Tuesday, May 01, 2007

So what have you been up to lately? It’s been like ages since you last wrote….

I’ve been busy. Or rather I’ve been a touch lazy more like. Also it’s difficult to keep on writing. A quick review of my past material here has left me to conclude that most of my posts are insipid and devoid of any real emotional content. Sure it’s about stuff that I’ve done or places I’ve been to but it doesn’t really seem to capture the experience well. It’s a bunch of words really.

Right……so where have you been?

I was in the States for the large part of March on business. Was in New Orleans, Houston and then Washington. I was also very fortunate that I had a day off at each city so I could do the whole sight-seeing thing.

New Orleans, Louisiana

I had a walk along the Missisippi ( I know I’ve probably mis-spelt it ) river.

Paid a visit to the French Quarter (Unfortunately I was a few weeks too early for Mardi Gras) where they have all these really old looking houses.

The place was a bit run down looking but I think that was the whole point really.

I also checked out this cemetery where supposedly this famous voodoo lady, Marie Laveau is buried.
Actually I didn't really intend to go there but I was wandering around the city and found this congregation of tourists milling about what appeared to be a graveyard entrance so I sort of tagged along.
A creepy image crossed my mind while I was there. A local cabbie told me the day before about how at some of the New Orleans graveyards, bodies and coffins started surfacing when Katrina/Rita hit the city. Brr...

I didn't really dare take a picture of her grave for fear of what might turn up on the camera later so here is a sidelong shot of the rest of the cemetery instead.
Get the dirt (har har) on her story here: http://www.experienceneworleans.com/deadcity.html
The city is still in the state of recovery from Katrina and you can see the signs on the repair works going on and the quietness of some neighbourhoods once you venture out of the tourist districts. Below you can seee workmen repairing the roof of the French Market and some road-works at Canal Street ( I am not sure whether the road works were Katrina related though...)

I also had a chance to try out some of this Cajun cooking and surprisingly, I was quite impressed by some of it. Gumbo and Jambalaya was so-so …it tasted like peppery stew but I quite liked the Crawfish Etoufette. It’s this rice dish with teeny tiny crawfish (They are like miniature lobsters) tails in a peppery gravy sauce. Nice.
Unfortunately, I left my camera back in the hotel room so I have no photos so you will have to enjoy this wikipedia entry instead : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cajun_cuisine

Houston , Texas
It was apparently the middle of the Spring Break so the Museum District was crawling with all these families thronging the museums and the zoo and the park. The weather was amazing. Sunny and breezy but amazingly not too humid. It was so nice I actually decided to have an ice-cream and chill-out on a park bench in Hermann Park.
I also had a great time at the Museum of Fine Arts where strangely enough I went to an exhibition on French Impressionism which was on loan from the New York Met ( Yeah, I know, visit America and get a slice of French culture ..who would have thought? )
The night before one of my local colleagues decided to take the visitors from out of town to the rodeo. I was a little apprehensive at first but that soon changed once I got there. The rodeo was in this fantastically huge stadium and all around the stadium there were stalls selling
paraphernalia and food.
What was most amazing was the sheer scale of everything, the stadium was massive, the farm equipment on display was huge, and the enormity of the food portions was only matched by the general size of the American locals. This statement was generally true for everyplace in the States but especially obvious in Houston.

Washington D.C
I really did the tourist routine.
I took the walk down "The Mall" starting from the Abraham Lincoln Memorial down to the White House
and the War Memorial (The toothpick obelisk )...
then to the Smithsonian Museum(s) ...where they had really funky outdoor exhibits...
...Capitol Hill ...
....and then to Chinatown.
I think of the three cities I was in, I liked Washington D.C the most. There is something very cosmopolitan about the place. I think I like the busy-ness of the town. There looks like there is so much going on everywhere.
Actually, I’ve been to Washington before ages ago when I was about fourteen or something. Strangely enough I have little or no recollection of the trip. Another one of those memory lapses that seem to dot my long term recall for personal events I guess.

Wow…sounds like you had a good time..

I suppose I did.

Listening to anything interesting these days?

I bought a couple of albums when I was in the States. I got this new-ish Sufjan Stevens album called Avalanche (http://asthmatickitty.com/music.php?releaseID=50) which is basically a sequel album to the Illlinois album made up out-takes and remixes. I really like it. I mean it is obviously more of the same stuff but hey who’s complaining right ?

I also liked Regina Spektor (http://www.reginaspektor.com/) so much I bought two of her albums Begin to Hope and Soviet Kitsch. She is adorable. She has this really retro look to her and I like the New Yorky accent that comes up in some of her songs. I’ve talked about her music in one of my earlier posts I think but I still think it is amazing that she put all her material up on the web for free.

I have the latest Aqualung album, Memory Man (http://aqualung.net/) but it is a bit of a let-down really. I think Matt Hale is trying out a louder more mainstream sound, which is not a bad thing considering that some of the material in the past album was really sleep inducing more than anything else but it’s a bit of a hit and miss affair.

The biggest disappointment of course is the new Beth Orton album I bought, Comfort of Strangers (http://www.bethorton.co.uk/) .I am used to the stuff she put out during her Central Reservation period and this total about turn to “folk-sy” music was really surprising. There are one or two songs on the album which I think are worth repeat listens (Shopping Trolley and Conviction) but a lot of the other songs are somewhat forgettable. Kinda makes me wish she would go back to the William Orbit days (ala Galaxy of Emptiness type songs)

I am also quite into Leslie Feist. She has a new album out called Reminder (http://www.listentofeist.com/) It didn’t register at first but then my sister kindly pointed out that she is the lady in the Kings of Convenience album covers. This Canadian has an impressive list of credentials having collaborated with a host of people and was in a band called the Broken Social Scene. Starting from there I’ve been surfing a lot of the Youtube/Myspace pages for the Canadian indie scene. It is way cool. I mean all this while the only think I knew about Canadian music was Alanis…

Went for a gig recently at KLJamAsia with the coolest name “Tell You Boss You Had A Late Night With The Clients Discussing Multi Logistical Developments (Whatever That Means )”. I was there mainly to watch Furniture but the other bands were not too bad either. Playing that night were Silent Scenery, LightCraft and Azmyl Yunor.

Azmyl Yunor got some chatter from the crowd with his silly banter but he is a showman through and through ( Complete with the guitar playing solo on his knees act ) .

LightCraft were alright but they sounded a bit like a medley of lots of indie Brit bands.

Slient Scenery isn’t really my cup of tea. The band has a really nice looking bassist who I offered a stool to that night as she was about to sit on the floor. Unfortunately I could not think of a good pick-up line to go with that ….

Furniture is beginning to sound a bit tired. I have seen these guys perform a few times already and I think the lead singer should really just stick to keeping most of the songs instrumental or at the very least continue to let the feed-back drown out his singing.
I am sorry but his voice is really quite difficult to listen to in it’s raw unedited form. It’s whispery and kind of lame. Aside from the duet that he does with the keyboardist ( Who is really cute I might add) all the other songs with him singing distracts you from the otherwise surreal-sonic experience

So read anything new recently ?

I picked up a book at the airport to keep myself busy. Oil on the Brain by Lisa Margonelli. (http://www.oilonthebrain.com/) It’s a good read for anyone who wants to get up to speed on America’s addiction to oil in a hurry. It covers everything from the O&G business from the gas station to the refinery to the wells and then to the stock market floor.
The narrative is simple and to the point, written in an easy to understand style. It is especially interesting for me I suppose because I am in the business of O&G. It was a lot better than that Tom Friedman (Mr.I-won-a-pulitzer-prize-The-World-Is-Flat ) documentary called Addicted To Oil which I thought just glossed over a lot of issues and went straight into the renewable/unconventional energy technologies.

Anything else to add...?
If I think of something I'll let you know but for now..no not really.


At 8:00 PM , Blogger monsterboy said...

Thanks for mentioning Regina Spektor - hers was the song I was trying to figure out for months on end. Begin To Hope is a great album, got to listen to it.

At 2:09 PM , Blogger sneexe said...

Tag! You're it.



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