Station to Station

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.. Is the title not only of one of my favourite Bowie albums, but also a Nomadic Art Happening taking place across the United States this month — kicking off in Brooklyn last night.

Multimedia artist, Doug Aitken somehow convinced Amtrak to loan him a train that, adorned with multi-coloured LED panels and loaded with artists, will travel cross-country. From Pittsburgh tomorrow night and on to Chicago, Minneapolis, Santa Fe, Winslow, Barstow, Los Angeles, and finishing up in Oakland on September 28th.

At each stop along the way, an event is hosted inside old train stations, and a in a vintage drive-in movie theatre in Barstow. The multi disciplinary events will feature performances from the likes of Patti Smith, Thurston Moore, Beck, Cat Power, Savages and Eleanor Friedberger, as well as art by Kenneth Anger, Urs Fischer, Ernesto Neto, and Carsten Höller.

Last night’s event at the Riverfront Studios in Williamsburg began with multi-coloured smoke bombs bursting from an  Olaf Breuning installation and then a drum line and a popping of pink and grey pom-poms and silver sequins: The Kansas City Marching Cobras.

Olaf Bruening, Station to Station
Olaf Bruening. Photo by author.

While guests (the show was sold out but not crowded) explored the installations, including a yellow Ernesto Neto yurt, and Liz Glynn explained the theory of relativity in her black yurt; No Age, Free-Kitten member, Yoshimio, Hisham Akira Bharoocha and Ryan Sawyer; and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti played on the stage in front of a bold film backdrop running shorts from the likes of Yayoi Kusama and Nicolas Provost, whose spliced up film of endless cinematic kisses was my favourite.

The night ended loudly: Suicide. A band that, given the singer, Alan Vega, is 75 years old, I never thought I’d see live. Vega stumbled on, cane in one hand, drink in the other and screamed into the mic; Martin Rev, in shiny vinyl trousers, palmed and hammered the synth. Pretty damn delightful.

Suicide. Photo by author.
Suicide. Photo by author.
Suicide. Photo by author.
Suicide. Photo by author.

Here’s an interesting comment from Aitken to the Washington Post:

“The train system runs across the American landscape like untapped arteries,” Aitken wrote in an email. “Much of our journeys have been replaced by interstates and highways. I was interested in using the train to become a nomadic broadcast tower, broadcasting new and experimental culture while tapping into unknown and amazing creators from the locations in which the train stops.”

A Weekend in New Hampshire

Dartmouth Green
Dartmouth Green

The small college town of Hanover, NH, famous for the violent fraternities of Dartmouth College and the inspiration for Animal House, was my destination earlier this summer for a quiet weekend getaway.

I stayed at the Hanover Inn, a centuries old hotel that has recently reopened after a $41 million renovation that included the addition of PINE restaurant, created by James Beard award-winning chef, Michael Schlow. The hotel, which overlooks Dartmouth Green (site of commencement ceremonies, including this one by Conan O’Brien) is decorated in a style that befits its college owners — lots of green, a splash of plaid, and beds draped with cable-knit cardigan-style throws.

Hanover Inn
Hanover Inn
Hanover Inn
Hanover Inn

Across the green, in the college’s Baker library, is the Epic of American Civilization, one of the three grand frescos by José Clemente Orozco in the United States (the others are in California and New York City.)

The Epic of American Civilization
The Epic of American Civilization
The Epic of American Civilization
The Epic of American Civilization

Between huge meals and craft cocktails at PINE, I kayaked the Connecticut River.

Connecticut River
Connecticut River

With these guys:

Kayakers
Kayakers

Note: I was a guest of the Hanover Inn: More here and here.

created by James Beard-award winning chef Michael Schlow. The Hanover Inn is connected to the contemporary Hood Arts Museum, where interning students help to curate the exhibits. – See more at: http://blog.shermanstravel.com/2013/08/20/five-of-the-best-college-campus-hotels/#sthash.SlpXGLxZ.dpuf
created by James Beard-award winning chef Michael Schlow. The Hanover Inn is connected to the contemporary Hood Arts Museum, where interning students help to curate the exhibits. – See more at: http://blog.shermanstravel.com/2013/08/20/five-of-the-best-college-campus-hotels/#sthash.SlpXGLxZ.dpuf
created by James Beard-award winning chef Michael Schlow. The Hanover Inn is connected to the contemporary Hood Arts Museum, where interning students help to curate the exhibits. – See more at: http://blog.shermanstravel.com/2013/08/20/five-of-the-best-college-campus-hotels/#sthash.SlpXGLxZ.dpuf
created by James Beard-award winning chef Michael Schlow. The Hanover Inn is connected to the contemporary Hood Arts Museum, where interning students help to curate the exhibits. – See more at: http://blog.shermanstravel.com/2013/08/20/five-of-the-best-college-campus-hotels/#sthash.SlpXGLxZ.dpuf

Photos From Two Months in New York

Already two months have passed since I moved here. I love my new home. Here are a few images from June and July.

Ft. Washington Park
Ft. Washington Park
Ft. Washington Bridge.
Ft. Washington Bridge.
Little Red Lighthouse
Little Red Lighthouse
4th of July Fireworks
4th of July Fireworks
14th St. Station
14th St. Station
Street Coffee.
Street Coffee.
NYC Pride
NYC Pride
NYC Pride
NYC Pride
Brighton Beach
Brighton Beach
Coney Island.
Coney Island.
Cyclone
Cyclone
The Daily Show.
The Daily Show.
Bushwick Pride.
Bushwick Pride.

A Brief Trip to the Electric Room

Remember when MTV used to play music? I do. Maybe I am a lot older than you.

I never had MTV, growing up, we couldn’t afford it, so I used to get my penpal in Berkshire to mail me videotapes of my favourite music promos and shows. The newest clips from the Breeders; recordings of Hole guest-hosting a show I’ve long forgotten the name of … I’ll never forget PJ Harvey’s video for Down by the Water. I’d watch it, rewind the tape, watch it again, sick on lipgloss and fake eyelashes, and sinking deeper into the dark thoughts that bloomed around the ages of 15, 16 … but I digress.

The internet and music video channel, VEVO has recently entered into a partnership with Dream Downtown to bring its 24-hour music channel to the hotel’s guestrooms. They had a launch party earlier this week and I was lucky enough to be invited: very lucky because it’s usually a serious mission to get into Dream Downtown’s velvet-roped-off Electric Room basement club. Sceney, obviously, but it was fun; here’s some pictures.

Dream Downtown exterior
Dream Downtown exterior
Passage leading to Electric Room
Passage leading to Electric Room
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Electric Room art
Electric Room art
Electric Room art
They had a DJ while playing music videos ...
They had a DJ while playing music videos …
The scene.
The scene.

The Little Red Lighthouse

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“Fat and red and jolly” is how Hildegard Swift described Jeffrey’s Hook Light in her beloved tale The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Although the red lighthouse has not shone its light in years, it is, like in the book, still proud to have a job to do: pleasing children and tourists.

The book, which was published in 1942, tells the story of the lighthouse’s fear that it no longer is of any use when a great grey bridge is built next to it, with its own flashing light, making it feel small and unimportant. One night during a storm, however, the bridge calls to the lighthouse reassuring it that it still has work to do: “each to his own place,” it says, and so the lighthouse proudly gets back to work.

It was this story that saved the lighthouse in 1951 when it was threatened with being torn down. Fans of Swift’s book campaigned for it to stay, and so it sits there today, under George Washington Bridge in northwestern Manhattan. As the book says, you should “see for yourself.”

 

 

2012: A Year in Nonviolent Dissent

“It gets into your system … the force and power of nonviolence.”

The above quotation is taken from a Guernica essay by Eamon Kircher Allen that was published in April this year. In April I had just returned from Egypt and was about to embark on a summer course through the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict. The power of nonviolence was in my system.

Through taking the course and talking to young Egyptian activists,  long-held understandings shifted. I started to realise things that should have been obvious. Authority, global order: these things are not rigid. Oppression draws power through our consent; we can withdraw that consent. Nonviolence does not mean inaction: it is often strategic.

In the ICNC course I learned a lot about strategy; about movements from West Papua to Burma and Chile; about different terms used for nonviolence (Satyagraha, People Power..) I learned about creative resistance (the Estonian Singing Revolution, Burmese clowns, Chilean cueca sola…)

As I moved through the year and from this place to the next I saw signs of dissent; civil resistance, and what Kircher Allen called the “common font of yearning for an alternative global order.” From Egypt to Mexico and the USA I saw people struggle for rights, recognition and to strategise a commitment to nonviolence.

Cairo, Egypt. February 2012.
Cairo, Egypt. February 2012.
Mexico City. September 2012.
Mexico City. September 2012.

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USA
USA

There is some nuances I still debate. Such as the photograph below.

It is a stencil of Mubarak and (what I am told is) writing that says “when will he die?” I saw others (that I didn’t photograph) of his image in a noose. I believe that words can be violence so do those images have a place in a nonviolent movement?

Luxor, Egypt. March 2012.
Luxor, Egypt. March 2012.

What about the destruction of property? Below is a photograph of the burned-out NDP building in Cairo. My first glance at it inspired an initial feeling of horror, which lifted when a woman smiling and taking photos of it expressed to me how happy the sight made her.

Cairo, Egypt. February 2012
Cairo, Egypt. February 2012

A question posed in the ICNC course: If property destruction is violence then how should we think of the Danish Resistance blowing up Nazi railroad tracks?

I am learning and I am asking myself questions and I don’t understand much but I am trying. I still struggle with hopelessness and anger but I am trying to be an optimist. There is both optimism and despair in dissent but signs of nonviolent dissent give me hope. I think that is a good way to move into the new year.

Cairo International Airport. March 2012.
Cairo International Airport. March 2012.

Condom Couture

Condom Couture is a Project Runway-style annual event where local students create dresses entirely out of condoms, modeled by people from the community. The show was inspired by a 2008 study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that one in four teenage girls in the United States has a sexually transmitted infection. Condom Couture was born of Planned Parenthood of Central Ohio board member, Lonni Thompson’s idea for a creative way raise awareness. The idea is now being imitated by other events in several other cities across the country.

Condom Couture 2012. Photo by author.

Since 2008 Condom Couture has raised more than half a million dollars for Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio (PPCO became PPGO this year) and has awarded scholarships (gifted by an anonymous donor) to the top three student designers every year.

This year’s winner was Julie Ward, who produced a gold-painted, rolled condom dress, which she says was inspired by Alexander McQueen.

“The silhouette and the design were inspired by designer Alexander McQueen,” said Ward. “I chose him because he really represents strength and femininity. I wanted to be a part of (the show) this year, because of the election: because women need to stand up for their rights.”

Condom Couture’s winning design. Photo by author.

The second place prize went to Bridgette Steven’s pink gown, inspired by her mother’s battle with breast cancer.

Condom Couture’s second-place winner. Photo by author.

Marquis Lucky-Engle, who received his HIV+ status at a Planned Parenthood clinic, got third place. His model wore a silver shell made of unwrapped condoms, which she removed to reveal a paint-splattered mini dress underneath.

“To see condoms on a dress is one thing, but to see them used is another.” He said. “I wanted to concentrate on what happens when the condoms are not used … a beautiful disaster.”

Third place; Condom Couture. Photo by author.

Sex Work and Storytelling at “Sex and Justice”

Sex and Justice Conference Oct 4-6 2012. Photo by author.

“I have been thinking a lot about the question of sex and innocence because sex is usually framed in the context of innocence and its loss—an enormously dangerous idea. We need to address this because as long as innocence is the definition of the right to be a sexual person, we will always lose. Because if we tell the truth about desire; tell the truth about our lives; tell the truth about who we are; what we do or want to do or try not to do, we will never be able to be innocent.”

–Amber Hollibaugh; Sex and Justice, October 5. 2012

I have a wrap-up of last week’s Sex and Justice Conference over at Tits and Sass.

The conference was motivating and, I think, essential. I think the event laid a groundwork for something new — exactly what, I’m not sure yet; a movement maybe.  As I mention in the article at Tits and Sass, I felt attuned to the act of storytelling as a political action, in that it is a different structure of conversation from which a new way of seeing things can emerge.

The three main conference topics were HIV criminalisation, sex work, and sex offender registries. It was unlike anything I had been to before: the speakers (which included several idols including Carol Queen, Gayle Rubin, Deon Haywood and Judith Levine) took on these issues, things usually only spoken about in near-silence, honestly and without apology.

“This conference is necessary and fundamentally frightening,” said Hollibaugh.

More from Amber Hollibaugh:

(If you talk about) the complicated lives of people who survive economically with bad choices, you can start to build a movement that can deal with these complicated lives. You can’t build movements that actually bring people together to begin to articulate the reality of the complexity of the intersections of their lives if you make people lie.”

Good Food in Columbus: Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese

My memories of Japan travel across all the senses, sometimes pausing on just one. Taste. Cool soba on a hot summer day; oden in the winter; fresh sushi from a tiny shop in Tokyo’s Hiroo district; sweet mochi from the nameless store on the backstreets of Nishi Azabu, and yakitori at the Azabu Juban festival.

Vendor at Azabu Juban Festival, Tokyo. Photo by author.
Breakfast at a ryokan in Kyoto. Photo by author.

Last year a little takoyaki stand sprung up on Columbus’ North High Street. The married couple (she is from Japan and he is Korean-American) had run a successful Japanese crepe truck the year before, and revived the name, Fresh Street, at their new venture. Popping the piping octopus-filled hot dough balls into my mouth for the first time late afternoon last summer transported my senses back to the street vendor on the neon-lit street of Osaka where I tried takoyaki for the first time. It was that good.

Sadly, Fresh Street were just borrowing the street stand on afternoons from the Mickey’s Late Night Slice pizza vendor, who decided they wanted to expand their business into the daytime, and now the takoyaki stand is no more.

But, joyfully, Fresh Street is open for business at the Double Happiness bar in the Brewery District, serving yakitori, kushiyaki and small-plate Japanese bar snacks. And, as of this week, they will be serving a special lunch-only menu too. As for takoyaki, I have been getting my fix at Tensuke Express next door to the Japanese grocery on Henderson and Kenny.

Fresh Street at Double Happiness. Photo by author.
Double Happiness decor. Photo by author.

I had been looking forward to visiting Columbus’ Asian Festival the other month and widening my appreciation for Columbus’ surprisingly healthy Asian food scene. But I had the flu for three days and missed it. I have done my own investigation around the city and these are the best places I have found so far:

Arirang, 1526 Bethel Road

There is whole bunch of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Thai businesses on and around Bethel Road. It seems to be some kind of hub.  I absolutely love the Korean market, Arirang. Here, you can pick up Korean groceries at the grocery store then sit down for a meal at the tiny attached restaurant. My favourite dish so far is the Dolsot Bibimbap (a mixed rice, vegetable and meat dish served in a hot stone bowl). All dishes come with traditional banchan, a selection of small dishes that change every day, and hot barley tea is complimentary.

Bangkok, 3277 Refugee Road

Bangkok Restaurant. Photo by author.

Like Arirang, Bangkok Restaurant is attached to a grocery store. This Thai restaurant lies in unappealing surroundings but is filled with charming images of Thailand and delightful service staff. While Bangkok offers a handful of Chinese-American dishes as well as Thai, I feel that to order them here would be a shame. I liked the pad prick pao ground pork dish.

Lan Viet, North Market, 59 Spruce Street

Lan and her husband Thanh Lee run the Lan Viet stall at the North Market. Their pho is the best, I think, in the city — though the banh mi and coffee is better at Mi Li in Northland.