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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Que Es Mas Macho!? (Audiophile Edition)

Amy Winehouse or Regina Spektor? (See samples in the audio snackbar)

Amy's got that big vampy sound, copping swagger from Etta James... flaunting her drug problem as she rekindles nostalgia for R&B's dangerous divas. If it doesn't make you dance, it ought to at least make you strut around your living room, dripping your PB&J onto the carpet.

Regina's got quirky creativity... she's PJ Harvey, Elvis Costello and Joanna Newsom rolled up in a crepe with an eggy bearnaise sauce. Her album is probably more varied than Amy's, and it clearly flexes more IQ points per composition. Plus her album cover doesn't feature an embarrassingly assy font.

Hard to say which is actually mas macho? ALCOA says, you make the call!


Friday, May 25, 2007

Belgian Photos - Architecture and Graffiti

I love the faded tones and flaked paint surrounding perfect pools of azure sky.

Little art nouveau flourishes like this railing are ubiquitious... Horta influences.

Sad how the American idea of a beautiful home includes repainting every three years.

For whatever reason, I liked the graffiti composition of this alley.

These stacked happy/menacing graffiti figures make for fun composition.

Someone climbed way up there to tag this rooster's perch.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Once Upon the Emerald Isle

Just a few pics from my one-day sojourn to Dublin:

Molly Down at Greystones Harbour

Ubiquitous Raven Menace

Tree Silhouettes - as seen from car window

The Power of Prayer


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Money Changes Everything

After thoroughly checking out Brussels, I got a wild hare. One hundred dollars poorer, I was on my way to Dublin to see my pal Molly for about 24 hours of Guinness drinking, leprechaun chasing and french fry comparison. Ryan Air is built for people like me... cheapskates who only take carry-on luggage, don't wanna eat a prepackaged turkey sandwich, and would rather rake vomit bags back and forth across their eyeballs than watch a Hugh Grant romantic comedy.

I stepped off the plane into the Irish afternoon. Walking across the tarmac toward the gate, I thought how much more natural it is to exit an airplane this way... instead of into a hermetically sealed docking chamber. Sun filtered through the blustering gray skies, and I was greeted by an honest-to-goodness rainbow. Ireland was offering up its natural beauty in a welcoming embrace.

Molly and I drove the long way around the city (so that I might better appreciate my surroundings) and then back to her Wicklow abode. There we met up with George and Lola and promptly headed off to The Horse and Hound for pints.

I was informed that I had arrived on an auspicious day for Ireland. Apparently it was a day of national peacemaking as figureheads from Northern Ireland and the Rest of Ireland were shaking hands, smiling and posing for photographs. I wondered aloud, what could have happened to engender this kind of conciliatory attitude between such bitter enemies?

The answer, I was informed, has everything to do with money. Ireland, unlike big sister England, jumped aboard the EEU when given the chance. Somehow this resulted in crazy low interest rates, tons of foreign investment, and a booming economy for the Catholic half of Ireland. The Celtic Tiger was born, and people historically forced to eat raw potatoes (and occasionally their own children,) were suddenly finding their property values quintupling. This created two important dynamics. Poor people, always the backbone of angry societies, suddenly weren't so poor... and thus, suddenly weren't so angry. Instead, they were figuring out how to buy one of those cool no-mess espresso machines that work on cartridges. Secondly, middle-class Northerners stopped being disdainful, and started scheming on how they could possibly get a better coffee maker as well.

I'll be fascinated to see how this plays out. If a long, bloody cultural clash winds up reduced to inconsequence simply by someone dumping a ton of cash on the poor people... well, that says a thing or two about resource inequities in the world, and how we might undo some of the violence that threatens us all. Either way, coffee pot makers look to make a killing on this.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

File Under: Duh

Today, like the day I discovered the difference between loath and loathe, I felt stupid. Today I discovered the difference between discreet and discrete. How do I keep stumbling upon these things so late in life? Do other people find themselves distinguishing basic homophones well into their 30's?

I think it might relate to learning English conversationally rather than through books. As I grew up I was amazed to hear booksmart people mispronounce ennui, while they were amazed to see me spelling it onwee. I guess I grew up assuming that discrete and discreet, as well as loathe and loath, were varying usages of the same word. After all, their meanings are somewhat related.


Monday, May 14, 2007

How Things are Built

I spend a lot of time looking up in Europe. Seattle (and the rest of the US?) just doesn't feature this kind of construction.

This bit of detailing was still unmarred in a building actively being torn down. By now it's probably a pile of dust.

Wonderous layers are exposed as the surface is peeled back.


Sunday, May 13, 2007

People Watching

During my vacation in Brussels, I took to taking sneaky portraits of people. One of the wonders of auto focus is being able to inconspicuously point your camera at someone without bringing it to your eye and giving yourself away. I don't know if there's anything unethical about photographing people without their permission, but I'm getting tired of photographing rusty pieces of metal and flowers. Capturing something about the Human Being seems like a good artistic challenge, and honestly, I think surreptitious shots offer better insight into human character than posed portraits.

A Long Way Up

The Imperious Waiter

Lady Maria of the Crepes


Friday, May 11, 2007

Belgain Beers

Upmost importantce in going to Belgium was shampleling all teh beersh. I sed, gimme what you got, and they said we have over 500 beers here. I said, then I'm going 500 beers per hour! Woot! Look at me ma! No hands! Line e'm down, Im knocking em up!

But listen up here now. THese are not beers to be taken lightly. NO! These are surprising ly strong in body and alcoholic content. One must take precaustions. Do not underestimate the smaller servicing sizes. 33cl of Chimay is worth a 40 ouncer of Michelob Lite. Start by making sure to drink plenty of the disgushing tap water... or purchase lots of water (at 3 Euros per bottle!) Do not commence beer uptake until H20 levels are statisfactory! Next, you donna get peanuts with beer in the cafes, you must order a "portion" of "formage" and some "pain" which will get you cheese and bread to saok up extra "portions" of ale! Also, do not fret about ordering beers from bottles. It's hard to fiend the tap. Kegs are too heavy for little Belgains to carry! Lastly, be sure you are not driving. They DO drive on the correct side of the street in Belgain, but you might not if you are drove drunky. Bad smurf!

I tried many a beer on vacation but these are 10 that I dialogued with during their dirking.

Westmalle - This beer tastes familiar, like we've met before. I realize it tastes much like the tripple that Brandon and I brewed in Seattle a couple months ago. A tad sweet for my taste. Packs a whallop.

Orval - A serious Trappist delight. Very typical and held in high esteem by local drinkers. I like this one very much, but too many others to try! I drink only the one glass.

Jupiler - The Budweiser of Belgium. This ubiquitous beer is surprisingly decent... especially on a warm summer day. It may be frowned upon by local drinkers but I enjoyed it.

Kwak - Definite points for coming in the coolest glass. Reminded me of nut-brown ale. Very drinkable, so long as you don't tip the half-full glass to quickly. Otherwise, it is very wearable.

Barbar - Rarer beer... only saw it at one place. Not very memorable either. Wondered if the name had to do with Roman word Barbarian.

Carlsberg - This is the Miller Genuine Draft to Jupiler's Budweiser. This is also the first beer that I did not enjoy. It's sold in cans everywhere, but I'd avoid it.

Lindemans Kriek - After surgically removing testes, I enjoyed this pour of Kriek once we finished wandering around the Villers la Ville abbey. Fantastic if you enjoy sangria, the occasional wine cooler or gin and juice. The "Bell-vue" brand (sold commonly in Brussels) is more "beery" and the flavor is much less fruity.

De Koninck - One of Olaiya's favorites, and mine too! More like an ESB than a typical Trappist ale. This one has a nice hoppiness... perfect for summer days.

Ciney - Typically nice. Don't remember much more than that.

Hoegaarden - While I avoided drinking any Stella Artois, which is Belgium's most exported beer, I did have a Hoegaarden. I have enjoyed this beer in the states, really savoring some of the delicate flavors of orange and corriander. This glass tasted very bland and watery to me however. I drank this near the end of my trip and maybe I was just spoiled by then.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Man About Town

Yesterday, Olaiya took me to the open air market where she used to spend her Sunday mornings. Our mission was to get fresh veggies for some upcoming dinners, experience the Moraccan crepes and (of course) take photos. Olaiya is religious about the honey, goat cheese and spicy olive crepes, but I had to try the mixed vegetable one as well. Lucky thing, as it was the greatest breakfast I have ever eaten in my whole life! Between the hot Moraccan mint tea (which would surely turn into one giant sugar crystal if you let it cool down and then bumped it) and the waffle I had for dessert, I was on an unstoppable sugar high for the next hour or so.

Yes, that giant pickled onion WAS the best part!

We spent the subsequent afternoon picnicking out at Villers la Ville, a ruined abbey first established in the 12th century. Wandering the abbey grounds mobilized every bit of adolescent Dungeons and Dragons and Society for Creative Anachronisms flavor left in me. We even found a creepy basement area that was unlit and flooded with water. If only we had torches and 50' lengths of rope... and perhaps some 10 foot poles and iron rations... then we really could have investigated!

Creepy greystone castle walls and dramatic arches!

Later we had a wonderful dinner with Michel, Cecilia (de Chile) and their lovely children Emma and Victor. They are renovating a fantasic old three-story house in the outskirts of town. Olaiya brought their children some Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans... hilarity ensued. While translating the flavors for the wee ones, I learned the French expression for booger: crotte de nez.

In unrelated news, France decided to elect some snotgobbler president.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Belge Blog Deux

I am apparently the only pedestrian in Brussels with the slightest concern for their life. Everyone else blindly soldiers straight into busy streets confident that their right of way will be respected... either that, or they have been hit by a Smartcar or two and didn`t find it all that inconveniencing. Today I wandered down to the internet cafe on my own, managed to get a sandwich and an amber Leffe despite being unable to speak any intelligible French, and almost got killed crossing the street. I poked my head out past a parked tram car just in time to see another tram barreling straight for me. Shaken up, I waited for a minute before following a savvy looking 50 year old woman across the street. 50 year old women know what's what.

Favorite street shot thus far.

The city itself feels like Paris or London on qualudes. For a Euro capitol people are friendlier, or at least less perturbed to be talking to a stupid tourist. Belgian waffles, frites and good beer are all available on every street corner. My mission is to enjoy these treats daily. Yesterday I tried the curried mayonaise sauce with my fries... not quite as good as it sounds. I have yet to try a poor beer however. Even the ubiqutous Jupiler (Belgium`s Budweiser) is pretty good.

The country seems to suffer from a slight inferiority complex however... especially when compared to their big sister France. They attempt to be very proud of their Atomium and their mischievious peeing boy statue/fountain but a recent poll showed that Belgian citizens know more about the upcoming French presidential election than they know about their own national politics. They also seem to really enjoy comic books... especially those of the Robert Crumb/Harvey Pekar variety... ie confessional ramblings of self-described lonely introverts. Maybe the country identifies with this view of life a bit more than the bigger/brighter/louder approach we see so much of in America. I did not see any Marvel superhero books.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007


A little chiding about no feedback and voila, eh? I should do that more often.

So... keyboards are just as effed up here as in France. There is no excuse for having to hit shift every time you want to make a period.

After one day in Brussels, I have successfully completed many a side quest. I have tasted three different Belgian beers. I have sampled the amazing frites (with samurai sauce.) We visited a comic book shoppe where I obtained a wee present for Walaka.
Though he had better practice up on his French if he wants to read it.

Several dozen photos have been taken. I tried a Belgian waffle, which was better than I had imagined. I will update as other cool things happen (like learning how to type an apostrophe or an exclaimation mark on this piece of ridiculousness known as a keyboard.)

The flight, btw, was just fine. Staying up all night before was a good way to make sure I could sleep on the plane. No booze either. Instead we downed a bunch of "No Jet Lag" herbal supplements and some "Airborn" vitamin boosters. So far the strategy seems to have paid off. More coming.