My Moon My Man (Boys Noize Remix)

I’d have thought Jesus Christ would’ve risen by now to declare this track winner.

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Boys Noize is a mystery to me — this is the one that grabbed me off his album Oi Oi Oi, and there’s not much to read about him online. I was hoping he’d make his way to Austin sometime for a show, but no luck yet.

Feist’s “My Moon My Man” is a pretty good track, but this is heads and shoulders above the original. Any fans of hers whose tastes meander toward the electronic will agree.

The computerized vocals give it a nice techno vibe from the beginning. Her voice is given space to shine through, and enough original instrumentation is used that you respect this as a carefully crafted remix rather than the latest from The Hood Internet (though I love ’em). Perfectly executed rises and falls too.

It’s a shame the fluff that populated the remix album based on her major label debut, Let It Die, wasn’t of this caliber.

You can find the original on Feist’s The Reminder.

Download: Feist – My Moon My Man (Boys Noize Remix)

Gotham: Not Just the Obama Font

A significant portion of my visitors come from searches for Obama’s font, so I might as well give the people what they want. Obama uses a very strong typeface for most of his signage, most notably promoting “change we can believe in.” Pity about the dangling preposition.

It’s called Gotham.

Gotham’s designer, Tobias Frere-Jones, has long collected typography specimens from around New York City. The bold, majestic faces leftover from over half a century of announcing places and things have a nostalgic charm that hadn’t been dusted off until Gotham made its debut in 2000.

Back when graphic designers were less common (the whole profession probably sounded pretty wishy-washy in the ’40s), the architects and engineers who constructed a building often ended up designing its signage.

As a result Gotham is a geometric font, but Frere-Jones allowed it to “escape the grid wherever necessary, giving the design an affability usually missing from ‘geometric’ faces,” according to the H&FJ website. Frere-Jones often cites the lettering above the Port Authority Bus Terminal as inspiration.

Gotham is wider than average text, lending it gravity and solidity. It says, “What I’m saying is special enough to warrant the extra room I require.” Increased legibility comes from this and the large x-height (the height of the lower part of the letter, usually compared to the ascender).

You might be surprised to hear it arose from a commission for GQ Magazine. It’s been used by pretty much everyone before the Obama campaign got their hands on it.

A few days ago I saw a foreign model surprised that Barack Obama uses the same font that advertises an underwear brand back home. I even used the ultra caps for the logo of my file-delivery service, Sendshack.

You can also see it on the cornerstone of the Freedom Tower being built where the World Trade Center once stood. Quite the honor for a typeface designed to reflect the spirit of New York City.

H&FJ also point out that McCain’s using a font most would recognize from the supermarket cosmetic aisle.

Where have you noticed Gotham?

Why there’s no Gore-Tex Paclite in Japan

The rain in Tokyo was making my lack of waterproof pants uncomfortable.

I find your lack of waterproof pants disturbing

Just down the alley from Vegan Healing Cafe, there’s a huge MontBell filled with all sorts of outdoor gear. You don’t hear much about them stateside unless you read Mark Verber’s excellent rundown on outdoor clothing and footwear, but in Japan they’re the most popular outfitter.

One evening the skies opened up during dinner, so I Continue reading Why there’s no Gore-Tex Paclite in Japan

Running With the Bulls

We traveled almost 900 kilometers to participate in a world-famous festival that dates back 800 years. And the policewoman was kicking me out.

It was my shoes. At each stage the police glance over the runners to make sure they’re properly equipped, trying to prevent idiots from increasing the fatality count. My Five Fingers hadn’t failed me over five months and eleven countries, but I wasn’t running on this lady’s watch.

All this for nothing? I feverishly tried to explain in my rough Spanish that these were running shoes… people run marathons in these! I’ve run marathons in these! They’re specially made for running?

She grabbed another policeman and together they forced me out through the double fences bordering the path the bulls would take.

I sprinted to another entry point and tried to get in, but another cop pushed me out violently and told me I was too late. I ran to find another but couldn’t. How could I tell people I’d been to Pamplona but hadn’t run?

Then it occurred to me — I could just run the next day.

That morning I picked up some $30 running shoes and met two Lithuanian running partners at the internet cafe. Only one was going to run, but it didn’t take us long to convince the other to sack up.

Ty gave me some invaluable tips. He’d stuck to the right and was pushed up against the wall as the bulls passed, safely insulated by a few layers of people but disappointingly out of reach.

We arrived a little earlier in case something went wrong so we’d have plenty of time to move to another stage. Running on a Saturday meant tons more people — it was starting to get packed, and when the rockets signaling the bulls’ release were fired the crowd started to sway back and forth.

The police set us free to start running. The crowd was thick and moving slowly, but we still reached the next stage before the bulls and became part of an even larger crowd as we waited.

At this rate I’d never get close to a bull. I looked behind me and saw some Spanish guys stretching. They looked like they knew what they were doing.

I walked back to them and watched them warm up, expecting the bulls to round the corner any second. After a minute or so, the cheering started. People packing the balconies above us were looking back expectantly.

Then everyone started to run.

You’re much more likely to trip over a person than a bull is to trip over you, but by then most of the people were way ahead of us.

The bulls largely stick to the left side, so if you stay right you’re less likely to get stuck or trampled. Though touching the bulls is officially discouraged, it’s what everyone’s trying to do, me included, so I stayed just right of center.

It wasn’t scary when the first group appeared behind me to my left. Everyone had told me how huge they were (almost as tall as me — six feet) and I’d seen them fly by the day before. The field was open enough that I could have dodged out of the way if necessary, and the bulls seemed to be pretty set on their path.

As the second one passed me I leaned left and touched his flank. We’d come up on a slight turn that would put the next group on the right side, so I veered left and put out my hands to keep from tripping over the people in front of me.

The next group passed and I reached out again to touch another along his back. They were running twice as fast as I was.

Probably because I wasn’t on the receiving end of any horns, they didn’t seem particularly violent or malicious. Just your average group of bulls trying to get from point A to point B, though they did trample a dude or two while I followed them.

Only 30 seconds after we’d started running, we ran through the gates and into the arena, another group of bulls seconds behind us. If we’d entered before any of the bulls, the crowd would have booed us as cowards.

We waited along the sides as the rest of the bulls and steers ran through the arena and into the holding cell. Usually you wait a few minutes for a young bull with blunted horns to be released to play with the runners.

As they went to close the gates, I slipped out at the last second and stepped into the streets. I had an 8:45 bus to catch to Barcelona.

I ran with the bulls. I even touched two of the 1600-pound monsters, just a slip away from injury by horn or hoof. No falls, no cuts, no bruises.

Too bad, really… I’d love to be able to show off a scar on my forearm and tell how I got it running with the bulls in Pamplona on a trip around the world.


Most people would never guess I like Japanese pop. Western pop is bad enough, so jacking the cuteness up to 11 couldn’t possibly help. But there are some great electronic beats, and it’s come to be a symbol of my love for Tokyo.

During Hanami, Yoyogi Park is packed with people sitting on tarps under the cherry blossoms. Friends and family hang out over food and drinks — usually alcoholic and in quantity. Ty, Toby, and I were in the mix.

Two girls and a guy approached, all dressed alike, a woman carrying a boombox bringing up the rear. The guy looked like a gay wizard with his short shorts and long grey beard. They asked if they could perform for us.

The boombox started and they began to dance and lip sync.

I got it on video but didn’t know the name of the original group until Ty saw them on the big screen at Shibuya station.

By then I’d been watching the hilarious video and the song had been growing on me. I downloaded the album and haven’t listened to much else since. Perfume’s GAME was very successful, and they just hit the top of the charts with their new single, “love the world.”

Here’s one of my current favorites. It’s what I imagine would be the ultimate Kylie Minogue track, only with Japanese girls on vocals.

You can download GAME here.

Riding the Dunes of Qatar

On Fridays, everything in Qatar is closed. It’s like Sunday in the US with three times the service interruption.

We had no idea, so when our flight landed in the wee hours Friday morning, the entire city was shut down. We had the wrong address and ended up in the industrial section 20 minutes out of town. The sprawl was incredible — LA has nothing on Doha.

We tried asking for the “city center,” also unaware that a building in the new downtown bears the same name.

Doha’s trying to compete with Dubai for the title of premier gulf city, so the new downtown is populated almost exclusively with cranes and unfinished buildings. It was getting hot quickly in the high-rise ghost town.

If we could just get to the Internet, we could look up the address and even call the hostel if necessary. Unfortunately the guy at the 24-hour pharmacy told us everything would be closed until 4 pm.

It was about 7 am.

There were tons of closed shops around the area. Maybe one would have unprotected wifi? After a few minutes of scouring the area with our phones, we had the address and phone number and were in a cab on the way to beds and air conditioning.

Doha’s only hostel turned out to be quite a bonanza. There are a ton of clean, cool rooms, the common area is done very nicely, and they have fast wifi. It’s a bit out of the way and requires a little direction in addition to the address for taxis, but in a city of excess, paying $20 per person per night is worth it.

Taxis, by the way, are normally super difficult to hail. They apparently retired all the old orange taxis before there were enough new ones to replace them, so when I called in to request a pickup, the wait was 4 hours.

We wanted to get down to Sealine Beach, about 45 minutes outside of Doha, so we figured we’d wander around in the 113 degree heat until we found one.

We were pretty pleased to find our friend John, who was also staying at the hostel, getting out of one just outside.

You wouldn’t expect a guy in his fifties to be interested in blasting around the dunes on four wheelers, but he only took a second to think before he was in. We swapped stories as the sun moved lower in the sky.

One enormous dune came up on the horizon. No build-up of smaller dunes, just BAM!! Cue the dunes!

We tracked down some four wheelers and cruised up and down, found jumps, even raced across the flat desert to the next set of dunes. Had a close call or two too.

It’s too hot before evening to do much of anything, so the next day we visited the old souqs (markets) to look around and find dinner. There were tons of spice and fabric stores, and you’d be able to find almost anything else among the huge variety of shops.

After a walk down to the port to check out the budding skyline. we were ready to get some sleep before the early flight to Paris. Qatar Airways is a blessing of an airline, by the way.

We jumped at the opportunity to extend our layover in Qatar to a couple of days, and I’d do it again. Awesome to get my first glimpse of the desert and check out a gulf nation.

But man is it hot.

The Slowest Train in the World

Why take a 24-hour train over a 4-hour bus?

Because it’s the last running train in Cambodia. Because it’s packed with locals transporting fruit to the capital. Because you can ride on the roof!

Cambodia train roof

The train from Battambang to Phnom Penh used to run three times a week, but these days goes just once on Sunday. We took a taxi 150 km for the privilege.

When the lady changing money outside the station (who gave me an unbelievably fair rate) needed more Rial, she picked up her cell phone, and within one minute three dudes swooped in on motorbikes from separate directions and handed her huge wads of cash.

$1 is worth roughly 4000 Rial, and the biggest bill is the 10,000 note, so your pockets fill up quickly. In exchange for a guaranteed seat, foreigners are charged roughly 5x the normal rate. Even so, it was only $6.

We loaded up into the last car and spaced out the seats, which had been detached from the floor and stacked in a pile.

Wandering through the other cars, most of the seats were occupied by durians, lychees, bags of charcoal, and the women transporting them. The only men on the train were the railway police.

As the train left the station, the overgrown tree limbs on either side of the train started scraping along the train and snapping into the open windows. They say the last maintenance on the track was 8 years ago.

Having read about the roof, I headed up the ladder between cars. Rice paddies and fields stretched as far as I could see, mountains on the horizon. Some kids had clambered up after me. Ty saw my shadow and came up a few minutes later.

Soon everyone was up and enjoying the morning sun. We jumped from car to car, thinking of Indiana Jones.

The train bounced and rocked from side to side, but at the 17 km/hr top speed (Ty measured with GPS) we kept our footing even on the roof. Then the train stopped.

We looked around — no station in sight.

All the men congregated in front of our car, which had somehow gotten enough air to jump the next one’s bumper.

One of the guys tried in vain to separate them and they radioed the locomotive to try starting quickly and jerking them apart. No sweat. The train rolled on, past paddies, villages, and some of the cutest kids we’d ever hope to see.

It moved so slowly that we couldn’t resist jumping out and running next to the train. Outrunning it wasn’t hard and the kids joined in.

As we left Pursat, one of the policemen asked us to move to the next car “for our safety,” though seats among the durians and dragonfruits were scarce.

After we’d moved up, I glanced back toward our previous seats and saw logs filling up the now-empty car. Safety, huh?

Nori, aka bamboo trains, are little cars rigged up using spare tank parts, train axles, bamboo, and go-kart engines. Since the tracks are essentially unused, villagers travel and carry cargo with nori. And now one was behind our train, offloading logs into our former digs WHILE WE WERE MOVING!

Didn’t get a photo, but here’s what they look like.

One after the other, four of these things stacked high with wood pulled up to the back of the train to make a contribution. That was just the beginning.

When we pulled into the next village, there were huge stacks of logs everywhere and a lot of eager-looking people . The second we stopped, they started loading into the boxcar, on the flat car, into our old car, and on the roof! The women seemed to be doing most of the work as usual.

Though we were already hours behind schedule at this point, the train started before the wood loaders had finished. They hustled to get the last few logs stacked up. I’m proud to say moving trains have never kept me from my wood loading either.

We also had to watch out for the fruit. Bags full of it would appear in the windows, passed up by old ladies that could break Ty in half.

This repeated itself for every stop in the next few hours until the train was packed to the gills.

The sun started to set, so we went back up top and found the wood guys perched on their stacks. The paddies reflected everything.

Back in the cars, everyone was getting into sleeping position. The kid next to me curled up on a bag of charcoal. The woman on the other side climbed into her hammock.

Ty strung his up and made a hilarious contraption with cot poles. If he’d fallen, it would have been into a load of durian. I put mine safely out of range and locked myself in with a carabiner.

When we stopped around 5 am, the sun was coming up and the wood and fruit were being unloaded. Another hour and change and we were rolling into Phnom Penh.

Houses (using the term loosely) line the railway, and people were out bright and early eating and walking around.

A full 24 hours after we’d left Battambang, we rolled into the station for an average speed just over 12 km/hr.

It felt like we saw a lot of the Cambodian spectrum, going between its two biggest cities and seeing the towns, villages, and people in between. Traveling overland here may be a little short on comfort, but you’ll see things you wouldn’t have by air, bus, or car.

The train and track have been deteriorating steadily for years, so if you’re in the area and on the fence, go for it. If the holes in the roof, walls, and floor are any indicator, one of these days it’s going to fall apart. Hope you catch it before that.

Sex Tourists Are Not Welcome

The Atlanta Hotel in Bangkok is within walking distance of the tailor district, the Siam Paragon, and Lumpini Park. It’s also right next two of the three red light districts of Bangkok.

When the owner’s son took over, he decided to make it “Bangkok’s Bastion of Healthy Tourism.” The guy must have had some pretty traumatic sexual experiences.. he clearly has a complex.

Staying there, you’re also constantly reminded that the hotel won’t entertain complaints since it’s a “budget” hotel.

They do have an awesome pool area (first swimming pool in Thailand), a good vegetarian restaurant, and easy access to the Skytrain. It was apparently the finest hotel in Bangkok in its heyday in the ’60s. Recommended.

Taiwan: Report Card

Ah, Taiwan, we hardly knew you.  Though our M.O. of working for the first month and seeing the country for the second isn’t very fair to a one-month stop, I was getting pretty fond of it by the end.

So what did we like about Taiwan?  Let’s check out the report card.

Taipei night market

Nocturnal resident friendliness: A

For starters, Taipei stays up late.  At 2am on the weekends, you’ll see elderly couples taking walks (or maybe heading home from the clubs?) alongside kids hanging out.  No matter the hour, there always seem to be people out and about.

There are night markets all over the city that are open well past midnight, and there were plenty of little eateries near our apartment that never seemed to close.

Even during the day, public grounds are always hopping.  Around Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall we’d see people practicing Tai Chi, flying kites, and dancing.  Off to the side there’s a perfect area for workouts.

Record-setting buildings: A

The Taipei 101 is just a few minutes away.  We’d heard the tallest building in the world had a fantastic grocery store in the basement.

It’s true, and the view from the top ain’t half bad either.  You can cruise up in the world’s fastest elevator and check out the counterintuitive counterweight system that keeps the building from swaying.  Apparently putting 600-ton weights at the top helps counter the wind?

Taipei 101

It doesn’t look so tall from the ground, but from the Mao Kong gondola you get a real appreciation for its scale.

Public transportation: A+

How many other cities have gondolas in their people-moving arsenals?

Taipei’s MRT (subway) consistently ranks among the best-run in the world.  It’s very fast, super clean, and there are very helpful full-service booths in every station.  Buses go everywhere you’d ever want to go too.

Taipei MRT

And the trains!  They’re about as fast as the Japanese Nozomi and a fraction of the price.  We paid about $20 for a reserved ticket from Taipei to Taichung — and it only took 50 minutes at 300 kM.

Weather: B-

Most people would schedule a trip outside of monsoon season.  Not sure how we missed this one.

We definitely would have done more around Taiwan if we hadn’t been working around the rain, but it only got in the way a few times.

Electric scooters: F

If they hadn’t died almost directly in front of another branch of the rental agency, we would have had a looooong walk ahead of us.

There’s no better vehicle for driving around Sun Moon Lake, but don’t put much faith in the battery gauge.  We had to see the pagoda Chiang Kai-shek built across the lake in his mother’s memory.  It’s magical when the clouds roll in.


It was a real treat to stay at the Lalu when we were here.  I don’t think working ever looked so good.


Availability of electronics: A++

Akihabara is the mecca, but Taipei’s electronics district isn’t far behind.  You can find all the same things, but instead of an entire building devoted to butterfly washers there’s only a booth.  And I’m ok with that.

The largest OEM electronics manufacturers like Foxconn (who actually make all your Apples, Nokias, and Motorolas) are Taiwanese, so computers, cameras, phones, etc are about as cheap as you can get.

Next year we’ll have to stay for the Computex trade show, where everyone shows off their latest and greatest.

I also have to mention the fantastic product support.  Three days after dropping my camera off at JVC’s Taipei office, it was good as new.  They even emailed me pictures of the salt-encrusted insides!


So we didn’t see as much of Taiwan as we would have liked, but what we did was more than enough to earn it a spot for next year.

Obama’s Global Poverty Act Misrepresented

“President Obama Signs $8500.00 Per Household Tax Into Law: Funds To Go To The United Nations To Combat Global Poverty!”

Or so an email I received from my Dad would have you believe. I get a pretty constant stream of conservative-written forwards, which I actually like because it gives me the opportunity to call attention to any incorrect information.

In the email, Obama’s Global Poverty Act is proclaimed to commit the U.S. to sending 0.7% of its GNP to the U.N., equivalent to $845 billion more than current foreign aid spending. It’s likened to a global tax.

Here are some other quotes:

“Barack Hussein Obama’s Global Poverty Act will commit us to a stealth United Nations-inspired global tax of $845 Billion dollars…”

“…dedicates 0.7 percent of the U.S. gross national product to foreign aid, which… would amount to $845 billion ‘over and above what the U.S. already spends.”

When you see Obama referred to as “Barack Hussein Obama,” I think it’s safe to assume what you’re reading is fairly biased.

This particular email is a rare breed. Since its content hasn’t been aired by any prominent media, you won’t find any real sources if you search for “obama global poverty act.” It isn’t until the fourth page of results that you get any perspective.

The bill does not:

  • impose a tax
  • recommend contributions to the U.N.
  • commit any funding to fighting poverty

The bill does recommend:

  • leveraging trade policy to help developing nations
  • improving the effectiveness of development assistance
  • coordinating poverty reduction goals with other development goals
  • continued participation in U.S.-led programs related to poverty (eg. HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis prevention)
  • integrating principles of sustainable development and entrepreneurship into policies and programs

The bill is pretty benign. It requires the President to submit his plan to reduce poverty within one year of passage. The goal is to promote policy that reduces the number of people worldwide who live on less than $1 a day by half. (Go inflation!)

All that’s required is a statement of the plan. The plan can be anything, whether it’s doing nothing beyond current efforts, defining poverty goals for existing programs, coordinating with other countries to lower trade barriers, or adjusting aid to be directed more toward teaching to fish instead of giving fish.

This bill is nothing like the people who authored this email would have you believe, and you won’t get the facts anywhere in the first three pages of Google results.

If you receive this email, please reply to all with a link to this post.

The full text of S. 2433: Global Poverty Act of 2007 can be found here.