28 July 2007

Um... NASA, WTF????

Now I really have heard EVERYTHING: Astronauts flying under the influence of alcohol. I mean give me a break.

I truly can't be bothered to look up the name of that mallet-wielding, pepper-spray carrying, and possibly diaper-wearing jilted lover chick who caused NASA to conduct the internal review that led to this most recent embarrassment, but at least she waited to act a fool (as Barbara Jean would say) once she was back on the ground. And though I wish alcohol could explain what she did, apparently she crossed a few state lines ready to kick some love rival ass while she was stone cold sober. But lifting off into space while so obviously drunk that colleagues are concerned for their safety? That just about rips it. Try piloting an America West flight that drunk and see what happens.

Along with the shameless increase in public nosepicking, yet further evidence that we are truly witnessing the decline and fall of western civilization.


Cruel and Unusual?

Holy Shit!

I can't tell if this is "cruel and unusual punishment" or a very cool way for prisoners to get their exercise while locked up. In any case, I offer for your consideration, a bunch of inmates in the Philippines "doing" Thriller. Tja, and there you were thinking Turkish prisons were hellish...

21 July 2007

Lost Treasures

Say what you will about the wonders of email and all the speed and convenience associated with this type of communication, I miss letters and postcards.

So here I am in DC (still) unpacking my stuff, which up until now has been a rather joyous task. I repeat, until now. Now I am going through the boxes of letters sent to me over the years; the biggest stack by far arriving the first year I ran off to Europe (1994-1995). People I no longer have contact with, writing to offer moral support for the wacky adventure that was (and is some sense still is) my life. Some of these people I no longer remember, and some I am happy to unremember, if I can get away with using that word, which is definitely NOT the same thing as forgetting.

Then there is a huge stack of letters from people I met in Europe, some who are still near and dear to me, and some I apparently loved deeply (or thought I loved deeply and what's the difference anyway?) though no longer have any contact with. How is that possible?

These letters give me insight into my life then, as I read comments and advice on problems or situations I had apparently written about. [Note: My future biographers will be thrilled with Efrat's 14-page letter. So will hers for that matter...] Or they were just ordinary communications about life and work and love, etc.

My heart is threatening to break over the loss of letters and postcards from my life: a few lines scribbled on a postcard, or volumes poured out on graph paper torn from a notebook, or that so-thin-that-you-can-see-through-it airmail stationery. It was all good. Some of these gems also include photographs taken of me by the letter-writer, which would now be just an email attachment. One such photograph--taken in 1991 on a train between New Orleans and Phoenix by a Dutch guy--reminds me that I actually used to take the time to have my eyebrows waxed. Good grief, who was that woman?

I suppose it doesn't help that I watched Central Station last night. The role that letters play in that film is truly staggering, and of course, heartbreaking.

When I was a freshman in college, one of my friends got drunk and told me (in front of all my other friends) that I was "an abstract bitch living in a concrete world." He meant it as an insult of course, but it was probably one of the nicest mean things anyone ever said about me to my face. And in many ways it's reassuring to know that some things haven't changed too much since I was 18. I mean how else could you describe someone who is seriously upset about the fact that no one writes letters anymore?

I tried to remedy this situation a couple years ago when I was living in Scotland by sending postcards. Though I did receive a few postcards in response, inevitably, I received responses via email saying: "Wow, thanks for the card! Very cool." And yes, I have a ton of emails stored in my archives, BUT IT IS JUST NOT THE SAME, OKAY??

There is hope, however. Since I've been in my new apartment, I have received a few cards and letters, and for that I should publicly thank my brother John, and three good friends from Germany: Ina, Tina, and Sabine. And I suppose I should be happy that people think of me, in whatever form it occurs. Still...

15 July 2007

Creep Factor: 7.3

I'm sorry, but a headless torso with an arm that I'm supposed to curl myself up in is just creepy. At least 1000 single women in Japan, however, find the new boyfriend pillows the practical alternative to snoring cheats.

Good grief, what does it say about Japanese men, when a one-armed stuffed pillow is seen as a welcome alternative to the "real" thing?

I know what you're thinking: "Hey hypocrite, what about Goldfinger?"

Different matter entirely...

13 July 2007

Lieber Jörg

Gute Besserung wünsche ich Dir aus Washington.

Jörg and Mechtild

Und viele liebe Grüße an Leyla, Rosa, und Jan!

12 July 2007

Kein Zurück

Okay, now I’m musically stuck in the summer of 2003.

During the heatwave that took many lives in Europe that summer, I was meant to be doing the fieldwork for my PhD. Leaving the apartment everyday was an act of courage because it was so hot. Moreover, I was terrified that I’d get the whole ethnography thing wrong and my research project would be a complete failure. As the days ticked away, and my field notebook remained dismally empty, inspiration came from a melancholy song about life from the synthpop duo Wolfsheim.

The song, Kein Zurück (loosely translated as No Return), is a reminder that life has no rewind button; you can’t return to the past, you just have to keep moving forward. It’s also a reminder that what you’re doing can’t ever really be undone: “was getan ist ist getan.” And finally, it is a reminder that life is what is happening now, and not in some magical future when you imagine you'll have all your shit together:

Deine Träume schiebst du endlos vor dir her
Du willst noch leben irgendwann
Doch wenn nicht heute, wann denn dann?
Denn irgendwann ist auch ein Traum zu lange her.

I was also moved by the crazy woman in the video, who seemed to embody all of the frustration I felt that summer. But let's not pretend that the song belongs to my past, I still listen to it at least once a day.


10 July 2007


Okay, so I'm doing my Turkish homework and I've got Istanbul on the brain. So I let my mind wander back to the summer of 2003 when I was living in Little Istanbul (Kreuzberg/Berlin) and Turkey won the Eurovision Song Contest with this entry:

Can I tell you how much fun it was to be living with a Turkish nationalist in a Turkish neighborhood in Berlin when Turkey won? Mind-boggling...

The artist, Sertab Erener, also released a music video for the track, which gives an idea of what the harem girls got up to while the sheik was away:

As for belly dancing, it is important to note that some Turkish men are also quite talented. Particularly the nationalists...

Okay, back to work.

Iyi geceler.

09 July 2007


Apparently the US is losing out on the global tourism market, and according to a recent Associated Press article, Congress aims to do something about it.


Well they could poll some of my friends around the world who have declined my invitations to come visit. Chief among the reasons they give for passing up on my generous hospitality include the eyeball scans and fingerprinting they would have to endure at US customs.* I mean really, is this any way to treat guests?

What kind of arrogance rules the land when the government appears to be surprised that many tourists are willing to pass on the opportunity to be abused by US Border Patrol agents? Frankly I'm surprised we've managed to hang on to as many visitors as we have.

According to the article, "the United States is the only global destination without an ongoing program to promote itself." Did I mention arrogance? Whatever. Senate Bill S.1661 proposes a new corporation to help promote the United States as a destination to travelers around the world. Visitors from the 27 Visa-waiver countries will be taxed to help pay for it.


*Okay, okay, a lot of them also doubt that I'll still be living in the US by the time they schedule their trips.

03 July 2007

Men at Work

I'd like for you to meet Luke.


Luke is the graphic design intern in my office this summer. After getting to know me a bit, Luke suggested that I re-think the manner in which I represent myself on this blog, so he took a crack at designing the new image that has replaced my photo.

I like it. It's abstract but honest; childlike but sophisticated; gray but also red. Luke may only be 20, but he's quite discerning. He saw right through me and captured my very soul in the complicated medium of Etch-a-Sketch.

Keep your eye on this kid: he's definitely going places.