May 30th, 2004 § One comment § permalink

Some more fragmentary observations from my trip.

London is an excellent city to wander through with no destination in mind. I set out from Charing Cross last night intending to get a pint at whatever pub seemed the most inviting. For a while, I walked through the West End, which is utterly mad on warm Saturday evenings in May. Crowds thronged in the streets, people pushing past one another and going around the fences at the edge of the sidewalk, which are meant to discourage jaywalking. I spent several minutes trailing a parade of Hari Krishnas, some of them dancing, others playing cymbals or saxophones. The crowd lit up as they walked by. Quite a few people joined in the dancing, generally ignoring the flyers that one of the Hari Krishnas kept trying to hand out.

After several detours, I wound up in Soho at the Toucan. Some bars in London, including the Toucan, are licensed for sidewalk drinking, so I stood outside with my Guinness for a while, watching couples walk by and utterly failing to work up enough nerve to talk to any of the locals. I wandered around for a while longer after that, then returned to the hotel. The only time I got lost was once I reached Trafalgar Square and started actually thinking about which direction I needed to go. (I suppose that’s little more than a truism; one can’t be lost if one isn’t trying to go anywhere in particular.)

Today we visited the Tate Modern, which I wandered around for several hours. Long lines and my own impatience forced me to skip the Edward Hopper exhibit. Perhaps I’ll have time to return before we leave. In lieu of that, I discovered Cornelia Parker’s remarkable Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (which, sadly, the website does not do justice), enjoyed John Curran’s Honeymoon Nude for, I think, the third time in person, and sunk very deep into several Mark Rothkos. Then I wandered around the city for a while longer, got caught in a rain shower (joyous!), stopped at my hotel, and now here I am, back in the easyInternetCafe, waiting to meet my family for dinner.

And now a quick British vocabulary lesson:

  • Instead of “for here or to go,” you say “eat in or take away”
  • The word “scheme” does not connote nefariousness; there are signs everywhere about “road improvement schemes” and the like
  • To my continual frustration, the word “centre” should not be pronounced as it would be in France
  • French fries are called “chips”
  • Chips are called “crisps”
  • Crisps are called “tarts”
  • Tarts are called “saucy wenches”
  • Saucy wenches are called “French fries”

Somehow I’ve managed not to eat any Cadbury’s Creme Eggs yet. I must set about rectifying that.

London calling

May 29th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

Hi, everyone. I’m in London right now with my family. We’re staying at a very posh hotel above the Charing Cross railway station. Within my first 20 minutes in the room, I had managed to break a wine glass, cutting my hand and scattering shards of glass all over the carpet. I feel like such a rock star.

Before coming to London today, we spent several days in Dublin, which was okay; I would have enjoyed it more had I not been sick for almost the entire time. I will say that they pour a mean pint of Guinness at the brewery. The River Liffey runs east-west through the city, dividing it into south Dublin (the more fashionable half) and north Dublin (the down-at-the-heels half). North Dublin really is rather grotty. Lots of cheap council housing, lots of streets with utterly demolished sidewalks. The Spire of Dublin is on the north side, and on account of its location, it’s referred to as the “Stiletto in the Ghetto.” Dubliners have clever names for all their statues.

Oh, my time on this computer is running out. What other random Dublin facts should I mention? The streets are torn up all over the city–as they have been for years, apparently–because Dublin is building a light rail system. The cars look pretty slick, but my understanding is that the system is years behind schedule and way over budget. Sound familiar, my American friends? Also, not that anyone cares, but the storm gutters run down the middle of the sidewalk on most streets, which struck me as odd.

Okay, I’m going to go drink a pint of something cool and foamy. Like water from the Liffey, perhaps. Ew. We’re staying a stone’s throw from an Internet cafe, so perhaps I’ll post more while I’m in London. Otherwise, see you all in Copenhagen or stateside.

Poking my head above ground

April 6th, 2004 § Two comments § permalink

I’m still here. I’m just busy. Spring break was a few weeks ago. I spent most of it drawing large maps. Last weekend, I saw the Mark Lombardi show at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; last night, I went to the Oakland A’s season opener. Now I am wrestling with TurboTax; eating fearsome quantities of trail mix; doing my laundry; and studying, studying, always studying.

Blither Blather v. Jabbety Blah Blah Blah

March 6th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

My youth is far too valuable to be spent reading nonsense like this:

Reversal of the judgment will require the entry of a judgment to the opposite effect in action No. 39640. The new judgment must explicitly order the issuance of a peremptory writ of mandate commanding the County to vacate the decision approving the tentative map of the proposed Waunita Meadows subdivision. Whether it should incorporate other provisions from the judgments in the other actions (as modified below) is to be determined by the trial court upon application by any party to action No. 39640. Reversal of the present judgment in that action will also revive appellants’ request for an award of attorneys’ fees. The new judgment may also dispose of that request if appellants pursue it. Proceedings in these respects are to be conducted on the remand ordered below.

And yet here I am, sitting indoors on a beautiful day, plodding through Camp v. Board of Supervisors. I should be going for a hike, or learning to identify wildflowers, or cooking an elaborate meal, or any of a thousand other things.

The moral of this story is that at least in the short term, graduate school is not the key to personal fulfillment.

Little birds

February 29th, 2004 § Two comments § permalink

Two little birds are hopping around the plum tree in my backyard and plucking off its blossoms with their beaks. They don’t seem to be eating them; they’re just dropping them on the ground. I guess this is what little birds do for fun on a Sunday morning.

I guess even back then you could call me CEO of the RSF

February 23rd, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

One fringe benefit of going to the gym is that I often hear the Sather Tower carillon (also known as the Campanile bells) three times a day instead of two: at 8 am or so as I leave the gym; at noon after I return to campus; and at 6 pm as I leave my studio. The carillon may be my absolute favorite thing about Cal, and hearing those bells can make a good day amazing and a bad day bearable.

Another fringe benefit: Lots of hot women using the cardio equipment. Hey, I may be married, but I’m not dead! Woo! (Note: I am not actually married.)

Goal disoriented

February 17th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

From Freehand Sketching: An Introduction, which I just started reading:

For some, the prime reason to take up sketching is to produce admirable drawings that provide a sense of accomplishment. Although such motivation is important, concern about results not only inhibits learning but also hides an even greater source of motivation: the wealth of other experiences that sketching brings. If you look carefully at the subjects you sketch, a new, exciting world of awareness and delight opens to you.

I am among the “some” of which the author speaks. And if you try to extrapolate that passage to your entire life, then multiply it by a million, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s going on in my head these days.

Green dwellings

February 13th, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

Every time I see the odd green house at the corner of Dwight and Martin Luther King in Berkeley, I think covetous thoughts and ponder the advantages of homeownership. There are some condominiums going in next door with roughly the same design, and as it turns out, there’s an open house to view them on Sunday afternoon. Obviously it’s meant for people who are actually interested in buying them, but I’m sorely tempted to go anyway.

Both buildings emphasize green design, with recycled materials incorporated throughout in surprising and beautiful ways. Who would have guessed, for example, that old highway signs would make such attractive siding? The builders also use more conventional techniques, like making doors and paneling from reclaimed wood and adding fly ash, a waste product from coal-fired power plants, to their concrete. It takes real skill, though, to incorporate someone else’s trash into a building in such visible ways. (Rural Studio, an Auburn University project that builds houses in a poor part of Alabama, is probably the master of the art.)

Leger Wanaselja Architecture designed the green house and condominiums, and their other work is also spendid, both environmentally and architecturally.

Two-legged obstacle

February 8th, 2004 § Nine comments § permalink

Buying exercise pants should be easy, right? Not if you live in Berkeley, don’t own a car, and are not morbidly obese.

I needed sweatpants—or better yet, nylon workout pants, or yoga pants—so that I could start going to the gym this week. Finding some, I figured, would be easy. I figured wrong. The selection at Bancroft Clothing Company was disappointing at best. Ross had many fine options, but only in size XXXL. The Gap had some sweatpants that would have been acceptable if they had been available in a small, which they were not. As usual, Any Mountain had plenty of $140 ski pants but nothing that remotely resembled what I wanted. I even considered the $6.99 sweatpants at Walgreens, but like Ross, their sizes were suitable only for the exceedingly portly gentleman. I would have gone to REI, which is where I should have started, but I had homework to do.

But I will not be stopped by a mere lack of suitable pants. There are tai chi classes and fitness machines with my name on them. So if you see me at UC Berkeley’s Recreational Sports Facility early tomorrow morning, wearing a four-year-old pair of ridiculously oversized Adidas shorts, please don’t point and laugh. I really, really tried to find a garment that wouldn’t expose my blindingly white calves.

On second thought, maybe you should point and laugh. I suspect that not finding yoga pants in Berkeley is right up there with not finding sand in the desert.

Catching up

February 1st, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

Hello. Spring semester just started, and I am already very busy. My classes are challenging and (for the most part) interesting. If all goes well in my plan preparation studio, I’ll know how to draw, at least a little, by the end of the semester. If not…well, I’m not thinking about that too much.

I decided to go grocery shopping today at about 3:30, right after the Super Bowl had started. In most cities, this would be a brilliant tactic, and the store would be empty. Berkeley is not most cities. Berkeley Bowl, which is crowded on the best of Sunday afternoons, was practically overflowing with people. My usual strategies for dealing with Berkeley Bowl mayhem–breathe deeply, be patient, don’t shove, float with the universe–didn’t help quite as much as usual. There may have been a point to this story, but I’ve forgotten it.

I never did post anything about Vancouver, did I? Maybe later this week.

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