 chaos underlying all things
me: haha sounds like Nietsche

have you read the birth of tragedy?
Jack: I don’t do that
me: the nietzche thing is all about using dionysus as a metaphor for tr00 chaos
Jack: Hahah
Yeah, sounds like the Neech
me: and he claims the greeks weren’t really peaceful or stoic attall
but actually kinda fucked up
9:05 PM Jack: Hahah
me: but we looove our Appolonian boxes
after all, anything that touches the Dionysic void is destroyed
pretty fucking metal

And the real gem:
Jack channeling Foucault pwning someone in a conversation. Any conversation.
9:13 PM “Actually, as we discuss what we’re seeing is that we can only travel back and forth between mediational abstractions created by discourses of power that conflict with one another and make your reality FUCKED!”
Yes Foxy, but

Continue reading “Foucault is METAL”

The Kilkenny Memo & Citizen Journalism

Note: I’m posting all this partly because I think it’s an exciting example of how the internet is completely changing the political process!
Update: Disclaimer removed.

Ben Smith reports on the [rumors and emails plaguing Palin](

>”Information abhors a vacuum, and like Barack Obama was at first, Sarah Palin was an unknown quanity,“ said the internet folklorist David Emery. ”When you have all that pressure and very little information — that’s when the rumors start flying.“

>”People tend to pay attention to the things that are very basic,“ said Mikkelson. ”A long, detailed analysis of a candidate’s voting record gets out there and people’s eyes kind of glaze over, but put some simple issue out there and people will seize onto and circulate stuff about.“

>(There is one exception to this pattern: *A long, often accurate e-mail criticizing Palin’s policy and character by a Wasilla Democrat, Anne Kilkenny*, has circulated extremely widely.) [Emphasis added]

Coverage of the letter itself from [Ben Smith @ Politico](
>I’ve received some 50 copies of a long e-mail from a woman named Anne Kilkenny of Wasilla, and it may be the most potent attack on Sarah Palin out there, bouncing around the Internet at the viral speed of an Obama-Muslim rumor.

>[The Anchorage Daily News]( confirms its authenticity and describes her as a “stay-at-home mom, letter-to-the-editor writer and longtime watcher of [Mat-Su] Valley politics” who has been deluged with e-mail as she become’s Palin’s leading local critic.

>She says she clashed with Palin over her 1996 “attempt at censorship,” a reported suggested to ban books at a local library, which Palin later said wasn’t a serious proposal.

>The letter mostly contains undisputed facts, and while it’s occasionally positive — “she’s smart” — it offers a bit of an alternate, and mostly hostile, history to the campaign biography.

>A sample: “They call her ‘Sarah Barracuda’ because of her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness.”

***Selections* from [A Note To All]( by Anne Kilkenny** (circulated August 31, 2008)

>I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Sarah since 1992.
Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a
first-name basis. Our children have attended the same schools. Her
father was my child’s favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a
first name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more
City Council meetings during her administration than about 99% of the
residents of the city.


>During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running
this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been
pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had
gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had
given rise to a recall campaign.

>Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a ”fiscal conservative“. During her 6
years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over
33%. During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the
City increased by 38%. This was during a period of low inflation
(1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a
regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she
promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they
benefited residents.


>She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in
help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town
introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council
became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She
abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn’t
like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.

>Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything
publicly about her.


>First, I have long believed in the importance of being an informed
voter. I am a voter registrar. For 10 years I put on student voting
programs in the schools. If you google my name (Anne Kilkenny +
Alaska), you will find references to my participation in local
government, education, and PTA/parent organizations.

>Secondly, I’ve always operated in the belief that “Bad things happen
when good people stay silent”. Few people know as much as I do because
few have gone to as many City Council meetings.

>Third, I am just a housewife. I don’t have a job she can bump me out
of. I don’t belong to any organization that she can hurt. But, I am no
fool; she is immensely popular here, and it is likely that this will
cost me somehow in the future: that’s life.

>Fourth, she has hated me since back in 1996, when I was one of the 100
or so people who rallied to support the City Librarian against Sarah’s
attempt at censorship.

>Fifth, I looked around and realized that everybody else was afraid to
say anything because they were somehow vulnerable.


>*read **[the complete letter](** with **[updates and references](***

The letter is one of the main sources for a controversial article I posted about earlier today (post deleted due to questions of journalistic sloppiness): from The Progressive Curmudgeon,
[Alaskans Speak (In A Frightened Whisper): Palin Is ”Racist, Sexist, Vindictive, And Mean“](”racist-sexist-vindictive-and-mean“/)

I came across another post by a blogger calling herself Celtic Diva, which eventually led me to delete my earlier post: Celtic Diva Cries Afoul!: [“The Progressive Curmudgeon” may have journalistic history, but I think he’s making a mistake on this one. **UPDATED**]( and the Curmudgeon’s response about reporting with anonymous sources: [Sarah Palin and Me](

There has since been [coverage by the New York Times](, which I would recommend as a great all-around source for information on her tenure in Wasilla.

Boston All in 1


>Let me tell you the story
Of a man named Charlie
On a tragic and fateful day
He put ten cents in his pocket,
Kissed his wife and family
Went to ride on the MTAMetropolitan Transit Authority, now the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority ([MBTA](

>Charlie handed in his dime
At the Kendall Square Station
And he changed for Jamaica Plain
When he got there the conductor told him,
“One more nickel.”
Charlie could not get off that train.

>Did he ever return,
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearn’d
He may ride forever
‘neath the streets of Boston
He’s the man who never returned. Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lomax-Hawes.

In the old days, way back in 1630, it took two days to get a shipment of frieght from Winnisimet (Chelsea) to Boston, and by ox cart at that. Today, the trip via passenger train takes 10 minutes. This may not be true.

>On a normal saturday in June, 1909,… the number of passengers compelled to ride without seats was 88,490. –Ralph E. Heilman, “The Chicago Subway Problem.”The Journal of Political Economy, 22:10. (1914) pp992-1005.

The first chartered transportation service on the continent was born to replace this frustrating circuitous journey through Malden, Camrbidge, Brighton and Roxbury. A leisurely ferry ride across the harbor. Of what did the Boston air smell? Surely, the stifled city breeze was not yet even a speck on the horizon… What colors were the waters of Boston harbor? The infamous Charles river?

The railroad, it means many things to this people. _Tink… Tink… Tink… I’ve been a-workin’ on the_ the metronomic slaving of sledge against iron, spike inexorably driven deeper into the virginstolen earth. Our ancestors, or perhaps the slaves they brought, or the workers they hired — those who built a country out of blood, sweat and tears. Good ‘ol fashioned hard work. Don’t see much of that anymore, not these days. The few who wield a hammer do so with righteous indignation, and only between catcalling a passing piece of ass.

As if the first railroad workers _didn’t_ ogle women? If they didn’t, it was only because there were none. Whatever version you tell, it is still just that, a story. You join in with all the other bodies. Down, descend into the bowels of the city, hot stale air rushes past, floating to freedom. Further into the holes carved by sandhogs, or those huge tunnel-driller machines that chew through the bedrock pillow, it’s seismic shocks lost to those above. The ground-rodents, if there are any left, are the only ones who sense that something is wrong, something is different. They run into their burrows to hide, safe with the young — but the feeling only grows stronger– deeper, darker, louder. Instinct has failed.

I rode the T to work almost every day of almost every summer since I was 16. A quick, lonely walk down Beacon Street in Newton Center. Beacon Street in Newton Center is similar to Beacon Street in Boston only by name and lineal continuity. My Beacon Street leaves the quaint Victorians for the anachronism that is Newton Center proper. When we first moved here, my parents remember for me a 2 screen movie-theater, a hardware store… an assortment of other stores that sold things beyond boutique jeans and mortgages. Newton Center is the new banking capital of Newton. Who knew there could be so many banks? Everyone I know goes to one of two banks. In Newton Center alone, there are _at least_ 822 separate bank branches. Sky scrapers cast morose inky shadows and blot out the daycare I remember. They have since posted floodlights above the playground, which are used only during daylight hours. The buildings are comprised of alternating shops and banks, one to a floor, a thin winding twisting monstrosity of a structure, all the way up up to the reaches of our little slice of ionosphere.not really, but you get my point


Teenage girls, fresh from inoculations

Uggs are ugly, and are everywhere.

He blow-dries his hair, but his girlfriend has a bulbous forehead.

The asians always shop together, as do the skinny white girls with long pony-tailed hair, but the three black girls are alone.

>The grey one that she left on the bench was the last one

>I know it seems like an excuse, but you’ve never seen me like that —

he’s fat, each ass cheek requires dedicated real estate in his motor cortext. They are anti-. _Fuck conventional standards of beauty. Tattoos creep out of his Finnish heavy metal hoodie, “COBHC”. He is one of the Hate Crew, he proclaims. She has self-conspicuous dreads. Neither look especially comfortable in their own skins; their only hope for avoiding pity is dashed.

_Mommyy wears her fur when she takes me shopping, she says it keeps the dogs away._

>Come this way…
>…I’m coming!

The lymphatic system was a mystery of science until the invention of women’s retail clothing stores. Suddenly, as is often the case, the volume of lymphoma-and-related cases exploded–all were husbands forced to endure retail hell for their post-war wives.

One male sales clerk is clean, and standing too straight to be straight. He fades to the first floor like a wanderlust ancient sarcophagus, poised and stationary in his rigid dimension, arms solemnly crossed across neat t-shirted chest; he is facing off against an imaginary adversary. The Jets and the Sharks.

>This is kind of bohemian…!

An asian girl wears gold flats and jeans, but her lipstick is too pink. She looks surprised because her lips are glowing subtly.

A girl is a relief, etched from soft stone. Her face is caked in color but swarthy skin glows through. Hair shoots, out and unnatural straightened-down burned frayed, infirm and imprisoned. Her legs are darker than the leather of her Uggs and are bare despite the chilly winter afternoon.

Green stripe wags her finger, bouncing to the pretentious indie-share [sic?]. Mellow, reassured; the world is at peace. Spend your money…
>I mean, if you lost eight pounds, you wouldn’t be _emaciated_…

…without reservation.

>I see what you mean…

>I mean, weight _sucks_!

Young asian man, clean-cut-model. Places with purpose his ear-warmers –mufs behind the head. A similarly clad girl mounts the escalator behind him, descending to embrace him. She rests her muffs next to his, and they ride in warmth to the first floor — menswear.

Even the man cleaning the floor conceals his ample gut behind a tucked-in polo shirt. His feet flash with black sneakers, puma’d in yellow.

The North Face® girls swing off the escalator with ease and are carefree. Their hair is the same.

All the men wear grim-set faces–they are _not_ having fun here. Hrmph.

>Please excuse our appearance during renovation

Roxy <3 Syracuse Lax Fresh-faced Emo boy waxes his mope-over, just so-- one strand at a time. Emo boy has a lazy eye. ---


French music sounds like Klezmer when they pull out the clarinet.

A balding jittery white man plays on his iphone, what is he drinking there is no teabag, must be coffee. He looks like a tea-drinker. An iphone and coffee on a weekday afternoon in Newton. He was raised in New York says his voice.

turns out he was waiting, a dimpled black man with a lilt.

The epic showdown
Blackberry vs. iPhone. the old vs. the new. Rotary vs. shear-tactile. the owners stroke the hard, slick plastic bodies, mouths pursed with the concentration. The newcomer has a Jawbone® on his jawbone. Maybe they are lovers. Now the money clip vs. wallet take the stage. The second man is not American by socialization, his is an exotic voice– or speech impediment (one and the same). The Islands. A voice sweet with the smile of spice, sour with the taste of slavery and diaspora. But the man’s deep dimples reveal neither.

The bald guy moves closer, puts his glasses back on his nose–the case reveals they are folding spectacles, reading glasses.
“The phone was ringing, the IM’s were coming in, emails…!”
And I was like, “And when do I get my money”. They both laugh, appreciate. Left-right, up-down, press click press click — a chorus line of Crackberries. Electronic appendages. A life em bodied in silicon, glass, glossy sex. max sweet love to the iPhone. Dance your fingers across the wet shine of the screen, caress the Cupertino curves.

The man with a Blackberry glares — jealously fondling his, spinning its wheel endlessly _cyclical_.

Their lovers will wonder, _is it them?_ Have they put on weight, or is there some[one] else?

They will swallow the tears of doubt, and fall asleep to the sound of the aching loins and aching heart. _Maybe I should get one of those phone-things_ they will think as the roar of sleep drowns out the pain.

He blogged his commute, which was also his job. While the suits consulted their embedded hearts and minds, he tapped away behind the shiny of his set — righteous apple. ThHe really preferred to write long-hand, the slick moleskine lay dormant in his sidebag, crying, eeling neglected, the wet ink drying along with its tears. but a moleskine would be too obvious. .The other bald man, he sneezed a while ago– his balding head is evolving–a tuft remains over his forehead.

The first bald guy is not yet his lover — they are business colleagues, they met at the cafe in newton, the man is a programmer – a consultant who works from home.

The T, the only subway to go by the eponymous letter, the self-fulfilled debut from Boston’s finest, MBTA.Chicago comes close, but theirs is spelled… the el. Immortalized forever by Charlie’s perpetual ride,

Is it Train or Transport or Taking your soul®?
Streetcar suburbs are green and purple, the commuters run to catch their double-decker diesels, while th einner ringers walk with ease–theirs is a five minute interval during rush hour. The first line to be laid was the messy, underdog, only pseudo-underground green line.

The train was first invented by the Persians. After inventing the wheel in the 10th century B.B.C. and iron, one Hypocampus E Trainicus was tasked with piecing the two together …

when erecting the pyriamids..

First logs, logs as wheels, then logs as axels — a transition that is less than obviously easy as anyone who has spent hours engineering lego racecars can attest.

The cute french girls have nowhere to sit

The greenline is the ultimate suburban meta-metaphor. It describes what it helped create; from the perpetual flux and conflict of the urban core, to the _streetcar suburbs_ where the only tension to disturb the serene peripheral air is the _rawkus_ weekly PTAOr is it PTO? What the hell is the difference? meetings—the only violence, when Billy gets hit by a pitch at his Little League game. Take the car out to the malls by the outer loop, 495. Or hop on the green-line and enjoy Boston, the human city.

Place is what we make it. I am from JoB. Just OUTSIDE ov Boston.a la Zyklon B, Kult ov Worms

Go Away (in progress)

Go Away, far
Far Away.

Chu!I reach my heel back, swift kick to the rockhard gut Chu! Then airborne, squinting through approaching twilight, searching for marmot holes in the impossibly mottled grass. I will never ride as the Mongols do. There is something about being raised on horseback, coming from the greatest horse-people in the world, gyroscopic blood. Raised Wooden saddles, floating inches above the horseback; short stirrups, tied together beneath the belly, that would make our knees lock and scream. They fly in frozen standing stance, slouched to one side, pole-lasso in hand, poised in galloped rhythm — familiar as their own pulse.

“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate”. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again” to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”
Pico Iyer, Why We Travel: A Love Affair With the World

“What a fucking ridiculous place”

Vietnam, home of rice paddies and shards of American shrapnel embedded in jungle soil.

Mongolia is nowhere, nothing. Marco Polo and Chinggis Khaan. He is still Genghis to you.

Mongolia gives new weight to the phrase “Golden Years”. Nostalgia on a new plane.

But now’s your chance to see Vietnam. Before it develops they say.

Realize there is something morbidly fascinating about (post)-communism.

Choose Mongolia because you get to spend two weeks herding sheep and goats, and living in a _ger_in the countryside.

To lands returned
To realms uncharted.

Develop some stock answers to the question, Why Mongolia?

You become a minor celebrity in certain circles. Your mom’s email list. Your sister’s friends. Relatives. No-one at your school cares, or they hide it well. It is likely they resent you for out-exoticizing-internationalizing them. This makes you happy.

Go away–far, far away. You are tired of living comfortable. Which is ironic, since for a rich white male, you’ve had it less than easy. Then again, that’s not saying much. You long for culture shock. To be hung by your feet and shaken until everything falls from your pockets.

You want to make sure your Mongolian language skills reach a decent level. Find one of the five Mongolians in Boston and organize private language lessons for th etwo weeks before you leave.

Buy “Colloquial Mongolian” by Alan J. K. Saunders and Jansangiin Batereedüi.

Six months later, the most played track in your iTunes® will still be “Lesson 1, Dialogue 2–Fast”.

Have a sinking feeling halfway thorugh track 2 on the cd. Sample words: Sandal, Kharandaa, Tom, Jijig, Gobi. Goiv? Gobi. Figure it must be a mistake or typo. How can Gobi become.. well the G is swallowed, and calls up from the bottom of your throat, leading to a slippery o that somehow terminates in a soft V. Realize you won’t be learning this language from a book. You need corroboration for these crimes against reason. Wish you hadn’t dropped Chinese.

Enjoy thinking about how you must appear, Mongolian phrases emanating from your throat as you practice to the recordings on your daily commute on the wonderful MBTA.

Be glad you dropped Chinese.

Try not to think about how knowing this language will help you later in life. Fill your head with lots of liberal-arts learn for its own sake bullshit.

Mongolia is fucking awesome, that’s why.

Mongolia&mdash;vast in her emptiness, tragic in her exile from sea and arable land, breathtaking in her humble beauty.

But don’t go for the food

Ode to Pepto
O Pepto, how gracious thou art
Calming the stomach’s sea
Thy fair complexion glows as a rose in Spring
Thy taste, as sweet as the finest chalk.

All romance is dashed,
Upon that first encounter with the infamous phantom
That is Montezuma’s Revenge.

Or the sting of your hands,
As they freeze one morning
In October.

In Mongolia, vegetable soup consists of:
onions (
cabbage (optional)

In Mongolia, the girls walk home to their slums wearing fake designer jeans and faux-fur-trimmed coats.

In Mongolia, Dogs are not man’s best friend.

In Mongolia, Chinggis Khaan is the God of Gods.

In Mongolia, marmots steal frisbees and other bright white, fast-moving objects.

In Mongolia, your cab fare is computed using a simple formula:
(distancekm*300) / (mongolian language ability) / (number of mongolians with you) + 500 \* (number of gringos) + random \* 100

Big Brother is watching, don’t say the
Wrong thing, look the
Wrong way.

Traditional systems dis-
Integrate. Morals, ethics, freedoms and structures of life on the steppe.Such as traditional land use practices, and the freedom to migrate where one wants.
Yet what happens when Big Brother falls?

Stone Flagbearer
Soviet Memorial

The veil is lifted, euphoria blossoms;
The image of the Tiger mesmerizes,
Nurtured by romancing Western winds.Reference to the assurances from Western advisors that their policies would lead Mongolia to become the next ‘Asian Tiger’.

I gingerly held on to my seat as we bounced through marmot holes and over patches of grass, feet perched solidly on the footrests of my host father’s motorcycle as we sped through the night. The cool air soothed my skin, each molecule a reminder of the authenticity of the moment, and my very mortality. The motorcycle’s lone headlight danced its way across the steppe; I leaned back, resting my hands on my knees, and gazed up at the endless starry dark. My stomach full of боодог (boodog, Mongolian roasted goat), сүүтэй цай (suutei tsai, milky tea), айраг (airag, fermented mare’s milk) and архи (arhi, vodka), I smiled at the uniqueness and beauty of this experience, and drank in the Mongolian night.

Yet change proves illusory, as do the goods
That once lined the oppressive shelves of state-owned stores.
A dissatisfied electorate speaks with their vote;
Old are replaced by new: the heroic Democrats

Stumble forward.
With the suavity of a toddler’s first step, they apply the shock;
Sparks fly, illuminating their fresh faces frozen in naïveté and terror.
With the ferocity of a dead fish the Mongolian economy coughs,
Collapsing into torpor.

I took what must have been my 100th lap around the ger–I had struck a rhythm; long underwear snapping against the canvas roof to the beat of my stilted step. My right foot always hitting harder as it centripetally held me in an orbit–clockwise of course, even when committing flyicide.

31 August, Afternoon

Flies are everywhere. On my arm.

Fuck these godforsaken fucking flies. Wow, I sound angry, no?

31 August, 5:30pm

Now Lkhakvasuren is running around the ger rambo-style with a towel in one hand, and my pillow in the other, windmilling her arms.

4 September, 3:55pm

Midday is definitely the worst time of day. It’s hot, and there’s nothing to do. My [host] father usually naps or watches TV, or both, while I make flashcards or do homework. Meanwhile, the flies go beserk. There’s no point in even trying to wave them away.

Right now the only sound is of flies swarming above and around me. A chorus that ebbs and flows to its own chaotic pulse. Usually, I get up every ten minutes or so to clear my side of the ger, if only to lessen the number in my immediate vicinity, for a few moments of relative peace.

It sorta works. At least I don’t feel helpless. My [host] father is going to tend to the sheep now…

8 September, 3:47pm

When this baby screams, it’s like the sun is shattering, screeching-swerving through space. Except less cosmic, graceful, grandiose, or poetic. The shit is just LOUD and SHRILL.

It’s also the witching hour. Or hours. WHen the flies all take their afternoon dose of speed and then go Bat-Shit-Insane all over the ger. Todo: Become zen so I don’t care

9 September, 3:00pm

…they joked that I should give them burzag blah blah, that I was a poor host –pause to kill some flies–

9 September, 3:55pm

Phew. There were 100’s, now there are, like, 20. The war is un-winnable, but I figure I can win a few battles to make their level at least tolerable. And strike some fear into their grimy hearts.

The Herd
One mass, assembled
A stream of fleece
Flowing, bound by ground
Horse and voice

An architecture whose elegance
Could only emerge from Time’s
Eternal forge, casting
Function, form, philosophy.

Swarms of flies, driven mad by midday sun
Melt silence into winged static.

Timelessness embodied in wooden chests,
The malchins’ mournful voice serenades his herd;
A wood-framed home in a woodless land.

Learn that everything extracted from, or grown in Mongolia goes to China; that everything that can be bought is made in China, perhaps from Mongolian materials. Which you hadn’t dropped Chinese.


We are walking down the main drag, heading to or from a bar. A man is standing by the roadside. he is a dark shape revealed only in the passing slices of headlights, wearing a shirt that was once white, but is now streaked with red. Presumably blood. His face, also revealed by the headlights is similarly painted — and wears a timid grimace.

He is trying to get home; with one hand struggling to pathetically hail a passing car, as he hunches over into himself.


Don’t go to Mongolia for the food. Unless you like three things: Mutton, Salt and Fat. Then you should rather enjoy the cuisine.

The American doctor at the local Korean Christian hospital thinks Mongolians have high rates of kidney disease from not drinking any water. In the countryside, they drink suutei tsai (literally, tea with milk). Perhaps a more apt name would be davstai tsai (tea with salt). It is the beverage of choice when you’re not drinking airag (fermented mare’s milk, or koumiss), and can be conveniently used as broth for any soup or noodles.
Main Dishes

You have the infamous buuz. Buuz are like Tibetan momos — little mutton-filled boiled dumplings. Except momos are smaller, and have spices and vegetables. Buuz have four ingredients: Mutton, Mutton Fat, Salt, and Onions. For cultures from the colder regions, the highest of culinary achievement is glorious lard.

Put the onions, mutton and fat in a dumpling wrapper. Make into dumpling. Boil. Eat with suutei tsai. Your first bite may be dangerous, you bite into the familiar dumpling shell only to receive an onslaught of flooding ”juice“. Your mouth fills with mutton grease and the uniquely pungent taste of mutton itself.

Mutton is a uniquely fatty red meat, so bad for you that the Mongolian government runs a health campaign, promoting BEEF as the heart-healthy ”other red meat“!

Up next, khuushuur. These are like hot pockets (maybe the calzones), but filled with one thing: mutton — and then fried to oblivion.

Tsuivan. This was my staple dish when eating at the only restaurants that exist outside the city (the capitol). Zoogiin Gazar, Buuz-eria, ”Mongolian National Fast Food“. they serve several dishes, most which are randomly sold out at any particular moment.

I always order Tsuivan. it’s a simple dish — a safe choice mostly, though a few times I was served it with ketchup. Which threw me off a bit. Essentially it’s Mongolian lo mein. take flat wheat noodles, fry lightly with a generous amount of oil, slivers of mutton, and maybe a few veggies. even the noodles will take on the pungence of mutton, absorbed into the oils.

I arrived in Mongolia approximately August 23rd.

On August 29th, I recorded in my journal that ”maybe I just don’t like mutton“.

I had just finished my first week.

First of fourteen.

One would think, given the number of livestock (35 million) and their centrality to Mongolian culture and lifestyle, and that all the main livestock varieties produce milk fit for the purpose (sheep, goats and cows) that Mongolia would have developed a robust cheese-making tradition. But no. There are two types of Mongolian cheese: aaruul and ”Mongolian Cheese“. Aaruul is the traditional cheese made in the countryside and dried for weeks in the sun on the roof of the ger. It is hard. As a soft stone. Sure, you could bite it, but you’d be risking a ticket to both the dentist and world of pain. one of my buddies’ host mothers made this mistake. She must’ve been lving in the city so long she lost touch with the culture and forgot how to eat aaruul. Though city dwellers don’t drink as much cuutei tsai so maybe she was calcium deficient (thus the broken tooth).

So aaruul is a hard and very strong-tasting cheese. very salty.

Cheese #2/2 is textured pleasantly, between mozzarella and cheddar. It’s a bit rubbery. looks delicious until you take a bite. And realize it has no taste. Who knew it possible to make cheese with utterly no taste? i always figured cheese got most of its flavor from the cheesiness. y’know, milk (ie. goat vs. sheep vs. cow… all the cheese taste different) and the cultures…

But here was proof of the futility of my self-delusions. Stark in its blandness. My host family laughed when i bought some, and referred to it as davsgui byslag — cheese with no salt. So the one place I would gladly have welcomed a bit of salty tang, of course it is utterly absent.

The one thing that is wrong with all Mongolian Pizza is the cheese — and understandably so. When mozzarella is $15/lb, and you earn $400/month if you’re rich, then Pizza just ain’t gonna be the same.

Not that they don’t try… (Pizza King… )

I stared at the metal bowl placed unceremoniously before us. It was a matte-gray metal pot — like a wash bin – the standard vessel for all cooking outside the ”apartmented gentry“.

I only got sick once in Mongolia. No, twice. Neither were especially severe – as in, long lasting – but rendered me physically weak, emotionally drained, and gastrointestinally anarchic.

Sickness, such as this reminds you of how connected and unified your GI tract really is. We tend to separate at the stomach. The top is for eating, the bottom for pooping. Yet once food passes the halfway mark, it falls under the realm of the nearest escape route. So on that fateful day when I drank a glass of Mongolian Coca-Cola with breakfast (my host father later told me my illness must have been due to that) the contents of my GI tract decided to riot and collectively exited my body.

Luckily (or unluckily, depends who you ask) I never experienced a majestic GI phenomenon known as the Wind Tunnel. When both sides of one’s GI tract decide to exit simultaneously, one is left in an interesting logistical quagmire. Then, a state of vacuum is created in the center of the body as you spew digested and undigested food simultaneously into the nearest drainally-able vessel.

It took me two weeks to learn how to get to school. Every school day we went the same way. From our rooms at the top of the student hostel, we descended to the increasingly frigid streets of UB. A short walk and a wait later, we were aboard a Korean trolley bus, creaking our way down Peace Ave. I still don’t past the east crossroads is a long stretch of empty road, only one stop or its 2.5 km. Then the trolley arrived at the end of the line, the war memorial. That’s what we called it.

Mongolia, land of the clear blue sky, transforms at night; her blue skies fade to reveal the blackness of empty space, overwhelmed by a silent swarm of stars, frozen in a distant dance. The moon, if she is out, burns with epic brightness, casting a cool glow across the shuffling herd, who peer at me with amazingly complete incomprehension.

(I stood outside the doorway to our ger, toothbrush hanging from my mouth. Gazing at the chaotic swarm of stars blanketing the night’s black. Mongolia, land of the clear blue sky, transforms at night; her blue skies fade to reveal the blackness of empty space, punctuated by the glow of distant stars.)

Bring lots of energy bars. Lots.

If, at any point, you manage to perform an act of explosive and/or otherwise notable bowel movement–be sure to proudly proclaim so to your travelling companions. If they fail to recognize you for your achievements (i.e. survival), realize they don’t get it (yet) and have faith that their time will come. Or find new travelling companions.

Develop some form of superstitious logic to explain how best to preserve your gastrointestinal health–if only to maintain some semblance of composure (sanity). The mind does not take well to dreading diarrhea after every meal, arbitrarily.

Halfway home, the bus breathes its last breath. It’s really more of a wheeze. Watch the driver frantically fan at the flames peeking out of a hole in the bus’ side panel as you walk away.