Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why I Like America, But Love Pittsburgh

Today, world leaders converged in my home city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the G-20 summit. Accordingly, many of the accompanying protesters had marches and rallies around the city. The local and imported anarchists staged an "unlawful" march (they did not apply for a permit on principle) through Lawrenceville towards the convention center. The protest was mostly peaceful, although some windows were broken and tear gas was used to disperse the group. Pittsburgh is normally not very exciting, so the local news crews had a field day following the events. I'm glad that things seemed to go about as expected.

As I stated in my last post related to the G-20, the groups who protest during the G-20 have a lot of different agendas and problems with the group, from its elitism to its policies to its very existence. And Pittsburghers had a lot of different agendas now that thousands of representatives of worldwide media outlets have descended upon the Three Rivers. But they seem to have found common ground.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, a.k.a. The Pens, won the Stanley Cup back in June, and their fans haven't stopped celebrating since. Their leader must be this guy. I saw him on the local news all day. He paraded around with his fake Stanley Cup for hours.

This was one of the day's most visible banners. I'm glad that the protesters have finally settled on a clear, cohesive agenda that the people of Pittsburgh can get behind.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Jon Krasinski Writes and Directs Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

John Krasinski (Jim from The Office) apparently wrote and directed and starred in an adaptation of David Foster Wallace's short story "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men" that is also the title of a collection of his stories. I read the book a few months ago, and especially enjoyed this story. The movie features Will Arnett (G.O.B. from Arrested Development) and Ben Gibbard (the lead singer of Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service).

Here's the trailer:

The main character is a smart, short-haired female graduate student conducting interviews with men about their relationships with women, but this character doesn't exist in the book - no context is given for the interviews. Krasinski has called the movie "feminist" in the press. I am interested to see what he means. Good thing I don't have long to wait because the the movie comes out on Friday.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Mosque By the Sea

I lost most of the last 5+ years of photos recently in the Great Hard Drive Crash of 2009 (well, except for those I've posted to photo accounts online). One of the few picture collections that I had backed up is from my trip to India in June. I thought I would share a few photos and stories here periodically.

Near the end of the trip, Rebecca, Shannon, Oliver, and I flew from Delhi down to Mumbai to stay with our friend Rishad's family. They hosted us, stuffed us with delicious Indian desserts, and drove us around to many of Mumbai's awesome attractions, including this, the Mosque By the Sea.

This building's real name is the Haji Ali Mosque and Dargah (tomb), named for Haji Ali, who according to legend renounced all his riches after a pilgrimage to Mecca and drowned on the site where the mosque now stands. Another version of the story is that he died during this pilgrimage but that his casket floated back to the current site of the mosque. Still another states that the guy found a woman crying because she spilled all of the oil in her vessel. Haji Ali poked the soil with a stick and oil gushed out, but afterward he felt extreme guilt for puncturing the the earth, and soon died. He left instructions for his casket to be thrown into the sea.

Anyway, the building stands on a little islet in one of the bays that surround Mumbai. As you drive the costal highways around the city, you can see people attempting to walk across the 500 yard causeway that connects it to the land. Although you're only supposed to attempt the walk at low tide, from the shoreline we saw a couple people get soaked by huge waves as they tried to make the trek at less than opportune times.

We wisely decided to go at low tide. It was a rainy, misty day for the most part (the monsoons actually let up a bit! yay!), but the path is always soaked, even on nice days. You can see my travel companions ahead of me.

The mosque itself was also really wet, thanks to the rains and constant sea spray. As in all mosques, you have to take off your shoes to enter, even if you're not Muslim, which makes for some very wet, cold, and dirty feet.

The mosque is supposedly whitewashed, but it's actually covered with bird poop due to its popularity as a hangout for Mumbai's large seagull population.