Sunday, October 25, 2015

Both are old but both are so brilliant.

Its always a pleasure to bounce around in Tim Minchin's mind for a while. 

Oh, and Ira. YES. 


Friday, July 31, 2015

an adventure in myanmar




Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar
May 20th, 2015

I want to tell you about a journey that only took a little over twelve hours but felt like an eternity. Jump on board. Here we go!

The 24 hours before our harrowing transportation adventure started were spent in equal parts sleeping on the dirtiest and softest mattresses of the trip, mending some pretty bad stomach woes, and wandering a sadly bland little town. The journey started when we first stepped out of the hotel room at checkout time, which miraculously coincided with the end a of 24 hour bout of debilitating stomach woes. We still had six hours to kill before the departure of our “VIP” night bus across a mountain range to Mandalay, where we would catch a bus to a little mountain town in the north. It came as no surprise that the lovely weather that we successfully slept through in a dismal hotel room disappeared the moment we stepped outside and became street wandering itinerants again.

Of course that is what would happen. The first order of business was to find a pharmacy where we might be able to score some electrolytes to bring us back to life and calm our stomachs. To my amazement the pharmacist actually reacted when I said electrolytes and went into a corner in search of an old cardboard box of goodies. He delved inside and took out some packets of rehydrating salts. I was delusionally fully expecting some fruity flavored yummyness in bright pink appealing packet… but in proper Myanmar style instead we had the pleasure of chugging some disgusting salt packet water, which to its credit, did seem to do some good. We spent the next hours wandering aimlessly stopping for little bites we weren’t ready to digest and just passing the hours waiting for the bus to leave. You can tell that a town is nothing special when one looks forward to a night bus. Dark clouds rolled in overhead. Rain started falling steadily harder from the moment we stepped out of the hotel room until we had to run to the bus station with our backpacks to avoid getting drenched and having to endure the next twelve hours of busing soaking wet on an air-conditioned bus.

We made it to the bus, found our seats right in front, and started to get cozy for the ride. Life seemed far better now that we were headed onto another adventure in another city. It really only took a few minutes of driving on the tiny shambling road in this massive bus for it to dawn on both of us that even paying premium for the nicest bus around we were still about to cross a mountain range at night in the rain, the same mountain range that had been scary during the day in a mini-van. As the bus started to ascend the first mountain, the cliffs off the side of the road became steeper and higher moment by moment to the point where not only would there be no chance of survival, there would hardly be any chance of finding the bus in the woods below if we were to tumble off the road. If we went off the road there would be no way to know where anyone should even start looking for us, that is if they even had the motivation to do so. So far our experience in Myanmar had not convinced us that there would be any particularly organized effort to find a missing bus. In a country where a human life seems almost dispensable there is certainly not much thought or time put into looking after those in harm’s way. The only thing on my mind for the next while was how the hell could this night bus have been the best option in our minds to get back to the big city? The ride continued and became more and more harrowing and terrifyingly dangerous. At this point I was absolutely disappointed in myself for falling back on the idea of the western “guarantee” of safety and not even stopping to weigh my options before setting off on an inherently perilous ride. The road was wet, the curves sharp, the hills steep, and the cherry on top was the suspiciously loud and funky suspension creak coming from the left front wheel. I couldn’t get over the fact that we had spent a day wandering aimlessly in a shitty little transfer town when we could have found a shared taxi to drive this road in perfect conditions. I was a wreck. The road seemed impossibly small for our impossibly big bus. The hairpin turns were so sharp that the bus had to turn 180° at each one. The trees were growing so close the road that when the bus would turn on a dime to make the curve, the small section of trees illuminated by the faint headlights would pass across the front window of the bus just like a child’s view out the back window of a zooming car. They went whooshing by horizontally and truly made me wonder if we were already in the midst of falling off a cliff, or if that was what was going to happen in the next moment. As a normally positive person I had a hard time seeing how we were going to get out of this one unscathed. It truly felt like the bus was spinning in place as it turned and each time it felt like it lasted an eternity, taking up the whole road and just asking for a disaster to come zooming from the other direction. To make matters worse my travel buddy in Myanmar, an old friend from Montreal whom I had serendipitously bumped into while drinking a coffee in Vietnam a few weeks earlier, had a particularly bad relationship with night buses. Just a few months prior she had been in a frightful bus accident in Laos. She had come out of the wreck with a broken rib and a scarred psyche when it came to the idea of night buses. Though fairly severely injured, she escaped the disaster far better than the majority of the passengers and spent weeks dealing with the repercussions of the crash in a series of awful hospitals.

As a means of distracting ourselves and calming our nerves we tried to watch a documentary I had loaded onto my phone but quickly became dismayed to realize that the documentary consisted mostly of facts about the dangers of travel around Myanmar. When the narrator began speaking about the weekly death tolls on a shuttle bus route we had taken the week before we quickly switched our focus back to clenching our seats and peering between the gap in front of us to get a sliver of a view out the window.

The bus briefly stopped in a village and I tried to turn my mind back on to consider the looming consequences of jumping ship and sleeping in this village for the night. The catch was that in Myanmar travelers are only allowed to sleep in certain hotels that have the proper permit from the harsh military government and it was fairly certain that this village would have had no such thing. Was it worth it to get off this death machine of a bus to find ourselves in a village strictly forbidden to accommodate us for the night? Thats a tough call in the pouring rain. The bus doors closed and made my decision for me. Eventually I decided to give in to the peril and put my life in the hands of the driver and let my eyes close. I woke up every few minutes assuming the bus was already careening off the edge of a cliff and would open my eyes to realize how delightful it was to still be alive.

Next thing I know I’m awoken by bright lights and people yelling. In my head this is it. We’ve crashed and this is the gory aftermath. To my amazement, I was wrong, we weren’t dead yet! It turns out we had been told the bus would take far longer than it did and we were already at the bus station. Its 3:30 AM and we groggily realize that we could still have time to make it to the 4AM train that we had been sure we would miss because of the ridiculous hour of departure. I took a deep breath and pushed my way through the crowd of taxi drivers waiting in the rain the middle of the night. I yelled to them to back off and we went with our time tested strategy of finding one of the drivers who wasn’t pushy and yelling. We haggled prices a bit and finally went zooming off in a clunky little taxi to the train station. The driver went zooming through the city in the pouring rain, seemingly still annoyed that we had haggled the price down, though probably simply annoyed to be driving a taxi in the middle of the night. All of the sudden he makes a massive U turn and right at the end of it my friend screams. Before she can even get the scream half way out of her mouth theres a big thud and then taxi suddenly screeches to a stop. We’ve obviously crashed into something but I can’t see anything around through the windows. My friend screams that there's a baby and I take a deep breath to prepare myself for the chaos and get out of the car, fully aware that if there is something gory outside there will probably be no one else willing to help. I jump out and am so thankful to see that it’s simply a scooter wheel that is stuck under the taxi tire. We had crashed into the front wheel of a scooter that a family was walking across the street. The mother was holding a baby and the father walking the now somewhat squashed scooter. The two men start having it out with uninterpretable harsh words and pulling on the scooter while the woman takes the child to the sidewalk. I stood next to the car and vividly remember taking in the moment. The rain beating down on the empty dark intersection, everyone still alive, and these two men having it out over a bent wheel couldn’t have mattered less to me. My moment of pondering was interrupted when I realized that we were actually already at the train station. The accident had happened right as he was pulling up and our train was leaving in a matter of minutes. I fished out the right amount of tattered kyat bills from my pocket and handed it off to the hot headed driver with a shaky hand. I got my friend out of the car, we apologized to the mother with a brief game of charades on the sidewalk, and headed inside.

The next ten minutes consisted of running around this train station following the vague directions yelled to us in scrambled English by the groups of plain clothed men standing around. We never did figure out if these guys actually worked there or not. The entire station was sprawled with families sleeping on the floor. Some slept in the midst of their laid-out vegetables for sale, some on mats, and others simply sprawled mat-less and blanket-less in the muggy heat on the grimy floors. Finally we had our tickets, completed registering our passports with the strict military government, and found our way to the 1st class cabin. First class is a total misnomer in this situation, don’t be fooled by our western vision of first class into thinking that this was anything more than an opportunity to have a cushion on the seat. I’m not complaining, that cushion made one hell of a difference compared to not having it at all. My friend's first language is French which made us often speak French together, this is only relevant because in French there is a word that describes how we were feeling that I can’t pinpoint in English. The word is d├ępaysant, meaning disoriented and overwhelmed due to being deeply immersed in a culture so different to home. I have never felt more this way than I did after all the previous chaos and then not even having the time to process the fact that I was stepping over hundreds of people to make my way to the train. Not only had I never seen such an impoverished crowd sleeping somewhere but the simple fact that in the muggy heat and rush we were in turned them into an obstacle made me feel especially confused. One wants to take more time when you see something like this, to try to wrap your head around something of an understanding of the situation...but reality strikes and you really don’t want to miss the only train of the day to our destination.

The archaic hundred year old train lurched and slowly started rolling and we were off to the next adventure, thankful to have safely made it through the mayhem to our “cozy” seats. I was too wired to sleep and left my friend asleep with a military cop sprawled in the row next to her and a monk crosslegged over the seats facing ours. I poked my head out the window and watched the world go by as we rumbled through the 4AM rain. The train headed straight through dormant neighborhoods just starting to rise. Streets were flooded by the rain and lights were few and dim. Many of the houses we were passing, built of a basic structure and a series of tarps for walls were seemingly flooded also. I can’t even imagine the struggle of trying to sleep in a place with toxic sewage-laden water rising into the dwelling. I felt quite fortunate to be where I was, looking in from the outside, yet similarly troubled that there wasn’t more I could do for such people. Halfway through town the train stopped at a station with zero electricity and again, many people sleeping on the floor. We waited for the train to continue and suddenly heard the wildly loud shrieks of animals on the slaughter block. I stepped out onto the platform and saw a group of a dozen or so men surrounding a herd of at least a hundred goats to force them onto the train. The animals seemed to fully comprehend the lethal nature of this train as they anxiously squealed and tried their best to bolt in any direction. The men screamed and waved their flashlights in the animals eyes as they got some to walk up a board onto the car while others they literally picked up and tossed into the train. Eventually when nearly all the animals were aboard a few of the men tossed the stragglers over their shoulder and off the train goes, the men walking down the track in the other direction, animals in tow. I had SO many unanswered questions. Did each man take an animal as payment? Oh the things you have to accept you’ll never have a real answer to when you travel in such a place!

As we rose into the mountains the sun slowly started to rise over the horizon. An incredible thing about traveling in a country as undeveloped as Myanmar is the reality that rules have not yet been set. There is no one to tell you not to open the door of the train and spend hours leaning out taking in scenery. You can probably extrapolate that that’s exactly what I did. After hours of rising up into the mountains the train slowly came to a stop...and then to our moderate terror started rolling backwards. I saw a man in the trees holding some archaic train levers and the more I looked the more wires and controls I saw running alongside the tracks. We rolled backwards faster and faster and then passed right past the route we had come up and went onto another track. We figured out through a bit of charades with a cop and a bit of tired thinking that the mountain was so steep that this train would continue changing directions for the next hour to make it up a series of seven switchbacks up the mountain. What an incredible feat for such an old train. And as if that weren’t remarkable enough, at each switchback there was a man who lived in a little hut to control the tracks and ensure our switchbackability. What a life to live! Living in a shack on the side of a mountain to pull a lever once a day. We got used to the switch backs and enjoyed the next seven back and forths to make it up the hill. When we were finally over the mountain the train picked up speed and began bouncing what felt like a few inches off the tracks. We had read about the dangers and frequent derailings of this line and those little moments of train wheelies didn’t instill much confidence. I eventually went back to looking out the door as the train passed over wild ravines and waterfalls, with me dangling out the door. We stopped at a few more stations along the way, buying mangoes through the train window and watching the wonders of this world pass by.

There’s never a good moment to let your guard down in such a country and truly never a dull moment. We were only a few hours past the twelve hour mark of getting on the dreaded bus the night before and it felt like we had lived through so much. It’s hard to believe the experiences that can occur in such a brief period of time. By the time we arrived at our stop on the train, the sun was out and we went on to haggle prices for a tuk tuk and then haggle again for a hotel. The time I spend there was definitely not easy, but the experience was undoubtedly rewarding.

Yangon Train Station 4:00AM




Selling mangoes to the train passengers




Lush valleys




Can you decipher the squiggles? Me niether.












He wasn't too thrilled about this shot.

Friday, January 23, 2015

September 6th, 2009

September 6th, 2009
Find a spot on the coast, move a few hundred heavy rocks, argue a bit, move some more rocks. That’s how my family celebrates Labor Day weekend, with a dose of heavy labor. For as long as I can remember, abalone and Labor Day have gone hand in hand. Every year we go on a group camping trip with half a dozen other families, to the crest of a bluff that looks over the rocky rough coastline of northern California. In 2009 the trip almost took a tragic turn when, within seconds, our celebration erupted into chaos and confusion, when a man’s life was in true peril. This is my account of what happened.

The weekend is epic. The group ranges from infants to a woman in her 80s who still makes it to the camp.  The first day is spent diving for abalone, exploring the coast, building massive ziplines, and finally distributing the abalone for each family to cook up an abalone masterpiece to be devoured potluck style. The next day is dedicated to making an art project… a massive, blue-printed and engineered art project.
Just to give you some context of the scale of this camp, we build a 100 ft long zipline rigged high between two massive pine trees on opposite ends of the camp. The tension of the line is adjusted by moving a pickup truck tethered to the cable forward and backward depending on the weight of the fearless flier.
            Over the years the art project had become such an icon of the trip that emotions were high and everyone wanted it done right, or in other words, their way.  The majority of the men who are on the trip are contractors at a prominent San Francisco construction company; thus when they get a chance to be creative it involves moving boulders, straining backs, and dangling off cliffs. The endeavors are all inspired by the work of Andy Goldsworthy, an artist whose medium is nature itself. The rules are simple. Build jaw-dropping art without power tools using only the supplies that nature provides.
            Just like every every past project, this one had been planned out by the “leader” of our camp and his brother who venture up north to find a perfect spot and inspiration weeks before. By the time we get to the campsite there have been dozens of emails about plans, tools, and labor allocations for the big day. This particular year the plan was to create a free-standing arch and incorporate that into an already existing cave to form an igloo-ish form. The beauty of Goldsworthy's work is the impossibility of it. That moment when someone does a double-take to figure out if it’s part of nature or created by man. That’s the one we think about during the process.  
The day started early. We began creating molds for the arch and keeping an eye on tide tables and watches in order to not miss the short window of opportunity to climb into a small cove to to scavenge some appropriate rocks without getting caught in the freezing, rough water. About thirty feet away from the creation was a picnic and a gaggle of kids too young to be interested in the search for the perfect rocks. The half mile in either direction to the nearest access made it quite odd that there were also two fishermen not fifty feet from our project.
Then suddenly one of the men screamed for help in Spanish in a tone of sheer terror, a tone I hadn’t heard before or since.  This was a scream of losing a friend. As we turned around we saw him pointing into the water and signaling for help.
The other fisherman had attempted to climb down a cliff to retrieve a snagged lure. A rogue wave had snatched him off the rock into the freezing unforgiving pacific. The internal timers were set. Once you fall into water like that, you have about twenty minutes to live. Though no one said anything about this in the heat of the moment, we all knew that this man’s life was quickly being sucked out of him by the thrashing water.
The men started yelling for a rope and the women quickly collecting the gaggle of children away from the chaos. The rope was attached to a boulder down a small cliff. I jumped down into the water and freed the rope from the rock. The guys pulled it up and started throwing it out toward the flailing man in the water. By the time I could scramble up and catch my first glimpse of the man in the water, he was being thrashed around the cove and smashed up into the rough cliffs. It didn’t help that he was wearing baggy jeans, a puffy down jacket, and heavy work boots. As he floundered in the waves, we could see his boots pop out of the water in front of him. In the panic of the moment, he couldn’t understand the men yelling to him to take his clothes off. At that point boots and clothes will only weigh you down and speed up your demise. The misty air was filled with disorganized shrieks of terror and impromptu plans of action being yelled in vain.
           After being smashed into the sharp rocks a few times, the current sucked him out to sea, drifting south quickly. Everyone had his own idea of how to throw the wet, heavy rope yet none of the methods could get it anywhere near him.  At this point it became brutally obvious that this rope, regardless of how it was thrown, was not going to get the drowning man out of the sea. Words yelled to the man in English simply added to the fright and confusion and did absolutely nothing for the man. Though one could hardly consider the two fishermen lucky, they could not have picked a better spot for a calamity, alongside a party of intrepid athletic outdoorsmen. We were the only people for at least a half mile in any direction, and a few of us were fluent Spanish speakers. The man’s friend was panicking, useless in the effort until he joined my dad in yelling to the man in Spanish to take his boots off. He soon floated out beyond the small cove and started to be swept south. As a teenager with an opportunity to save a man, striving to take hold of the chance, I started to scramble up a boulder for a better look at the situation. As I got my feet on a precarious perch, however, there was an uproar from everyone, telling me “get down! The waves are splashing on that rock! All we need is another person in the water!” I conceded and slithered down.
            One of the men threw the heavy coiled rope over my shoulders and we started to run along the cliffs, trying tofind a vantage point where we could throw the rope again.  I was in the front with the rope, followed by one of the men who had grown up as a sea scout plus the friend of the man in the water. We each took our own path and seemed to be flying over the slippery terrain, taking leaps before knowing where our next foot would land. As soon as we got to a place close enough, I gave the rope to the scout for another attempt at the futile throws.
            Though I had no idea of it at the time, there were other rescue efforts taking place. One of our party climbed as high as he could, to be most visible, and removed his jacket in an effort to signal the already freezing man to take off his water-logged clothes. The man signaling with his clothes had also instructed one of the kids to go our picnic area and empty all the water bottles he could find and to stuff them into a burlap bag to form a makeshift raft. The former sea scout hurled the rope from our new location but again without any luck. At this point the Mexican fisherman on shore started hollering in Spanish that he wanted to throw the rope. Being the only one of us three separated from the rest of the camp who spoke both languages, I tried to convince the Latin man that though we clearly weren’t getting the job done, the man throwing the rope was the most capable of any of us and the most likely to save his friend. This conversation only held the man off for a few moments. He insisted and was beginning to get angry. After just one feeble effort to toss the rope to his friend, he quickly yielded and handed it back to the sea scout.
            All this seemed futile. I told the two men that I was going to get help. I scrambled back up the bluff and started running. All I remember was sprinting as fast as I could to get to the main beach. On the way I met an elderly couple, part of our camp heading toward the project. I asked them for their cell phone and told them I had no time to explain. As I ran, I called 911 and gasped to the operator that there was a man drowning at Salt Point. The operator fumbled and told me that there was no such location in California. I freaked out a bit and yelled that a man was drowning and that they needed to get there. Next thing I knew I was talking with the director of the California Highway patrol to explain exactly where I was. He said that he thought he knew where I was. I didn’t believe it from the tone in his voice and kept running to the beach. As I got there I yelled out for someone to drive me to the police station to save a drowning man. If there is anything to yell on a beach to get people’s attention, that was it. A man ditched his picnic and began running up the few hundred steps with me to get to his car. When we got up to the parking lot, we found a cop sitting in her idling  patrol car, with her siren on. I boldly jumped into her car. She barked at me that she was busy and that someone was drowning. I exclaimed that I knew where and we screeched off. We went winding down the short paved road, cutting corners with the siren blasting. We turned onto a dirt access road where the driver of an ocean rescue pickup truck was fumbling to unlock the gate. I jumped into the pickup to try to show the front vehicle where to go. Now came a tricky part. All the bluffs look exactly the same and the from the access road we couldn’t see anyone … anywhere. I made what was essentially a random guess of what trail down to the cliffs to take.  Minutes later I was startled to see that I had been spot on. After unlocking the gate, the ocean rescue guy started putting on a wetsuit while driving and looking for people at the same time. Putting on a wetsuit is an “all hands on deck” job for me, but he seemed to manage. By the time he jumped out of the car at the top of the cliff, he was already geared up. He grabbed his rescue duffel from the back of the truck and started scrambling down.
Just before our motorcade of rescuers arrived at the water, the guys of our party had managed to get the floater close enough to shore to drag him across a shallow bed of mussels and sharp rocks.  Now they were all in their underwear, lying on the exhausted, cut-up shirtless man to warm him up. He was a short burly figure. His extra body fat may have been his best asset in the freezing sea. To check his awareness, the rescue paramedic asked him where we were. He responded with a faint and confused “Bodega,” a nearby town. The paramedic said looked around for approval and exclaimed “close enough!”
The sound we all heard next took everyone by surprise. Over the cliff came the overwhelming noise of a huge helicopter with a dangling guy strapped to a stretcher. They circled down, got the victim into the stretcher and were off. We scrambled up the cliff and saw that there was already a huge circle of fire trucks and ambulances making a landing circle for the chopper. They lowered the stretcher down to stabilize the man in an ambulance before swooping him off to the closest hospital.

That was it… just as quickly as it had started, it was over.

We spoke to the police a bit and then wandered back to the picnic to regroup. A few people kept futilely working on the art project while the rest of us started the walk up to camp to decompress and talk over the hecticness of the day over a campfire. I’ll never forget the day I helped save a man whose name I don’t know any more than he knows mine.  I think I can safely assume that he’ll never forget the people that saved him. I can only imagine that we have moved on with our lives both telling opposite sides of the same story.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

phonewise

Edit: Don't read this as a complaining rant about what I can do...but more of a commentary on why someone else owns my phone number. :)

Phonewise, I find myself in a fairly particular situation. That particular situation has made me realize a few problematic facts about phone numbers. I got my first cell phone and number in 2004. That number has been the way to contact me ever since, and to my understanding based on how cell phone numbers are assigned, it had never been a way to contact anyone else before me. The predicament I find myself in now is the fact that I seem to not own that phone number. I find that quite odd. Who besides me would be the logical owner of my phone number?


Since I spend my time working and traveling around the world I have assembled a small collection of sim cards from various countries. Using prepaid sim card plans seems to leave one in a fringe group of people without annual contracts and invariably extends to me the joy of far inferior service. I seem to have traded the ability to have local phone numbers around the world for first rate service. Though periodically irksome, that is a tradeoff I can live with.


Since I knew that I would not be stopping back in the US for at least six months I recently sought a solution to avoid paying monthly for something I cannot make use of. While trying to inform myself of my options I was notified in a memorably monotone voice by a remarkably uninterested phone company employee that if I didn’t pay for my phone for more than a month I would risk forgetting my phone number. When I proposed the idea of cancelling my phone plan altogether and holding onto my number until my return to the country the same uninterested phone company employee informed me that that was a sure fire way to forfeit my number. What was one to do?


A recap of the absurdity: I have just been told that I must pay a private company every month in order to not lose something that I plan not to use and that I consider to be my own.


Why must I pay a monthly fee to a company in order to maintain possession of something that is mine? The fact that I can change, or “port,” as the FCC website calls it, phone companies and keep the same number would lead me to the conclusion that the phone number does not belong to the phone company either. If “my” number doesn’t belong to me and seemingly doesn’t belong to the phone company I find myself concluding that it must belong to the government. In a democratic nation without any kind of state run phone company, why would the government own my phone number? Similarly, if that were true, why would I have to pay  a private company in order to not risk having it forfeited to someone else?

I want to own my cell phone number and do with it what I please. I didn’t really think that was too much to ask, but it sure seems to be. Maybe I’ll find a way to incorporate myself as a phone company to hold onto this series of ten digits that I seem so attached to.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

light art TREASURES

Today, on what could have been a quiet and uneventful day off in a quaint little town...I had my mind blown by a true treasure hidden in Germany. I convinced one of my cast mates to come join me on an adventure and he begrudgingly agreed to sacrifice what could have been a day of procrastination to see the Centre for International Light Art. The museum can only be seen by guided tour and we were quickly advised that the tour would likely be completely in German and last for 90 minutes. Just after hearing that unfortunate news we were greeted by our tour guide who told us that we would be having a private tour and that she would be happy to do it in English. She explained a few things and we venture off down a turquoise neon-tube lit staircase into a basement. Upon entering the first exposition we realize that this seemingly small and humble old brewery beholds some mind-bending treasures created by thirteen world renowned artists. We wandered from piece to piece at our own pace and as our guide recommended we spent as long as we needed on each creation and then after observing she would give us detailed and insightful remarks about each one. Where else can someone who doesn't contribute a vast sum to a museum spend as long as they like alone in an Olafur Eliasson rain corridor and watch and hear it turn on and off and then experience the optical illusions of a James Turell immersive creation!

Our guide was apologetic that we had likely missed the necessary perfect timing to see the last exhibit, James Turell's "Third Breath" a type of camera obscura that at the perfect moment after sunset gives you a view of the sky's color that can only be created by the naked eye exposed to this environment and has never been recreated otherwise. Much to her surprise and delight just moments after we walked into the outdoor creation the lights changed and out of the hole in the ceiling we saw exactly what she had described.

When the museum was founded the artists were selected and invited to the empty building to choose a space to create a piece based on the room they had chosen. All thirteen exhibits are breathtaking. Hidden in a small town, I think this must be one of the most understated and underrated museums of the world. Without the glamor or pretension of MoMA or the Tate it houses an astoundingly large and inspiring collection. I felt truly privileged to discover a museum where one can buy a ticket for 10Euro and take a private, guided, and insightfully thoughtful tour through every gallery.

As we were out the door with a glean in our eyes a man who turned out to be the director of the museum caught us and asked if we were the visitors all the way from California. After a very kind welcome and thank you for visiting his museum he confided that it was actually a very exciting day there because a Chilean artist residing in New York had just put the final touches on a new exhibit just a few minutes before. He had just barely gotten that phrase out when I exclaimed that he had to show us the new work! He hesitated a bit but I could tell right away he was thrilled by the idea. He took us downstairs and showed us a few of his personal favorite angles of the pieces on the way and then introduced us to the artist and gave us the chance to be the first to be the first sets of eyes to wander a stunning exhibition that had just been finished minutes before.

Whether you're near or far, make your way to experience this gem of an institution, a museum where the director will come find you to ensure that you enjoyed your visit. Check out a short video and some stills that caught my eye and my lens.

Keith Sonnier: Tunnel of Tears, 2002

Olafur Eliasson: The reflective corridor | Draft to stop the free fall, 2002


Mischa Kuball: Space-Speech-Speed, 2001



Jan van Munster: ICH (in dialogue), 2005


Keith Sonnier: Tunnel of Tears, 2002



Rebecca Horn: Lotus Shadow, 2006


Li Hui: amber (2006)

James Turrell: Floater 99, 2001


James Turrell: Third Breath, 2005/2009

Saturday, December 6, 2014

ode to a grape

      Until just a few days ago I stayed for a month in a hotel in a fairly small town in Germany. The best part about this hotel was the freshly made breakfast and such incredibly kind service. The waiter who served us every morning knew the succession of drinks we all liked in the morning and gave us huge hugs as we left. Staying there for a month meant 30 breakfasts. Though I switched off between a variety of morning treats, I ordered muesli with fruit every single morning. The muesli was topped with a delicious plump orange gooseberry which a few minutes of research informed me most likely came all the way from Mexico to adorn my fruit salad served by an Italian in Germany. Each of those 30 bowls of muesli was also adored with an average of 6 purple concord grapes sliced in half. These repulsive little fruits tasted of nothing and were stocked full of small bitter seeds that once chewed were impossible to eradicate from ones mouth.
      I could not get over the ridiculousness of the fact that these grapes were picked by hand by an undervalued laborer, shipped across the planet, sliced, and finally arranged on top of my muesli. After this voyage that once upon a time was the adventure or even merely the dream of a lifetime for any human, let alone a grape, I have the audacity to daintily pick them off and leave them on the side of my breakfast. That means that those grapes travelled all the way around the globe just to end up rotting in a european landfill. I’m sorry little grapes. But really, you did not taste good at all...so its not completely my fault. Maybe we're both guilty in this mayhem. If you tasted just a bit better I would have gobbled you up and likely never even pondered the ludicrosity of your trajectory, just like all the rest of the food I eat.