Tag Archives: pictures

Random Thoughts From a Week in New York City

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You thought visiting New York City would make you feel cool, but actually it makes you feel poor and un-busy.

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You thought it would be sooooo different from the rest of America.

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But really it’s the same, just better.

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People talk like movies.

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And the street names and landmarks are recognizable from your favorite CBS crime dramas.

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Jogging through Central Park is a cliche, like everything else you do here.

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Going to museums and making ‘hmmm’ sounds

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does not diminish the fact that you went to MoMA primarily to scout for Facebook cover photos.

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And that Prospect Park was a 585-acre struggle not to shout ‘why are you so fucking twee?!’ at the dogs and their walkers.

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And that, fuck the locals, tall buildings are amazing and you’re going to stop every few steps to capture them.

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You’re acutely aware that everything you can say or do or think in this place is already said, done, thunked.

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So instead of trying anything new, you might as well spend it like a week at home.

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See friends, eat meals,

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take long bike rides as dangerous as they are destinationless, 

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take pictures of pedestrian shit like snowblowers, mouth open like some kind of Appalachian.

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You don’t see everything,

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Or maybe  even anything.

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But you realize as you leave, you were busy after all. And maybe even rich.

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Look at your country. Now back to me. Back at your country. Now back at me.

I'm in New Zealand visiting my folks for Christmas

Like most of my vacations, it's primarily defined by what I'm *not* doing.

I'm not checking mails, I'm not reading the newspaper

I'm not freezing my lice off in Europe

For this, New Zealand is spectacular

It's a great place to just shut up for a few weeks.

And look at the country from different angles.

Exactly, Dad, or translate it into ink and water

It feels either abandoned or undiscovered, depending on your mood

The shags dive in the morning, then spend the day drying out so they can do it again in the afternoon.

That's pretty much been my approach here too: Idleness recast as activity.

I'm not lazy, I'm anticipating.

As long as I know what I'm not, i'm not concerned about what I am.

 

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Jakarta

Jakarta is grimy and sort of human.

 

The ubiquitous crowds and humid climate give it the ambiance of the inside of someone's uterus.

 

Everything moves slowly through the mud

 

There's shockingly little to do, for a city of 14 million people

 

Even the wildlife seems bemused by this.

 

They sell handerchiefs and fireworks on the street

 

The locals spend a lot of time negotiating traffic crises

 

or food crises, which are occasionally the same thing.

 

The constant chaos after awhile becomes soothing

 

And your internal cavalry surrenders to the gridlock.

 

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Helveticans tried to do me in

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Fjord focus

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How I ended up at a whale hunt

I was visiting my friend Rogvi in the Faroe Islands this weekend. The Faroe Islands is a colony of Denmark, a small island chain right between Norway and Iceland. It’s been inhabited by Vikings, and little else, for the last 1,000 years. Most of it looks like this:

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Just after I arrived, Rogvi took me on a driving tour.

‘Where are we off to?’
‘I heard on the radio that they caught some whales in Kvivik,’ he said.

Apparently a whale hunt works like this.

  1. A fisherman spots a pod of whales.
  2. He broadcasts the location of the pod to all other fishermen in the area.
  3. The other fishermen rush to his location
  4. En masse, the fishermen use their boats to push the pod of whales closer and closer to the shore.
  5. Eventually, the whales simply wash themselves up on the beach
  6. The fisherman hop off their boats and club the whales in the head to knock them unconscious.
  7. The fishermen sever the whale’s spinal cord with a long knife they keep with them whenever they’re on the sea. Imagine a ninja cutting someone’s jugular, only in the back of their head instead of the front.

The entire process takes less than 10 minutes, and about 1,000 whales are killed like this every year.

Here’s what we saw when we arrived in Kvivik.


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The intestines are the only part of the whale you can’t eat.

 

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Though dolphins, humpback whales and killer whales are regularly spotted up here, Faroe Islanders only kill pilot whales. The carcasses ranged from golden retriever-sized infants to full-grown males the length of a Cadillac. One guy was hosing them down while another tried to arrange them in rows with a forklift.

It was about as effective as eating sushi with a blindfold. The whales were sliding all over the place.


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Each of these hunts yields thousands of pounds of whale meat and blubber. The person who first spotted the whale has first dibs, and gets the largest share. All the fishermen who participated in the hunt are also allocated a ‘part’. After that, parts are reserved for village residents, local hospitals and old-folks homes. If there’s any left, people simply sign their name in a sort of guestbook and are also given a share.

A hunt like this can yield 500 parts, each consisting of about 100 pounds of meat. People eat it year-round, and some ends up in restaurants.

As Rogvi put it, anyone who eats meat isn’t allowed to be sickened or disturbed by this. Many of the industrial processes between ‘cow’ and ‘hamburger’ are significantly less edifying than these pictures. Humans eat meat. Meat comes from animals. This is just what that process looks like.

Rogvi also pointed out that, for about 1,000 years, whales provided one of the only sources of food for Faroe Islanders. Only about 2 percent of the islands are suitable for agriculture, and meat from fish and whales—raw, dried, smoked or boiled—was literally the only food available.

I’m definitely not convinced on the latter point. We don't own slaves in 2010 just because, hey, for a few hundred years there, it was the only agricultural labour available. The repugnance of human activity is not related to its longevity.

But there’s something to the former. I don’t know if I found the experience of seeing all those whales uncomfortable because I think whales are closer to humans on the sentience-spectrum than cows, or simply because I’ve never been that close to a bunch of large, freshly killed animals before. Either way, it's hard to stand within smell-distance of the consequences your consumption behavior and not feel compelled to defend it. 

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Describing friendship in six words

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Middle Easter: Beirut

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Middle Easter: Dead Sea, Jordan

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Middle Easter: Amman, Jordan

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