Working from home...er I mean the hotel... er I mean home

So today I got up, got ready and was considering hopping on the tube when I thought...hmm. The last attempt on london yesterday was unsuccessful. If I was an anti-western terrorist zealot I really wouldn't let that kinda thing stand, cause if there's one thing I imagine you should be good at as murderous fanatic it's got to be following through.

I'm not a generally timid person but the idea of being trapped undergrownd freaks the hell out of me. I'm not at all scared about being blown to smitherines ( if you are close enough to the bomb I bet you don't feel a thing), but the idea of being trapped under rubble or getting maimed really gives me the willies. So I figured I'd cab it. Unfortunately the rest of London seems to have come to the same conclusion that I have so there's a security alert/blockage and no cabbie will take me into London City. Yes, I came back from sunny warm Rome yesterday night barely making my busy commuter flight to sit in a hotel all day periodically gazing out into the grayness. At least my room here is nice and the hotel has wireless.

On a darkly funny side-note I heard a conversation today in my futile attempt to get a cab where one english woman said to her traveling companion "I rekon these days it really is more likely for me to be attacked by terrorists than to get married." Her friend off-handedly responded "Oh, I'm sure that's been true for years. Where shall we go for breakfast?"


With as much as we share it is time we're aware...

It's a small small world. Last night I went downstairs to ask the concierge for a good place nearby for (yes I'm a glutton) a kebab. In front of me at the desk was an American couple. So I got to talking to them and we end up eating dinner together at a turkish place nearby ( where I had a kebab). By a bizzare coincidence they're from the Sh'Oaks (quite close to my local fatburger) and related to someone who lives 3 blocks from my parents house, the world is really strangely small sometimes.

A weekend in Blackpool

So for those of you who don't know, Blackpool is a holiday resort in northern England. It's a working mans resort completely free of pretention and the place feels kind of like a cross between downtown Vegas and Atlantic City. My flatmate from Rome ( see apt pictures) is actually from Blackpool so I decided I'd have to visit the place after hearing all of his stories.

More than you wanted to know about what I did over a 48 hour period in blackpool:
  • Got yelled at and almost hit by a drunken scot for calling the weather cold. This was particularly unnerving because for a good 30 seconds or so I couldn't figure out a damn thing he was saying.
  • Drove along the "Prom" ( promenade) and saw what must be the worlds largest mirrored ball turning slowly beside the road
  • Saw 5 men dressed as cavemen ( definitely a stag party) sprinting down the street chasing one of their group
  • Witnessed part of a drug bust at a quiet pub. So this was the second drug bust I've seen, and it was nothing like the first. 3 cruisers and a paddywagon pulled up to the pub, about 6-7 cops walked in, a few people left, and the cops stayed milling around and talking to people in the back. Unfortunately we left the pub before the siezure and the arrests, but I think they wanted to do it after the place was closed. The drug bust I saw in berkeley involved a bunch of heavily outfitted cops using a battering ram to force open a door at about 11pm on University ave before rushing in with guns drawn
  • Rode the Pepsi Max Big One- the second tallest rollercoaster in the world ( 250 ft or so). It was good, but not fast enough, and it never goes upside down, so I think I still prefer some of the smaller faster ones like batman and riddler's revenge at six flags
  • Ate a very spicy delicious seekh kebab covered with raita, and had a long drawn out conversation with the shop owner about my super secret origins because he could tell I was Indian( I have him the usual story about a promising career in physics, a failed lab experiment, exposure to gamma rays, and the development of my super kebab eating powers)
  • Went for a long walk in stanley park in order to kill the kebab, but I was only vaguely successful ( thanks to the onions those things'll just stick with you for hours)
  • Visited a glass blower's studio run by my flatmate's uncle John, this was definitely worth the trip out there
  • Saw Blackpool's big nightlife attraction - the show at "Funny Girls" ( it's a drag show, so there was definitely something funny about those "girls"), and got invited to go for a drink in Wigam (a town not too close to Blackpool) with a very large woman who was part of a hen party. I politely declined.
  • Got pissed ( drunk) at a members only club for locals called the Devonshire Club. This was definitely a unique experience, there was a mediocre pub band that would play anything you requested ( except for freebird, I tried). The default gin and tonic came with diet tonic, and the crowd was mostly 40 and up locals. The place kicked ass and was open super late because it required membership, or a member to bring you in
  • Craving bodily harm, I had another kebab to soak up the gin, this time I got a donner kebab ( turkish style, think gyro) covered in mint chutney, onions, and garlic mayo (burping galore)
  • Went for a walk along the seaside in Lytham ( apparantly home of the most millionaires per square mile in the UK, kind of an Atherton on the sea with really crappy weather) and saw a Rolls-Royce club show/meeting (there were also several Bentlys)
  • Gorged myself at the local chippy (chip shop) in Lytham. I ate a steak and kidney pudding ( a large chunk of suet filled with beef , kidneys, and brown sauce) covered with chips(fries) , mushy peas, salt, vinegar, and of course... tons of gravy
  • Waited a couple hours then had a traditional northern sunday lunch: roast chicken, mashed potatoes, carrots and turnips, peas, cauliflower, and you guessed it...tons of gravy
  • Then it was back off to London in a train carriage (car) without any air conditioning with an loud arguing couple.
All and all it was a kickass weekend. I think I'm going to have to go back for a real holiday sometime, Blackpool is definitely like no other place I've been.


Festa (said with fist defiantly up in the air whilst sporting my che shirt)

So the last night I was in rome (before the pointless rome-london-rome-london trip) , my friend Gianfranco (don't you guys love these italian names) and I went to the Festa de l'Unita, or the unity festival. This is a festival put on by a party called the DEMOCRATICI DI SINISTRA (the democratic left, kinda between democrats and commies). The booths were the usual food, astounding timesaving product, and sponsor booths( vodafone, telecom, sky ) you find at festivals, regular tshirt stands, as well as a big bookstore tent. However, it also had: a free palestine booth( with excellent kebabs and a comfy hookah smoking tent decked out with couches and carpets), a booth of all natural clothing, a booth with shirts made by prisoners in jail, and a stage which featured music performances and rousing leftist speaches. It was kind of like a berkeley street fair with a little more style and credibility because this is backed by an actual political party with these views not just aging hippies and idealistic students...oh wait.... Regardless it was a lot of fun, the food was good, the booths were interesting, the crowd was cool, and I swear there was a recreation of the seating outside of wall berlin only with better cheaper coffee.

Towards the end of the evening I was just shy of picking up a copy of the little red book in Italian, then I decided to spend some money on greed based consumption and eat a kebab sandwich followed by some intensive decadant lounging on a carpet draped chaise in the hookah tent. When I get around to it I'll post some pictures

Music infoPr0n- this tool rocks!

Many thanks to pshairyn for this sweet new band finding bit of info porn: music-map. It's based on a learning directory where people put in 3 bands they like, then it autogenerates the positions of different bands in the map based on the links between them. Obviously this is directed at a slim demographic, but it's a great way of finding new bands. Also on the site are similar directory projects for books and movies. I really like the graphical element to the recommendations based on peoples input because it makes it a more tool than a simple amazon review.


Be Your Own Hotspot thanks to Popular Science

That's right, thanks to EV-DO, and a solar cell powered backpack, you can operate a backpack based hotspot. But it ain't chepa at all, the setup'll run you about 1k and ridiculous service costs, but come on this just rules. What they really need is to make a backpack with a cheap built in fuel cell.

I hate the crazy frog!!!

So I don't know how many of you are familiar with the "Crazy frog" ringtone, but it's basically a bad Axel F mix accompanied by this bizzare video of this crappy cg "crazy frog" riding a missle. Yes, it's that inane. Now because of the way the music charts are put together ( total sales and airplay) This ringtone was actually the number one single in the uk for a while, and now is 10 on the italian single chart, it's genuinely annoying but for some reason these people love it. I can't figure it out for the life of me, but enough people are paying for this ringtone that it shows up on the MTV countdown!! In it's defense, the crazy frog is only the second most annoying song in the top 10 ( tanto^3 being the worst), but it's impossible to escape because every where you go on public transportation you hear it. At least it's mostly limited to the under 16 set.


Watch of the future ( if it were 1950)

So I'm a big fan of non standard watches, but this watch by nixon is extra sweet. If it were one third the price, I'd own one already. Afterall how cool is walnut inlay on a watch. I see a return to woodgrain in consumer electronics for that retro analog feel chic, who's with me!!

My old Flat in Rome

Apt Terrace 1
Originally uploaded by hkarmark.

So I've been promising pics of my old flat in Rome for a long time. Here's a shot of the terrace and if you click through you can get to my flickr for other shots of the place. With any luck I'll be back there from jan to june. This flat is ridiculous: antique furniture, statues on the terrace, over 80 paintings and prints in gilded frames (there were paintings in the walk-in closet!!). I figured I couldn't live in rome and pass up a chance at a place like this, afterall the location is also amazing.

The flat is outfitted like this because the owner is an art historian who, I guess, had always wanted to live in a 17th century palace. I gotta tell you guys, he did a pretty good job of recreating the experience. You'd really have to see this thing in person to believe it.


Originally uploaded by hkarmark.
One of many pics I snapped at Live8 rome ( A good concert despite Duran Duran bailing from the lineup)


Marketing, memes, and good weekend reads

So thanks to my exceptionally helpful sis, over the past week I've gone through four fast fun reads (or fictional folios, in case, like me, you can't let the silly alliteration slip by) :
  • Gaiman and Pratchett- "Good Omens": a Light funny Douglas Adams-esque book about the apocalypse
  • James Maxey- "Nobody gets the girl": a novel in a very comic book style that's fun and a quick read with a predictable ( thanks to the publisher's note) twist at the end where we're supposed to question who are really the "good and "evil" characters
  • Jim Munroe- "Angry Young Spaceman": A guy's trip offworld to teach English with a lot of content about the spread of culture through marketing and the exploitation of perceptions to fuel/exploit subcultures. You can definitely feel munroe's adbusters pedigree in his writing, but it's not over the top, and the book's a great read ( though not as good as his "Everyone in Silico")
  • Max(x) Barry- "Jennifer Government": Heaviest of the lot in terms of mood but really the best of the bunch. It's got action, romance, marketing, explicit protest against evil megacorps, the jimmy stewart everyman schmo, and a gun-toting female lead reminiscent of a gibson razorgirl. I had a lot of fun with this one and I definitely like it's heavier social focus than other corporate controlled dystopian future views like gibson, stephenson, and p.k. dick.
The last three of these books all chronicled some serious spin ranging from controlling world understanding of catastrophic events to deciding what's cool for teenagers to wear. So, once again I've been thinking about what makes an idea or trend sticky and helps it get passed on. It's one thing to target a specific person to get them to feel strongly about something, but it's always impressed me how some sets of ideas can be so sticky that they spawn subcultures, and often bleed into the mainstream view of what's cool.

I find myself straddling the line on whether I'd like to be part of the machine manipulating and fueling these groups, or whether I'll join one that thinks of itself as fighting the trend. Ya know, engage in some culture jamming, wear antibrand clothing, buy fair trade goods, and maybe organize support for small to mid size businesses in developing markets ( what better way to hit coke or nike than help fund a co-op of locally strong brands with a joint production and distribution infrastructure).

This is of course all academic now but I've been jotting done on the post-it board again ( check the orange and red notes) and maybe a company will form out of some of this 5 years from now, or maybe I'll just become a more active blogger