Wars and Windmills

19 February 2007

Some Treats

Here are a few recently purchased songs, and some old favorites offered up pipin' hot with all your favorite toppings for your listening enjoyment. That brings to mind the old maxim: There is no better thing then a free song to sit and digest upon; except, of course, a free slice of hot 'zza.

The Orchids--Califone


Half Ghost--Casiotone for the Painfully Alone

We're No Here--Mogwai

My Body is a Cage
--Arcade Fire's soon to be released album Neon Bible

Enjoy, or not...or just think they're okay.

13 February 2007

Which is Worse V-Day or VD?

I am, though this may shed an ill light on me, constantly perplexed about the purpose of many of the major holidays in this country, and this next one, Valentines Day, is the coup de grĂ¢ce. It should be renamed as: Unimaginative, consumer-orientated, entirely arbitrary, manipulative, shallow representation of a way to celebrate love Day. Alas, the need for brevity negates this renaming idea from it's genesis, but the fact remains that Valentines Day is a contrived, campy, sadistic holiday. There...I said it.

My recent life development of marriage has yet to quell the hatred for this preternatural celebratory day, if anything marriage has magnified it. Before, the day was hated because it merely aggravated my loneliness and exaggerated my purely pathetic state. But now, I am forced to play in a silly game where I must choose between emptying my wallet and indulging in all manner feigned cheesiness or alienate my wife. I say: boo not yea to that dichotomy and a pox on V-Day for forcing me into this situation.

The solution to my quandary: Instead of an elementary school-esque show-and-tell style of declaring affections, I propose that at some random point the affirmation be made; this is vastly superior as it has a real element of surprise and its thoughtfulness is not mired in obligatory compliance.

Also, in another have-at-ye to this Hallmark holiday, I will no longer make reference to or acknowledge the day hence forth. I will cover my eyes and pretend to disappear. That'll learn 'em.

So, Happy Wednesday in mid-February.

09 February 2007

Left Field

I unearthed this gem during a random sweep of YouTube. I have an affinity towards animation of this sort, and Balance is minimalist stop-motion animation at its very finest. It was done by the twin German Lauenstein brothers in 1989.

I also really enjoy anything from Don Hertzfeldt. He has done some amazingly odd things, Rejected, is probably his best. Also, another set of twins, The Brothers Quay. Very fine stop motion animators, though not as light hearted as Don's stuff, not even at all.

05 February 2007

Old Roads

It was two years ago this month that I discovered that the gods of fine bacon smiled more favorably on Britannia then they have across the pond. This is fine as it gives eager travelers and pork lovers an excuse to make the trip. It must be said that normally I am not a fan of pork in any form, or beans for that matter, but this mighty breakfast, served up pipin' hot as only The Easton can deliver, has to this day yet to meet its match.

Also while staying in the Easton I learned of a feature that is normally not advertised as a commodity at a hotel: Ninja Proof Rooms. I will never again fail to request a room so well equipped. You see, when you are full of manish volatility like me, trouble seems to follow you quite consistently, this is why the Easton's ninja proof rooms held such high importance and were such a welcome surprise. No matter the time of day or night, these trustworthy squeaky floor's loud and pained retching would put a halt to any possible sneak offender's sidecar of tricks. Never have this young traveler nor his friend slept so well or felt so safe. Knowing fully that any artful dodger, clandestine rascal, shifty rogue, or a ninja, the masters of stealth, would find his coming thwarted and the alert sounded as though a trumpet were set a blowing.

These life lessons were only some of the many learned during Joe’s and I month long trip across Europe two years ago; and London was only the first stop...simply amazing.

From London we went to Paris, the famed home of Gerard Depardieu. As it turns out his name, conveniently, is actually the universal term in French for anything you would ever want to say. Priceless. Hungry and looking for a decent restaurant? Merely walk up to a passing Parisian and while pointing to your stomach and mouth say "Gerard Depardieu" in a quasi-French accent and you will be directed to the closest eatery. A really great trick, one Rick Steves in all his wisdom fails to mention.

We then went to Italy's Cinque Terra, and stayed in the gracious Rosa 4 apartment. The water heater was 5-gallons at most, making for some cold showers, but the cities are as gorgeous as expected. We stayed in Vernassa and hiked to the other four cities via a trail that connects them all. Ah Vernassa. Not only the home to Rosa 4 but the temporary haven to Arles, a fellow traveler who was in charge of our days and our nights. I was happy to have Arles in Charge. Thanks to Arles, the scenery, the architecture, and the feral cats, this place was my favorite little town.

We then traveled by train through the night to Florence Italy. We splurged on a couchette that was just big enough to hold two three-high bunk beds. I would make a meritless quip here about Europeans and personal hygiene and the results of such a gathering in a tiny room. But truthfully Joe and I were dirtier and stinkier then any of them. So, I slept as well as can be expected. As for the others...I can only guess.

Rome was next. In case you were curious, there is no McDonlads in the Colosseum, as the American tour guides will be more than happy to tell you when you turn down there tours.

Then we had some misadventure after heading for Greece. We missed our ferry in Bari and were forced to spend the night. Joe and I disagreed about what to do next and said flavorful farewells to each other and reconvened in the morning. The night was long, longer then this post is becoming. So, for that reason it suffices to say that we made it to Greece, and befriended two Australian girls, an Albanian named Claude, and got advanced degrees in the fine art of 'zza with an emphasis in toppings from the "Pizza University" in Brindisi, while on the way.

Greece was pretty much closed. Athens had amazing Gyros, and Stavros Melissinos the coolest poet sandal maker in the world...honestly, the man changed my life. And it was quite something to walk among the antiquity that, to me, seemed to saturate the air.

After failed fishing attempts on Crete and a brief sojourn in Santorini we flew for 5 euros to Venice. From Venice, we took a train to Praha. Prague was a refuge for us as our money was finally worth something. We ate like kings. If cathedral architecture were to do battle, an odd kind of stone, glass, nave, cherub, and pew smack down, St. George's cathedral would bring the pain...honestly. Also there is Charles Bridge, the Jewish Museum, the brisk air, scarves a-plenty...et al.

Next off, Amsterdam; great museums and legal drugs, quite the city for a hedonistic hipster of which I am not, but an amazing Van Gogh museum.

Then to Brussels. A very cool city almost missed due to my ineptitude at reading a map and governing the correct stop to get off the train. I knew I had misstepped when I saw Joe's angry head sticking out a window of the then moving train shaking with total and understandable disappointment. Oops.

We then flew to the city of my ancestors, Dublin. We saw saw a bum fight. We also the Book of Kells, which for all its intricacy took a backseat to the bum fight. Not enough time was spent there. I then flew 8 hours earlier than Joe to Edinburgh.

If I hadn't been to Prague, Edinburgh would have quaffed from the flagon of coolest city. But it is nonetheless, a close second. We went to Roslyn Chapel, and then walked back because we missed the last bus back. We thought we would find another bus stop along the way, but we just didn't. It was a nice walk of 10 miles or so.

Then we took a bus ride from Edinburgh to London, which would have been a fine eternal punishment for the minions of th dark lord it was so miserable. It was hot, cramped, smelly, seven hours long, and a man actually fell asleep on my shoulder. But the ride was worth it in the end because we once again spent one more night at the Easton with accompanying godsend of a breakfast which served the dual purpose of a bounteous and hearty meal, and the ideal capstone to a superb month.

The next day we went home.

Looking back at this trip I am reminded of one final Euro-lesson: there is one constant that seemingly prevails through European blood, the compulsion for terrible jeans. Now these jeans transcended the simple faux pas of stonewashed and pleated variety. These featured pockets abounding over the entirety of the jean, zippers running the length of the pant, and two tones of jean and leather thrown together in a patchwork of 18 kinds of ugly...and on and on. No matter the country, terrible jeans ran rampant. But there is more. The jeans were accompanied by backpacks that were reminiscent of the design team that brought us the eye candy of the Trapper Keeper. Very odd. Very contrary of the fashionista that everyone thinks of when they are thinking of Europe as a fashion mecca. These Europeans seemed to fit in better in hanging out in my room in the 80's. Granted this is a magnificent generalization, especially in northern Europe. But it was still sick and gross, and I was appalled.

O Europe.