You are what you is.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2015

Extremely proud to announce that Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2015 has arrived (literally, on my doorstep yesterday), meaning that it's in bookshops an available online. My contribution to this year's title (which was top secret pending publication) was an essay encouraging people to visit Belize's least-trammeled district, Toledo (AKA the Deep South).

I'm especially proud to have been able to get Toledo included in this year's BIT, as the district is both both deserving and markedly under-visited in the overall Belize travel picture. Jungles, Cayes, Caves, Maya villages & ruins, the sweet seaside town of Punta Gorda, and of course some of the planet's finest Cacao.

And of course, lest we forget, my Belizean home-base Maya Mountain Research Farm, the hemisphere's preeminent permaculture farm and home to winner of 2012's "Composting toilet with the best view" award.

Like this view, only slightly lower as I never bring my camera into the bathroom.

Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2015 can be purchased online here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Drowning in Chicken Fat

For health reasons I've been on a 2.5 day fast, subsisting on nothing but a slow-cooked broth of chicken fat, skin and bone, with a few vegetables thrown in for extra vitamins before being strained out and turned into a product even the cat refuses to eat. Today is the last day.

The dreams began well before dawn on day one, perhaps motivated by fear of fasting. Food and coffee and candy, impossibly technicolor. Like Godzilla vomiting up an all you can eat neon buffet. I expect things will only get weirder. I did a five day fast once upon a time, at a hose and bucket spa in Thailand not too far from where the backpackers exchange date rape drugs under the full moon, but that was a long time ago. I remember that by the third day I'd achieved a certain peace with the process, but the first two were difficult. This time it was easier, though there was a small bit of cheating on my part.

Cheating during fasts is not unheard of. I came across an egregious case of it a few years back when a BBC-Lonely Planet assignment brought me to Malaysia during Ramadan to research a top-ten story. A travel company had been hired to drive my photographer and I (though the photographer was a straight up pro with way more experience than myself, so in the grand scheme of things I suppose I was his writer) on a fairly grueling whistle stop trek across the Peninsula.

There were two drivers, both Muslims, and I was concerned because they told me they'd be fasting for Ramadan. "But don't worry," one of the drivers, a pretty rotund guy called Aziz, told me. "We always work during the holy month. We wake before dawn and eat a massive meal, which gives us energy throughout the day."  

The men took turns driving, and on the second day I was relieved to note that both were cheating, nibbling from a box of fried chicken they'd kept out of sight underneath the driver's seat.

"We are traveling." Aziz told me. "So it is permitted."

I could use some fried chicken myself right about now. Perhaps an Arby's $10 meat mountain?
Four more hours!

Clearly getting loopy here. Best to end this post with some imagery, perhaps a collage of some sort featuring photos from the trip. The trio walking is the photographer, one of the drivers and our guide. The flowers are called the Rafflesia, quite large as you can see. The hills, a tea plantation in the Cameron Highland section of Malaysia. The tea plantation workers were pretty cool. Note the dude with the EXPLOITED sweatshirt.

Apologies for lack of blogging lately. It's been a busy summer. The work proceeds on the upcoming title, How Not to Avoid Jet Lag & Other Tales of Travel Madness. The book is done, and the illustrations are 3/4 done, with a few left to go. Minor setbacks, but nothing unusual, and my ETA is still Halloween for the book - 19 tales of travel madness, batshit lunacy and a few serious and culturally edifying stories from China, Taiwan, Singapore, America and Belize (and one from Malaysia - mustn't forget about Malaysia) - to be available for download on E-readers around the globe.

We now return to our scheduled fast.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Twerk Queen at The Farmers Market

Earlier this very day my partner and I were blessed to find ourselves in the presence of royalty, as evidenced by this photograph taken surreptitiously by smart-phone.

T'was sublime honor indeed to find ourselves in her royal presence. Her Majesty the Twerk Queen carried herself with grace worthy of her station in life, especially given the unusual circumstances of the demise of her late father (Reggie "Smooth-T" Honeybon, Twerk King and first of his name), found poisoned in his royal Twerk chamber only hours after a heated confrontation with her majesty, (then Twerk Princess Amber Jade Coors Light Honeybon the Third) over issues of curfew and the late king's discovery of discarded condom wrappers in the back of his majesty's Ford pick up.

Nonetheless, I chose not to dwell upon the vague and unpleasant circumstances of His Late Majesty The Twerk King's passing (and her majesty The Twerk Queen's ascension) but instead to celebrate that for one all too brief moment my partner and I, both lowly peasants in the Twerk Kingdom, were able to bask in the presence of Twerk Royalty.

That such a person should chose to walk among commoners I believe can only bode well for our Kingdom of Twerk's future. It is my deepest wish that God watch over and protect the reign of our Twerk Queen, and that the various Twerk Dukes, Twerk Duchesses and other Twerk nobility (major and minor) put their differences aside and stand arm in arm, buttocks gyrating in unison in unflapping support of our majesty The Twerk Queen.

God Save The Twerk Queen!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Portland Sushi Revolution

Take two of a video experiment I did once in Taiwan, this time at Sushi Ichiban in downtown / Chinatown, Portland, not far from where I work.

More beards and tattoos than in Taiwan. Like the hot chick tongue action towards the end.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Conformity Rides a Blue Bicycle

My Latest from the April issue of Bicycle Times Magazine. Rather proud to have been able to blend the concept of monocropping with my eighties NYC bike messenger experience in a 600 word article.

Conformity Rides a Blue Bicycle reprinted here courtesy of Bicycle Times. Click here for subscription information

heard a noise once while travelling through the heart of Malaysia’s Pahang state, a lifeless staccato trilling. Riding across the peninsula, I took a wrong turn and wound up lost for an hour inside a palm oil plantation so recently planted that my map still showed it as forest. Where ancient jungle had covered hills just years before now stood endless identical trees planted equidistant in unvarying rows.

During a recent trip home to New York City, I thought I heard the same monotonous buzzing emitting softly from the newly-installed Citi Bike pods. Spread throughout Manhattan (south of Central Park) and into the more fashionable areas of Brooklyn, the rows of identical blue bicycles locked into their utilitarian gunmetal-grey holsters unnerved me on a visceral level. Like the palm oil trees, the blue bikes told a story of homogenization in a place where diversity once ruled.

I grew up in NYC in the 1980s. A bicycle messenger for a good chunk of that decade, the streets I rode through were chaotic, teeming with fast-moving anxiety and endless potential for hassle. There was something rebellious about being a daily cyclist back then, and our bicycles reflected this. We wrapped our frames in handlebar tape and inner tube slices, not just to hide true value and postpone nigh-inevitable theft, but also to reflect our individuality, our road warrior ethos.

Messengers were a psychotic minority, of course. But even regular commuter cyclists saw their bikes as something personal, an extension of themselves. Decades later and no longer living in New York, I am now a reasonably law-abiding cyclist. I stop for most red lights and ride against traffic only within reason. Still, the idea of turning something as individual as a bicycle into a commodity no more personal than a factory-molded plastic bus seat strikes me as wrong and unclean. Like getting a lap dance from an ATM.

The program itself isn't bad. While initial fees seem reasonable enough (especially if you go for the $95 annual membership) woe betide the hapless commuter who racks up more than 30 minutes (45 if you've got the year pass) between bike changes. The outlandishly punitive overtime fees leave no doubt to the fact that the CitiBike program is a corporate for-profit venture that, like the bank sponsoring it, aims to profit mightily by slamming the incautious with large fines.

But high fees are part of life in the Big Apple, and really, can anything that encourages people to drive less (deleting a few hundred parking spaces in the process) be all bad?

Why invest in your own bicycle when for $95 a year (plus tax and overtime fees) you can ride any one of 10,000 identical bicycles in 30-minute bursts - anywhere south of 59th street (or in select sections of Brooklyn). Perhaps the program fits perfectly today’s Docile Gotham, where high rents have driven out the rebellious and consumerism passes for culture. 

But is appropriate for the city’s current incarnation a good thing? Don’t ask me, I fled New York long ago. But I like to think that if I had my adolescence to live again in the NYC of the twenty-teens, I’d chose the risk and freedom of my own tape-covered clunker over the control and convenience of a corporate-run bike share scheme.


Author and travel writer Joshua Samuel Brown rode for Lightspeed and Rough Riders in the mid-late 1980s. If you were working in Manhattan during this time he apologizes for hitting you even though you probably had it coming. 

Wednesday, April 09, 2014



Chaos at KBOO last night, hereafter recalled as The Night Of Technical Difficulties, Because sometimes everything goes wrong at once. The hard drive which houses many of the station's shows decided to go temporarily into witness protection, the CD that Twilight and I had burned decided to become un-burned (only later to mysteriously re-burn itself) and the computer connected to the control board in which EPISODE TWO was loaded via flash drive (a sensible last-ditch emergency measure in case CD and S-Drive failed simultaneously) went on strike for higher wages, shutting itself down MOMENTS before the show was set to begin!

The result was that, at 9:59:45, with T-15 seconds before showtime, Twilight, Seth & I found ourselves in the studio with a cast of several, including a tech-guy crawling on the floor trying to manually re-connect suspicious wiring, Rolf (of UBU hour fame) waiting to provide assistance / praying it would be fixed in time for his 11pm slot, Roxandra (our slutty French Princess), the DJ from the previous slot who probably just wanted to escape the madness, and possibly a few other folks as well.

So at 10:01, after the legal IDs and such, we had to go LIVE on the air, first to make excuses as to why the much touted PUPPET RADIO THEATER EPISODE TWO was not being broadcast, then to ad-lib comedy in a variety of voices puppet and otherwise, and then, finally in a desperate attempt not to disappoint, to literally RECREATE the 1 hour show from memory.

Mercifully, Eris and her minions (who'd been fucking with us all day...but that's another story) showed mercy, and one by one various systems came back online, more or less.

The result, dear listeners, is that you can revisit the chaos here through the miracle of KBOO's automatic archive function. Had the show gone as planned, clicking that would bring you to the show's start, a painfully awful (and thankfully short) version of THE EAST IS RED being played by my Red Guard KBOO DJ, which is where the show begins.

However, due to the chaos, clicking that link now brings you to the point at 10:01 when we are desperately trying to make the show itself (which starts after about seven minutes of ad-hoc radio anarchy) play.

Oh, one other fun thing: Because we knew we'd go overtime with the technical issues, we had to cut out one sketch - Talkin' Tunes with Terra Berkeley - which will appear on next month's PUPPET RADIO THEATER.

There was one other minor technical issue later in the show involving two versions of EPISODE TWO playing consecutively and out of sync for about a minute. As self-appointed Puppet Fuhrer it falls upon me to fully take the blame for this...

...and place it squarely on ROLF's shoulders, since it was totally his fault for forgetting to take the first version off before cuing up UBU Hour.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast....

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Lonely Planet Spicy Foods

Another awesome Lonely Planet book worked on by yours truly arrives in the mail!

Knowing my penchant for preparing and eating challenging foods, Last summer Lonely Planet asked me to pitch 'em some ideas for an upcoming title, The World's Best Spicy Foods (a spicy sister to the previous year's World's Best Street Foods, to which I also contributed four articles).  As with Street Foods, the catch was that any dish I pitched I'd not only have to research the back-story for, but also be able to replicate on my own.

Which makes sense - how else could Lonely Planet in good confidence tell readers how to make the dishes themselves?

Anyway, I pitched six of my favorite dishes, four of which LP assigned me to write up. (The other two had already been assigned, proving that great minds think alike.)

With the exception of Chili Dogs (or Chile Dogs, and you'll have to purchase the book or go to New Mexico to understand the difference), The four dishes were all foods I'd discovered in my travels. I'm especially proud of my ability to replicate pitch-perfect Fish Head Curry (not once but twice) and create a Jamaican Jerk chicken dish that tasted pretty damned close to the best Jerk I've ever had (in Belize, naturally).

Center photo in collage is of me celebrating book's arrival by downing a bottle of Marie Sharps Hot Sauce. Other shots various pictures from research phase.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Puppet Radio Theater is On the Air!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Children of all ages (listening by Children is not advised) Puppet Radio Theater, a subsidiary of SoylentCo ("made of people...people like you") is proud to announce that Puppet Radio Theater: Pilot Episode will be infecting the airwaves at exactly Ten PM Pacific Standard Time tonight, Monday, March 3rd.  In Portland? Listen through the radio receiving device of your choice at 90.7 FM. Not in Portland?  We pity you, and suggest you listen online through the magic of the interweb through this link or by typing into your browser the following hieroglyphics:

Join Floyd, Hazel and Lucky, three deranged well-meaning hand puppets as they take over a public radio station's airwaves for a full hour, rifling through the contents of the station's mystical comedy box to bring you a series of sketches performed by talented folks from the theater, comedy & radio circuits of Portland and beyond. 

Sketches include one exploring the marketing strategies of a company whose flagship product is made of people, another concerning America's favorite time-traveling space cadet, a third exploring Joseph and Mary's intimate menage-e-tois with Yahweh, and radio advertisement for the late Lou Reed's least popular Christmas album.  There's also Interspersings with the wise and bitter sage Mahatma Jones, plenty of radio commentary by the puppets themselves, an incident involving a hand grenade, and then Comedy Music by the great and Unknown.

Sketches written by yours truly, performed by the group, and produced in a secret bunker somewhere east of the Willamette River. We've been given a regular slot, and next month's show is already in production.

Join us tonight at 10pm at KBOO, 90.7FM, Portland Oregon (or at anytime after) as we make Puppet Radio History.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Stuff Discordance

Just a quick shout out to Organizational Expert Andrew Mellen. Andrew and I were introduced through my old & dear friend Sarah Byam, and after relating the tale of Twilight & my move-in experience, Andrew suggested it might make a good guest blog post on his site. And the rest is digital history. Click here to read the post, and to see a lovely shot of Twilight and I with our in-progress Floyd and Hazel Puppet personas on hand.

On the subject of puppets, we are busy at work writing sketches for the second episode. If you haven't heard the pilot yet, scroll down and check out episode one of Puppet Radio Theater (directly below).

Much work in progress. More to come

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Puppet Radio Theater: Pilot

Loyal Readers and random strangers who've stumbled upon Snarky Tofu looking for tales of face sitting and lady-boys, behold the latest comedic work: Puppet Radio Theater: The Pilot Episode.

Puppet Radio Theater is a collaborative project featuring Twilight Kallisti, Olga Sanchez Saltveit (Of Portland's Milagro Theater), Author-Comedian Mark Saltveit, my brother Mahatma Jones & Me. With post-mortem music by the great Zoogz Rift and a special appearance by Gordon Ramsey as Lou Reed.

Have a listen!

I'd been writing comedy sketches for a couple of years between travel writing gigs & letting them molder on various hard drives.  Settled at last, I began volunteering at KBOO in Portland, working with some other volunteers on a show called The Ubu Hour. After getting a reasonable handle on how to operate a control board, I got a group together to record a few sketches, collecting four together that added up to around 20 minutes of material. (The fourth sketch is a section from the Christmas special I wrote for the Ubu Hour; after listening to it a few times, I realized the theme - Joseph and Mary going to an abortion clinic in Nazareth, had little to do with Christmas.)

After knocking around some names and theme ideas for the show as a whole, we came upon the idea of a group of mildly deranged and foul mouthed puppets taking over a radio station. (Big nod here to The Muppet Show, Meet the Feebles and Uncle Floyd!)

Made some mistakes with the first show - acting while operating a sound board is tricky, which is why one of the performer's microphones in two sketches came out distorted (Sorry, Olga!)

As I listen and re-listen to the show, I'm already sensing what works best for audio comedy, and what works, well, not so best. I've made my feelings known through my own Puppet Persona (His name is Floyd in homage to the great Uncle Floyd, and he's the one who talks the most).

Episode Two is in the works. If you're one of my friends who I've already subject to the individual sketches & you feel like you want to skip them and get right into the inter-sketch banter and Mahatma Jones' nuggets of wisdom ("Interspersings"), the time layout of the pilot episode is more or less this:
1:30 (Start of Soylent Green Damage Control)
7:15 (end of Soylent Green Damage Control)
9:00 (Patchouli Moonbow, Hippie Time Traveler Starts)
16:30 (Patchouli Moonbow, Hippie Time Traveler ends:)
18:30 (Metal Machine Christmas Carol Starts)
21:35 (Metal Machine Christmas Carol Ends)
22:40 (Mary and Joseph Sketch starts)
26:00 (M&J Sketch Ends)
Anyway, please feel free to offer opinions as to what works and what doesn't. I'm writing the second batch of sketches now, Twilight is creating the Puppets (Yes, of course there are Puppets), and Mahatma is writing some music. It's our hope to have a regular monthly show on KBOO starting in the next few months.

We'll keep you posted.

Now scroll back up and listen to the show.
Fine. Don't scroll. It's this:

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