Thursday, June 15, 2006

Taking Back America

John Kerry received several standing ovations for his admission of being "misled" during his speech at the Take Back America conference. He was speaking in reference to his vote of support for the war in Iraq. America, prepare yourself for JFK for president, round 2. God save the Democratic Party.

Hills to Pay the Bills

Hillary Rodham Clinton, delivering a speech at the Take Back America conference here in Washington. This was the biggest progressive conference of the year. The former first lady delivered a standard speech by all accounts, receiving a few boos for refusing to demand a withdrawal date for the troops.

Gotta love furry creatures...

That is a prairee dog at the National Zoo. Ain't it cute? Watch out, they're ferocious. Sorta.

Sunset in the District

Shot of the National Cathedral from Kilbourn street in Mount Pleasant, DC. Just a few blocks from my house.

Dusting it Off

Nick Johnson preparing for an at-bat... shortly after this picture was taken Nicky swatted a dinger. Whoopee!

It's Good to be a Fan

Especially if your name is Stu Jazface. Yep, that's him.

It'll always be Pac Bell to me...

I don't care what they call it, SBC, AT&T, or freakin Operator Park, it'll always be Pac Bell Park, by the bay.

Heilman warming up his arm, the view from Toshi's seats.

Vlad

He struck out and was pissed. Swinging for the fences will get you a K every now and then...

Lights of the Summer

Summer is here... and that means many things. It means heat and sun, swimming and barbeques, it means long nights and early mornings, but it also means baseball. The lights are on at RFK and elsewhere as the national pastime is played out. Go Giants!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Back in the Bay

It feels a bit strange to be here, I will admit, but it is nice to be home. San Francisco, it seems, will always be the place I keep coming back to. Shots of the 'sco, the bay glistening, the ships coming in, it's all part of the greatness.

Yay for bay.

Dog of my Heart

Chanu. Looking like a champ. She's old and weak these days, partially deaf and blind. She prefers to flop around the house from sleeping corner to sleeping corner it seems. However, she's still pretty damn beautiful if you ask me. And every once in a while she parks herself right in the middle of a spectacular view, with the wind blowing on top of bernal hill. Downtown salutes you, dog.

Greatest Hits

And thus it began...

As I am trying to organize my thoughts and photographs from the past four months, I am stupified as to where to begin. In a way, it helps me to test it out with my click-button desktop publishing technique. Somehow, if I put it up here then it must be good.

Well, I think I like it anyways.

The Faces I Have Grown to Love...

There were some faces made, caught, slipped, found, shot and played over the course of my journies which will remain indelible in my mind... here is a smattering of a few of my favorites.
Toshi, looking gravely twisted beneath the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca. No, he's not normally cross-eyed.
Elizabeth, showing off that darling baby face outside the Cathedral of Seville, late night. Catching flies.
My mom. Looking cute as can be. Pretty good for 56!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Barce

Lona

Madrid

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Friends, Old & New

My friends, it has been an absolute delight sharing this journey with you. Seville will forever be imbedded in my mind as one of the greatest cities on earth. My memories of this place have been forged as much through the people I have met as it has the things that I have seen and done. I am touched by you all.

Sammies, in light of our mothers, I can only say that (fortunately) we cannot determine our own circumstances. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me, it is always a gift to feel so deeply. I know your mother is very proud of you, you have strong, beautiful souls. Jah bless.

Alexis, you have a beautiful smile, you are a cunning little pixie. I look forward to adventures in Boulder, DC or SF. Elizabeth, the force is strong, thanks for helping me celebrate my birthday in such style.

Toshi, my brother. There are no words to convey the depth of my gratitude. There are few people in one's life on whom we can always depend. I have counted my blessings everyday we travelled together, I am lucky to have such a friend.

Okay, enough tears for now... tears of joy. (JT, I saved you a spot next to Mugu, you'd never believe the things I can do with photoshop! :)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Of Cathedrals and Colonies...

The cathedral of Sevilla is probably the most spectacular cathedral I have ever seen. It is absolutely immense, with something like 20 individual sanctuaries or sanchristies, something like that.

Interestingly, the cathedral boasts the sepulchre of Cristobal Colon, better known to the English world as Christopher Columbus. However, apparently there are at least a couple of other churches that also claim to house his remains in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Such matters are trivial though really because all there is to see is the tomb itself.

The sculpted guardsmen who adorn the tomb are of particular note. The man on the front left holds a spear with a cross at the top and a crescent moon at the base, symbolizing the "successful" Spanish reconquest of Muslim Spain in 1492. A victory for Christianity over the Muslims. The spear is lodged into a pomegranate at its base, symbolizing Granada, the heart of Muslim Spain. Granada (pomegranate in English) was sacked in 1492, the same year Columbus set sail for India. Dumby.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Yellow

Saying goodbye to Morocco is nice. We had a wonderful stay and saw some unforgettable things, but it was time to go.

We were exposed to a whole different way of life, a different world with different views, customs and standards. Whether bickering in the streets with the ceaseless barrage of Moroccans aiming to take advantage of our Americana, or sifting through sands of the Sahara we leave with fresh memories of good times.

I should say, we saw a tremendous amount of human suffering via poverty while in Morocco. It is evidenced in the appallingly poor physical health of the people, and the sub-standard living conditions that many of them inhabit. But the people and the land are beautiful. The simple beauty of Morocco is breathtaking. Simple, uncomplicated, natural beauty. In the cities you notice the squalor as you sift through the filth, but when we get out to the countryside we see that the country remains largely untouched...

Las Palmas

The Moroccan sky in Meknes, just minutes before it opened up and dropped hail half the size of golf balls...

Taking trains around Morocco has been a relative luxury, they run efficiently and timely, affording us tables to play chess and time to meet fellow travellers.

But the Moroccan sky never fails to impress and the sights, sounds and smells kept us constantly engaged.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Saharan Sunrise

At first, I was like, "it's 5.30 in the morning; I'm not getting up!" And then I thought to myself, "how often does one get the chance to watch the sunrise from on top of a 300 hundred foot sand dune in the middle of the Saharan desert?"

So, I got out of bed.

The Dunes


The dunes of the African Sahara are probably among the most breathtaking of sights I have ever seen...

Endless mounds of sand roll off into the horizon, like something out of a cinematic fantasy. I saw these rolling hills and all I could think of was skiing... so, I rented a snowboard and took off down the mountains only to find that the viscousity of sand is just a little bit higher than snow. A nice idea, but not a good one.

Pancake Balls

Riding camels in the Saharan desert is fun... if you are accustomed to cruel and unusual punishment.

As you can plainly tell from the look on Toshi's face, this particular journey was less than enjoyable. In fact, this picture was taken just moments before a frightful incident pitting the wrath of Toshi against the poor helpless camels was unleashed... read on below, but beware it is not for the faint of heart!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Dead Camel

And here is the aftermath of Toshi's rage... a poor helpless camel laid to waste.

Really though, I think Toshi and I have been left scarred for life when it comes to camel riding. It's safe to say that we will probably never ride camels again.

As far as Moroccan camels go however, it is probably a welcome respite. The treatment of animals in this country is nothing short of deplorable. In all honesty, the reason this camel died is because they are roped together from their mouths to the ass of the camel in front of them, with a rope that is about four feet long. Toshi's camel was roped to the ass of mine, it fell climbing up the sand dunes, and had its neck snapped by the force my camel exerted in pulling it by its mouth... not a pretty sight.

We boycotted camels from there on out, walking the Saharan sand dunes was not a problem. In the summer though, it is probably a different story.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Cherubs

Little angels. There really are no better subjects than children. They just stood there posing for me...

Inner Peace

Morocco is filled with museums and ancient houses that just spring up on you. One second you're walking down the street not expecting anything out of the ordinary, and the next you are being whisked into a building that looks rather drab from the outside. And then all of a sudden the next moment you are inside of a palace-like construction of antiquity. Immaculate and grandiose, natural light pours in through the ceiling, exposing expertly constructed vast interior spaces capable of housing more than anything else, peace and quiet.

Exceedingly Male

The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is the third largest mosque in the world, the other two being the mosques in Mecca and Medina. Hassan II is capable of housing 25 thousand warshippers at a time... 20 thousand men, and 5 thousand women, go figure. Wouldn't want all those girls interfering with your ability to communicate with Allah.

Actually though, as far as I can tell, this really seems to be the preference in the chauvanistic Arab Muslim world. The gender ratio is eternally skewed in favor of there constantly being about 4 times as many men in any given place at a time. Women are mostly relegated to kitchens, offices, hotels, or anywhere else there is something to be cleaned, or something else to be taken care of...

I don't care what they tell you, you look at these womens faces, they are not having fun. Their lives are not rich in culture, they are not free to study, they can not travel freely, they are opressed. And I'm not advocated cultural imperialism here, just making a simple observation.

Abdul Jabr's House

A shot from the rooftop of our friend Abdul Jabr's house. He took us in as his customers, but we left as friends. Abdul Jabr's house is a family heirloom that has been passed down from generation to generation. The house itself looks to be hundreds of years old from the interior, filled with tiled mosaic designs, beautifully restored arches, and tall ceilings. You would never know it was there either, right in the middle of the filthy, winding, noisy old city.

As you can see Fes is ancient and haphazardly developed, it has a certain mysterious and exotic feel to it that is truly other-worldly. Always an adventure, never a dull moment, and actually surprisingly beautiful in a saturated humanitarian way.

All Smiles

Boys and men alike flock to us with an unceasing stream of petitions. Buy this, give me that, come see this, where are you from, it never stops. It has reached the point of irritation.

Fes though, was not without its charm. As this picture clearly illustrates, the children are nevertheless cute, their smiling faces far easier to interact with than their upwards held palms.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Finding Peace

Tracking through the streets of Fes's old city today, we were accompanied by a small guide who affectionately introduced himself to us as Muhammad "cous cous," a funny little monicker. Muhammad was a kind boy, and a good guide although he made sure to lure us into every tourist trap possible.

Fes's old city is another world. The only things I have to compare it with are the old cities in Jerusalem and Hebron, which by comparison feel a million times cleaner.

We took in the sunset today from atop an ancient old city wall, a ruin overlooking other ruins. Castlelike outpost loomed behind us on the not so distant hills. Smoke billowed omonously in black streams from several locations throughout the city. We communicated sparingly with teenage Moroccan boys atop the wall as the sun went down over Fes tonight.

The only solace from the maddening assault on our senses today was found when we ducked into an ornate mosque, pretending to be part of a French tour group. The noise subsided, as did the smells. It was startling, instantly we had been transported as if by magic to the cleanest, most serene place we saw all day. When you take into account the living conditions of the people who inhabit the Arab world it becomes almost bluntly obvious how it is that Islam retains such an overpowering grip on the collective conscious of this part of the world. The only education these people get is Islam, it is more or less the only dependibly functional institution they know. No wonder they want to associate it with their politics...

Fur Days

This is the aftermath of having a tannery in your neighborhood, endless hairballs, really pleasant. The squallor of this area of Fes's old city was downright disgusting, not unlike some of the dank alleyways we walked in order to get here.

Tanning animal skin is a messy business, as evidenced by "furmania" above.

Smellovision

Taking in all that Morocco has to offer is an overwhelming task. From the constant bombardment from the locals to oblige them with your charity to the filth of the old city, things feel a lot different here.

This shot was taken from above the local sheep skin tannery in the old city. The stench was overpowering.

Into Africa...

And into the great beyond. Culture shock, perhaps the greatest I have ever had.

We have entered into Morocco, currently stationed in Fes, a city in the North-Eastern portion of the country. This country smells, tastes, sounds and looks different. I guess that means it feels different, too.

We spent more or less 48 hours travelling from Granada to Fes, by bus, bus, boat, bus, and more stinky, crowded, crappy bus. This shot is obviously from the boat portion of our journey, we sailed from Malaga in southern Spain to Melilla which is Spanish Morocco. It took 8 hours to make that portion of our trek, although it is probably only a few hundred kilometers. But we are finally at something of a destination.

Spent this morning trying to get our laundry cleaned unsuccesfully. Tomorrow is another day...

Meandering...

Canyonside walkways traverse the Alpujarran landscape. Hiking throught the streams and valleys we seldom came across a wayword travellor, however we did make friends with an American kid from Portland Oregon, named Will.

Lots of walking, lots of eating, reading, talking, and chess... I think I am turning the tide on Toshi.

Tractor Towns?

Could not figure out a good title for this entry so, tractor towns will have to do... I also cannot find the apostrophe on a Moroccan keyboard, hence the lateness of this post, and my less abbreviated English. I want to make my writing as accessible as possible to my legions of dedicated readers, bless you all.

This is shot from one of our hikes through the mountains of the Alpujarras in Southern Spain. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can see the white-washed town of Campaleira, nestled into the side of the mountain. Two days of beautiful, scenic hiking, exploring the many towns that dot this scenic landscape. Ham like you would not believe, everything pig. Often three different kinds of pig; pig fat, cured pig, pig sausage, you name it. The hotel we stayed at was selling legs of cured pig for 7.50 a kilo!

Not very sensitive to the Jewish or Muslim diet, but delicious nonetheless. I am now officially a bonified pork enthusiast. Unbelievable mountain meals, I think the food might have been even better than the scenery.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Wallada

Another view of spectacular Granada. This one comes from atop an ancient wall at the fringes of the mountain borders. Green and illustrious, spectacular, breathtaking.

Tonight we are up in the mountains that you can see in the far distance. In a little town called Bubion, on of the many "Alpujarras" as they are called. Las Alpujarras are a cluster of small mountain villages, perfect for hiking and paragliding! Tomorrow hopefully, we shall endeavor.

Granada, Come on Pretty Mama

The breathtaking view of Granada's mountains and Alhambra can be taken in from the nearby Albaycin, atop a local hillside.

Granada is a manageable and beautiful little city, filled with quaint old neighborhoods and a grand Cathedral. The mountains though, are truly what set it apart from the rest. The Alhambra, pictured here, was a Moorish palace built supposedly as heaven on earth. Not bad real estate, I'd say.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Mo' Fun

Life is certainly more fun with a mohawk. Just ask the Spanish. The mullet/mohawk is all the rage here, so Toshi and I ventured to make our stay authentic. The best part is, as your hair grows out, you get a mullet! Can't wait.

Working on a mustache too, you might not be able to tell from the photo, but it's saucy. Flavor saver to boot.

Punk rock baby.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Whoa!

As an afterthought, it occured to me that I should provide a partial view of the complex so that one might be able to gain a sense of the majesty of this place. Behold the work of Francisco Calatrava, architectural mastermind.

La Barba

Yes... that's Toshi with a beard.

There are some stunning architectural wonders here in Valencia, not the least of which is the framework of the structure one can see behind my lovely furry subject. This construction is part of a larger complex that is made up of the opera house and Valencia's museum of natural sciences. The architect is the renowned Francisco Calatrava who, among other things, designed the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM). My grandfather I know, will be delighted by this factoid.

Calatrava's buildings seem to conjure the ocean, and are consistently reminiscent of sea vessels. The Valencia opera house reminds me more of a cruise ship, whereas the MAM is more akin to a light and airy sailing ship. Beautiful work, immediately recognizable. His work seems to interact seamlessly with the natural environment around it, most notably affecting the air and the water. Truly magnificent.

Valencia!

Valencia has arrived. This sunny coastal city hosted us in magnificent fashion yesterday, sunny skies and a temperature of nearly 75 degrees! Absolutely beautiful. We rented bicycles and pedaled our way down to the beach.

Along the way, we encountered this skate park. I couldn't help but to be reminded of Tony Hawk's skateboard videogames. These guys weren't great, but they weren't bad, either.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Saying Goodbye

As the games turn from current events to recent memories, we are left with the lingering passion passed on to us by all those participating in the games. It may not have been the most historic, nor the more efficient, but it was my first, and I loved it. So many highs and lows, so many peoples life work coming together to put on one of the greatest events on earth.

I went to the official Sports Illustrated party in Torino on one of the last nights, it was held at the official "Budweiser Club." Go figure. I met Chad Hedrick, Apollo Ohno, Shani Davis, Toby Dawson, and shared drinks with the hallowed Rick Reilly. Amazing.

Sad to see the games end, but such high notes. Can't wait for Spain.

Winners

If your last name is Ohno, life is good. After winning gold in the 500m short track and a host of other medals, your marketability and national reporte are at an all time high. Capitalize baby, relive the successes. It's all smiles when you win.

...and Losers

In the end it's all just games, and as the 16-day events slips quickly out of our conscious and into the history books, we are left only with our memories. Images, stories and records, or lack thereof. Especially if you're Bode Miller, American loser supreme of these games. All the hype, one can only imagine the sour taste left in this guy's mouth as all the cameras fade to black. Failed ad campaigns, perhaps forever branded a loser. Some people's 15 minutes are shorter than other's I suppose...