Monday, December 13, 2004

Chris' list of 2004.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Top 100 Songs of 2004

It took me a bit of time to compose, but the list is done.

At first I tried to only include songs released this year, but there were just too many extras begging to be included -- songs released from previous years that I was exposed to this year. And so, I've denoted those songs with an *. Artists with the most inclusions this year are The Frames (5), Modest Mouse and Interpol (4), and Wilco, Elliott Smith, Matt Pond PA, A.C. Newman, Sufjan Stevens, Iron & Wine, Ben Folds, and The Arcade Fire (3).


100.) The Album Leaf – On Your Way
99.) Mason Jennings – The Light (Part II)
98.) The Killers – On Top
97.) Interpol - Evil
96.) Pas/Cal – What Happened To The Sands
95.) Broken Family Band – Song Against Robots
94.) Irving – I Can’t Fall In Love*
93.) The Walkmen – The Rat
Dave Matthews – Cigarette Lit*
91.) Keane – Your Eyes Open
90.) Charlemagne – August Evenings
Beta Band – Assessment
88.) Hanalei – Action Drum
87.) Billy Schuh And The Foundry – Spain Never Made It*
86.) The City On Film – I’d Rather Be Wine Drunk
85.) R.E.M. – Leaving New York
Norfolk and Western – Terrified*
Nick Drake – Time Of No Reply
82.) Air – Cherry Blossom Girl
81.) Court and Spark – Suffolk Down Upon The Night
80.) The Decemberists – Shiny*
79.) Iron & Wine - Free Until They Cut Me Down
78.) David Kitt – Song From Hope Street*
77.) Mic Christopher – Hey Day*
76.) Elbow – Asleep In The Back
75.) The New Pornographers – Graceland
74.) Broken Social Scene – Lover’s Spit*
73.) Cake – No Phone
72.) I Love Math – On The Green
71.) Say Hi To Your Mom – Your Brains vs. My Tractorbeam*
70.) Owen – She’s A Thief
69.) TV On The Radio - Dreams
68.) Elliott Smith – A Fond Farewell
67.) Wilco – Spiders (Kidsmoke)
66.) Modest Mouse – Blame It On The Tetons
65.) The Arcade Fire – Haiti
64.) Death Cab For Cutie - This Temporary Life
63.) Saint Chapelle – In Search Of Skip
The Frames – Finally
61.) Franz Ferdinand – Jacqueline
60.) Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans
59.) Ben Folds – Late
58.) Matt Pond PA – Summer
57.) Interpol – Next Exit
56.) Say Hi To Your Mom – Spaceships*
55.) A.C. Newman – The Cloud Prayer
54.) John Vanderslice – Pale Horse*
53.) Modest Mouse – Satin In A Coffin
52.) Ben Kweller – I Need You Back
51.) Keane – Bend and Break
50.) Gomez – Nothing Is Wrong
49.) Frou Frou – It’s Good To Be In Love*
48.) Zero 7 – Home
47.) Badly Drawn Boy – This Is That New Song
46.) Matt Pond PA – The Butcher
45.) Stereophonics – Maybe Tomorrow
44.) Wilco – Theologians
43.) The Frames – Happy
42.) The Arcade Fire – Neighborhood #4 (7 Kettles)
41.) And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead – Counting Off The Days
40.) Iron & Wine – Teeth In The Glass
39.) Interpol – C’mere
38.) Spoon – I Summon You (demo)
37.) I Love You But I’ve Chosen The Darkness – Your Worst Is The Best*
36.) Josh Ritter – Snow Is Gone
35.) The Get Up Kids – Wouldn’t Believe It
34.) Elliott Smith – King’s Crossing
33.) A.C. Newman – Miracle Drug
32.) Josh Rouse – 1972*
31.) The Frames – Sideways Down
30.) Sufjan Stevens – In The Devil’s Territory
29.) Modest Mouse – Float On
28.) Ben Folds – All U Can Eat*
27.) Travis – Love Will Come Through*
26.) Zero 7 – Look Up
25.) Rogue Wave – Postage Stamp World
24.) The Damnwells – Sleepsinging
23.) Air – Surfing On A Rocket
22.) Colin Hay – I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You*
21.) Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out
20.) Keane – Somewhere Only We Know
19.) Postal Service – Against All Odds
18.) The Frames – Locusts
17.) Elliott Smith – Coast To Coast
16.) Ben Folds – Adelaide
15.) Jens Lekman – Black Cab
14.) Wilco – I’m A Wheel
13.) Iron & Wine – On Your Wings
12.) The Secret Machines – Nowhere Again
11.) Sufjan Stevens – The Dress Looks Nice On You
10.) Interpol – Length Of Love
9.) Frou Frou – Let Go*
8.) Josh Ritter – Kathleen
7) The Arcade Fire – Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
6.) A.C. Newman – Drink To Me Babe Then
5.) Broken Social Scene – Pacific Theme/Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl*
4.) Modest Mouse – Bukowski
3.) Matt Pond PA – New Hampshire
2.) The Killers – All These Things That I’ve Done
1.) The Frames – Keepsake

* = Not Released in 2004

Monday, November 15, 2004

Remember that guy I mentioned two weeks ago who's in Australia via the same work abroad program we'll soon jettison off on? Turns out the Miami Herald gave the doofus a travel column.

As the online edition requires registration, I'll post his first entry below. Enjoy.

22 years old, and soon to be a man of the world

A Gulliverian Traveler explains how he's counting on his wit to propel him around the globe. First stop: Australia.

Special to The Herald
Posted on Sun, Nov. 14, 2004

Apparently, at some point during my fairly expensive educational process, I was never informed of the true size of Australia. I've always assumed I could drive south to north in three hours or so, and maybe five or six to get east to west.

This apparently is a rather egregious error, as Australia is in fact about the size of the U.S. Who woulda thought? I just assumed that when people said, ''If you think the weather in Sydney's too chilly, you should go north to Brisbane, the water will be much better,'' it was some sort of weird Gulf Stream that made the water super hot only an hour's drive north. I'm not really sure why I was under this impression, but apparently I am also the only person who thought this, and well, I just feel silly.

Hello, and greetings from the other side of the world. As I write this, you are all sleeping soundly in your beds while I enjoy another Australian afternoon. You may be wondering who I am and what I'm here to sell you, so I guess we'd better get to that.

Who I am: Andrew Smith, 22, a Miamian (Coconut Grovite to be precise) my entire life who recently began traveling the world.

What I'm here to sell you: Similar, random, and hopefully somewhat humorous thoughts, as written in the first paragraph, about my upcoming travels throughout the world. They are intended to do nothing more meaningful than to make your day just a bit more enjoyable.


How I got here: I graduated from the Gulliver Schools in Miami, then moved on to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Last May I graduated with a bachelors degree in systems engineering (by which you will understand that I'm a huge nerd). I am your typical college kid, studying hard, drinking harder and just making the best of things.

I enjoyed Charlottesville and have loved Miami (Columbus Day Regatta, King Mango Strut, South Beach, what more can you ask for?) my whole life. But . . . I still wanted more.

So in college, I started traveling, doing a summer abroad program in Valencia, Spain, and knocking around to other parts of the Mediterranean. While I was there, I sent home lighthearted e-mails to a small group of people with my thoughts on such weighty matters as the unfairness of bullfights (my solutions: make it six bulls against one matador, or remove the exits in the bull ring so the fighters cannot leave until the fight is over) and how a common criminal could rob the city blind during a full country work strike -- during siesta time.

Over the next year, I picked up another following of people and continued my writing, and eventually my fourth year at college I began writing humor (at least I laughed) columns for the UVA newspaper, the Cavalier Daily, about everyday college life. (Example: ''Losing my ATM card is easily one of the better things that's happened lately. What a great way to save money. I'm too lazy to go to the bank to cash a check, and I have like $5 total left from my last withdrawal, so I just don't spend anything for the next two weeks.'') Just fun things to amuse people for the sole reason of amusing people.

When I graduated this year, I decided to keep sending similarly styled e-mails out to friends, family and others while I travel. They are intended to give me a release mentally and allow me to try to provide bits of sunshine to my Miami and UVA friends who are currently out in the real world working hard while in the prime of their lives.

And to you, via The Herald's travel section in print and online. Beginning next week, Nov. 21, an excerpt from my weekly e-mail will appear on page 2J, the second page of Travel. (An excerpt from my first e-mail appears on this page; the full e-mail is posted at

The main thing that has led me to where I am now, which is not working a real world job 40 hours a week, is my desire to not be working a real world job 40 hours a week.


There we were, three friends at school sometime around a year or so ago, thinking, ''Well, we've all worked summer jobs, and we know we can actually have full-time jobs and accept that, and we know that we could get really good jobs with our engineering degrees, but do we really want to do that?'' Of course not. What we wanted to do was travel the world, see some kangaroos, try to locate the real General Tsao in China and figure out if his food was as delicious as it is back home and to find Carmen Sandiego.

So we -- Craig Eberhardt of Top Sail, N.C., Jon Hill of White Plains, N.Y. and I -- put together a plan, worked two jobs each this past summer, obtained some student work visas in Australia (silly Australians, never gonna know what hit them) and bought some plane tickets. Our plan: Spend four months working in Australia (the max our visas allow), then travel 'til the money runs out.


Which brings us to present day.

We began our adventures in Los Angeles briefly followed by a week in Fiji, and are now in Manly, Australia, just across the harbor from Sydney, living, working (that would be waiting tables) and playing chess. Errr, that was a typo: drinking beer. Stupid auto-correct. We will be leaving here in February to continue traveling (i.e., sampling beers from around the world) to Thailand, Hong Kong, China, India, parts of Africa, most of Western Europe, hopefully a little South America and maybe at some point make it back to the States. Oh, and a stop in Baghdad and North Korea if we have time.

So anyway, these traveling thoughts are meant for everyone, so I hope you enjoy them, and if you do not, feel free to come to Australia and let me know.

Friday, November 12, 2004

I almost put this link into a post below about creatures in Australia, but then thought better of it. This old fish, of Hemmingway proportion not in size but in age, deserves his own discussion.

From the article:

Meanwhile, Granddad, an Australian lungfish who was brought to the Shedd back in April 1933 to attract visitors during the World's Fair, was being ignored (by visitors). True, he performs no flashy party tricks in his corner tank. But he has the sweetest disposition anyone could ask for in a fish: He has worked for more than 70 years without taking a sick day, and, in addition to being a member of an order that is more than 370 million years old, he is, the Shedd says, "the oldest aquatic animal in a public aquarium in the world."Clearly, we live in a time in which age counts for little.

Friday, November 05, 2004

A great article from Newsweek detailing problems during the Kerry campaign trail.

Howard Dean must be a sad man, these days, to know that he lost to Kerry, a candidate so fraught with a war voting record that was easily-attackable and a campaign that incurred many problems.

Although those Yahoo! commercials he's doing are quite hilarious -- maybe that was his plan all along.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Eric Zorn's response to Bush's election:


Twenty months ago I chose to put my trust in President Bush and hoped that he was right – that we'd reached the point where the threat posed by Iraq was so serious that it called for the solution of last resort -- a military attack.

I came to regret and disavow that choice.

And now, more than 1,100 American deaths and one quagmire later, it appears that I'm in the position once again of having to hope that Bush is right – that his approach to fighting international terrorism is the best approach, the one that, long-term, will result in maximum liberty and minimum loss of innocent life.

My hope this time is not accompanied by either trust or a sense of choice, but it is a hope.

Those of us who feel there is a better way had our turn at the polls Tuesday, and we lost.

(I wasn't in denial in the wee hours last night about acknowledging in this space the drift of these results, by the way. The Tribune is among the many news organizations that are very cautious about calling races.)

President Bush has won a second term.

Now he gets four more years to try to be a uniter not a divider, to increase respect for the United States throughout the world, to reduce the threat from Islamic fundamentalists who practice terror, to put more people back to work, to improve health care and extend educational opportunities to the disadvantaged, to stanch the flow of red ink in the Federal budget, to protect the environment and to do all the other things he promised he'd do.

Republican President Bush will enjoy a Republican Senate, a Republican House, Republican appointees in seven of the nine Supreme Court justice seats, 29 Republican governors and virtually 24/7 support from right-wing talk radio to help him realize those promises and confirm the beliefs of his supporters.

Credit and blame for what happens in this country and to this country in the upcoming years will belong to him and his party.

Speaking for myself, I'll be happy to apportion both and trust that they will accept it honestly.

They begged the electorate to give them responsibility. Well, they've got it:

Opportunity. Responsibility and that ol' devil Accountability.

No more blaming Dan Rather, Tom Daschle or the homosexual agenda when things go wrong.

No more bleating about what President Clinton did to the economy and a White House intern and didn't do to Osama bin Laden.

Some of my e-mail this morning has been taunting and ugly – celebrating the Bush victory by inviting me to eat crow and do anatomically impossible things.

But winning an election does not demonstrate the superiority of your principles and programs; it's merely a chance to do so.

To the old saying that the only poll that matters is the poll taken inside the voting booth on election day, I'd add that the only vote that matters is the vote ultimately cast by history.

I have more doubts than hopes about what history will say about George W. Bush. So does about 48 percent of the electorate.

The doubts will inspire our vigilance. The hopes will get us through.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Mary took notice of the vibrant foliage across my street. I took a few pictures and this one makes a fine wallpaper. Posted by Hello

Saturday, October 02, 2004

A worthy view atop Barcelona. Posted by Hello

Friday, August 27, 2004

From today's Wall Street Journal:

Niall Ferguson: Republicans for Kerry
Wall Street Journal, August 27

It is doubtless not the most tactful question to ask on the eve of the Republican convention, but might it not be better for American conservatism if George Bush failed to win a second term?

Yes, I know, the official GOP line is that nothing could possibly be as bad for the U.S. as a Kerry presidency. According to the Bush campaign, John Kerry's record of vacillation and inconsistency in the Senate would make him a disastrously indecisive POTUS -- an IMPOTUS, as it were. By contrast, they insist, Mr. Bush is decisiveness incarnate. And when this president makes a decision, he sticks to it with Texan tenacity (no matter how wrong it turns out to be).

It is a mistake, however, to conceive of each presidential contest as an entirely discrete event, a simple, categorical choice between two individuals, with consequences stretching no further than four years.

To be sure, there are many tendencies in American political life that will not be fundamentally affected by the outcome of November's election. For example, contrary to what Mr. Kerry claimed in his convention speech, there are profound structural causes for the widening rift between the U.S. and its erstwhile allies on the European continent that no new president could possibly counteract. And regardless of whether Mr. Bush or Mr. Kerry is in the White House next year, the U.S. will still be stuck with the dirty work of policing post-Saddam Iraq with minimal European assistance other than from Britain -- which, by the same token, will remain America's most reliable military ally . . . regardless of whether Mr. Bush or Mr. Kerry is in the White House.

Nor would the election of Mr. Kerry have the slightest impact on the ambition of al Qaeda to inflict harm on the U.S. Even if Americans elected Michael Moore as president, Osama bin Laden would remain implacable.

In geopolitical terms, at least, what happens on Nov. 2 will change very little indeed. Yet in other respects -- and particularly in terms of party politics -- the election's consequences could be far-reaching. It is not too much to claim that the result could shape American political life for a decade or more.

Fourteen years ago, in another English-speaking country, an unpopular and in many respects incompetent conservative leader secured re-election by the narrowest of margins and against the run of opinion polls. His name was John Major and his subsequent period in office, marred as it was by a staggering range of economic, diplomatic and political errors of judgment, doomed the British Conservative Party to (so far) seven years in the political wilderness. I say "so far" because the damage done to the Tories' reputation by the Major government of 1992-1997 was such that there is still no sign whatsoever of its ever returning to power.

Many Conservatives today would now agree that it would have been far better for their party if Mr. Major had lost the election of 1992. For one thing, the government deserved to lose. The decision to take the U.K. into the European Exchange Rate Mechanism had plunged the British economy into a severe recession, characterized by a painful housing market bust. For another, the Labour candidate for the premiership, Neil Kinnock, had all the hallmarks of a one-term prime minister. It was Mr. Kinnock's weakness as a candidate that enabled Mr. Major to scrape home with a tiny majority of 21 out of 651 seats in the Commons. Had Mr. Kinnock won, the exchange rate crisis of September 1992 would have engulfed an inexperienced Labour government and the Conservatives, having replaced Mr. Major with a more credible leader, could have looked forward to an early return to office.

Instead, the next five years were a kind of Tory dance of death, in which the party not only tore itself apart over Europe, but also helped to tear Bosnia apart by refusing all assistance to those resisting Serbian aggression. Meanwhile, a spate of petty sexual and financial scandals discredited one minister after another, making a mockery of Mr. Major's call for a return to traditional family values ("Back to Basics"). All of this provided the perfect seedbed for the advent of New Labour and the election by a landslide of Tony Blair in May 1997. Well, Mr. Blair is still in Downing Street and, having weathered the worst of the political storm over Iraq, seems likely to remain there for some years to come.

Could something similar be about to happen in the U.S.? In my view, the Bush administration, too, does not deserve to be re-elected. Its idée fixe about regime change in Iraq was not a logical response to the crisis of 9/11. Its fiscal policy has been an orgy of irresponsibility. Given the hesitations of independent voters in the swing states, polls currently point to a narrow Bush defeat. Yet Mr. Kerry, like Mr. Kinnock, is the kind who can blow an election in a single soundbite. It's still all too easy to imagine George Bush, like John Major, scraping home by the narrowest of margins (not least, of course, because Mr. Bush did just that four years ago).

But then what? The lesson of British history is that a second Bush term could be more damaging to the Republicans and more beneficial to the Democrats than a Bush defeat. If he secures re-election, President Bush can be relied upon to press on with a foreign policy based on pre-emptive military force, to ignore the impending fiscal crisis (on the Cheney principle that "Deficits don't matter") and to pursue socially conservative objectives like the constitutional ban on gay marriage. Anyone who thinks this combination will serve to maintain Republican unity is dreaming; it will do the opposite. Meanwhile, the Dems will have another four years to figure out what the Labour Party finally figured out: It's the candidate, stupid. And when the 2008 Republican candidate goes head-to-head with the American Tony Blair, he will get wiped out.

The obvious retort is that American politics is not British politics. No? Go back half a century, to 1956, and recall the events that led up to the re-election of another Republican incumbent. Sure, Eisenhower didn't have much in common personally with George W. Bush, except perhaps the relaxed work rate. But Ike was no slouch when it came to regime change. In 1953 a CIA-sponsored coup in Iran installed as dictator Mohammed Reza Shah. In 1954 Ike enunciated the "domino theory," following the defeat of France in Vietnam and invaded Guatemala to install another pro-American dictator. In 1955 he shelled the Chinese isles of Quemoy and Matsu.

Yet Eisenhower's refusal to back the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt following Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal, and his acquiescence in the Soviet invasion of Hungary, should have alerted American voters to the lack of coherence in his strategy. Predictably, Ike's re-election was followed by a string of foreign-policy reverses -- not least the overthrow of the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq, Castro's takeover of Cuba and the shooting down of Gary Powers's U-2 spy plane over the Soviet Union. These were the setbacks that lent credibility to JFK's hawkish campaign in 1960: And Kennedy's victory handed the rest of the decade to the Democrats.

Like Adlai Stevenson before him, Mr. Kerry has an aura of unelectability that may yet prove fatal to his hopes. But a Stevenson win in 1956 would have transformed the subsequent course of American political history. Conservatives may ask themselves with good reason whether defeat then might ultimately have averted the much bigger defeats they suffered in the '60s. In just the same way, moderate Republicans today may justly wonder if a second Bush term is really in their best interests. Might four years of Mr. Kerry not be preferable to eight years or more of really effective Democratic leadership?

Mr. Ferguson, professor of history at Harvard and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford, is author of "Colossus: The Price of America's Empire" (Penguin, 2004).

Monday, August 02, 2004

I was at Wrigley Field last Friday for the inauguration of the 350 lb. load-bearing nets, which surround the bottom of the upper deck. Though I have faith in Cubs President Andy MacPhail to keep the park safe (they began a full inspection of the park a week prior to the first home game after the "incident"), I think the nets were definitely installed to appease the city's biggest White Sox fan/Trib hater, Mayor Daley. (For those of you out of the loop on Chicago news, three tiny pieces of concrete had recently fallen and Daley/White Sox fans rose quite a stink over it.) Anyways, the game was great, as the Cubs rallied in the 6th inning and never looked back. They won over the Phillies, 10-7. More pictures can be seen here. Posted by Hello

Friday, July 09, 2004

A solution for you non-liberals with ketchup needs.

Posted by Hello

Mary and I went downtown for a movie at Soldier Field a few weekends ago. It was an interesting experience, though the sound was really echoey and hard to understand, as you'd expect from a stadium. Since we had an hour to spare before it started, we walked around by the lakeshore and I took two pictures. Guess who didn't want to be in this one? Posted by Hello

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Another archived 1940's Chicago pic. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The Whitsundays Posted by Hello

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Taken on the day I left for college. Posted by Hello

Friday, June 25, 2004

New Zealand pics Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Posted by Hello

Our third show is next Wednesday night. You look good. Posted by Hello

The island of Phuket, Thailand, where my previous roommates (Gina and Ryan) traveled and where "The Beach" was filmed. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Out front before our show at Subterranean Posted by Hello

Interesting fact of the day:

The foreign debt of developing countries has grown more than 6 times its amount since 1970, totaling 2.8 trillion dollars in 1999.

The total wealth of the 200 richest people is 1.14 trillion dollars.

Mary loaned (read "gave") me a unique book with above-the-ground pictures for every day of the year, which was converted from an art exhibit I was not fortunate enough to attend. I was skimming through it when I stumbled across an overhead shot of the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Noticeably absent was the dog made out of flowers at the museum's entrance, so here is its come-upance. I salute you, flower-dog. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

An archived picture of the Chicago skyline in the 1940's.  Posted by Hello

Monday, May 24, 2004

I spent the day reading Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer and it had a marked impact on my attitude. The nonfiction story starts in 1990, when Christopher McCandless, a 22 year-old who grew up in the suburbs of D.C. and attended college in Atlanta, decided upon graduation to live a minimalist existance, travelling in search of himself. He hitch-hiked througout the Western U.S. before eventually navigating his way up to Alaska; he died in September, 1992, most likely of starvation, though his body wasn't found for several weeks.

I couldn't put it down, reading nearly half of it in today's sitting. Though my infatuation with the story wasn't necessarily a healthy response to the book's content, I was hit with a small sense of longing and a twinge of curiosity for such a life of solitude and adventure. I don't align with the rough edges, dismantled relastionships, and bitterness that filled his personality, but I could easily relate to the desire that led to his nomadic independence. His outlook, suggested by highlighted passages in books by Thoreau, Emmerson, Jack London, Leo Tolstoy, and even in his journal entries before his death, sounds content, satisfied, and fulfilled. Krakauer doesn't necessarily glorify McCandless, but there's something so intriguing about his positing and observations of the impact McCandless (who changed his name upon setting off to Alex Supertramp) had on all his acquaintences. I definitely recommend reading it, although I still have the latter part to get through. If anything serious comes up that changes my perspective on the book, I'll let you know.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Zorn's blog; giving the people what they want --socio-relevant polls!

Are you glad when you enter the restroom at a public establishment and discover a bathroom attendant waiting to serve you?

No, I am not-- 91.5%
Yes, I am 8.5%
(685 total responses)

Do you wish Starbucks would knock it off already with the "pretentious Euro-speak" and label their drink sizes "small," "medium" and "large" instead of "tall," "grande" and "venti"?

Yes, I do -- 87%
No, I do not --13%
(654 total responses)

Friday, March 19, 2004

Inside the Guggenheim, on an overcast day in Bilbao, I surveyed the various works of Jean Dubuffet, Andy Warhol, and other classical and pop art. It was my fourth full day in Spain, and Spanish had finally shifted over in my head as the primary language. I didn't understand it, but I was finally used to its pervasiveness. In Barcelona, one occasionally heard English on the streets, and it was possible to approach strangers in English, if only to be looked at with a frown. But Bilbao was not nearly as accomodating. Spanish and the local Basque dialect, Euskera, dominated the streets and roadsigns. Euskera even had non-Romance language scripts, something which made the place seem much more foreign. We resided in the Casco Viejo; its ancient and curving streets cast a claustrophobic shadow over the town. The light drizzle was depressing and I was pleased to enter a spacious, modern museum.

It was upon this backdrop where I stumbled upon a collection of nonsensical, post-modernist video collages on the museum's top floor. As I investigated the various pieces with a half-lethargic, half-skeptical attitude, I noticed all the screens were speaking in English. As I'd been unable to read the attributing, Spanish plaques, this seemed like an obvious invitation to watch. Perhaps it was the jet lag, or the relentless travelling pace, but it seemed like months since I'd been able to understand anyone other than my friends. I'd only been abroad four days and already I was losing my mind. Clearly this contributed to my sense of amusement in any subject presented in English.

As comprehension burst back into the picture, one video in particular caught my eye. In interspersed, unrelated 30-second shorts, the video blended a series of the same monologue, delivered by very different speakers set in very different landscapes. The most ordinary, yet oddly hysterical clip came just 2 minutes in. A long shot zoomed in on a black man walking down the street, where he eventually passed a white man with a look of pleasant recognition in his face.

White Man: "HEY GARY! HOW ARE YOU?!"
(Black Man continued walking, without acknowledging)
White Man: "Gary? What's wrong?"
Black Man (With a look of disgust and contempt): "I'm not Gary."
End scene.

It was thoroughly perplexing. Perhaps it was intended to be a social commentary on our feeble perspectives and blurred recognition of people of a different race, but it was a rather lame one, if so. I stood there baffled. I couldn't stop laughing at "Not Gary's" expression and tone. He was ridiculously upset over this innocent mistake. As Nick entered, I relayed the nature of the exhibit to him and I convinced him to stay and watch. Everyone else came into the gallery just in time to catch the scene. The entire video cycle took 10 minutes, but it was well worth it to see it again. It doesn't translate well in telling, but for what it's worth, in that fleeting moment, I found comfort in hearing my native tongue and was highly amused by its unintended humor.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Granada is awesome. We spent the day hiking in Alcazar, the preserved remains of an enormous Islamic castle-garden. It was converted when the Christians conquered them, but there´s a whole can of worms to the story I´d prefer not to delve into. In any event, tonight is our last real night of the trip. We head to Malaga late tomorrow afternoon and fly out of there at 7 AM on Sunday, so the plan is just to wait it out at the airport when we arrive. So far on the trip, I´ve read Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom, Survivor by Chuck Palanhiuk, and The Perks of Being A Wallflower (the author´s name escapes me). I´ve taken 158 pictures and my portable MP3 player will be out of batteries within one more hour of listening. For the flight home, I will occupy myself with my Spain Guide book, my notebook journal, and the charity of my friends to loan me their discmen. I also require the tolerance of those around me, as I´m out of clean socks and underwear. Vaya con dios.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

I´m in Sevilla, I´ll be sleeping in a communal TV room alone tonight, because we couldn´t find a room anywhere in the city. Rough stuff, but I´ll be home soon.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

I'm in Madrid right now. This is the first dull moment I´ve had in an entire week.

So far we´ve been in Barcelona, Bilbao, and here. Tomorrow we leave for Toledo, and from there, Sevilla, Granada, and finally Malaga. Everything in Spain rocks except for not being able to understand anyone. The food is strange; namely their love for anchovies and deviled eggs spread on tiny pieces of bread.

The Death Cab For Cutie show last night was fantastic. I only have 1 minute left on the internet card, so I'm off. Hasta luego.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

I'll be leaving in two hours, so this may be the last post for awhile. After consulting with Will, I've significantly lightened my packing load. He also loaned me his bag, so I'll be bringing that with a smaller carry-on, and I'm all set. Have a good couple weeks, as I'm sure I will.