Saturday, December 26, 2009

South Africa - FINALLY.

in July 2009, i traveled to my seventh and final continent - Africa. more specifically, South Africa. and the pictures never came. that changes today:

such a delay in the pictures this was quite the contrast to when i returned from Antarctica & Argentina (or any of my Asian travels, India & China pics still pending). i returned from the bottom of the world just before the Thanksgiving 2009, so all the photo-sorting, blog-posting, and picture-posting were immediate. not quite the case with the S.Africa pics - all you, my loyal readers, got was a bit of a [weak] teaser.

upon returning from Africa, we moved apartments, i repaired/sold a house, Beatles Rockband came out, and life just got crazy. fast forward to this holiday break, and every effort was made to to provide you, valued Ramancoke reader, with a delayed Christmas present. if you didn't already click the mosaic above, here's a robust listing of our trip to South Africa (with an added Amsterdam bonus) - once there - be sure to click the SLIDESHOW link in the upper-right corner:
overall reflections? for the trip: amazing, on so many levels. it was the right amount of cultural immersion (understanding the lasting, and evolving, socioeconomic effects from years of apartheid rule), amazing nature (safari and hiking), and much-needed relaxation (french winelands). AND i got to drive on the other side of the road!

for the country intself: it is a fractured country that is determined to move forward, despite more than it's fair amount of justified baggage. they are a nation still emerging from decades of racial injustice. for (relative) perspective, in the US (post Emancipation Proclamation, pre-Civil Rights movement) the majority of the American population had been oppressing a minority of black Americans (originally brought in against their will), and the government, when not directly involved (the South, Jim Crowe laws, etc), simply looked the other way. in S.Africa, the minority of the white population was oppressing a MAJORITY of the black (native) population, and racism/segregation was ENFORCED government policy.

if you've seen the film District 9 (the title paying homage to Capetown's District 6, though much of it was filmed in the slums of Johannesburg's Soweto township, the director is S.African), it is more telling/disturbing when you realize the portrayal of the film's fictional characters is pretty close to what was actually (and to some degree, still) happening 20 years ago.

thankfully, this is not the case today, but the effects are still felt. despite the fall of apartheid (the sentinel event of which being the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990), there is still much to be done. the country has so much momentum, but despite all of the modern infrastructure in place (something lacking in much of the developing world, the African continent especially), these very western interventions are what sowed the seeds of the inertia holding the country back.

this was our core takeaway of the trip - all the nature/relaxation was simply icing on a very bittersweet cake. don't get me wrong - the wildlife was AMAZING (esp being in their natural habitat, and often coming dangerously close). would i go again? in a heartbeat (sadly, time and money allowing). but with South Africa, we were just scratching the surface of the broader continent (where plans are being baked to travel top to bottom).

enjoy the pics, but please takeaway the context.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Merry Christmas, Happy Festivus, and a Ka-wazy Kwanza from the entire team here at

[now press play and enjoy our seasonal greetings already]:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

gobble gobble?

so i know most of you, dear readers, are preparing for your personal day of thanks (my favorite holiday, for what it means today, not for the what actually happened between the Pilgrims and Indians all those years ago).

anyhow, a friend shared this (edited, sadly) video clip of a talk Michael Pollen (
Omnivore's Dilemma, etc) gave at the recent PopTech conference. seriously, please watch, share, and think:

PopTech 2009: Michael Pollan from PopTech on Vimeo.

if you find any of this interesting - go rent and watch Food, Inc. it might be one of the more important movies you watch this season (besides, of course,
New Moon). and if you can afford it (which i know most of you CAN, please consider some personal sacrifice to your current eating habits, and VOTING WITH YOUR FORK).

have a happy thanksgiving, from the entire team at

...and a very special thanksgiving no-prize to the first reader who can name EVERY character named in the above picture (even the ones you can barely see)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

you down with GOP?

...yea you know me!
(click to see enlarged screengrab...the stupid blogger image embedding won't default size to page width...i even messed with the html image size tags + only got blurriness...R%$*^($^*&)

now i can have something to wear when i'm using my Obama pressure guage (from McCain's 2008 campaign...really) to check my tires

and isn't Peppermint the cutest?

thanks for the love Michael.

Friday, November 20, 2009

going rouge?

it's been awhile since i've posted the editorial commentary of fundit (and close buddy of the family) Jon Stewart , but this one was semi-prescient to my views on a certain former governor of Alaska (and i'm not talking about Walter Hickel).

to get straight to the point, jump to timestamp 4:39:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show: The Rogue Warrior
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

sure she's from Alaska, and quirkishly charming. but the appeal kind of ends there (for me and most intelligent beings). the disdain even has less to do with her politics, and more to do with the fact that she's a talking points machine. and that's dangerous. glenn beck, rush limbaugh dangerous.


want to do something (else)? go buy this book (by the editors of
the Nation):

Saturday, November 14, 2009

b-rizzle mystery, revealed.

in case any of you were wondering WHAT exactly i was talking about in my Nov 7 post, i shall now reveal it to you.

what started as:

eventually turned into this:

basically, a hand-delivered toyframe made for my buddy Barun in Boston for his Birthday (say that 3 times fast). note the leaves. he's a bit of a green hippie.

das ist alles. power tools and plastic make fun!

Monday, November 09, 2009

vote chili.

Surya Yalamanchili has just entered the running for the "raman's buddies doing something meaningful with their life" award (to be clear, it's a highly competitive honor contested by non-profits, toymakers, teachers, comedians, and green-web startups alike).

that, and he's running for Congress in Ohio's 2nd district:

hopefully this [article] will be the first of a LOT of press coverage.

even though i can no longer vote in OH (as i'm part of the NY-east-coast-voting-elite), i'm putting my support behind Surya (as is the entire team here at - and not just bc i want a fellow comic-book geek in the Congress, but because he's one of the few i feel will do his damnedest to make a difference (and i agree with a lot of his social/political thinking) without getting sidelined by business-as-usual politcs. call me an idealist.

and YES, Surya was on TV. thankfully, he's way more than the caricature he was obviously portrayed as there. he's definitely one of those guys you should want making a difference in DC.

if you're one of my local Cincinnati friends (or even if you don't live in OH) - i'd encourage you to get to know Surya and his politics. even if you're not in his voting district - see what YOU can do to donate your time and/or money to what i hope to be one of the best grassroots campaigns the city will have ever seen.

vote 'Chili in 2010.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

teenage theme song

man. this was pretty much my favorite song growing up a hormonally-angst fueled teen. and the video was a pretty cool metaphor too (esp "unconditional love").

good thing i eventually grew up to be the happy-go-lucky guy i am today. not a (significant) problem in the world. no-sirree.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

mystery de b-rizzle.

herzlichen gl├╝ckwunsch zum geburtstag. now unveil the mystery (drill deeper):


Thursday, November 05, 2009

the Carpenter and the Prince.

i am NOT a religious person, but i am a fan of religion. not in the spiritual sense, moreso the cultural one. to me religion is the "cultural manifestation of spirituality." it's the one thing most people care about to carry on throughout their lives, pass along over the generations (as via the all-important "non-fictional" stories), because it's one of the few things that is "bigger" than us. think about it. in 100 years, people won't care about the Beatles, Weezer, or even Justin Timberlake (well ok, maybe JT), but they will know about Jesus, the Buddha, or Ganesh. granted, the latter have MUCH bigger fan clubs than the former, but that's part of my point.

so anyhow, awhile back something interesting occurred to me about religious history. specifically regarding the two oldest (remaining) religions in the world - Judaism and Hinduism. i'm pretty sure it HAS to have occurred to someone else (as all interesting things do), but i have yet to hear/see it anywhere. so let me share with you some quick stories:
there was once this carpenter (some would say he was more). he was actually Jewish. he lived somewhere in the middle east/"cradle of civilization" part of the world. anyhow, he didn't like the way his society was functioning, so he started doing things his own way. common sense stuff, really. all you need is love, and such. eventually a bunch of people started following him. then the authorities caught wind of this "heretic" and took care of him. problem is, they didn't get the job done. this carpenter came BACK, and his followers became more. this is where it becomes fuzzy for me. i think he stuck around for awhile, and then went to go see his dad. but most people haven't seen him since.
there was once this prince. he was actually Hindu (well, at least raised as one). he lived somewhere in India/the south-Asian peninsula. anyhow, he didn't like the way his society was functioning (too much pomp + ceremony), so he decided to to figure himself/it all out and leave it all behind. and i mean EVERYTHING. we went off and tried to become an ascetic (extreme monk). but that didn't really work out - he found quite a bit of hypocrisy there. along the way he bet a bunch of people, good and bad. all of that taught him quite a bit. but he needed to ponder on it some more. so he went and sat in a field for a while. a really long while. eventually, he had an "a-ha" moment and achieved what some would call enlightenment. they even started calling him the "enlightened one." soon he had a TON of followers. those who didn't like him tried taking him down, but his "middle path" never really got in their way (and most times converted his opponents into followers). he lived happily ever after. then he died. and reincarnated. over and over and over again.

now i'm not sure which happened first, the carpenter or the prince. but i'm pretty sure you know who i'm talking about. if not, well i'm not telling.

what i find most interesting is the odd parallels in these stories: roots in still-existing but ancient religions/cultures (and resisting them). a form of exile. a form of rebirth. and the fans, oh the fans.

today, the former carpenter is a pretty popular guy. they've made not one, not two, but a TON of "different" religions in his name, with a ton of evolved variances + rules (often of convenience). these "fan clubs" are huge. in fact, the president of the biggest one is a pretty influential old guy who makes lots of state visits. he has his own car, city, and a really big hat. over the years, there's been quite a bit of strife (not just physical, but verbal) in his name (both the carpenter and/or the old guy, but moreso the carpenter). most of the people mean well, but i think the worst comes from the fringes - where people don't really think thru the consequences of what they say and do (and the true meaning of the carpenter's teachings) but to be fair, over the years, there has been quite a bit of good in his name too.

today, the former prince is also, a pretty popular guy (but sadly, not AS popular as the carpenter). he's been reincarnated a bunch. in fact, his reincarnation today also makes a lot of state visits. he used to live in a really nice place in the mountains. but he got kicked out awhile back (by the Chinese, who really don't like him). he fled to the homeland of his former life (India), and hangs out there most of the time. but he goes around the world spreading his message of peace. he doesn't have a city, car or big hat, but he a bunch of bands once held a big concert in honor of his cause. they stopped doing that because it was missing the point though. this former prince sticks to his guns of peace and the middle path, but it's a long term gamble, around which the rest of the world can't seem to wrap their heads.

the big difference between the stories is WHERE they continue in society today. the former cause (let's call it "Carpenter"), rooted in devotion to a sort of martyr. it is HUGE and continues to thrive, in it's purest form, and even in the many related, constantly splintering versions/interpretations. the latter cause (let's call it "Prince"), rooted in the common sense teachings of a continued reincarnate, is doing alright, but certainly not striving, but it will endure.

i don't really think either is bad, but i see far more abuses in it's name. devotion to a divine cause (or religion) does that. it creates absolutes. that is certainly true of Carpenter (and most other big religions). if you believe you have some divine force on your side, that becomes an easy excuse to do what you want. even though you might be ignoring the root teachings out of convenience (subconsiously?). so for this reason, things like Carpenter aren't much for me, other than in their stories and lessons.

i'm a fan of both (and many more), really i am. i just tend to think TOO MUCH about ALL of them - which i find odd since i choose to follow neither. probably because i read too many comic books as a kid (but that's another post). i have close friends who are way more knowledgeable (spiritual?) about them all (specifically Carpenter and Prince), and i continue to learn a LOT from them (not just about their cause, but by their example). unfortunately i also know a TON more people who claim to be OF religion, but really don't follow thru on it's root lessons.

i guess we are all flawed this way. besides, doing the right thing all the time is hard stuff.

i guess it wouldn't always be right if it was easy.

[DISCLAIMER: i am NOT a Justin Timberlake fan]

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

thanks Michael!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

randomfotologie (for nerds and such).

once again, it's time for me to clear my head (and my desktop), by depositing the random collection of photographs that have been gathering from the interwebs towards the ether that is this inevitable post.

let's begin, shall we?

some disturbing PhotoShop work from some random guy:

more PhotoShop work taken from somewhere else, this time with an old-timey model [ba]T vibe:

keeping with the caped-crusader theme, some cover art from a recent issue of a Grant Morrison Batman series i'm reading. while the color does bring it to life. the black & white is really quite brilliant by itself:

speaking of awesome black & white (and keeping with the comics theme), behold the following wonderous image of my friend Norrin Radd of Zenn La (aka the Silver Surfer):

an then there was the time that Popeye had to lay down the whupass on Namor, the sub-Mariner (Marvel Team Up #531):

also from the House of Ideas archives, behold, the Grimm-stache:

and because all the kids are on "the Facebooks" these days, i thought i'd give you a glimpse of what's REALLY going down in there. sadly, none of these guys accept my friends requests. that doesn't keep me from FB-stalking them (although none of this is probably funny to all your non-nerds with "friends" and "hobbies", who play "sports" "outside"):

speaking of NERDS. this is one of the places you do want a nerd (that can use a lightsaber) - THE WHITE HOUSE:

keeping with the Star Wars motif, the most awesomeest school bus in a galaxy far, far away:

and while we're talking advanced robotics, behold quite possibly the BEST PUMPKIN EVER (origin de punkotron):

more robots, you say? sadly, the PunkoTron doth not (why am i talking like this?) come from my neighborhood. this was the best we could find (seriously, from just down the street in Tarrytown):

speaking of robots. nothing cool ever happens in the U-S-of-A. but you know where the cool shit goes down? JAPAN (take that crop-circles):

and to bring it back from the far east to the east coast - i think 7-11 is launching a marketing campaign with the adorable Japanese domo character (as seen on this discarded coffee cup, which i found on the ground, and left there for the sake of other passer-by's photo-art, excess kitten control, and of course, monster biodegradation):

also in local news, i found the most awesomest library in my county (that also doubles as the headquarters for a superhero team). i'm not biased bc they have EIGHT SHELVES of graphic novels.

classing it up a notch, some graphic designer he'd be all "cool" by rebranding some classic Hitchcock:

speaking of hi-class art:

keeping it snooty, see the desktop screenshot taken from Windows 7. someone who already has it, please tell me if this is a standard background, or was the WIRED reviewer just a huge Chris Sickles fan (who donated all the studio art for Happen Northside)


recently a friend decided to outsource her auntly (in law) duties to me, by sending her friend Flat Stanley to me in NY. at my next foray into the cities wonders, i brought my good friend Stanley along. more of the pictures of Stanley's tribulations can be found here:

so that's all for this [insert average duration of time between raman's random foto-posts]. i leave you with the following thought:


Sunday, November 01, 2009

click or treat.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

my president is brown.

yet another reason why President Barry is quite the awesomeness:

" 'lead us from falsehood to truth. from darkness to light. from death to immortality. ' "

the President of the United States of America is quoting Sanskrit scripture. i never saw that one coming.

as for the Diwali greetings from the entire team at - my apologies for being a a day late here (we were a bit setting up our own Sleepy Hollow "diwahlloween" celebrations...stay tuned).

finally big up props to my boy Mr.Belvedere for sharing (and he's an even darker shade of brown...and i'm not talking about south Indian =)

hope your festival of lights was...festive.

Monday, October 12, 2009

halloween costumes.

in case you were wondering what my girlfriend + i were going as for Halloween, i'd like to be the first to reassure you this is NOT it:

but the real question: when Spider-(wo)man sashays away from Superman in the opening dance sequence (0:21), how does she fly. everybody knows Spider-(wo)man can't fly. geez! and why isn't she wearing a mask?

beyond this limited beef (pun!), i found this video quite entertaining. some notes:
  • superman's dance moves (1:17) - classic. this is actually a move i'm known to do in dance clubs and grocery stores alike.
  • the chorus (2:30) - actually considered by Bryan Singer for Superman Returns, but he later dismissed thinking it would do harm to the franchise.
  • Luke Cage makes a guest appearance (4:21).

that's pretty much all i have to add for today. thanks to Will for sharing this gem. more mind-blowing posts to come.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

the open road?

i don't think socialism is an entirely bad thing.

i know saying this probably hurts my ability to run for office (in the US) several years from now (whilst i have yet to see the new Michael Moore film, i AM a fan of free markets as well - "smashing, groovy, yay capitalism!").

but i digress. back to my premise.

(some) socialism is OK. libraries are socialist. and they're GREAT parts of the community. libraries are where i fostered my love of reading (and art). my mom would walk/drive me to the library on a Saturday, and i would end up taking home a large pile of books i could pour over during the week, without breaking the budget of a (relatively) new-to-America immigrant family. and over the years, Dr.Seuss and Shel Silverstein soon gave way to Bill Waterson, Jack Kirby, Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Marvel's first family.

in college, the library was one of the few places i could get ANY work done. when i was in school, there was no such distracting things as "wi-fi" in the library (sigh, i'm dating myself), and they kept it far too cold to doze off.

and as a working adult, one of the first things i do after moving somewhere new, whether it be Cincinnati, Singapore, or New York, is find out how to join the local library (preferably walking/biking distance). sure, this is mostly so i can curb the affect my almost drug-like comic book habit has on my wallet (probably another thing that will come out in my opposition's smear campaign...Karl!!!), but that's neither here nor there.

so the recent slandering of President Barry as a socialist is somewhat disconcerting (and anti-library, almost Ray Bradbury-esque). while i won't attempt to make a counter-arguement here, i DO want to take the time to point out a little inconsistency i've noticed with the conservative beef on socialism.

i come from the south. where education sucks, and the roads are great. meaning, we prioritize our spending of tax dollars on long term bets like infrastructure (for industry!), at the indirect expense of things like education (the future!). i now live in NY, where the education is great, but the roads could use some work.

in Alabama, driving on 99.9% of our highways + by-ways is free (assuming you can pay for the car + gas), as tolls exist only in a handful of areas (like a shorter route from Montgomery to Wetumpka...what kind of name is Wetumpka?!?). though if you want your kid to get a good education, you'd better be willing to shell out the $ for a private school, or hope he's smart enough to get into a "magnet school" (an even more odd phenomanon is that in the southern states - AL, MS, GA, AK, LA - there is a LARGE series of state-grant funded "math & science" schools, which is otherwise a relatively unknown entity elsewhere in the US). it should be noted, that from 5th-10th grade, i attended magnet schools in the Montgomery Public School System, and for 11th-12th grades, i attended the Alabama School of Math & Science, which was effectively a boarding/geek school. bottom line, great roads = FREE. great education = GOOD LUCK (or good fortune).

in New York (and the broader New England corridor), if you find yourself driving on most of our major roads (crossing between towns), you're likely to pay a few tolls here and there. and it adds up. heading across the Hudson river to goto the mall costs $3-5. heading into Manhattan runs $5-7, depending on route or time of day. from what i understand though, our schools (in the county, at least) are pretty darned good.

which brings me to my broader point (paradox). in the south, people are overwhelmingly conservative (it's a red state), yet they're OK with having free roads (socialism). whereas in in the north, people are pretty liberal-minded (it's a blue state), yet they're OK with toll roads (which i find the epitome of "every man for himself"/"pay as you go"/"self determination free market principles).

i guess you COULD argue that quality, free roads are a liberty + a right to which everyone should be entitled (like education or healthcare?), and toll roads are a form of taxation, but are they really?

while (most) roads are not built by private corporations, but rather the government, driving on ALL existing roads is not NECESSARY for living your life (getting to your neighborhood school, grocery store, doctor, etc). so if you have some need that supercedes your living area (like say, a better job that might enable you to move up, socioeconomically), pay up. after all, that's what you have to do if you wanted to get there by air or rail. the road is simply a part of the infrastructure necessary to get there (like the cost of a plane or train/train tracks).

unless of course, you think simple things like that should also be free. but that smells awful red (which incidentally enough, is the color of the commies AND the american right)

so i'm not really sure what my point is (am i ever?). but all the people making the red states red (teabaggers and moderate republicans alike) who want the government out of their healthcare (and education) so they can pay for it themselves on the free market, might as well start lobbying for toll roads as well (stick to your principles!). otherwise, please shut up.

things like healthcare and education, while a BIT more intangible than the roads, are just as, if not a bit more, important in the long run.

so drive on. but if you're bringing your car up to see me in NY, i'd recommend you get an EZpass (or carry small bills + lots of change).
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