Tuesday, March 31, 2009

recap, part 3: my team

To end my rugby weekend recaps, I present my team: the Americans

They didn't do so well at all at the Sevens. One could say that they fell short of most expectations for another year in a row in Hong Kong. I am wishing them the best for Adelaide.

This man is Justin Boyd. He played for my university. When he joined the team, I remember seeing him (back then he was a lanky fellow with closely cropped hair) and thinking, oh my gawd, who is this guy?! He was so blazingly fast. I am relieved that he is a member of the Eagles because his performance shattered my belief that women's rugby would grow in talent to become more similar to the men's performance. Quite frankly, there was no women I could imagine who would ever perform like that, even the Olympic sprinter on the Papua New Guinea women's team. Thankfully I have discovered that there aren't really many men in the world who possess the skills of Justin. Whew.

I do, however, still hold onto my belief that the balls for women's rugby should be a size smaller. Playing with the same size as the men has advantages in being able to train with the men, but in a game I wish I could handle a ball like a man can. Instead, I have to hold on tightly with both hands. It prevents any and all creative, flicking, behind the back, etc. passes.

In my university, the women and men trained together often. There were a lot of people who felt that this would weaken the men. They were wrong. Both the women and men's teams are nationally ranked in the Sweet Sixteen.

But anyway, back to my tribute to Justin and the USA men's team

My heartbreak. Yes, folks, I actually wept at the final whistle. Pathetic but only SB saw

Monday, March 30, 2009

the recap, part 1

Where do I begin? It was a wonderful rugby weekend. Wednesday night, as I was out having dinner with friends, I received a text message from an unknown number asking if I was available to be a liaison officer for a women's rugby team. After determining who the sender was (rugby union member), how my information was passed along to the union (from other liaisons), and getting a bit of limited information about my duties, I was off to meet my team on Thursday.

I was assigned to the Papua New Guinea team. Their rugby program for women only formed three years ago, but they have come a long way, baby! Their coach, Sailosi Druma, is a Fijian man who is very kind and nurturing, but when I observed him with the ladies in training, I could see that he had heaps of charisma and encouragement. The team has thrived under his careful guidance. And did I mention that they are tackling bandits? While we often think of speed in sevens, or at least I do and that is why I don't prefer to play it, in reality a tackle can change the entire flow of the match.

PNG had a difficult pool, playing against the home team of Hong Kong as well as the top three Asian qualifiers for the World Cup. In the end they placed third in the pool and battled the Arabian Gulf to win the bowl championship. The women told me that their goal this year was not to come in last place so they were beside themselves when they went home with some silverware.

I really, really enjoyed this team and their great attitudes, and I went far out of my way to assist them. Their warm ups got lost somewhere and did not arrive, and the poor women were very cold in Hong Kong. After seeing them huddling from the cold on Thursday, I went home and raided SB's winter clothing, filling bags with his ski shell (ski tag still attached to zipper), his windbreakers, my windbreaker, fleece vests and jackets, etc. It was a good idea because when they weren't playing, the women were wearing everything, even the ski hats. I have no idea of the temperature in PNG, but I guess it's warm! SB had a chuckle when we all saw each other in the HK Stadium sports bar and he saw all the women floating about in his over sized winter gear.

the team, in SB's winter clothing

The teams had a brutal day of five matches as well as playoffs so there were a good share of injuries. Compounded with a strange ruling that teams could only bring 10 players as opposed to 12, the result was that there were a lot of ragged looking ladies. One of the physios, KK, kindly allowed himself to be summoned by me and he single handedly put several ladies back together, massaging calves and backs, taping ankles, knees, and wrists, even having to pull a grossly dislocated finger back into normal shape because the poor woman wasn't done playing. The women had a bit of a thrill when they won the cup and turned to see him cheering them on. Like me, the PNG women won him over with their spirit and charm.

the lady wearing the flag also ran the 100 at the Beijing Olympics

recap, part 2: law and disorder

The Frenchies are growing on me. Our rugby team has so many of them and they are a hysterical, motley crew. I do not run in packs with other Americans, but I like that they run in a small herd. Our Frenchies band together with other countrymen for the Sevens and dress as the French Police, filling up the same spot in the top center of the South Stand on Saturdays. Of the countries that grace the stadium, the French and the Australians are hated only slightly more than the Americans. While the Americans get booed from a distance, the French and Australians are harassed up close. X, who reps the French team, tells me that the French understand that no matter what they do, they will be booed, so they just try to take it in humor, even dressing up in costume such as cocks, or cheese, to be in on the joke. At least their countrymen unite together to cheer them on.

So for another year, the gendarmerie of Wanchai stood in their usual posts and sang their anthems. SB and I were further down in the stands but we came up to say hello. In the five minutes that I stood with the Frenchies, I was hit by THREE full cups of beer as well as trash. I have to give my respect to the frenchies because they were good natured about it all. I thought that this was uncalled for but I guess it goes with the territory. The real police had to step in and stand close by when some classy folks in the South stands began trying to urinate in cups and throw them at the Frenchies. Luckily I was gone at this point. I heard that no urine actually hit anyone this year, and most importantly, their 4 kilos of cheese were unspoilt. Yes, I saw the sack containing 4 kilos of cheese and baguettes.

Our gendarmes very happily moved to Wanchai after the conclusion of Saturday rugby where they took over Carnegies, marched down Lockhart road, and concluded the evening with a Congo line in Lan Kwai Fong. When SB and I snuck away, they were seated in a line on the road, passing random party goers over their heads.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Checking In

I have taken a bit of time off this past week because I have been (thankfully) busy. My visa finally got approved and I will be back in the work force in the very near future.

In other news, I am using my last (hopefully) days of being a lazy, unemployed dilettante to support the art of...rugby! Oh, like that is a surprise. I have agreed to be the local liaison officer for the women's team from Papua New Guinea. It is not a pretty assignment. While J is lounging in the swanky hotel room provided for him by the organizers for assisting the Samoan team, and X is having wine and cheese with the French coaching staff in a nearby room, I will be racing through the island as I frantically try to tie up loose ends.

I was asked at the last minute (last night) to help out the organizers. The women's teams have a vastly different experience from the men. The men are all staying at a lovely hotel in Kowloon, and each team is given a bus to go to meals or tours or training sessions at the pitches in Happy Valley or King's Park. The women's side does not provide accommodation for the liaison officers so I will be waking up very early to find my team in one of two less fancy hotels that they will be staying in, and scrambling to take them to their training, all the way in Sandy Bay, at 7AM, with no arranged transportation. If you see a large group of tan women and one very pale woman on a minibus at 6AM, you will know who we are.

Despite the hardship, especially compared to my friends who are hosting the men's teams, I am happy to oblige. I hope that I can ease some of the concerns that the team may have about scheduling and navigating the city, and that I can show them a good time. I have enjoyed living here immensely and I want to be able to share the experience for the next few days. I will let you know how it goes!

P.S.- I admit I knew only a few things about Papua New Guinea so I had to resort to Wikipedia for a quick fact sheet, and then a few PNG government sites. I think I should at least be able to recognize my team now.

P.P.S.- My undergrad classmate is a member or the USA men's team. All you Texans, especially Aggies in Hong Kong, please give up your whoops and gig 'ems for Justin Boyd!

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Griftest Generation

Bonuses for those who took risky bets? I have 165 million reasons to withhold AIG's next $30 billion bailout.

Tom Brokaw wrote about a generation of who fought in WWII, changed international politics, constructed the interstate highways, broke down civil rights barriers, built the American middle class, and put a man on the moon.

What happened to this greatest generation? When did financial accumulation trump ethics or even common sense? Your children will have to pay for your tax breaks and corporate bailouts. They will do so while living in the environmental hazards that you set up for them.

I wonder who will write about this generation?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

flowers give me a reason to cook dinner

It has been a month since my birthday and SB still has not gotten on the ball with a present. I finally pointedly asked him if he was planning anything yet and he admitted that he had not even thought of what to do/buy/craft.

I am lenient on him. Our friends and his family are speechless over how he manages to blow it for my birthday year after year. I know that he means well and intends every year to actually do something about it but that obviously isn't what happens. Despite me explaining this, I do eventually feel hurt after a month or more goes by and nothing happens.

This is why I finally turned my laser sharp stink eye upon him. It is an especially lethal tool if used properly. I do not raise my voice so in the past my upset was often ignored by SB because he comes from a family of yellers. He just assumed that if my voice wasn't shaking walls then I was okay with things. I had to develop my evil eye into something that would cause him to take notice. I only need to squint my eyes into little slits and focus my glare at him for barely a second and he catches on.

After beholding the stink eye SB came home loaded down with flowers. This is the first time he has ever brought me flowers so I must assume that the stink eye was especially penetrating. With the flowers he has bought himself time to find me a birthday present (I have hinted repeatedly that we need a food processor). It also guarantees that every time I look at the lovely blooms, I will be filled with joy. Joy makes it easier to pick his socks and pants from the floor and chair backs. Joy brings food to the table and propels me to clean the house. The only thing that the flowers can't do is iron his clothes. I still hate ironing more than I love flowers.

Monday, March 16, 2009

the monster arose from the depths of the sea...

It was a lovely and blustery spring day, filled with the music of waves lapping against the rocks and birds calling out as they soared effortlessly above us. Suddenly the bright calm was shattered by a horrible, thrashing creature who was rushing quickly toward us with foam and sea water spewing from its ravaged, hairy body. The sky went dark and children ran, screaming in fear. I leaped to my feet and frantically searched for SB. With profound horror I realized that SB was nowhere to be seen after wandering down the rocks to where the creature had emerged. I turned slowly to face the monster...

Oh, wait. SB, is that you? "Aargh, I got too close to the water," was his reply, "Again." At least this time he did not emerge embedded with sea urchin spines.

rising from the deepest depths of ocean

spewing water

hairy and disfigured

the brave locals celebrate after banishing the monster

the monster attempts to feed on a different victim

Monday, March 9, 2009

the way to do it

In case you have not figured it out yet, I am not a subtle person. I am not loud, I hardly ever raise my voice, but no one will ever accuse me of being shy either. I come by this rightfully. Most of the family are adventurous and high energy. When I am asleep in bed, on the other side of the world my father is climbing a peak in Arizona or handling the birds of prey at the Wildlife Museum, and my aunt is probably charging around Texas with her young grandchildren. Those children are very lucky to have Aunt Jane as their "Nonna."

I spent several years in Texas living near my Aunt Jane and they were some of the happiest times of my life. I occasionally chose to spend time with her and Uncle Jon rather than going out with my friends. Jane and I were often working on some art or culinary project together. The only times of relative stillness were when we sat down with a few glasses of wine to watch the Food Network. We especially adored watching the Two Fat Ladies. Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson would travel across Britain on their Triumph Thunderbird 950 with a sidecar, cooking up heavy dishes at wonderful locations such as a cathedral or a farm. A great variety of dishes involved bacon, and we would excitedly yell out, "bacon!" and break into laughter every time we saw it being introduced to a dish. Pies, skewers, pans... it didn't matter what method was being used with any number of ingredients; bacon was almost always part of the equation.

Being a not so subtle person, I thought that these two women were gods. Finally, I had found others who spoke my language. They would have understood my desire to eat lamb every day for dinner as a child. They would have appreciated my love of full flavored, stinky cheese. They would have shared my confusion when I dated that French foodie who wouldn't allow me to eat the tomato and garlic with the baguette (he insisted on only rubbing the tomato and garlic across the bread to add an "essence" of flavor). I pretended to clean up and scarfed down the tomato behind his back in the kitchen.

After Jennifer passed away and the show ended, my uncle and his best friend rented some Harleys for a few months, specifically the Electra Glide and the Road King. In the early spring through summer, the four of us toured the Texas hill country, roaring over the hills and around lakes. We stopped at many county seats, taking in smoked brisket, venison sausage, German and Acadian fare, tamales con carne, and Lost Maples' apple pies. I think that we would have done those fat ladies proud.

Friday, March 6, 2009

kindness and compassion

May I take back my confirmation? I cannot believe that I spent years and years of my life in catechism classes so that I would become indoctrinated into a religion that does this and this and this.

When I opened up my news compiler I was given not one, but two instances of the Catholic Church behaving...well in a way that I am sure is befitting of their kind and compassionate mission.

First up, the Vatican felt the great need to emphasize that the Catholic Church does not stand in the way of science. This was decided in time for the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species." And just a few short years ago, they also had pardoned Galileo! However, the atheist notion that evolution proves there is no God is just plain "absurd". I would open the topic up for debate but the church has been quite free wielding with those excommunications.

Despite their neutrality, which gives priests the right to hear murder confessions and not reveal the sources to police, several American bishops did not see their threats of excommunication and withdrawal from receiving sacraments if members of the congregation voted for any politician who did not share the Catholic view of abortion rights as violating neutrality. It didn't matter what else the politician stood for; if he/she was for choice then your vote meant that you were on the outs with god. Your soul was damned. Oh, the right wing candidate was a known racist? Well, he didn't support abortion so vote for him. And remember, we are neutral in politics.

This leads me to the second news story, about a 9 year old rape victim who was pregnant with twins, whose "uterus doesn't have the ability to hold one, let alone two children," who was granted an abortion from a heavily conservative Brazilian court. Being kind and compassionate to her terrible and life risking situation, the archdiocese's representative kindly offered these words of comfort: "we consider this murder." As a follow up, the Brazilian archbishop is seeking to excommunicate her mother and the doctors who assisted in this heinous crime of possibly saving her life. She will not be excommunicated because she is too young. Umm...did you consider her youth and 80 lb frame when ordering her to carry to term?

And to complete the trifecta...when confronted with over 25 millions cases of AIDS, Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa decided against distribution of condoms, because "widespread and indiscriminate promotion" of condoms undermines abstinence and marital fidelity. "Condoms may even be one of the main reasons for the spread of HIV-AIDS." However, they are able to boast that their hospices and hospitals, orphanages and parish outreach provides more direct care for people with AIDS and their families and communities, particularly in Africa and Latin America, than any other institution. So they condemn you for attempting to use safer sex techniques but once you are dying, they will show you kindness and compassion.

The Holy Roman Catholic Church: a bunch of men playing god.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Joseph Cornell Reading List

Cornell is featured in the following novels:

William Gibson's Count Zero (1986)

James Chapman's Daughter! I Forbid Your Recurring Dream! (2000).

Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife (2003).

In the Theater of the Mind

Inspired by Ulaca's comment regarding C.S. Lewis' medievalist view of space, I am taking my thoughts of space a bit further and highlighting several cases that I have been interested in over the years. I like this blog format very much because it allows me to purge all the bits of knowledge and interests that I have acquired over the years, which previously were committed by my architectural journal with (unrealized) hopes of being somehow included in a future project.

Today I introduce my pages about Joseph Cornell. In August, 2004 I was visiting the Johnson Museum of Art, which was exhibiting several Cornell boxes. The timing was perfect because in our studio we were involved with rudimentary exercises of space and time. My studies eventually led away from the boxes and toward a freakish discovery and investigation of an unknown ancestor who lived in a town one lake over from where I was living at the time, who shared my name and birthday...but I marked Cornell for further study.

Joseph Cornell had a way of measuring time though his involuntary (Proustian) memories, and crafting these boxes to record the memories before they faded. In the words of Kynaston McShine (Senior Curator of the Museum of Modern Art): "Perhaps it was Cornell's measuring of time by his own perceptions that allowed him to create an infinity of atmospheres within a small space--one of the most endearing qualities of his work." Peering into each box, I was transported to another world, or at least an essence of my own past, where each placed object in the box transcended time.

Nohra Corredor wrote an essay about Cornell's views of time and space which provide a better and more eloquent understanding than I can manage at this time. In the essay she explained that Cornell's art is both of temporal and non-temporal experience: It reminds us of the Greek idea about Time...."In Homer, chronos refers to periods of empty time and is distinguished from periods of activity which are thoughts of as days (ephemeros). By the time of Pindar this verbal distinction had disappeared, but a tendency to think of Time as an alternation between contraries' active and inactive, persisted. In the classical period this idea underwent further development so that in the language of philosophy, Time was an oscillation of vitality between two contrasted poles" (Frankel, H. 1955).

The Smithsonian American Art Museum attempts the difficult task of categorizing Cornell's boxes into the following compartments:

Dream Machines: Toys and machines share a spirit of ingenuity that inspires new ways of operating in the world, whether for playful or useful purposes. When Cornell became an artist during the economically challenged 1930s, interest ran high in toys, games, and movies as sources of entertainment and in practical and futuristic machines as symbols of progress. Like many Americans during the Depression, Cornell was also nostalgic for earlier, better times. His works into the 1940s often evoke his late Victorian childhood as he reinterpreted parlor games and miniature theaters that had been designed as educational toys to develop hand-eye coordination or to teach elementary scientific principles.

Nature's Theater: New York City had such an impact on Cornell that it is easy to underestimate his love of nature. The Hudson River valley, Adirondack Mountains, New England's and Long Island's rural countryside and coastline, Manhattan's parks, and his modest backyard in Flushing, New York-all provided glimpses of "this ethereal magic of simplicity in the commonest aspects of Nature."

Geographies of the Heavens: Nature's theater extended into the heavens as Cornell considered man's relationship to the land, sea, and air in his efforts to understand the cosmos. His references to the sun, moon, planets, and stars and to the history and technology of astronomy and space exploration all relate to celestial navigation as a long-standing method used by sailors, including his Dutch and American ancestors. Although not a sailor, Cornell was an avid stargazer at home and at the Hayden Planetarium, and celestial navigation became his primary metaphor for extended travel across time and space and between the natural and spiritual realms. Cornell called upon "geographies of the heavens" for his interpretation of "observatories," "night songs," and "night voyages." This tradition of star maps first appeared in Europe during the 1400s to illustrate information discovered in astronomical observatories. The maps incorporate hand-colored line drawings and engravings, representations of constellations as mythological figures and animals, and diagrams of the heavens. Cornell also embraced other subjects that have inspired charts and diagrams-trade winds, solar and lunar eclipses, and latitudinal and longitudinal views of Earth. From his earliest collages to his last boxes and films, Cornell's goal was to create a touchstone for exploring the unknown.

Bouquets of Homage: Cornell's interests in science, history, and the arts were often driven by his fascination with historical and contemporary people, whether famous or obscure. His own desire for privacy did not prevent him from researching their lives and accomplishments as sources of inspiration, comparison, and even consolation. Men recur in his pantheon of creative kindred spirits, while women dominate his efforts to pay homage to the fleeting nature of fame, beauty, and the act of performing.

Crystal Cages: Typically, boxes are made to be opened and closed, to reveal and protect their contents. In Cornell's constructions, glass panes achieve both goals to create a dynamic, transparent relationship between interior and exterior. Peering through glass to inspect the contents and composition of his boxes and collages suggests using a telescope to bring the distant or mysterious closer. The presence of mirrors complicates the experience. As they expand the sense of space, confuse the real and the reflected, and include the viewer in their imagery, mirrors evoke a range of meanings, especially Cornell's interest in the mind as a mirror of the soul and dreams.

Chambers of Time: Cornell's romance with time was complicated. He did not date most of his works because he had little use for chronology in the midst of pursuing "cross currents, ramifications, allusions, etc." Yet he constantly clocked what he was doing day and night in his diaries, suggesting not just the tyranny of time but also his awareness of life as a continuum based on the daily. Time's measures, phases, and patterns loom in his work, whether in the direct use of clock parts and imagery or the suggestive presence of sand.

for what it's worth

had I actually struck the pickpockets I would have felt wretched. But they escaped unscathed so I am free to mete out all sorts of punishments in my head.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Fagin and his band of theives

Today started as a good day. I had cleared most of my errands and was returning from a doctor appointment in Wanchai when I saw an attractive blouse in one of those shops that seems to have a bit of everything. I walked into the store and inspected the shirt, but the material felt poor so I turned to leave. There was a lady behind me who was pushing into me so I tried to walk around her. A man was speaking to her in Filipino and holding up a shirt so I realized that I was in between them and tried to duck out of the way. A moment later, another women squeezed by me and the man appeared to be showing her the shirt. It suddenly came right into my face. The small group seemed to be awfully close and I am really uncomfortable with being in confined spaces.

My dislike of crowds was probably what helped me because as I was quickly trying to extract myself, my sudden movement caused me to notice that there was a tug on my bag. I was unable to see (the shirt was now firmly in my face) but I immediately reached down and felt a hand reaching into my now unbuckled bag. "What are you doing!" I said in a very strong voice. It was loud enough that the man holding the shirt in my face suddenly dropped it and I grabbed the hand, which belonged to the very tiny and short Filipino woman in the group. "Pickpocket!" I shouted at her. She immediately snatched her hand away and ran out of the store.

At this point other customers were all holding their purses and warning each other. I was furious, especially since my passport was with me from my visit to the doctor (my visa has not yet come in). Then the man held his bag, like he was worried about being pickpocketed also and I felt my face turning red. "I know that you are with her, you #%$$#%!," I said to him. He kept faking that he was worried until I raised my fist at him. Then he and the other women left the store with me walking quickly after them. They had to run to get away from me.

Now I realize that loosening a few teeth, or worse, seems like a very uneven response to such a deed, but I was not thinking clearly. Even now I can feel my blood pressure rising at the thought of that group making off with my wallet, or worse, my passport. The women whose hand I grabbed was very lucky that I was too shocked at first to react because my next reaction may not have been so civilized.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The return of the underdogs

The Rams (Causeway Bay's first division team) had a shocking quarter-final win over DeA this weekend. The team, having been forced to forfeit their last two matches, were quite the underdogs and had come in last place in the season. As of Thursday there were not enough players to complete a side. After a call to a semi-retired member, by Friday night there were exactly 15 players for the match. Saturday morning yielded one more player coming back early from what was to be a season ending injury. By kick off time on Saturday night four French members of the 4th division team rallied themselves and volunteered their time and bodies in the subs bench.

It promised to be quite a show from the start when an unusually lively Rams team threw all that they had at the DeA Tigers. We were without our Hong Kong National Team star and then had to make a sub when the captain injured his ankle. The Rams supporters spent the entire match screaming their encouragement while the DeA side of the pitch (it was their home pitch) sat in shocked silence. Having been devastated last week when our women's team lost the Grand Champions Final (for the fourth time in a row) to the team we had beat both times in the regular season, it was good to have another win to celebrate.

photos provided by Pink