Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Guten Morgen Präsident Obama!

In some ways, this cover from the Bielefeld newspaper sums it up pretty well: the world is relying on our new president to protect our environment, recapture constitutional liberties and the rule of law, help the poor, and get control over the debacle that is our intervention in Iraq. Like lots of lefties, I question whether Obama really has the will to do this. Even so, I cast my vote yesterday, and watched the election results--all five hours' worth--pour in, and went to bed just feeling like an eight-year nightmare was about to end...or at least get a little less scary.

Like Roberto Lovato, a writer for the Nation, and a commentator on last night's election coverage, I think anyone would have to be a little hard of heart not to feel moved by what has happened in our country, whether we have any faith in electoral politics and centrist Democrats or not. Especially when looking at pictures like these:

Congratulations to everyone who fought so hard for this--from MoveOn activists to the so-called "hip-hop generation" to the election protection folks who made sure--or tried to--that no one who wanted to vote was disenfranchised. And for me, the most important thanks go to the people who didn't live to see this day.

(Not a comprehensive list, of course. Notably missing is Herbert Lee, because I couldn't find a picture of him...)

Undoing the horrible damage done over the last eight years--and earlier, if we are honest with ourselves--is going to take a long time. But for now:

Goodbye, George Bush. Ding dong, the witch is dead!

Monday, August 25, 2008

What is possibly the best way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon?

The quick answer to that question is obviously: watch Turkish oil wrestling. That is exactly what I spent a good chunk of the day yesterday doing, which resulted in visual delights such as these:

Let me explain. A couple of years ago I made a somewhat unexpected trip to Istanbul, which turned out to be totally life-affirming and revelatory. Never before had I seen such a gorgeous city! Eaten such magnificent food! Engaged in so many random and bizarre conversations on the street, some of which were conducted in German.

I returned from this trip quite curious about this unexpectedly delightful land, and have, since my return, attempted to keep up somewhat with political developments in the country, to learn more about its history, and to read, hear and see more of its art. One thing had always eluded me though: Yağlı Gűreş, or, to those English-speaking types like myself: turkish oil wrestling.

Imagine my delight, then, when I read that it would be conducted at the annual New York Turkish Festival. I packed up a clueless pal (I wouldn't tell him what he would be watching, which was mildly mean of me), headed up to Central Park, and...whoa!

I have to admit: I still don't get the rules. There is obviously a ritualistic component involving the oil application, the hand-holding, and the foot-stomping that takes place at the beginning. But the point seems to be digging one's hands down the opponent's pants and...grabbing....something. I'm sure a flip and pin is involved somehow too. But it sure wasn't like any wrestling I've ever seen before. * Anyone care to explain?

(*I should mention: I'm no wrestling novice. A somewhat ignominious part of my childhood history is that I was madly in love with the Von Erich brothers. Do with that information what you will, cruel blogosphere.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Jeffrey Dalmer (sic) ate lunch in Aberdeen?

Once again I have fallen behind on my blogging duties. I can't help it--I've been busy, doing things like traveling about, home redecorating, and being woken at 6 am by a neighbor singing the soundtrack to "West Side Story" at the top of his lungs. (True story. And I'm not sleeping well because of it.)

Last week, though, I was on a mini-vacation. I say "mini" only because I didn't pay for my airfare, and didn't do any advance preparation at all. Instead, I cashed in my frequent flier miles, checked out a travel book from the library, and hopped on a 6:30 am plane out of LaGuardia...which meant that I left my home before my neighbor even woke up to start his singing.

The Pacific Northwest was my destination. I've never really been there before, unless you count an all-night drive from Seattle to California during my college years. (I don't count that, because I didn't really see anything, and the whole experience was tinged by sleep deprivation and other college-era misdeeds that I won't go into here.)

What did I discover on this trip? Well, I might be ambivalent about the west coast. On the one hand it's pretty:

(Aberdeen, WA)

(Aberdeen, WA)

(Lion's Gate Bridge, Vancouver, BC)

(Vancouver, BC)

And there was lots of beer:

(Widmer Brewery, Portland, OR)

(Red Hook Brewery, Woodinville, WA)

But otherwise, it was just slow. Even in those little drive-through espresso bars, and most especially at the Canadian border, where I waited for *three hours* in my rental car for the privilege of re-entering the United States.

I was also a bit taken aback by Vancouver, which was just overrun by junkies. I've got nothing against the junkies, of course, but it was a bit unexpected to see so many nearly middle-aged people pocked with track marks, digging through the garbage and collapsed in various stages of nod throughout Vancouver's alleyways. It all seemed very old-fashioned somehow--like the '90s never ended. While in Aberdeen, I half-expected its most famous son, Kurt Cobain, would suddenly pop out from behind a building. He didn't, of course--but another '90s icon apparently ate lunch there:

Friday, July 25, 2008

Obama trinkt kein Bier

This totally cracked me up:

(Photo credit: Gero Breloer/European Pressphoto Agency)

Those wacky Germans!

I wish Barack was hip enough to wear red suspenders and carry around 7 large beers. Unfortunately he is busy doing rotten things like supporting the Telecom Amnesty Bill instead.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The trashiest place in Delaware?

This, for those of you who didn't know, is a glimpse of our nation's first state. Like many people, I'd imagine, I've never paid much attention to Delaware, thinking of it as a brief strip of land that connects New Jersey to points south--a brief stopover before one travels on to Baltimore or DC or even Florida.

Upon further exploration, however, I found much to recommend it. There are scenic old mills:

Rustic diners:

Charming (if underexposed) ice houses:

And, of course, the requisite nudie bar:

I was kind of fascinated by many elements of life in Delaware. Firstly, the community pictured in the first photo is called "Leipsic." Obviously this is a derivation of the more Germanic-sounding Leipzig...but why alter the name like that? Secondly, how long has that nudie bar been there? Frighteningly enough, it appeared to be operational, as evidenced by the open door, beckoning purveyors of nudity within. Who goes there? What are the dancers like? A brief search of the internet turned up intriguing "amputees," "lack of teeth" and "the trashiest place in Delaware." Dang!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lip-smackin' good

Aside from the unrelenting humidity, I really like summertime in New York. Yeah, yeah, so the streets smell and there are ten million tourists clogging up the sidewalks with their fannypacked cluelessness. These drawbacks are easily offset by the opportunities to see free performances by Rachid Taha:

And to stroll around the Arthur Avenue market with luminaries such as Chazz Palminteri. (He is not pictured in these photos, but he really was there, holding court with a bunch of admirers and eating...I dunno, figs or something.)

Despite my semi-regular travels to the Bronx, I'd never been in the market before. It was kind of weird. I wasn't sure what to make of the cigar-makers who sit there all day rolling cigars, or the legions of men who seemed to be just sitting around drinking cappuccinos. It was almost as though I had wandered into a movie set, and everyone was busying themselves trying to look "authentic" rather than actually being authentic. Before I snapped the pic above, a number of Italian tourists had been sitting in the pine-colored chairs, and I wondered what they thought of the Disney-style Italianness on display there. I'd imagine it was very confusing.

Eh, whatever. The pistachio gelatto was delectable, the day was sunny, and overall, gee it was good.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Of waterfalls and loneliness

A favorite habit of bloggers--or at least the ones I know--is examining one's Sitemeter statistics to see how people find your blog. It is an amusing, if sometimes depressing, undertaking. I am often saddened by the desperate 3am Googlers searching the terms "bedbugs" who end up here. I feel your pain, brothers and sisters! But don't worry--bedbugs don't always result in the total and utter catastrophe documented on many other blogs. Once my apartment was treated just once, I never saw another little bugger again.

For a while I had lots of European visitors, many searching for lyrics to a song called "Suburbia, Always." I do not believe I have ever heard this song, but the Euros seem to love it. Similarly, my European friends frequently search for lederhosen and dirndl pictures as well as photos of Leipzig.

What amuses me most, though, and something I've been thinking a lot about lately, due to this recent news story which documents the role of Google data in defining and contesting what "pornography" is, is just how dirty people are. In the Google data case, the defense--which is representing an internet pornography site owner--is trying to establish that community norms are much, um, broader than once thought. As the New York Times so blithely put it, "residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search for terms like “orgy” than for “apple pie” or “watermelon.” Don't I know it! Well, I don't know about Pensacola so much, but I can say that:

1) People in Turkey love to search Google using terms like "ohne unterhosen" and "wunderbar porno." Disappointingly for them, they sometimes end up here, due to my poor choice of previous blog titles. They also search for porn using the name of poor Sibel Kekilli. C'mon Turkish dudes! She's a legitimate actress now!

2) Germans also love their porno, but seem to have more specialized tastes. I am mildly delighted that so many people in Germany searching terms like "scheiss porn" end up looking at my dopey pictures of alligators and birds instead.

Overall, I often get the sense that the world is a lonely place, with lots of people with unfulfilled desires. Of course, the world is not made up solely of Googlers, so I like to think (and suspect this may be what undermines the defense in the case described above) that they are not representative of the world at large. Maybe most people are totally sexually satisfied and are out frolicking in the sunshine rather than sitting at the computer screen with their hands stuck down their pants.

On that note, I was shocked to discover yesterday, after frolicking in the sunshine, that one of Olaf Eliasson's waterfalls is clearly visible from my block. After further investigation (which involved turning my head in the other direction), I discovered that two waterfalls are clearly visible from my block! Because I try not to be lazy, I decided to get a little closer. They are pretty. Thanks Olaf!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Gator quest

For the past week I have been on vacation, which I expected to be filled with hiking and nature and swims in the ocean. Instead, it's looked mostly like this:

(Please note that it was so dark at 3pm that I couldn't even tell that I'd accidentally left the "black&white" setting on in the camera!)

Oh well...what's a little rain? It's given me plenty of time to read, make stuff and enjoy all the pie I can eat. Yesterday it cleared up enough that I was able to view some nature, which I hoped would include a sighting of an alligator. Instead I got this guy:

And a dried up marsh that normally holds many alligators, but was so dry on this day that it looked like the surface of the moon or some other faraway planet:

I find this befuddling. If it has been raining for five days straight, why is this land so parched? I guess that's the way a drought works though--it is dry for months, then rains so hard all at once that the land can't soak it up. Right, scientist-readers?

Anyway, after moving locations I did finally spot an alligator. He was so far away though, that it didn't really have the horror movie feel I was hoping for. But here's the top of his head, for your viewing pleasure:

Luckily, some liquids remain in ample supply:

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Heat Wave! (Staten Island version)

Unfortunately for me, today was the last day of a rather fabulous sale at JoAnn Fabrics, a very un-New York (i.e. suburban) fabric and crafting emporium with a local outpost on Staten Island. I had long planned on journeying out there, via bicycle, to scoop up $1.99 patterns and bolts of fabric. How was I to know that my chosen day would turn out to be the hottest of the year?

Undaunted, I decided just to slather on the sunscreen, load up a couple of bottles of water, and hit the road anyway. After a funny start to the day--which began when our building's security guard told me I reminded him of Kill Bill's "Black Mamba," due to my perceived ability to "kick and turn flips"-- I made a very leisurely Fahrrad-ride down to the ferry station, and waited with a chatty curly-haired fellow bicyclist, who was also braving the weather to head out on a hike.

I wasn't totally sure where I was going on this little jaunt, but decided to stick by the water for as long as possible, in the hopes it would temper the heat and prove to be scenic. Of course, "scenic" means many different things to different people--for me, this ride was interesting, as it featured many nautical-type things that I don't even know the names for (graving docks? loading areas? ship shacks?) that appeared as though they hadn't been used for a maybe decades. There were also some fine lookin' liquor stores and lots and lots of traffic...which prevented much picture-taking, as I was worried about being squashed by one of Staten Island's multiple speeding cars. (I do have to note, however, that contrary to their reputation, Staten Island drivers were pretty nice. No one honked or yelled at me, and most cars seemed to be making a semi-serious effort not to kill me.)

Anyway, after racing under the Bayonne Bridge, I sweated my way up a moderate hill and found myself in clothing-making nirvana. One hour and seven new patterns later, I emerged to find that, although it was technically still morning, it was freaking hot. So much so that as I unlocked my bike, a kindly older gentleman waiting in the car for his wife commented, with some concern, that maybe it was too hot for bicycle riding. I assured him that I was prepared, and set off again.

This time, I altered my route. I had a plan, you see. I was going to reward myself with a post-JoAnn meal at the fantabulous New Asha restaurant. I can't say enough about the New Asha. It is a glutton's dream, if unfortunately located at the top of an extremely steep hill that would crush the will of even the pseudo-Black Mamba. On this day, though, I figured I'd come at it from the top of the hill, rather than the bottom...which, theoretically, worked out, although there was still a hill to be climbed. Luckily, the hill was in the middle of the verdant Clove Lake Park, which gave me the chance to stop both to catch my breath and to pretend I was super-interested in the scenery:

I could only maintain this farce for a short while though--then I had to puff my way up the hill and emerge on the remarkably unshaded Victory Boulevard. By the time I arrived at New Asha, I was pretty much drenched in sweat. (I apologize, kindly New Asha owner, for sweating in your restaurant. But thank you for the star fruit and curry!)

It was, literally, all downhill from there. I boarded the ferry home, sucked in the cooling sea air, took some snaps of passing boats:

and thought about what a shame it is that the world is frying up.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

What to do on a Saturday, when it rains

Wake up mistakenly early. Make a loaf of potato dill bread:

Don't wash your hair. Ride bicycle to farmer's market; chat with farmer about New Mexico quarters and the unfortunate farmer's tan you are sporting following the tragic arm sunburn. Dodge raindrops on the way home.

Make a pie:

Feel ambitious. Walk to local gallery to view Germanic art. Make a pit-stop at fancy coffee joint you've never noticed before. Wish you could figure out how to make a heart shape out of foam like the barista does.

Get stopped by British tourist looking for a florist. Try not to feel creeped out when British tourist touches the bare farmer's tanned arm.

Continue onward, eventually reaching far, far away gallery, to view the fabulous Rosa Loy's exhibit, Close to Me. Think about spending $7,000 on Hab' Ich Alles. Realize that's crazy, and that someone already bought it anyway. Take free exhibit card instead:

Walk home along river; think about Berlin: