Category Archives: Travel

Laosy Leeches

Arlo, he of the fantabulous memutic channel over on the youtubes, posted this video featuring his homebrew treatment for a gnarly case of bedbug-induced swollen foot.  Not for the squeamish or Wil Wheaton.

Leave a comment

Filed under Nature, Travel

In Post-Soviet Russia, Blue Bucket Is Middle Finger

Ryan’s Russia is the best new show on Bloomberg Television.  How do I know this?  Full Disclosure: I am a closed captioner for the hearing impaired and I caption Bloomberg News nearly every day.  Though I’m not their target demographic, Ryan’s Russia has been a nice little surprise.  It’s hosted by Ryan Chilcote, who spent time in Russia as an exchange student in the ’90s.  He’s speaks the language fluently and, in a refreshing change of pace — get ready for this — does some actual long-form reporting, the likes of which you might find on the endangered species list.

Edit: Well, crap.  Bloomberg is not terribly embed-friendly.  That’s unfortunate.  Go here to watch the full episode. 

The first segment of the program deals with a problem near and dear to my heart, traffic.  Did you know Moscow has the worst traffic in the world?  I didn’t either.  Moscow’s roads were designed around public transport.  But since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russians have developed a desire for self-contained human transport solutions, or cars.  In the above video, Chilcote demonstrates how on an average day, a drive from the airport to the Kremlin — a distance of 19 miles — takes three and a half hours.  As an Angeleno, I’m not sure whether to rejoice or weep over the fact that we’ve been beaten by the Russians in a leisure activity at which we truly excelled.

But the terrible traffic is only half the story.  I first became aware of the larger issue couple of years ago, when I read William Gibson’s excellent Pattern Recognition.  Part of the story takes places in Moscow and Gibson talks about how the politically powerful and the wealthy get around the traffic in cars equipped with flashing blue lights.  Everyone is supposed to make way, like good little former communists.  But no longer.  A spunky group of protestors calling themselves the Blue Bucket Brigade dress up like Stalin’s secret police, affix blue buckets to the roofs of their cars (and to their heads) to speak out against such abuses.  They have apparently become quite a headache to the elite.  Good show, comrades.

In the same episode, Chilcote also talks to anti-corruption crusader, Alexei Navalny.  He uses a pretty awesome technique to gather information about Russia’s secretive corporations.  Navalny buys stocks in the companies which grants him access to their filings.  He then posts what he finds on his blog.  Needless to say, this makes Vladimir Putin unhappy.  Chilcote also visits a cemetery in Moscow which is the final resting place for remains of dozens of people killed by Chechen rebels in the  Moscow Theater siege as well as several former Soviet-era hockey gods.  The whole series is well worth watching.  And I’d like to give a thumbs up to the art department for the graphics.  I wish there were some images available to post.

Leave a comment

Filed under Automotive, Counterculture, News, Travel

The U.S.S. Bowfin – Steampunk Eye Candy

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II.  I visited Pearl Harbor a few weeks ago and was, like countless others, moved by the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.  But the highlight of the day for me was the U.S.S. Bowfin, a Balao class submarine launched exactly one year after the attack and dubbed “The Pearl Harbor Avenger.”

Forward torpedo tubes on the USS Bowfin

I’m what you might call a casual military history nut.  I’ve always found submarines fascinating and wondered what it would be like to live trapped inside a tube deep underwater.  I can’t decide whether it would be really cool or really hellish to serve aboard a submarine for months on end.  I imagine it’s a mix of both.

Orange-tinted glass and impossibly polished brass

I’ve toured several submarines, but what stands out about the U.S.S. Bowfin is its aesthetically divine interior.  If you are at all into the steampunk aesthetic, the Bowfin is a wet dream wonderland.

Don't touch that dial

If you’ve ever been inside a sub, you know that there’s not an inch of wasted space.  What amazed me about the Bowfin was that though it is a machine built for a very utilitarian purpose, every instrument, every piece of equipment is a work of art.  The craftsmanship is astounding.  They certainly don’t make ’em like this anymore.

Walking around inside, it was hard to believe this ship is 70 years old.  Not only was it built at a time when things were built to last, but they put a lot of work into the upkeep of the ship.  The thing that stood out to me immediately was the shiny, shiny brass.  I asked the docent how often they polished it.  Every day.

Can you guess which ones have been replaced?

I’ve posted more photos on my Tumblr page and will be adding more in the coming days.  Happy Pearl Harbor Day.

Stand Full Flank

Leave a comment

Filed under Living History, Travel

Hawaiian Rainforest Fungi

My first thought when I arrived in Honolulu and took a walk from my hotel was, “This is like Las Vegas.”  I suppose I shouldn’t have been shocked, but I was.  Shocked and disappointed that I was surrounded by miles of shops, towering hotel complexes, and a main drag congested with tourists and the varied assortment of barkers, hawkers, buskers and “World Famous Silver/Gold Men” that make Vegas the kind of place I’m all to happy to stay far away from.  I thought going to Hawaii would mean traveling thousands of miles to get away from it all, not traveling thousands of miles to see what I could see at any mall in America.  The last thing I wanted from my island vacation was to be stuck in Vegas By The Shore.

Luckily, Oahu is a small island and getting far, far away from the maddening crowd is really easy.  Just a 10 minute drive from the dreaded Waikiki strip is the lovely Hawaii Nature Center and its miles of hiking trails that take you up the mountains and into the rainforest.

It was here that I found a part of the Hawaii I was looking for.  Unbelievably, though it is just minutes away from the tourist cauldron, we maybe saw a dozen people here and they all seemed to be locals out for exercise.  The rainforest is, of course, beautiful.  But I have a fetish for fungi, so that is mostly what I took pictures of.

I’ll post more of the flora and fauna of the forest in the coming days, but this post is all about the shrooms, dude.

Another one of my fetishes is moss.  The moss in this rainforest was so lush and thick you could use it for a pillow.  I’ll have more on the moss later.

 I was really likin’ this lichen.  Which I guess is not technically a fungus.

I’m sorry I can’t identify any of these.  I’m pretty useless when it comes to the proper names.  I know I should learn at least some of the more common species, but more than anything, I just like the way they look.  To me, it’s fascinating that on these remote islands, thousands of miles away from the nearest land mass, thousands of years before humans discovered them, plants and animals were already abundant.

Stay tuned for more rainforest photos.  I promise there won’t be any mushrooms in the next batch.

Leave a comment

Filed under Nature, Travel

In Hawaii…

Honolulu Airport

…even the men on the restroom signs wear aloha shirts and koa nut leis.

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor, Travel

Living History – Pearl Harbor

Hawaii is a place of impossible beauty.  But it is also inextricably linked to Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II.  If your travels bring you to Oahu, you owe it to yourself to visit  Pearl Harbor.  It is, to be certain, a must-see.

The conning tower of the WWII submarine, U.S.S. Bowfin.

Personally, the highlight of the Pearl Harbor tour was the U.S.S. Bowfin.  I’ll have a more detailed post about and photos of this incredible submarine in the next few days.

Image taken from the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri, where the Japanese surrender was signed on September 2, 1945.

Another unmissable stop on the Pearl Harbor tour was the battleship USS Missouri.  It was the last battleship manufactured and last battleship decommissioned by the US Navy.  The”Big Mo”  fought in battles from WWII to the Persian Gulf.  She is a testament to naval engineering and utilitarian design.

The U.S.S. Arizona, as seen from the memorial at Pearl Harbor.

The U.S.S. Arizona as seen from the memorial at Pearl Harbor.

Of course, no trip to Pearl Harbor is complete without visiting the U.S.S. Arizona memorial.  The monument marks the final resting place for more than 1,000 U.S. sailors killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The memorial itself is stoically beautiful and hauntingly unforgettable.

Leave a comment

Filed under Living History, Travel

Mahalo For The Music

I’ve long had a soft spot in my head for Hawaiian music.  For me, it all began with Martin Denny.  Even in the ’90s when the lounge music craze came back with a gentle fury, the Martin Denny’s album covers still evoked a sense of the exotic other that always made me wonder just how much more exotic they must have seemed when they were first released in the late ’50s.

While I appreciated the charming, kitschy qualities of Denny’s music more than the awesome musicianship and tunesmithery, something kept bringing me back to his music.  At the time, I had been seriously studying world music– particularly African music.  It never occurred to me to think of Hawaiian music as “world” music because Hawaii was just another state in the U.S. of A.  But Hawaii didn’t officially become a state until nearly 15 years after WWII.  At the same time, I was listening to a lot of folk guitarists like Nick Drake and John Fahey (two opposite ends of the spectrum, but there you have it.)  So it was only natural that I came to have an appreciation for Hawaiian slack key guitar music.

Here’s a tune by the great slack key master, Keola Beamer.  It’s nearly impossible to listen to it and not immediately feel relaxed.  Imagine hearing this on a white sand beach at sunset with a cold alcoholic beverage in your hand and it’s easy to see why this is the real deal perfect Hawaiian music.

Two masters in this clip– Ledward Kaapana on the slack key guitar and Bob Brozman on the dobro.  Sublime.

The sound I came to associate most with Hawaiian music was the steel guitar.  I’m a sucker for good slide guitar– old blues, country, rock or whatever.  It doesn’t  matter.  But the tonal qualities are especially well suited to lazing about white sand beaches at sunset.  In this clip, steel guitar virtuoso, Jerry Byrd, plays the “fry pan” steel guitar, the first lap steel guitar ever produced.

Since my trip, I’ve been investigating earlier, pre-WWII Hawaiian music I will share in an upcoming post.  Mahalo nui loa and stay tuned.

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, Sound + Vision, Travel