battery park’s seaglass carousel

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I have a thing for carousels.Ever since I had back surgery in high school, I can’t ride roller coasters. I was never that fond of roller coasters to begin with, but once that option was taken from me, I just really want to ride a roller coaster. It was even more Tantalus-like because I lived about five minutes from Kings Island (I could see their fireworks from my backyard), and when my high school physics class took a field trip to Cedar Point, guess who rode the merry-go-round again and again and again?

Anyhow, I learned to love merry-go-rounds and carousels and have made peace with the fact that I will never ride a roller coaster ever again. No matter. While roller coasters rely on screams and thrills, carousels are works of art. Take for example the SeaGlass Carousel in Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan. It was built while I was in Shanghai, so I hadn’t heard of it until I was interviewing for jobs. The firm I was interviewing at (but who didn’t get back to me until I had been at my current job for a month already – what’s up with that?!) had worked on the project and they showed me a video of it … and I was mesmerized. So when my sister was in town, I dragged her down there and we rode the carousel.

Totally awesome. Lights, colors, trippy music, and fun for all ages. It was a bit pricey at $5 for a 3.5-minute ride, so it’s not something you could ride on repeat without going broke, but I’d definitely go again.

SeaGlass Carousel
seaglasscarousel.nyc
Battery Park (entrance at State and Water Streets)
New York, NY
Open Daily, 7 AM – 7 PM

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baby crocs in new york

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Have you ever heard that urban legend about crocodiles living in the New York City sewers? Well, there are Crocs in New York City, but these are of the ugly shoe kind. On 34th Street across from the flagship Macy’s store is a Crocs store. And on the wall they have this really cool two-story-tall mural of Lady Liberty made out of baby Crocs shoes! It’s really quite amazing. Although the shoes are ugly. Okay, some of the brand’s newer styles are actually kinda cute, and I do own a pair of their pointy-toe flats. But although I will admit that the classic Crocs are comfy, they are still very, very ugly and should never be worn outside the house/garden/hospital.

in your easter bonnet … in the easter parade

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I hope everyone had a happy Easter! Since I last posted, I got a job, I moved, I had family visit, and I joined in on the Easter Parade!

This was actually the first time I’d been to the Easter Parade, but it’s definitely been something I’ve always wanted to do … pretty much ever since I saw the 1948 film Easter Parade. I mean, who doesn’t love Judy Garland? Especially when she sings about walking down Fifth Avenue in Easter bonnets in the Easter Parade … and now I’ve done it! With my sister! Wearing pretty wreaths she made us.

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Technically it’s the New York City Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival, because it’s really all about the bonnets. And it’s really not a parade. It’s more like they just closed a bunch of streets so that people can gather and walk around and take pictures of each other. And although there’s nothing to actually do, it’s still pretty fun. Because New Yorkers are weird. And children are adorable.

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chicago o’hare: my most hated airport

With the crazy weather out East, I’m thankful as heck to be way over in Nevada! Although I’ll actually be going out East next week, so hopefully things are better by then. A few weeks back I spent a few days in New York (no snow at the time), and on the way back had a layover at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport … reaffirming ORD as my most hated airport. Then again, they do have this amazing tunnel, which is by far the coolest thing at O’Hare!

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The tunnel connects United’s B and C concourses, has a mirrored ceiling and neon lighting installation by Michael Hayden (Sky’s the Limit, 1987), backlit colored panels on the wall, and was just wow. It almost made up for a delayed flight, horrendously long trek across the airport, and lackluster chicken quesadilla I wolfed down. Rainbow colors, mirrors, and neon lighting? It’s like I was back in China! It was also a complete surprise to me because even though I’ve been to ORD many times before, I normally don’t fly United and had never had the pleasure of seeing the tunnel before.

So why, might you ask, do I so dislike Chicago O’Hare? Three reasons: A) I always seem to have a delayed flight (either to or from there), B) It’s such a crazy large airport that it takes forever to get anywhere, and C) I’ve only ever been to ORD on layovers, and layovers inherently suck. It’s not the airport’s fault that it’s a major hub, it’s incredibly busy, and Chicago weather causes a lot of delays, but I still prefer to change flights elsewhere … especially in winter.

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My flight into Chicago was delayed an hour because it had just started snowing in Chicago and ORD was backed up, but thankfully my layover was long enough that the connection was ‘a bit tight’ rather than ‘run like you’ve never run before’. My flight out boarded on time, but was delayed due to the de-icing process, which was actually pretty cool to watch from my window seat on the wing (my favorite seat). Basically a giant mechanical arm with a bright light and sprayer head on a pivot just went back and forth spraying the wing down.

In the end, my flight landed on time due to favorable winds, so all in all the experience wasn’t that bad. But I still just do not like Chicago O’Hare. Because as much as I bemoan the pretty-much-given delays and borderline-incompetent staff at some Chinese airports (oh PVG, will you ever get your act together?), I always feel like Chicago should be better. But alas, one change the weather.

Safe travels to all you out there!

two benjamins: crazy-colored and well-traveled

This is probably old news to most Americans, but I’ve been in China for the last two years so I’m not very accustomed to the new banknotes. And seriously? The new 100-dollar bill is weird. I mean … the COLORS! The blue! The orange! They’re supposed to be green. That’s what makes American money so special and wonderfully confusing to foreigners: they’re all the same size and all the same color – green.

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Can you still call them greenbacks or lettuce if they’re now multi-colored? Well I guess we call them ‘dead presidents’ even though Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin weren’t presidents, so like practically everything else with the English language … why not? I know the craziness is due to anti-counterfeit measures, but it’s still weird to see something so established change. THEY SHOULD BE GREEN! Sigh.

After calming down from the shock of color (id est, colors other than green), I noticed that the two c-notes were stamped on the back with a blue mark in Arabic. A US note from a Chinese bank with an Arabic stamp? Huh?

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After a bit of online Googling, I found out that it’s called a ‘chop mark’ and is still fairly common for currency circulating abroad, especially in the Middle East and Asia. Basically it’s a little stamp that someone (a private person or money trader, not the government) uses to indicate authenticity so they don’t have to constantly re-check if it’s real or not. Interesting, eh? In all my life in the States I’d never seen one, but then again, I never did handle many 100-dollar notes.

So I guess at some point these two Benjamins made their way through the Middle East. Ah, the curious travels of US cash.

shades of grey and gray

Calm your fluttering little hearts, I’m not about to go into a discussion about that smutty little novel-turned-film. No, instead I’m going to talk about spelling and one particularly annoying variant between British English and American English: the difference between grey and gray.

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Yang Yongliang (杨泳梁), From the New World (来自新大陆) (detail), 2014

If you check the dictionary, it’ll probably list ‘grey’ as chiefly British and ‘gray’ as chiefly American. So … what of those who use both? I am a proud American English user and use the American spellings of color (v. colour), organization (v. organisation), traveled (v. travelled), inquiry (v. the inquiry/enquiry divide), and meter (v. metre). Oh, and the last letter of the alphabet? That’s a ‘zee’, not ‘zed’.

But ya know what? I use both ‘grey’ and ‘gray’. I also use both ‘theatre’ and ‘theater’ – although for different things. The stage ends in ‘-re’ and cinema is ‘-er’ – a distinction that I’m not alone in making. Yet when I use both ‘grey’ and ‘gray’, drawing a difference between ‘gray’ for a warmer hue and ‘grey’ for a cooler/lighter/steelier/bluer variant, suddenly I’m a complete weirdo. Am I? Really now? I checked on the web and there are others who think like me. Then again, on the internet you’re bound to find someone who agrees with you.

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Pang Yun (庞云), Portrait of Trees No. 3 (树的肖像3) (detail), 2014

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Li Jinghu (李景湖), Sea Breeze (海风) (detail), 2009

In general, I use the spelling ‘gray’ to describe the colors on a ‘grayscale’. I fully realize that I am in the minority with my double usage of theatre/theater and that I am practically alone on a deserted island for grey/gray, so as a rule, if I’m writing something official or for publication (peer-reviewed, academic, in print, or must conform to CMOS), then I only use ‘gray’ and ‘theater’ for the sake of consistency and not confusing everyone with my non-standard spelling distinctions. But I guess this duality is what happens when you study so much (British) English that both end up feeling quite natural. Although serial commas are a must.

strange fruit in suzhou

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A few weeks ago I went to the opening of an outlet mall in Suzhou (random, I know) and there was a performance by Australian dance and theatre group Strange Fruit. It was downright amazing. They were swaying back and forth on these 5-meter-long poles, and it was completely beautiful, mesmerizing, memorable.

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The promotional material said their performance “fuses theatre, dance and circus.” It totally does.

clowns, color, and more clowns

Clowns. Lots and lots of clowns. Are you afraid of clowns? Let’s hope not.

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Over at the Rockbund Art Museum, there’s a trippy new solo exhibition by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone called Breathe Walk Die. It’s part performance art and part installation, with 40 people dressed as clowns seated, lying down, or reposing against railings and columns. The bright gradient walls and circular paintings of the museum’s four main gallery floors complete the bulk of the exhibition.

I wouldn’t say I have a particular phobia about clowns, but … there’s something about the falseness of a clown, that supposed ‘harbinger of happiness’ that makes me uncomfortable. It’s just too fake; there just has to be something supremely dark and twisty underneath it all. The exhibition is pretty cool though. It’s just … oy. Clowns.

Ugo Rondinone: Breathe Walk Die
September 13, 2014 – January 4, 2015

Rockbund Art Museum
rockbundartmuseum.org
20 Huqiu Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai
Tuesdays to Sundays, 10 AM – 6 PM

old suzhou at night

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Downtown Suzhou is a historic area under cultural protection. Therefore there must be rainbow-colored lights and ridiculous lit-up sculptures! Oh of course. Welcome to China!

In all seriousness though, Suzhou’s a lovely town with that crazy Chinese mix of really old and insanely new, and even though it’s quite close to Shanghai, it’s oh so much more peaceful. Old Suzhou has some pretty canals, bridges, and traditional architecture, but it also has that fake touristy sheen that most historic places in China have. It seems kind of unavoidable unfortunately. It’s a nice place to take a stroll though … if you don’t mind the crowds, if you don’t mind the same ol’ trinkets being hawked in every other shop, and if you don’t mind that you feel very little sense of actual history.