21 June 2008

Unnesting: the update

Today we put stuff on ebay. This is something we do every 6 months or so anyway, as we upgrade our ipods/computers/TV/AV systems/phones or generally clear out electronics that will, simply by sitting, become paperweights. But in this case it is part of unnesting, the moving ritual.

I was wondering today what it would be like to live somewhere for more than 5 years. It would be weird. You would get used to the place, pass the boring mark and move into the settled in status, the comfort of the groove, the smoothness of the rut. You'd notice the little new things: oh, that shop closed. oh, they're building a fountain in their garden. oh, that dog must have moved onto a better place. I don't know what this would feel like, really, in your gut. To settle in. To feel like your stuff won't move again, not for awhile. To not weed out the shelves periodically. Would it feel comforting and homey? Or chafing and restricting? Would I start hating the one board that creaks upstairs so much it distracted me? Or would I need to know that it creaks to keep my life within the bounds of normalcy? Is nomadism normal? Or is nesting and settling in? What do those people do? You know, the people who are normal?

So we are selling things on ebay. And choosing what to give away (and whom to give it to). And choosing which clothes we will need for the next 6-10 weeks while our things are in transit (answer: um it's hot in B'more, so as little clothing as possible). And figuring out how to extricate ourselves from one country and reenter the other (getting car insurance without a car? notifying someone about not needing the TV license?)

And we're leaving a bit behind. Not just the house, of course, and not just the hot tub (the hot tub!). But I've decided that we're leaving behind the bird house, the one that my out-laws gave to me for Christmas when we lived in Virginia. Because a bird family moved in. And they might move, or travel for the winter, or have another home somewhere. But then they'll come back, right? And they'll want their copper-roofed house (park adjacent! safe from cats! quiet neighborhood! great schools! organic, free-range worms daily just outside your peephole!). So we're leaving that. And indeed a lot more.

19 June 2008

US Open 08

I don't watch much golf on TV. But I don't miss a major. Since 1986 I've watched probably every major except for 2 or 3; since 1997 I've seen them all. And when I say 'seen them all', I mean full coverage of all four days, and in almost all cases this means watching every shot that Tiger hits for those four days. (Living in the US, this means getting up at 4am to watch The Open Championship; living in the UK, it means staying up until 3am to watch everything except The Open.) So I've seen a lot of major championship golf, the type that is set up to generate 'unbelievable' shots and stories.

I've never seen anything like the 91 holes that Tiger played from Thursday to Monday.

I refuse to participate in the 'is golf a sport' discussion, but Tiger Woods is an athlete. I've known for a while that it was only right and proper for him to be compared not only to Nicklaus, but also to Jordan or Gretzsky. After this weekend, it's hard not to be believe that he's the best there is - at least in my lifetime, at least those that I've had the privilege to watch.

I think this is sometimes difficult for non-golfers to grasp fully, because Tiger is now expected to win. But no other golfer in history has been 'expected to win' in this manner. For the greatest golfers of previous decades, winning a few majors total was an unbelievable feat. After Jack, Nick Faldo was the greatest major winner, with 6. He won more majors in the 1990s then anyone, with a total of 4. In comparison, Tiger has won 3 in the past 10 months.

But the point is that up until Tiger, every golfer, even every great golfer, missed a lot of cuts, missed a lot of pressure putts, and hit a lot of bad shots that led them to come in 6th rather than 1st. They were 'great' because of what they did over a few years, over a career. And though Jack was undoubtedly the very best of his generation, he had a whole host of players that were very close to him in talent, ability, and wins (Palmer, Trevino, Player, Miller, Weiskopf, Watson, and Floyd, just to name a few). But Tiger is so far above everyone else, that even after missing the next 10 months he'll probably still be ranked number 1 in the world. Tiger has an ability to play under pressure that has never been seen before. In the last two days of this US Open, he simply did not miss any shortish pressure putts. Roco Mediate, who played a fabulous championship, probably missed 8 of those putts over the last two days.

And Tiger can hit shots that for every single other golfer on the planet prove to be an absolute impossibility. He did this on Sunday at the 15th hole, hitting a shot that was, literally, unhittable - and part of me expected him to do it.

Oh, and by the way, it turns out he did all this on a torn ACL with two stress fractures in his tibia. I have no more words to describe or account for this.

So I'll just say congratulations to Tiger, on winning his 17th Major. Yes, you'll see everyone else describe this as his 14th. But they are wrong. I once wrote an article about this, but I wasn't successful at getting it published (I probably shouldn't have used the word 'hypostatise' in it so much). If you are curious, you can read a draft of it here.

15 June 2008

the Starbucks of Yoga

A lot of yoga folks look down on Bikram yoga, the 90-minute program of poses done in a very hot, steamy room. It is the same each time and its namesake and founder has some policies that regiment it even further, which can sometimes be frustrating to yoga studios doing his programme. If one is in a city with a wide range of yoga choices, and one lives there full-time, then Bikram may not be the best choice--there are other hot yogas if you like that, and other ways to do yoga that can be more challenging in some ways, and certainly have more variety if you're into that.

But as someone who has never lived in a place with decent yoga within an hour drive, I will attest that Bikram : Yoga as Starbucks : Coffee. It's not, as some people claim, the 'McDonalds of yoga'. That implies that it is bad-for-you, cheap, and unthinking product delivered as conveniently and quickly as possible. It is instead the Starbucks of yoga. Yes, some people only drink frappucinos, but you can also get good, consistent doppio macchiatos and americanos, and when you're in a strange city, it's good to know that you don't need to try every coffee place in town to find a decent bean.

Bikram has been my salvation when travelling, because I know that in an hour and a half I can get a good all-around workout and I know that the likelihood of anything vaguely hippie/Orientalist/new age is fairly low, aside from the 'namaste' at the end of the workout. I know what I'm getting, and I can do this while carrying almost no gear. My most recent experience was at a great studio in Berlin Mitte, but there have been many others. Herewith the map of Bikrams I have known:

View Larger Map

14 June 2008

B2, the 2Bs

So B no. 2 was Bradford, you would think slightly less exotic than Berlin but in fact you'd be wrong. First, it's in northern England and for those of you keeping track, we live in a different country, namely Cymru. Everything is different in Yorkshire except the money and the Starbucks. Second, I stayed in a lovely railway hotel that was reminiscent of many Victorian railway hotels from where I grew up in Colorado, so that was a bit odd. Also odd was the bathtub in the room. and by in the room I mean in the room:

So that was cool. Obviously I had to take a bath.

I was there to visit the collection at the National Media Museum, which was lovely--lovely people, lovely pictures, great facility. In the short two days I was there I decided that I must seek out South Asian food, for Bradford has a proud and competitive group of excellent restaurants along these lines. After extensive research and forgoing the Bollywood-celeb packed Mumtaz (go to the website. it's insane), I went with the family-run Prashad Chaat House to the south of the university campus, past Bombay Stores (biggest retailer of S. Asian clothing/textiles in the UK, which is saying something), the Jami Masjid, the main Halal grocer/butcher in town and after a little while felt entirely at home in the lovely colony of south of Delhi. Except it was Bradford. So there you are.

The food, prepared by the award winning proprietress and chef, was astounding. I had a pea kachori for a starter, which turned out to be glorious pea pasteness with clove overtones shaped into a ball, wrapped in chickpea flour, and fried. Hea-ven. Everything was fabulous, and so my rec for Bradford is definitely this place. I advise walking there to get a sense of the neighbourhood.

Oh, and of course: it's Gujarati. It is a long-standing family maxim that everything good is from Gujarat and everything Gujarati is of course perfect. Prashad Chaat House now takes its place as yet another proof of this universal truth. (not that you need to prove universal truths, but there you are)

13 June 2008

Back from the Bs

Berlin and Bradford that is. Last week Berlin, this week Bradford. Intriguingly different places, I might add.

I had not been to Berlin since July 1988, when I was young and impressionable and the city had a wall. I remember that one side was coloured and the other side was grey. One side was busy and the other side had really really wide streets with no one on them. I remember being astounded by the space of the Pergamon museum and scared when we crossed through Checkpoint Charlie, over the no-man's land and into the grey, commercial-free zone of East Berlin. People even wore grey--in my memory at least. And it was cold and rainy that July. I had packed one sweater. I wear it in every photo from the trip.

All of that has largely changed, as you might imagine. Checkpoint Charlie is a bit disneylandish now, and the strip where the wall was has been filled in with office buildingy things from the mid-90s. (I fear we will look back on mid-90s architecture with the same horror we reserve now for mid-60s architecture. I'm not saying that the latter doesn't have its charms--I secretly and truly love a lot of it (concrete is cool!)--but this 90s stuff is a bit horrifying in its, well, smugness.)

I walked everywhere, ate required sausage, took required pic of Zoo station, did Ku-damm and Mitte, ran around Tiergarten and through Brandenburg gate (not something I could have done 20 years ago, obviously--also the Starbucks right there didn't so much exist in 1988. weird.) And generally had a good time.

Thoughts: there are no cars in Berlin. Well, not where I was staying (in Mitte--center of the city). I'm not saying there are no no cars, but that usually there are bikes. and peds. and trams. and more of same, and then one car. repeat. It means the streets are quiet aside from the odd scooter, and that the cars are restricted to the major arteries. this is genius. whatever factors contribute to this state of affairs--everyone everywhere should copy them. Now. go on...

Other thought: Wales has no capitalism. There's nothing to buy here. Why would you buy things? In berlin there's everything to buy. stuff, and shoes, and clothes, and more stuff, and chocolate, and clothes, and cars, and paper, and whiskey, and absinthe, and art, and stuff. in Wales it's boot sales, grocery/farmer market food, and that's about it. so none of that communist stuff rubbed off on Berlin, but it seems that the sky, sea, food, and air is pretty much enough for those in Wales. cool.

right. why are we leaving again? oh yes. iPhone. obviously.

04 June 2008


This blog began both as a form of travelling and as a way to negotiate our own travelling from one continent to another. Once that period of transition seemed to have come to an end, i.e. as we made a home here, I found myself slowing down in the blog department. I felt too out of context to say much about American culture and politics (after all, I now spell travelling with two 'l's). For a while I was able to comment on both British and Welsh culture as an outsider, sending missives back to the homeland. But that phase passed as I felt less like an outsider here, and the 'homeland' felt less like home. Yet (on some other hand) I didn't think I had a readership here that would want to hear my thoughts on the collapse of New Labour, the election of Boris, the role of Plaid Cymru, the promise of Compass, etc. And thus I didn't say a lot.

Now that another transition is about to start, I find myself with even less to say. I don't think I'll have any revelations about America for my American readers. Maybe I should promote the blog and widely circulate the web address to all my friends and colleagues over here - then I could tell them all about the truly insane land called America. No, if they want to know about America they can just turn on their television, open their Macbooks, pick up a newspaper. This is the other thing that's odd about living in the UK: America doesn't go away; it's hardly even distant; it's front and centre. Turn on BBC24 while eating lunch earlier this week and what do you see: breaking headlines, crane collapses in Manhattan. The US primaries have a central story on BBC and Guardian websites every single day. Hell, American culture and politics are what we UK academics write about, and then publish in Australian journals!

I suspect that my US culture shock will bring out something in me to write about. Obama is still inspiring, but I fear that putting that in to words will make it disappear. But if all else fails, I can talk about all the cool new technology I plan to buy in the states: iPhones, Plasmas, and MINIs (oh my). And if I get really desperate I'm going to turn to Philosophy: this Meillassoux guy is either a great sophist, or he's got something serious and radical to say - but I'll need help from TG on that 'transfinite' in order to understand it.

03 June 2008

exceptionally seminal

I'm marking my last essay of the year--in the UK you don't assign anything in the middle of term, and then at the end you get an avalanche of marking. This is fine, as it means I mark nothing during the term (huzzah) in exchange for two weeks of solid marking at the end, which makes you only a wee bit crazy.

So I'm marking this essay, and it calls a certain postcolonial theorist 'exceptionally seminal'. I'm not sure what this really means, or if this is entirely appropriate. For years I've joked about the problem with the term 'seminal' as it is indeed gendered but no one seems to notice, or seemed to notice back when we cared about such things.

In response, I coined the term 'ovulal' and any day now it will enter normal discourse and it will be MY invention. MINE!! An ovulal neologism, no?

So to be exceptionally seminal, now that you know my issues with the term, would be to have what--very high motility in one's seminality? What would it mean to be exceptionally ovulal? A heightened production from the ova? Lots and lots of twins? Very very fertile, in any case. Ah fecundity.