Tricknology Built All This

A couple weeks ago I came across this really interesting photo of Detroit, taken in 1930:

(Click for higher resolution awesomeness)

Then just this week I started reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, where he has this passage:

My grandparents’ eyes glazed over at the sheer activity, streetcars rumbling, bells clanging, and the monochrome traffic swerving in and out. In those days downtown Detroit was filled with shoppers and businessmen. Outside Hudson’s Department Store the crowd was ten thick, jostling to get in the newfangled revolving doors. Lina pointed out the sights: the Cafe Frontenac… the Family Theatre… and the enormous electric signs: Ralston… Wait & Bond Blackstone Mild 10¢ Cigar.

It made me think Eugenides looked at this same photo when envisioning those days. So I contacted him to find out:

Dear Mr. Cole,
It was either that photograph or one very much like it. The giveaway is that Blackstone Cigar. Thank you for sending it my way.
I hope you like the rest of the book.
Sincerely,
Jeffrey Eugenides

Oh, the internets are magic. This reminds me of the time Richard Rorty wrote me, about 2 years before he died, and, to my everlasting chagrin, I didn’t save it before Groupwise auto-purged it forever. I think writing awesome people will be my new hobby, even if it’s only half as exciting as Letters of Note.

Republican Jesus Invites You to Read the Constitution

Speaking of great art (and blasphemy), you simply cannot top this:

This is One Nation Under God by Jon McNaughton, who is the Luke Skywalker to Thomas Kinkade’s Darth Vader. Most of what you need to know about this masterpiece is made plain when you see that one of the “positive” characters is holding Cleon Skousen’s The Five Thousand Year Leap. On McNaugton’s website you can read his detailed explanation of all the other “symbolism.” More entertainingly, make sure you check out this parody which retains the look of McNaughton’s site while replacing all the zoom-in captions for each character.

Hat-tip to Mike Morrell for making me aware of this

The Scandalous Art of Paul Fryer

Twenty years after Andres Serrano debuted Piss Christ to shocked believers worldwide, Christendom is again up in arms over another work of art. Fundamentalist antipathy toward the arts is well-documented, and artists like Serrano and Damien Hirst have ensured that this feud isn’t likely to die soon. British artist Paul Fryer, a churchgoing Christian himself, has joined the fray with three new pieces.

The first two are variations of the same piece, Pieta:

Unlike traditional pietas, such as Michelangelo’s, this Jesus is not cradled by the Virgin Mary, but by an electric chair. The work is displayed in a French cathedral whose Monsignor explains the work thusly: “[The goal is] to make us aware once more that someone being nailed to a cross is a scandal. Usually, we no longer feel any real emotions in the face of something truly scandalous, the crucifixion.” The piece challenges us to see modern methods of capital punishment as equally bizarre and barbaric as ancient Roman methods. Fryer seems to be expressing incredulity at state-sanctioned murder in the 21st century, asking us to be just as uncomfortable with a convicted felon in the electric chair as we are with Christ in it.
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I’m Like a Nok

Last weekend my parents, their boss, and I took a whirlwind four-day trip to the southern & northern ends of Thailand to see family friends and colleagues.

Down south we visited the Phang Nga province, an area that was totally devastated by the tsunami of December, 2004. This is a famous patrol boat that was washed up about a mile inland.

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Museo de Awesome

We finally got our lesson assignments for the next two weeks. The summary:

Tuesday –>  high beginners –> house chores
Wednesday –> low beginners –> talking about past vacations
Thursday –> basic beginners –> describing daily and weekly routines

Tuesday –> high intermediates –> compare & contrast dating customs
Wednesday –> basic beginners –> houses / our dream house
Thursday –> low beginners –> our future vacation plans

They also gave us the grammar points we need to teach with each (eg the “going to + verb” structure for that last class) but I won’t bother typing those all out now. I wish I had more high beginner & intermediate students but my schedule’s pretty decent otherwise. Monday we take our final exam over grammar & phonology then start prepping for Tuesday’s trial by fire.

I feel like I spent all of today taking public: taxi to class, bus home (my first time on a colectivo; cost me a whopping 30¢), then subway to and from the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires. I had a couple places to see tonight but lots of sites close at 6pm; MALBA was open til 8pm thankfully. It’s normally $4, but I got in for $1.30 as a student with my BAIS card. This museum was well worth the hassle of the subte and is a total bargain even at $4. Mostly 20th-century and contemporary art — which is my preference anyway — though I forgot to look for their Frida Kahlo stuff. As my guidebook points out, MALBA is the only BsAs museo built-for-function, ie it’s not a re-purposed mansion, warehouse, factory, etc. Thus the building itself is extremely interesting, a bit of which you can see in my recently-uploaded photoset. Indoor photos are forbidden so I could only sneak a couple. Unfortunately my shots of the world’s most amazing benches didn’t turn out (someone obviously beat me to it anyway).

Cole-Lee Wedding

My brother got married this past Friday! The wedding was at Benham’s Grove in Centerville, and they’re now on their honeymoon somewhere in Mexico. This whole past week has been a blur, but a lot of fun.

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Photos courtesy of Katie & Ken Cole.

Goodbye PokerStars

So I’ve quit poker for good in anticipation of my impending move to Argentina. It was extremely bittersweet for me to cash out my entire PokerStars account today; happy for the money, sad to leave it all behind, disappointed I didn’t win more. But poker has enabled me to have a life that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise, and the game has bailed me out of more than a few financial crunches. My trip to Buenos Aires, in fact, is largely funded from these poker winnings.

Pasted below are my results for 2009. It’s true that a lot of people have played more hands than me, spent more time studying the game, and have made much more money than I have — but I’ve done better at this game than 90% of people ever will, and so I take a little bit of pride in that.

Sort of a pretty graph, eh? So that’s a tad over 200,000 hands in 6 months versus 16,585 different opponents. It’s hella hard to get money onto PokerStars these days, so I hope this teaching gig works out in South America otherwise I am S.O.L. as far as career options go. At least I have another Stars t-shirt coming my way.

National City Bank Sucks

I’ve had a lot of problems with National City in the past month. In one case, I’d done a lot transactions recently and needed an electronic copy of my bank statement — but was informed by two “specialists” that this was impossible and that hard copies sent via snail mail were the only option. It would real neat if someone were to invent a portable document format that could be “attached” to electronic mail (that would appear in a virtual “inbox”), but in the meantime I settled for an ol’ fashioned paper version. This is what NatCity sent me:

[ ] correct address
[ ] correct balance
[ ] correct activity
[x] correct name
[x] correct account number

Hey, 2/5 ain’t bad. Well-played National City, you done good. A blank, data-less piece of paper is extremely helpful and informative.

Ocean of Noise

J. Motta’s got me hooked on Swaptree and I’ve made a few trades already. One of my favorite swaps has to be getting rid of a neurotic alcoholic’s memoir in exchange for a tome on deconstructive religion & the meaning of forgiveness. No disrespect intended to Mr. Burrough’s, but he’s no Derrida.

Question: if you had live, even work, for a season in a) Buenos Aires, Argentina; b) Alexandria, Egypt; or c) Kathmandu, Nepal — which would it be?

I think everyone’s heard this by now, but Liberty University has shut down their chapter of College Democrats. This kind of tragi-comic act needs no comment from me.

Oh, and here’s yet another conservative being waterboarded. Three jeers for Sean Hannity for still not having the balls to do this. 

For no related reason, here’s an interesting photo, though I don’t know where it’s from. Reminds me of Manila.