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1 October 1996

The Burrito as an Instrument of Revolution

La Fundación Naciónal Para La Preservación y Desseminación de la Cultura del Burrito has commissioned me to create a series of works examining the historically important yet largely unknown role of the burrito as an instrument of revolution. La Fundación's directors are gravely concerned that the burrito's noble past has all but been forgotten.

In the words of one LFNPLPyDdlCdB executive, "The gringos are sissifying the burrito." He cited the example of a "burro" piñata outside a restaurant offering "Mexican Cuisine."

"Something has to be done, Señor Rinehart" he said in a low gravelly voice. "And my compadres and I think you're the right hombre for the job."

He then flashed a gold-tooth smile and winked. How could anyone say no to a gold-tooth smile and a wink?

I suppose I should be at work on the new project now, but instead I'm drinking tequila and meditating on the lucrative--5,000!--new commission. I wonder how long I can live on burritos?

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2 October 1996

No One Goes There Anymore

Everyone in the Mission knows that taquerias fund the insurgents. Most businesses don't even try to hide their allegiances. Take the Pancho Villa Taqueria for example: anyone who patronizes a restaurant named after Doroteo Arango has to know where the profits go.

The revolutionary aura is certainly good for business, the humble taqueria has even been favorably reviewed in snooty food magazines like Bon Appétit. That single citation led to a deplorable influx of the nouveau riche and trendy. Now it's like Yogi Berra said: "It's so crowded that no one goes there anymore." Why is it that affluent people always like the radical chic of supporting a revolution as long as it's in someone else's country?

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3 October 1996

Burrito Cloaking

The burrito's infrastructure approaches the theoretical limit of chaos theory, and no one knows that better than the revolutionary in need of a nonsynthetic cloaking device for hidden messages. An organomicrochip with 68K of data has the same refractive index as a slice of avocado, but in practice that's usually an unnecessary luxury. The aluminum foil that serves as the burrito's girdle is an impervious shroud to xrays.

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4 October 1996

Hard Evidence

The revolutionaries are known to use huge fifty kilogram bags of rice and dried beans as well as sandbags to fortify their positions. They discovered long ago that a burlap sack of dried legumes will stop even a hollow-tipped bullet and absorb the impact of a grenade. It's not unusual to find a bullet or a piece of shrapnel when emptying imported bags of rice or beans; that's why the better taquerias use domestic suppliers.

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5 October 1996

"Long Guns of the Burritos"

The tubular form of the burrito makes them an ideal cover for smuggling sections of gun barrels. Just ask the villagers of El Veridad. During the revolution the peasants smuggled gun barrels--each section wrapped like a burrito-- up the hill past the state militia. They claimed it was for the feast of St. Frida, which should have been a giveaway.

The conscripted soldiers never knew what hit them until it hit them. Pedro Escondilla's "Long Guns of the Burritos" wreaked havoc upon the government's position in San Marten, generally regarded by military strategists as a crucial turning point in the revolution.

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6 October 1996

The Exterminating Burrito

Bombs hidden in burritos are almost as old as the burrito itself. Ever since hungry, practical people have been stuffing tortillas with rice, beans, and assorted leftovers, criminals, spies and assorted other scoundrels have been stuffing them with explosives. That's why dignitaries never have burritos at state dinners.

(For years, Central Intelligence Agency operatives tried to kill Fidel Castro with a burrito bomb, but it never worked: Cubans generally don't eat burritos.)

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7 October 1996

I've Been Had!

I've come to the distressing and possibly libelous conclusion that La Fundación Naciónal Para La Preservación y Desseminación de la Cultura del Burrito is a fraud.

LFNPLPyDdlCdB licenses their "revolutionary" imagery to any manufacturer regardless of ideology or political affiliation. This came to my attention when I bought a container of mediocre salsa that was implicitly endorsed by La Fundación. The trail of the salty watery salsa led to a corporation linked with a number of quite reactionary business enterprises.

And more to the point, my "5,000 commission" wasn't paid in pounds, dollars, or even pesos. Instead, I got 5,000 lira, barely enough for a burrito ... without beer. My week of burritos has come to a disastrous end.

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8 October 1996

Tubular Cacooning

Two old friends (who've never met) have adopted the same strategy for dealing with entering their forties: they've both bought guitars and built small recording studios in their basements. I can understand that to a degree; I am no stranger to a room full of electronics.

What baffles me about their behavior is that they've both embraced tube amplifiers with a passion bordering on obsession. Steve and Paul both insist that anyone who knows anything about anything knows tubes have a superior sound to the new digital doodads. I suppose they're right, both because they're much smarter than me and because hearing is not one of my more developed senses.

Still, I am unsettled at the prospect of relying on tubes that run hot and cold then burn out. I like digital electronics: I can count on digits.

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9 October 1996

Flight Insurance

I had a ginormous El Farolito burrito before leaving San Francisco on a ten-hour flight to Amsterdam: you can't be too careful when it comes to airplane food.

(see 15 October disclaimer)

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10 October 1996

Birthing Pains

Richard and Fiona have a new kid--their first, actually. They're not going to sleep for at least a year, and a decade and a half from now Rosie will denounce her parents as the most unpukka people to ever blight the face of the Earth. And from then it's only a bottle of good wine and nine months until they're grandparents.

Beats me why people reproduce.

(see 15 October disclaimer)

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11 October 1996

Right Honourable Artist (Perhaps)

The Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts reliably informs me that I may get to have my picture taken with the Right Honourable [sic] Mrs. Bottomly after all. (The mind boggles, reels.) ABSA's administraitors have agreed to rereview my application for a quarter million dollar grant after tacitly acknowledging that, er, "mistakes were made."

I don't know how long $250,000 worth of burritos would be, but it's definitely good news for the art business.

(see 15 October disclaimer)

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12 October 1996

Check It Out

Check it out,
Check it out,
Check it out Check it out Check it out;

Check it out,
Check it out,
Check it out Check it out Check it out;

Check it out,
Check it out,
Check it out Check it out Check it out;

Check it out,
Check it out,
Check it out Check it out Check it out;

Check it out,
Check it out,
Check it out Check it out Check it out;

Check it out,
Check it out,
Check it out Check it out Check it out;

... and on and on.

(Written with no small input from Jane Hamper)

(see 15 October disclaimer)

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13 October 1996

Dinner with the 'Rents

I don't know where all the jokes about horrible mothers-in-law come from; my inlaws are wonderful company. Not only have they accepted an alien into their family, they always have great dinners with all the hot sauce and beer I want.

And that's saying something.

(see 15 October disclaimer)

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14 October 1996

Fish and Chips to the Rescue!

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, I may have ended my burrito fast in the nick of time.

I read that a student at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California was told to eat only beans, rice, and tortillas for a week in order to produce a simulation of the kind of human waste one might expect to find in rural Guatemala. The project was abandoned after the unfortunate pupil became hopelessly constipated.

Fish and chips never tasted better.

(see 15 October disclaimer)

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15 October 1996


I apologize profusely for the poor quality of the previous week's entries. Although there is no excuse for such shoddy craftsmanship, there is an explanation.

Upon leaving San Francisco, I foresaw that I would be too busy to devote the usual amount of time and attention to this notebook, so I hired a Mr. Allen Spanger to live my life for me. He assured me that he would have exciting adventures in my stead, and that he would provide scintillating accounts of those experiences for your vicarious pleasure.

Instead, Mr. Spanger plumbed new depths of sloth and lethargy. His reports were tired and tedious, and illustrated with inexpensive clip art instead of the quality photography that normally appears here.

Mr. Spanger has been fired and I have confiscated his entire Incredible Image Pak [sic] library of 65,000 "instant images." I have also refused to pay his ridiculously inflated invoice. He's threatening all manner of dire legal consequences, but I know he'll procrastinate until some sort of statute of limitations kicks in.

Again, please accept my most sincere apologies. I can assure you this sort of thing won't happen again.

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16 October 1996

Aboard the HMS Calliope

I went to the premiere of Diana Thater's piece The Wicked Witch of the West - 1996 on the drill deck of the HMS Calliope. Thater's piece was tedious in the extreme, even though it was the first example of purported video art I've seen this year that didn't involve someone underwater.

The HMS Calliope, however, was extraordinary example of virtual reality. Her Majesty's "Ship" was in fact a nondescript building with a parking lot. All the members pretended it was a real ship with such thorough conviction that once they walked in the door they were for all intents and purposes at sea. They didn't go to the toilet or the bathroom; they headed for the head in their regulation shiny shoes. And when they went back to what passes for the real world they "went ashore."

All was not well aboard the HMS Calliope. A ne'er do well technician who set up Thater's piece discovered the weapons locker. "It wasn't hard," he said, "it was the only unmarked door in the whole place." He thought the weapons were pretty shoddy too: "When I hold a big automatic rifle I want to feel steel, not plastic."

Anyway, the HMS Calliope's weaponry was useless against her real adversaries. The local kids like to attack the base by rolling tires filled with gasoline down the hill. It's a problem even the best naval minds haven't addressed.

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17 October 1996

The Problem with Photographs

"The problem with photographs is that they're never like it was. It's the going wrong that's the magic."

That was one of the few remarks I remember from a stupefyingly inspired two-hour rant by Greg Lucas. He's so brilliant my teeth hurt. I don't know if was as thoroughly manic as he appeared or if he was just a good actor. His tirade was so overwhelming it really didn't matter where it came from.

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18 October 1996

Not the Most Popular Prime Minister

The prime minister has reinvented himself as a man of the people with humble beginnings, et cetera et cetera et cetera. It is widely assumed that he has redefined himself just in time for the upcoming election.

But the prime minister is a man of action, oh yes indeed, so he is going to meet his people on their turf. In my neighborhood, that means a visit to the huge Stalinesque towers that dominate the grim landscape below. The towers are now engulfed in scaffolding, which I presumed to be part of a valiant government effort at creating a Potemkin village suitable for a photo opportunity.

I presumed wrong.

I mentioned this latest rehabilitation to a former MI5 colleague; he reliably informed me the building's new shroud was only meant to deprive sharpshooters of any visible target.

"He's not the most popular PM, now is he?" queried my friend.

It was, of course, a rhetorical question.

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19 October 1996

Forced by the Occasion

I just got one of the new United States hundred dollar bills. A hundred dollars isn't what it used to be, and neither is the note. Some treasury committee has unfortunately succeeded in capturing the spirit of the United States at the end of the twentieth century: technically advanced and moronically ugly. It has a few neat gizmos: plasticized paper, an embedded metal strip and--finally--a watermark.

It's most notable feature, though, is that it's incredibly repulsive, especially the typography. The "United States of America" looks like it was created by someone who did way too much LSD in the 1960s ... and then had a flashback thirty years later after drinking too much vodka. The nastiest piece of work, however, is associating old Ben Franklin with this bureaucratic debacle. Ben, who was by most accounts an accomplished craftsman with a printing press, will for the foreseeable future be associated with this mediocrity.

I'm sure none of this would have surprised Ben, who said, "Those who govern, having much business on their hands, do not generally like to take the trouble of considering and carrying into execution new projects. The best public measures are therefore seldom adopted from previous wisdom, but forced by the occasion."

I think there's really nothing to do but spend the c-note on a bottle of Wild Turkey. I think Ben would have wanted it that way. (He did, after all argue that the turkey should be the United States' national bird.) As I see it, I'm forced by the occasion. Ça ira.

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20 October 1996

Conquering Mystery

Two buckeye trees lived in the yard of my boyhood home. Or maybe they were chestnut trees. I'm not sure, it seemed like a pedantic distinction. In England, the nuts from such chestnut trees are called chestnuts or conkers, never buckeyes. To confuse things even more, the dictionary defines a conker as "the hollowed-out shell" of the chestnut.

I thought it was important to provide adequate background detail before telling my favorite story about buckeyes, but now I have forgotten what I was going to say.


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21 October 1996

Grievous Low Straddling Iceland

A consummately English interval: washing down salty crisps with clammy bitter watching snooker listening to the shipping forecast (grievous low straddling Iceland).

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22 October 1996

Carpet Migration

I am completely baffled. The square of carpet that lives in the kitchen doorway always climbs the wall for no apparent reason. I've tried pointing it in different directions to see if that makes a difference, but the result is always the same. (I think a carpet has a warp and a woof, but I'm unable to determine whether that has anything to do with anything.) I've even tried to tiptoe across the carpet, but even the slightest impact seems to send the carpet up the wall.

I was about to solve the problem with brute force by nailing the carpet to the floor, but decided that I'd let the carpet follow its natural course.

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23 October 1996

Surrealistic Pasta

Cooking pasta is generally straightforward: you boil it until it's done. If you don't cook it enough it will be unpleasantly chewy; boil it too long and it turns to mush.

Those rules don't apply to Chirico pasta. I don't know if Luciano is I any way related to Giorgio, but he definitely manufactures some strange food. No matter what I do or how carefully I monitor the cooking process, the pasta is either overdone or underdone.

There must be some point at which it is cooked properly, but there's not. With enough wine and garlic, though, even surreal pasta can be pleasant.

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24 October 1996

Jetstream Racing

The Americans have just won the Boston to Brisbane Tall Ship Race, but the French have lodged an official protest. They claim that the Morgan was aided unfairly by the aircraft carrier USS Temulence. The French have produced satellite photographs that show the carrier only a few dozen meters behind the tall ship, which appears to be sailing on an artificial wind. The document clearly proves that seven fighter planes aboard the flight deck of the Temulence are using their jets to propel the tall ship across a calm sea.

The French protest isn't being taken seriously: the French are always complaining about something.

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25 October 1996

The House of Paranoia

There's a town near here where all the houses have names, not numbers. Most of the names are rather formal if not pretentious, e.g., Albion, Windermere, Olde Orchards, Troutbrook, et cetera. No one who lives there uses the proper names, they've given each house the name it's earned.

My favorite is the House of Anarchy. Parts of it always seem to be falling off, and the yard is littered with children's toys, milk bottles--both full and empty--and plants that are either coming or going. The House of Anarchy is just down the street from the House of Paranoia, which is hidden behind a large hedge and a tall fence with "Beware of Dogs" signs.

I hear the House of Paranoia gets burgled a lot. I'm not sure if that's because the owners are paranoid or if that's why they're paranoid. It's one of those things.

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26 October 1996

Cult Leaders' Abobe

I while ago I visited a movie star's home. Or, to be precise, one of his homes ... I don't think he spent much time in this one. It was full of nice quirky expensive things, the kind of objects I would expect to find in a movie star's home. (I wonder if that's why he bought them?)

The house also had a sinister atmosphere that ran much deeper than its gothic architecture. The house used to belong to a cult leader who had wired every floor with cameras, sensors, and various recording devices. All the electronic reports fed into a control room lined with monitors, speakers, and row upon row of switches. The entire house could be monitored from a single elaborately-upholstered leather chair.

I was reliably informed that few can resist the lure of the chair. I suppose there a little nascent cult leader in most of us.

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27 October 1996

Irrelevant Corporate Philosophy

Wm. McEwan & Co. Brewers said, "To copy it is forgery."

William Blake said, "The difference between a bad artist and a good one is: The bad artist seems to copy a great deal; the good one really does."

Pablo Picasso said, "Good artists copy. Great artists steal."

Igor Stravinsky said, "A good composer does not imitate; he steals."

Comte de Lautréamont said, "Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an author's phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea and replaces it with the right idea."

Robert Heinecken said, "I think one of the really interesting things about art is that you can adapt other people's ideas without stealing them."

Mojo Nixon said, "Anyone who's any good steals outright--it's just a matter of inflicting your own personality on the material."

I say Wm. McEwan & Co. Brewers need to rethink their corporate philosophy.

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28 October 1996

Bollard Suspense

A suspended bollard is a beautiful thing. Its bollardness is lost in midair, now it's just another accident waiting to happen.

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29 October 1996

Minor Domestic Conundrum

There was a trash can in the bathtub this afternoon. Why? It wasn't there this morning and it's not there now. It's just one of those peculiarities of modern living that doesn't merit much thought.

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30 October 1996

Fish in Holes

My neighbor returned from a trip to Barcelona without her old purse but with a can of olives stuffed with anchovies. There's a story there: someone stole her purse in a Barcelona bar, so she didn't have enough money to bring back a bottle of wine.

That was fine with me. I've had lots of wine, but I've never had olives with anchovies in them. I've never been to Spain either; there may be a cause and effect relationship there. I have been to a few tapas bars, though, so the taste of olive and anchovies had somewhat familiar overtones.

The most amazing thing about the salty hors d'oeuvres is how they get the anchovies in the olives. Spanish fishermen have custom-made nets that hold tens of thousands of olives firmly inserted in the fine mesh. The fleet then trawls though large schools of anchovies, trapping the tiny fish in the hollowed-out center of the olives. The olives are then processed in mammoth factory ships, where automated machinery trims off the anchovies' heads and tails.

Et voilà! The perfect stuffed olive!

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31 October 1996

Tomorrow's Plagiarism Today

The 12th Scottish Manufacturing and Engineering Exhibition promised "Tomorrow's Technology Today." The 12th Scottish Manufacturing and Engineering Exhibition doesn't know what it's talking about.

I've seen the future and it's still the future. Someone else said that first, but it's such a good line I'm claiming it as my own.

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©1996 David Glenn Rinehart