Friday, February 24, 2006

Torino Skyline

Here is another shot of the Mole with a little bit of scale, as per the request of my mummie. As you can see from this shot, the building is absolutely massive, and dominates the Torino skyline.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Mole Antonionella

This is a particularly nice picture of the Mole Antonionella, Torino's landmark of the 20th Winter Olympic Games. The building was originally constructed as a synagogue, but was later claimed as a theater, due to the fact that it was far to expensive to up-keep. It is now a theater museum, and the lines were way too long today to get in, but I got this nice picture instead.

Reactions

The emotions of the games are what makes the performance special. It's that moment when the scoreboard flashes the winning score, the fastest time and the first place marker. All the hard work, all the tireless efforts, the practice, the work-outs have finally paid off. As fans we can bask in their glory with them.

But after the dust settles and we've all gone home, the win is not our own. No matter how bad we want it, for our country, for our hometowns, for ourselves, the victory is the athlete's, and the athlete's alone.

The women's 3000m speed skating relay final was last night. Korea, China, Canada, and Italy competed against each other and finished in that order. The Italian team was beside itself at the finish, waving their fingers in the air in a pronounced show of dissaproval at the way the race had gone down. After careful review by the judges the Chinese team was disqualified for impeding another skater during the race, and Italy was bumped in the bronze medal position. The crowd went wild, the Italian ladies team instantly burst into tears and an Italian fan ran down from the stands and hurled the flag into the waiting hands of the final Italian skater. Tears poured from the eyes of the Italians for joy and from the eyes of the Chinese for sorrow, and the Koreans hugged them both.

It was a controversial decision on the part of the judges, but it was a beautiful sight to behold, and a beautiful moment to take in.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Mountain Morning Snowfall

The beauty of a fresh snowfall never ceases to inspire. This morning the Italian alps were covered in a heavy dusting of the white stuff.

As tree branches sagged under the weight of the soggy fluff, Al and I endured the sun while shooting the ladies Super G final. Not much to write home about, as I mentioned to Al, I would have been pissed had I payed 140 Euros to sit in the stands and watch little skiers cross a finish line.

Needless to say, the snow was by far the greatest sight of the day.

Portrait of an Athlete

Katalin Kristo, 22, sole representative of Romania for women's short track speed skating. Katalin sat with us last night as we observed the speed skating, although she had not fared successfully the night before, she looked forward to further pursuing her athletic career.

Athletes at the olympic games are kids under the microscope. They are proded, tested, and occasionally even injected with illegal substances, as in the case we are seeing with the Austrians tonight. Life lessons are gleaned on the playing fields, mistakes made, bruises earned. But more than anything else the games are about the spirit of human perseverance. It's all about heart.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Gold in Orange

The Dutchies were out in major numbers tonight to support their women's speed skating team. True to form, and to the appeasement of the thousands of boisterous Dutch fans singing beer tunes, Timmer won...

Friday, February 17, 2006

It's good to win...

Just ask Toby Dawson, this was his celebration after finishing his run a couple of nights ago...

I haven't been able to shoot the past couple of days, but tomorrow we are doing short track speed skating, and I expect to shoot that.

Flipping the Bit

I was at the womens boarder cross today. I watched Lindsey Jacobellis fall about 50 meters from the finish line and lose the gold medal. She was showing off and decided to tweak a grab on the second to last jump, and she will regret if for the rest of her life. Man, it was like watching a train wreck. Life lessons learned today.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Bumps & Jumps

Men's moguls. The word mogul is apparently derived from the Austrian 'mugel,' meaning small hill.

Last night we saw some rediculous maneuvers including an off-axis 1080 from the Canadian Alex Bilodeau currently ranked number two on the world cup circuit. That's 3 full revolutions in the air at an off-axis degree, meaning upside-down and sideways. He landed it cleanly, absolutely amazing. I was standing with his family during the competition, they were understandably disappointed when the judges failed to award him a high score given the degree of difficulty...

So much pressure on these athletes, this Canadian bailed mid-jump on a 720, thus I caught him in this dynamic pose. Nice moves.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Skating By...

Women's 500m speed skating. No world records tonight, but plenty of speed nonetheless. A gold for the Russian skater Svetlana Zhurova, she left it all on the ice tonight.

This picture, however, depicts one of the Japanese skaters. There is though, a Chinese skater by the name of Manli Wang, a rather unfortunate name to say the least. I had the good fortune of meeting a friendly fellow photographer who was so kind as to lend me her 200mm zoom lens, although I barely could work it with my camera, I made this shot.

And while I'm shooting olympic athletes, Dick Cheney is busy shooting people in the face. Could there be a more appropriate occurence to symbolize the ineptness, disregard and corruption of the current administration. Regardless, I know people will interpret this event in what ever manner best suits their political perspective, but I think the efforts to cover it up and irresponsibility that surround this are indicative of what we are dealing with.

Mens moguls tomorrow. Whoopee!

Inverted Teter

Hannah Teter, goes inverted and wins gold for the United States. The US currently leads all countries in gold medals, all taken in snowboarding and speedskating. US dominance in snowboarding is widely revered across nationalities here at the games.

Al Tielemans, the photographer I am assisting, was given a lecture yesterday by one of the snowboard magazine photographers. It appears Sports Illustrated is not up to snuff in terms of shooting boarders. There is a technique to shooting these guys, they want proper form (with grabs) and the lip of the halpipe in view (to show amplitude). Hey man, snowboarding isn't just a sport okay? "It's a lifestyle," and I quote here.

Incidentally, speaking of "Amplitude," it looks at this point as though Al got the SI cover this week. It's a shot of Shaun White sailing high through the sky between some mountains and some trees. Very nice shot. Al has had about 45 covers, so it's not an unbelievable occurence, but definitely a cause for celebration. He was one of two SI photographers covering the biggest story in American sports this week, and I was there baby.

Get Amped.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Chillin at the Pipe

"Dude, I'm so stoked!" and other American colloquialisms fill the air around here. American wunderkind, Shaun White (age 19), took the gold for the Americans yesterday. There was a little bit of suspense when he had a poor first run during the qualification stage, but by the finals he had already taken gold before he took his last run.

I was standing right in front of his overwhelmed, sobbing parents as he won the gold, it was a heart-warming sight. An honor to be the best in any category, Shaun White is pretty much regarded as the future of snowboarding, the Lebron James of halfpipe, if you will.

As you can see from this photo, the amount of air between these riders and the top of the pipe is absolutely stupefying. Aside from the verticality, the flips, spins and grabs they combine, make the aerial dance that much more exciting.

Sestriere

This is the view from our hotel balcony in Sestriere. On the left side of the mountain is where the downhill took place yesterday. No medals for Bode, oh well, I'm not surprised. Walking around town yesterday, you could really sense that the Olympics have arrived.

No medals yet for the Italians, they are a bit sore from anticipation, it weighs heavily on the citizens of this nation. They really want to look good in the eyes of the world, and I think also as a European nation, they possess a strong desire to show up in front of France and Germany who typically do very well. Well, at least the cappuccino is good.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Fronting It

Sara Kjellin, Swedish Olympian in the ladies moguls event, completes the first frontflip ever in Olympic competition for ladies moguls. A very difficult maneuver, it requires the athlete to throw all weight over the skis, a nifty little tuck right after being catapulted into the air at a somewhat backward angle.

Kjellin placed 4th overall, but was the only athlete present to attempt the frontflip.

Let The Games Begin!

A view from behind the Olympic Moguls venue in Sauze D'Oulx, don't ask me how to pronounce that. I witnessed the ladies moguls event from the base of the course, in the pit with the rest of the media. Awesome.

Inverted aerials, introduced into international competition in 2004, have proliferated. Flips, 720s, crosses, grabs, they did it all. I am currently writing from the media center at the base of the snowboard halfpipe where we're covering the men's snowboard halfpipe final. Shaun White, 19, is the favorite to take gold, and most likely he will run away with the medal. He starts 8th today, in about 10 minutes...

The atmosphere here is electric, the spirit of friendly international competition abounds. Seeing the Canadian (Heil) win the gold last night, it was a beautiful sight to behold. Family, friends, fellow patriots, all are invited to bask in the glory of success. And on the other end, the bitter taste of failure. I observed as Hannah Kearney (USA) broke down in front of her trainer, and said she couldn't continue skiing anymore, after finishing 22nd after qualifying. Being here in person, you really get a sense of how fleeting the competition is. You get a qualifying run (30 seconds) and then the top 20 go to the finals for one more 30 second run, and that's it. Go big or go home. Lay it all on the line, you've worked all your life towards this, and all you're gonna get is about a minute at most. Pressure doesn't even begin to describe...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Venice Moon

Beautiful Venice... bella Venezia.

Wandering the streets of this ancient and beautiful city. Intricate artisanry from the architecture to the Carnevale masks, I am awed by the attention to detail. I am also curious how people afford to live in this town. In fact, for the most part I don't think they can. I was talking to one resident, Elisabetta lives with her parents in a suburb, but her grandparents live in the actual city of Venice. Her grandfather can't walk up and down the stairs anymore (he's 82), and there is no way to drive a car into the city, so you can imagine his contact with his family and the outside world is severely limited.

Venice truly is unique. I watched the Super Bowl from a bar in Venice, they tried to kick us out early. We resisted. I bumped into Jonathan Pasternack though, a cousin of mine, crazy. I guess though, of all places to bump into an American in Venice, the only bar broadcasting the Super Bowl is a pretty good place. Go figure.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Grid-Iron Green

A quick shot from a garden staircase in Roma. It is quite a beautiful city, ancient and modern at the same time.

I have been following the developments in response to the cartoon of Muhammed quite closely in the past few days. The scene outside the Danish embassy in Beirut was quite a shocking sight. It occurs to me that these violent reactionary outbursts only serve to credit the assertion the cartoon is making of a militant and subversive Islamist culture. There appears to be such a great divide between our cultures when it comes to diplomacy. It makes me wonder why people would prefer fighting to just sitting down and having a friendly chat.

Watching this whole nuclear showdown unfold between Iran and the UN also, what a mess. Believe me, I don't want to see Iran with nuclear warheads, but from their perspective why should they listen to the US when we continue to develop our nuclear arsenal? Bush and his bunker-busters, the US although in the process of decreasing the size of our arsenal in coordination with Russia, we are in the process of upgrading and maintaining our nuclear warheads, so as to make them more effective. Bush scrapped the IBM treaty, it's no wonder Iran pays the UN no heed.

Alito to the Supreme Court... an interesting tidbit I picked up recently that I hadn't realized until now, there is now a Catholic majority on the Supreme Court. Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, Alito and Roberts. Trouble for Roe although you never know with these tricky justices. Maybe at the very least they'll get rid of the death penalty too.

Boehner as speaker of the house of representatives, don't know much about this guy yet, but from what I gather he's about as knee-deep in lobbyist money as "Teflon Tom." Tim Kaine addressed the nation as the Democratic representative to rebut the President's State of the Union address. Go Tim. I can personally attest to the fact that he's a good man, with good character, and a kind heart. Everyone keeps talking about how he's emblematic of the solution to the Democrats woes, I'm not sure I agree, but still nice to know I worked to get that guy elected. A Catholic too.

I'm in Venice now, a beautiful, if surreal city. Too expensive though. Travelling to Turin the day after tomorrow for the Olympics. Gotta run now... Super Bowl is about to kick-off. Go Steelers!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Swastika

Roma is not the cleanest of cities. Even the nicest of neighborhoods, such as Monteverde where I encountered the piece you see before you, the ancient buildings and walls are riddled by graffiti. This is just one piece I encountered prominently displaying the swastika and other such fascist ideology. To be sure, there is plenty of other political graffiti espousing rivaling perspectives, but there is plenty of this as well. It is a testament more than anything else, of what is tolerated. Perhaps the vast majority of Italians write these political ideologues off as fringe extremists, but whatever they are doing is not quelling the intolerance. It’s a joke to Italians, the silly fascists, they don’t know what they say. No one takes them seriously, my friend Malva tells me.

Well, I take it very seriously. I acknowledge the fact that I am overly sensitive, given the fact I have just returned from Israel. And although I am reacting to the Swastika as a Jew, I am afraid more of what this fascist line of thought means for the Africans and Muslims who inhabit Italy. The homeless people of this city are almost unfailingly Gypsy; they are marginalized and disregarded as you would a stray dog.

I visited the old Jewish ghetto of Roma yesterday. I saw the great synagogue, and I spoke at great lengths with one of the kind docents of the museum there. I asked her about the flight of Jews from Roma, whether the Jewish community still thrives. She remarked with a wry smile, “we’re still here aren’t we?”

Yes. We are still here, as are the Palestinians in Israel, as are the blacks in America. These are true Romans, who can draw Roman family lines back 500 years in history. I don’t want to dismiss the swastika, I don’t want to be desensitized by it, and I do not want to write off the “silly Italian fascists.” In a city where there is an entire district (now populated by Italian movie stars and other celebrities) still called the “ghetto,” but which is losing relevance as a historically significant example of human rights violations…

It’s cool to be different. It always has been, it always will be. It is tolerated in Italy that one of the ways in which youth display their uniqueness, is by joining the Fascist movement. Again, a nation is defined not just by what it does, it is defined by what it tolerates.

Forza Roma!

This is a shot from the soccer match I attended the other night. The competition pitted Roma against the revered Juventus squad from the north of Italy, I believe they are actually from Turino, an appropriate event given my itinerary. We paid €25 each for tickets so that we could sit with Roma fans, all the “curva sud” (southern curve of the stadium) tickets were taken. “Curva sud” is where true Roman fans sit.

The other option for cheap seats were to sit with the Lazio fans, Lazio is the other Roman soccer team. Apart from the fact that we wanted to sit and cheer with the Roma fans, Malva alerted me to the fact that we should not sit with the Lazio fans because they are hooligans and fascist supporters. In fact, one of the developing news stories here in Italy relates to the fact that Roma fans (not Lazio fans) unfurled Nazi banners at recent soccer match at the Estadio Olimpico. Fascism in Italy is alive and thriving. Healthy enough that it was tolerated to the point that the match was not stopped to remove the banners, for fear of inciting violence from unruly and belligerent fans.

The display was a provocative gesture aimed at the Livorno squad, popularly regarded as a bunch of leftists for their open displays of the hammer and sickle, and established communist inclinations. “Futbol” here is much more than just a means of popular entertainment it seems, it is a forum for political organizing. In fact “Forza Roma!,” the slogan of the Roman football team, was borrowed by the campaign of increasingly discomforting Silvio Berslusconi (Italian Prime Minister, who by the way pledges not to have sex until the general election on April 9). Berlusconi’s slogan was “Forza Italia,” and incidentally (not coincidentally) he carries heavy support amongst the fascists for promising increased unemployment welfare benefits. Appropriate.

Given the context of my travels, this only deepens my concerns with regard to the severity and profundity of the racism that stills thrives in modern society. Don’t ignore it. Congress just voted today to extend the Patriot Act. This is just one way in which the United States keeps up the tradition of racial profiling, and violates our civil liberties. It’s a slippery slope.

Visit Palestine

Departing Israel/Palestine has been such sweet sorrow. I am so profoundly altered by all the things I saw and experienced. I am moved by the generosity and hospitality of all my hosts, I am inspired by the ways in which they have encouraged and enabled me to pursue social justice and the truth. This is a place, a conflict, a struggle, a state of mind I will return to again and again.

I am excited to move on to the next phase of my journey, I have much ahead of me, the Olympics should be thrilling. However, I am caught up in what I just came from. I watched yesterday from an internet cafe in Roma, live news feeds of Israeli soldiers corralling and battling with settlers illegally squatting (I believe it was outside of Hebron). I am struck by how emotionally fragile my Israeli experience has left me. Watching these terrible confrontations between soldiers, who are just kids younger than myself, angry for having to be there in the first place dealing with crazed racist settlers. And settlers who have been invigorated by a false sense of security provided them by the government. Footage of Israeli forces on horseback trampling hordes of fanatical occupiers, just a frightening sight.

The problem is the more I process it, the more unjust it seems. Palestinians incurring similar forms of resistance would assuredly meet the wrath of live ammunition. Bloodshed in such circumstances is a guarantee.

Of course the settlers are not trying to kill Israeli soldiers, but they pelt them with the same stones that the Palestinians do, seriously injuring the soldiers. We make light of the situation by minimizing it to a case of Palestinians have rocks and Israeli soldiers have guns. These are not small stones, they are dropped or thrown with great force behind them. Just imagine what it would be like to be a scared 19 year-old boy surrounded by mobs of lunatics literally stoning you. You've got an automatic machine gun, and your life to protect, what do you do?

These are serious displays of violence and should be dealt with sternly. That the Israeli government tolerates such acts of internal unrest without legally prosecuting each and every one of the perpetrators further undermines the legitimacy of Israeli rule. This is in addition to the ways in which the Israeli authorities undermine themselves by dealing with the same acts of resistance on a sliding scale of racially prejudicial enforcement.

So Israel, Palestine, whatever exclusion or amalgamation of the two you want to call it, remains an enigma to me. And I now feel more deeply connected to the place than ever before, I think at least this much is good. Forget the labels, people want to know where I stand, I stand for peace (true peace, mind you), equality, and reconciliation. It's just that simple. I will not rest until I see an improvement in the quality of life for both Jews and Muslims, and a cessation of violence between the factions in the holy land.

So visit Palestine. Come to the holy land, and cross the lines. Pass beyond the walls both figurative and tangible. Come to understand that Arabs don’t hate you, and that it is not dangerous to be an American in the West Bank. And at the same time understand how dangerous Israelis and Palestinians have made life for themselves and each other. Understand that if we continue on the current course we are taking in Iraq that we will create a similar circumstance for ourselves. It will only continue to become more dangerous in America, our actions in Iraq are not making us safer. George Bush and his cronies are lying through their teeth. They don’t even believe the lies they tell.

Ask yourself whether you are committed establishing international American hegemony, or whether you would rather just be a citizen of the world. And then visit Palestine.