Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Pile of poop

I finished the thesis proposal. I feel sorry for my department head, not for having to read the proposal, but for having to read the four appendices I included. That was uncalled for, but they were crucial. I mean, what thesis is complete without an essay on the epistemological issues inherent in dream studies?

So now, folks, I can breathe a little. And maybe read....fiction?

In other news, a man from New York was rescued by firemen from the 7 ft tall mountain of poop, bottles of urine and "other debris" he had piled up in his bedroom. I'm not making this up. Apparently the pile of excrement trapped him in his room for four days, and he eventually struggled over to the phone to call for help. The 64 old man was treated for dehydration, hypothermia, bedsores, and exhaustion.

I'd be exhausted too if I piled all my poop up into a mountain. That's hard work. But that's no excuse to get dehydrated and not drink your own urine. Amateurs!

Oh - the picture is of an amazing slime mold I discovered growing on a log. This continues my series of nature's splendor/putrescence.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Mushroom season!

The rains have begin again and I'm celebrating, as usual, by posting pictures of putrescence. That's really how I roll. Above is a fruiting of shaggy manes - they're delicious fried in butter and garlic (what isn't?) but you better do it before they explode into a black inky mess. They change from plump firm flesh to drippy goo in less than 24 hours. Sort of like time-lapse bubonic plague victims.

Watch out - make sure you don't have a related mushroom that's known as the "alcohol inky." It disables your body's ability to digest alcohol for several days (enyzyme actions) - so even a beer could cause terrible pain and digestive troubles.

Don't worry mom, I'm a mycophob by nature, so I'm really careful. In general successful mushroom hunting is all about caution and research and more caution and then more research. But then: yumminess!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Good Lookin' Bird

Here it is: our first thanksgiving turkey away from home! Weighing in at six pounds, dripping wet, this little lady was the tasty centerpiece to our Feast O' Gratitude.

That's all I wanna say except that gibblets really freak me out.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Case of the Deep-fried Flag

The world's awesomest art exhibit was prematurely torn down last week in Clarksville, Tennessee. William Gentry of Austin, TX apparently infuriated this sleepy community by exhibiting American flags that were deep fried. He had a mission - something about obesity and the south.

But Clarksville is a military town, and people got pretty upset that the stars and bars were dipped in peanut oil and then fried to a golden brown. Obviously this is insulting to those who prefer to eat their flags raw, or who have become accustomed to American values being pickled.

The whole ordeal reminds me of Elvis. Anyone who has had the chance to snack on his miraculous Golden Loaf knows what I'm talking about here.

As my readers know, I ask all the hard-hitting questions on this blog: If french fries can be "freedom fries," then isn't it natural for the next step to lower the American flag into a cauldron of boiling oil?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Gonna hang my hat

Glory be - I've found a place to live! This city is a tough beast to crack open. Like a nut, I mean. A nut-beast. I'm not sure who to thank for this sweet providence, except for all the fish n chips of course. However, I'm partially convinced that this is the work of today's Cosmic Trigger Event.

Indeed, reputable new age astrologers from the Academy of Sorcerers have calculated that today, Oct 17, 2006, is the beginning of a GIGANTIC PULSE BEAM of UV light that will magnify our good intentions a million-fold. It is recommended to be near some trees or the ocean (or at least near some tinkling water for effect) to further concentrate your powers. And for everyone's sake, do not watch Must See TV for the next 17 hours or we're all toast.

I'm so excited I'm going to pee my pants. To the cosmic guardians I say: May all of the universe be showered with golden light!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Suburban Fetish of the Week

I've been accused in the past of "making up" the connection between little girls, horses, and - um - sensuality. This little piece of art, devised by Dominic Wilcox, is actually available for sale. Custom-made. Real leather and multiple settings. "Putting the fun back in housework" is the tagline.

Feministing bloggers, to whom I owe this find, wonder if it's a tool of the patriarchy or an honest appraisal of housewives' lonely days.

A close woman friend of mine, meanwhile, wonders if it's functional. "Those corners aren't going to work," she says, "it needs more rounded edges. Also, if it was really designed by a woman for women, it wouldn't be leather... it's still a male fantasy."

Perhaps. But I'm not the one who had my first orgasm at a canter.

Friday, October 06, 2006

It was autumn

Yeah, for about a week it was Autumn. I flew on the back of a silver-bellied gas guzzler to my old stomping grounds to find crisp air, fragrant blooms and the maples just starting to crone out. These here are confederate daisies on top of Arabia Mountain.

Apparently, as soon as I left to come back to Fog-City, the weather turned hot as a mug again. Don't blame me, I'm a dreamer.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Fall down go boom

Let's be honest: The World Trade Center is not the first time we've watched the tower crumble to the ground. The image is one of our culture's oldest. Let's review: the Tower of Babel - it fell, a smackdown by God for human arrogance. Apparently, we were trying to rely on masonry techniques to get all the way to heaven. Gibberish resulted.

Later, in the fifteenth century Tarot, the Falling Tower card shows a castle struck by lightning, and sometimes getting blitzed with dragon breath. The card is interpreted widely in folk psychology circles as a violent shift in our lives caused by - you guessed it - hubris.

There's even a similiar myth in Celtic history, based around King Vortigern, who ruled around 460 AD. Legend tells he was unable to complete his castle tower; it continued to collapse because it was built on an underground lake, underneath which two sleeping dragons laid. In the end, Vortigern and his men are killed by a lightning storm, a curse made to order by a Druidic priestess. Why Vortigern? Turns out he seized power of England by killing the young king Constanc, when Vortigern was pretending to be his advisor. Yep, more hubris and duplicity.

Well, what possibly could the World Trade Center's fall have to do with hubris and duplicity? What is it about the tower of commerce that is unstable? Top-Heavy? Over-inflated? The same warnings can be found today on the back side of the sunvisor in any SUV - "WARNING: This vehicle is ridiculous and it's only a matter of time before it rolls over."

But we're not rolling over, of course. We're staying the course. It's no longer the War on Terror, remember. Cheney announced earlier this year that the US is involved in "The Long War." Okay, that's cool, that's got the ring of history, unlike the ill-fated previous name for this conflict "the Global Struggle against Violent Extremism." (This is when our enemy was identified as radical Islam, which made me snort milk out of my nose). Interestingly, in Orwell's 1984, Emmanuel Goldstein says:

"It does not matter whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist."

So I went to a craft store today and ended up buying an eleven dollar puzzle, made in Russia, called "Round Castle Tower." My plans for the rest of the afternoon are basically to watch 1984, build a plastic tower, and maybe re-traumatize myself with CNN's sweet pipeline of tower-falling footage - which Nerve blogger Clayton James Cubitt calls "9/11 porn".

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your teeth.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Leaving Lafayette

After a great year in the Diablo hills, I have landed in fog-tastic San Francisco. The above picture is a suitable goodbye to the treasure trove of yummy eating to be found in the suburban wilderness. All laid out - that's fresh baked sourdough bread made from local yeasts, then there's a cup of homemade beer, Wendy's plum jam, and a host of organic vegetables grown in my roommate's garden. I had hardly anything to do with these projects, except helping procure the supplies and being the first one to taste them.

Always a sadness leaving a home. We weren't built for this nomadic shit. Semi-nomadic, sure. Bring it on. Fact is, the eldery snowbirds who wear a path between New York and Florida live more like our deep ancestors than anyone else in America. We like to leave.... and then come back. This leaving forever to live someplace new where we're totally disconnected from the land to pack it up and leave again pattern is ... well, it just breaks my little heart.

So now onward to foggy adventures in the northwest corner of the San Francisco peninsula! Mushroom season is on its way, and there's about a dozen coffee shops to linger at with my never-ending pile of non-ficton.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

fish n chips redux

Until I construct my fish n chips mandala, use this crispy little image for your daily meditations.

Don't forget the crystals.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Fish n Chips

It's like this, ya'll. Maybe you don't believe in group prayer, or good vibes, or even wishful thinking. Maybe you read Voltaire at a precocious age and still think optimism is veiled pessimism. But I need some help drawing down the energy of the Gods, yo, because I am 10 days away from being kicked out of my house and I have no place to live yet.

Hence, Fish n Chips. Throughout the ages, inviting Fish n Chips into the fry pan has been the most certain way to align our nefarious intentions with the cosmos. We don't really know why, but I assure you a crack team of transpersonal psychologists are working on the algorithms around the clock.

So, join me and imagine a delicious plate of Fish n Chips. The fish is golden. So are the chips. Little steamy wafts are steamily wafting. Say to yourself "Dear God of all Fried Foods, how about going ahead and giving Dungan a break?"

thank you for your patronage.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Nothing reminds you of your own mortality like being forced to look at pictures of terrible teeth. Dentists know this. They know that the quickest way to get past your rationalizations is to bust out the pictures of your present condition, left untreated and gone horribly wrong.

I had barely uttered the phrase "Does my insurance cover this so-called 'bite guard'?" when the man gleefully opened up his photo album of horror. He hummed a little to himself, flipping past various gaping maws full of bones and pus, before alighting on my particular condition. "Ah yes!"

The truth is, dentists love to share their passion for your present condition left untreated and gone horribly wrong. This is how they spread the gospel -- unlike Christ, who preferred thoughtful parables.

So, I now am the proud owner of a bite guard. Contrary to popular belief, wearing this bite guard at night in no way interfers with my masculinity.

By the way, I photographed the statue fragment above in Granada, Nicaragua.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Get yer own wood

Adventures in cultural anthropology #37: this is how you secure your housing materials in rural New Hampshire. Genius!

Monday, June 19, 2006


Yes, the living is easy. The wild plums are dripping off the trees, the mugwort is flowering, and there's enough loquats to feed an army. Instead of dispersing rations, however, my lady made a delicious pie. It's summer! I've got two weeks with no grad school. I might just read fiction. Fiction!
Also, there are four different brews fermenting in the house as we speak. We've got a black sage brew, a wild plum melomel, a mugwort and hops IPA and some other conctoction that my roommate threw into a glass container that looks totally feral. Here is a pic of the two we brewed last night:

All is want to do is lay around in my hammock and eat of the fruit of the earth. First, though, a journey to Boston for the 2006 conference of the Association for the Study of Dreams. I'll report the highlights upon return to the west.

"The West is the best.
Get here - we'll do the rest." -Jim Morrison

Friday, May 12, 2006

Daddy, what was freedom of information?

This is not a political blog, but some scary shit is going down in Congress. The internet is in danger of being twisted into a capitalistic scheme that will result in the loss of our equal access to information. Of course, there's always room for the discussion about how equal the internet is now, what with googlebombing and key word hierarchies in place. But believe me, we are still in the wild west. As a librarian at heart, I urge you to consider how valuable freedom of information is to democracy. Click on the link to learn more.
Now back to our bizarro lives.

Save the Net Now

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hot wheels

The new Toyota Landcruiser, spotted in Berkeley. I just have got to say that my generation of car designers is pumping out car after car that look like bathtub toys. You too can spot these designers' babies even if you didn't grow up in the 80s, watching four hours of cartoons a day.

Here's how: the first run of these toy-cars are always yellow. Always! That way, we can also remember how much fun we had with our Tonka dumptrucks and front end loaders in the sandbox. Hummer and Jeep pull the same trick. But Toyota has carved an even stranger niche - recreating life-sized Transformers. The new Landcruiser is clearly an Autobot. He is best friends with Nissan's redesigned Frontier pick-up.

Meet Slag, the dim-witted Dinobot.

I really didn't plan on using this blog to discuss infantile marketing ploys, but it fits under the catch-all of perpetual culture shock.
PS - I could also be convinced that the new Camrys are actually Destro's forehead. Am I on to something here?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The shadow of the wild

I was delighted this afternoon to stumble upon one of my favorite phenomena - the suburban wilderness. Walking back to the library after a dubious lunch of fish n'chips, I noticed a trail off the sidewalk which leads down to the drainage canal. There, nestled amongst the bamboo and poison oak, I found a sodden mattress with the usual assortment of plastic bags, aged foam containers, and a sock slung over a low branch.

An itenerate camp, for sure, not so unusual in northern California. Next to the mattress lay two girlie calendars, the two page spreads wide open. An archaeologist friend of mine who has widely traversed the eastern sierras and high desert has also come across this archetype. He calls these seasonal occupation sites "Masturbation stations."

On their own, stockpiles of pornography are a common cultural feature of the American woods. As kids wandering around in the piney woods of Georgia, we'd frequently come across piles of dirty magazines. These magazines were either damp or torn, or both. We regarded them with the full spectrum of adolescent fervor: fear, lust, guilt, and sometimes a deep need to horde. How these magazines end up here is a perennial mystery.

But what makes this site so interesting, so epic, is the alchemical blend of the soft focus girlie mags and the Holy Bible. Mattress, sin, redemption. What is at work here is more than just a place to crash for the night, but a way-station where someone periodically engages in his personal taboo. If nature really can reflect back our "ecological selves," as some psychologists say, then the American woods play the role of our "shadow selves," the dank hollows where we keep the parts of ourselves, and our society, that we disown. As this bamboo nest exhibits, the structures of our mind are part of the material record, just out of sight from the swept paths we walk everyday.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


No rain for three days now - could this be the end of the wet season? Did the jet stream finally take the hint and drag itself up north so it can pester the Canadians? It won't take long for the hills to dry out around here. This dog track will turn to cement. I can spend all summer long following the tracks of the deer, turkey, skunks and mice that occurred after this last rain. Mud - the original time capsule.
I had the opportunity to see a more impressive time capsule in Managua, Nicaragua. Over six thousand years old, these ancient footprints were left by a small family of humans traipsing across a muddy lake shore. The prints were then perfectly preserved by a convenient layer of volcanic ash and discovered in the late 19th century by utility workers.

The ancient folks of Nicaragua had down pact that slogan "Take only photos, leave only footprints." And that's not Jesus's footprints along side them, by the way, but those of a domestic dog.
Dog, God, whatever. Either way, we're in good company.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ode to Spring

It is the end of the rainy season here in northern California. Although I am primed for the sun, I must pay my respects to the fungal kingdom for all its hard work these last five months.

O Fungus
Without you
we would be swimming in our own poop.

This little specimen is a cup fungus of some sort, maybe Otidea Alutacea, maybe not. Fungi are steadfastly mysterious when it comes to identification. Partially this has to do with the absurd lack of funds for mycology; there is not a single academic post for Mushroom Studies in the United States, even though only a small percentage of species have been given scientific names. Most of the other academic mycologists secure their funding by investigating ways to kill fungi on genetically-altered corn, which as we know, is crucial to the big picture of paving the world in corn products.

Then there is the mysterious, shape-shifting nature of fungi itself, which makes plain how arbitrary the concept of "species" really is. Fungi also perform helpful tasks for the ecosystem-at-large like detoxifying soil that has been radioactively contaminated.

In short, mushrooms are smarter than the average pile of poop. They are also sexy. Otherwise, how does this little cup mushroom manage to fruit in a pile of wood chips looking like it could inspire a Georgia O'Keefe painting?
So, thank you Fungus Kingdom. Good work.

Now maybe it will stop raining so I can get on with my life.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

snack time

I am the snack-whisperer. I think it started when I realized that my truck smells like fritos if i don't vacuum it out every once in a while. And then those half ounce bags of chips that come with deli sandwiches - the ones with about four whole chips - they're weirdly unexpected treasures. I horde them, little golden piles of plastic airbags in my cupboard.

The American Snack - you're completely inedible. That's what makes you so fascinating.

Snacks live in snack machines. A snack's natural habitat is to be lined up in rows facing a sheer vertical drop. The snack machine has a large glass wall so we can watch the snack as it lose its balance on the precipice. We then like to watch snacks fall, preferably a drop of three and a half feet. And we're infuriated when they don't fall. This is how snack machines get destoyed more often than not, by customer rage, not vandalism.

By the way, Japan has more vending machines per capita than anywhere else - one for every 23 humans. In Japan, vending machines also carry household items, underwear, umbrellas, and other important things for people-on-the-go. In America, aside from the amazing vend-o-mat phenemenon of the mid-twentieth century, the vending machine is filled with corn products, as well as candy bars and soda sweetened with corn products.

A little historical context: the vending machine was invented in 215B.C. in Alexandria. It's true; holy water was dispensed from a lever mechanism apparatus device situation that I don't really understand, but definitely involved placing a Greek coin into a slot. In general, all vending machines throughout history have operated under the principle of putting a coin into a slot. Modern snack machines now accept bills, of course, and some take credit cards, but the slot is still there, waiting to be filled by cash money.

Studies show, however, that people are less likely to purchase a snack when the "Exact Change ONly" warning light is flashing. People prefer to pay a little extra for their snack, probably because of the rain of coins into the change holder. Another mysterious feature is the plastic flap that covers the bin into which are snacks are caught, fallen from grace. Clearly, this feature of vending architecture has endured because many like to procure their food not through human interaction, but by sticking their hands into a dark hole covered by a plastic flap.

In closing, I'd like to meditate on this perennial question: Why do we like to watch corn products fall into a trough? It could have something to do with the triumph of the human spirit, but I'm open to suggestions.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Succubus bearing down

Sleep paralysis is some scary stuff. A friend of mine recently suffered from an particularly frightening episode. He woke up from a dream and found that he could not move his body. Not only that, but as he struggled to move, he felt the weight of an unseen force push down on him, as if he was being held in the grip of an invisible monster.

He isn't the first. The ancient myths of the incubus and succubus seem to be accounts of this physical malady - demons were reported to sit on the victims' stomachs and sometimes take advantage of them. Sleep paralysis is a completely normal phenomenon, but that doesn't mean it isn't terrifying. Actually, it may be the fear that is making the experience feel so awful. Physically, what is happening is an accidental tag-a-long of the paralysis that usually comes with dreams. This is an old adaptation - we probably developed paralysis during sleep to power down the body, with the added bonus of not stabbing our family when we dream about fighting off snaggily-toothed tigers. Our ancestors, then, were people who successfully didn't stab their clan while dreaming.

From a comparative perspective, sleep paralysis resembles out-of-body experiences and lucid dreams; besides being unable to move, people often report feeling a "presence" in the room, hearing weird sounds, seeing weird lights, and feeling a rush of energy. If you don't know what is going on, the fear usually becomes the strongest element of the experience. So whatever the victim fears the most could be manifested in a very realistic way. Makes me reconsider the medieval horror stories, a period of history when women likely feared sexual assault more than anything else. President Lyndon Johnson used to have sleep paralysis experiences during the Vietnam Conflict. After the Tet Offensive, Johnson woke in the Oval Office and found his body was paralysized, except it wasn't his body - but the body of Woodrow Wilson. Now that's just not right.

In sleep paralysis, the veil between the worlds is thin.

In a recent article in Dreaming, the Journal of the Association for the Study of Dreams, researchers suggest that sleep paralysis is a symptom of social anxiety. If you have sleep paralysis every night, it is likely you've got issues in your daily grind. Every once in a while - don't worry about it. Relax into the experience and maybe you'll experience the feeling of drifting out of your body. As another great president is rumored to have said, "The only succubus to fear is fear itself."

UPDATE: I've since written a book on the subject of sleep paralysis. Check it out on Amazon: Sleep Paralysis: A Guide to Hypnagogic Visions and Visitors of the Night.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Sometimes it takes a ten foot tall stone jaguar statue to remind us that the "dominion over nature" hasn't really come to pass. This statue was transported by rickety banana boat off of Isla Zapatera to Granada, Nicaragua sometime in the last hundred years. It got pretty uncomfortable for me as I stood beneath the downward gaze of this imposing figure from precolumbian times. The jaguar head is considered a depiction of an effigy hat which the shaman wore during ceremony.
According to Anthropologist Barbara Tedlock, the jaguar is the calling card of the woman healer in many places in precolumbian Central America. Women shaman were often midwives as well as religious leaders, which is a more elevated role than we civilized folk give to RNs today. Historical and archaeological evidence for woman shaman is more spotty in Nicaragua, due to the general lack of pyramids and gold frogs in the lands between the old empires. Not sexy enough for National Geographic funding.
But this jaguar is patient.
Check out Barbara's new book "The Woman in the Shaman's Body" - it won the National Book Award for Creative Non-Fiction for 2005.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Supple and tanned

If you've lost your shoe, it can be found on the main road to Punta Gorda on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. The single shoe has been a re-occurring waking dream of mine for six months or so. I don't understand how a shoe can lose its buddy. Sometimes they can be found on the sides of freeways, or in large, empty parking lots. The creepiest single shoe i ever saw was on a trail in the woods at golden gate park, san francisco. A single black plastic women's shoe. I even looked around for the other one that time, but that's not really how it works. Sometimes a shoe just has to make it alone. The most hilarious single shoes, in general, hang from electric lines in small southern towns.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Shout out to my ancestors

This is my paternal great-grandfather Paul Dungan with his new wheels. Paul unexpectedly dropped dead shortly afterwards from a brain aneurism when he was mowing the lawn. A dignified suburban death that I hope to aspire to.
The name Dungan was lost when my grandfather was adopted by the Hurds, but my father brought it back by making it my middle name.
Long live Dungan.